Otogi-zoshi, short prose fiction popular among a range of social classes, anticipated the broadening social base of literature that developed with the establishment of the Tokugawa shogunate in 1603, when almost total cultural and physical isolation from other countries created economic conditions that led to a thriving culture of the bourgeoisie. Early Edo prose literature encompassed a diverse range of subjects: didactic tracts, travel guides, essays, satires, and picaresque fiction. Ihara Saikaku was the foremost master of this last form; his novel Koshoku ichidai onna [the life of an amorous woman] is an ironic look at a world of pleasure and eroticism.
The literary tastes of the bourgeoisie also contributed to the development of the kabuki and puppet ( joruri ; also known as bunraku ) theaters. Plays by dramatist Chikamatsu Monzaemon (1653–1724), originally written for the puppet theater but adapted into kabuki performance as well, are important in world literature as the first mature tragedies written about the common man. Matsuo Basho, regarded as the greatest of haiku poets, brought the developing haiku, a 17-syllable poem, into full flower. Yosa Buson (1716–81) and Kobayashi Issa (1763–1828) were also important haiku poets. Later Edo fiction, called gesaku, was mostly comic or satirical in nature, although it also included long Confucian didactic tales.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.