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Seismic JapanThe Long History and Continuing Legacy of the Ansei Edo Earthquake$
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Gregory Smits

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780824838171

Published to Hawaii Scholarship Online: November 2016

DOI: 10.21313/hawaii/9780824838171.001.0001

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(p.139) Chapter 5 Meanings
Seismic Japan

Gregory Smits

University of Hawai'i Press

This chapter examines the Ansei Edo earthquake's social, political, and economic significance, especially in light of the collapse of the bakufu twelve years later. The Ansei Edo earthquake was rich in meanings, both soon after it occurred and for decades thereafter. It struck Japan during an okage year of special religious significance after a series of other major earthquakes that appeared, geographically, to have started in Kyoto (1830, also an okage year) and worked their way toward the shogun's capital. Focusing on popular discourse, this chapter considers how the townspeople of Edo found or created meaning in the Ansei Edo earthquake. In particular, it discusses the belief that the earthquake became strong medicine to cure an ailing society by bringing it back into balance; how the earthquake contributed to the collapse of the bakufu; the notion of Japan as a shinkoku of great vintage; and the arrival of Amaterasu in Edo. It also looks at past events such as the arrival of Commodore Matthew Perry and the emergence of frenzied dancing known as ee ja nai ka.

Keywords:   bakufu, Ansei Edo earthquake, Japan, Edo, medicine, shinkoku, Amaterasu, Matthew Perry, ee ja nai ka

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