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Unformatted text preview: ealth and leisure time for many, especially merchants, by Genroku times was a growing demand for knowledge about and instruction in “elegant pastimes”
(yûgei), such as the tea ceremony, flower arrangement, incense identification, the playing of musical instruments, dance, and theatrical chanting. During the medieval age many of these “pastimes”—regarded then as
“ways” (michi)—had been considered very serious pursuits, and knowledge about them was frequently transmitted secretly from one person to
another (for example, from master to disciple). It was believed by the
medieval Japanese that investigation into the way of flowers or the way of
incense, to name but two, could even lead to Buddhist enlightenment.
In the Tokugawa period, most of the secrets of the medieval ways
were revealed to all who wished to know them in the process of the commercialization of the ways and their transformation into elegant pastimes. Books explaining the various pastimes and giving advice about
how to pursue them were published in great quantities, and schools big
and small were opened to provide personal instruction in them.
The writer Saikaku (discussed below) wrote, “Until age thirteen a
person lacks discernment. From thirteen to twenty-four or twenty-five
he is under the control of his parents. From then until forty-five he must
work for himself and put his family in order. But thereafter he can
devote himself without restraint to the quest of pleasure.”12 One avenue
to pleasure was the elegant pastimes, and many stories have come down
to us about those who threw restraint to the winds in pursuing them.
Here, for example, is the story of a merchant who, because of the good
fortune of birth, did not have to wait until Saikaku’s suggested age of
forty-five to enjoy himself:
From his father’s time he had been brought up in style, and so he never
had the merchant spirit. He lived in the grand manner and went in for fine
tea utensils and tea rooms. . . . He was thoroughly extravagant in his tastes
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This note was uploaded on 02/08/2013 for the course ANTH 142 taught by Professor Hans during the Spring '13 term at The University of British Columbia.
- Spring '13