Christoper Reichenbacher: Raiden Tame’emon (1767-1825) and the Limits of Connection in Rural Japan

3:30-4:00 Christoper Reichenbacher, University of California Santa Barabara

“Raiden Tame’emon (1767-1825) and the Limits of Connection in Rural Japan”

In the mid-18th century Japan experienced an explosion of popularity in entertainment culture. As its popularity skyrocketed, exchange between the major cultural centers and rural areas in Japan increased exponentially. Professions, which were outside of the typical hierarchy built upon this boom and integrated themselves into societal daily life. Consequently, travel activities became increasingly more vivid.

In this context, sumo wrestling too gained a prominent place within society. Seasonal sumo wrestling events found themselves taking place not only in large metropolitan areas, but also near rural temples and in riverbeds. The increasing demand for sumo triggered the emergence of traveling wrestler groups and a promoter system. As one of the first promoters and company heads of the nationwide movement of sumo campaigns, Raiden Tame'emon took part in setting up his own tournaments in the countryside. His travel log "Handbook of Sumo in all Countries" (Shokoku sumō hikaechō 諸国相撲控帳) is likely the most complete accumulation of information on such activities. In my presentation I will approach his diary by focusing on his routes of travel as well as the scope of rural audiences. By doing so I will provide insight into what traveling meant for wrestlers, promoters, and spectators. It will further help to reveal the networks and connections that determined life during the first phase of the professional sumo franchise.