Japan today defends its controversial whaling expeditions by invoking tradition—but what was the historical reality? In examining the techniques and impacts of whaling during the Tokugawa period (1603–1868), Jakobina Arch shows that the organized, shore-based whaling that first developed during these years bore little resemblance to modern Japanese whaling. Drawing on a wide range of sources, from whaling ledgers to recipe books and gravestones for fetal whales, she traces how the images of whales and by-products of commercial whaling were woven into the lives of people throughout Japan. Economically, Pacific Ocean resources were central in supporting the expanding Tokugawa state.
In this vivid and nuanced study of how the Japanese people brought whales ashore during the Tokugawa period, Arch makes important contributions to both environmental and Japanese history by connecting Japanese whaling to marine environmental history in the Pacific, including the devastating impact of American whaling in the nineteenth century.
Jakobina K. Arch is assistant professor of history at Whitman College.
Paul Sutter is series editor for the Weyerhaeuser Environmental Books series. He is professor of history at the University of Colorado Boulder. He has published five books, including Driven Wild: How the Fight against Automobiles Launched the Modern Wilderness Movement (University of Washington Press, 2005) and Let Us Now Praise Famous Gullies: Providence Canyon and the Soils of the South (University of Georgia Press, 2015).
"What is the real history of whaling in Japan? Is it first and foremost a story about the continuation of a centuries old cultural tradition? And how likely is it that the whaling Japan continues to do in the name of scientific research under IWC rules will validate a long-standing dedication to the sustainable use of whales for food? . . . Jakobina Arch . . . provide[s] for the first time convincing answers to these and other questions in Bringing Whales Ashore."
~Geoffrey Wandesforde-Smith, Environment, Law, and History
"Bringing Whales Ashore is not only an important volume but also a provocative one. Jakobina Arch has produced (in her first book, no less) one of those rare and wonderful pieces of research that recasts the historical landscape (or, in this case, seascape) while stimulating debate and raising challenging new questions."
"Arch’s fascinating study is more than an interdisciplinary maritime history. . . . Whales and whaling, here, wed the historical to the contemporary, enhancing knowledge of Japanese history while historizing contemporary controversies, including the invented tradition of Japanese as nature-loving people spiritually connected to their natural world."
~Japan Studies Review
"Lucid, thoughtful, and thought provoking . . . a richly textured work that not only fills an important gap for scholars of Japanese history but also provides engaging material that should stimulate discussion—as well as debate—in the classroom."
~Journal of Japanese Studies
"Rarely do books on the early modern period engage so directly with the present as does Bringing Whales Ashore. . . . As the Japanese pro-whaling lobby has constructed a certain narrative of the past to claim a right to whaling rooted in tradition and an ethos of sustainability, Arch provides a powerful counterweight with her in-depth investigation into all aspects of Japanese whaling history predating the rise of the modern factory ship in the twentieth century."
~American Historical Review
"With Bringing Whales Ashore, Jakobina Arch almost singlehandedly places the emerging field regarding whales and whaling in Japanese history on solid ground."
~Journal of Japanese Studies
"A superb book. . . . It represents the growing field of marine environmental history at its best."
"A breath-taking and emotional read... Jakobina Arch’s work challenges readers to travel from oceanscapes of cetacean migration, to visceral death on the coast, value extraction by dismemberment, and disintegration to places of hybrid-memory and lives long in the memory."
~New Books Asia
"Jakobina K. Arch's Bringing Whales Ashore: Oceans and the Environment of Early Modern Japan is an important contribution to the rapidly expanding field of marine environmental history. Shedding the long-engrained terrestrial predisposition of history, Arch offers fresh understanding of the economic, cultural, and social links whaling forged between Japan and the Pacific Ocean in the premodern era."
"Bringing Whales Ashore is a breath-taking and emotional read for those concerned to fill in the watery, liminal spaces of environmental history in general or specifically of Japan."
~New Books Asia
"[A] model of an interdisciplinary approach to environmental history...distill[s] complex histories into an eminently readable volume without compromising the scholarship therein."