An innovative examination of heritage politics in Japan, showing how castles have been used to re-invent and recapture competing versions of the pre-imperial past and project possibilities for Japan's future. Oleg Benesch and Ran Zwigenberg argue that Japan's modern transformations can be traced through its castles. They examine how castle preservation and reconstruction campaigns served as symbolic ways to assert particular views of the past and were crucial in the making of an idealized premodern history. Castles have been used to craft identities, to create and erase memories, and to symbolically join tradition and modernity. Until 1945, they served as physical and symbolic links between the modern military and the nation's premodern martial heritage. After 1945, castles were cleansed of military elements and transformed into public cultural spaces that celebrated both modernity and the pre-imperial past. What were once signs of military power have become symbols of Japan's idealized peaceful past.
'An exciting history of Japan from the Tokugawa period to the present, as seen through the lens of its castles. The book explores their shifting meaning within the context of Japan’s drive to modernize, its militarism, construction of empire, wartime devastation, postwar recovery, and search for meaning in a postmodern world.'
Constantine N. Vaporis - University of Maryland, Baltimore County
'In describing the life of Japanese castles, Benesch and Zwigenberg have taken an inherently interesting topic left unexplored by academics and given us a model of how to launch a new field of study with grace and aplomb. There is much here to satisfy students, scholars, and the interested public.'
Michael Wert - Marquette University, Wisconsin
‘Oleg Benesch and Ran Zwigenberg’s Japan’s Castles is a timely addition to the growing body of literature on historical memory and heritage in modern Japan … this groundbreaking work will change the ways readers will look at castles during future visits … this is a pioneering work that persuasively demonstrates the strengths of memory studies based on a methodological combination of field studies, archival research, and the analysis of a broad range of newspapers and periodicals. The increasing accessibility of such sources allows the contemporary historian to present a much more nuanced analysis than was possible in the past, and Benesch and Zwigenberg deserve the highest praise for having achieved this goal and for weaving the abundant information gathered together to produce a coherent, richly documented, and extremely stimulating volume.’
Sven Saaler Source: The Journal of Asian Studies
‘In this well-researched book, Benesch (Univ. of York) and Zwigenberg (Pennsylvania State Univ.) offer an in-depth historical look into the vicissitudes of Japanese castles in modern times … this is a satisfying read!’
Q. E. Wang Source: Choice
‘For the general reader, this is a book written, despite its clear academic rigour, in an eminently accessible style that will greatly enhance a historical or touristic interest in Japan’s castles. For the academic reader, it is full of valuable arguments and information pertinent not only to the niche field of castle studies but to many areas of Japanese studies and/or modern history. The authors have done a particularly good job of demonstrating the relevance of castles to many of the mainstream issues in post-1850s Japan, making their book highly recommended for inclusion on any undergraduate or postgraduate reading list relating to modern Japanese history. Indeed, Japan’s Castles indicates the strong potential of castle studies to form an integral part of our understanding of the social, cultural, economic, and political development of modern Japan.’
Philip Seaton Source: Monumenta Nipponica