Professor Risley and the Imperial Japanese Troupe
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Professor Risley and the Imperial Japanese Troupe

How an American Acrobat Introduced Circus to Japan— and Japan to the West

by Frederik L. Schodt

November 2012
ISBN: 978-1-61172-525-4
US $35, CAN $38.50
Hardback, 320 pages
Distributed by Consortium, a division of the Perseus Book Group

"Frederik L. Schodt has at long last unveiled the fascinating story of 'Professor Risley.' Circus scholars, history buffs, and anyone with an ounce of curiosity should be grateful to him." — Dominique Jando, Circopedia.org


In 1864, when Japan was still semi-closed to foreigners, world-famous American acrobat and impresario "Professor Risley" introduced Western-style circus to Yokohama. Less than three years later, in 1866, he formed the Imperial Japanese Troupe and left with it to tour America and Europe.


When Japan's feudal government issued its very first civilian passport to a member of Risley's troupe, it helped trigger a world-wide fever in Japanese acrobats, and all things Japanese. From San Francisco to Philadelphia, New York to London, Boston to Madrid, crowds could not get enough of performers like "Little All Right." Risley's Imperial Japanese Troupe tour thus fueled the West's first craze for Japanese popular culture—one that, unlike the better known and intellectualized Japonisme art movement, spread throughout all levels of society.


Schodt’s book is an exploration of a unique cultural connection with ramifications today: as we were seeing Japan for the first time, Japan was seeing us.
Copyright © 2012 by Stone Bridge Press