Imagine the predicament of the contemporary scholar of Japan who seeks to communicate the country's politics and diversity. Most any student of Asia knows that other major Asian nations—India, Indonesia, China, Myanmar, Malaysia—host a panoply of ethnic and religious groups, and have emerged through historical flows of global migration, capitalism, and empire. In contrast, modern Japan is—outside its twentieth-century imperial history—invariably seen as pathologically isolated and insular. The historian or anthropologist of Japan who seeks to place it alongside other Asian nations in terms of social heterogeneity and cross-border flows fights an endless battle against the deluge of cherry blossoms, calligraphy, samurai, flower arrangements, tea ceremonies, geishas, uniformed schoolgirls, sex-themed manga, and gory anime that seem to prove that Japan, and the Japanese, are inextricably particular, peculiar, and homogenous. Thus a country whose linguistic DNA incorporates neighboring East Asian grammars, which since the nineteenth century has seen perpetual immigration from...

You do not currently have access to this content.