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International Conference: Japan and the World

Press Release No. 114/2015
26 June 2015
Cluster of Excellence “Asia and Europe in a Global Context” hosts three-day event in early July
Meiji Tennô arrives at Tokyo (1869)

Source: Wikipedia, public domain

Meiji Tennô arrives at Tokyo (1869)

How did Japan open up to the world in the 19th century and what influence did its reforms have on world history? That is the topic at an upcoming international conference at Heidelberg University. To take place from 3 to 5 July 2015 at the Cluster of Excellence “Asia and Europe in a Global Context”, it is being organised by the Japan historian Prof. Dr. Harald Fuess from the Heidelberg Centre for Transcultural Studies (HCTS). About 80 researchers from the fields of Japanese Studies and History are expected to attend the event, entitled „Global History and the Meiji Restoration“, which will feature over 30 presentations.

Harald Fuess
Harald Fuess

“The Meiji Restoration in 1868 was a crucial moment in Japanese history and of great importance for world history,” Harald Fuess explains. He is professor for Cultural Economic History at the HCTS and spent 15 years doing research in Japan. “After over 250 years of isolation, Japan started to participate actively in world events and had an impact on the global balance of power very early on.” The feudal system was replaced by a nation state and Japan’s economic and political system was restructured in light of western patterns, as the scientist explains. “Within very few decades Japan exceeded China and Russia in terms of its military strength,” Prof. Fuess notes. Participants at the conference will discuss the way in which Japan has changed through interaction with the outside world, exploring the effects of this opening on the world’s power structures. In addition, they intend to investigate how Japan became globally connected economically, politically and culturally. One presentation topic is, for example, the way Yokohama and its port developed into an international trading city in the second half of the 19th century. In his lecture Prof. Fuess will describe the influence of the western arms trade during the Meiji restoration civil wars.

Speaking at a public evening, Prof. Dr. Madeleine Herren-Oesch, director of the Institute for European Global Studies at the University of Basel, will present the diplomatic relations that developed from the mid-19th century between Japan and Switzerland. Entitled “Under the Magnifying Glass of Global History: The Case of Swiss-Japanese Diplomacy”, her lecture will take place on Friday, 3 July, in the Lecture Hall of the Old University, starting at 6pm.

The conference is part of a major international research project on the Meiji restoration, which marks the transition from the Edo to the Meiji age. It describes the basic reorganisation of Japanese society that accompanied this transition. 2018 will see the 150th anniversary of the Meiji restoration. Other collaborators of Prof. Fuess in the research project are Prof. Dr. Daniel Botsman of Yale University and Prof. Dr. Robert Hellyer of Wake Forest University (both USA) along with colleagues from Kyoto and Tokyo. The conference language is English.

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