LIFE COURSE W52, January 31 - March 21



A Story from Chikamatsu
Directed by Mizoguchi Kenji, 1954

This is the story of a scandal in the Kyoto household of the Grand Scroll-master, based on a play by Chikamatsu Monzaemon, The Almanac of Love, 1715.

Chikamatsu’s play was inspired by a book by Saikaku Ihar, What the Seasons Brought the Almanac Maker, 1686 (his book was inspired by a scandal in 1683)
Directed by Hiroshi Inagaki, 1962

One of many film adaptations of the Chushingura story (also known as the story of the 47 Ronin).


The Life of an Amorous Man by Ihara Saikaku
Original published in 1682. English translation by Charles E. Tuttle Co.

Ihara Saikaku was a poet who began writing fiction set in the “floating world”, becoming one of the Edo Period’s most famous novelists. In this, his first novel, Saikaku chronicles the life and sexual exploits of Yonosuke, a man with an insatiable sexual appetite.

If you are looking for really engrossing stories, Saikaku’s fiction may not be for you as the writing style is a little dated. If you are interested in understanding Japanese life at the end of the 17th century, then please consider this or any of Saikaku’s subsequent novels or short stories, many of which are available in translation. Some other titles are: Five Women Who Loved Love, 1685, The Life of an Amorous Woman, 1686, and The Great Mirror of Male Love, 1687. He did write on other subjects, but it is the ones about love that are most available in translation.
Shogun by James Clavell
Dell Publishing Co., 1975

This novel is set just before the Edo Period begins, before peace has been permanently established and when foreign traders and missionaries still had influence in Japan. The character Lord Toranaga was inspired by Tokugawa Ieyasu. The main character, John Blackthorne, was based on William Adams, the English pilot of a Dutch ship, who arrived in Japan in 1600.

Shogun was made into a TV miniseries and is available through the Japan Foundation Library.
Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden
Random House, 1997

This novel is about the life of a geisha is set in the 20th century, but the system it describes is not very different from the system that would have existed in the later part of the Edo Period. It was a popular novel and was made into a movie in 2005.
The Ghost Brush by Katherine Govier
HarperCollins Publishers Ltd., Toronto, 2010

This is a fictitious story about the life of Oi, daughter of the famous artist Hokusai. Oi was a real person and a recognized artist, but there is very little reliable information about her life. The story may be fiction, but Govier has done her research well and the book is full of wonderful detail about the period.
The Sano Ichiro detective series by Laura Joh Rowland
Sano Ichiro is a detective in Edo at the end of the 17th century/beginning of the 18th century. There are 18 books in the series so far, the first one published in 1994. In #15, The Ronin’s Mistress, Sano investigates why the 47 ronin killed Kira.