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Academic & Professional Books  History & Other Humanities  Environmental History

Bringing Whales Ashore Oceans and the Environment of Early Modern Japan

By: Jakobina K Arch(Author), Paul S Sutter(Foreword By)
247 pages, 16 b/w photos and b/w illustrations, 3 b/w maps
Bringing Whales Ashore
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  • Bringing Whales Ashore ISBN: 9780295748108 Paperback Aug 2020 Not in stock: Usually dispatched within 6 days
  • Bringing Whales Ashore ISBN: 9780295743295 Hardback Apr 2018 Not in stock: Usually dispatched within 6 days
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About this book

Today, Japan defends its controversial whaling expeditions by invoking tradition – but what was the historical reality? In examining the techniques and impacts of whaling during the Tokugawa period (1603-1868), Jakobina Arch shows that the organized, shore-based whaling that first developed during these years bore little resemblance to modern Japanese whaling. Drawing on a wide range of sources, from whaling ledgers to recipe books and gravestones for fetal whales, she traces how the images of whales and byproducts of commercial whaling were woven into the lives of people throughout Japan. Economically, Pacific Ocean resources were central in supporting the expanding Tokugawa state.

In this vivid and nuanced study of how the Japanese people brought whales ashore during the Tokugawa period, Arch makes important contributions to both environmental and Japanese history by connecting Japanese whaling to marine environmental history in the Pacific, including the devastating impact of American whaling in the nineteenth century.

Customer Reviews


Jakobina K. Arch is assistant professor of history at Whitman College.

By: Jakobina K Arch(Author), Paul S Sutter(Foreword By)
247 pages, 16 b/w photos and b/w illustrations, 3 b/w maps
Media reviews

"What is the real history of whaling in Japan? Is it first and foremost a story about the continuation of a centuries old cultural tradition? And how likely is it that the whaling Japan continues to do in the name of scientific research under IWC rules will validate a long-standing dedication to the sustainable use of whales for food? [...] Jakobina Arch [...] provide[s] for the first time convincing answers to these and other questions in Bringing Whales Ashore."
– Geoffrey Wandesforde-Smith, Environment, Law, and History

"An extraordinarily rich set of perspectives and analyses. Bringing Whales Ashore will appeal to both those interested in contemporary environmental politics as well as those interested in Japanese and environmental history."
– Philip C. Brown, author of Cultivating Commons: Joint Ownership of Arable Land in Early Modern Japan

"Bringing Whales Ashore is a carefully researched investigation of Japan's preindustrial whaling practices. Importantly, the book informs contemporary debates regarding Japanese whaling. Japan has based its claims to a right to whale in 'tradition,' but Bringing Whales Ashore demonstrates just how complex claims to 'tradition' can be. It makes an excellent contribution to Japanese history and Pacific studies more broadly."
– Brett L. Walker, author of The Lost Wolves of Japan

"Bringing Whales Ashore not only reveals the crucial role that whales played in Early Modern Japanese economics and culture, but also-for the first time-brilliantly uncovers the underwater connections binding the island nation to the Pacific world, even during the period of Japan's deepest isolation. Full of fascinating details about whales and their pursuers, this book will serve as a model for anyone trying to make sense of the difficult relationship between humans and other large, charismatic mammals."
– Ryan Tucker Jones, author of Empire of Extinction: Russians and the North Pacific's Strange Beasts of the Sea, 1741-1867

"Bringing Whales Ashore is a model of environmental and cultural history. It is a deeply researched, cogently argued, and lucidly narrated history that highlights continuities-and ruptures-between the past and the present. By examining the material and metaphorical connections between whales and humans, between oceanic and terrestrial space, Jakobina Arch makes important contributions to the study of the early modern world and human-animal relations."
– Aaron Skabelund, author of Empire of Dogs: Canines, Japan, and the Making of the Modern Imperial World

"Jakobina Arch's surprising account of Tokugawa whaling is a must-read for anyone interested in the on-going dispute about modern Japanese whaling or the history of the oceans."
– Kurkpatrick Dorsey, author of Whales and Nations: Environmental Diplomacy on the High Seas

"Arch follows whales ashore to reveal their unexpectedly profound contributions to early modern Japanese economy, culture and even spiritual life, contributing an environmental history that places Japan firmly within Pacific basin history even during the famously inward-focused Tokugawa period, engages with the politics of contemporary whaling, and offers a model for including the ocean in the overwhelmingly terrestrial discipline of history."
– Helen Rozwadowski, author of The Sea Knows No Boundaries: A Century of Marine Science under ICES

"Bringing Whales Ashore is not only an important volume but also a provocative one. Jakobina Arch has produced (in her first book, no less) one of those rare and wonderful pieces of research that recasts the historical landscape (or, in this case, seascape) while stimulating debate and raising challenging new questions."
Monumenta Nipponica

"Arch's fascinating study is more than an interdisciplinary maritime history [...] Whales and whaling, here, wed the historical to the contemporary, enhancing knowledge of Japanese history while historizing contemporary controversies, including the invented tradition of Japanese as nature-loving people spiritually connected to their natural world."
Japan Studies Review

"Lucid, thoughtful, and thought provoking [...] a richly textured work that not only fills an important gap for scholars of Japanese history but also provides engaging material that should stimulate discussion – as well as debate – in the classroom."
Journal of Japanese Studies

"Rarely do books on the early modern period engage so directly with the present as does Bringing Whales Ashore [...] As the Japanese pro-whaling lobby has constructed a certain narrative of the past to claim a right to whaling rooted in tradition and an ethos of sustainability, Arch provides a powerful counterweight with her in-depth investigation into all aspects of Japanese whaling history predating the rise of the modern factory ship in the twentieth century."
American Historical Review

"With Bringing Whales Ashore, Jakobina Arch almost singlehandedly places the emerging field regarding whales and whaling in Japanese history on solid ground."
Journal of Japanese Studies

"A superb book [...] It represents the growing field of marine environmental history at its best."
Environmental History

"A breath-taking and emotional read [...] Jakobina Arch's work challenges readers to travel from ocean scapes of cetacean migration, to visceral death on the coast, value extraction by dismemberment, and disintegration to places of hybrid-memory and lives long in the memory."
New Books Asia

"Jakobina K. Arch's Bringing Whales Ashore: Oceans and the Environment of Early Modern Japan is an important contribution to the rapidly expanding field of marine environmental history. Shedding the long-engrained terrestrial predisposition of history, Arch offers fresh understanding of the economic, cultural, and social links whaling forged between Japan and the Pacific Ocean in the premodern era."

"Bringing Whales Ashore is a breath-taking and emotional read for those concerned to fill in the watery, liminal spaces of environmental history in general or specifically of Japan."
New Books Asia

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