May 5, 2022

Article: Captured Potters and Alternate Attendance in Satsuma

Prof. Rebekah Clements has published a new article, “Alternate Attendance Parades in the Japanese Domain of Satsuma, Seventeenth to Eighteenth Centuries: Pottery, Power and Foreign Spectacle” in Transactions of the Royal Historical Society, doi:10.1017/S0080440122000056The article is available open access for free until the 15th of June 2022 here.

This study examines the practice of ‘alternate attendance’ (sankin kōtai), in which the daimyo lords of Tokugawa Japan marched with their retainers between their home territories and the shogunal capital of Edo, roughly once a year. Research on alternate attendance has focused on the meaning of daimyo processions outside their domains (han), along Japan’s highways and in the city of Edo. Here Clements argues that, even as daimyo embarked upon a journey to pay obeisance to the shogun, the ambiguous nature of sovereignty in early modern Japan meant that alternate attendance could also be used for a local agenda, ritually stamping the daimyo’s territory with signs of his dominance, much like what has been highlighted in the study of royal processions in world history. Clements focuses on the seventeenth to eighteenth centuries, providing a case study of visits made by the Shimazu family, lords of Satsuma domain, to a village of Korean potters within their territory, whose antecedents had been brought as captives during the Imjin War of 1592–8. During daimyo visits, a relationship of mutual benefit and fealty between the Shimazu and the villagers was articulated through gift-giving, banqueting, dance and displays of local wares. This in turn was used to consolidate Shimazu power in their region.