The anonymous woodblock print on the cover of this issue of HJAS features three icons of Japan’s embrace of Western-style modernity after the Meiji Restoration of 1868: the steam locomotive, the telegraph, and the rickshaw. We have put two copies of the image on the cover as a visual homage to the reduplicative onomatopoeia that early Meiji writers employed to capture the soundscape of Tokyo. Shusshuppopo しゅっ しゅっぽっぽ chugs the train.
By the time of the Restoration, both the locomotive and the telegraph were familiar technologies in the industrialized West. In 1825, the Stockton and Darlington Railway in England operated the first steam locomotives, and in 1844, Samuel Morse sent the first telegraph message over an experimental line from Washington, DC, to Baltimore. Transcontinental telegraph and railroad lines were completed in the United States in 1861 and 1869, respectively. The nascent Meiji regime embraced these technologies: the first commercial telegraph office opened in Yokohama in 1870, and the first railroad line, linking Shinbashi 新橋 in central Tokyo with Yokohama, opened in 1872.
One could not hail a rickshaw on the streets of Stockton-on-Tees in 1868, yet the lightweight, two-wheeled vehicles telegraphed modernity to Japanese viewers of the print as clearly as the locomotive did.1 The first jinrikisha 人力車—”human-powered vehicle”—appeared in Tokyo in 1869. It was the handiwork of a trio of entrepreneurs, Suzuki Tokujirō 鈴木徳次郎, Takayama Kōsuke 高山幸助, and Izumi Yōsuke 和泉要助. The men appear to have conceived of the vehicle as a mash-up of a Japanese hand-drawn cart and a Western horse carriage; the latter was introduced into Japan only in 1866. Whatever their precise inspiration, they invented it without knowledge of older European human-powered vehicles, such as the vinaigrette and the Bath chair.
The rickshaw quickly became ubiquitous in the streets of Tokyo and, before long, other cities around Japan and throughout Asia. According to M. William Steele, by 1872 there were already about forty thousand rickshaws in use in Tokyo; just three years later that number had ballooned to about one hundred thousand. The number of rickshaws nationwide peaked at about 210,000 in 1896. Very soon after their introduction in Japan, rickshaws started appearing in Shanghai, Hong Kong, and Singapore, and by the end of the nineteenth century they had spread, mostly via Chinese merchants, to Korea, the Philippines, Southeast Asia, India, Ceylon, and even Africa. Although the original, human-pulled rickshaws are now mostly for tourists, descendants of the vehicle live on as pedicabs and other human-powered and motorized forms of transportation in many parts of the world. HJAS thanks the Harvard University Art Museums for their kind permission to reproduce the image.
1 I take this account of the rickshaw’s history from M. William Steele, “Mobility on the Move: Rickshaws in Asia,” Transfers: Interdisciplinary Journal of Mobility Studies 4.3 (2014): 88–107.
A Soundscape of Urban Modernity
Voices and Din in 1874 Hanjōki
This article focuses on aural patterns retraceable in four hanjōki (chronicles of prosperity) published in 1874 that deal closely with urban everyday life and constitute a valuable record of life in post-Restoration Tokyo, when things seen and heard in the city began to be treated by writers as indexes of the country’s modernization. Sound representation is a useful tool to investigate multiple layers of meaning within a text, and hanjōki are a perfect example of cultural critique applied to urban environments. Through comparison with the genre’s archetype, Terakado Seiken’s Edo hanjōki (An account of the prosperity of Edo; 1832–1836), I emphasize auditory elements that reveal the authors’ attitudes toward urban life in the 1870s and the complex intertextual system that is an essential feature of the hanjōki corpus. This focus on previously neglected issues encourages alternative understandings of established concepts of disruption and continuity in the modernization process.
Publisher at Work
Yu Xiangdou’s Self-Images
The self-images Yu Xiangdou (ca. 1560–1637) inserted in his printed books are often considered portraits of him and thus a proud assertion of his identity as a successful commercial publisher. I analyze his self-images in terms of the highly conventionalized tropes that he appropriated not merely to enhance the market appeal of his imprints but also to prompt readers to visualize his own intellectual labor. By instantiating the otherwise invisible and therefore uncredited intellectual work of publishers, Yu Xiangdou’s self-images served as a link between incorporeal authorship and material proprietorship in the increasingly competitive commercial book market of late imperial China.
The Language of Sex in Jin Ping Mei
The sexually explicit contents of Jin Ping Mei have long given the book a notorious reputation. The question remains: What does the novel’s language of sex accomplish in terms of its aesthetics and narrative function? The answer requires considering the artful use of language and imagery and also how the author uses such description to comment on characters and situations. The novel’s sexually explicit scenes can be divided into two modes. In the high-erotic mode, the author exalts sexual acts in euphemistic and figurative language, albeit also often parodic language. In the graphic mode, he describes sex in terms of its raw sights and sounds, its unfiltered excess. Jin Ping Mei inherits the first mode from its past, but the graphic mode is something that came to fruition in the novel’s own Ming era and to which Jin Ping Mei contributed profoundly.