This Scheming World–According To The Smiths

Ihara Saikaku’s This Scheming World is a classic of Edojidai Japanese literature. The book is a series of vignettes, all centered around New Year’s Day. In Tokugawa-era Japan, New Year’s Day was the major occasion for settling debts, much as Michaelmas traditionally was in England. Every story shows chonin, the urban merchant class, scrimping for money, begging for money, scamming for money. In story after story, Saikaku lightly shows how the need for cash overcomes all else, twists every aspect of human life, causes people to lie to themselves and each other.

Wait a second-a witty, urbane voice with a decidedly cynical viewpoint? That reminds me of a band!

This Scheming World
(to the tune of The Smiths’s ‘This Charming Man‘)

Empty moneysleeve
And my future’s desolate
Will fortune make me beg for rice yet?

Poor in this scheming world
This scheming world

How can I thrive
Financially
When silk costs so much per half
hiki?

I would go out tonight
but I haven’t got a
mon to spare
My landlord
is outside
He’s intent on getting his share

A broke-ass chonin boy
With a valuable
koto
He says “I’ll hock the strings”
It costs too much to buy my things
It costs too much to buy my things

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