The seminar's members, representing the full range of academic disciplines that bear upon the study of Japan and including Japan specialists from government, business, and the nonprofit sectors, meet regularly to discuss scholarly papers on all aspects of modern Japan, from history, literature, art, and the performing arts to politics, economics, social issues, and the US-Japan bilateral relationship.

Seminar: #445

Founded: 1960

Dec 14, 2007

December 14, 2007

Gregory Smits (Penn. State)
The Ansei Edo Earthquake of 1855 as a Political Event

At approximately 10pm on the second day of the tenth month, 1855 (11 November) an earthquake with a Richter magnitude estimated between 6.9 and 7.2 shook Edo.

The reverberations of the Ansei Edo Earthquake continued long after the earth stopped shaking. The event functioned as a catalyst for the emergence of public opinion and for growing doubts about the bakufu's ability to govern. Edo's residents tended to read the earthquake as an act of cosmic intervention to rectify a society that had become severely imbalanced or sick. Among the common people of Edo, the earthquake helped further to refine an emerging vision of Japan as a natural political community blessed by the deities. Catfish picture prints (namazu-e) were the means by which ordinary people adumbrated this new vision, and they constituted a powerful form of political rhetoric for a group theoretically forbidden from engaging in political discourse.

Discussant: Amanda Stinchecum