When students of Japanese literary history view the latter part of the Tokugawa period, two developments stand out. First, Edo replaced Kyoto and Osaka as the center of cultural activity. Second, a baffling variety of forms of prose fiction arose. The former stemmed largely from the policies of Yoshimune, the eighth Tokugawa shogun. Although his suppression of “pernicious literature” had a baneful effect on publishing in Kyoto and Osaka, it indirectly improved the competitive position of Edo booksellers. During Yoshimune's reign, also, the city of Edo underwent enormous population growth. Many hatamoto and samurai were forced to resettle in Edo, where they lived on rice stipends rather than on the direct produce of their land. Bureaucracy expanded. Samurai turned from the rigors of rural life to polite urban pursuits. Need for additional services led to a growth in the number of merchants. Likewise, Yoshimune's personal interest in mathematics, science, and even Western learning resulted in the import of books and ideas from the outside world, particularly China. Proscriptions against foreign learning became less rigid.

The text of this article is only available as a PDF.
You do not currently have access to this content.