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Edo Society

Karakuri Festival

Rinna Seisha Dashi Ukiyo-e, 1733 (KITO 1997, p19)

The Edo period marked 250 years of complete isolation from the rest of the world, during which time Japan's unique cultural heritage developed away from outside influences. The most famous Karakuri were made during this time.

In 1600, TOKUGAWA Ieyasu assumed the title of shogun or supreme military leader. For the next 265 years, the TOKUGAWA Shogunate and its armies of samurai held political power and also brought over 200 years of stability to Japan. This was sustained by the TOKUGAWA line until the Meiji period started in 1868.

In 1633, the TOKUGAWA Shogunate forbade travelling abroad, and almost completely isolated Japan in 1639 by reducing the contacts to the outside world to very limited trade relations with China and the Netherlands in the port of Nagasaki. In addition, all foreign books were banned. (SUEMATSU 2001) This was done in an attempt to control foreign trade and to avoid the colonisation threat posed by Christian missionaries and European powers.

The TOKUGAWA Shogunate established control of the population by placing national laws, or restrictions, which regulated private conduct, marriage, and dress. Laws even forbade movement of society both geographically, and between social classes. (DOLAN, WORDEN 1994)

The Edo period brought great wealth to the townspeople and merchant classes, and accompanying this increase in wealth came a desire for lavish and more accessible forms of entertainment. Wealth was spent beautifying daily life, with festivals being a main outlet for celebration and extravagance. Despite the restrictions by the government's imposition of rule during this period, popular culture flourished.

 

DOLAN. R, WORDEN, R., (Ed.), 1994. Tokugawa Period, 1600-1867 Chapter 1, Japan - a Country Study [online]. Federal Research Division, Library of Congress. Available from:http://lcweb2.loc.gov/frd/cs/jptoc.html[Accessed 18 August 2003]

KITO, H., 1997. Karakuri Ningyo Sekaiten (The World of Karakuri Ningyo). Tokyo: NHK Kinki Media Plan.

SUEMATSU, Y., 2001. The Japanese Love of Robots lecture 3, Edo Karakuri Masters were Universal Scientists, Department of Electronic-Mechanical Engineering, Nagoya University.

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Last modified 14 January 2008
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