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Excursions in Identity: Travel and the Intersection of Place, Gender, and Status in Edo Japan
  • Laura Nenzi, University of Tennessee, Knoxville
In the Edo period (1600–1868), status- and gender-based expectations largely defined a person’s place and identity in society. The wayfarers of the time, however, discovered that travel provided the opportunity to escape from the confines of the everyday. Cultured travelers of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries wrote travel memoirs to celebrate their profession as belle-lettrists. For women in particular the open road and the blank page of the diary offered a precious opportunity to create personal hierarchies defined less by gender and more by culture and refinement. After the mid-eighteenth century—which saw the popularization of culture and the rise of commercial printing—textbooks, guides, comical fiction, and woodblock prints allowed not a few commoners to acquaint themselves with the historical, lyrical, or artistic pedigree of Japan’s famous sites. By identifying themselves with famous literary and historical icons of the past, some among these erudite commoners saw an opportunity to rewrite their lives and re-create their identities in the pages of their travel diaries. The chapters in Part One, “Re-creating Spaces,” introduce the notion that the spaces of travel were malleable, accommodating reconceptualization across interpretive frames. Laura Nenzi shows that, far from being static backgrounds, these travelscapes proliferated in a myriad of loci where one person’s center was another’s periphery. In Part Two, “Re-creating Identities,” we see how, in the course of the Edo period, educated persons used travel to, or through, revered lyrical sites to assert and enhance their roles and identities. Finally, in Part Three, “Purchasing Re-creation,” Nenzi looks at the intersection between recreational travel and the rising commercial economy, which allowed visitors to appropriate landscapes through new means: monetary transactions, acquisition of tangible icons, or other forms of physical interaction. Reviewed in: The Journal of Japanese Studies, New Zealand Journal of Asian Studies, Journal of Social History, Asian Studies Review, Monumenta Nipponica, Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies, Journal of Asian Studies, International Journal of Asian Studies, Choice Magazine, International Institute for Asian Studies Newsletter, American Historical Review, The Japan Times
  • Edo,
  • Japan,
  • Edo Japan,
  • Gender,
  • Place
Publication Date
April, 2008
University of Hawai’i Press
Citation Information
Laura Nenzi. Excursions in Identity: Travel and the Intersection of Place, Gender, and Status in Edo Japan. Honolulu(2008)
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