AAS 2014 Highlight: Ooku, The Secret World of the Shogun’s Women

Cambria Press academic publisher

A treasure trove of information … a vital source …” – Patricia Fister, International Research Center for Japanese Studies, Kyoto

Praise for Ooku, The Secret World of the Shogun’s Women:
“A wonderfully detailed history of the shogunal harem in Japan … The study covers everything from job descriptions and employment procedures to struggles over money and power; and it does not shy away from discussion of the sex—or lack of it—at the heart of the Ooku’s raison d’être. The work is based on an exhaustive reading of Japanese-language sources, both primary and secondary. The authors have also consulted relevant material in English and French about similar institutions in other times and places (China, Korea, Mughal India, Ottoman Turkey) and from time to time offer a comparative perspective. Many of the primary sources consulted by the authors are still in manuscript form and exceptionally difficult to decipher, let alone interpret. Even printed primary sources are usually not annotated and difficult to understand. The field of early modern Japanese studies is burgeoning, but the number of scholars who have the linguistic skills to deal with such a wide array of manuscript materials in out-of-the-way archives and present the results of their research in English is miniscule. The authors thus deserve high praise for their dedication to locating, making sense of, selecting, and translating a vast range of material for a scholarly audience.” – Gaye Rowley, Waseda University

An excerpt from Ooku, The Secret World of the Shogun’s Women:
Any all-woman institution, especially one surrounded by silence, is likely to educe curious inquiries, and curiosity is likely to deepen in proportion to the degree of secrecy. Its secrecy and the active exclusion of outsiders lent the Ōoku a special aura of mystique conducive to speculation and rumors, and at the same time its glamour and prestige invited commoners to imagine and fabricate life within its walls. Over the centuries, this situation gave rise to a number of myths of a censorious nature, such as the following:

  • The Ōoku is a community of frustrated, sex-crazed women.
  • The Ōoku is a source of hidden and conspiratorial political power.
  • The Ōoku women’s jealousy and rivalry are so strong that they reach a frenzied level, and the novices are subjected to mental and physical torture by the older, higher-ranking women.
  • The Ōoku is a place where the shogun has orgies with many women.

In this book, these myths will be affirmed as somewhat true and dispelled as somewhat false.

This book has been published just in time for the AAS and will be on display at Cambria Press booth #302 (right in front of the exhibit hall entrance)
at the 2014 Association of Asian Studies (AAS) annual conference in Philadelphia.

MEET THE AUTHORS! Dr. Seigle and Dr. Chance will be speaking at the AAS book launch session (room 407) on Friday (March 28) at 7:30 p.m.

Check out the 2014 Cambria Press Asian studies catalog and download the booklist for your librarian.

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