Provincializing Empire: Ōmi Merchants in the Japanese Transpacific Diaspora


My book (forthcoming with University of California Press, spring 2023) 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 global exchange. Using the rich local archives in Shiga, the book traces such overseas strivings of Ōmi merchants and their descendants in the modern age of empire and capital: from their involvement in cotton trade with China, to retail commerce in colonial Korea and Manchuria, and transpacific immigration to North America.