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"  I specialise in the nineteenth century history of Japan with an emphasis on international contexts. I was fortunate to receive the Morishima grant this year, with which I was able to conduct a week-long archival research in Sapporo in January 2015 and attend a conference in Singapore in May 2015 (The Third Congress of Asian Association of World Historians).

My doctoral thesis aims to analyse the mechanism of international relations in the North Pacific in the 1860s and the 1870s within which the territorial boundaries of the modern Japanese state emerged. It demonstrates that the Japanese response to imperialism, which has been an angle conventionally adopted by historians, only partially explains Japan's boundary making in this period. Rather I focus on increasing commercial activities in the Pacific, such as whaling and fur animal hunting, which drew the foreigners, the indigenous peoples and the Japanese closer to each other, causing tighter state control over cross-border activities.

For this type of study, it was indispensable that I explore archival materials stored in Hokkaido University Library and the regional archive in Sapporo. With the documents I was able to access, many of which have not been used by historians, I challenge state-centred narratives of the formation of boundaries. Instead I argue that, for instance, the development of territorial boundaries in the Kuril Islands needs to be understood as the result of interactions between Western poachers of fur animals and the Japanese local authorities.

The paper I presented in Singapore focused on the development of Japan's passport system in the latenineteenth century. This is a project that I have been developing along with my doctoral thesis and that I hope to be the centre of my research after my PhD. Using archival materials in Tokyo, Nagasaki and elsewhere, I argued that the Meiji government (1868- 1912), inheriting a half-baked border control scheme from the preceding Tokugawa regime, feared the risk of an uncontrolled draining of indentured labour and thus damaging the country's reputation as well as finance. It thus employed the passport system to prevent unwanted emigration, requiring applicants to nominate a financial guarantor or to go through interviews before travelling overseas. The oft-told image of the Meiji government as opening up to the Western world and learning from it in pursuit of quick modernisation therefore bears a different kind of significance when placed in the context of the migration of these Japanese. It helps to critique the conventional discourse on the "opening" of Japan and to shed light on the conditions under which the Japanese colonial empire later emerged.

This triennial conference in Singapore gathered historians from across the world, especially East Asia, and provided me with great opportunities to disseminate my research outcomes beyond my immediate reach in Britain. The best part of the experience was that I was able to reconnect with some of the peer researchers based in Japan. I would like to express my gratitude to the supporters of Michio Morishima Fund for enabling me to conduct and disseminate my projects. "