Street performers and society in urban Japan, 1600-1900 : the beggar's gift


Street performers and society in urban Japan, 1600-1900 : the beggar's gift

Gerald Groemer

(Routledge studies in the modern history of Asia, 114)

Routledge, 2016

  • : hardback

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Includes bibliographical references (p. [371]-401) and index



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.


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

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