Rakugo as Variety Entertainment ⇆ Rakugo as Literature
This lecture will be available only on Zoom
January 26th, 2022 18:00
Unlike the arts of nō, kabuki and bunraku, Japan’s comic storytelling art rakugo rarely gets termed ‘literature’. This has to do with the fact that it’s an oral tradition without formal scripts, and because intellectuals have long viewed rakugo as uncouth, unsophisticated variety entertainment. Still, some label rakugo a ‘classical’ (koten) art. Truth be told, many still aren’t sure what to make of rakugo, so it gets overlooked. But rakugo is many things, literature included. The art is intimately linked to more conventional literature (on the page), both early modern and modern. Yet, some become alarmed or offended at the suggestion that rakugo is literature. This is strange considering that rakugo makes up an immense body of work and serves as an extraordinary vessel for much that has otherwise vanished with history—adages, customs, jokes, home remedies, poems, prejudices, profanity, recipes, songs, stories, wisdom, words, and more. This talk aims to challenge misguided perceptions of rakugo and how we define Japanese literature.
M.W. Shores is a scholar of Japanese literary arts and entertainment, with a focus on rakugo and its early-modern precursors, literary and otherwise. He began his career at Cambridge, where he was a fellow of Peterhouse. He has been Lecturer of Japanese at The University of Sydney since 2019. Shores has spent over a decade in Japan for research as well as apprenticeships with two prominent rakugo masters, and has directed Traditional Theater Training (TTT) at Kyoto Art Center since 2015. His recent monograph is The Comic Storytelling of Western Japan: Satire and Social Mobility in Kamigata Rakugo (Cambridge University Press, 2021). For more see mwshores.com.
The meeting link will remain posted on the ISEAS website top page from january 24.
The Circulation of Playful Energy in Early Modern Japanese Popular Culture
This lecture will be available only on Zoom
December 15th, 2021 18:00
Play occupied a significant place in the publishing industry of early modern Japan. Boardgames were designed to fuel competition among participants. Riddles, rebuses, and brainteasers enticed willing players to engage in mental play. Books of magic tricks worked as props that facilitated performative play. We tend to think of these materials as largely ephemeral, often associated with the child reader and deemed too trivial to be admitted in the realm of the literary. What happens when materials designed for play are reskinned to fit fictional prose? How do we make sense of texts that are replete with what we might readily dismiss as unnecessary, cognitive obstacles? This talk interrogates a wealth of early modern materials that appropriate the ludic and enable what can be tentatively called playful reading. The focus will be on texts that are designed as play spaces, with a view to explore how their potential is fully unleashed by readers who are eager to become comrades in play.
Laura Moretti is an Associate Professor in Premodern Japanese Studies at the University of Cambridge and a fellow at Emmanuel College. Her research focusses on early modern Japanese prose, with a specific interest in popular literature. Her new project investigates playful reading in a wide range of early modern materi-als, including graphic narratives and ephemera. She has published a wide range of articles in English and Japanese and is also the author of Recasting the Past: An Early Modern “Tales of Ise” for Children (Brill, 2016) and Pleasure in Profit – Popular Prose in Seventeenth-Century Japan (Columbia University Press, 2020).
The meeting link will remain posted on the ISEAS website top page from december 13.
Thoughts on the Cult of Tokugawa Ieyasu as the Great Avatar
This lecture will be held on site and via Zoom
November 29th, 2021 18:00
It is well known that Tokugawa Ieyasu was deified and that his cult became centred at Mt Nikkō. However, the period from his death in Sunpu, in early summer 1616, to his interment at Nikkō in 1617, was fraught. In fact, he was twice-buried and twice deified, according to competing rites. This represented a struggle between the kami ritualists of the House of Yoshida, and the abbot of the Mangan-ji at Nikkō, Tenkai. Tenkai won, and went on to devise an unprecedented cult for Ieyasu as an avatar (gongen), that is, a kami emanating from a Buddha, the Buddha chosen in this case being Yakushi-nyorai. Why and how this occurred will be the first part of this talk.
The Mangan-ji was a great and ancient temple, and Tenkai had further aims for it, architectural, spiritual and temporal. These included full rebuilding for the 20th anniversary of Ieyasu’s entry into the pantheon. Having looked at the above, the talk will address the meaning of nikkō – ‘sunlight.’ Yakushi-nyorai has historically been worshiped with lanterns. The Mangan-ji – renamed the Rinnō-ji after Tenkai’s death – acquired a large number of curious instruments of illumination, which warrant analysis.
Timon Screech taught the History of Japanese Art for 30 years at SOAS, University of London, before moving to the International Research Center for Japanese Studies (Nichibunken) in Kyoto, in 2021. An expert on the art and culture of the Edo Period, he has published some 15 books, probably best known being Sex and the Floating World, a study of erotica. In 2016, his field-defining overview of the Edo arts, Obtaining Images, was paper-backed. His most recent books, both published in 2020, are Tokyo before Tokyo, and The Shogun’s Silver Telescope. Screech’s work has been translated into Chinese, French, Japanese, Korean, Polish and Romanian. His is a Fellow of the British Academy.
This lecture will be available on Zoom. A limited audience (maximum twenty persons, with precedence to researchers and advanced students) will be allowed at our centre. For this, please contact us by e-mail. ()
Convegni e workshops
Ageing Society in Italy and Japan: A Multidisciplinary Workshop
ONLINE EVENT November 12-13 2021
ACCESS TO THE MEETINGS (ON BOTH DAYS) FROM HERE
The global emergency due to the COVID-19 pandemics strongly impacted on the perception and management of distances. Social, economic, logistic and psychological consequences of distancing procedures affected many aspects of our life and interactions, allowing rethinking and reshaping spaces both physical and virtual, and involving new forms of theoretical and practical thoughts and studies. Within this scenario, the dynamic interplay between physical and virtual distances has assumed new forms, forcing innovative cross-disciplinary attitudes as well as the design of new perspectives for future research.
The workshop focusses on Japan and Italy, and combines multidisciplinary research to discuss the notion of distance, along the line traced by a previous event held in 2020. This second meeting has been organized in cooperation with the Research Center for Advanced Science and Technology (RCast) of the University of Tokyo (the 8th cross-disciplinary workshop in their series). As before, scholars and experts from different disciplines will share their knowledge on the common discussion platform of how the perception of distance is addressing new research trends in scientific and humanistic studies.
Convegni e workshops
Kitashirakawa EFEO Salon – Final Workshop
Aspects of Lived Religion in Late Medieval and Early Modern Japan
November 13 2021 10:00 – 17:00 JST
The French School of Asian Studies (EFEO), the Italian School of East Asian Studies (ISEAS), and the Institute for Research in Humanities (Kyoto University) are organizing a workshop to conclude the Kitashirakawa EFEO Salon, a series of lectures on Japanese religions held from 2018 to 2020.
The workshop will take place on-site, at the EFEO Kyoto center, and online via Zoom on November 13 (from 10 AM JST). The eight talks, seven in English and one in Japanese, aim at uncovering aspects of “lived religion” (or religion in practice) in late medieval & early modern Japan (16th to 19th c.) using innovative approaches and/or neglected primary sources. The speakers cover different religious traditions (Zen, Pure Land, Shingon, Shugendo, “folk” beliefs, and Christianity). The Cahiers d’Extrême-Asie will publish a special issue based on the contributions presented during the workshop.
Prior registration, on-site or online, is required.
Please send an email to
Due to the sanitary situation, the on-site participation will be limited to 20 people.