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Provincializing Empire: Ōmi Merchants in the Japanese Transpacific Diaspora

Reenactment of Ōmi Merchants in the Tokugawa Era

(Ōmi Shōnin Museum, Higashi-Ōmi, Shiga, Japan).
Jan 2014

My current book project examines the diasporic history of Ōmi shōnin (merchant). Often compared to overseas Chinese and Jewish merchants before 1945, merchants of Ōmi (present-day Shiga prefecture) are famous for peddling textiles and other goods across the early modern Japanese archipelago. Far less known are their fate and activities that extended abroad after the late nineteenth century, when Japan fully entered the world of international commerce. Using the rich local archives in Shiga, I hope to trace such overseas strivings of Ōmi merchants and their descendants in the age of empire, from their involvement in cotton trade with China to retail commerce in Korea and Manchuria, and immigration to North America.