In Engaging the Other: “Japan and Its Alter-Egos”, 1550-1850, Ronald P. Toby examines new discourses of identity and difference in early modern Japan, a discourse catalyzed by the “Iberian irruption,” the appearance of Portuguese and other new, radical others in the sixteenth century. The encounter with peoples and countries unimagined in earlier discourse provoked an identity crisis, a paradigm shift from a view of the world as comprising only “three countries” ( sangoku), i.e., Japan, China and India, to a world of “myriad countries” ( bankoku) and peoples. In order to understand the new radical alterities, the Japanese were forced to establish new parameters of difference from familiar, proximate others, i.e., China, Korea and Ryukyu. Toby examines their articulation in literature, visual and performing arts, law, and customs.
Ronald P. Toby is Emeritus Professor of Japanese History at the University of Illinois Urbana Champaign.