Presentation on theme: "Japan's Secret Life: Isolationism, Militarism and Cultural Development in the Tokugawa Period (1603-1867)"— Presentation transcript:
Japan's Secret Life: Isolationism, Militarism and Cultural Development in the Tokugawa Period ( )
The Samurai: “Those who serve”. Whispers spread through the crowd, eyes drop, and women shuffle hurriedly to the side of the lane as a man wearing a kimono, loose billowing trousers, and a short jacket strides confidently through the mass of people. His hair is tied together in a distinctive ‘top-knot’. At his side, he carries two swords: one short, one long. According to the shogun (the country’s supreme military leader), they represent his ‘soul’, and are worn as an unmistakable and lethal reminder of his authority. He is a samurai of the Tokugawa shogunate (ruling military government), and Edo, Japan’s capital, is his city.
Following Ieyasu's death, his son, Hidetada, was left to carry out the Tokugawa shogunate’s aim of making sure all Japan enjoyed lasting peace and prosperity. The success of such a plan depended on maintaining and strengthening the feudal system of government. During Tokugawa times, the inflexibility of Japan’s social structure meant that the conditions of earlier centuries—in which a lowly peasant could potentially rise to high social status through effort and martial prowess— no longer existed. Now, birth and hereditary status decided a person's lifelong position in society. Unfortunately, if you'd been born into a lower class, there was no chance for you to improve your social position. Your dress, speech and etiquette would always indicate your status, all of which were highly scrutinised.
The Floating World They found these indulgences in the so called “Floating World” of theatres and restaurants, bath- houses and bars, filled with singers, “pleasure women”, wrestlers, dancers, gamblers and all manner of shady, violent and eccentric characters. It was a world that was just as colourful and on the edge as any modern city, if not more so. It’s difficult to imagine going to the cinema these days, and possibly losing an arm for looking at someone the wrong way! Alongside the popular novels of the time—most of which were filled with racy love stories—life in the big cities can be glimpsed in the surviving woodblock prints known as Ukiyoe as well as in the enormously popular Kabuki style of theatre (see exercises). Kabuki, which first appeared in 1603, and still has great appeal in modern Japan, allowed the mostly female audience to indulge their passion for romantic drama and intrigue. In fact, so varied was the pursuit of fun, adventure and pleasure in Edo, that a publication from 1775 records no fewer than 74 types of leisure activity and entertainment available to the townsperson.
In striving to preserve a national identity connected with the ideals of the bushido and the warrior’s ‘way’, it is all too easy to relate only to the often over-exaggerated legends that surround the samurai. Or, as happened with Japanese politics in the early 20 th century, it is also possible to distort many of the elements of this warrior mentality into a political and social tool. Such was the case with the rise of Japanese nationalism