By Laura Nenzi
The Chaos and Cosmos of Kurosawa Tokiko is the tale of a self-described "base-born no one" who attempted to alter the process jap heritage. Kurosawa Tokiko (1806–1890), a commoner from rural Mito area, was once a poet, instructor, oracle, and political activist. In 1859 she embraced the xenophobic loyalist faction (known for the motto "revere the emperor, expel the barbarians") and traveled to Kyoto to denounce the shogun's regulations earlier than the emperor. She was once arrested, taken to Edo's notorious Tenmachō legal, and sentenced to banishment. In her later years, having crossed the Tokugawa-Meiji divide, Tokiko turned an effortless institution instructor and skilled firsthand the modernizing guidelines of the recent executive. After her dying she used to be venerated with court docket rank for her devotion to the loyalist cause.
Tokiko's tale displays not just a number of the key moments in Japan's transition to the fashionable period, but additionally a few of its lesser-known points, thereby supplying us with a clean narrative of the late-Tokugawa concern, the cave in of the shogunate, and the increase of the Meiji country. The bizarre mix of no-nonsense single-mindedness and visionary flights of mind's eye evinced in her a number of diaries and poetry collections nuances our knowing of activism and political recognition between rural nonelites via blurring the strains among the rational and the irrational, concentration and folly. Tokiko's use of prognostication and her appeals to cosmic forces aspect to the artistic paths a few ladies developed to participate in political debates and epitomize the resourcefulness required to maintain one's id within the face of adjusting occasions. within the early 20th century, Tokiko was once reimagined within the renowned press and her tale was once rewritten to offset fears approximately woman autonomy and to spice up neighborhood and nationwide agendas. those distorted and romanticized renditions provide compelling examples of the politicization of the prior and of the level to which current anxieties form historic reminiscence.
That Tokiko was once unimportant and her loyalist undertaking a failure is beside the point. what's major is that via her existence tale we can parent the normal person in the middle of historical past. by way of placing an additional within the highlight, The Chaos and Cosmos of Kurosawa Tokiko bargains a brand new script for the drama that opened up at the degree of late-Tokugawa and early Meiji history.
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Extra info for The Chaos and Cosmos of Kurosawa Tokiko: One Woman’s Transit from Tokugawa to Meiji Japan
Sukenobu’s arrival coincided with the wave of anti-Buddhist reforms that swept through Mito domain in the 1830s and 1840s: Buddhist funerals were prohibited, statues and bells were confiscated, children were forbidden from studying in temples, and the erection of roadside Buddhist monuments was outlawed. The reforms also caused the closure of many Shugendō centers, for the spiritual power of the yamabushi threatened the domain’s vision of order. 26 It is unclear how and to what extent these policies affected the Kurosawa family, for Tokiko unfortunately is silent on the issue.
Likewise, her 1857 poem which reads Yo no naka o ushi to miyama ni shinobu mi o toi kuru hito no onaji kokoro wa Such a sad world, I thought, and came to hide in the deep of the mountains. Those who visit me are of the same heart16 celebrates Suzugoya’s purported remoteness as a source of bonding among literati and recluses rather than as the cause of regrettable disengagement. This brings us to the fifth and final circle, the one centered on poetry. Members of this network included people close and far, men and women, the old and the young, and extended from her own mother to the Katōgi family (Toyo and her son Shunzō, Tokiko’s junior by seven years) in nearby Magone to the literati and scholars she had encountered while traveling as a peddler and poetin-training in the 1830s and 1840s.
17 On the one hand, these verses celebrate the fostering of connections. The title suggests an actual physical journey, but the reference to “the Way of Shikishima”—a metaphor for the training a poet must endure to reach the height of sophistication18—and the deployment of elegant pillow-words (“sleeve” for Hitachi Province)19 indicate, allegorically, her growth as a literata. Either way, these verses bespeak Tokiko’s involvement in an ongoing conversation with, and self-assessment vis-à-vis, her peers.