AAS Annual Meeting

Japan Session 409

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Session 409: Emotion and History: Tokugawa Japan as a Case Study

Organizer and Chair: James E. Ketelaar, University of Chicago, USA

Discussant: Hans Bjarne Thomsen, University of Zurich, Switzerland

Emotion and History: Tokugawa Japan as a Case Study Emotion is so much part of ones contemporary experience that it is somewhat difficult to think of it historically. Are there “emotional” themes illustrative to an age or to a people? Are there emotional “systems” that might be identified in interpreting a particular historical past? Does emotion deserve a place, along with politics, economics, philosophy, religion, literature, art and other major analytical categories in our readings and understandings of the past? The papers in this panel argue that this is indeed the case. The three case studies that draw upon themes found with the Tokugawa period of Japan each argue for the vitality and nuance of “emotion” as an essential category of analysis for the distinct fields of philosophy, literature and cultural history. This panel will argue that while it is true that emotion is only experienced in a specific present by a specific person or group of people, the consequences of that experience both informs the creations and conversations during that period and, to the extent that these emotions are encoded in language, art, performance and broader social constructs, they also very much constitute the very fabric of history itself.

A Matter of the Heart: Emotions in the Life and Thought of Kamo no Mabuchi (1697-1769)
Peter Nosco, University of British Columbia, Canada

A Matter of the Heart: Emotions in the Life and Thought of Kamo no Mabuchi (1697-1769) Throughout his life the nativist Kamo no Mabuchi (1697-1769) went against the grain, appearing to “give in” to his emotions whenever ideology, circumstances or prudence advocated restraint. For example, to escape the trauma of the tragic death of his first wife, he escapes his natal Hamamatsu for Kyoto to study with the relatively little-known Kada no Azumamaro; later when historicist perspectives and value-free aesthetics were all the rage, Mabuchi fashions an improbable career in Edo championing the “natural Way of heaven and earth” whose rhythms he locates in the five-seven rhythm of Japanese poetry, and a novel argument in support of the practical value of poetic expression; later still while in the service of the second son of the late Shogun Tokugawa Yoshimune (d. 1751), he lampoons the corrupt politics at the heart of the Bakufu by extolling the straightforward manly innocence which he finds in the Man’yō verses of the ancient imperial past; and in the last decade of his life he uses the example of the Tokugawa family’s success to ridicule the Buddhist concept of karmic causation. In Mabuchi’s often brazen and consistently personalized defense of the emotional, I believe one can see an example of individuality of a sort which would have been altogether remarkable as little as a century earlier.

The Place of Sadness: Uji Bridge as a Locus of Emotion in Edo-Period Thought
Timon Screech, SOAS, University of London, United Kingdom

The Place of Sadness: Uji Bridge as a Locus of Emotion in Edo-Period Thought This paper will consider one of the prime ‘poetic pillows’ (utamakura), as it was interpreted in the Edo Period. As is well known, the Uji Bridge was much spoken of in literature: the Tale of Genji sets one of its most poignant episodes there, Uji also features in later gunki-mono, and perhaps most famously in the Heike; also let us not forget the verses that treat of Uji in the great poetry collections of the Kokinshû and Shin-kokinshû. These many portrayals of Uji also go on to become the central theme of a great many Edo-period paintings. By Edo times, the bridge was laden with memories of many literary and historical events. But unlike many other utamakura, being a bridge, Uji also required hands-on maintenance. It was not like, say, the locations at Yoshino or Tatsuta, which were natural environments. In addition to its key role in the poetic imaginary, Uji also functioned as the main point of entry to the Kyoto area from the south, and thus also served as a site of great strategic importance. It was very expensive to keep Uji functioning, and on occasion this raised the question of whether its poetic aspect ought to be allowed to interfere with its role as a commercial and military crossing point. In this paper I will explore the role of the Uji Bridge in the Edo Period and the extent to which the layers of poetic emotion, with their ancient underpinnings, were relevant to, or impediments for, the present.

The Gods, Warriors and Saints All Weep: An Archipelago of Tears
James E. Ketelaar, University of Chicago, USA

Gods, Warriors and the Saints All Weep: An Archipelago of Tears After the primal creator deity Izanami departed to Yomi, her divine partner Izanagi wept and wailed without consolation. Motoori Norinaga, in the 18th century, used this foundational exemplar as proof that the Confucian insistence upon decorum and the Buddhist insistence upon the renunciation of desire were, equally, in fact counter to the reality of natural truth as exemplified by Izanagi’s behavior. The “true heart” was found elsewhere. Inspired by Motoori’s observation, this paper will use various moments found in the Japanese past to begin the construction of a new theory of Japanese history: one driven primarily by emotion rather than by the traditional structural forms such as those most commonly deployed, such as economics, politics, religion. After relating examples from samurai culture -- the tears of Benkei after viciously beating his lord Yoshitsune (a subterfuge which prevented their capture); and those of Oishi Kuranosuke’s after eating octopus (a subterfuge which prevented the plots of the 47 Ronin from being discovered) – as well as examples from Buddhism (the grief of plants, animals, humans and sages after the passing of the Buddha as depicted in Nehanzu, the death pictures of the Buddha), this paper will go on to explore the intersection of literary, artistic and theatrical constructs in the formation of a cultural history of emotion. There is not a continuity of tears here, but rather a discontinuous structure, much like an archipelago, that punctuates the past.