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Edo Culture

Edo Culture: Daily Life and Diversions in Urban Japan, 1600-1868

Nishiyama Matsunosuke
Translated and edited by Gerald Groemer
Copyright Date: 1997
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt6wqdbr
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    Edo Culture
    Book Description:

    Nishiyama Matsunosuke is one of the most important historians of Tokugawa (Edo) popular culture, yet until now his work has never been translated into a Western language. Edo Culture presents a selection of Nishiyama’s writings that serves not only to provide an excellent introduction to Tokugawa cultural history but also to fill many gaps in our knowledge of the daily life and diversions of the urban populace of the time. Many essays focus on the most important theme of Nishiyama’s work: the seventeenth to nineteenth centuries as a time of appropriation and development of Japan’s culture by its urban commoners. In the first of three main sections, Nishiyama outlines the history of Edo (Tokyo) during the city’s formative years, showing how it was shaped by the constant interaction between its warrior and commoner classes. Next, he discusses the spirit and aesthetic of the Edo native and traces the woodblock prints known as ukiyo-e to the communal activities of the city’s commoners. Section two focuses on the interaction of urban and rural culture during the nineteenth century and on the unprecedented cultural diffusion that occurred with the help of itinerant performers, pilgrims, and touring actors. Among the essays is a delightful and detailed discourse on Tokugawa cuisine. The third section is dedicated to music and theatre, beginning with a study of no, which was patronized mainly by the aristocracy but surprisingly by commoners as well. In separate chapters, Nishiyama analyzes the relation of social classes to musical genres and the aesthetics of kabuki. The final chapter focuses on vaudeville houses supported by the urban masses.

    eISBN: 978-0-8248-6229-9
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. HISTORICAL PERIODS
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. TRANSLATOR’S INTRODUCTION
    (pp. 1-6)

    Nishiyama Matsunosuke was born in 1912, during the last weeks of the Meiji period (1868–1912). He spent his childhood in the countryside around Akō, home of those most Japanese of heroes, the legendary forty-seven “loyal retainers” of the sagaChūshingura. After attending school in the city of Himeji (Hyōgo prefecture), Nishiyama went to Tokyo to enter Tōkyō Kōtō Shihan Gakkō (now Tsukuba University) to prepare himself for what he thought would be a career teaching elementary school in rural Japan. Here he found the lectures dry and uninspiring. Instead of attending classes, he frequently attended talks by the Rinzai...

  5. INTRODUCTION: THE STUDY OF EDO-PERIOD CULTURE
    (pp. 7-20)

    The writings collected here, written over a period of nearly two decades and appearing in various books and journals, lack a systematic unity. I would thus like to outline my views on how Edo-period culture should best be studied. To do this adequately would require a discussion of Japanese cultural history in general, but I shall employ a more limited strategy. First, I shall discuss the kind of historical perspective necessary for a correct assessment of Edo-period culture; second, I shall outline some methods for carrying out actual research, methods that make this historical perspective possible.

    Two basic historical perspectives...

  6. Part I. Edo:: The City and Its Culture

    • CHAPTER 1 EDO: THE WARRIOR’S CITY
      (pp. 23-40)

      When Tokugawa Ieyasu (1542–1616) came to Edo in 1590, he inherited little more than the vestiges of a castle built long before by Ōta Dōkan (1432–1486). With the implementation of Tokugawa political rule, this sleepy, historic area was destined to become the capital of all Japan. By the start of the eighteenth century, roughly one century after the establishment of the Tokugawa bakufu, the city of Edo already boasted a population of around one million inhabitants. The appearance of a city of such size was an event unprecedented in Japanese history.

      The city’s development commenced in earnest once...

    • CHAPTER 2 EDOKKO: THE TOWNSPERSON
      (pp. 41-52)

      As we have seen in Chapter 1, the center of Edo was the shogun’s castle. At least until the Genroku period (1688–1704) the city was primarily the capital of the warrior. It was a teeming metropolis, a million strong, with men outnumbering women by more than two to one. Edo bustled with warriors, craftsmen, merchants, and performers from throughout the land. The upper class amused itself at the kabuki or in the Yoshiwara pleasure quarters; the activities of the big spenders captured the public imagination.

      The shogun, daimyo, and their retainers spent almost all their money in the city;...

    • CHAPTER 3 IKI: THE AESTHETIC OF EDO
      (pp. 53-63)

      Ikiseems to be a specifically Japanese form of aesthetic consciousness. Pinpointing where or how a person embodies the quality ofikimay be difficult, but its presence is felt by every Japanese. The aesthetic ofikiis, in this sense, the common property of the Japanese people.

      An adequate definition ofiki, however, remains elusive.Ikimay be quite easily grasped experientially, but verbalizing this experience is difficult. Parallels may be found in the performing arts: here too direct (and often secret) transmission, not verbal explanation, provides the surest means for attaining true mastery of details in speech or...

    • CHAPTER 4 EDO PUBLISHING AND UKIYO-E
      (pp. 64-75)

      The great majority of woodcuts known asukiyo-ewere produced and marketed in the city of Edo. These prints were bought for the purchaser’s own enjoyment or to be taken back to the provinces as souvenirs for friends and family. Mass production ofukiyo-efirst took place in Edo during the Kyōhō period (1716–1736). Morishima Chūryō (1757–1809) noted that the golden age of the beautiful polychromeukiyo-eknown asazuma nishiki-e(eastern brocade pictures) orEdo-e(Edo pictures) lasted until the final decade of the eighteenth century.¹

      Ukiyo-eemerged from a social milieu that centered on publishers and...

    • CHAPTER 5 EDO TEMPLES AND SHRINES
      (pp. 76-92)

      The history of Japanese religion is a vast subject that I shall not attempt to cover here. Instead, I should like to focus on the religious activities of the Edo populace. Many questions need to be answered: How were Edo-period temples and shrines established? What kind of religious beliefs were associated with these institutions? And how did the function of temples and shrines change historically?

      Yet another important issue concerns pilgrimages undertaken by the Edo citizenry. Pilgrimages often occurred within the city; at times, however, pilgrims traveled to the outskirts of Edo or even to distant temples and shrines throughout...

  7. Part II. The Town and the Country

    • CHAPTER 6 PROVINCIAL CULTURE OF THE KASEI PERIOD (1804–1830)
      (pp. 95-112)

      Any discussion of provincial culture during the late Edo period must first address the question of whether the city of Edo was truly the center of Japanese culture. Japanese historians have usually agreed that from the middle of the eighteenth century the center of Japanese culture gradually moved eastward, from the Kamigata area to the city of Edo. As we have seen in previous chapters, from the mid-eighteenth century Edo was indeed the site of many new creative forces. Nevertheless, the Kamigata area, especially Kyoto, which had been the most important center of Japanese culture until the Edo period, remained...

    • CHAPTER 7 ITINERANTS, ACTORS, PILGRIMS
      (pp. 113-143)

      During the Edo period over one hundred types of traditional performing artists were active in Japan. Despite their great variety, however, such individuals never constituted more than a small segment of the population. Itinerant performers often settled down in ghettos or flophouses, from which they toured throughout the land for a certain period each year. Tours might take only a month, or they might last for as long as an entire year.

      Performers were each associated with a distinctive form of a traditional art. As we shall see in greater detail, some performers, known asyakuharai, sekizoro, kamabarai, andsutasuta...

    • CHAPTER 8 EDO-PERIOD CUISINE
      (pp. 144-178)

      In a memo in the possession of the Ikarugadera, a temple near Himeji, Toyotomi Hideyoshi (1536–1598) outlines troop mobilizations in the advance on Himeji, part of a campaign that climaxed in the Battle of Takamatsu (1582). Hideyoshi, who personally led the Himeji attack, was still merely a general in Oda Nobunaga’s forces. He had risen to this position from his origins in rural Owari, and his rustic, unrefined exuberance was still evident at every turn. The memo at the temple was written in wartime, of course, but its scrawled script can hardly fail to surprise the reader. Such scribbling...

  8. Part III. Theater and Music:: From the Bakufu to the Beggar

    • CHAPTER 9 THE SOCIAL CONTEXT OF NŌ
      (pp. 181-197)

      Support for nō during the Edo period came from members of three social groups: the bakufu; the daimyo and other high-ranking members of the warrior class; and the general public. Nō masters employed by the bakufu were granted rice stipends. These salaries were in effect supplied by various domains, but the nō masters’ privileges were guaranteed by the bakufu itself.

      Peace prevailed throughout the land after the Genna period (1615–1624), allowing the population of nō devotees to increase rapidly. Bakufu officials such as bannermen and household retainers, as well as daimyo and their high-ranking retainers, were in fact allowed...

    • CHAPTER 10 SOCIAL STRATA AND MUSIC
      (pp. 198-211)

      Analyzing the relation of social strata to Edo-period music is not easy. Many musical forms of this age were the shared cultural property of village communities and constituted a music of the social base with no specific carrier. Popular songs, for example, were sung by a broad public that crossed class lines. Other songs were associated with types of labor, while performances of certain genres of accompanied dance or dialogue were limited to a specific small group or to certain villages. Annual rituals or festivals such as thebondance present yet other problems. Whatever the genre, a discussion of...

    • CHAPTER 11 THE AESTHETICS OF KABUKI
      (pp. 212-227)

      The aesthetics of the kabuki theater comprises a variety of elements: hairstyles, makeup, costumes, settings, props, music, and much else. All these components deserve detailed study. In the following discussion, however, I shall limit myself to only four prominent aspects of the Edo kabuki: the aesthetic of the “street knight” (kyōshaorkyōkaku); the aesthetic of exorcism; the aesthetic of fashion; and the aesthetic of evil.

      Important Edoesque features entered kabuki when Ichikawa Danjūrō—Edo’s greatest actor-hero and a name inherited through over a dozen generations to this very day—created thearagoto(bravura) style of acting. The first Ichikawa...

    • CHAPTER 12 POPULAR PERFORMING ARTS: FROM EDO TO MEIJI
      (pp. 228-250)

      After the end of the Edo period, many popular performing arts underwent rapid modernization; others, however, retained the styles and forms they had assumed during the preceding age. In this short study I shall attempt to analyze the uneven development of Japanese popular performing arts as they passed from the last years of the Edo period into the Meiji period (1868–1912).

      Research by Haneda Yoshiaki, Fukuda Sadayoshi, Shimizu Ikutarō, Matsuda Michio, Tsurumi Shunsuke, and others has shown that popular arts are best divided into two categories: one includes genres in which the process of appreciation is also a process...

  9. AFTERWORD
    (pp. 251-252)
    Nishiyama Matsunosuke

    I am very happy that a selection of my work on Edo-period culture is now available to an English-speaking readership. The studies included in this volume are for the most part introductory in nature, although some chapters—for example, those on Edo-period nō or cuisine—treat subjects largely ignored outside of Japan. I hope that a broad range of readers will find something useful in this book.

    During the 1960s and 1970s a group of scholars known as the “Edo Chōnin Kenkyūkai” and I began to utilize a huge number of Edo-period resources to build a solid basis for the...

  10. NOTES
    (pp. 253-268)
  11. GLOSSARY
    (pp. 269-280)
  12. SELECTED REFERENCES
    (pp. 281-296)
  13. SOURCES OF CHAPTERS
    (pp. 297-298)
  14. INDEX
    (pp. 299-310)
  15. Back Matter
    (pp. 311-311)