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History of Humor: Premodern Japan

  • By: Marguerite Wells & Ronald Stewart
  • In: Encyclopedia of Humor Studies
  • Edited by: Salvatore Attardo
  • Subject:General Media, Communication & Cultural Studies, Sociology of Culture

The first record of a comedy performance in Japan concerns an eclipse. The sun goddess, the Great Sacred Goddess Who Lights the Heavens, Amaterasu Ōmikami, had hidden herself in the Cave of Heaven, plunging the earth into darkness and bringing down various disasters on the world. The goddess Ame-no-Uzume-no-Mikoto upturned a tub, stamped on it, and, pulling her skirt down to her genitals, did a strip dance, which caused the Myriad Gods Assembled to laugh until the High Plain of Heaven shook. They laughed and laughed as they tricked the goddess eventually into coming out again to light the world (Wells, 1997, p. 23; trans. Philippi, 1969, p. 84).

This account was set down in the Kojiki (The Record of Ancient Matters), Japan's oldest chronicle, which ...

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