Takahashi Tomio’s Henkyō: Eastern Easts and Western Wests
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frontier, Frederick Jackson Turner, Tōhoku, universalism, historiography, postwar thought, regionalism, Umehara Takeshi, Akasaka Norio, Emishi

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1. Hopson N. Takahashi Tomio’s Henkyō: Eastern Easts and Western Wests // Journal of Frontier Studies. 2018. № 4. C. 169-207.


In 1979, historian Takahashi Tomio applied Frederick Jackson Turner’s “frontier thesis” to the history of Japanese state and national formation, arguing that as the Western frontier had determined American national character, the Eastern frontier had determined the course of ancient Japanese history and the character of Japan itself. Takahashi was a scholar of Northeast Japan (Tōhoku) who attempted to transcend the limitations of Japanese history with a structural model recognizing the mutually constitutive nature of core and periphery, metropole and frontier. This article traces the development of Takahashi’s argument, with attention to the influence of his personal history and the universalist tendencies of early postwar Japanese historiography. Ultimately, Takahashi’s appropriated frontier thesis did not catch on, and his prominence in Tōhoku studies diminished. However, the so-called “Jōmon boom” of the early 1990s and the rise of “Tōhoku-ology” (Tōhokugaku) accomplished his goal of imparting value to the Northeast better than his frontier thesis could have. On the other hand, the frontier thesis was explicitly rejected by Tōhokugaku’s leading figure, Akasaka Norio, as an expression not of universal historical laws, but of a view of the Northeast as a backward periphery to be conquered and exploited.

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