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Changing Japanese-Russian Images In The Edo Period

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Chapter Summary

For most of the Edo period (1603-1867), when Russian-Japanese contacts began, the Tokugawa government or bakufu maintained only limited contact with foreign countries. This chapter traces the footprints of historical and cultural contacts between Japan and Russia and examines the mutual perceptions that resulted from those contacts, concentrating on Daikokuya Kōdayū whose role in Russian-Japanese relations can hardly be overestimated. The history of contacts between Japan and Russia in the Edo period is well known and some works on Japanese perceptions of Russia exist. The chapter also draws attention to the importance of first-hand observation and visual sources in spreading information about unknown peoples and lands. It also demonstrates that in the eighteenth century, physical stature, clothing, hairstyles and gestures served as prime markers of ethnic identity. They acted as channels of information when the mouth was closed communication between strangers depended instead upon eye contact and body language.

Keywords: body language; Daikokuya Kōdayū; Edo period; eye contact; Japan; Russia; Tokugawa government



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