Reviews

In this article spurred by recurrent questions from the public, the author sets aside her usual studies of post-imperial Mongols, in particular of the Oirad (Western) Mongols, to present some Japanese cases of “invention of tradition” in the steps of Hobsbawm (1983). One case is fairly recent and concerns the conquest of Japan, around the fourth century CE, by horsemen from the Continent who would have been the ancestors of Yamato rulers. This theory presented by the historian Egami Namio after the war was rejected by specialists, but remains popular. Another case is the reference to kamikaze (“divine wind”) in textbooks in 1933 for describing the storms that twice prevented Qubilai’s “armada” to invade Japan in 1274 and 1281. However, it is on the identification of Chinggis Khan with a Japanese hero of the twelfth century, Minamoto no Yoshitsune, that J. Miyawaki-Okada focuses in this article. (The origin of this theory has also been dealt with by Françoise Aubin in her article “Le Japon en terre d’islam chinois et au pays de Gengis-khan,” Études orientales 21-22 (2004): 36-87.) The thesis was defended by Suyematsu Kenchō, a Japanese student in Cambridge in the 1880s (and the author of the first abridged English translation of the Genji Monogatari, in 1882). J. Miyawaki-Okada evokes the background of such a theory: Yoshitsune’s brutal death turned by legend into an escape northwards to the Asian continent, and later forgeries linking the Jurched (the Jin dynasty of North China) and the Manchus (Qing dynasty) to the Japanese hero. Suyematsu’s dissertation was translated into Japanese and further popularised in the bestselling book on the subject by U.S.-educated protestant minister Oyabe Mataichirō in 1924, as well as by a mystery story written by Takagi Akimitsu in 1958. J. Miyawaki-Okada explains the appearance of such popular theories at the end of nineteenth century and in the first part of the twentieth as the product of psychological necessity following the Meiji modernisation in 1868. The horsemen theory fitted well the Japanese at the time of the war of Korea. The idea that Japan will always be saved by some “divine wind” reinforced the idea that Japan could not be defeated in the Pacific. At the same time identification with the Manchus and Mongols as famous conqueror dynasties conformed to the need for self-respect of the Japanese in a period when their country was weakened in its confrontation with Western powers. (As far as editing is concerned, it would have been probably more appropriate to cite the Japanese names in the regular way, with family name preceding the personal name rather than the other way round.)

Marie-Dominique Even, National Centre for Scientific Research, Paris
CER: II-3.1.A-100