Sunday, April 19, 2015

What Enforcement Isn't Selective Enforcement?

Courtesans vs. Censors

Who is the man who wins our tears?
Not the one who can keep five wives quiet.
He's the one who wears handcuffs as if they were silk cords.
Who is the man we drink to tonight?
Not the one who forces us to pass the bottle under the table.
He's the one who keeps the ink flowing freely.
Who is the man who opens all gates?
Not the one who makes laws against books.
He's the one who makes us laugh.

The censorship imposed under the Tokugawa shogunate had several prominent victims; artist Katagawa Utamaro and the comic writer, illustrator, tobacconist and all-around flaneur Santo Kyoden being two of the most known. The usual penalty was to spend 50 days in handcuffs. Kyoden did it and went on to marry a few more working girls of the Yoshiwara and to open a tobacco shop. I read in a few places that Utamaro's health never returned after he completed his sentence. Kyoden's story is featured attacked artist No. 3 in this Cracked magazine article. "Five wives" is a reference to the image that got Utamaro in hot water, a gorgeous pass-agg depiction of an historic leader viewing blossoms with his five wives, in a time when ostentatious displays of wealth were in danger of riling the populace.

It's interesting to me that the two big bouts of censor crackdowns in the 18th century came after famines in Japan.

Today's prompt was "authority." Today's judge is Dorianne Laux, an authority in a good way. I'm planning a trip to Oregon right now, so perfect timing.

Image: Santo Kyoden hanging at a mansion, by Utamaro. From what I can figure, he's the one at front left. He looks like he's having a pretty good time.

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