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A History of the Japanese People by F. Brinkley

An abbreviation of the already brief renga and haikai



Tsunayoshi did not confine his patronage to Chinese literature; he devoted much energy to the encouragement of Japanese classical studies, also. Thus, in 1689, he invited to Yedo Kitamura Kigin and his son Shuncho and bestowed upon the former the title of Hoin together with a revenue of five hundred koku. This marked the commencement of a vigorous revival of Japanese literature in the Bakufu capital. Moreover, in Osaka a scholar named Keichu Ajari published striking annotations of the celebrated anthologies, the Manyo-shu and the Kokin-shu, which attracted the admiration of Tokugawa Mitsukuni, baron of Mito. He invited Keichu to his castle and treated him with marked consideration. These litterateurs were the predecessors of the celebrated Kamo and Motoori, of whom there will be occasion to speak by and by.


Tsunayoshi's patronage extended also to the field of the fine arts. The Tokugawa Bakufu had hitherto encouraged the Kano School only whereas the Tosa Academy was patronized by the Court at Kyoto. This partiality was corrected by Tsunayoshi., He invited Sumiyoshi Gukei--also called Hirozumi--the most distinguished pupil of Tosa Mitsuoki, bestowed on him a revenue of two hundred koku, and gave him the official position of chief artist of the Tosa-ryu, placing him on an equal footing with the chief of the Kano-ryu. It was at this time also that the ukiyoe

(genre picture) may be said to have won popular favour. Contemporaneously there appeared some dramatic authors of high ability, and as the ukiyoe and the drama appealed mainly to the middle and lower classes, the domain of literature and the fine arts received wide extension. Thus, Chikamatsu Monzaemon, of Osaka, the greatest dramatist that his country ever possessed, composed plays which have earned for him the title of the "Shakespeare of Japan;" and as for the light literature of the era, though it was disfigured by erotic features, it faithfully reflected in other respects the social conditions and sentiments of the time.


From the commencement of Japanese history down to the second half of the seventeenth century, the canons and customs were dictated solely by the upper class, and neither merchants nor artisans were recognized as possessing any social or literary influence whatever. But in the middle period of the Tokugawa Bakufu--the Genroku period, as it is commonly called--the tradesman became a comparatively conspicuous figure. For example, in the realm of poetry, hitherto strictly reserved for the upper classes, the classic verse called renga (linked song) was considered to be sullied by the introduction of any common or every-day word, and therefore could be composed only by highly educated persons. This now found a substitute in the haikai, which admitted language taken from purely Japanese sources and could thus be produced without any exercise of special scholarship. Afterwards, by the addition of the hokku, an abbreviation of the already brief renga and haikai, which adapted itself to the capacities of anyone possessing a nimble wit or a sparkling thought, without any preparation of literary study, the range of poetry was still further extended. Matsuo Basho Was the father of the haikai and the hokku, and his mantle descended upon Kikaku, Ransetsu, Kyoriku, and other celebrities. They travelled round the country popularizing their art and immensely expanding the field of literature. The craft of penmanship flourished equally, and was graced by such masters as Hosoi Kotaku and Kitamura Sessan. Yedo, the metropolis of wealth and fashion, became also the capital of literature and the fine arts, and a characteristic of the era was the disappearance of charlatans, whether laymen or bonzes, who professed to teach the arcana of special accomplishments. In short, every branch of study passed out of the exclusive control of one or two masters and became common property, to the great advantage of original developments.

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