Week 8 Class Notes, 21 March 2019

A Question from last week

Last week a question was asked about the size of Japan and distances between places, so I’ll begin with a quick answer to that.

Today Japan consists of four large islands: Hokkaido, Honshu, Shikoku and Kyushu (plus a great many smaller islands). During the Edo Period Hokkaido, the northernmost island, was not controlled by the Tokugawa government. The sizes of the Edo Period’s three major islands are:
Honshuapproximately 227,960 square km.
Shikokuapproximately 18,800 square km.
Kyushuapproximately 36,782 square km.

The following map shows the size of these islands relative to eastern Canada.

The coloured lines are the Gokaido, the five government controlled highways leading to Edo. The most famous and most travelled was the Tokaido, the shortest route between Kyoto and Edo. It was 514 Km long and is shown here in yellow.

Maintaining Social Order

One of the ways in which the Tokugawa governments attempted to maintain social order was through censorship. Before entering into a discussion of censorship during the Edo Period, I would like to review how the elite of the period expected society to be structured.

In 1590 Japan had been united under Toyotomi Hideyoshi (1536-1598), one of Japan’s greatest military leaders. Hideyoshi had come from a humble, low ranking family, but had risen to be ruler of Japan. He, however, introduced a rigid class hierarchy based on the Confucian model of four orders of society.

The Japanese had adopted the Confucian idea of four orders of society early in their history, but it had not always been strictly enforced. In China these social orders were: the gentry who were gentlemen-scholars who governed, farmers, artisans and merchants. Hideyoshi and the Tokugawas embraced this more fully than past generations, though the samurai, who were at the top, were supposed to be more warrior than gentlemen-scholar. It was called shi-no-ko-sho. Shi = samurai, etc.

Each group was treated differently under the law. They had different land rights, taxes, criminal procedures and political responsibilities. The government dictated behaviour, dress and living conditions for all social groups. Priests and nuns existed outside the hierarchy, but were subject to government regulations like everyone else. At the bottom of the hierarchy, beneath the four respectable and productive social orders, were the “hinin”, or nonpersons. This group included actors and prostitutes.

The Orders of Society

The samurai prided themselves on their warrior tradition more than on the gentleman-scholar ideal and they justified their position at the top of the hierarchy in terms of a superior moral character.
Samurai were supposed to radiate self-control, dignity and importance. They were expected to be well dressed and to wear 2 swords. Loyalty to one’s lord came before loyalty to family. Samurai were supposed to be above low forms of entertainment such as the Kabuki and the Yoshiwara.

Farmers lived in villages run by a headman and a council. The village headman was the intermediary between the farmers and the samurai overlords. Farmers were expected to work hard and to grow only useful crops. Farmers were prohibited from having books as they would distract from their work in the fields. The ideal situation for the samurai elite was for the farmers to be taxed as much as possible while still leaving them enough to live on. A law of 1642 decreed that farmers should consume miscellaneous grains and not too much rice as rice was the most valued food and a form of currency among samurai. Farmers had to bow and uncover their heads when a samurai passed.

Chonin (artisans and merchants)
In the cities artisans, craftsmen, merchants, shopkeepers, peddlers and labourers were collectively called chonin. Chonin lived in wards within the city and each ward elected a headman. Chonin were not generally permitted to attend samurai functions and entertainments and they were banned from political activity. Their commercial activity was to exist only in so far as it was necessary. Merchants were thought to personify greed, and acquisitiveness was to be discouraged. If chonin did acquire wealth they were not to flaunt it.

Outcasts (hinin, or nonpersons)
These were pariahs who did not perform a useful function within society. There were strict rules relating to where outcasts must live and what they could wear.

How the Merchant Prospered

In general the Edo Period was a prosperous time. Before the end of the 17th century some of the wealthiest individuals were businessmen. Ventures such as retail, land development, shipping, money-lending and money-changing were very profitable.

Urban populations did not produce the goods they consumed, so towns were filled with shops of all kinds. Food was sold by street vendors and at marketplaces.

Other shops sold toiletries such as soap, tooth power, hair oil, etc. and household items such as candles, paper, brushes and inkstones.

Fashion was as important in the Edo Period as it is now. Samurai clothing signified rank and status and official attire did not change much. Chonin clothing was subject to changing fashions and reflected an individual’s taste, cultural sophistication, and affluence.

Accessories were also important such as the uchiwa fan being held by the actor in the above image. Some shops specialized in very specific products such as this shop which is selling folding fans:

In addition to clothing and shoes, personal fashion accessories would include fans, hair pins and combs, makeup, inro and netsuke, pipes and tobacco pouches, purses, etc.

Other shops supplied home furnishings, including furniture, bedding, and household goods such as cooking utensils, kettles, serving dishes, etc.

Many with the means to do so collected items of interest such as sword fittings, foreign goods, antiques, books, tea ceremony paraphernalia, calligraphy, art, etc.

There were also busy marketplaces selling used goods, especially clothing, household items, swords and armour.

Some merchants made money through land development, especially during the 17th century when much swampland south and east of the castle was reclaimed. This area became part of the commercial center of town. Merchants also played a part in the extraction and distribution of natural resources.

Shipping and transportation was a very profitable business for merchants. There was a constant demand in the cities for products from the regions and daimyo had many goods shipped for them during their periods of service in the capital. There was a constant need for building supplies due both to the growth and expansion of the cities, but also due to the many fires.

Fires were a problem all over Japan, but the frequency of fires in Edo far exceeded fires in any other city:

Money Changing and money lending was another great source of profit for Edo Period merchants, particularly rice merchants. There were no banks, but private individuals and businessmen offered loans. Most samurai were paid in measures of rice, which they had to exchange for cash. Rice dealers offered loans to samurai with their next rice stipend as collateral.

Some merchants became wealthy performing functions on behalf of the government, such as acting as dealers to sell all of the gifts they received. Other merchants operated mail services between the larger cities (couriers would go about 3 times per month). Many were involved in the hospitality industry; brothels, bath houses, tea shops, restaurants and sweet shops were all profitable enterprises.

Expectations and Edicts

Rules governed prostitutes from the early days of the Yoshiwara. All prostitutes were supposed to reside in the Yoshiwara. They were not supposed to wear anything except ordinary silk and they were required to tie their obi at the front. Expectations existed for other classes too, but specific edicts started to appear around 1668.

There were edicts regarding kabuki actors. All actors, including onnagata, were required to shave their heads in the adult male fashion. Like prostitutes, actors were forbidden to wear anything better than ordinary silk. Stage curtains could be made of silk crepe or cotton, but could not be purple as that colour was reserved for the elite. Later, actors were forbidden to cover wooden swords with silver foil or to ride in palanquins or on horses.

Restrictions were put on actor’s costumes for fear they would influence the taste of the audience. Chonin were not permitted to use thin silk crepe, embroidery, or shibori for women’s clothes. Also unusual weaving and dying was forbidden for chonin’s clothing and they were restricted from buying fabric costing more than a certain amount.

The early 1700s seem to have been a time of scandals involving high-ranking samurai. The Ako incident was a highly dramatic scandal and many novelists, playwrights, and others were eager to exploit it. The first dramatization of these events was performed 3 days afterward, and was immediately shut down. Many other written and dramatized version of the events followed and all were prohibited by the authorities.

Eleven years after the Ako ronin died, there was the scandal involving Lady Ejima (1681-1741), a lady in waiting to the shogun’s mother, and the kabuki actor, Ikushima Shingoro (1671-1743). When the affair was discovered the result was that the lady, the actor, and the manager of the theatre where they met were exiled and the Yamamura-za Theatre was demolished.

Publishing material about incidents such as these was prohibited, yet cheap broadsheets and booklets reporting on current events were regularly produced.

Kyoho Reforms

I don’t know whether the Ako Incident or the Lady Ejima affair had anything to do with it, but in the 1720s the government issued a series of edicts known as the Kyoho Reforms, named for the Kyoho Period (1716-36).

In 1721 the government required the creation of guilds for the producers of various goods, including clothing and accessories, sweets, books and other small goods. These guilds were to be self-regulating, or self-censoring to adhere to government rules. Two guilds were created for book publishers: one for dealers of serious books and one for dealers of popular, or commercial, fare.

In 1722 the following rules for commercial printers were issued:
The edict to give author’s and publisher’s names was applied to prints as well as books. From 1723-45 large cartouches were added to prints giving the name of the artist, name and address of the publisher and his trademark.

The ban on shunga seems to have been obeyed for approximately 20 years and large size ukiyo-e prints also disappeared until the early 1740s.

Print designers found an interesting way around a ban on commercial printers producing calendars. In the lunar calendar used in the Edo Period some months had 29 days and some months had 30 and these changed each year. Egoyomi were prints that had the numbers of the long or short months hidden somewhere in the design.

Kansei Reforms

During the Kansei Period (1789-1801) old edicts were reiterated and new ones introduced. These were largely a reaction to the fairly liberal policies of the administration under Shogun Tokugawa Ieharu (1737-1786). Ieharu held the office of shogun from 1760-1786. His government introduced new policies on foreign trade and economic reform such as a uniform gold standard, but it was his relaxed policies toward prostitution and publishing that concerned his critics.

In 1771 the Yoshiwara burned down. While the Yoshiwara was rebuilt brothels were given permission to operate from the island of Nakazu, which was closer to the city center, and they were not made to vacate the island once the Yoshiwara was completed. The government’s failure to enforce this rule led to a large number of small, illegal brothels springing up within the city.

Ieharu himself showed an interest in the floating world and enjoyed pictures of the Yoshiwara by the artist Eishi. This helped to make ukiyo-e respectable and Samurai began exchanging floating world images, including shunga (erotica), as New Year’s greetings. In 1785 a hatamoto performed a double love suicide with a courtesan, not just an illegal act, but a shock to the upper classes because it showed the control a courtesan could have over a high-ranking samurai. Many elites interpreted all of this as a sign of moral decay that was eroding the natural order of society and making samurai men more feminine.

Ieharu’s rule was complicated by natural disasters in the 1780s and declining birth rates in the rural areas. The Great Tenmai Famine began in 1782. Mount Asama erupted in 1783. Epidemics, droughts and crop failures followed. Some blamed these natural disasters on the moral decay of society.

Ieharu died in 1786 when his successor, Tokugawa Ienari (1773-1841), was still a child. Ienari’s chief councillor and regent, Matsudaira Sadanobu (1759-1829) initiated the Kansei Reforms.

In 1788 there was a crackdown on illegal prostitution and in 1789 the entertainment district on Nakazu was torn down and the sex workers and other entertainers moved to the Yoshiwara. In 1789 several thousand illegal prostitutes were arrested and either moved to the Yoshiwara or sent to the countryside in hopes of increasing rural population growth.

A 1790 edict on commercial publishing stated:
Most of these just reiterated rules in force since the Kyoho Reforms, though #6, the prohibition against lavish illustrated books, was new. Also, when the guild representative examined a print they now had to stamp a small circular seal called a kiwame on it, indicating it had been approved.

In 1791 Tsutaya Juzaburo, a publisher, and Santo Kyoden, a writer, were arrested for producing three works of fiction that were considered vulgar and in violation of the laws. Tsutaya was fined half his personal wealth; Kyoden was sentenced to 50 days in manacles; and the censors who had approved the publication were banished to the provinces. This had the effect of increasing the popularity of the publisher and writer.

In 1791 a ban on mixed public bathing for everyone over 6 was introduced. Bath houses had to provide separate facilities, or alternate days for men’s and women’s bathing. As a result there was an increase in ukiyo-e showing women bathing.

Edicts against conspicuous displays of wealth were reiterated too. Expensive clothes, such as those incorporating gold thread, and expensive hairpins were banned. This led to a practice among wealthy chonin of putting expensive linings in their clothes.

A 1793 edict banned naming women on ukiyo-e prints unless they were licensed sex workers (other famous beauties such as tea house waitresses were also often the subjects of prints). As there was now an edict against lavish books, ukiyo-e prints became more lavish. Some had ground mica added to give a lovely reflective sheen. This treatment was given to some prints of Kabuki actors as well as to prints of beauties.

In 1796 an edict against showing women of dubious or immoral status (not including women of the Yoshiwara) was introduced. This just seemed to encourage artists such as Utamaro to show flawed types of women under a pretext of moralizing. Utamaro also began to illustrate figures from literature or history in the same style and poses which he used for his scenes of the Yoshiwara, a practice which ultimately led to his arrest and incarceration in 1804 (discussed in week 6).

Tokugawa Ienari (1773-1841), the 11th shogun who became shogun while still a child, held office from 1787-1837. His rule ended with a series of disasters. First, there was the terrible Tenpo famine of 1832-37. Approximately 4000 Edo residents died in the Kogo Fire of 1834 and in 1835 there was a 7.6 magnitude earthquake in the Sanriku region in northern Honshu. By the end of the famine period there were revolts against officials viewed as corrupt and withholding aid. In 1837 an American military ship was sighted off the coast of Shikoku, which was worrying. In 1837 Ienari retired and his son became shogun, but Ienari continued to exert considerable control until his death in 1841.

Tenpo Reforms

Tokugawa Ieyoshi (1793-1853), the 12th shogun, held office from 1837-1853. Following his father's death in 1841 his government brought in the strict and much despised Tenpo Reforms of 1841-43.
These affected many people and professions, with the majority relating to luxury items, social customs, performing arts and religious practices. Immigration to Edo was prohibited, guilds were banned, and Rangaku (Dutch learning) was banned.

Regarding ukiyo-e, the Tenpo Reforms brought some restrictions that were similar to those of the earlier Kansei Reforms that sought to keep this chonin art from becoming too luxurious: The number of colours that could be used in prints was restricted to 7 or 8, the price per sheet was not to exceed 16 mon, compositions could not extend over more than 3 sheets and of course erotica was forbidden. But they also introduced reforms that were a complete departure from the previous understanding of the subject matter of prints.

Excerpt from Tenpo Reform instructions from 1842:
“Producing single-sheet prints of Kabuki actors, prostitutes and geisha – known as “brocade pictures” [nishiki-e] – is detrimental to public morals. It is forbidden to sell either new examples or existing stocks… actor likenesses and Kabuki themes must cease. Works should be composed in accordance with [the values of] loyalty and fidelity, to promote virtue among children and women … When new examples are printed they must be presented to the senior city official (machi-doshiyori) Tate Ichiemon for his approval.”
Prior to the Tenpo Reforms kabuki actors and beautiful professional women had been the primary subjects of ukiyo-e. The Kansei Reforms had specifically only permitted the names of women who were registered sex workers to be given on prints with female subjects and Kabuki actors had always been identified. Now both subjects were banned. Courtesan prints pretty much disappeared until the end of the Edo Period. The ban on actors was relaxed in 1846 and actors started to reappear in prints, though they would be shown in a landscape, or somewhere other than a kabuki scene. The actors were not identified on the print, but were recognizable by their facial features.

The Tenpo Reforms brought the usual strengthening of the sumptuary laws and crackdowns on the floating world. Actors were restricted to the theatre district and were no longer to mix with the general public. In 1842 Icikawa Danjuro VII (1791-1859), then acting as Ichikawa Ebizo V, was arrested and accused of violating the sumptuary laws. He was handcuffed in his house for 2 months and then banished from Edo. His mansion was demolished. The charges against him included:
…he built his house in Nageshi style, with lacquered frames and engraved copper nail covers. He placed granite lanterns and large stones in the garden and a statue of Fudo (a Buddhist deity) in his warehouse, and coffered his ceiling with gold power … He bought Chinese chests, picture frames, and a set of painted Nara dolls of fine Paulownia wood, which are sprinkled with gold and have crests painted with lime and foreign blue … He has a silver wine kettle … He insolently and outrageously refuses to know his place … (Heroes)
Some felt he had been exiled because of extravagance on stage. He had worn real armour and in one of his plays the stage setting had been an exact replica of the interior of an aristocratic mansion.

Danjuro VII went to Osaka and acted under the name Ichikawa Hakuen II. He performed in Osaka and Kyoto until 1849 when he received a pardon. He returned to Edo in early 1850. In 1854 he went on tour, performing first in Nagoya. A few days after a triumphant arrival back in Osaka his son, Ichikawa Danjuro VIII, who was travelling with him, committed suicide at the inn where they were staying. (Danjuro VIII had not gone into exile with his father)

As a result of the ban on actors and working women artists turned to more virtuous subjects such as women who exemplified innocence and honour, literary and historical subjects.

Kuniyoshi was an artist who excelled in portraying heroic warriors and is known for his many prints of the 47 Ronin. He is also known for his humorous prints. Kuniyoshi admired Hideyoshi and was the first ukiyo-e artist to begin designing prints of Hideyoshi after the 1804 incident when Utamaro was arrested. He was to get into trouble himself, but for a different subject.

This print, showing a popular heroic historic figure having a nightmare about demons, came out one year after the Tenpo Reforms. It was originally passed by the censors, but then people began interpreting it as satire (mitate) of the government and the reforms. Raiko (seen sleeping at the far right) was associated with Shogun Ieyoshi and one of his retainers (foreground) with the senior councillor responsible for the reforms. Each demon appearing in Raiko’s dream was seen as representing a profession that the reforms had suppressed or restricted. The publisher withdrew the print and destroyed the blocks, so he and Kuniyoshi only received a reprimand, however two other artist/publisher teams seized on the popularity of the subject and produced similar designs. They received fines and short terms in handcuffs. Kuniyoshi’s triptych was later recarved and reissued.

The 1840s were worrying times. There were sightings of foreign ships in Japanese waters. The Tokugawas and their officials were aware of European imperialism in many areas of the world, including Asia. In 1839-42 Britain fought the first Opium War with China, ending with the Treaty of Nanking in 1842 which gave Hong Kong Island to the British and established other treaty ports. This news shocked the Japanese.

Commodore Mathew Perry arrived at the mouth of Edo Bay with 4 warships on June 3rd, 1853, with the demand that the Japanese negotiate a trade treaty with the US and a promise to return the following year. Tokugawa Ieyoshi died suddenly on July 27th and was succeeded by his sickly son, Tokugawa Iesada (1824-1858) who delegated negotiations with the Americans to the Council of Elders. Perry returned on Febuary 13, 1854, with 8 warships and The Convention of Kanagawa was signed on March 31, 1854. That treaty was followed by treaties with the British in 1854, the Russians in 1855, and the French in 1858. These treaties were opposed by Emperor Komei and many others who saw the government as weak and the treaties as unfair to the Japanese.

The Japanese created a port at the fishing village of Yokohama, approximately 27 km from Edo, which opened in 1859 and became the center of foreign trade. Ukiyo-e artists rushed to produce images of foreigners for a curious public.

Iesada’s short rule (1853-1858) was full of disasters. In 1854 there were three major earthquakes in Japan and in 1855 the Great Ansai Earthquake with an epicenter close to Edo. The subsequent fires, the worst since 1657, left up to 20,000 or more dead. That was followed by a cholera epidemic from 1858-60 which is believed to have killed between 100,000 and 200,000 people in Edo.

Tokugawa Iemochi (1846-1866) became the 14th shogun at age 12. He held office from 1858-1866, a time when the ruling class was very divided over the direction the country should take. He was summoned to Kyoto by the Emperor Komei in 1863, becoming the first shogun to travel to Kyoto in 230 years. Emperor Komei opposed opening Japan to foreigners and took an active interest in politics.

Tokugawa Iemochi died in 1866 and was succeeded by Tokugawa Yoshinobu (1837-1913) who never really took office and resigned in November, 1867. Emperor Komei had died suddenly of smallpox in January, 1867, and had been replaced by his young son, Emperor Meiji (1852-1912), who was placed at the head of the new government in 1868, bringing the Edo Period to an End. When the Emperor arrived in Edo the city was renamed Tokyo and this marked the beginning of the Meiji Period (1868-1912).