Gateway to Japan: Hakata in War and Peace, 500-1300

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University of Hawaii Press, Dec 31, 2005 - History - 200 pages

A thousand years ago, most visitors to Japan would have arrived by ship at Hakata Bay, the one and only authorized gateway to Japan. Hakata was the location of the Kôrokan, an official guest-house for foreign visitors that is currently yielding its secrets to the spades of Japanese archaeologists. Nearby was Dazaifu, the imperial capital of western Japan, surrounded by mountain fortresses and defended by an army of border guards. Over the ages, Hakata was a staging ground for Japanese troops on their way to Korea and ground zero for foreign invasions of Japan. Through the port passed a rich variety of diplomats, immigrants, raiders, and traders, both Japanese and foreign.

Gateway to Japan spotlights four categories of cross-cultural interaction—war, diplomacy, piracy, and trade—over a period of eight hundred years to gain insight into several larger questions about Japan and its place in the world: How and why did Hakata come to serve as the country’s "front door"? How did geography influence the development of state and society in the Japanese archipelago? Has Japan been historically open or closed to outside influence? Why are Japanese so profoundly ambivalent about other places and people?

Individual chapters focus on Chinese expansionism and its consequences for Japan and East Asia as a whole; the subtle (and not-so-subtle) contradictions and obfuscations of the diplomatic process as seen in Japanese treatment of Korean envoys visiting Kyushu; random but sometimes devastating attacks on Kyushu by Korean (and sometimes Japanese) pirates; and foreign commerce in and around Hakata, which turns out to be neither fully "foreign" nor fully "commerce" in the modern sense of the word. The conclusion briefly traces the story forward into medieval and early modern times.

Enriched by fascinating historical vignettes and dozens of maps and photographs, this engagingly written volume explores issues not only important for Japan’s early history but also highly pertinent to Japan’s role in the world today. Now, as in the period examined here, Japan has one principal entry point (the international airport at Narita); its relationship with the outside world (both East and West) is ambivalent; and, while sometimes astonishingly open-minded, Japanese are at other times frustratingly exclusive in their dealings with non-Japanese. Gateway to Japan will be of substantial interest to all students of Japan, East Asia, and intercultural studies.



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Page 163 - The Decline of the Kamakura Bakufu." In The Cambridge History of Japan. Vol. 3: Medieval Japan, ed. Kozo Yamamura, pp. 128174. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990. Ishii Yoneo. "Siam and Japan in Pre-Modern Times: A Note on Mutual Images.

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About the author (2005)

Bruce L. Batten is professor of Japanese history and director of the Center for International Studies at Obirin University in Tokyo.

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