Often the familiar surprises us. Mt. Fuji seems the most familiar of Japanese symbols, almost universally recognized at home and around the world as "Japan's mountain". Yet Mt. Fuji only became a "national" symbol in relatively recent times, after Edo (now Tokyo) became the center of Japanese political and, later, cultural life. The cultural transformation of Mt. Fuji was accomplished in large measure through juxtaposing the mountain with images of the Foreign – foreign peoples and foreign lands – in popular writing, art, and performance, from the early 17th century to the present day. In that transformation, Mt. Fuji took on many layers of ideologically-charged meanings, some of which continue to have resonance today, and can be "read" in the popular imagery of the mountain, both familiar and unfamiliar. Prof. Toby's slide-lecture will explore these images, the messages they contain, and their political and cultural implications for Edo-period history, and in the present.
Ronald P. Toby is Professor of Korean and Japanese history at the University of Tokyo, and Professor of History, East Asian Studies, and Anthropology at the University of Illinois. His research has focused principally on the historical relations between Japan and Korea, and on the ways in which Japanese in the early-modern era (ca. 1550-1870) have imagined and represented their own identity by contrasting it with their consciousness of what is "not Japanese." His many publications in both English and Japanese include State and Diplomacy in Early Modern Japan; Gyōretsu to Misemono (Parades & Shows); and the forthcoming Edo no tasha-tachi: Chōsen tsūshinshi no rekishi zūzō-gaku (The Aliens of Edo: A historical iconography of Korean visitors).