What was it like to live during the Edo period in Japan?


30 Jun

If you were a townsmen in the giant city of Edo or one of the other larger cities (particularly Kyoto and Osaka), you could have a remarkably modern life.

Fast food (soba noodles), the theater (kabuki), sports (sumo), and the arts and literature (some excellent novels and poetry came out of the Edo period). All of these were patronized by the townsmen, a sort-of emerging middle class. And they could read, too. Japan’s literacy rate around the year 1800 was as high as anywhere in Europe. And some of Tokyo’s department stores have been in operation since the late 16th century. (So if you had money to buy…)

Even tourism. I have seen some great period maps of Kyoto and Edo (I LOVE maps!), and realized that these maps were made for the benefit of tourist visitors. In other words, Kyoto was already developing into what it does best today (cater to tourists).

Summer festivals for folk dances and fireworks. Winter festivals for visiting shrines and ringing temple bells.

Sure, they worked hard (as Japanese are wont to do). But the Edo Period had no wars and few rebellions. The nation was at peace, starvation was a rare occurrence (outside of Tohoku at any rate), and the arts and crafts blossomed.

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