Third Thursday Lecture | 18 July 2013
A Glimpse of the Modestly Literate
Picnic Lovers of Old Japan
Professor Emeritus, Kyoto University
Executive Vice-President, Shiga University
Every Third Thursday of the month, the Sainsbury Institute for the Study of Japanese Arts and Cultures hosts a lecture on a topic related to the art and culture of Japan. Talks begin at 6pm (50-minute lecture followed by refreshments). Speakers are all specialists in their field and the talks are intended to be accessible to those with no prior knowledge of Japanese history. Admission is free and all are welcome. Booking essential. To book a seat email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or fax 01603 625011 up to two days before the lecture stating your name, number of seats required and a contact number. Unless indicated otherwise the lectures are held at the Norwich Cathedral Hostry (Weston Room), Norwich NR1 4EH. The Third Thursday Lecture series is funded by the Great Britain Sasakawa Foundation and the Robert and Lisa Sainsbury Charitable Trust.
About the Lecture
Despite its many rules and constraints, the stability of Japanese society for more than two centuries under the Shogunate’s policy of seclusion (1630s-1850s) did not result in gloomy stagnation. How was this possible? The answer may lie in the era’s abundance of unambitious, self-contented elders, who can be labeled ‘modestly literate picnic lovers (gakumon hodo hodo, yusan dai-suki)’. The existence of this group has been uncovered through a computer-processed analysis of the patterns of wear and tear on the bottom surfaces of more than sixty extant copies of the bulky Setsuyōshū, a household encyclopedia used commonly by local community elders. First produced in the late medieval period, the Setsuyôshû was popularised and expanded during the 18th century and came to be regarded as a reliable reference book. Its scope included instruction to users on how to ‘properly’ express consideration for others, as well as to the numerous gods who occupied diverse positions in heaven and on earth—the virtual representations of the physical environment. In this lecture, held in conjunction with the Third Thursday Lecture series, Professor Yokoyama will discuss the users of the book who tended to be detached from the establishment, while indulging in individual pursuits , and hence contributed to the radiance of old Japan.
About the Speaker
Born in Kyoto in 1947, Professor Yokoyama studied law at Kyoto University (B.LL., 1970; M.LL, 1972), and modern history at the University of Oxford (D. Phil., 1983). He joined the Institute for Research in Humanities at Kyoto University in 1972, where he held a professorship in Japanese Culture (1998-2012). He participated in the founding of the Graduate School of Global Environmental Studies of Kyoto University in 2002, where he oversaw the opening within the school of Sansai Gakurin—an institution for dialogues between modern natural sciences and humanities. He was Vice-President of Kyoto University from 2005–2008. His works include Japan in the Victorian Mind (Macmillan, 1987) and Kotoba no Chikara (Kyoto U.P., 2012), the latter an edited volume on the civilising power of language. He was also co-editor of the English-language periodical, Sansai: An Environmental Journal for the Global Community (2005–2012).