|In addition to his marked success in the field of modern history of East Asia, Professor Hamashita Takeshi is a historical scholar who has used novel methods and perspectives to analyze the historical image of Asia as a regional order. He has won plaudits both in Japan and overseas for remaking the Western-oriented perspective of world history and the view of Asian history focused on nation-states.
Over the past 30 years, Professor Hamashita has frequently traveled to many parts of Asia, collecting material, visiting historical sites, and talking with local people. He also has devoted an exceptional amount of effort to providing guidance to and academic training young historical researchers from China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, South Korea, Thailand, and Singapore. The primary subject of his research has been China, but as his research subjects of the network of ethnic Chinese and the tributary trade system indicate, his work transcends national borders. He has created an entirely new image of Asian history which does not focus on a specific national history, an approach traditionally favored by Oriental studies. Rather, his approach views Asia, including China and Japan, from three perspectives: the local, the regional, and the areal.
His meticulous and unique research into Chinese treaty ports and customs has delved into more than merely the historical relationship of trade between China and the West. It also incorporates the perspective of the dynamic relationship between the center and the periphery in the economic activities conducted between the Qing Dynasty government in Beijing and southern China. In addition, his research into the trade, migration, and financial remittances of overseas Chinese has resulted in a unique perspective on the regional order (the socalled hua-yi―China-centered world order, and tributary trade) that formed between China and Southeast Asia. This innovative research transformed the approach within the region from an existing historical image that viewed Asia primarily from the perspective of world history whose axis was the nation-state. Conventionally, this view was based on the theory of modernization, which held that Asia’s efforts were an attempt to catch up to the West, and the theory of nationalism, a stance resisting the domination as colonies of the Western powers. As a result, Professor Hamashita received the Asia Pacific Grand Prix Award in 1991.
Rather than the relationship between states and the interaction between national capitals, Professor Hamashita’s interest was aroused by the life of migrants within Asia, their mentality, and the development of Hong Kong as a center for urban networking. He also has an interest in the history of Okinawa (the Ryukyu Kingdom), a way station for trade between Japan during its days of Tokugawa’s isolation policy and China, Taiwan, and Southeast Asia. One of his major achievements is the cooperation over many years with the Okinawan Board of Education for editing the diplomatic record of Ryukyu Kingdom: Rekidai Hoan (Lidai Baoan) or Precious Documents of Successive Generations. This opened a new page in the research of the history of interaction between the maritime areas of Asia. In addition, the study of the history of trade and migration has inspired intellectual cooperation among the historical researchers of Asia and contributed to the creation of a network and academic interchange.
This demonstrates that the scale of Professor Hamashita’s research and activities is truly broad, and he is to be acclaimed for his pioneering role in creating an image of the region that incorporates Asia in its entirety. This work is indeed suitable for recognition through the Academic Prize of the Fukuoka Asian Culture Prizes.