Art & Design

Carmen Blacker Lecture 2013 – A Glimpse of the Modestly Literate Picnic Lovers of Old Japan

15 & 18 July 2013, London & Norwich

A Glimpse of the Modestly Literate Picnic Lovers of Old Japan

Toshio Yokoyama, Professor Emeritus, Kyoto University and Executive Vice-President at Shiga University with the Sainsbury Institute for the Study of Japanese Arts & Cultures


Despite its many rules and constraints, the stability of Japanese society for more than two centuries under the Shogunate’s policy of seclusion (1630s-1850s) did not result in gloomy stagnation. How was this possible? The answer may lie in the era’s abundance of unambitious, self-contented elders, who can be labeled ‘modestly literate picnic lovers (gakumon hodo hodo, yusan dai-suki)’. The existence of this group has been uncovered through a computer-processed analysis of the patterns of wear and tear on the bottom surfaces of more than sixty extant copies of the bulky Setsuyôshû, a household encyclopedia used commonly by local community elders. First produced in the late medieval period, the Setsuyôshû was popularised and expanded during the 18th century and came to be regarded as a reliable reference book. Its scope included instruction to users on how to ‘properly’ express consideration for others, as well as to the numerous gods who occupied diverse positions in heaven and on earth—the virtual representations of the physical environment.


In this lecture, Professor Yokoyama will discuss the users of the book who tended to be detached from the establishment, while indulging in individual pursuits, and hence contributed to the radiance of old Japan.


Admission is free and all are welcome. Light refreshments will be available at the London lecture and a drinks reception will follow the Norwich lecture. Booking is recommended and seats will be provided on a first come first serve basis.


For the London lecture, please contact the Japan Society office on tel: 020 7828 6330, email or submit the online booking form. For the Norwich lecture, please contact the Sainsbury Institute for the Study of Japanese Arts and Cultures on tel: 01603 597507 or email The lecture in Norwich will be given in conjunction with the Third Thursday Lecture Series.

15 July 2013, 6.45pm (London)

18 July 2013, 6.00pm (Norwidch)

The Swedenborg Society, 20-21 Bloomsbury Way (Hall entrance on Barter St) London WC1A 2TH

Norwich Cathedral Hostry (Weston Room), Norwich NR1 4EH


The Japan Society, Sainsbury Institute, SOAS, Japan 400