Street Performers and Society in Urban Japan, 1600-1900: The Beggar's Gift, 1st Edition (e-Book) book cover

Street Performers and Society in Urban Japan, 1600-1900

The Beggar's Gift, 1st Edition

By Gerald Groemer


416 pages | 106 B/W Illus.

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This book presents a thoroughly researched and meticulously documented study of the emergence, development, and demise of music, theatre, recitation, and dance witnessed by the populace on thoroughfares, plazas, and makeshift outdoor performance spaces in Edo/Tokyo. For some three hundred years this city was the centre of such arts, both sacred and secular. This study outlines the nature of the performances, explores the social relations which lay behind them, and reveals vast complexity: an obligation of gift-giving on the part of observers; performers who were often economic migrants fallen on hard times; relations of performance to social class; a class system much more finely gradated than the official four caste system; and institutions of professional organization and registration, enforced by government, with penalties for unregistered performers. The book discusses how performing, witnessing, and rewarding performance were closely bound up with economy, society and government, how the interaction between various groups related to socio-economic advancement, how the system of street performance reinforced social control, and how the balance between different groups shifted over time.


"Street Performers offers an abundance of useful information at a close reading…"

Laura Nenzi, University of Tennessee, Monumenta Nipponica

Table of Contents

Introduction 1.Conditions of Possibility: Economic, Political, and Ideological 2. Outcast(e) Street Performers 3. Gods and Spirits in the Streets 4. Gōmune and their Arts 5. Yashi: Performance, Advertisement, Production 6. The Aftermath of Meiji: Conditions of Impossibility

About the Author

Gerald Groemer is Professor of Ethnomusicology and Western Musicology at Univeristy of Yamanashi, Kofu, Japan.

About the Series

Routledge Studies in the Modern History of Asia

During the nineteenth and twentieth centuries Asia has undergone immense and far reaching changes: war, revolution, occupation, industrialization. This series includes in-depth research on aspects of economic, political and social history of individual countries as well as more broad-reaching analyses of regional issues.

Learn more…

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Ethnic Studies / General
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Regional Studies