Comparative Guts

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Inshoku yōjō kagami

(飲食養生鑑, “Mirror of Dietary Regimen”; ca. 1850)

This popular print proffering advice on food and health highlights another major theme of early modern economic society—an intensified emphasis on hard work, which the economic historian Akira Hayami termed the “industrious revolution.” (5) But it also illustrates two more subtle developments.

One is the influence of Western medicine. Although the guts depicted here are not anatomical organs but the wuzang liufu, they do import one notable trait from contemporary European imaginings about the guts: they are full of excrement, and they stink (6)

The other is the rise of a keen interest in the living voice. The inscriptions inside the body record the complaints and joking remarks shared by the wuzang liufu. This was another remarkable feature of the guts reimagined in urbanized Japan: the viscera now spoke, and quite volubly (7).

Those interested in examining this image in greater detail can do so here, in the special collections of the University of California, San Francisco.
(5) Akira Hayami, “The rise of industriousness in early modern Japan,” in Hayami, Japan’s Industrious Revolution (see note 1 above).

(6) Shigehisa Kuriyama, “Life and excrement; the reimagination of flow in Edo Japan (1603-1868)” in Natalie Köhle and Shigehisa Kuriyama eds., Fluid Matter(s); flow and the transformation in the history of the body  (Australia National University Press, 2020).

(7) On the interest in capturing live speech in nineteenth century Japan, see Seth Jacobowitz, Writing Technology in Meiji Japan; a Media History of Modern Japanese Literature and Visual Culture (Harvard University Press, 2016) and Kerim Yasar, Electrified Voices; How the Telephone, Phonograph and Radio Shaped Modern Japan 1868-1945 (Columbia University Press, 2018).