By Julia Russell
Waiting for the bus in Medford Square on a very cold Friday afternoon.
A forgotten receipt,
carried by wind
down the sidewalk.
The principles of increasingly formalized Buddhism lost daily prominence and self-indulgence reigned as Japan moved into the Tokugawa era. The meaning of ukiyo changed from the floating world to “the illusive world of fleeting pleasures that one ought to pursue with abandon” (Inouye, 70). Simultaneously, mono no aware permeates Japanese life. Even as people treat themselves to various pleasures, there is a realization of our own limitations. But that’s ok, because even while I’m limited in my own power, so are you, and so is everybody else. Pursuits of anything are pretty sad in an evanescent world, but sadness is beautiful, leading to the “sad-yet-vibrant hedonism” of the era (Inouye, 85). The ideal modern woman of the day is the prostitute, who through her multiple experiences with strangers develops a sense of self (Lecture 2/20). Saikaku’s protagonist prostitute notes the extent of power her sexuality gave her even at 13, when a samurai was beheaded because of their affair: “Some of them said, ‘Surely not at her age…’ That amused me” (Saikaku 159). Her career ends in disgrace, and as she visits a temple and recognizes men of the past in all of the statues, she weeps at the realization of her downfall and her lack of stability through a husband and family. She is brought back to peace by an old admirer who encourages her to “follow the Way of the Buddha” (Saikaku, 217), and this lifestyle comforts her in her lonely lifestyle. Perhaps Buddhism only worked full-time when the world was contained for a Japanese person. Branch out, and the self-discipline of selflessness falls to the wayside as we realize the lack of agency in our (and everyone else’s) lives and figure we might as well spoil ourselves while we can.