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Writing the on-board: Meiji Japan in transit and transition*

  • Martin Dusinberre (a1)
Abstract

This article uses the history of Japanese emigrants to Hawai‘i as a lens through which to examine Japan’s engagement with the outside world in the late nineteenth century. Focusing on a single journey from Yokohama to Honolulu in 1885, it reconstructs the transit of two migrant labourers as they entered an ‘in-between’ state – between regimes of labour, between freedom and coercion, and between local and national identities. These migrant experiences challenge the teleological discourse of Japanese ‘progress’ that was so popular among political elites across the world in the 1880s, and that was embodied by the very materiality of the ship in which the labourers travelled. But the ‘in-between’ also speaks to the historiographical need to fill the silences that exist between archives across the Pacific Ocean, and thus to the wider challenges of writing global history.

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My research for this article was generously supported by an Alexander von Humboldt Foundation Research Fellowship at Heidelberg University. Initial support came from Newcastle University’s Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences. I am very grateful to two anonymous reviewers and to the editors of the Journal of Global History for their comments, and apologize for not always heeding their generous advice. In addition to my fellow contributors, many friends read and commented on earlier drafts of this article; I would particularly like to thank both Ben Houston and colleagues in the University of Zurich’s weekly Geschichtskontor colloquium.

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1 Hawai‘i State Archives (henceforth HSA), FO&EX 31, Immigration Matters (April to June 1885), Robert W. Irwin to Walter M. Gibson, 25 June 1885. In what follows, I hyphenate the suffix maru, which is attached to non-military ships in Japan, from the given name of the vessel, except when quoting from primary sources.

2 Hawaiian Gazette, 24 June 1885.

3 Amended translation from Lu, David, Japan: a documentary history, Armonk, NY: M.E. Sharpe, 1997, pp. 351353 (here p. 352). See also Korhonen, Pekka, ‘Leaving Asia? The meaning of Datsu-A and Japan’s modern history’, Asia-Pacific Journal, 12, 9, 3, 2014, http://www.japanfocus.org/-Pekka-Korhonen/4083 (consulted 14 March 2016).

4 Pacific Commercial Advertiser, 29 June 1885.

5 See Dower, John W., ‘Black ships & samurai: Commodore Perry and the opening of Japan (1853–1854)’, http://ocw.mit.edu/ans7870/21f/21f.027/black_ships_and_samurai/bss_essay01.html (consulted 1 April 2015).

6 On the early history of the company in question, the Kyōdō Un’yu Kaisha (Union Steamship Company), see Wray, William D., Mitsubishi and the N. Y. K., 1870–1914, Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Asia Center, 1984.

7 Straits Times Weekly Issue (Singapore), 25 June 1884; Mahlmann, John J., Reminiscences of an ancient mariner, Yokohama: ‘Japan Gazette’ Printing & Publishing Co., 1918, p. 180; Pacific Commercial Advertiser, 21 July 1885.

8 For similar, later reactions to the Yamashiro-maru in Australia, see Australian Town and Country Journal, 21 November 1896; Morning Bulletin (Rockhampton, Queensland), 14 February 1898.

9 Mahlmann, Reminiscences, p. 125.

10 See also Pietsch, Tamson, ‘A British sea: making sense of global space in the late nineteenth century’, Journal of Global History, 5, 2010, pp. 423446.

11 Models for this approach include Harms, Robert, The Diligent: a voyage through the worlds of the slave trade, New York: Basic Books, 2000; Rediker, Marcus, The slave ship: a human history, London: John Murray, 2007; Christopher, Emma, Pybus, Cassandra, and Rediker, Marcus, eds., Many middle passages: forced migration and the making of the modern world, Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2007. See also Hassam, Andrew, Sailing to Australia: shipboard diaries by nineteenth-century British emigrants, Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1994 (discussed in Tamson Pietsch, ‘Bodies at sea: travelling to Australia in the age of sail’, pp. 209–28 in this issue); and Frykman, Niklas, Anderson, Clare, van Voss, L. H., and Rediker, Marcus, ‘Mutiny and maritime radicalism in the Age of Revolution: an introduction’, International Review of Social History, 58, 2013, pp. 114.

12 Hones, Sheila and Endo, Yasuo, ‘History, distance and text: narratives of the 1853–1854 Perry expedition to Japan’, Journal of Historical Geography, 32, 2006, pp. 563578. On the wider relationship – some would say tensions – between the ‘local contexts’ and ‘global contexts’ posited by so-called ‘global microhistory’, see Martin Dusinberre and Roland Wenzlhuemer, ‘Editorial’, in this issue, n. 30.

13 See Roland Wenzlhuemer, ‘The ship, the media, and the world: conceptualizing connections in global history’, pp. 163–86 in this issue.

14 The shipboard passage is almost entirely overlooked by scholars of Japan, even in otherwise excellent analyses of overseas migration during the Meiji period: see Moriyama, Alan T., Imingaisha: Japanese emigration companies and Hawaii, 1894–1908, Honolulu, HI: University of Hawai‘i Press, 1985; Kimura, Yukiko, The Issei: Japanese immigrants in Hawaii, Honolulu, HI: University of Hawai‘i Press, 1992; Yatarō, Doi, Yamaguchi-ken Ōshima-gun Hawai iminshi (A history of emigration to Hawai‘i from Ōshima county, Yamaguchi prefecture), Tokyo: Matsuno Shoten, 1980. The key exception is Yamada Michio’s study of the Kasado-maru (launched 1900), Fune ni miru Nihonjin iminshi: Kasado-maru kara kurūzu kyakusen e (Japanese emigration history as seen through ships: from the Kasado-maru to passenger cruise liners), Tokyo: Chūkō Shinsho, 1998, a work I draw on below. For a slightly later period, see also Takai, Yukari, ‘Navigating transpacific passages: steamship companies, state regulators and transshipment of Japanese in the early-twentieth-century Pacific Northwest’, Journal of American Ethnic History, 30, 3, 2011, pp. 734. Oral history accounts of the first-generation Japanese to come to Hawai‘i are also silent on the shipboard passage: see Center for Oral History, University of Hawai‘i at Manoa, Pioneer Mill Company: a Maui sugar plantation legacy, Honolulu, HI: Center for Oral History, University of Hawai‘i, 2003; Center for Oral History, University of Hawai‘i at Manoa, Kōloa: an oral history of a Kaua’i community, 3 vols., Honolulu, HI: Center for Oral History, University of Hawai‘i, 1988; Odo, Franklin, Voices from the canefields: folksongs from Japanese immigrant workers in Hawai‘i, New York: Oxford University Press, 2013.

15 Report to Foreign Minister Aoki Shūzō from Consul Andō Tarō, on board the City of Peking, 13 February 1886, in Hiroshima-ken ijūshi shiryō-hen (A history of emigration from Hiroshima prefecture: historical sources), Hiroshima: Hiroshima Prefectural Archives, 1991, pp. 34–6.

16 Corbin, Alain, The life of an unknown: the rediscovered world of a clog maker in nineteenth-century France, trans. Arthur Goldhammer, New York: Columbia University Press, 2001, pp. vii–xiv.

17 Dening, Greg, ‘Writing, rewriting the beach: an essay’, Rethinking History, 2, 2, 1998, p. 146.

18 Joseph Conrad, The mirror of the sea, 10th edn, Edinburgh: Methuen & Co. Ltd., 1906, pp. 1–2.

19 Diplomatic Records Office, Tokyo (henceforth DRO), 3.8.2.5–14.

20 In the concentration of migrants from one particular county, Saeki displays many similarities to Ōshima county in the neighbouring Yamaguchi prefecture: see Doi, Yamaguchi-ken Ōshima-gun Hawai iminshi.

21 Smith, Thomas C., Native sources of Japanese industrialization, 1750–1920, Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1988, pp. 1549.

22 Hatsukaichi-chō hen, Hatsukaichi chōshi (Hatsukaichi town history), 7 vols., Hiroshima: Hatsukaichi chō 1988, vol. 7, p. 323; vol. 6, pp. 870–81, 885–8.

23 On falling agricultural yield in Jigozen in the 1880s, see Tomonari, Ishikawa, ‘Hiroshima wangan Jigozenson keiyaku imin no shakai chirigakuteki kōsatsu (A social and geographic study of contract emigration from Jigozen village, Hiroshima bay)’, Jinbun Chiri, 19, 1, 1967, p. 88. On the cotton mills, whose numbers nationwide increased from three in 1877 to twenty-three in 1886, see Yuji Ichioka, The Issei: the world of the first generation Japanese immigrants, 1885–1924, New York: Free Press, 1988, pp. 43–4. On the wider process of port-town change in the 1870s and 1880s, see Dusinberre, Martin, Hard times in the hometown: a history of community survival in modern Japan, Honolulu, HI: University of Hawai‘i Press, 2012, pp. 3336.

24 Income figures based on Ishikawa, ‘Hiroshima wangan Jigozenson’, p. 85. The US$9 salary was on top of a monthly allowance for food (US$6 for men and US$4 for women).

25 Hiroshima-ken ijūshi shiryō-hen, p. 10. See also Jonathan Dresner, ‘Instructions to emigrant workers, 1885–1894: “Return in triumph” or “Wander on the verge of starvation”’, in Adachi, Nobuko, ed., Japanese diasporas: unsung pasts, conflicting presents and uncertain futures, Abingdon: Routledge, 2006, pp. 5268.

26 For examples of how female bangos were used, see Hawai‘i Sugar Planters’ Association Archive, Hamilton Library, University of Hawai‘i (henceforth HSPA), KAU PV vol. 7, passim.

27 HSPA, KSC 19-13, letter from the Bureau of Immigration to the manager of Kekaha Sugar Co. (Kaua‘i), 10 January 1887.

28 Takaki, Ronald, Pau Hana: plantation life and labor in Hawaii, Honolulu, HI: University of Hawai‘i Press, 1983, p. 89.

29 Dusinberre, Hard times, p. 83.

30 Moriyama, Imingaisha, p. 112.

31 For the quarantine station, see Pacific Commercial Advertiser, 25 June 1885. I have calculated the number of guards from HSA, v.519 (Yamashiro-maru, 1892).

32 Odo, Voices from the canefields, pp. 34–6. On the meaning of contracts to Japanese labourers in Hawai‘i, see Dusinberre, Martin, ‘Circulations of labor, bodies of work: a Japanese migrant in Meiji Hawai‘i’, Historische Anthropologie, 24, 2, 2016 (forthcoming).

33 HSA, 403-16-250, Inouye Katsunosuke to Walter Gibson, 18 July 1885. Inouye [Inoue]’s full report in Japanese, Hawaikoku haken Inoue Katsunosuke fukumeisho (Report of Inoue Katsunosuke dispatched to the Kingdom of Hawai‘i), may be found through the Japan Center for Asian Historical Records, www.jacar.go.jp (consulted 14 March 2016).

34 The case is described in DRO 3.8.2.7; I could find no corresponding records in HSA, however.

35 Daily Bulletin (Honolulu), 7 August 1885, as preserved in DRO 3.8.2.7.

36 HSA, 410 Box 3 v.100, Secretary of Board of Immigration to Robert Irwin, 29 May 1885; Pacific Commercial Advertiser, 19 June 1885.

37 Odo, Voices from the canefields, p. 85.

38 Nelson, Scott Reynolds, ‘After slavery: forced drafts of Irish and Chinese labor in the American Civil War, or the search for liquid labor’, in Christopher, Pybus, and Rediker, Many middle passages, pp. 150151, emphasis added.

39 My thinking here is influenced by Lambert, David and Howell, Philip, ‘John Pope Hennessey and the translation of “slavery” between late nineteenth-century Barbados and Hong Kong’, History Workshop Journal, 55, 2003, pp. 124, esp. p. 3. On how we should interpret ‘slavery’ in the 1870s and 1880s, see Guterl, Matthew Pratt, ‘After slavery: Asian labor, the American South, and the Age of Emancipation’, Journal of World History, 14, 2, 2003, pp. 209241.

40 For a discussion of passenger perceptions of ‘in-between-ness’, including the corporeal experience thereof, see Ashmore, Paul, ‘Slowing down mobilities: passengering on an inter-war ocean liner’, Mobilities, 8, 4, 2013, p. 596.

41 For the fullest description of the Yamashiro-maru, see Pacific Commercial Advertiser, 21 July 1885. For other elements of my reconstruction, see Pacific Commercial Advertiser, 19 June 1885; Morning Bulletin (Rockhampton, Queensland), 14 February 1898. On the spatial divisions of British-built steamships during this period, see Hart, Douglas, ‘Sociability and “separate spheres” on the North Atlantic: the interior architecture of British Atlantic liners, 1840–1930’, Journal of Social History, 44, 1, 2010, pp. 189212.

42 Rules for Ship Facilities (Senpaku Kisetsu Kitei), article 98, available at: http://law.e-gov.go.jp/cgi-bin/idxrefer.cgi?H_FILE=%8f%ba%8b%e3%92%fc%90%4d%8f%c8%82%4f%82%50%82%4f%82%4f%82%4f%98%5a&REF_NAME=%91%44%94%95%90%dd%94%f5%8b%4b%92%f6&ANCHOR_F=&ANCHOR_T (consulted 13 February 2016). For a point of comparison, the Kaiwo-maru, a hybrid steam–sail training ship launched in 1930 and of very similar dimensions to the Yamashiro-maru, offered beds for its cadets of 180 cm. by 64 cm. For public access to the Kaiwo-maru, see http://www.kaiwomaru.jp/en/ (consulted 25 January 2016).

43 Yamada, Fune ni miru Nihonjin iminshi, pp. 97–8.

44 Evelyn Hu-DeHart, ‘La trata amarilla: the “yellow trade” and the middle passage, 1847–1884’, in Christopher, Pybus, and Rediker, Many middle passages, p. 173.

45 Laurence Brown, ‘“A most irregular traffic”: the oceanic passages of the Melanesian labor trade’, in Christopher, Pybus, and Rediker, Many middle passages, pp. 191–4.

46 Hyslop, Jonathan, ‘Steamship empire: Asian, African and British sailors in the merchant marine, c.1880–1945’, Journal of Asian and African Studies, 44, 1, 2009, p. 60.

47 I take these details from Consul Andō Tarō’s description of the City of Peking, 13 February 1886, in Hiroshima-ken ijūshi shiryō-hen, p. 35.

48 Hiogo News, 31 July 1884.

49 Odo, Voices from the canefields, p. 51.

50 Planters’ Labor and Supply Company, Planters’ Monthly, 6, 9, December 1886, p. 242.

51 HSA, FO&EX 31, Immigration Matters (April to June 1885), Robert W. Irwin to Walter M. Gibson, 25 June 1885.

52 I take these details from the exhibits on display at the Japanese Cultural Center of Hawai‘i, Honolulu.

53 Lu, Japan, p. 351. I have made one minor typographical correction.

54 van Sant, John, Pacific pioneers: Japanese journeys to America and Hawaii, 1850–1880, Urbana, IL: University of Illinois Press, 2000, pp. 107108 (the Hawaiian Gazette quotation is on p. 107).

55 Quoted in Botsman, Daniel, ‘Freedom without slavery? “Coolies”, prostitutes, and outcastes in Meiji Japan’s “Emancipation Moment”’, American Historical Review, 116, 5, 2011, p. 1328.

56 For more on the ‘coolie’ trade to Latin America, see Hu-DeHart, ‘La trata amarilla’; Hu-DeHart, Evelyn, ‘Chinese coolie labor in Cuba in the nineteenth century: free labor or neoslavery’, Contributions in Black Studies, 12, 1994, pp. 3854; Young, Elliott, ‘Chinese coolies, universal rights and the limits of liberalism in an age of empire’, Past & Present, 227, 1, 2015, pp. 121149. Though Young does not discuss the Maria Luz incident, he does (p. 137) mention the lesser-known Cayalti incident (1868), when a Peruvian ship carrying ‘coolies’ came to Hokkaido.

57 Howland, Douglas, ‘The Maria Luz incident: personal rights and international justice for Chinese coolies and Japanese prostitutes’, in Susan L. Burns and Barbara J. Brooks eds., Gender and law in the Japanese imperium, Honolulu, HI: University of Hawai‘i Press, 2013, p. 39.

58 HSA, FO&EX 31, Immigration Matters, April–June 1885, Inoue Kaoru to Walter Gibson, 2 June 1885. Inouye [Inoue] Katsunosuke was the adopted son of Inoue Kaoru.

59 Jung, Moon-Kie, Reworking race: the making of Hawaii’s interracial labor movement, New York: Columbia University Press, 2006, p. 79.

60 Pacific Commercial Advertiser, 16 July 1885.

61 Qing China subsequently sent a high-ranking commission to Cuba to investigate the ‘coolie’ trade. See Ng, Rudolph, ‘The Chinese commission to Cuba (1874): reexamining international relations in the nineteenth century from a transcultural perspective’, Transcultural Studies, 2, 2014, pp. 3962.

62 DRO, 3.8.2.8, Inoue Kaoru to Robert Beadon, 28 December 1885.

63 DRO, 3.8.4.8, John Carey Hall (acting British consul in Yokohama) to W. J. S. Shand, 15 November 1887.

64 HSA, 404-15-252, Hawaiian Officials Abroad (Japan), Inoue Kaoru to Robert Irwin, 30 May 1885.

65 HSA, FO&EX 31, Immigration Matters, October–December 1885, Planters’ Labor and Supply Company petition to King Kalākaua, 19 November 1885.

66 I have extrapolated such a relationship from documents in the Hiroshima-ken ijūshi shiryō-hen, pp. 7–10.

67 On the multiple bureaucratic and community roles that local elites played in Meiji Japan, see Dusinberre, Hard times, pp. 53–80.

68 Pacific Commercial Advertiser, 10, 12, 19, 20, 21, and 23 February 1885.

69 I take the distinction between ‘identity’ and ‘identification’ from Cooper, Frederick, Colonialism in question: theory, knowledge, history, Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2005, pp. 7173.

70 Shimazu, Naoko, Japanese society at war: death, memory, and the Russo-Japanese war, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009, p. 76. See also Pietsch, ‘British sea’.

71 Consul Andō’s report from the City of Peking, 13 February 1886, in Hiroshima-ken ijūshi shiryō-hen, p. 34. Moriyama, Imingaisha, p. 161, quotes a migrant who described spending time with his fellow prefectural passengers during his passage to Hawai‘i in 1888.

72 Ondaatje, Michael, The cat’s table, London: Jonathan Cape, 2011.

73 Rediker, Slave ship, p. 118.

74 Odo, Songs from the canefields, pp. 114–15. On the ways that plantation managers encouraged competition between workers along national lines, see Takaki, Pau Hana, pp. 68–71. On marginal groups becoming ‘Japanese’ through overseas emigration, see McCormack, Noah, ‘Buraku emigration in the Meiji era: other ways to become “Japanese”’, East Asian History, 23, 2002, pp. 87108.

75 Pacific Commercial Advertiser, 4 November 1891.

76 Odo, Songs from the canefields, p. 26.

77 Doi, Yamaguchi-ken Ōshima-gun Hawai iminshi, p. 114, referring to an 1889 emigrant’s later recollections.

78 Pacific Commercial Advertiser, 8 July 1885.

79 Odo, Voices from the canefields, p. 55.

80 Paradise of the Pacific, September 1893, pp. 133–4; Adler, Jacob, Claus Spreckels: the sugar king in Hawaii, Honolulu, HI: University of Hawai‘i Press, 1966, pp. 6979. Spreckels was also active in transpacific shipping: see Frances Steel, ‘Anglo-worlds in transpacific crossings, c.1870–1914’, pp. 251–70 in this issue.

81 DRO, 3.8.2.5–14.

82 Pacific Commercial Advertiser, 12 February 1885.

83 I am very grateful to Christina Thurman-Wild for pointing these similarities out.

84 HSA, 517 v.2, Inspector of Immigrants Letter Book, 1883–86, 28 November 1885. ‘Ito’ was almost certainly ‘Chojiro Ito’, who was still working as an inspector to Japanese immigrants in 1888: HSA, Interior Department Immigration-Japanese, R. W. Irwin correspondence, 25 January 1888.

85 HSA, 517 v.2, Inspector of Immigrants Letter Book, 1883–86, 19 December 1885. Cleghorn returned to Spreckelsville in March 1886 with a Japanese delegation, whose report appears in Hiroshima-ken ijūshi shiryō-hen, pp. 39–42.

86 Hawaiian Gazette, 22 July 1885; Adler, Claus Spreckels, p. 183.

87 On the samurai status of the Japanese officials in Hawai‘i, see Kimura, Issei, pp. 132–4; on the salaries of the inspectors/interpreters, see Moriyama, Imingaisha, p. 27.

88 Siegert, Bernhard, ‘Ficticious [sic] identities: on the interrogatorios and registros de pasajeros a Indias in the Archivo General de Indias (Seville) (16th century)’, in Wolfram Nitsch, Matei Chihaia, and Alejandra Torres, eds., Ficciones de los medios en la periferia: técnicas de comunicación en la literatura hispanoamericana moderna, Cologne: Universitäts- und Stadtbibliothek Köln, 2008, p. 20. The phrase ‘legible people’ comes from Scott, James, Seeing like a state: how certain schemes to improve the human condition have failed, New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1998. I am grateful to Jan-Friedrich Missfelder for pointing me towards Siegert’s work.

89 Mihalopoulos, Bill, Sex in Japan’s globalization, 1870–1930, London: Pickering & Chatto, 2011, esp. pp. 113; see also Hacking, Ian, ‘Making people up’, London Review of Books, 17 August 2006, pp. 2326.

90 DRO, 3.8.2 5–13 (vol. 1). According to the Hawaiian Board of Immigration’s Report of the inspector in chief of Japanese immigrants (1890), only one-third (375) of the 1885 group of Yamashiro-maru migrants had returned to Japan by 31 March 1890.

91 Ishikawa, ‘Hiroshima wangan Jigozenson’, pp. 78–9.

92 Conrad, Mirror of the sea, p. 13.

93 Osterhammel, Jürgen, The transformation of the world: a global history of the nineteenth century, trans. Patrick Camiller, Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2014, pp. 6971.

94 Odo, Voices from the canefields, p. 110.

95 Odo, Voices from the canefields, p. 86.

* My research for this article was generously supported by an Alexander von Humboldt Foundation Research Fellowship at Heidelberg University. Initial support came from Newcastle University’s Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences. I am very grateful to two anonymous reviewers and to the editors of the Journal of Global History for their comments, and apologize for not always heeding their generous advice. In addition to my fellow contributors, many friends read and commented on earlier drafts of this article; I would particularly like to thank both Ben Houston and colleagues in the University of Zurich’s weekly Geschichtskontor colloquium.

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