Save the date: Shashi Panel will be on Sunday, March 18 at 2012 AAS

October 15, 2011 at 2:51 am Leave a comment

I please to announce that date and time of 2012 AAS panel sponsored by Japanese Company Histories (Shashi) Interest Group is allocated by AAS.  It will be 10:15 am – 12:15 pm on Sunday, March 18.  I know it is last session slot and many of you are leaving AAS on Saturday night or Sunday morning.  I encourage you, however, to stay until noon on Sunday at next AAS, so that you can have opportunity to hear very interesting panel discussion as follows.

Room number is not decided yet.  I will inform you as soon as I get more information from AAS.

See you all at the panel in Toronto.

—Detailed information on the Panel—

Researching Early Modern and Modern History of Japan with Shashi (Japanese Company Histories)
Sponsored by Japanese Company Histories (Shashi) Interest Group

There are more than 50,000 companies over 100 years old in Japan; 3,886 of them are over 200 years old.  Among them is Kongodo, the world’s oldest company, established in 578 in Kyoto, Japan.  Since the Meiji period, many Japanese companies have published shashi, or company histories.  Shashi contain not only the company’s history, but also that of their industries.  They reflect changes in culture, conditions and social environment.  Shashi also present history going back to the medieval and early modern periods, since so many Japanese companies have experienced extraordinary longevity.

This panel will examine approaches to using shashi as research resources. Charles Andrews raises questions about early modern origins of Japan’s modern communications networks identified in a close reading of the company history of Nippon Express, a global transport and logistics corporation founded in the late Tokugawa period. Yuriko Kadokura looks into various shashi to find how Japanese companies, and Japanese society as a whole, dealt with difficulties following the Great Kanto Earthquake, how they chose their path to recovery, and how they recorded these actions to share with future generations.  Martha Chaiklin investigates how western footwear was adopted and produced in nineteenth century Japan by researching shashi, newspapers, magazines and literary sources. Bringing these three papers together as a panel provides an opportunity for critical discussion of the potential and limitations of shashi as resources for various kinds of academic research.

        Hiroyuki N. Good
        Japanese Bibliographer
        University of Pittsburgh
        Chair, Japanese Company Histories (Shashi) Interest Group

Panel Chair
        Richard Smethurst
        UCIS Research Professor, Department of History
        University of Pittsburgh

1         Charles Andrews
Visiting Assistant Professor, Division of Social Sciences (History)                        
Transylvania University (2011-2012)

The Limits of an Indispensible History: Nittsū’s Company History as a Guide to the Early Modern Origins of Japan’s Modern Communications

The researcher of modern Japanese economic or business history will undoubtedly run across references to commemorative in-house histories of specific organizations–Shashi–in the initial stages of research.  The utility of these histories to the researcher will of course depend on a variety of factors, but as they become increasingly available in the West through the collaborative efforts of librarians and scholars both in the US and Japan, examples of how such materials have informed specific research should encourage scholars to explore their potential.

This paper introduces the company history of Nippon Express (Nippon Tsūun Kabushiki Kaisha, or Nittsū), now a global transport and logistics corporation.  While Nittsū’s 1962 company history commemorates the 25th anniversary of the company as a post-war private business, this shashi directly traces Nittsū’s origins to the late Tokugawa period (1600-1868), and indirectly to the emergence of the great merchant transporters of Edo, Osaka, and Kyoto.  For the researcher of Japan’s early modern communications Nittsū’s history is an indispensible guide to the emergence of major transporters and their relationships to their clientele, the Tokugawa government, and to each other.  But in drawing both explicit and implicit connections with the foremost transporters of early modern Japan, Nittsū’s history leaves the researcher with compelling questions about the extent of Tokugawa Japan’s interconnectedness and development of competing transporters as Japan modernized.

2      KADOKURA Yuriko
Resource Center for the History of Entrepreneurship
Shibusawa Eiichi Memorial Foundation

The Great Kanto Earthquake as Seen in Shashi

Since the Meiji period, companies throughout Japan have published shashi, or company histories. Shashi contain not only the company’s history and business, but also numerous descriptions of the contemporary social environment including the effects of disasters and war. Shashi show how various companies, and Japanese society as a whole, dealt with the difficulties they faced, how they chose their path to recovery, and how they recorded these actions to share with future generations. Following the Great East Japan Earthquake, the category “Disaster and Revival as Seen in Shashi” was added to the Research Center for the History of Entrepreneurship’s blog. The category allows users to access information from the “Company History Index Database Project,” which is currently under construction, and introduces shashi including articles on “Disaster and Revival”, especially the Great Kanto Earthquake.

3      Martha Chaiklin
Assistant Professor, History Department
University of Pittsburgh

The March Forward: The Mechanization of Shoe Production in Meiji Japan

One of the most iconic images of modernization in Japan is the photograph of Sakamoto Ryoma in full samurai regalia, except for his feet, which were shod in brogans.  Nevertheless, Ryoma’s boots were not a symbol of modern production, but instead were probably custom-made by hand using time-honed techniques.   Images of Japanese people dressed in Western clothing are commonly used to exemplify modernization, yet the shift from traditional dress forms was neither immediate nor linear.
Shoes represent one important aspect of this change and in terms of technological development are a more interesting case study than clothing.  Specifically, weaving and sewing are some of the earliest mechanized technologies, but shoe construction is complex and requires a number of steps that require different technologies.

This paper will examine how western footwear was adopted and produced in nineteenth century Japan.  Contemporary newspapers, magazines, company histories and fiction will be utilized to place mechanization within a social, political and economic context.  It will discuss the interaction between the Meiji government, especially the Ministries of the Army and Navy, and the private sector and the introduction of technologies that led to from traditional footwear produced by burakumin or as a by-industry on farms to cordwainers, cottage industry and ultimately mechanized mass production.

Maureen Donovan
Japanese Studies Librarian & Associate Professor
Ohio State University


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