Skip to 0 minutes and 4 seconds Sasaki: Our theme in Week 3 is “Book Publishing and Scholarship in Early-modern Japan.” by Professor Ichinohe Wataru, a specialist of Edo-period publishing and literary culture.
Skip to 0 minutes and 17 seconds S: So where can we position the early-modern period in the history of Japanese bookmaking?
Skip to 0 minutes and 22 seconds Ichinohe: First of all, please look at this ukiyoe print. It is called “Rikōmono” (The Clever One) and it is part of a series entitled “Kyokun oya no megane” (A Parent’s Edifying Spectacles) by Kitagawa Utamaro. It shows a woman enjoying a book as she lies down with her head rested on a Japanese-style headrest.
Skip to 0 minutes and 48 seconds S: The book she is reading is bound in the fukurotoji (bound-pocket) style, isn’t it?
Skip to 0 minutes and 51 seconds I: Yes, the fukurotoji was the most common binding method during the Edo period.
Skip to 0 minutes and 56 seconds S: When was the print made?
Skip to 0 minutes and 59 seconds I: It dates from the beginning of the 19th century. Ukiyoe prints usually depict the life of the common folk, and this one, too, is not a woman of the aristocracy but an ordinary lady.
Skip to 1 minute and 12 seconds S: So we can say the image shows the reading habits of the commoners.
Skip to 1 minute and 15 seconds I: Yes, ukiyoe prints typically feature beautiful women, but a woman reading as she is must not have been an unusual sight at this time. However, this print is not promoting reading for women; rather, the message is that it is not desirable for women to be too absorbed by books and be too intellectual.
Skip to 1 minute and 45 seconds S: So while it depicts an attractive woman, it has a didactic message.
Skip to 1 minute and 48 seconds I: Ukiyoe were under strict governmental control because they were thought to corrupt morals, so by adding a didactic message to the portrait of a beautiful woman,
Skip to 2 minutes and 0 seconds the author is reacting to such control by saying: “Look, this is not inappropriate content, it is didactic material.” It is a bold move by Utamaro and the publisher of the series. But the important point is that before the Edo period, you would not have seen a woman of commoner stock relaxing and enjoying a book.
Skip to 2 minutes and 27 seconds S: That is a major difference with society up to medieval times.
Skip to 2 minutes and 30 seconds I: Yes, in the Edo period books became a mass phenomenon. Even people from classes who previously had few chances to come into contact with books started to use them in significant amounts. During the Edo period, a regulatory system based on written information, which included books and written materials of all kinds, truly reached every corner of Japan, and both the demand for books and their status grew accordingly.
Skip to 2 minutes and 55 seconds S: And when demand increases, quantities also increase.
Skip to 2 minutes and 58 seconds I: Precisely. . It may be obvious but when it comes to books, technology is the key. Printing existed in Japan at least as far back as the 8th century, but in the Edo period the scale of printing grew exponentially. This week, we will provide a short summary of the history of publishing before the Edo period, then explain how things changed during the Edo period, and finally discuss the impact of these changes on the literature and scholarly output of the period.
Skip to 3 minutes and 30 seconds S: Thank you. So the Edo period seems to have been a time of great changes in the history of books. Please join us to find out more about these changes and how they came about.
Books in the Edo period
The theme in Week 3 is “Book Publishing and Scholarship in Early-modern Japan”. Our educator will be Professor Wataru Ichinohe, a specialist of Edo-period publishing and literary culture.
In this video, you will learn some interesting things about the cultural background of the Edo period, from looking at this Ukiyoe print.
Please take a look at this Ukiyoe (Fig. 1) and think about what it shows before looking at the video to find out more.
Fig 1. Rikōmono (The Clever One) Kyōkun oya no megane (A Parent’s Edifying Spectacles) by Kitagawa Utamaro Click to take a closer look
Era names (Nengō) in Edo Period
There were several era names (nengo, or gengo) in Edo period (1603 ~ 1867) and they are sometimes used in the description of the old books and materials. Here is the list of the era names in Edo period for your convenience;
|Start||Era name||English||Start||Era name||English|
Week 3 materials
You can download PDF version of the text and transcript of Week 3, in English and Japanese at the DOWNLOADS section below.
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