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Edo Culture

Daily Life and Diversions in Urban Japan, 16001868

Nishiyama Matsunosuke & Gerald Groemer

Publication Year: 1997

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.

Published by: University of Hawai'i Press


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pp. v

Historical Periods

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pp. vii-viii

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Translator's Introduction

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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 Akò, home of those most Japanese of heroes, the legendary forty-seven “loyal retainers” of the saga Chûshingura. After attending school in the city of Himeji...

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Introduction: The Study of Edo-Period Culture

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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 Edoperiod culture should best be studied. To do this adequately would require a discussion of Japanese cultural history in general...

Part I. Edo: The City and Its Culture

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Chapter 1. Edo: The Warrior's City

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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 Òta Dòkan (1432–1486). With the implementation of Tokugawa political rule, this sleepy, historic area was destined to become the capital of all Japan...

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Chapter 2. Edokko: The Townsperson

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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...

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Chapter 3. Iki: The Aesthetic of Edo

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pp. 53-63

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

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Chapter 4. Edo Publishing and Ukiyo-e

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pp. 64-75

The great majority of woodcuts known as ukiyo-e were 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 of ukiyo-e first took place in Edo...

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Chapter 5. Edo Temples and Shrines

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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?...

Part II. The Town and the Country

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Chapter 6. Provincial Culture of the Kasei Period (1804-1830)

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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...

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Chapter 7. Itinerants, Actors, Pilgrims

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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...

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Chapter 8. Edo-Period Cuisine

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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...

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

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Chapter 9. The Social Context of Nō

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pp. 181-197

Support for n

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Chapter 10. Social Strata and Music

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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...

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Chapter 11. The Aesthetics of Kabuki

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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”...

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Chapter 12. Popular Performing Arts: From Edo to Meiji

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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...

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pp. 251-252

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 nò or cuisine...


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pp. 253-268


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pp. 269-280

Selected References

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pp. 281-296

Sources of Chapters

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pp. 297-298


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pp. 299-309

E-ISBN-13: 9780824862299
Print-ISBN-13: 9780824817367

Publication Year: 1997