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H-ASIA December 14, 2007 Early Modern Japan Network AAS Panel: Apocalypse Then: Interpretations of Disaster and Calamity in Late,Tokugawa Japan ************************************************************************ From: Philip Brown <firstname.lastname@example.org> Apocalypse Then: Interpretations of Disaster and Calamity in Late Tokugawa Japan. Sponsored by Early-modern Japan Network (Gregory J. Smits, Pennsylvania State University, organizer) Friday: 8:30-10:30: Panel 34. Apocalypse Then: Interpretations of Disaster and Calamity in Late Tokugawa Japan Slightly more than a year after Matthew Perry negotiated the Treaty of Kanagawa, a large earthquake shook Edo causing approximately 10,000 civilian casualties and destroying roughly 14,000 structures. Japanese "read" this 1855 event in different ways, but almost nobody regarded it as an accident or random occurrence. The residents of Edo had little reprieve from the forces of disorder. In 1856 a severe typhoon damaged Edo and killed as many as 1,000. The next year a virulent influenza epidemic swept through the city. Even worse was Edo's 1858 cholera epidemic, which killed approximately 30,000 and occurred the same year that an ominous comet appeared in the skies over Japan. Kanagaki Robun spoke for many in Edo by linking the cholera epidemic to the bakufu's kaikoku policy. The rise and fall of Ii Naosuke ushered in a period of political unrest between 1858 and 1860, followed by a measles epidemic in 1862. For many Japanese, ominous change seemed near at hand. Focusing on the period 1855-1862, this panel examines late Tokugawa society through the lens of syphilis, cholera, the 1858 Comet, and representations of cosmic upheaval in namazu-e (catfish prints) and hashika-e (measles prints). William Johnston, "Mold Poisons and Plum Poisons: Concepts of Syphilis in Early Modern Japan" In Europe, syphilis became a major disease from the late fifteenth century, just as Columbus returned from the New World. Some historians have hypothesized that the disease originated there, while others have postulated that it emerged in the Old World from disease organisms that already existed there. In either case, it is clear that the disease first appeared in East Asia in the sixteenth century, but then quickly spread throughout much of the region, including Japan. This paper will provide a sketch of the epidemiological history of syphilis in Japan, but will focus mainly on the transformation of the etiologies (ideas of causation) and nosologies (systematic categorization) of the disease from its first encounters into the nineteenth century. The Chinese first called the disease the "mold poison" (Ch. meidu, Jp. baidoku), a term the Japanese also used, especially in the early seventeenth century, but in Japan it also came to be called the "plum poison" (baidoku) based on its symptoms. The evolution of the etiological and nosological concepts of this malady in Japan opens a window on cultural and social history that reveals changing attitudes toward sexuality, disease, family ties, and gender, all of which will receive mention. Bettina Gramlich-Oka, "The Blue Fear: The Cholera Epidemic of 1858" Cholera was known for more than two thousand years in South Asia but spread only in the nineteenth century around the world. The new pandemic pestilence also made its way to Japan. Three outbreaks of cholera are recorded for Tokugawa Japan: the first epidemic in 1822, second in 1858, and the third in 1862. This paper examines cholera through culture-bound concepts of various groups in society. It explores whether these notions changed due to the exposure to this unknown and mysterious disease, which claimed thousands of victims at a fast pace but for which effective therapies had yet to be found. The focus will be on the epidemic of 1858, which had the strongest impact and highest mortality rate in the Tokugawa period. Coming from the outside with virulent rage, the timing of the cholera epidemic coincided with the year of the foreign treaties. An analysis of medical discourse, government response, as well as reactions of society will offer insight into concepts of disease, for which socio-political and cultural conditions are decisive. Laura Nenzi, "The Sky is Falling: The 1858 Comet" In the fall of 1858, shortly after the outbreak of a devastating cholera epidemic, the death of the shogun, and the capitulation of the country to western demands, an ominous comet made its appearance in the skies of Japan. With its long, curved, and bright tail and nightly appearances over the span of several months, the comet captured the imagination of countless observers who described it, sketched it, and attempted to 'read' its meaning in official records, personal diaries, broadsheets, and popular literature. For many, the appearance of this celestial body at a time of general turmoil and instability was a further confirmation that the sky was not only metaphorically but also quite literally falling. This paper traces the cultural trajectory of the 1858 comet against the tumultuous events of the bakumatsu arguing that its apparition at a particularly critical time turned it not only into a receptacle of religious, political, and social fears, but also into a catalyst of change, an inspirational impulse and heaven-sent excuse to take action and raise hitherto unheard voices. Gregory Smits, "Depicting Upheaval: The 1855 Namazu-e and the 1862 Hashika-e" Within two days of the main shock of the 1855 Ansei Edo Earthquake, makeshift printing operations began producing namazu-e (catfish picture prints). Over the course of two months, anonymous authors and presses produced hundreds of varieties of namazu-e, whose motifs and messages varied widely. The common feature of all of these prints was the representation of the shaking earth as one or more catfish. Many of the namazu-e bear a close resemblance to the hashika-e (measles picture prints), which briefly flooded the broadsheet print market after an epidemic of measles raged during 1862 from Nagasaki (second month) to Edo (six month) and many points in. A print entitled "Subduing the Measles Demon," for example, shows a large crowd of angry or distressed urbanites from all walks of life beating, trampling, and otherwise subduing a giant, bearded measles demon. If one were simply to re-draw the demon's face as that of a catfish, the print would look exactly like similar namazu-e in which a large crowd attempts to subdue a giant catfish. This paper compares the iconographic elements in the two types of prints and describes rhetorical and visual strategies for taming and regulating powerful cosmic forces in bakumatsu Japan. Philip Brown The Ohio State University ****************************************************************** To post to H-ASIA simply send your message to: <H-ASIA@h-net.msu.edu> For holidays or short absences send post to: <email@example.com> with message: SET H-ASIA NOMAIL Upon return, send post with message SET H-ASIA MAIL H-ASIA WEB HOMEPAGE URL: http://h-net.msu.edu/~asia/