Records of a Scholar’s Household in Tokugawa Japan: A Digital History Project

Key information

5:00 pm to 7:00 pm
Russell Square: College Buildings
Khalili Lecture Theatre (KLT)

About this event

Speaker: Bettina Gramlich-Oka (Sophia University)

Photo credit: Asami Keisai, Karei (Osaka, 1697). Waseda University Library.


The family records of Rai Shunsui (1746–1816)—a Confucian scholar of the Hiroshima domain—are extensive and offer ample material for investigation. In this talk though I will focus on one discrete dataset with two related objectives in mind: 

For one, I will introduce and discuss the implications of the family records that project the image of a Confucian household during the Tokugawa period (1603–1867). The records on the Confucian Family Rites do not easily mix with our images of Tokugawa society but present the Rai family rather as an oddity. However, when scrutinizing the form and content of their performances of the rites—such as the ritual calendar, menus for the offerings, procurement of paraphernalia, and other related elements—we discover the reasons for the central position these rituals took within and outside the Rai household. 

For another, I will link these records with my digital history project on the family. The visualization of the family events surrounding the Family Rites in the Japan Biographical Database—an open access relational database—will, I hope, demonstrate the advantages of combining a more traditional historical analysis and a network analysis with help of digital tools.

Speaker biography

Bettina Gramlich-Oka is Professor of Japanese History at the Faculty of Liberal Arts, Sophia University. Some of her publications include Thinking Like a Man: Tadano Makuzu (Brill, 2006) and the coedited volume Economic Thought in Early Modern Japan (Brill, 2010). In the past years, her research centers on the exploration of networks of the Rai family from Hiroshima during the Tokugawa period. The development of the online Japan Biographical Database is part of this endeavor, as well as the coedited volume with Anne Walthall, Miyazaki Fumiko, Sugano Noriko, Women and Networks in Nineteenth Century Japan (University of Michigan Press, 2020). Gramlich-Oka is currently the chief editor of Monumenta Nipponica.


This event is free and open to public. Please note that this event will be held both on campus and online.

If you would like to attend online, please register via Zoom.

If you would like to attend in person, please register via Microsoft Forms.

Organisers: SOAS Japan Research Centre and SOAS Centre for the Study of Japanese Religions