Professor Risley and the Imperial Japanese Troupe: How an American Acrobat Introduced Circus to Japan--and Japan to the West

Professor Risley and the Imperial Japanese Troupe: How an American Acrobat Introduced Circus to Japan--and Japan to the West

by Frederik L. Schodt


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"Frederik L. Schodt has at long last unveiled the fascinating story of 'Professor Risley.' Circus scholars, history buffs, and anyone with an ounce of curiosity should be grateful to him."—Dominique Jando,

"Professor" Risley (Richard Risley Carlisle) introduced the Western circus to Japan in 1864. Three years later, this former acrobat gave many in the West their first glimpse of Japan when he took his "Imperial Japanese Troupe" of acrobats and jugglers on a triumphant tour of North America and Europe. Over the next few years, the Troupe performed before presidents, monarchs, and ordinary citizens. Frederik L. Schodt argues compellingly that such early popular entertainments helped stir a curiosity about all things Japanese that eventually led to japonisme, The Mikado, and, in our time, the boom in manga and anime.

Schodt's depiction of Risley and his troupe is enlivened by portraits of the circus demimonde and supported by nineteenth-century photographs, posters, and drawings, many in color. His accounts of these first meetings between Westerners and Japanese shed new light on how different cultures meet, mingle, and influence each other. Descriptions of crowds, dazzling routines, and superstar troupe performers like the famous Little All Right are a delightful revelation to anyone interested in Asia, the circus, and popular entertainment.

Frederik L. Schodt has authored numerous books about Japan, including Manga! Manga! and Native American in the Land of the Shogun. In 2009 for his work he was awarded the Order of the Rising Sun, Gold Rays with Rosette.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781611720099
Publisher: Stone Bridge Press
Publication date: 12/04/2012
Pages: 336
Product dimensions: 5.90(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.20(d)

About the Author

Frederik L. Schodt: Frederik L. Schodt is a translator and author of numerous books about Japan, including The Astro-Boy Essays, Dreamland Japan, Native American in the Land of the Shogun, and The Four Immigrants Manga. He often served as Osamu Tezuka’s English interpreter. In 2009 he received the The Order of the Rising Sun, Gold Rays with Rosette for his contribution to the introduction and promotion of Japanese contemporary popular culture.

Frederik L. Schodt is an award-winning author of multiple books on the interplay of Japanese and American culture, with an emphasis on popular culture and on unique individuals who have made unusual cross-cultural contributions.

Table of Contents

Preface ix

Act 1 Setting the Stage 3

Where Is Risley? 5

The Context 9

The Imperials at Last 13

Opening at the Academy of Music 19

A Deal with Maguire 26

Act 2 The Risley Act 32

A Restless Spirit 34

Beyond Circus 38

Off to Europe 44

Going Global 52

Panorama Man 56

The Sky Is the Limit 58

Act 3 Going for Gold 62

California Dreaming 64

The Sandwich Islands 73

New Zealand 78

Australia 80

Act 4 Into Asia 86

Calcutta 88

Singapore, Batavia, Hong Kong, Bangkok, and Manila 93

Shanghai 103

Thoughts of Japan 108

Act 5 Yokohama, Japan 113

The Settlement 113

Introducing Western Circus 117

Stuck in Japan 121

A Different Approach 128

Circus Approximate in Japan 130

Beginnings of the Imperial Japanese Troupe 138

Act 6 Taking America 144

Heading for the East Coast 145

Philadelphia 146

Washington, D.C. 154

New York and the Imperials' Act 159

Over-exposure and an Identity Crisis 167

Act 7 At the Exposition 176

Competition in Paris 180

Performing in Paris 184

A Few Difficulties 193

South to Lyon 196

Act 8 The Long Way to London 198

A Rough Start 201

Holland and Belgium 209

London at Last 214

Drama Onstage and Off 219

Act 9 The Matter of the Contract 225

Spain 225

Portugal 238

Back to France 241

New York Again, at Last 243

Act 10 Final Acts 248

The Imperials, Streamlined 250

Back to Britain 252

A "Dreadful and Humiliating Punishment" 255

The End of a Long Run 258

Afterword 267

Notes 273

Select Bibliography 288

Index 295

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