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In this article, I propose a methodology to investigate “timescapes” in Japanese history from an anthropological perspective by analyzing historical sources on social activities, more specifically on sleeping and napping. Such an analysis provides the methodological basis for a research project on premodern Japanese “timescapes” at the University of Cambridge. Rather than studying the social use of the clock to investigate the extent to which various time structures have penetrated people’s private lives, I approach these questions by paying attention to how sleep and other social activities have been organized on a socio-temporal level—in other words, how people have been “doing time.” I argue that this focus makes abstract notions of time tangible. Issues discussed are time-use priorities, time measurement, appropriateness of performing certain tasks at specific times, regulating time as a tool of power, disciplining bodies through scheduling and early rising, as well as monochronic and polychronic time use.

In: KronoScope
In: KronoScope

Time, and particularly night, in folktales can be approached from various perspectives. In the present study, we shall see time in its structural function and will analyze the protagonist’s experience of time, as well as the “anthropic” nature of time and night as structural elements in fairy tales. We shall accomplish this by examining the theme of time, and particularly nighttime with its functions and characteristics, within the framework of the Japanese tale. We shall attempt to rethink the position of night and time in fairy tales as a motif, a background, a facilitator, and an opportunity that exists because of the human factor in the process of storytelling.

The present study is based on the subgenre of ordinary folktales (also known as true folktales, or Zaubermärchen). The source material (59 tales out of the total 189 defined as “true”) can be found in volumes ii-vii of Seki Keigo’s Index of Japanese Folktales. All of the 59 tales that form the basis of this study are examined in regard to time, and conclusions are illustrated by a few selected examples. The time-motifs are discussed as originating from the storytelling process; as being part of the binomial world of the folktale; as illustrating the physical and psychological experience of time quantities and qualities; and as forming a framework that facilitates the relationships between the dramatis personae.

In: KronoScope

This article traces the time practices relevant to Edo-period pleasure-quarter life and business in eighteenth and nineteenth century Japan, discussing two time patterns that appeared in pleasure-quarter directories at the time: more long-term, loosely circumscribed stays based around diurnal rhythms of light and darkness, as well as more short-term transactions centered on units of time measured with incense sticks—two aspects of time that were central to the trade plied in the quarters, as I show. I argue that the sex trade is significant in that it provided a rare example of a service “paid by the hour” in early modern Japan, thus crucially also calling us to (re-)consider larger issues regarding the economic value of time within the early modern Japanese world of work and especially also its relationship to modern time and labor. I demonstrate how the exigencies of a certain trade required the elaboration of a set of time units and, where necessary, a system to measure and co-ordinate them, which ultimately points towards the existence of an abstract notion of time that commanded a certain price in early modern Japan. As such, the present paper serves to qualify narratives that mainly identify the commodification of time with Japan’s industrialization, modernization, and Westernization in the late nineteenth century, as well as with the dissemination of mechanical clock-time

In: KronoScope
In: KronoScope
In: KronoScope

Various attempts have been made to systematize fundamental patterns of temporal organization and to establish links between these patterns and natural and cultural evolution. This paper compares three pertinent theories of time in the light of evidence from Japanese cultural history: the hierarchical theory of time by J. T. Fraser, the fourfold paradigm of time imageries by Y. Maki, and the social learning theory of time by G. Dux. It demonstrates that the “canonical forms of time” established by these authors can be brought into meaningful conversation with each other and that they suggest helpful methodologies for the analysis of temporal perspectives in Japanese history. At the same time, comparative analysis reveals reasons for caution against simplified evolutionary accounts of cultural history. From very early on, Japanese literary sources evince an acute consciousness of conflicting temporalities. At the same time, there is no unified “Japanese concept of time”—neither trans-historically nor at any given period.

In: KronoScope