Tokyo's Edo Past: the Birth of Japanese Cool with Gavin Campbell

Tokyo's Edo Past: the Birth of Japanese Cool with Gavin Campbell

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Edo (contemporary Tokyo) was without question one of the coolest cities in the world. But it wasn't designed that way. The shogun's castle towered over the city and its outer moat ate up ten city miles. It was a city founded by samurai and dedicated to order, hierarchy, and sobriety. But the largest metropolis in the eighteenth-century world attracted far more than grim-faced warriors and scurrying bureaucrats. Beneath the castle's shadows developed a raucous city full of adventurers, swindlers, and ne'er-do-wells, of actors, dandies, and ladies of the night -- a whole "floating world" of fashion and novelty. And it was in this tension between a desire for order and irrepressible creativity that Edo cool emerged.

Studded with visuals and rich with stories, this tour takes us through the corridors of power before crowding in close to catch a kabuki play, stopping to haggle for a new kimono, and then stretching our legs in the legendary Yoshiwara "pleasure quarters" where the chic ruined their name and their fortune in competitions of style. Together we explore how a city founded on samurai values created one of the most daring cultures of the age. Tokyo may astonish us as a modern-day wonder, but Edo was where Japanese cool was born.

Designed to inform curiosity as well as future travels, this interactive seminar is led by Gavin James Campbell, a Ph.D. professor of history at Doshisha University. Gavin has lived in Japan for 19 years and has led Context tours in Kyoto for the last seven years.

Gavin received a Ph.D. in history from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, and came to Kyoto in 2001. He is a Ph.D. professor of history at Doshisha University. His teaching and research revolve around Japan's cultural encounters with the West, particularly during the Edo, Meiji, Taisho, and early Showa periods (1600-1940), and he has published on the history of foreign tourism and of Protestant missionaries in Japan. To further explore Japan's global cultural encounters, he is currently writing a book on the history of Japanese menswear from the 1600s through the early 20th century. He is also an expert on Kyoto geisha culture and a frequent participant in geisha entertainment.

This conversation is suitable for all ages

90 minutes, including a 30 minute Q&A.