An Edo Anthology

An Edo Anthology: Literature from Japan's Mega-City, 1750-1850

Edited by Sumie Jones
with Kenji Watanabe
Copyright Date: 2013
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  • Book Info
    An Edo Anthology
    Book Description:

    During the eighteenth century, Edo (today's Tokyo) became the world's largest city, quickly surpassing London and Paris. Its rapidly expanding population and flourishing economy encouraged the development of a thriving popular culture. Innovative and ambitious young authors and artists soon began to look beyond the established categories of poetry, drama, and prose, banding together to invent completely new literary forms that focused on the fun and charm of Edo. Their writings were sometimes witty, wild, and bawdy, and other times sensitive, wise, and polished. Now some of these high spirited works, celebrating the rapid changes, extraordinary events, and scandalous news of the day, have been collected in an accessible volume highlighting the city life of Edo.Edo's urban consumers demanded visual presentations and performances in all genres. Novelties such as books with text and art on the same page were highly sought after, as were kabuki plays and the polychrome prints that often shared the same themes, characters, and even jokes. Popular interest in sex and entertainment focused attention on the theatre district and "pleasure quarters," which became the chief backdrops for the literature and arts of the period. Gesaku, or "playful writing," invented in the mid-eighteenth century, satirized the government and samurai behavior while parodying the classics. These entertaining new styles bred genres that appealed to the masses. Among the bestsellers were lengthy serialized heroic epics, revenge dramas, ghost and monster stories, romantic melodramas, and comedies that featured common folk.An Edo Anthologyoffers distinctive and engaging examples of this broad range of genres and media. It includes both well-known masterpieces and unusual examples from the city's counterculture, some popular with intellectuals, others with wider appeal. Some of the translations presented here are the first available in English and many are based on first editions. In bringing together these important and expertly translated Edo texts in a single volume, this collection will be warmly welcomed by students and interested readers of Japanese literature and popular culture.104 illus., 5 in color

    eISBN: 978-0-8248-3776-1
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-xii)
    Sumie Jones and Kenji Watanabe
    (pp. 1-38)

    The expression “popular literature” assumes readership not restricted by class or education. Its authorship could belong to scholarly, religious, or noble classes, but the writing is aimed at a broader audience. In this sense, popular literature in any culture can go back to the Middle Ages or earlier, and Japan is no exception. A fairly large body of popular literature rose during the early Edo period (1600–1750) to reflect the interests of a burgeoning merchant class and its increased rates of literacy. Based in the traditional cities of Kyoto and Osaka, generally called Kamigata, prose fiction depicted bourgeois concerns,...

  5. Notes for the Reader
    (pp. 39-42)
  6. I. Playboys, Prostitutes, and Lovers
    • Seki the Night Hawk
      (pp. 45-60)

      Seki the Night Hawk(Sekifujinden,three volumes, written in 1749 and published in 1753) belongs to the group of the earliest and the most sophisticated works ofsharebon. Like many masterpieces of the genre, this text treats the flourishing fashion and authority of Yoshiwara with irony. It does not even depict social scenes at Yoshiwara or show courtesans and playboys in a positive light assharebonis expected to do. Instead, it pokes fun at the rigid ranks and customs of the pleasure quarter, which promoted ambition, deception, and trickery on the parts of both the prostitutes and their clients....

    • A Lousy Journey of Love Two Sweethearts Won’t Back Down
      (pp. 60-64)

      This verse, written in a rhythmic alternation of hexameters and pentameters, forms part of theBlown Blossom and Fallen Leaves(Hika Rakuyō,1783), a posthumous compilation of the works of Hiraga Gennai (1728–1779), put together by Ōta Nanpo (1749–1823) as a tribute to his friend and colleague. Nanpo brought together several short and witty, but unpublished, pieces. Gennai had met his death in jail, accused of murder, although the matter was never made clear, and his death was as strange as his life. Beginning as a minor local samurai, Gennai renounced his hereditary status for the freer life...

    • At a Fork on the Road to Hiring a Hooker
      (pp. 65-76)

      Umebori Kokuga (1750–1821) is the pen name of Sorimachi Yozaemon, a samurai serving at the Edo mansion of Kururi Domain in Kazusa. Although Kokuga began publishing light fiction on the side, the censorship of the Kansei Reforms (1787–1793) kept him away from writingsharebon.His best-known works were thesharebonthat he put out after the governmental crackdown. If Inakarōjin Tadano Jijī’sPlayboy Lingo(Yushi Hōgen, c. 1770), which describes one night’s entertainment from the customers’ ride on the boat to Yoshiwara to their departure in the morning, is a typical earlysharebon,Kokuga’sAt a Fork on...

    • Intimations of Spring: The Plum Calendar
      (pp. 76-100)

      Intimations of Spring: The Plum Calendar(Shunshoku Umegoyomi, four parts containing twelve volumes divided into twenty-four scenes, 1832–1833), by Tamenaga Shunsui (1790–1843), is the most representative of works in the late-Edo genre ofninjōbon, or “sentimental books.” Mostly serialized,ninjōbonwere aimed at a young and female readership, and their often sentimental portrayals of love’s trials and ultimate victory gaveninjōbontheir alternative name ofnakibon, or “weeping books.”The Plum Calendarwas an immediate hit in Edo’s book market, leading to a number of sequels. A more literal rendering of the original title, “Shunshoku Umegoyomi,” would be...

  7. II. Ghosts, Monsters, and Deities
    • One Hundred Monsters in Edo of Our Time
      (pp. 103-113)

      Penalties for violating the publication laws that were repeatedly issued ranged from official reprimands and fifty days in handcuffs to confiscation of assets and exile. The most extreme case was Baba Bunkō (1718–1759), the only writer throughout the entire Edo period to be executed for the crime of violating publication laws. He began his career as a guard in the shogun’s household but was dismissed following the death of the eighth shogun Yoshimune (1684–1751) and the beginning of the new administration of the ninth shogun Ieshige (1711–1761). As did many otherronin, he first sought success as...

    • Rootless Grass
      (pp. 113-124)

      Hiraga Gennai (1728–1779), son of a low-ranking retainer of Sanuki Domain, was appointed by Lord Matsudaira Yoritaka (1711–1771) as the domain’s herbalist. Under the lord’s sponsorship, he went to Nagasaki in 1752 to study herbology and mineralogy and later moved on to Edo where he added Chinese studies and medical science to his repertoire. A child of the age when new fields of study and professions emerged for innovative young men, Gennai risked his rank as a samurai when he resigned from the Sanuki Domain in 1761, succumbing to the allure of possible opportunities. He achieved instant fame...

    • Thousand Arms of Goddess, Julienned The Secret Recipe of Our Handmade Soup Stock
      (pp. 124-136)

      WhenThousand Arms of Goddess, Julienned(Daihi no Senrokuhon), an adult comicbook by Shiba Zenkō (1750–1793), was published in 1785, disarticulation of the human body firmly gripped the Japanese imagination. Practitioners of Western science in Nagasaki had begun performing the first autopsies over the preceding decade or so, and European anatomies had already been rendered in such efforts as Sugita Genpaku’sNew Anatomical Atlas(Kaitai Shinsho, 1774). When Mount Asama erupted in 1783, spewing volcanic ash as thick as fur, reports described the gruesome sight of severed limbs floating downstream into Edo proper. Little wonder that many works of...

    • The Monster Takes a Bride
      (pp. 137-167)

      The Monster Takes a Bride(Bakemono no Yomeiri, 1807) is an illustrated comic tale in which traditional marriage customs are reinvented in the context of a monster world. During the Edo period, weddings were often elaborate rituals marking the union of two families. Picture books from the eighteenth century used personified animals such as mice or foxes to act out the various stages in the marriage process. These stories followed a set format. First the matchmaker introduces the two parties and arranges a meeting for the prospective bride and groom. Next come the exchange of betrothal presents and the assembling...

    • Epic Yotsuya Ghost Tale
      (pp. 168-182)

      A certain cynicism may be said to have prevailed in the popular psyche during the Bunka-Bunsei era (1804–1830) when the playwright Tsuruya Nanboku IV (1755–1829) flourished. True to the appellation of “the age of decadence,” crime and delinquency afflicted society. Theater came to highlight spectacle as the jaded public clamored for the sensational, if not the outright bizarre. Aerial stunts, quick changes, sleight of appearance, collapsing scenery, water tricks, full-scale acrobatics, monsters, ghosts, and carnage prevailed. Tricks of stage technology such as revolves, trap lifts, set shifting, and flight mechanics were perfected, facilitating increased realism and its attendant...

  8. III. Heroes, Rogues, and Fools
    • Playboy, Grilled Edo Style
      (pp. 185-218)

      Santō Kyōden (1761–1816) was not only the most popular author but also one of the esteemedtsūdandies of the day. The son of a successful pawnshop owner, he began his career as an artist with the studio name of Kitao Masanobu. After working as a book illustrator, he made his teenage debut as an author of a “yellow book,”Our Favorite Merchandise(Gozonji no Shōbaimono, 1782) for which he, as Kitao Masanobu, provided illustrations. The book made him an instant star thanks to a review by the celebrated wit Ōta Nanpo (1749–1823). While he became a prolific...

    • Osome and Hisamatsu Their Amorous History—Read All About It!
      (pp. 219-246)

      With innovative stage tricks, elaborate theatricality, and male derring-do, Edo kabuki appealed to an audience inclined toward the violent, the scandalous, and the weird. Perhaps the most “Edo-esque” playwright, Tsuruya Nanboku IV (1755–1829) obliged the tastes of the popular audiences of his time with startling stage devices and outrageously evil and mysterious characters. He treated the spectators to bodies rising in mid-air, stage parts ascending and descending, and “quick changes” orhayagawari,which allowed an actor to play multiple roles in the same performance. Nanboku’s career and work are outlined in the introduction to his playEpic Yotsuya Ghost...

    • The Tale of the Eight Dog Warriors of the Satomi Clan
      (pp. 247-260)

      The Tale of the Eight Dog Warriors of the Satomi Clan(Nansō Satomi Hakkenden,nine books, ninety-eight volumes, 1814–1842), a historical novel in 106 volumes and over 180 chapters serially published through twenty-eight years, is one of the longest narratives ever written in Japanese. It is a novel of Wagnerian scale that embraces the solemn and the scandalous by weaving together history, myth, and romance. The author Kyokutei (real name Takizawa) Bakin (1767–1848) was born a samurai and married into a merchant family to improve his impoverished finances, intending to make a name as a writer. He rode...

    • The Tale of the Eight Dog Warriors of the Satomi Clan The Death of Funamushi
      (pp. 260-282)

      The twenty-eight years of the serialized publication ofThe Tale of the Eight Dog Warriors of the Satomi Clanspanned the author Kyokutei Bakin’s late middle age and senescence, a period during which he experienced a number of personal tragedies, most notably the death of his much-loved son and the loss of his eyesight. Only by employing his daughter-in-law Omichi as his amanuensis was Bakin able to bring this masterpiece to completion. Further details of Bakin’s life and the general background of the novel may be found in the introduction to the earlier episode included in this volume.

      The Eight...

    • Eight Footloose Fools A Flower Almanac
      (pp. 282-301)

      Eight Footloose Fools: A Flower Almanac(Hanagoyomi: Hasshōjin,five books including fifteen volumes) was written by Ryūtei Rijō (?–1841) and first published in 1820, to be followed by additional books by other writers until 1848. The author’s life remains obscure. Born in Edo as Ikeda Hachiemon, Rijō was known as a craftsman who carved ornate designs in turtle shells, mother-of-pearl, and silver. Contemporary accounts also say that he was accomplished in a number of traditional arts, including playing the shamisen and acting as an entertainer (taikomochi) in the Edo brothels and teahouses. The character Sajirō, a fast-talking man-about-town who...

    • Benten the Thief
      (pp. 301-322)

      The foremost creator of rogues on stage was Kawatake Mokuami (1816–1893), the last great kabuki playwright in the traditional mode who continued to lead the theatrical world well into the Meiji period. He is nicknamed the “bandit playwright,” due to his many successful portrayals of thieves, murderers, pimps, and other lowlife who populated Edo in the last years of the feudal Tokugawa rule. Said to have created three hundred plays in his lifetime, he is best known for such popular works asThree Kichizas Go To Yoshiwara(Sannin Kichiza Kuruwa no Hatsugai, 1860),The Tale of Rain and Kimono...

    • Color plates
      (pp. None)
  9. IV. City and Country Folks
    • Mr. Senryū’s Barrel of Laughs, Edo Haikai Style
      (pp. 325-340)

      Senryū,as a generic designation, was derived from Karai Senryū (1718–1790), the pen name of a man who achieved celebrity not by composing his own poetry but rather by judging the compositions of others. Senryū’s career as a literary arbiter began in 1757, when he sponsored his own public tournament of verse, cast in a format that had enjoyed great popularity in the preceding decades. Competitions of this sort were lively civic events to which all were invited who could pen a verse and pay the small entrance fee—worlds apart from the staid, aristocratic poetic contests of Heian...

    • “The Housemaid’s Ballad” and Other Poems
      (pp. 341-349)

      The fashion of “mad verse”kyōshiis primarily a later-Edo phenomenon and attained its zenith during the decades immediately preceding and following the year 1800. The works by Dōmyaku Sensei, the patriarch of the form in Kyoto, reflect the comical, ridiculous, or grotesque components of existence. At the same time, his poems frequently include a plaintive, astringent, or reflective quality that tests the boundaries and potentials of the genre and moves beyond the realm of the comic toward the expanses of the tragicomic or bittersweet. His depiction of the “low-life” banalities of the urban scene and portrayal of a blemished...

    • In the World of Men, Nothing But Lies
      (pp. 349-363)

      The core of the “funny books” (kokkeibon) corpus is a series of texts that began appearing in the early 1800s, filling the comic prose niche, which had been left empty since the decline of the “books of manners” (sharebon) and “yellow books” (kibyōshi) genres in the wake of the Kansei Reforms of the 1790s. Among the most notable writers in this genre were the professionals Jippensha Ikku, creator of the mega-bestsellerAlong the Tokaido Highway on Foot, and Shikitei Sanba, the author of the comic work introduced here. The prolific Sanba was himself a product of the Edo townsman milieu...

    • The Floating World Barbershop
      (pp. 364-377)

      Shikitei Sanba (1776–1822) was the son of a woodblock print carver. After several changes of residence and profession, he established himself in 1806 as the proprietor of a medicine shop, which scored a major success with a brand of face lotion called “Edo no Mizu,” or “Edo Water,” capitalizing on the glory of Edo’s city water, known for its quality. His business continued to flourish thanks to Sanba’s frequent mention of this and other products of his store within the text of his works. Repeated references are made to the fashion of brushing teeth with Sanba Store’s own tooth...

    • Tales from the North
      (pp. 377-388)

      Tadano Makuzu (1763–1825) proved her talent in many literary genres, but it is foremost through the discovery of the political treatiseSolitary Thoughts(Hitori Kangae, 1818–1819) in 1980 that Makuzu has come to attract a wider audience of historians and gender specialists as a woman thinker who expressed her thoughts boldly. In 1994 Suzuki Yoneko compiled a collection of most of Makuzu’s extant writings from which the following translation draws.

      Makuzu grew up in Edo as the oldest daughter of Kudo Heisuke, a physician to the Date family, lords of Sendai domain. Her father was not only respected...

  10. V. Artists and Poets
    • On Farting
      (pp. 391-399)

      Here is another work by satirist Hiraga Gennai, alias Fūrai Sanjin (1728–1779). Just as hisRootless Grasstook advantage of the news of popular actors’ deaths, this essay,On Farting(Hōhi-ron, part I, one volume, 1774) cashes in on the fame of an actual showman who had recently become a popular hit in the Ryogoku showbiz district earlier that year. The fart artist featured in this essay by Gennai belongs to the category of performers of extraordinary shapes and talents such as weight lifters and fire-eaters. The illustration shows the entrance to the reed-enclosed theater. Under a banner entitled...

    • The “Peony Petals” Sequence
      (pp. 400-413)

      Yosa (also Yoza) Buson (1716–1784) was a major poet ofhokku,haikailinked verse (renku),haibunprose, and experimental poems in mixed Chinese-Japanese style. Hishaigapaintings also set new standards, and his mastery of the Chinese literati style, infused with his personal approach, caused him to be paired with Ike no Taiga (1723–1776) as one of the two greatest painters of his age. Today his surname is often pronounced Yosa, but Buson may well have pronounced it Yoza due to his ties to the Yoza region.

      Little is known of Buson’s youth, since he rarely mentioned it....

    • Peasants, Peddlers, and Paramours: Waka Selections
      (pp. 413-430)

      Waka, originally a generic term for various types of indigenous verse, most commonly refers totanka: thirty-one syllables in lines of five-seven-five-seven-seven syllables, the form that will be treated exclusively here. The earliest extant collection ofwaka, the eighth-centuryCollection of Myriad Leaves(Man’yōshū), amply illustrates the originally demotic scope of this genre, with poems describing the lives of peasants and frontier guards as well as the practices of the gentry. However, by the appearance of the first imperial anthology—Poems Old and New(Kokin Wakashū, 905)—the court had already established a virtual monopoly on its teaching and practice;...

    • Icicle Teardrops and Butterfly Wings: Popular Love Songs
      (pp. 430-440)

      Early modern songs chiefly derive fromjōruriandnagautasongs performed in puppet shows and on the kabuki stage. Some narrated the storyline of a play and others had a more lyrical bent as they accompanied dance and romantic lovers’ journey (michiyuki) scenes.Tokiwazu, tomimoto, andkiyomotoof thejōruricategory andogiebushiof thenagautacategory grew directly out of theater tunes performed independently at private parties in Yoshiwara and other entertainment districts. Songs were the hottest part of entertainment in theaters as well as in the pleasure quarters. The three-string shamisen accompanied all the popular songs of the...

  11. VI. Tourists and Onlookers
    • Comparisons of Cities
      (pp. 443-465)
      ANONYMOUS, Shiba Kōkan and Kimuro Bōun

      Edo-period Japan boasted many large and prosperous cities. The greatest were undeniably Edo, Kyō, and Osaka. The last of these retains its Edo-period name (though written with different characters), while the former are now known as Tokyo and Kyoto. These were referred to as the Three Ports (sanshin or sangatsu) and were hubs that welcomed large numbers of outsiders on official or commercial business, either as long-term residents or merely passers through. Many people could imbibe the aura of the places and retell this to avid listeners at home. Locals cultivated difference to give their city a particular feel. The...

    • Songs of the Northern Quarter
      (pp. 465-476)

      Songs of the Northern Quarter(Hokurika, 1786) is the title of a series of thirty seven-character quatrains describing pleasures of Yoshiwara. The author, Ichikawa Kansai (1749–1820), was an important scholar of Chinese and one of the pre-eminent poets of the later Edo period. Trained in the Hayashi school of Confucian Studies, he was appointed supervisor of the Hayashi’s Shōheikō School, which was later to become the chief institution sponsored by the shogun’s government. In four years, however, shortly after the publication ofSongs of the Northern Quarter, Kansai was relieved from the post and opened the famous Kōkoshisha Poetry...

    • Outlandish Nonsense: Verses on Western Themes
      (pp. 477-480)

      There was of course no recognized genre of Western-related poetry, but still, reading through Edo-period anthologies and the like, it is surprising how often the theme comes up. “Holland”—the only European country to enjoy official trading rights in Japan throughout the Edo period—meant many things in the eyes of the people of the time. Often it was little more than code for the strange or the daft (as indeed in English, with “Dutch treat,” “Dutch courage,” and “Dutch clocking,” etc.); often it stood for something curious but also clever, as European devices, medicines, and technical tools were entering...

    • An Account of the Prosperity of Edo
      (pp. 480-492)

      Terakado Seiken (1796–1868), an orphaned son of a minor official of Mito Domain, went through a period of delinquency before he soberly devoted himself to the Confucian classics, opening his own private academy in his late twenties. His failure to enter the administration of Mito seems to have been the catalyst for penning his first and most famous work,An Account of the Prosperity of Edo(Edo Hanjoki, five parts, begun in 1831 and published until 1838). Its wildfire success proved to be a mixed blessing, as fame invariably invited scrutiny and official notice. After a preliminary ban in...

  12. Source Texts and Modern Editions
    (pp. 493-498)
  13. List of Contributors
    (pp. 499-504)
  14. Permissions
    (pp. 505-506)
  15. Index of Names
    (pp. 507-509)
    (pp. 509-515)
  17. Back Matter
    (pp. 516-517)