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Unformatted text preview: n selecting a high-class courtesan. Sometimes they will
wait until a passer-by appears with a torch, sometimes they will conduct the
woman to the lantern of a guard box—in either case they scrutinize her closely,
and nowadays, even when it is only a matter of hasty diversion, a woman who
is old or ugly is promptly turned down. “For a thousand men who see, there
are a thousand blind.” So the saying goes; but on that night, alas, I did not
meet a single one who was blind!
Finally dawn began to appear: first the eight bells rang out, then seven.
Aroused by their sound, the pack-horse drivers set forth with a clatter in the
early-morning light. Yet I persisted in walking the streets, until the hour when
the blacksmith and the bean-curd dealer opened their shutters. But no doubt
my appearance and demeanour were not suited to this calling, for during the
entire time not a single man solicited my favours. I resolved, then, that this
would be my last effort in the Floating World at plying the lustful trade, and I
gave it up for once and all.18 186 The Flourishing of a Bourgeois Culture Saikaku’s two great themes were love and money, and in his townsman books, written mostly after his erotic studies, he examined the chònin
ethic of working hard, being clever, and becoming a financial success.
The Eternal Storehouse of Japan (Nihon Eitaigura), a collection of stories
on the making and losing of for tunes, is perhaps his most celebrated
work in this category. Yet, in the same way that he shifted in his erotic
works from the romanticization of love to a Defoe-like recounting of the
corrupting effect of sexual passion in The Life of an Amorous Woman,
Saikaku turned his attention in his later townsman writings to the life of
the middle- and lower-class merchant, which was generally one of unceasing drudgery and the struggle to keep one step ahead of the bill
We observed earlier in this chapter the great emphasis placed on
humanism in the Neo-Confucian tradition. But it is important also to
note that the...
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- Spring '13