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Japan at Nature’s Edge: The Environmental Context of a Global Power

(University of Hawai’i 2013)

Editors: Ian Jared Miller, Juliet Adeney Thomas, Brett L. Walker

The history, future and protection of the environment are some of the most pressing issues of our time. Published, and in large part written in the immediate aftermath of the triple disasters of 2011, this book urges scholars of Japan to bring their considerable talents to bear to help explain how Japan has contributed to global environmental trends-including regional collapse and climate change. Yet the volume is not simply a plea to recognise the importance of nature and natural resources in the narrative of human history. The book urges readers to think about how careful attention to the role of natural phenomena in human events can help to transform the epistemological and physical basis for much academic writing on Japan.
If this sounds like a tall order, the book remains readable and enjoyable. Divided into five parts, dealing with oceans and empire, bodies, landscapes, vistas and vantage points and the disasters of March 2011, the articles provide new methods and approaches for thinking about modern and contemporary Japanese history in relation to the environment. Ranging from the phenomenon of Tama-chan-the bearded arctic seal given residency in Yokohama in the early 2000’s after getting trapped in the river network-to the history of excrement, the book provides some interesting case studies. In the age of the Anthropocene what can historians of Japan contribute to pressing issues of global scale? This book offers a convincing and enjoyable answer to that essential question.

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