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Screech, Timon (2007) Edo no ôbushin: Tokugawa toshi keikaku no shigaku. [The Great Building of Edo: Poetics and Planning in the Tokugawa Metropolis]. Tokyo: Kodansha.

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This book takes an entirely new look at the history of Edo (Tokyo), defining its approach as spatial ‘poetics’ (shigaku). Edo has been assessed physically - land reclamation, supply, etc – and in terms of popular culture - via printed materials, as novels and pictures; there are also oral traditions of ‘stories’. This is a departure in taking five distinctive topoi, and investigating them via inter-disciplinary methods, by chapter. The first addresses the centre of state, Nihon-bashi; images, historical documents are adduced, with the metaphysical meaning of bridges, to construct a novel interpretation. Chapter 2 assesses generation of sacred spaces. This new town needed points of worship; one ancient temple did exist, with a wonderworking image, which was integrated into shogunal religions. Chapter 3 looks at how new-rising Edo modelled itself on antique cities, such as Chinese capitals, to elevate itself; Edo never was a capital (Kyoto was), but as shogunal seat it required buildings of grace, and also magical protection, through geomancy. The immediate model was mediaeval castle towns, but Edo also drew on Kyoto itself, often in hidden or covert ways, replicating site of toponyms, to add to its aura. Chapter 4 considers creation of ‘famous sites’. Again, as a new city, Edo lacked points of poetic and historical value (meisho), indeed, in the classical period, what became Edo stood for all that was raw and uncouth. This had to be changed, and it was, through diligent search, and some invention; the presence of Mt Fuji was important. Chapter 5 looks at the celebrated ‘floating world’ of pleasure, and particularly at how people (men) travelled there; boats took them, through the night, on a route composed so as to distance them from ‘fixed’ daily life, and prepare them for the alterity of pleasure that law ahead.

Item Type: Authored Books
SOAS Departments & Centres: Legacy Departments > Faculty of Arts and Humanities > Department of History of Art and Archaeology
ISBN: 9784061143806
Date Deposited: 31 Mar 2008 14:51

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