Hard Times in the Hometown: A History of Community Survival in Modern Japan

10 May 2012

6:00 – 7:00pm, followed by a drinks reception to 8:00pm

Daiwa Foundation Japan House

Organised by the Daiwa Anglo-Japanese Foundation

By Martin Dusinberre

Published by University of Hawaii Press

Hard Times in the Hometown tells the story of Kaminoseki, a small town on Japan’s Inland Sea. Once one of the most prosperous ports in the country, Kaminoseki fell into profound economic decline following Japan’s reengagement with the West in the late-nineteenth century. Using a recently discovered archive and oral histories collected during his years of research in Kaminoseki, Martin Dusinberre reconstructs the lives of households and townspeople as they tried to make sense of their changing place in the world. In challenging the familiar story of modern Japanese growth, Dusinberre provides important new insights into how ordinary people shaped the development of the modern state.

Chapters describe the role of local revolutionaries in the Meiji Restoration of 1868, the ways townspeople grasped opportunities to work overseas in the late nineteenth century, and the impact this pan-Pacific diaspora community had on Kaminoseki during the pre-war decades. These histories amplify Dusinberre’s analysis of post-war rural decline – a phenomenon found not only in Japan but throughout the industrialized Western world. His account comes to a climax when, in the 1980s, the town’s councillors request the construction of a nuclear power station, unleashing a storm of protests from within the community. This ongoing nuclear dispute has particular resonance in the wake of the 2011 Fukushima crisis.

Hard Times in the Hometown gives voice to personal histories otherwise lost in abandoned archives. By bringing to life the everyday landscape of Kaminoseki, this work offers readers a compelling story through which to better understand not only nineteenth- and twentieth-century Japan but also modern transformations more generally.

* The book will be available on the day at the discounted price of £40.

Dr Martin Dusinberre

Dr Martin Dusinberre is Lecturer in Modern Japanese History at Newcastle University. His research focuses on the social and cultural history of Japan from the mid-nineteenth century to the present day. He has published articles on the Japanese nuclear power industry in The Journal of Asian Studies (2011) and on the pre-war Japanese diaspora in Japan Forum (2008). He has also written for The GuardianReuters and the History Workshop website. From 2011 – 2012, he is a Visiting Professor at Heidelberg University, where he is starting a new research project on the maritime history of late-nineteenth-century Japan. He was educated at the School of Oriental Studies, Kyushu University and Oxford University, where he completed his DPhil in 2008. Hard Times in the Hometown is his first book.

Professor Janet Hunter

Professor Janet Hunter (discussant) is Saji Professor of Economic History and Head of the Department of Economic History at the London School of Economics and Political Sciences (LSE). Her research interests lie in the economic development of Japan with particular reference to the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Her publications include: The historical consumer: consumption and everyday life in Japan1850-2000 (ed. with P. Francks, 2011),Women and the Labour Market in Japan’s Industrialising Economy (2003, Japanese edition 2008) and History of Anglo-Japanese Relations, 1600-2000: Economic Relations (with S. Sugiyama, 2001). She is currently working on the economic impact of natural disasters in Japan, focussing in particular on the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923.