By Ian Jared Miller
It's well known that such Western associations because the museum, the collage, and the reformatory formed Japan’s emergence as a contemporary geographical region. much less ordinarily well-known is the function performed by means of the noticeably hybrid institution—at as soon as museum, laboratory, and prison—of the zoological backyard. during this eye-opening learn of Japan’s first sleek zoo, Tokyo’s Ueno Imperial Zoological Gardens, opened in 1882, Ian Jared Miller deals a refreshingly unconventional narrative of Japan’s quick modernization and altering dating with the wildlife. because the first zoological backyard on the earth now not equipped less than the sway of a Western imperial regime, the Ueno Zoo served not just as a staple allure within the nation’s capital—an institutional marker of nationwide accomplishment—but additionally as a website for the propagation of a brand new “natural” order that used to be scientifically verifiable and evolutionarily foreordained. because the eastern empire grew, Ueno grew to become one of many fundamental websites of imperialist spectacle, a microcosm of the empire which may be traveled during a unmarried day. The which means of the zoo could swap over the process Imperial Japan’s unraveling and next Allied career. this present day it continues to be considered one of Japan’s most often visited areas. yet rather than empire in its vintage political feel, it now bespeaks the ambivalent dominion of the human species over the typical surroundings, harkening again to its imperial roots while it asks us to question our exploitation of the planet’s assets.
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Additional info for The Nature of the Beasts: Empire and Exhibition at the Tokyo Imperial Zoo
Just as twentiethcentury American children could not learn the English alphabet without discovering that “ ‘Z’ is for ‘zebra,’ ” Japanese children could not learn the hiragana syllabary without learning that “ ‘A’ is for ‘ahiru,’ ” or duck, or that “ ‘TO’ is for ‘tora,’ ” or tiger. Such plain facts, addressed to children and by extension their parents, were given political color in a variety of ways. “Tigers are ferocious like [our] soldiers in China,” added one 1940s flashcard, bringing masculinity and empire into the simple act of learning syllables.
When the sources allow, this book is attendant to the embodied aspects of the stories it tells. It asks us to rethink who, or rather what, counts in our histories and how they should count. Even within the tightly controlled world of the zoo, animals managed to influence the world around them; they were not inert objects. People may have become ecological actors of global significance in modern times, but they shared the stage with a host of other creatures—from prions and pests to predators and pets.
6 To me, the Botanika kyo says that and something more. The Sutra’s format suggests a purpose at once sociological and cosmological. Like all religious texts, the “sutra” was concerned with the relationship between one world and another, and the short treatise argued for a new kind of separation between its readers and the natural world. The work gave lexical form (what Nishimura calls a “new systematics”) to Japan’s Animal Kingdom | 27 a broader shift in attitudes when it posited the existence Linnaean “kingdoms” (kai) as objective categories independent of human history and culture.
The Nature of the Beasts: Empire and Exhibition at the Tokyo Imperial Zoo by Ian Jared Miller