Compare Nagatsuka Takashi's account of village life in The Soil: A Portrait of Rural Life in Meiji Japan (Routledge, 1989) with John Embree's Suye Mura (University of Chicago, 1939) or Ronald Dore's Shinohata (Allen Lane, 1978). Does Nagatsuka's novel tell us anything about peasants and farming that we cannot learn from accounts written by social scientists such as Embree or Dore? Discuss how the novel is or is not a useful source of knowledge about village life.
Makiko's Diary: A Merchant Wife in 1910 Kyoto (Stanford University Press, 1995) by Nakano Makiko is a housewife's account of the daily activities of a merchant household. Compare Makiko's family life with that of Shibue Io in Woman in the Crested Kimono: The Life of Shibue Io and her Family, translated by Edwin McClellan (Yale University Press, 1985). How does domestic life appear to have changed during the Meiji period? Discuss the strengths and weaknesses of these diaries as sources of historical evidence.
Read A Diary of Darkness: The Wartime Diary of Kiyosawa Kiyoshi (Princeton University Press, 1999). What do the entries in this diary tell us about the relationship between the individual and state in wartime Japan? How typical do Kiyosawa's experiences and observations seem to be? To what might one attribute his anti-authoritarian views?
Life along the South Manchurian Railway: The Memoirs of Ito Takeo, translated by Joshua Fogel (M.E. Sharpe, 1988) is a valuable English-language account of Japan's colonial project in Northeast China. What relationship between Japanese intellectuals and Japan's modern empire appears in the memoir? How did Japan's quest for an empire in Asia shape the actions and lives of Japanese intellectuals? It might be helpful to examine this source along with Louise Young's Japan's Total Empire: Manchuria and the Culture of Wartime Imperialism (University of California Press, 1998) and/or James Crowley, "Intellectuals as Visionaries of the New Asian Order," in James Morley ed., Dilemmas of Growth in Prewar Japan (Princeton University Press, 1971).
Read Joseph Grew's Ten Years in Japan. What can we learn about U.S.-Japan relations prior to Pearl Harbor from Grew's diary? What was Grew's role in the events preceding the outbreak of war? Did he accurately read Japanese intentions? Or, was he misled by his own biases and/or assumptions? Discuss his account as a source of information about this period.
Read and evaluate the Autobiography of Ozaki Yukio (Princeton University Press, 2001) as a lens through which to examine the political culture of Meiji, Taisho, and early Showa Japan. When, how, and why did Japanese parliamentarism emerge and gain influence? What does the account tell us about the nature of Japanese "democracy" in prewar Japan?
Summarize the arguments of M. Fletcher's The Search for a New Order University of North Carolina Press, 1982) and Henry Smith's Japan's First Student Radicals (Harvard University Press, 1972). Do they have the same view of Japanese intellectuals during the twenties and thirties? How do they define intellectuals? Radicals? What relation do these two groups have to each other in these two works?
Identify the crucial aspects of the rise of militarism as described by the authors in two of the following: Ben Shillony, Revolt in Japan (Princeton University Press, 1972); James Crowley, Japan's Quest for Autonomy (Princeton University Press, 1966); and Gordon Berger, Parties out of Power in Japan, 1931-1941 (Princeton University Press, 1977). Are their views compatible? Pay particular attention to the issue of responsibility (or blame) for militarism and the war.
Read the analyses of Japan's foreign policy in the 1920s-1930s in Japan Erupts (Princeton University, 1984) edited by James Morley and in Sadako Ogata's Defiance in Manchuria (University of California, 1964). Do they identify the same pressuresand do they rank them in the same way? Do their sources reinforce the differences in their opinions?
The Richard Sorge spy incident is one of the more dramatic episodes of political intrigue in modern Japanese history. Compare the following accounts with particular attention to the authors' views of: F.W. Deakin and G.R. Storry's The Case of Richard Sorge (Chatto and Windus, 1966) and Chalmers Johnson's An Instance of Treason (Stanford University Press, 1964). For background on the police system, you might consult any of the several books on the topic by Richard Mitchell.
Read Patricia Tsurumi's Japanese Colonial Education in Taiwan, 1895-1945 (Harvard University Press, 1977) and Raymond Myers's and Mark Peattie's The Japanese Colonial Empire, 1895-1945 (Princeton University Press, 1984) to get a sense of their evidence, arguments, and conclusions. Andre Schmidt's article on the Japanese Empire, "Colonialism and the 'Korea Problem' in the Historiography of Modern Japan: A Review Article" (Journal of Asian Studies, Vol. 59, No. 4, pp. 951-976) is good food for thought. Consider what elements are appropriate to compare; the latter book has a wider scope than the former. Then evaluate the authors' methods and interpretations in terms of your elements.
Read Miriam Silverberg's Erotic Grotesque Nonsense: the Mass Culture of Japanese Modern Times (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2006) and Barbara Sato's The New Japanese Woman: Modernity, Media, and Women in Interwar Japan (Durham, N.C: Duke University Press, 2003). How do these authors construct the 'moga' differentlyhow do their sources differ, how do their evaluations of the political implications of modern young women differ; where do they locate modern young women?
Read the following two authors' works on state-labor relation: Andrew Gordon, Labor and Imperial Democracy in Prewar Japan (University of California Press, 1991) and Sheldon Garon, The State and Labor in Modern Japan (University of California Press, 1987). How do they compare in their view of the political significance of the labor movement in modern Japanese history, and the state's impact on the labor movement?
Compare the autobiography of Etsu Inagaki Sugimoto in Daughter of the Samurai (Doubleday, 1929) with Haru Reischauer's Samurai and Silk: A Japanese and American Heritage (Harvard University Press, 1986). Do these two tell the same story about the women of the samurai class? Consider what kinds of information historians can glean from these writings. [Note: this topic bridges documentary and historiographic topics.]
Read Eiko Maruko Siniawer's Ruffians, Yakuza, Nationalists: The Violent Politics of Modern Japan, 1860-1960 (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2008), Tetsuo Najita's Hara Kei and the Politics of Compromise, 1905-1915 (Cambridge, Harvard University Press, 1967) or Peter Duus's Party Rivalry and Political Change in Taisho Japan (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1968). Which people or what groups do your chosen authors focus on? How do their choices of actors shape their conclusionsor vice versa? Does one author give a more comprehensive view than the other?
Compare the depictions of the "liberal" Yoshida Shigeru in John Dower's Empire and Aftermath (Harvard University Press, 1979) and the "conservative" Konoe Fumimaro as depicted in Oka Yoshitake's Konoe Fumimaro: A Political Biography (University of Tokyo, 1983). How would you characterize the overlap and the differences in these politicians' tactics and philosophies of politics? Are they both products of the same social and historical setting?
Compare Herbert Bix's Hirohito and the Making of Modern Japan (Harper Collins, 2000) and Steven Large's Emperor Hirohito and Showa Japan: A Political Biography (Routledge, 1992). Why was Emperor Hirohito such a controversial historical subject? What are the main differences between the perspectives presented by Bix and Large, and how would you account for them? In addition to providing divergent views of Hirohito himself, how do these biographies differ in what they say about the history of modern Japan more generally?
Examine at least two accounts of the Allied Occupation of Japan. Possibilities include John Dower's Embracing Defeat (Free Press, 1999) or chapters 8 and 9 of his earlier work Empire and Aftermath (Harvard University Press, 1979), as well as Robert Ward and Yoshikazu Sakamoto's Democratizing Japan: The Allied Occupation (University of Hawaii Press, 1987) and Kazuo Kawai's Japan's American Interlude. (University of Chicago Press, 1964). Do your chosen authors agree on whether the Japanese or the Americans had more influence and control in this period? Is this because of their sources? Do the authors have different perspectives on what defines important influences?
What differentiates the strategies for writing the history of a controversial "event" in Iris Chang's The Rape of Nanking: The Forgotten Holocaust of World War II (Basic Books, 1997) and the essays in The Nanjing Massacre in History and Historiography (University of California Press, 2000) edited by Joshua Fogel. Does on accept different kinds of evidence? Why?
Compare the subject of Japanese colonial modernization and assimilation policy of the 1930s in two of the following: Susan Townsend's Yanaihara Tadao and Japanese Colonial Policy: Redeeming Empire (Curzon, 2000), Gi-wook Shin's and Michael Robinson's Colonial Modernity in Korea (Harvard University Press, 1999), and Duus, Myers, and Peattie, eds., The Japanese Wartime Empire, 1931-1945 (Princeton University Press, 1996). Colonial policy is hands down the most contentious subject in Japanese/East Asian historyand patriotism often come to the fore when historians interpret it. Evaluate your two works' in terms of how well they avoid such leaningsand consider what the implications of attributing modernizing influence on Korea to Japan.
Read Hashimoto Mitsuru's and Harry Harutoonian's articles in Mirror of Modernity: Invented Traditions of Modern Japan (Stephen Vlastos, ed. Berkeley, California: University of California Press, c1998) and Takami Kuwayama's "Kunio Yanagita's Project of Global Folkloristics Reconsidered" in Asian Anthropology (Jan van Bremen, Eyal Ben-Ari and Syed Farid Alatas, eds., London; New York: Routledge, 2005). Describe how your chosen scholars depict Yanagita, then write on what the differences in these scholars' interpretations of the same historical figure reveal about their approaches and concerns. What might account for their different evaluations of the quality and meaning of Yanagita's work?