Organized Panel Session
“Crisis” has long been a favorite theme for historians. The attraction owes to its very ambiguity: notions of crisis fit most any theme, and serve as an attractive means to structure historical time. This panel, however, focuses on crisis in a more limited sense. Each of the four papers deals with crisis narratives in modern Japanese history, and explores critical moments that had disruptive potential across state and society. Ann Walthall’s study on Bakumatsu-era Kyoto highlights the role two intellectuals played in a deepening socio-political crisis that had reached a fever pitch by 1864. Danny Orbach shows how the Taisho Political Crisis, which threatened the Meiji state itself, was brought about by the very structure of the evolving political order. Jeremy Yellen explores Japan’s crisis of empire during the Pacific War, and shows how political efforts to shore up Japanese power in 1943 only deepened the crisis of empire in the very states Japan sought to govern. And Shi-Lin Loh’s paper on nuclear power in Tokaimura through the end of the 20th century highlights methods with which elites have sought to contain and manage radiation concerns before they reached a state of crisis. In focusing on narratives of Japan in crisis, this panel hopes to reassess important turning points in Japan’s modern experience.