Everyday Life in Traditional Japan

5.0 out of 5 stars Samurai film primer

“Everyday Life in Traditional Japan” is basically a beginner’s guide to the Edo period. It gives a short history of the era, of the isolationist policy that allowed traditional Japanese culture to flourish untouched, and the power shift between the Emperor and the Shogun. It then breaks down the four classes, the samurai, the farmers, the craftsmen and the merchants, and shows the daily life, traditions and laws that bound each class. Also included are the fringe element, the doctors, priests, courtiers, actors, artists and outcasts who lived outside the class system but were still ruled by it.

Aside from being a nice little history lesson, I found this book to be the perfect primer to anyone interested in samurai flicks or historical anime. The easy-to-understand outline of the four classes, and what they were and were not allowed to do, own, eat, etc…gave me more than one “Ah-ha!” moment as something suddenly became clear to me in a movie that I had seen before. This is all the detail work, the background stuff going on, like why a big metal fish hangs over the stoves of peasant houses and why warriors wear those big basket helmets.

A short book at only 171 pages, it is still packed with info and easy to read. A bit on the older side, some of the translations and wording is outdated, but that doesn’t have any effect on the book on the whole. I would definitely recommend this to anyone interested in the period, be it in film, anime, books or even woodblock prints. I have read quite a few Japanese history books before, but not one that laid out the class system so clearly and easily.


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