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Travel in Tokugawa Period Japan (1603-1868): Identity, Nationand Social Transformation

Project description

A unique trip to traditional Japan

The Edo period or Tokugawa period (1603-1868) was a time of relative internal peace, political stability and economic growth in Japan. The EU-funded TOKUGAWATRAVEL project will review the cultural and social meanings of travel in the context of Tokugawa 'absolutism'. In fact, the project will assess how travel tends to be interconnected with text. Travel guides and maps will be analysed to investigate whether travel within Japan came to subvert the geographical and social immobility that characterised the Tokugawa administrative system. Another aspect of the project is to review the relationship between travel and the formation of national identity. It will consider whether the ideological transformation connected with travel served as a 'proto-national' identification.


This research project investigates the practice of travel in Edo/Tokugawa Japan (1603-1868), particularly in connection with notions of social identity, transformation, and nationhood. Through a theoretical framework that combines Social History and Historical Bibliography, primary sources will be investigated, including commercially “unofficial” and “popular” sources published and distributed, such as travel guides and commercial maps. In the analysis the material will be considered: a) as objects, viewed in the light of the cultural and economical processes that led to their production and circulation, in order to understand the “range” of the ideological impact of travel; and b) in terms of their contents, in order to assess how their “commercialized” narratives reflect popular notions of identity and nationhood. An interdisciplinary approach, based on Travel Studies, Japanese Historiography, and in particularly, World Society Theory, will be implemented to discuss the cultural and social meaningof travel in the context of Tokugawa “absolutism”. Travel tends to be entwined with social mobility, in a way that alters and marks social and cultural landscapes. The project will therefore investigate whether travel within Japan, becoming growingly commonin a context of economic growth, came to subvert the geographical and social immobility that characterized Tokugawa administrative system. Furthermore, the analysis will discuss the relationship between travel and the formation of a national identity, assessing whether the social and ideological transformation connected with travel worked in Japan as a prompt for “proto-national” identification,as opposed to forms of local nationalism.


Net EU contribution
€ 183 454,80
Oxford road
M13 9PL Manchester
United Kingdom

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North West (England) Greater Manchester Manchester
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
Other funding
€ 0,00