Public lecture video by Institute of Contemporary Asian Studies (ICAS). This lecture was held on July 12, 2017. The speaker was Ran Zwigenberg, Assistant Professor, Pennsylvania State University.
Both home and abroad, Japan’s castles serve as prominent symbols of local, regional, and national identity. Castles occupy the center of most major Japanese cities and are universally recognized as sites of heritage and as a link to the nation’s past. The current prominence of castles obscures their troubled modern history. After the restoration of 1868, castles, no longer of immediate military significance, became symbols of authority, on one hand, and of vaunted tradition on the other. Castles were major sites of exhibitions, where they were often contrasted with Japan’s achievements in acquiring modern technology, serving as potent illustrations of Wakon-yosai (Japanese spirit and Western technology). As the specific role castles played changed over time, they became sites of fierce contention.