Harvesting History

Modern Narratives for Patriotic Pioneers and the Imperial Military
  • Michele M. Mason


In contemporary Japan, a profusion of histories, novels, museums, and monuments nostalgically posit the members of the tondenhei system, a Meiji-era farming-militia unique to Hokkaido, as the quintessential signifiers of the colonization of Hokkaido. Ascribed iconic status, they are regarded as patriotic pioneers, who defended the early empire from Russian aggression in the late nineteenth century. A postwar enthusiasm for tondenhei emerged as part of a movement to document, commemorate, and preserve the history of the “age of development” (kaitaku jidai), galvanized by the celebration of Hokkaido’s “centennial” in the late 1960s and early 1970s. 1 A leading figure of the tondenhei boom was historian Itō Hiroshi, whose early works, As a Tondenhei Family (Tondenhei no kazoku toshite, 1972) and The Tale of the Tondenhei (Tondenhei monogatari, 1984), drafted the blueprint of tondenhei studies. 2 Itō’s A Study of Tondenhei (Tondenhei kenkyū , 1992), an admirably detailed tome numbering over 600 pages, remains the authoritative scholarship on the subject. 3 Numerous fictional works, including, most recently, Yamamoto Fumio’s The Fight for Hokkaido’s Development: A Tale of a Tondenhei Family (Hokkaidō kaitaku no kutō: tondenhei kazoku monogatari, 2005) keep tondenhei fresh in the Japanese collective imaginary. 4


Revisionist History Japanese Citizen Colonial Project Meiji Period Yasukuni Shrine 
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  1. 2.
    Itō Hiroshi, Tondenhei no kazoku toshite (Tokyo: Itō Hiroshi, 1972). Itō, Tondenhei monogatari (Sapporo: Hokkaidō Kyōikusha, 1984).Google Scholar
  2. 3.
    Itō Hiroshi, Tondenhei kenkyū (Tokyo: Dōseisha, 1992).Google Scholar
  3. 4.
    Yamamoto Fumio, Hokkaidō kaitaku no kutō: tondenhei kazoku monogatari (Tokyo: Shinpūsha, 2005 ).Google Scholar
  4. 26.
    Donald Calman, The Nature and Origins of Japanese Imperialism: A Reinterpretation of the Great Crisis of 1873 (London: Routledge, 1992), 249.Google Scholar
  5. 48.
    Tobe Ryōichi, Gyakusetsu no guntai (Tokyo: Chūōkōron, 1998), 31.Google Scholar

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© Michele M. Mason 2012

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  • Michele M. Mason

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