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The Conquest of Ainu Lands

This model monograph is the first scholarly study to put the Ainu - the native people living in Ezo, the northernmost island of the Japanese archipelago - at the center of an exploration of Japanese expansion during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, the height of the Tokugawa shogunal era. Inspired by 'new Western' historians of the United States, Walker positions Ezo not as Japan's northern 'frontier' but as a borderland or middle ground. By framing his study between the cultural and ecological worlds of the Ainu before and after two centuries of sustained contact with the Japanese, the author demonstrates with great clarity just how far the Ainu were incorporated into the Japanese political economy and just how much their ceremonial and material life - not to mention disease ecology, medical culture, and their physical environment - had been infiltrated by Japanese cultural artifacts, practices, and epidemiology by the early nineteenth century. Walker takes a fresh and original approach. Rather than presenting a mere juxtaposition of oppression and resistance, he offers a subtle analysis of how material and ecological changes induced by trade with Japan set in motion a reorientation of the whole northern culture and landscape. Using new and little-known material from archives as well as Ainu oral traditions and archaeology, Walker poses an exciting new set of questions and issues that have yet to be approached in so innovative and thorough a fashion.
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About the Author

Brett L. Walker is Assistant Professor of History at Montana State University, Bozeman.


"The end result is this detailed and scholarly work, which will remain seminal reading for years to come for anyone interested in understanding the demise of the Ainu and the concomitant rise to power of the Japanese in Hokkaido and the northern islands of Sakhalin and the Kurils." - The Daily Yomiuri "One of the book's great strengths is the author's attention to detail, grounded in a mastery of the relevant primary sources, some of them published, but many available only in manuscript form. The writing is a model of clarity and logical exposition, and the text is further enhanced by a large number of maps and illustrations showing different aspects of Ainu life. The book is highly informative and consistently interesting, and will be read with pleasure by all students of Japanese history." - Monumenta Nipponica "The book not only makes a significant contribution to the meager literature on the history of Ainu-Japanese relations and transformation of Ainu society, but also provides important information on... Japan's relations with the outside world. People interested in early state formation have much to gain from reading this book. But most of all, it is a delight for those interested in cultural creativity and the power of invented traditions." - Journal of Japanese Studies"

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