Bringing Whales Ashore: Oceans and the Environment of Early Modern Japan
(University of Washington Press, 2018) is more than a history of whaling in Japan. Jakobina K. Arch
weaves together a wealth of diverse materials to demonstrate and explore the social, cultural, economic, intellectual, and religious impacts of whales on the world of Tokugawa Japan. In doing so, Arch argues powerfully for a historical vision that locates Japan within a larger global environment and also understands the fundamental interconnectedness of land and sea in particular. It is, as she writes, “nonsensical” to draw a clear dividing line between the archipelagic and the pelagic. Arch traces the history of whaling from its recorded origins in the late sixteenth century across the stretch of the Tokugawa period and into the modern period. In doing so, Bringing Whales Ashore
not only contributes broadly to Tokugawa and environmental history, but also engages with the modern and contemporary politics of whaling.