Gerald Groemer

Street Culture in the Shogun’s Capital, 1600–1868

  • Time: Do., 1. Okt. 2015, 17:30
  • Venue: Institut für Kultur- und Geistesgeschichte Asiens, Seminarraum 1
  • Organisation: Bernhard Scheid




Below the kabuki, puppet theater, and other Japanese popular arts supported mostly by the middle class stood a far broader layer of culture witnessed mostly at doorsteps, city plazas, street corners, temple and shrine grounds, and other “liminal” urban areas. Here outcasts, street religionists, reciters, dancers, musicians and others appealed to the public for an ear and for donations. In Edo (today Tokyo) such performers, preachers, and their kin rarely worked as independent agents. Instead, they were usually organized into hierarchical organizations whose membership, structure, socio-political position, and economic function changed with the times. In this presentation I shall offer an overview of four of the most important social groups populating the streets of Edo: outcasts, religious performers, the semi-outcast professional street performers (gōmune), and the hawkers (yashi) who camouflaged their performances as advertisement for a specific product to be sold.


Gerald Groemer is professor of ethnomusicology at the University of Yamanashi in Kōfu, Japan. He received his PhD from Tokyo University of Fine Arts and Music, the first non-Japanese ever to do so. His primary interest is in the popular performing arts of Edo-period Japan (1600–1868), especially the music and social situation of itinerant performers. He is the author of many books including Goze to goze-uta no kenkyū (2 vols., Nagoya Daigaku, 2007), which treats blind itinerant women (goze) and their songs, and The Spirit of Tsugaru (Tsugaru Shobō, 2012), a study of the instrumental folk-music genre of Tsugaru-jamisen. A monograph about street performers in Edo will appear next December through Routledge; an English-language study of goze will also appear in late 2015 through Oxford University Press.