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Japan's Castles
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press
  • Expected online publication date: June 2019
  • Print publication year: 2019
  • Online ISBN: 9781108680578

Book description

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


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