Attacking the Sakoku Zombie: Feudal isolationism and early modern Japan

Samurai Japanese painting

The idea that sakoku or “closed country” usefully describes Japanese foreign-relations policy during the Edo period (1600–1868) has been dead for nearly a half century. Yet, how we should understand this period without the concept of isolation has been a challenge to scholars ever since. This course briefly outlines Japan’s posture toward the world between approximately 1500 and 1870, showing how Japan was actually very active internationally during this period. The three class sessions will consider the “Age of Pirates” (Wakō, 14th century to 1588); the “Age of Unification (15881639); and the “Age of Controlled Contact” (16391858), on the brink of the modern era. 

Instructor: William Johnston

Date: Thursdays, May 5, 12, 19

Time: 6:30-8 pm

Location: Wasch Center Butterfield Room