A quiet revolution in knowledge separated the early modern period in Japan from all previous time. After 1600, self-appointed investigators used the model of the land and cartographic surveys of the newly unified state to observe and order subjects such as agronomy, medicine, gastronomy, commerce, travel, and entertainment. They subsequently circulated their findings through a variety of commercially printed texts: maps, gazetteers, family encyclopedias, urban directories, travel guides, official personnel rosters, and instruction manuals for everything from farming to lovemaking. In this original and gracefully written book, Mary Elizabeth Berry considers the social processes that drove the information explosion of the 1600s. Inviting readers to examine the contours and meanings of this transformation, Berry provides a fascinating account of the conversion of the public from an object of state surveillance into a subject of self-knowledge.
Japan in Print shows how, as investigators collected and disseminated richly diverse data, they came to presume in their audience a standard of cultural literacy that changed anonymous consumers into an “us” bound by common frames of reference. This shared space of knowledge made society visible to itself and in the process subverted notions of status hierarchy. Berry demonstrates that the new public texts projected a national collectivity characterized by universal access to markets, mobility, sociability, and self-fashioning.