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Past Event

Saturday University: The Castaway Princess and Other Stories

Feb 22 2020

Asian Art Museum

Emma Baillargeon Stimson Auditorium

10 AM – 11:30 AM

The Strange Case of the Castaway Princess and Other Stories of Japan in the Pacific

David L. Howell / Harvard University

I begin with the story of a woman in a strange "hollow boat" that washed up on the Pacific coast of Japan in 1805. Made famous twenty years later by the novelist Kyokutei Bakin, the tale cannot be taken too seriously. Yet it offers us a window onto the Pacific as an ocean of opportunity, possible danger, and mystery for people in Edo-period Japan. From castaway princesses to a real-life Japanese Robinson Crusoe, I will relate stories of Japan in the Pacific during the decades before its opening to the West in 1854.

About the Presenter

David L. Howell is Professor of Japanese History at Harvard University and Editor of the Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies. Howell is the author of Capitalism from Within: Economy, Society, and the State in a Japanese Fishery (1995) and Geographies of Identity in Nineteenth-Century Japan (2005) as well as numerous articles.

Howell's research focuses on the social history of Japan in the Tokugawa (1603–1868) and Meiji (1868–1912) periods. He is particularly interested in the ways changing political and economic institutions affected the lives and livelihoods of ordinary people over the course of the nineteenth century. His current projects include a short survey of the Meiji Restoration period and a history of human waste and garbage in the cities of Tokugawa and Meiji Japan.

Please note: This event takes place at the Asian Art Museum. Live streaming of the lecture is available on a first-come-first-serve basis in the Alvord Board Room.


Sat Feb 1

Rarities Fit for Kings: Ephemeral and Tangible Precious Goods in Sultanate India

Sat Feb 8

Woodwork and the Arts of Japan

Sat Feb 15

The Dragon and the Pearl: Explorations of a Eurasian Motif

Sat Feb 22

The Strange Case of the Castaway Princess and Other Stories of Japan in the Pacific

Sat Feb 29

Out of the Dark: Banned Books in China

Sat Mar 7

Marvelous Journey of Precious Objects: Chaekgeori, Korean Still-Life Painting


Full series tickets: $62; SAM members $42
Individual lecture tickets available at the door: $11, SAM members $7; free at the door for students with ID
Please arrive to your seat 10 minutes before the program starts, or your seat may be released.

Image: Utsurobune, Hirokata Zuihitsu, no. 611 (ms., c. 1825), collection of Yashiro Hirokata, National Archives of Japan.

The Seattle Art Museum acknowledges that we are located on the ancestral land of the Coast Salish people.