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Professor Risley and the Imperial Japanese Troupe


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Table of Contents

Table of contents Credits Foreword/Introduction A brief reflection on the now-forgotten 19th century Western craze for Japanese acrobats, its relationship to the Japonisme movement, and its parallels to the 21st century J-pop invasion. Act 1. Setting the Stage. The Imperial Japanese Troupe, led by Professor Risley, arrives in San Francisco from Yokohama, and astounds the local citizens. But they have to compete with another Japanese acrobatic troupe, which had beaten them to the city by nearly a month. Act 2. Who Was Professor Risley? The early years of Risley, showing his remarkable trajectory in life, and how he became an acrobat and impresario in the United States and Europe, with an international name recognition and celebrity rivaling the most famous modern pop stars. Act 3. Going for Gold In the late 1850s, Risley heads west, to California, Oregon, Hawaii, New Zealand, and Australia, following the trail of gold-generated wealth. He makes a successful living as an entertainer on the American and Australian frontier, performing for audiences who crave amusement. Act 4. Into Asia During the American Civil War, in the first half of the 1860s, Risley became an participant in the just-developing Asian entertainment circuit, taking his own full circus to Calcutta, Singapore, Manila, Bankok, Hong Kong, and Shanghai, to name a few cities. Act 5. Yokohama, Japan In 1864, Risley arrives in Yokohama from Shanghai with his circus, thus becoming the first person to introduce Western-style circus into Japan. Because he is not allowed to tour outside of Yokohama, his performers desert him. He remains in Yokohama, and introduces ice cream into Japan. In 1866, he hits upon the idea of taking Japanese acrobats and jugglers to Paris Exposition Universelle. His troupe members receive the first official travel permits granted to ordinary citizens in Japan. Act 6. Taking America In 1867, Risley's Imperial Japanese Troupe takes America by storm, conquering the hearts and minds of citizens in San Francisco (see chapter 1), Philadelphia, New York, Boston, Baltimore, and Washington, D.C. They meet with President Andrew Johnson and General Ulysses S. Grant, among other notables. Act 7. At the Exposition At the Paris Exposition, in the nearby Cirque Napoleon, the Imperial Japanese Troupe wins the hearts of the citizens of Paris, even though they are competing with another Japanese acrobatic group. In Paris they meet with Prince Akitake, the younger brother of the Tokugawa Shogun. Act 8. The Long Way to London When the theater they had reserved burns down in London, the Imperials tour the British provinces first, cross over to Holland and Belgium, and then open in London. Despite competition from numerous other Japanese acrobatic troupes, they win the hearts of Londoners, and perform before the Royal family. Act 9. The Matter of the Contract After conquering England, the Imperials tour Spain and Portugal, and then return to France. They face increasing difficulty, and are caught in a revolution in Spain. Their contract with Risley is nearly up, and because of their agreement with the Japanese government, it is time to go home. Act 10. Final Acts At the end of 1869, half of the Imperial Troupe returns to Japan, and the rest stay with Risley another year. The Imperial Troupe continues to be successful, but never the way they were in the beginning. Meanwhile, in Japan a revolution has taken place, and their entire world has been overturned. Afterword A summary of what it all means. * End Notes * Bibliography * Index

Promotional Information

Advanced copies Reviews and excerpts in Victoriana Magazine, Japan Times, ALA CHOICE, Chronicle of Higher Education, LJ, Booklist, College Art Association magazine, Juxtapoz, PRINT, Giant Robot, Brain Pickings, New York Times, Design Taxi Pitching author for interview (radio, TV, print and heavily online) Special outreach to academics studying cultural studies, Japan, Victorian history and the circus/performing arts, circus and performing arts blogs Publicity in conjunction with author's speaking engagements in San Francisco at the Japan Society and local bookstores Potential event/launch at UC Santa Barbara's Circus Library (Schodt is an alumnus of UCSB) Possibility to partner with Japan Societies across North America to help Schodt travel to major US & Canadian cities for multimedia lectures Promotional outreach to major circus/sideshow library archives, including Circus World Museum (WI), The University of Southern Mississippi -- McCain Library (MI), New York Public Library of Performing Arts (NY), Princeton University, Department of Rare Books and Special Collections (NJ), and the Harvard Theater Collection (MA) Promotion on the author's website, http://www.jai2.com/ Promotion to approximately 24 dedicated circus libraries in the US and almost 4 dozen circus schools, plus online circus bookstores such as Circus World Special mailings to libraries and universities with strong Asian studies and performing arts departments Participation at Asian Studies and performing arts academic trade fairs, including AAS and display copies via Academic Book Services et al.

About the Author

Frederik L. Schodt: Frederik L. Schodt is a translator and author of numerous books about Japan, including The Astro-Boy Essays, Dreamland Japan, Native American in the Land of the Shogun, and The Four Immigrants Manga. He often served as Osamu Tezuka's English interpreter. In 2009 he received the The Order of the Rising Sun, Gold Rays with Rosette for his contribution to the introduction and promotion of Japanese contemporary popular culture. Frederik L. Schodt is an award-winning author of multiple books on the interplay of Japanese and American culture, with an emphasis on popular culture and on unique individuals who have made unusual cross-cultural contributions.


"There have been some intriguing biographies of seminal Japanese cultural figures in recent years...Schodt's work on the audacious and brilliant Professor Risley takes its place among these fine works." -- Kyoto Journal, Dec. 2014 "[A] fascinating narrative ... In chronicling Risley's checkered and colorful career, Schodt illuminates the rivalries and precariousness of the circus business and portrays vividly this early encounter between Japan and the West." (Recommended for all readers). --Choice, April 2013 "An intriguing look at international relations, culture, the circus, and its effects on the modern day, 'Professor Risley' is a must for anyone seeking an original and offbeat take on history, highly recommended."--Midwest Book Review "Pick up Schodt's latest book and move well beyond a study of Japanese culture. Schodt takes us all around the world of 19th-century entertainment: the competition, the disdain, the copycats and the triumphs. It's a captivating story about a pioneer in international entertainment."--The Japan Times "If you have any interest in Japanese history -- whatsoever -- pick up this book. Schodt knocked this title out of the park. It's a real page-turner, and that's saying a lot when dealing with a history book."-- Japanator blog

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