Early-Career Scholar Forum

Ryukyuan Embassies to Edo on Parade: Reading Procession as a Ritual Form

Friday, 8 October 2021 | 12:15 - 13:00 (JST)
Zoom Meeting
  • Travis Seifman Postdoctoral Researcher, Historiographical Institute (Shiryōhensanjo), the University of Tokyo
  • Yoko Matsui Professor, Historiographical Institute, the University of Tokyo

Over the course of the 17th-19th centuries, seventeen formal embassies from the Okinawan kingdom of Lūchū (Ryūkyū) journeyed to Edo to engage in ceremonies ritually reaffirming the kingdom’s relationship to the Tokugawa shogunate. In numerous locations along their round-trip journey, the embassies were put on public display in grand processions, flying banners, wearing costumes, and playing music while escorted by a mass of Kagoshima domain samurai warriors. These processions, and illustrations of them, played a central role in informing popular conceptions among early modern Japanese of Lūchū’s cultural character and political status. Drawing upon a number of visual and textual sources, this paper examines the political significance and impact of visual, material, and performative aspects of these processional displays, with a particular eye to analyzing procession as a distinctive form of ritual performance.


Travis Seifman is a postdoctoral Project Researcher at the University of Tokyo Historiographical Institute (Shiryōhensanjo). He holds a PhD in History from the University of California, Santa Barbara and an MA in Art History from the University of Hawaiʻi. His PhD dissertation and current book project explore ritual performance in embassies dispatched to Edo by the Okinawan kingdom of Lūchū (Ryūkyū) in the 17th to 19th centuries. He is also interested in 20th-21st century reenactments of Lūchūan royal ritual culture, and the role of Shurijo Castle Park in the revival and continuation of Okinawan performing and visual arts traditions.