Back to Store

Animal Care in Japanese Tradition: A Short History (W. Puck Brecher)

AAS Asia Shorts book series. 9781952636271. 138 pages.


Listen to an interview with Prof. Brecher on the New Books Network:

This volume provides an historical overview of Japan’s relationship with animals from ancient times to the 1950s. Its analysis serves as a lens through which to scrutinize Japanese tradition and interrogate ahistorical claims about Japan’s culturally endemic empathy for the natural world. Departing from existing scholarship on the subject, the book also connects Japan’s much-maligned record of animal exploitation with its strong adherence to contextual, needs-based moral memory.

“Richly detailed yet accessible and concise, this compelling overview of animal care in Japan covers a surprising amount of historical ground while offering fresh and nuanced insights on this fraught topic. Brecher dispels persistent idealistic misconceptions about historical human-animal relationships in Japan as he traces how wildlife and domestic animals were treated and cared for in the early modern through modern periods. This readable and engaging study is a must-read for scholars and students of Japanese history and animal studies.” — BARBARA R. AMBROS, Professor of Religious Studies, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and author of Bones of Contention: Animals and Religion in Contemporary Japan

“Well over a decade and a half after the publication of the landmark Japanimals volume, Brecher’s stimulating book shows that we still have much to learn about the long history of animal-human relations in the Japanese archipelago. Engagingly written, this book covers the full sweep of Japanese history and lays out a bold argument about the enduring significance of attitudes and practices with deep roots in the past.” — DANIEL V. BOTSMAN, Professor of History, Yale University and author of Punishment and Power in the Making of Modern Japan

“A finely wrought, carefully researched volume. An excellent introduction to the history of Japanese engagements with other animals.” — IAN JARED MILLER, Professor and Director of Undergraduate Studies, Department of History, Harvard University and author of The Nature of the Beasts: Empire and Exhibition at the Tokyo Imperial Zoo

W. PUCK BRECHER is Professor of History at Washington State University where he teaches courses on East Asia and specializes in early modern and modern Japanese social and cultural history. His past research projects have focused on Japanese thought, aesthetics, urban history, race, private spheres, autonomy, as well as contemporary environmental issues.


Download the Teaching Resource PDF below, with course adoption notes and recommendations directly from the author or editor(s), including:

  • Key Concepts and Definitions
  • Discussion Questions
  • Additional Links and Resources
  • Table of Contents