Tuesday, March 30
[The Japan quiz will be Friday, April 3; a Study Guide will be posted. There will be no other homework.]
Assignment: Readings #21 and #22
Tuesday, we will explore the worldview of the samurai, as expressed in the Hagakure, a work of the early 18th century. As explained elsewhere, although the Hagakure is celebrated as the most perfect philosophical expression of the samurai view of self, society, and the meaning of human life, it is also largely a recalled vision -- the warrior role of the samurai had in fact declined towards invisibility by the time the Hagakure was written, and its authorship and strong reception by a samurai audience was in part a nostalgic longing for the heyday of samurai adventure during the period before the Tokugawa bakufu brought peace and unity to Japan.
The peace of the Tokugawa, and certain features of the Tokugawa state, contributed to other social changes that were highly destructive for the samurai class -- most particularly, the creation of a consumer society heavily dependent on a growing commercial culture. Although the Tokugawa officially celebrated the samurai class above all others, it also substantially sponsored merchant development, leading to the growth of a "bourgeois" (urban commercial) culture that represented everything that samurai ideology found repulsive. On Wednesday (for which you will have a very light, web-based reading assignment) we'll discuss in more detail the rise of the merchant class, and view some of its expressions through Tokugawa art.
Study Questions for Readings #21 & #22
To be posted
Gallery of Samurai Images
Many images of samurai that have become popular in the West are actually portraits of actors in Kabuki theater portraying samurai characters. The image at left, a woodblock print from the Tokugawa era, is such an image -- the stylized facial makeup of the Kabuki actor is visible on the upper figure. Unrealistic as this portrait is, it incorporates real elements of samurai battle dress, as can be seen by comparing the costume of the Kabuki actor with an actual suit of samurai armor, shown at the right.
This remarkably lifelike wooden statue is of an early Kamakura "shogunal regent" -- a member of the Hojo clan who was the real power during the mid-Kamakura period, after the shogunal family of the Minamoto had lost effective control, while retaining the hereditary title of shogun. In this figure of Hojo Tokiyori we see the image of a samurai lord.
element of samurai costume and demeanor
was more important than the sword (or two swords) which samurai carried (and which, after the "Great Sword Hunt" at the turn of the 17th century, only samurai could carry). At left is a painting of a swordsmith's shop. At right, the sword (with the blade wrapped at the center to allow it to be gripped) is the critical element in a woodblock rendering of a samurai committing seppuku. Note the suicide poem lying in front of him. It is uncharacteristic that no assistant stands behind, waiting to decapitate the warrior once his act is complete.
Above, three photographs from the late Tokugawa. On the left, a samurai in battle dress -- identified as an early ambassador to a European country. In the center, an elderly samurai in ordinary dress (but note the sword) being treated by a female doctor (doctors were treated as outside the strict Tokugawa caste system, and thus could interact more freely with elite patients). At right, a group portrait that exhibits the changes in samurai dress and demeanor that followed exposure to Europeans and their military culture, after 1854.