Book Announcement: Conquering Demons: The “Kirishitan,” Japan, and the World in Early Modern Japanese Literature

Conquering DemonsJan C. Leuchtenberger

Michigan Monograph Series in Japanese Studies, No. 75
Copyright 2013, xii + 240 pages, 7 illustrations, 4 tables
Hardback: ISBN 978-1-929280-77-3 ($65.00)
Paperback: ISBN 978-1-929280-78-0 ($25.00)

Published by the Center for Japanese Studies, The University of Michigan

Conquering Demons examines the origins and influence of three popular anti-Kirishitan (anti-Christian) works from the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. These sensational fictional accounts of a near conquest of Japan by a kind of mythical Kirishitan, who used money and magic to gain converts in their attempt to take over Japan, are studied in the context of the publication trends of the time they were produced, as well as of the cultural and political attitudes toward Christianity that prevailed when they were written.

The book also analyzes the representations of Japan and the Kirishitan that appear in these texts in the context of contemporary discourses on the world and Japan’s place in it. New maps and information brought by the missionaries and traders to Japan reflected a world that looked very different from the traditional Sino-centric one. These anti-Kirishitan popular narratives meet the challenge of this new world by expelling it and reasserting the conventional three-realms world order, in which Japan plays an influential role. This is done most obviously in the expulsion of the Kirishitan that is narrated in the texts, but it is also achieved on another level by the representation of the Kirishitan as uncouth and very common villains.

Conquering Demons features a new look at anti-Kirishitan works from a literary perspective, examining them in the context of developments in the publishing industry and in the broader discourses on Japan and its many Others in the world. It should be of interest most broadly to scholars and teachers of Japanese history and literature, but also to those dealing with questions of identity and Othering, issues of “mapping” Japan and the world, and the role of manuscript culture in Edo-period literature. The translations provide an entertaining and relatively rare look at some Japanese representations of Westerners and would be useful in undergraduate classes on Japanese history, culture, and literature.

Jan C. Leuchtenberger is Associate Professor of Japanese and Director of the Asian Studies Program at the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma, Washington. Her research interests include representations of Japan and the West in early modern Japanese discourses and the earliest representations of Japan in Europe.

About Paula

Paula lives in the vortex of academic life. She studies medieval Japanese history.
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