The Detritus of Empire
By William Wetherall

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Cultural relics of Japan's imperial rise and fall

Japan's rise and fall as an imperial power was facilitated by the usual production of cultural artifacts that societies need to exist as geographical, political, and commercial entities: maps, passports and other identification certifications, tokens, tickets, receipts, contracts, hand bills, broadsheets and other news media, and on and on -- the sort of material that people keep in files, toss in drawers or closets, or discard in dust bins.

Today such materials survive thanks to the inability of some people to throw anything away, and the interest others have in collecting things for their own sake if not for their importance as artifacts of social history.

Here you will find images, descriptions, and discussions of a few items I myself have collected, among many more items that I have found in the collections of others. On the whole, they show that Japan conducted its imperial affairs in an orderly manner, in keeping with contemporary standards of statecraft and social management.