P14. Japanese Art and Literature

Session: Session 2, 1:45-3:15 pm, Friday 9/29

Category: Individual Papers

Location: Quad

Chair: Tsutomu Nagata (University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign)

Paper Presenters: Michael Brownstein, Emily Crichton, Lindsey Stirek

Why Chushingura?

Speaker: Michael Brownstein
Role: Paper Presenter
Institution/Affiliation: University of Notre Dame
Abstract: In this paper I address the question of what might have prompted the three playwrights at the Takemoto Theater in Osaka to write what would become Japan’s most famous play, Kanadehon Chūshingura (“The Treasury of Loyal Retainers,” 1748) at that particular moment in time. The play is based on Asano Naganori’s failed attempt to assassinate Kira Yoshinaka in the Shogun’s castle in Edo in April of 1701, Asano’s death by seppuku that same day as ordered by the Shogun Tsunayoshi, and the subsequent revenge twenty-two months later by forty-seven of Asano’s retainers, who stormed into Kira’s mansion and cut off his head.  I begin with a brief overview of the many plays that followed, noting especially the importance of two plays that appeared in 1710: Goban Taiheiki by Chikamatsu Monzaemon, and Onikage Musashi Abumi, by Chikamatsu’s rival at the Toyotake Theater, Ki no Kaion. These gave rise to two lines of short-lived plays in the decades following, all of which suggests a continuing interest in this tale of revenge. Yet none of these plays begin the way Chūshingura does. I will argue that an incident at Edo castle a year before the premier of Chūshingura, an incident that I will describe in some detail, bore an uncanny similarity to Asano’s attack on Kira forty-seven years before, and spurred the three playwrights to produce a new and lasting version of the story, starting with a fresh beginning as seen in the first three acts of the play.

Constructing the Floating World: Afterlives of Ihara Saikaku in Translation

Speaker: Emily Crichton
Role: Paper Presenter
Institution/Affiliation: Washington University in St. Louis
Abstract: Ihara Saikaku is one of the more well-known fiction writers of the Edo period, remembered for his comedic and densely referential texts. In the sphere of English scholarship on premodern Japan, Saikaku’s renown was secured by a wave of translations in the post-war period. Of particular note is Kōshoku ichidai onna (1686), a work following the life of a particularly lustful woman as she engages in various forms of sex work, beginning as a high-ranking courtesan and ending as a destitute hermit whose body has been ravaged by time. Two English translations have been produced: “The Woman Who Lived Her Life in Love” by Howard Hibbett in 1959 and “The Life of an Amorous Woman” by Ivan Morris in 1963. Despite the existence of multiple translations, however, only sixteen of its twenty-four chapters have been rendered in English. Through comparison of the work’s translated and untranslated chapters, this paper argues that, whether intentionally or not, these translations of Saikaku have crafted a particular image of the Edo “floating world” that is unique to the Anglosphere. The omission of critical chapters, particularly those in the latter half of the novel that detail the protagonist’s increasingly worsening circumstances, disrupt the threads of social commentary and satire running through the work and result in an Orientalized depiction of Edo Japan. With the difficulty of accessing the text in the original language for English-speaking students, this constructed floating world has the potential to leave an enduring mark.

A New Approach to the Way of Tea in Global Contexts: Repairing the Land-Art Relationship

Speaker: Lindsey Stirek
Role: Paper Presenter
Institution/Affiliation: University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign
Abstract: Chadō (the Way of Tea) is considered to be a quintessential traditional Japanese art form that integrates Zen philosophy with artistic practice. However, so much of this art originally comes from China. Yet, adapted it was, and one of the main initiatives of the main founder of contemporary wabi tea, Sen no Rikyū, was to encourage the use of native materials and simple, local wares. Today, the Urasenke School of Tea continues to encourage innovation using locally available goods and materials, and we have seen chadō groups established on every continent except Antarctica, but with the availability of worldwide shipping, local innovation has been limited in favor of importing Japanese wares. In Japan, the use of local wares and available materials like bamboo encourages a connection with the land and all that went into a given piece; much of the limited discussion during a tea ceremony is dedicated to a piece’s provenance and poetic name, which often is chosen to evoke certain seasonal phenomena. However, outside Japan, by preferentially using Japanese wares, tea practitioners miss an opportunity to connect with their own land in the same way, and often even create a disconnect with the season of their locale by using wares with poetic names matching the current season in Japan regardless of their own land’s season. In this paper, I propose a method of de-mystifying chadō and interpreting it through its original framework adapted to the local conditions by using native materials to repair and create tea equipment.