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Religious Street Performers in Tokugawa Japan

 
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heron
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PostPosted: Sat Feb 23, 2008 9:18 pm    Post subject: Religious Street Performers in Tokugawa Japan Reply with quote
I came across this article and found it very interesting

http://www.nanzan-u.ac.jp/SHUBUNKEN/publications/jjrs/pdf/558.pdf
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Obenjo Kusanosuke
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PostPosted: Sat Feb 23, 2008 11:59 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote
This was one element of Edo-period culture and society that I was not very familiar with. What an obscure subject for one to study! Thanks for sharing it! Very Happy

I kept telling myself that there must be a section on gannin and their intelligence gathering functions, and lo and behold, on page 13 there it was!

I've already downloaded this onto my drive and will go back and read it in more detail later. Again, very interesting. Wink
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PostPosted: Sun Feb 24, 2008 8:10 am    Post subject: Reply with quote
Thanks so much Heron. When we study a peaceful period like the Tokugawa period, then we don't study a whole lot about wars and battles. But instead, we get to look more closely at little things such as the Gannin. I downloaded your article and will read it as soon as I have time.

I'm curious about other Edo-period street performers. I believe that most of them were classified as "hinin", which was one of the lower "outcast" classes. However, I've also read that street performing -- particularly weapons displays and tricks -- was one of the occupations that ronin (needing some way to feed self and family) could partake in.

Unlike piecework craftmanship -- which was considered a "proper" buke occupation -- I'm sure that street performing was not something a "proper" bushi would do. So I'm sure that those who became hinin by engaging in street performing were desperate for funds.

Then there is the "ninjutsu" aspect. Being a street performer could be a way for those samurai engaged in spying and/or other ninjutsu activities to operate undercover.

Hmmm, time for some Googling! Very Happy
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heron
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PostPosted: Sun Feb 24, 2008 2:37 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote
It was a subject I knew nothing about either. The article does go into the relationship between gannin and hinin: it's full of insights about life on the streets during the Edo period. I don't think it says anything as such about ronin. I liked the bit about gannin women and children tailing samurai.

(At Edo-mura near Nikko (I went there in 1994) one of the street performers was a down-on-his luck- samurai selling toad oil. That was quite a common occupation, I think.)

I came across the gannin article when I was looking for something else: the ukiyo no arisama which is a diary by an anonymous physician who practiced in Osaka. Has anyone else heard of this? And does anyone know if it's available anywhere in English
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PostPosted: Sun Feb 24, 2008 5:04 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote
heron wrote:
...I don't think it says anything as such about ronin. I liked the bit about gannin women and children tailing samurai.
Probably not. I'm still harping a bit on ronin because I'm still doing research for the Samurai Archives Journal article I promised Kitsuno on the subject of ronin. There simply isn't very much written or published anywhere (at least in English) about ronin per se. In consulting my sources, I have to read 1 paragraph here, one page there, perhaps a half-page somewhere buried in books or articles about different subjects. There is plenty of fiction, mainly films about ronin, but very, very little published articles or research.

On the particular subject on street performers and ronin: In one of the stories that Mitford wrote in his "Tales of Old Japan", he tells of a ronin performing sword tricks and another telling fortunes. I've seen films of ronin performing sword tricks or as street musicians; one TV film I saw stars a ronin fortune teller. However, when it comes to actual historical writings -- barely anything at all. I'll probably have to speculate in my article.
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(At Edo-mura near Nikko (I went there in 1994) one of the street performers was a down-on-his luck- samurai selling toad oil. That was quite a common occupation, I think.)
Could you tell me more about this? Where did you read or hear about it?
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PostPosted: Sun Feb 24, 2008 9:15 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote
Very neat article. I saw the toad-oil sale as well, only at Toei Eigamura. They used a 'sword' to cut someone and then heal them with the toad oil. Not sure if it was a common thing for down-on-their-luck bushi, though.

Regarding ronin, I assume you've scoured the writings on the 47 famous ronin (or do you have those memorized?)--otherwise, what about checking out laws, edicts, etc. Not sure where your best bet would be to find them would be.

If I run across anything I'll let you know.

-Josh, not quite fully back yet.
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PostPosted: Mon Feb 25, 2008 1:08 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote
I've got to look at the article; haven't yet had time. Is this where they mention the samurai selling toad-oil? My curiosity has been greatly aroused.

As for the 47 ronin, I think I've scoured just about everything written in the English language about the 47 ronin. I even visited Sengakuji Temple last year while I was in Japan (ask Obenjo-san about it). This coming fall, when I return to Japan, I'm planning to travel to Ako and see the castle.
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PostPosted: Mon Feb 25, 2008 1:10 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote
I always thought the toad oil salesman was one of the cliches of Edo life, like the hungry samurai picking his teeth to pretend he's eaten a meal. I don't know what class they really came from. I think once people had slipped out of their han hierarchies and into urban life in Edo or Osaka (or the highways in between) they didn't care too much what they did to pay for food and drink. Probably being a 'bushi' was a good sales pitch for something that would heal sword wounds.

Hey, if they needed toad oil, someone must have been fighting somewhere (referring to another thread)

"Street perfomance (machi kado no geino) was part of what brought the streets of Edo to life in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. A handful of dedicated performers carry on these traditions today, and one of the best is Tatsuno Tai. Known by his stage name, Tsukudagawa Enya, he is the leader of the OEDO Performance Troupe.

Performances will include bamboo screen juggling (tama sudare) and "toad oil vendor" sword tricks (gama no abura uri) used by itinerant medicine peddlers in the Edo period to sell their wares. "Toad oil" (similar to Tiger Balm), widely believed to heal wounds, was something no samurai swordsman of the Edo period would be without."

From a 1998 exhibition
http://www.nga.gov/press/exh/079/festivalpr.shtm

Here's a picture Very Happy (scroll past the geisha)
http://www.bigstick.com.au/Japan/japan2007_04.html
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PostPosted: Mon Feb 25, 2008 1:24 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote
Ooooohhhh! So there are modern-day re-enactments of the street performers? Very interesting. I'll have to do some looking to see whether there are some interesting events or demonstrations next fall when I come back to Japan. Very Happy

As for toad-oil salesmen: as I recall, there is a guy, one of the Three Swordsman, in the television series (I have several episodes on DVD), he sells all sorts of medicine; I'm sure that among his wares, he had some toad-oil. Very Happy
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