Friday, August 7, 2009

[東京都 p4] : 浮世 The Floating World

浮世 : Ukiyo "Floating World"

Ukiyo (Japanese: 浮世 "Floating World") described the urban life style, especially the pleasure-seeking aspects, of Edo Period Japan (1600–1867). This view of the Floating World is centered on Yoshiwara, the licensed red-light district of Edo (modern Tokyo) ... The area's brothels, teahouses and kabuki theaters were frequented by Japan's growing middle class. It is also an ironic allusion to the homophone "Sorrowful World" (憂き世), the earthly plane of death and rebirth from which Buddhists sought release. The famous Japanese woodblock prints known as ukiyo-e, or "pictures of the Floating World", depict scenes of the Floating World: geisha, kabuki actors, sumo wrestlers, samurai, chōnin and prostitutes."
-- Wikipedia : Ukiyo

Yoshiwara (吉原) was a famous Akasen district (red-light district) ... In the early 17th century, there was widespread male and female prostitution throughout the cities of Kyoto, Edo, and Osaka. To counter this, an order of Tokugawa Hidetada of the Tokugawa shogunate restricted prostitution to designated city districts ... The main reason for establishing these nightless cities was the Tokugawa shogunate's trying to prevent the nouveau riche chōnin (townsmen) from political intrigue ...

The Yoshiwara was created in the city of Edo, located near what is today known as Nihonbashi, near the start of the busy Tōkaidō that leads to western Kyoto in western Japan. In 1656, due to the need for space as the city grew, the government decided to relocate Yoshiwara, and plans were made to move the district to its present location north of Asakusa on the outskirts of the city.

The old Yoshiwara district burned down (along with much of the city) in the Meireki fire of 1657; it was rebuilt in the new location, when it was renamed Shin Yoshiwara (New Yoshiwara), the old location being called Moto Yoshiwara (Original Yoshiwara); eventually the "Shin" was dropped, and the new district became known simply as the Yoshiwara."
-- Wikipedia : Yoshiwara

Map of Yoshiwara (1846) >>

"Terakado Seiken's Tales of Edo Prosperity ... opens with chapters on 'Sumo', 'Yoshiwara' and 'Theatres'. This was not a random order, but rather reflects the assertion in the preface of the first volume, that "nothing more signals the great peace of Edo's prosperity than the four-hour sumo matches, the three theatres, and the brothels of the five Streets of the Yoshiwara." Putting the sumo to one side, what does it indicate that the theater and brothel districts were known as the akusho, or 'bad places', constituting a sort of other worlds separate from normal urban space? According to Hirosue Tamotsu, the distinctive feature of the early modern city in Japan was the way these 'non-everyday' spaces of the theater and brothel were located on the peripheries of the normal world."
-- 'Text and the City' Ai Maeda, James A. Fujii

"Artists such as Hiroshige III used the traditional techniques of the ukiyo-e to mainly represent modernization and life in the big cities . These prints maintain the characteristics of traditional xylography and reflect the ongoing changes in architecture, clothes and transportation in the country.

The architecture is one of the first elements of change highlighted by these prints. Alongside the traditional wood houses, brick buildings change the skyline of Japanese cities. It is rightly stated this '... was a period of public architecture. Most of the main edifices were built or financed by the government that deliberately tried to give the country a western look' ...

The new public spaces were also a source of inspiration for the Japanese artists of this period: Ginza Street, with its rows of trees separating the areas for vehicles from pedestrian lanes - an element that appears for the first time in Japanese cities, as do clocks, streets lights, paved streets and telephone poles ...

Western means of transportation and clothes also filled these new spaces, where pleasurable promenades and fashions were incorporated to the public ambience. We see load carts, carriages and street trolleys drawn by horses, aerostatic ballons, the well known jin-rikishas, steam ships navigating past Tokyo, two-or-three-wooden-wheel bicycles rolling down Nihonbashi´s streets, colorful steam engines, and Japanese people clad in western fashion: the ladies attired in rich lace dresses with ruffles, hats, shoes, umbrellas and handbags wearing make-up and European style hairdos, some of them walking their dogs; the gentlemen wearing suits, hats, cloaks and walking sticks, short hair cuts and mustaches, and even smoking cigars."
-- Modernization in Japan and the Ukiyo-e

"In 1856, Hiroshige "retired from the world," becoming a Buddhist monk; this was the year he began his One Hundred Famous Views of Edo. He died aged 62 during the great Edo cholera epidemic of 1858 (whether the epidemic killed him is unknown) and was buried in a Zen Buddhist temple in Asakusa. Just before his death, he left a poem:

"I leave my brush in the East
And set forth on my journey.
I shall see the famous places in the Western Land."

(The Western Land in this context refers to the strip of land by the Tōkaidō between Kyoto and Edo, but it does double duty as a reference to the Paradise of the Amida Buddha)."
-- Wikipedia : Hiroshige

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