By 1816, Japan had recovered from the famines of the 1780s and moved beyond the political reforms of the 1790s. Despite persistent economic and social stresses, the country seemed headed for a new period of growth. The idea that the shogunate would not last forever was far from anyone's mind.
Yet, in that year, an anonymous samurai produced a scathing critique of Edo society. Writing as Buyo Inshi, "a retired gentleman of Edo," he expressed in An Account of What I Have Seen and Heard a profound despair with the state of the realm. Seeing decay wherever he turned, Buyo feared the world would soon descend into war.
In his anecdotes, Buyo shows a sometimes surprising familiarity with the shadier aspects of Edo life. He speaks of the corruption of samurai officials; the suffering of the poor in villages and cities; the operation of brothels; the dealings of blind moneylenders; the selling and buying of temple abbotships; and the dubious strategies seen in law courts. Perhaps it was the frankness of his account that made him prefer to stay anonymous.
A team of Edo specialists undertook the original translation of Buyo's work. This abridged edition streamlines this translation for classroom use, preserving the scope and emphasis of Buyo's argument while eliminating repetitions and diversions. It also retains the introductory essay that situates the work within Edo society and history.
About the Author
Mark Teeuwen is professor in Japanese studies at the University of Oslo. He is a historian of Japanese religion, with special focus on the history of Shinto.
Kate Wildman Nakai is professor emerita at Sophia University, Tokyo. Her research focuses on Tokugawa and modern history, with an emphasis on intellectual developments. Fumiko Miyazaki is professor emerita at Keisen University in Tokyo. Her research focuses on Tokugawa religion and society.
Anne Walthall is professor emerita at the University of California, Irvine. Her research focuses on society and gender during the Tokugawa period. John Breen is a professor at the International Research Center for Japanese Studies, Kyoto, where he edits the journal Japan Review. His research focuses on issues of state and religion in Japan.
Table of Contents
Part 1: Buyo Inshi and His Times
Part 2: Matters of the World: An Account of What I Have Seen and Heard
Temple and Shrine Priests
The Medical Profession
The Way of Yin and Yang
Pleasure Districts and Prostitutes
Pariahs and Outcasts
Rice, Grains, and Other Products
Mountains and Forests
On Japan Being Called a Divine Land
The Land, People, and Ruler
Editions and References
What People are Saying About This
A tremendously fun source for cranky quotes on the sorry state of late Tokugawa society and polity. The translators capture the tone of the original work in all its curmudgeonly glory, though their marvelous introduction alone is worth the price of admission.