Batten, Bruce L. 1958- (Bruce Loyd Batten)

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Batten, Bruce L. 1958- (Bruce Loyd Batten)


Born 1958, in TX; married; children: two sons and one daughter. Education: University of Oregon, B.A. (honors), 1975; Stanford University, A.M., 1986, Ph.D., 1989.


Office—J.F. Oberlin University, 3758 Tokiwa-machi, Machida-shi, Tokyo 194-0294, Japan. E-mail—[email protected].


Professor, author, and historian. J.F. Oberlin University, Tokyo, Japan, faculty member, then professor of Japanese history and vice-president for international relations, 1989—; Inter-University Center for Japanese Language Studies, Yokohama, Japan, director, 1991-95. Has appeared on NHK public television in Japan.


Machida Dads' Club (Machida Oyaji no Kai).


To the Ends of Japan: Premodern Frontiers, Boundaries, and Interactions, University of Hawaii Press (Honolulu, HI), 2003.

Gateway to Japan: Hakata in War and Peace, 500-1300, University of Hawaii Press (Honolulu, HI), 2006.

Contributor to periodicals, including Journal of Historical Geography and Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies. Contributor to books, including Heian Japan, Centers and Peripheries, edited by Mikael Adolphson and others, University of Hawaii Press (Honolulu, HI), 2007.


A professor of Japanese studies and an expert in Japanese history, Bruce L. Batten is the author of two books: To the Ends of Japan: Premodern Frontiers, Boundaries, and Interactions and Gateway to Japan: Hakata in War and Peace, 500-1300, published in 2003 and 2006, respectively. On his home page, Batten explains: "I started out studying the history of northern Kyushu, Japan's historical ‘gateway’ to the Asian continent. Then I branched out into more general, comparative, frontier history." The classes he teaches as a professor also align with these interests, including courses titled "Japan in World History" and "Premodern Japanese History."

In To the Ends of Japan, Batten looks at the formation of Japan from premodern to modern times, tracking the movement of peoples and the warfare that shaped the nation into what it is today. The volume also discusses other historians' views of the topic, arguing for and against differing points that have been raised throughout the academic discourse on this topic. Reviewers found much of value in the book. For instance, David L. Howell, writing in Pacific Affairs, called To the Ends of Japan an "interesting and useful book." Howell also went on to note that "Batten's discussion of Japan's boundaries synthesizes an impressively diverse range of scholarship," adding that the book "employs a wealth of disciplinary tools" to establish its arguments. All in all, Howell found that "the book is a timely taking of stock" of Japan and its formation. In an article on Batten and his work in the Kyoto Journal Online, a contributor explained the book's scholarly relevance, noting that "since the 1980's, a paradigm shift has been gaining critical mass among scholars, both inside and outside of Japan. They hav[e] rejected the postwar view of an historically ‘closed’ Japan in favor of a model of a diverse archipelago connected with the world since ancient times." Thus, To the Ends of Japan affirms this shift in thinking.

In Gateway to Japan, Batten explores Hakata Bay, a historically strategic Japanese location for travel, war, politics, and commerce. Batten again focuses on the premodern era, laying out his arguments in a lengthy introduction and expounding on them in the ensuing five chapters. The chapters, progressing from war to piracy, address the social, cultural, and political climate surrounding the interactions between Japan and its neighboring countries. Critics applauded the book, commenting that it is a well-organized and well-constructed scholarly work. The contributor writing in the Kyoto Journal Online noted that Gateway to Japan "is one of the most fascinating books in this emerging genre, and it was written for the layperson, as well as for fellow scholars." Indeed, the contributor proffered several laudatory remarks on the book, commenting that it has an "accessible and engaging narrative," and adding that Batten's "perspectives on how Asian continental history affected the direction of Japanese history shed light on many topics, including early immigration to Japan." The contributor further commented that Gateway to Japan is more than a history book, as "Batten takes the role of tour guide throughout the city … virtually connecting historical spaces with contemporary development." Thus, the contributor concluded, "on my next visit to Hakata, I am taking the book, with its medieval map, to track down the remaining traces of the old city." Additional approbation for the book was given by Historian critic Kenneth M. Swope, who stated that "it is recommended reading for anyone interested in premodern East Asian international relations and trade, and scholars will certainly be stimulated to pursue topics of interest on their own. Finally, the author and publisher should be commended for their inclusion of many useful maps, photographs, charts, and diagrams."



American Historical Review, February 1, 2007, Paul Varley, review of Gateway to Japan: Hakata in War and Peace, 500-1300, p. 174.

Choice, November 1, 2003, R.B. Lyman, review of To the Ends of Japan: Premodern Frontiers, Boundaries, and Interactions, p. 600.

Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies, June 1, 2005, W. Wayne Farris, review of To the Ends of Japan, p. 216.

Historian, March 22, 2007, Kenneth M. Swope, review of Gateway to Japan, p. 132.

International History Review, December 1, 2005, Mark J. Hudson, review of To the Ends of Japan, p. 853; December 1, 2006, Mark J. Hudson, review of Gateway to Japan, p. 811.

Pacific Affairs, December 22, 2004, David L. Howell, review of To the Ends of Japan, p. 759.

Reference & Research Book News, May 1, 2003, review of To the Ends of Japan, p. 46; May 1, 2006, review of Gateway to Japan.


Bruce L. Batten Home Page, (August 18, 2008).

Kyoto Journal Online, (August 18, 2008), "Ten Thousand Things," author profile.