chapter  15
16 Pages

The Tsurane of Shibaraku: Communicating the Power of Identity

The Edo period was in some ways like our own in the flood of infonnation available to people at many levels of society. The expansion of nationwide networks of communication and the publication industry led to the creation and availability of a great deal of infonnation----political, economic, and cul­ tural, and the increase in literacy rates meant that there were people inter­ ested and able to consume such infonnation. Where we travel on the so-called infonnation superhighway, Tokugawa-era people had access to an infonna­ tion highway system that gradually came to connect large cities and small villages throughout Japan. As Constantine Vaporis points out, "A well inte­ grated system of major post roads made possible the steady growth of com­ munications."1 In the cultural sphere, this fact contributed to the possibility of sharing, borrowing, or being influenced by cultural activities based in locales not one's own. In the case of kabuki, we note that while Kamigata (Osaka/Kyoto) kabuki and Edo kabuki retained region-specific. characteris­ tics, the cross-borrowing of techniques, practices, and even actors occurred with increasing frequency and impact as the Tokugawa period progressed. Nonetheless, certain styles and tendencies were so rooted in one of these two areas that they remained strongly in evidence there throughout the period, little affected by influences from outside the region.