In the late 17th century, the popular writer Ihara Saikaku produced literature for mass entertainment and consumption. He became immensely popular, and remains widely read even centuries after his heyday. We’ll explore his life, career, and legacy as we ask, “just how did a man making entertainment to pay his bills become one of Japan’s most celebrated authors?”
Listen to the episode
Callahan, Carl. “Tales of Samurai Honor: Saikaku’s Buke Giri Monogatari.”
Monumenta Nipponica 34, No. 1 (Spring 1979).
The Making of Modern Japan.
The Pleasures of Japanese Poetry.
Life of an Amorous Man.
Life of an Amorous Woman. (good translations of both works are out there)
A statue of Ihara Saikaku in his home city of Osaka — specifically Ikukunitama Shrine. Courtesy of the Wikimedia Foundation.
Yonosuke, the protagonist of Life of an Amorous Man, spies on a bathing woman in this illustrated scene from the novel. Courtesy of Yale University.
A scene from Life of an Amorous Man — the reading of Yonosuke’s father’s will. Yonosuke famously shows no displeasure at his father’s death and instead promises to blow all the inheritance on prostitutes. Courtesy of Waseda University.
An illustrated scene from Life of an Amorous Woman with yet more spying on people from balconies (this time the main character is the one being spied on). Courtesy of the National Diet Library of Japan.
Life of an Amorous Woman was adapted into a movie by the Japanese director Mizoguchi Kenji, called Life of Oharu. This is one screen from the movie. Courtesy of the Wikimedia Foundation.