August 26, 2021

Conference paper: Captured Human Capital

Prof. Rebekah Clements gave a presentation at the European Association of Japanese Studies Conference: “Captured Human Capital: Korean Potters in Satsuma Domain”. The paper was part of the panel, “Carriers of cultural capital: the exchange and use of cultured individuals in warrior society in the early modern period” and took place online at 8am CEST, on Thursday 26th of August 2021. A recording of the paper and the panel may be viewed online via the conference website by registered delegates.

Captured Human Capital: Korean Potters in Satsuma Domain

Paper short abstract:

This paper discusses potters taken to Satsuma during the invasions of Chosŏn, 1592-1598. I examine ceremonial displays that took place during visits made to the potters’ village by the Satsuma daimyo and discuss the relationship between these holders of cultural capital and their captors.

Paper long abstract:

After ordering the invasion of Chosŏn Korea in 1592, in 1593 Toyotomi Hideyoshi sent a message to his generals, requesting that they present to him any “craftspeople, embroiderers, or skilled women” who were among their captives. It is generally understood that “craftspeople” (細工仕者) referred to the ceramic artisans for whom Chosŏn was famous. Although there are indeed records of a captured seamstress being sent to Hideyoshi, as far as we know he did not receive any potters. However, several of his generals acquired highly skilled ceramic artisans whom they brought back to their domains in southern Japan, where they founded ceramic traditions, many of which are among the most famous in Japan today. Of particular note is the community of potters still active in Higashiichiki-chō Miyama in Kagoshima prefecture, a village formerly known as Naeshirogawa. Although Naeshirogawa pottery is not particularly well known in Japan today, the history of the village is a fascinating case study in the complex and mutually beneficial relationship between holders of cultural capital and their patrons/captors.

On the orders of the Shimazu, daimyo of Satsuma domain, the Naeshirogawa community preserved Korean language, dress, music, and dance throughout the Tokugawa period. There were regular displays of Chosŏn culture during visits by the Shimazu daimyo en route to Edo under the sankin kōtai system; and some Koreans from Naeshirogawa were taken to Edo as pages in the Shimazu retinue, which also included representatives from the Ryukyu Kingdom. Pottery from Naeshirogawa for domestic use revitalized the Satsuma economy, and the official domain kiln, which was founded and staffed by Chosŏn potters, produced “White Satsuma” prestige wares which were used on important occasions and given as gifts by the Shimazu to other high-ranking warriors.

By focusing on regular visits made to the potters’ village by the daimyo on their way to Edo and the ceremonial displays that took place on such occasions, I look at the ways in which the foreign potters were displayed as acquisitions of the Satsuma domain, and the ways in which the potter community benefited from Shimazu patronage