Posts Tagged ‘shiryohensanjo’

Moving Back to Tokyo

The iconic Akamon, or red gate, entrance to the University of Tokyo.

I should have posted this months ago, but I strangely felt I didn’t have that much to say on the topic, I guess. And perhaps more to the point, things just got very busy, hectic, and so here we are, almost at the end of four months since I moved here to Tokyo, and I’m finally posting this now. Oh well, better late than never, I suppose. Even though I guess I’m not saying all that much of substance here, still I wanted to get it down, for posterity if for nothing else.

I’ve started my new job in Tokyo, and things are going really well. I cannot say how truly I feel I lucked out with this position, how fortunate I am. Being back in Japan is exactly the place I needed to be to regain a sense of calm, happiness, and balance after everything that happened in the previous few months. 

The Tokyo skyline as seen from high above Ichigaya.

As wonderful as it would have been to secure a proper tenure track position somewhere in the States, or a postdoc or whatever it may have been, and as happy as I could have been in any of those situations, I think that many of them would have involved “hitting the ground running,” the same levels of work and stress and endless busy-ness as in the final stages of the dissertation (if not moreso, what with class prep and everything). For any potential employers reading this, yes, I do think I would have done well, and strived, and been happy and successful in meeting such challenges, and I certainly look forward to hopefully getting such a position in the future, getting to teach students and engage with them and all the rest.
But for now, Tokyo is right where I need to be, to find my center and find myself again.

Getting some work done at the Aoyama Flower Market Teahouse.

I’m now a postdoctoral “Project Researcher” 特任研究員 at the University of Tokyo Historiographical Institute 東京大学史料編纂所 working as part of a team on a project creating an international hub for the Ishin Shiryō Kōyō 維新史料綱要, a collection of some 30,000 entries summarizing in a day-by-day fashion the key events of Japanese (“national” political) history c. 1840-1870. I am not sure when any of the products of this work will become available to the public, but we are working on a glossary of terms relevant to the collection, and English translations of the entries. Whenever it does go live, a few years from now, you’ll be able to search in English (or romaji) and see at an easy glance what events are pertinent to your search terms. For example, search the name of a shogunate official such as Ido Satohiro and you can trace his key activities, promotions, reassignments, and so forth across the period. Search for a placename, such as Shimoda or Yokohama, or Ryûkyû, Tsushima, or Matsumae, and you can see a listing of the progression of events pertaining to that place across the period.

Copies of the Tsûkô ichiran, a compilation of Edo period diplomatic records.

And I’m continuing to plug forward on my own research. I guess I’ve been sidetracked the last couple of months, thinking, reading, and writing about Shuri castle, but I suppose that counts as “my own research” too. I’ll get back to thinking about Ryukyuan embassies, diplomatic ritual, and so forth soon.

In the meantime, everyone at the Hensanjo has been really quite kind and supportive, encouraging me to take time to do my own research, that that’s included in the position and counts as part of my job – I don’t need to be working on the Project all the time. So, I’ve already started making appointments with museums and archives to see more Ryukyu embassy procession scrolls, buying books, and scanning tons of articles and book chapters to read later.

Ever since I finished the dissertation, it’s been such an incredible weight off my shoulders. There’s no longer a pressure to produce something complete and polished by a set date, and now I can just go back to gathering more and building up and building around my knowledge of the subject, seeing what develops, seeing what comes together. It’s a real pleasure.

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