Rethinking Japanese Modernism

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Rethinking Japanese Modernism

Rethinking Japanese Modernism

Edited by

Roy Starrs University of Otago


Cover illustration: photo strip from left to right: Kawabe Masahisa, ‘Mekamizumu’ (1924, Itabashi Art Museum), Koga Harue, ‘The Sea’ (1929, The National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo), Yorozu Tetsugoro, ‘Self Portrait with Red Eyes’ (1912-13, Iwate Museum of Art), and Inagaki Chusei, ‘Tayū’ (1919,  The National Museum of Modern Art, Kyoto). Cover calligraphy of the Japanese word modanizumu (meaning ‘modernism’) by Kyoko Goto. This book is printed on acid-free paper. Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Rethinking Japanese modernism / edited by Roy Starrs. p. cm. Includes bibliographical references and index. ISBN-13: 978-90-04-21003-5 (acid-free paper) ISBN-10: 90-04-21003-2 (acid-free paper) 1. Japan–Civilization–1868- 2. Japan–Intellectual life–1868- 3. Modernism (Aesthetics)– Japan. 4. Modernism (Art)–Japan. 5. Modernism (Literature)–Japan. 6. Performing arts–Japan. 7. Japan–Social life and customs. 8. Social change–Japan. 9. Popular culture–Japan. 10. City and town life–Japan. I. Starrs, Roy, 1946- II. Title. DS822.25.R48 2011 952–dc23 2011033738

ISBN 978 90 04 21003 5 Copyright 2012 by Koninklijke Brill NV, Leiden, The Netherlands. Koninklijke Brill NV incorporates the imprints Brill, Global Oriental, Hotei Publishing, IDC Publishers, Martinus Nijhoff Publishers and VSP. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, translated, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without prior written permission from the publisher. Authorization to photocopy items for internal or personal use is granted by Koninklijke Brill NV provided that the appropriate fees are paid directly to The Copyright Clearance Center, 222 Rosewood Drive, Suite 910, Danvers, MA 01923, USA. Fees are subject to change.


Acknowledgements List of Figures

ix xi PART ONE

RETHINKING JAPANESE MODERNISM Japanese Modernism Reconsidered Roy Starrs, University of Otago


Rewriting the Literary History of Japanese Modernism Suzuki Sadami, International Research Centre for Japanese Studies, Kyoto


Modernism and Modernity Charles Shirō Inouye, Tufts University


The Modern in Meiji Japan—and Elsewhere in Time and Place Ken Henshall, University of Canterbury


‘Overcoming Modernity’ and Conflicting Views of Japan’s Cultural Mission: Inoue Tetsujirō and Sawayanagi Masatarō Yushi Ito, Victoria University of Wellington


Awakening between Science, Art and Ethics: Variations of Japanese Buddhist Modernism, 1890–1945 James Mark Shields, Bucknell University



contents PART TWO

MODERNISM IN JAPANESE FICTION FROM AKUTAGAWA TO SHIINA A Modernist Nostalgia: The Colonial Landscape of Enlightenment Tokyo in Akutagawa Ryūnosuke and Edogawa Rampo Seiji M. Lippit, University of California, Los Angeles


Cosmopolitanism and Anxiety of Influence in Akutagawa Ryūnosuke’s Kirishitan mono Rebecca Suter, University of Sydney


Literary Appropriations of the Modern: The Case of Akutagawa Ryūnosuke and August Strindberg Mats Karlsson, University of Sydney


Modernism and its Endings: Kajii Motojirō as Transitional Writer Stephen Dodd, SOAS, University of London


Shiina Rinzō: A Japanese Literary Response to the ‘Overcoming Modernity’ Symposium Mark Williams, University of Leeds



MODERNISM IN PREWAR JAPANESE POETRY AND MUSIC Modernism in Prewar Japanese Poetry Leith Morton, Tokyo Institute of Technology


A Modernist Traditionalist: Miyagi Michio, Transculturalism, and the Making of a Music Tradition Henry Johnson, University of Otago


Changing the Subject: Modernism and the Travel Poetry of Mori Michiyo Janice Brown, University of Colorado


contents Aborted Modernism: The Semantics of the Avant-garde in Yamamura Bochō’s ‘Prismism’ Pierantonio Zanotti, Ca’ Foscari University—Venice ‘Overcoming Modernity’ in Kenji Miyazawa Takao Hagiwara, Case Western Reserve University


286 310


MODERNISM IN JAPANESE PAINTING Reorienting Painting Matthew Larking, Doshisha University, Kyoto Transcending the Boundaries of the ‘isms’: Pursuing Modernity through the Machine in 1920s and 1930s Japanese Avant-Garde Art Chinghsin Wu, University of California at Los Angeles ‘Fair is Foul, and Foul is Fair’: Kyoto Nihonga, Anti-Bijin Portraiture and the Psychology of the Grotesque John D. Szostak, University of Hawaii at Manoa





MODERNISM IN JAPANESE POPULAR CULTURE AND EVERYDAY LIFE Japanese Mythological Modernism: The Story of Puck and the Appearance of kindaijin Roman Rosenbaum, University of Sydney Takarazuka and the Musical Modan in the Hanshin Region 1914-1942 Alison Tokita, Tokyo Institute of Technology and Monash University The Department Store: Producing Modernity in Interwar Japan Elise K. Tipton, University of Sydney






Abe Isoo and Baseball—New Social Relations beyond the Family-State Institution Masako Gavin, Bond University



MODERNISM TO POSTMODERNISM IN JAPANESE THEATRE AND FICTION Evolutionary Aspects of Modernism in Japanese Drama Yasuko Claremont, University of Sydney Instructing, Constructing, Deconstructing: The Embodied and Disembodied Performances of Yoko Ono Vera Mackie, University of Wollongong Affective and Cognitive Mapping in Post-1960s Japan: The Influence of American Melancholic Modernism and Emerging Postmodernism on Murakami Haruki’s Early Fiction and Beyond Jonathan Dil, Chuo University Index



502 521


Many chapters in this book were originally presented as papers at the Otago Conference on Japanese Modernism, hosted by me at the University of Otago in Dunedin, New Zealand, in August 2009. I would first like to thank all those who attended from all points of the globe (at their own expense) and made this such a wonderfully memorable and worthwhile event—exceeding even my greatest expectations. I would also like to gratefully acknowledge the support provided for this event by the Asia New Zealand Foundation and by the Department of Languages and Cultures at the University of Otago. Finally, I gratefully acknowledge support towards the publication of this book provided by the Division of Humanities of the University of Otago. We respectfully dedicate this celebration of the achievements of Japanese modernism to the memory of those who lost their lives in the Tōhoku Earthquake of 11 March 2011. Our tears fall Like blood from a wound— Will it ever heal? Roy Starrs Dunedin, 7 April 2011


Charles Shirō Inouye

1. Signs of god with higher and lower figurality 2. Both of these self portraits are figural. But the one on the right, by Yorozu Tetsugorō (1885–1927), has higher figurality than Yokoyama Matsusaburō’s (1838-1884), which tries to hide both the materiality of paint and the presence of a painter



Chinghsin Wu

1. Kawabe Masahisa, Mekamizumu (‘Mechanism’), 1924 2. NNK and Mavoists, Sanka Exhibition Entrance Tower, 1925 3. Takamizawa Michinao, Model for the Kant 200-Year Memorial Tower, 1924 4. Yanase Masamu, cover for Senki (‘Fighting Flag’), January 1930 5. Yanase Masamu, cover for Senki (‘Fighting Flag’), May 1930 6. Koga Harue, The Sea, 1929 7. Yanase Masamu, Capitalismus, ca. 1924

354 355 356 357 358 359 360

John D. Szostak

1. Tsuchida Bakusen, Hair, 1911. Framed: ink, colour on silk. Kyoto City University. 2. Tōshūsai Sharaku, Actor Sanokawa Ichimatsu III as the Gion Courtesan Onayo, 1794. Colour woodblock print. Tokyo National Museum. 3. Inagaki Chūsei, Oiran, 1919. Framed: ink, colour, gold, silver on silk. Kyoto National Museum of Modern Art. 4. Okamoto Shinsō, Lip Rouge, 1918. Two-panel folding screen: ink, colour, gold, silver on silk. Kyoto City University of the Arts.






list of figures

5. Chigusa Sōun, Day Filled with Monotony, 1909. Framed: ink, colour on silk. Kyoto National Museum of Modern Art 6. Kajiwara Hisako, Used Clothing Market, 1920. Framed: ink, colour on silk. Kyoto City Art Museum 7. Takemura Hakuhō, Rikisha Driver and his Wife, circa 1918. Hanging scroll: ink, colour on silk. Hoshino Garō 8. Soga Shōhaku, Beauty (Mad Woman), 1765. Hanging scroll: ink, colour on paper. Nara National Museum of Art 9. Tokuoka Shinsen, Mad Woman, circa 1918. Framed: ink, colour on silk. Tokyo National Museum of Modern Art 10. Kajiwara Hisako, Sisters, circa 1915. Framed: ink, colour on silk. Kyoto City Art Museum 11. Yanagi Miwa, My Grandmothers: Akiyo, Mai, Hitomi and Noriko, 2004. Photograph. Collection of the artist





379 380


Roman Rosenbaum


Kōsai no umai gunjin (The sociable soldier, 1913) 2. Inaugural issue of the second instalment of Tokyo Puck, June 1912 3. Inaugural issue of Tokyo Puck, Kitazawa Rakuten, April 1905 (Meiji 38), shortly before the focus shifted to the emperor’s declining health

394 397


Elise K. Tipton

1. Mitsukoshi cover October 1925 2. Illuminated Mitsukoshi 3. Mitsukoshi lounge

439 440 443



JAPANESE MODERNISM RECONSIDERED Roy Starrs Il faut être absolument moderne. —Rimbaud1

Solzhenitsyn’s Challenge In an interview with the German magazine Der Spiegel in July 2007, Alexander Solzhenitsyn remarked: Periods of rapid and fundamental change were never favourable for literature. Significant works, not to mention great works, have nearly always and everywhere been created in periods of stability, be it a good or a bad stability. Modern Russian literature is no exception.2

Looking back on twentieth century literature about a year before his death, then, the Russian writer was quite dismissive of its value, and in the process, it seems to me, put his finger on a defining element of modernism—albeit with a negative intention (but negative definitions are sometimes quite useful). Needless to say, Solzhenitsyn was no modernist—neither in his literary practice nor in his social and political views. In fact, he was an arch-conservative in the old Russian manner, a believer in the eternal verities of the Orthodox Church and, as is obvious even in this quote, in the almost absolute value of a stable, unchanging social order. Thus, in a rather deep sense, he was an anti-modernist, because modernism, above all, not only accepts and celebrates change but also sees itself as a force for change. Of course, there are many varieties of modernism but all modernists have this in common: a desire to break with the past and make something radically new, whether their field of action is society, culture, ideology, or the arts. In this widest sense, 1920s avant-garde art was modernist, but so too was 1920s fascism, which sought a radical break from the immediate past even as it 1 Arthur Rimbaud, Une saison en enfer, in Oeuvres complètes, Paris, Gallimard, Bibliothèque de la Pléiade, 1979, p. 116. 2 Der Spiegel, July 2007.


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presented itself as an agent for the revival of some distant, mythical past and, of course, made full use of all the latest science and technology. But I evoke the figure of Alexander Solzhenitsyn here not merely to knock him back down as a straw man, as a specimen of a hopelessly anachronistic conservative; I evoke him because I think his challenge to modernism is a serious one, perhaps even an unanswerable one—because ultimately it is based on the metaphysical imponderables of a religious faith—and certainly a challenge that all apologists for modernism would do well to confront. If I may presume to flesh out Solzhenitsyn’s argument a little more, I think it would go something like this: really significant or great works of literature or art are those which speak to all ages, works which, even though they were created centuries ago, are as meaningful to people today as they were when first created. They attain this timeless value by expressing certain universal truths about human nature or human destiny, or, on a more cosmic scale, about nature or God. Modernist art, by definition, belongs pre-eminently to its own age, and thus may quickly become obsolete. For instance, much modernist art is ‘conceptual’ and depends for its effect on the ‘shock of the new’ (in Robert Hughes’ famous phrase); but this is an extremely transient value: the new soon becomes old—the novelty wears off. 1920s Dadaism is a good example—today it seems more quaint than shocking. To take two extreme examples: objets trouvés such as Duchamp’s urinal and Picasso’s bicycle bars. In the 1920s, Marcel Duchamp could put his urinal in an art gallery and call it a fountain, thus cleverly thumbing his nose at the conservative ‘artistic establishment’ of his day; or Pablo Picasso, in a more delightful creative mood, could use bicycle bars to represent a bull’s horns; but if an artist did the same thing today he would be like someone telling a stale joke—although today’s ‘artistic establishment’ might well applaud. In other words, such works are severely ‘time-bound’, their value is historically determined far more than is the value of traditional art: they quickly lose the ‘shock of the new’. This issue of transient versus permanent value goes to the very heart of the matter of aesthetic judgement that modernist art often consciously problematizes. Traditional artistic values such as the technical mastery of media or materials hardly seem to count in such works; their value is pure idea or imagination: a defiant shock value, but also a kind of whimsical humour. Thus, traditionalists such as Solzhenitsyn would argue, they are much inferior to the great art of the past, which was created in periods of stability

japanese modernism reconsidered


when moral and aesthetic values were deeply grounded in a timeless system of belief. Only an art rooted in such ‘eternal verities’ can have lasting value. Solzhenitsyn’s is the older ‘religious version’ of this argument, historically grounded in the Catholic/Orthodox ‘universal religion’ of the Middle Ages; there is also a newer, more secular, more explicitly political version, historically grounded in anti-Enlightenment Herderian-Romantic cultural nationalism, which argues that great art or culture in general must be rooted in the everlasting ‘national soul’ or Volksgeist, or at least in the millennial national-cultural tradition. Of course apologists for modernism have many good ways to answer these arguments, not least by attacking the very premises on which they are based: for instance, that there is such a phenomenon as a timeless art embodying universal truth or beauty. Or, of course, one might also challenge the very idea of a stable society or a stable culture—did such a thing ever really exist?—although obviously some societies or cultures may be relatively more stable than others. But, since modernism is, indeed, in a very real sense, time-bound, with its emphasis on the always-new, perhaps the best counter-argument is an historical one: we live in an age of continual crisis and transition, what has been called a liminoid state, always on the threshold but never completely at home, and artists must adjust to this situation just like everyone else. They cannot base their art on a non-existent social stability or non-existent religious, ideological, or national consensus. Artists who try to do so, like Solzhenitsyn himself, inevitably seem anachronistic, relics of a bygone age. The series of revolutions that have occurred since the late eighteenth century—whether social, political, industrial, technological, or scientific—have removed all stability and certainty from our lives. We live in a state of constant flux, and modernism recognizes this fact, speaks to it, and even embraces it, rather than trying to ignore or escape from it. The alternative for us would be to live in hermitic isolation, like Trappist monks. Modernism, then, conceives of itself, in the first instance, as a way of responding to the given realities of the ‘modern condition’—a fresh way of responding to social and cultural conditions that have changed far too radically to be adequately represented by ‘traditional’ modes of expression or traditional ideological interpretations. In other words, modernism firstly is a response to the ‘crisis in representation’ caused by the historical forces of modernity. But what then, more precisely, is the nature of the relation between modernism and modernity?


roy starrs Modernism and Modernity

The word ‘modernity’, although vague and perhaps all too encompassing, seems a relatively easy one to define, perhaps because, basically, it refers to a fairly recent phase of historical transformation. Of course, there is disagreement about when the ‘modern age’ actually began, or about what historical forces actually ushered it in, with leading contenders ranging from the Renaissance to the Industrial and Scientific Revolutions, or even, for those who prefer a narrower focus, the First World War. But there seems to be general agreement about what the constituent elements of modernity are: for instance, a postEnlightenment, secular mode of thinking; the rise of modern science and of the modern nation-state; revolutionary social changes such as those towards greater gender, class, and ethnic equality; intensive urbanization and industrialization; an ever-quickening pace of life; the rise of capitalism, consumerism and of the middle class; what Ortega y Gasset referred to as the ‘revolt of the masses’ or ‘the accession of the masses to complete social power’: that is, a general democratization or massification of culture and society (though this did not necessarily result in political democracy—even fascist culture was a culture of the ‘common man’); the dawning of the ‘machine age’ and the resultant mechanization and regulation of more and more aspects of everyday life; and the explosive growth of new technologies, especially ever-faster, ever-wider modes of transportation and communication. Of course, even this rather lengthy list is not exhaustive, given the diverse and multitudinous ways human life has been impacted by modernity. In contrast to ‘modernity’, however, the term ‘modernism’, no doubt because it includes an ideological element (it is an ‘ism’, after all), is rather more problematical—not least when we try to define the precise nature of its ideological relation to modernity. This relation is by no means as straightforward as is generally assumed—and least of all in the Japanese context. For instance, in Japan as elsewhere, modernism can take the form both of a celebration of modernity and of a jeremiad against the ‘modern condition’—oxymoronic as this may seem, the phenomenon of what might be called ‘anti-modern modernism’ is by no means uncommon. Indeed, Charles Inouye argues in his essay here that this contrary impulse is fundamental to the modernist project: ‘This notion that modernists are somehow “more modern than modern” follows from a fundamental misunderstanding of modernity . . . far

japanese modernism reconsidered


from being a radical affirmation of modernity, modernism is a reaction to it, or an intended correction.’ On the one hand, because modernism is a socio-political as well as an aesthetic movement, just as modernist artists sought to revolutionize the practice of their arts, so too did political ideologues, feminists, industrialists, journalists, ad men, engineers, department store owners and innumerable other agents of modernity seek—some more consciously than others—to radically transform existing socio-political structures. As illustrated in depth by the chapters in Part Five of the present book, on ‘modernism in Japanese popular culture and everyday life’, the positive ‘modernist forces’ that had profound transformative effects on early twentieth century Japanese society were multiple and diverse: for instance, popular satirical magazines (which, as Roman Rosenbaum argues, ‘emerged as a visual avatar of modernism in Japan’); the Takarazuka popular musical theatre (which, as Alison Tokita explains, was created out of the railway tycoon Kobayashi Ichizō’s ‘commercial interests, supplemented by his paternalistic vision of a modern education for girls and the creation of a modern consumer culture’); new grand-scale department stores (which, as Elise K. Tipton notes, ‘contributed to the valorization of change and innovation as progress’ and ‘fostered the democratization of modernism as well as luxury to the Japanese “masses”’); and even popular new sports such as baseball (seen by the pioneer socialist Abe Isoo ‘as a tool for awakening Japanese to a new behavioural pattern beyond the familystate institution’, as Masako Gavin points out). On the other hand, there was a widely-held view, in Japan as in the West, that modernity had produced a variety of social and psychological ills, including a breakdown of family and community bonds, moral decline or even decadence, and a psychological condition of alienation and anomie. Among the masses of working poor, the industrialization of work often resulted in horrendous working conditions—especially for female workers. Thus, in emotional terms, the prospect of an everaccelerating pace of modernization was as likely to inspire fear and loathing, or unease and foreboding, as it was to be welcomed as a liberating release from the heavy hand of the past. John D. Szostak, for instance, in his chapter herein, finds this more negative view of modernity to be prevalent among the Kyoto Nihonga painters: The Humanist School was not an organized movement, but a shared interest among Kyoto Nihonga painters who chose as their general site of artistic inquiry the negative consequences of Japan’s rapid Westernization, particularly on those who were left behind or victimized in the


roy starrs process. The social and cultural landscape they illustrate is not unlike that described 40 years earlier by Émile Zola (1840–1902) when he characterized France as a nation ‘sick with progress’ whose literature was ‘the direct product of our anxiety, of our bitter striving, of our panic, and of the general uneasiness that afflicts a society heading blindly towards an unknown future’.

Similarly, in her study herein of the symbolism of the machine in Japanese modernist art, Chinghsin Wu finds that, as the symbol par excellence of modernity, the machine is fraught with ambivalence. On the one hand, the ‘concept of the machine was often connected with the idea of a bright and optimistic future or praised as a new, fresh, and unconventional image. By applying themselves to this new subject matter, artists would be able to escape the bonds of traditional modes of representation and achieve a revolutionary expression.’ But, on the other hand, ‘the fraught and complicated relationship between humans and machines, and a simultaneous embrace of and resistance against a highly industrialized and mechanized modernity can also be seen in the artworks of the 1920s and 1930s’. For instance, machines were often presented as negative symbols of modernity from a Marxist viewpoint: as weapons of capitalist exploitation of workers and of the dehumanization and alienation of labour. Perhaps because the attitude of modernists to modernity was an ambiguous one, the ‘politics of modernism’ also were just as ambiguous. They could be of the left or right, or even, arguably, apolitical. If we look at the two major literary modernist movements of the 1920s in Japan, for instance, we find that one, the so-called neo-sensory school (shinkankakuha) tended to be aesthetically modernist while politically conservative, while the other, the Marxist-influenced proletarian literature (puroretaria bungaku) movement, was quite the reverse. Thus, although both were ‘modernist’ in the widest sense of the term, in that they believed that the conditions of modernity called for radical change, politically they were very much at odds with each other. Since the same situation obtained in many parts of the world in the 1920s and 1930s, with Marxist modernists accusing aesthetic modernists of being decadent bourgeois ‘formalists’ and even closet fascists (and, of course, some did come out of the closet), and aesthetic modernists counter-accusing Marxist modernists of sacrificing their art to a narrow political dogmatism, it may be tempting to accept this left/right political divide as a universal pattern. But, of course, that too would be an over-simplification: not all artists on the left subscribed to

japanese modernism reconsidered


‘proletarian realism’—there were even some surrealists among them, or others who were formally or aesthetically daring or revolutionary in other ways; and, on the other hand, some on the right—officially approved Nazi artists, for instance—were as reactionary artistically as they were politically. Indeed, some leading contemporary scholars of fascism such as Roger Griffin and Emilio Gentile have recently argued that fascism itself was a paradoxical kind of reactionary/revolutionary modernism that proffered an ‘alternate modernity’, an anti-modern modernism that tried to clothe itself in the sacred mantle of a ‘return to tradition’. In his recent major work, Modernism and Fascism, Griffin identifies a ‘profound kinship’ between these two responses to the ‘modern condition’, especially evident in fascism’s revolutionary, palingenetic worldview, its promise of a new beginning, a ‘born-again’ making anew of art or society, a promise it shared with other forms of modernism.3 In the Japanese context, Walter Skya has shown how the Japanese fascism of the 1930s was characterized by a similar kind of reactionary/revolutionary modernism, specifically in its exploitation of the imperial Shinto tradition to fashion a fascist-style ‘radical ultranationalism’ centred on emperor-worship—all represented, of course, as a mythic ‘revival of tradition’.4 And Shinto was by no means the only ‘traditional Japanese religion’ that proved to be of use to the fascists. In his chapter herein, James Mark Shields shows how the ‘existential and aesthetic’ kind of Buddhist modernism constructed by Nishida Kitarō and the Kyoto School, the ‘most prominent philosophical school of twentieth-century Japan’, helped provide, in Christopher Ives’ words, ‘a philosophical foundation for the «holy war» being waged in the name of the emperor’. In short, although modernism certainly did possess a political dimension, it cannot be said to have assumed any single or clearly definable ideological complexion—the ‘politics of modernism’ were as variegated and ambiguous as ‘modernist aesthetics’. For Japan in particular there is one further complicating factor: modernity itself was often perceived as having a suspect alien origin; as in other non-Western nations, modernization was problematized as a form of ‘Westernization’, and thus perceived as a threat to the ‘native tradition’, both by the Japanese themselves and by sympathetic and influential Westerners such as, most famously, the popular Victorian interpreter of Japan, Lafcadio Hearn. Arguably this was all based 3 4

Griffin 2007: 2-8. Skya 2009.


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on a misunderstanding. What these nineteenth and early twentiethcentury observers failed to realize—perhaps because of the dizzying pace of the transformations they were witnessing—was that Japan’s ‘modernization’ did not begin in 1853 or 1868 with its ‘second opening to the West’; it had actually begun much earlier, in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, and more as a result of internal sociopolitical forces than of any external pressures from the West. Nonetheless, this problematization itself became an important part of the Japanese experience of modernity. As Yushi Ito shows here, already by the late Meiji period certain leading intellectuals were advocating a ‘return to tradition’ as a way of ‘overcoming’ (‘Western’) modernity. And such mistrustful conflations of ‘modernization’ with ‘Westernization’ led ultimately to a nationalist backlash in the fascist years of the 1930s and 1940s, as expressed most explicitly in the ‘overcoming modernity’ symposium held in Tokyo in July 1942, a significant intellectual-historical event touched upon by a number of the essays in the present volume. Interestingly enough, the views on modernity and modernism expressed by those participants who wanted to ‘overcome modernity’ sound remarkably similar to those expressed by Solzhenitsyn over six decades later. And this is no coincidence: the same champion of Orthodox tradition and arch-enemy of the ‘esprit moderne’ of the West—Dostoevsky, who might be called the ‘patron saint of anti-modernity’—stands behind both. As Mark Williams says herein about the symposium: ‘the shadow of Dostoevsky hung over the entire discussion . . . ’ And he notes that Kobayashi Hideo, the most influential critic of the day, learnt from Dostoevsky that ‘literature should not be “regarded as a mere expression of its society and era”’. Rather ‘the challenge confronting the author was [in Harry Harootunian’s paraphrase] to “show how art was able to escape the uncertainties of social change and reflect or signify a life endowed with enduring and lasting meaning”’. For Kobayashi, adds Williams, this was ‘the key to the aesthetic beauty that he saw as the hallmark of enduring art’. The flip side of the view of modernity as something alien and ‘Western’ is the view of Japanese modernism as somehow ‘inauthentic’ because, supposedly, it is a mere copycat version of the ‘original’ Western model. Because modernism was seen as an exclusively ‘Western’ phenomenon, especially in its origins, Western—and even some Japanese—treatments of Japanese modernism in the 1970s and 1980s tended to treat it as derivative, clumsily imitative, inauthentic, a passing

japanese modernism reconsidered


fad. It was as if modernism were a kind of aesthetic version of swine flu: young Japanese writers or artists might ‘catch’ the dreaded ‘Western rash’ (seiyō kabure5), especially while overseas, and then exhibit all the symptoms of a high fever, including surrealistic hallucinations and delusional stream-of-consciousness thinking. But, luckily, they recovered once they ‘returned to Japan’ and got down to the serious business of creating an authentically ‘Japanese’ art or literature. The leading postwar art historian, Kawakita Michiaki, for instance, regarded the Japanese versions of ‘futurism, Dadaism, and surrealism’ as examples of the ‘faddism and decadence’ of the modernism that followed the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923—in his view, as a kind of hysterical reaction to the trauma of that event.6 (Actually such modernist movements already existed in Japan years before the great quake, which might have provided a further stimulus to modernism but was by no means the single decisive event that ‘triggered’ it.) Kawakita’s own tastes seem all too orthodox and conservative to us today: he canonizes Yasui Sōtarō and Umehara Ryūzaburō as the two ‘titans of Japanese art’ of the Shōwa era,7 seeing their work as the culmination of yōga—that is, as the first true Japanization or nativization of Western oil painting: ‘The Yasui-Umehara period may be viewed as the formative age of the first genuinely Japanese version of modern Western art. This was the logical and inevitable conclusion of the Western-art movement that had started eighty or ninety years earlier.’8 Kawakita argues that this ‘genuine’ Japaneseness was achieved by combining Western influences with the aesthetics of native painting traditions such as those of the yamato-e and the nanga.9 This may well be true but, from our present perspective, it is hard to accept the Rénoiresque nudes and Cézannesque landscapes of these two painters as the cutting edge of mid-twentieth-century Japanese art—to the contemporary eye their thick, turgid impastos seem stodgy, conservative, and on the whole rather unexcitingly derrière-garde. A dismissive view of Japanese modernism was also prevalent among the postwar generation of Western Japanologists who preferred their Japanese art and literature to seem ‘quintessentially Japanese’—that is, highly redolent of ‘Japanese tradition’. For them, obviously, Japanese 5

See Tyler 2008: 7-8. Kawakita 1974: 121. 7 Kawakita 1974: 110. 8 Kawakita 1974: 124. 9 Kawakita 1974: 123. 6


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modernist art was not Japanese enough, not authentically rooted in Japanese history and tradition. Thus writers who seemed more ‘traditionally Japanese’, Kawabata Yasunari and Tanizaki Jun’ichirō for instance, were canonized as ‘modern classics’. Nonetheless, even in their cases, it was these writers’ more ‘traditional’ works that were privileged above their more experimental ‘modernist’ works. Donald Keene, for instance, proclaims that: For Tanizaki or Kawabata Modernism was only a passing phase in careers devoted to more traditional literature; to treat them as Modernists would be misleading, if only because their best works are not in this vein.10

This sweeping statement, it seems to me, manages to be wrong in all three of its claims, since modernism, far from being a passing phase, was a profound influence on both these writers’ entire careers, including on their best works; thus it is highly misleading to claim that their careers were ‘devoted to more traditional literature’.11 Conversely, in contrast to such putatively ‘traditional’ authors, writers such as Yokomitsu Ri’ichi, who were seen as more purely ‘modernist’, were given rather short shrift. For instance, another keen critic of Japanese modernism, Dennis Keene, in his pioneering study, Yokomitsu Ri’ichi, Modernist (1980), dismisses Yokomitsu’s modernism, as well as Japanese modernism in general, as inauthentic, shallow, and fundamentally imitative of an ‘authentic’ Western original, which it misapprehends or mistranslates or understands only superficially, by its ‘surfaces’. Thus any Japanese modernist literary work, for instance, seems like ‘a parody written by a schoolboy’.12 In the visual arts, the art historian Joan Stanley-Baker also seemed to subscribe to this cultural-nationalist conception of what makes art ‘authentic’ and, consequently, to a derogatory view of Japanese modernist art: ‘An avant-garde image, despite vigorous promotion by the establishment, lacks a genuine basis and remains an odd phenomenon within Japan. The other arts, however, rooted in long traditions, fairly burst with vitality.’13 In a similar vein, she lauds the sculptor Nagare Masayuki, for being, despite his modernism, ‘never false to his Japanese roots’ and laments the fact that he is ‘largely ignored by the 10

Keene 1984: 631. For an extended analysis of Kawabata’s lifelong modernism, see my Soundings in Time: The Fictive Art of Yasunari Kawabata, especially Chapter Four, ‘Between Tradition and Modernity’. 12 Keene 1980: 62. 13 Stanley-Baker 1984: 198. 11

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establishment at home for fear of promoting antiquated standards’ . . . 14 ‘Like many Japanese artists of vision’, she opines, ‘he has suffered from the postwar frenzy to create an international face for Japan . . . and the resulting imposition of a rather self-conscious Western standard on Japanese artists’ who were ‘encouraged to emulate the latest innovation seen in foreign art journals’.15 Happily though, she sees hope in the rise of a new Japanese nationalism in the 1980s: ‘The recent rise in nationalism has, however, produced signs of a changing attitude and a growing awareness that Japan’s own traditions are vital and valid.’16 How times have changed! Though a mere quarter century has passed, it is hard to imagine any Japan scholar today writing that sentence. In our present age of globalization and rampant cultural hybridity, few would argue that art must necessarily have ‘deep national roots’. But it was the prevalence of exactly such cultural nationalism as the default view of both Japanese and Western scholars until the 1980s that led to a generally negative attitude towards Japanese modernism until that time. No one ever seemed to ask: how can this ‘inauthenticity’ of Japanese modernism be demonstrated? What are its aesthetic markers? For instance, how can it be demonstrated that a cubist painting such as Yorozu Tetsugorō’s Leaning Person (1917) is less authentic than a Picasso or Braque of the same period? (Indeed, if the artist’s name were unknown, how could anyone even identify his nationality just by looking at this painting?) Similarly, one might ask how Kawabata Yasunari’s literary modernism may be shown to be less ‘authentic’ than that of European writers: for instance, the surrealism of his ‘palm-of-hand stories’ or his highly skilful use of the ‘stream of consciousness’ technique in a work such as Crystal Fantasies (Suishō gensō, 1931). Are these demonstrably less authentic than the modernist styles or techniques of Breton and Joyce? Surely it seems obvious to us today that all such judgements of the authenticity of works of art according to their national origins are highly susceptible to a reductio ad absurdum. As William Gardner observes, ‘this comparativism blinds itself to the ways in which these works respond, not to European modernism, but to their situation within the contemporary Japanese literary sphere and, in broader terms, within their own cultural, technological, and historical moment. . . . ’17 14 15 16 17

Stanley-Baker 1984: 199. Stanley-Baker 1984: 199-200. Stanley-Baker 1984: 201. Gardner 2006: 17.


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Fortunately, a number of more recent studies, such as Gardner’s own, have done much to correct this kind of invidious comparativism, not only through a deeper understanding of Japanese modernism’s own historical and cultural context but also by seeing modernism itself in wider, more global terms rather than as an exclusively Western phenomenon. As William Tyler notes, since the mid-1980s Japanese scholars in particular have argued for this ‘different view’ based on the idea of dōjisei or simultaneousness: ‘Following the theory of synchronicity or simultaneity, it argues for the point of view that modernism unfolded contemporaneously across the globe, or at least in nations or social sectors sharing analogous levels of economic, technological, and cultural development.’18 For instance, it could be argued that modernism is, above everything else, a product of the new urban culture of the new species of twentieth-century ‘world city’ or ‘megacity’: in other words, it is far more cosmopolitan or cross-cultural than it is ‘national’ or unicultural. The cultural nationalists who dominated academic and critical discourse up to the 1980s seemed unable to recognize this fact. In other words, modernist culture is better seen as the culture of Tokyo as well as Berlin, Shanghai as well as London, rather than as the culture of any single nation-state. In this sense these great ‘modern cities’ have more in common with each other experientially and culturally than they have in common with the hinterlands or even small towns of the countries in which they are located. And, of course, that is exactly why various anti-modern movements, whether cultural, religious or political, from the Nazis to the hippies, indulged in harangues against the ‘decadence’ of the modern city and preached some form of ‘back-tonature’ agrarianism. Needless to say, the essays collected in this volume offer further support for the dōjisei view, as well as, of course, for understanding Japanese modernism on its own terms, within its own cultural and historical context. This is not to claim, of course, that Japanese modernist experiments are always successful—any more than one would claim that of their Western counterparts. It is only to say that the aesthetic success of Japanese modernist works must be judged by the same standards as any other such works—they should not be dismissed simply because of their national origins, or because of any traditional essentialist belief that an unbridgeable cultural gap exists—or should exist—between ‘East’ and ‘West’. Because the fact of the matter is that the argument for 18

Tyler 2008: 16.

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the ‘inauthenticity’ of Japanese modernism can only be based on traditional cultural-nationalist assumptions. The ‘romantic’ assumption of both Keenes, for instance, is that art and literature must be deeply rooted in national histories and traditions, and that ‘cosmopolitan’ art and literature is inevitably superficial and inauthentic. This, by the way, was exactly the position of the fascist cultural theorists of the 1930s, with their fervent belief in an essentialized ‘national culture’ deeply rooted in ‘blood and soil’ (Blut und Boden). But it was also exactly this traditional romantic view of art and literature that was challenged by the international modernist movement. (Paradoxically, it was also challenged by the reality of the fascist movement itself—which was, after all, an international ultranationalist movement.) Furthermore, when we take a more global or ‘simultaneous’ view of the historical development of modernism, we find good grounds to challenge the earlier view that Japanese modernism had no native historical roots and was purely a cultural ‘transplant’ from the West that consequently failed to ‘take root’ in the native soil. For one thing, this Eurocentric view ignores the deep Japanese roots of international modernism itself—that is, the major contributions from Japanese art and aesthetics to international modernism from its very beginnings in the mid-nineteenth century. Indeed, if we were to accept the culturalnationalist view that the relative ‘authenticity’ of the various national varieties of modernism should be judged according to how deeply rooted they are in their respective national-cultural histories, then the tables might well be turned and Japanese modernism be proved to have the strongest claim to ‘authenticity’. Of course, Western art historians have long talked of japonisme and its significant influences on early modernist Western artists. But most have treated this as a transient phase, and as only one of a variety of such ‘exotic’ influences. Until quite recently, few have recognized the true extent of the revolutionary change in Western aesthetic sensibility and artistic practices induced by prolonged exposure to Japanese art—from Manet to Matisse, from Whistler to Pollock. A significant milestone in this respect was Klaus Berger’s thoroughgoing study of 1980, Japonismus in der Westlichen Malerei (Munich, 1980; Japonisme in Western Painting from Whistler to Matisse, 1992), by far the most exhaustive treatment of the subject to date. As Berger notes, nineteenth-century Western artists and writers were not so reticent as their twentieth-century counterparts about acknowledging the full extent of Japanese influence. For instance, the


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French writer Edmond de Goncourt, in a journal entry of 1884 in his Mémoires de la vie littéraire, claimed that japonisme was ‘revolutionizing the vision of the European peoples’ with a ‘new sense of colour, a new decorative system, and . . . a poetic imagination in the invention of the objet d’art, which never existed even in the most perfect [Western] medieval or Renaissance pieces’.19 And the Viennese art historian Franz Wickhoff wrote in 1898: ‘To their astonishment, those artists in London and Paris who in the second half of the nineteenth century were at the forefront of the modern movement realized that much of what they had pursued had been achieved by the Japanese; that the Japanese, a nation whose artistic sensibility could be matched only by that of the ancient Greeks, had anticipated the movement of European art.’20 And, of course, that is exactly why Tokugawa art looks more ‘modern’ to us today than eighteenth or early nineteenth century European art—our aesthetic sensibilities have been radically changed by japonisme. Thus, what we now call European modernism, from Manet to Matisse, began with what might be called, with little exaggeration, the ‘Japanization of European art’. This does not mean, of course, that European art became Japanese art—as always, much was lost, or ‘transmuted’, in translation. But even more was gained: the inspiration of Japanese aesthetic tastes and practices transformed Western art irrevocably. Indeed, looking at the matter in wider art-historical terms, the word ‘japonisme’ itself is clearly a Eurocentric term: taking Western art history as primary, it views Tokugawa art as one of the peripheral, even ‘primitive’ traditions that helped shape early ‘modernism’, which is seen as a purely Western phenomenon that began perhaps in 1863, with Manet’s Luncheon on the Grass, or in 1872, with Monet’s Impression, Sunrise. From the more global perspective of the twenty-first century, we may well want to ‘rewrite’ this much-rehearsed art-historical account and argue that modernism actually began in the early 1690s with Moronobu’s Beauty Looking Backwards—or, more generally, with the brilliant popular culture of the Genroku period of the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries. The Genroku period produced not only ukiyo-e but also haiku poetry, so influential on Western modernist poets, especially the imagists, and it also produced the first masterpieces of kabuki and of the bunraku puppet theatre, and many other popular art forms. From this perspective, the great flowering of modernist art that began in 19 20

Berger 1992: 1. Berger 1992: 2.

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France well over a century later (‘modernist’ because it initiated a radical break with the post-Renaissance European art tradition and drew closer to post-Muromachi Japanese aesthetics) might then be seen as modernism’s ‘second phase’. At least, this is how things seemed to some pioneer Japanese modernists who found ample precedents in their own tradition for the aesthetic practices of ‘Western’ modernism. As Suzuki Sadami points out herein, the major modernist poet Hagiwara Sakutarō (1886-1942), for instance, claimed that, ‘though nineteenth-century French symbolism led by Mallarmé revolved around the themes of “mysticism, enchantment, ghostliness, and Eastern fatalism”’, the European modernism of his day ‘was finally understanding its essence intuitively and approaching Eastern symbolism, represented by Bashō’. That a recognizably ‘modernist’ art should have appeared in seventeenth-century Japan is not really so surprising, given that some of the general conditions of modernity were already well established. Indeed, it has become a truism among historians of Japan to say that its modernity or modernization did not suddenly begin, as many postwar socalled ‘modernization theorists’ imagined, in 1853 or 1868. By any of a number of the usual, internationally recognized markers or gauges of modernity—increasing urbanization, the rise of a middle class and of a mass-based culture (especially after the invention of printing), secularization, literacy, the development of a capitalist or money economy and of a national communications and transportation infrastructure (encouraged by the shogunate’s policy of sankin kōtai), the development of tourism, even a certain amount of scientific and industrial progress, and of ‘enlightenment-style’ thought—Tokugawa Japan was already well on the way to modernity. Indeed, it is now widely recognized that one major reason why Meiji Japan was able to ‘modernize’ so quickly and with such relative ease was that Tokugawa Japan, by the mid-nineteenth century, had already developed quite far in that direction. Although Japan had severely restricted intercourse with the outside world during the two-and-a-half centuries of the Edo period, it nonetheless went through many of the same stages of social and economic development as Europe in the same period. Of course, this development was uneven: one might say, especially, that Edo Japan did not modernize politically nearly as much as it did socially and economically; and indeed it was precisely the tensions produced by this disparity between a ‘feudal’ political system that remained rather stagnant (for example, as symbolized by the half-hearted Ansei Reform of the 1850s) and a social and economic reality that was changing increasingly into something


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we would now call ‘modern’, that ultimately caused the collapse of the Tokugawa regime—despite its own best but belated efforts to ‘modernize’ during the bakumatsu period (1853-1868). In the cultural realm, however, the arts in Tokugawa Japan, especially the visual arts, were positively avant-garde by mid-nineteenth-century Western standards—as Goncourt and Wickhoff recognized. Again, if we look to the usual international markers of ‘modernity’ or even ‘modernism’ in the arts, it becomes obvious that, at this point in history, Japanese art was more ‘modern’ or ‘modernistic’ in many respects than Western art at that time—for instance, in its ‘expressionistic’ use of pure, vivid colour and of the expressive, calligraphic line. And this was true even to some extent in literary-aesthetic terms: japonisme was also a significant influence on Western literary modernism, although this influence is less well recognized than that in the visual arts. As Earl Miner, author of a pioneering study of the subject, The Japanese Tradition in British and American Literature (1956), pointed out, the Japanese impact on major literary modernists such as the imagists, Pound and Yeats, was substantial and significant. Such experimental or modernist Western writers and artists looking for new modes or means of expression found in Japanese literature and art ‘a variety of usable literary and artistic forms’.21 More specifically for the imagist poets: ‘These poets, and Pound chief among them, took from Japanese poetry and drama a precision of expression which they were seeking to establish in their own poetry; they saw a technique of imagery which conveyed meaning and tone without discursive statement; and on the example of haiku and nō they devised specific imagistic and structural techniques which have become widely current in our poetry.’22 Indeed, as Miner also points out, W.B. Yeats was even moved to say that ‘the men who devised the nō drama were more like us than the Greeks or Shakespeare and Corneille . . . ’23 Thus, Miner concludes, ‘our tradition has been refreshed, redirected, and enriched by the absorption of Japanese culture . . . ’24 In other words, the earlier dismissive attitude to Japanese modernism on the cultural-nationalist grounds that it was not ‘authentically’ Japanese was based on a short-sighted view of cultural history—that is, on the facile assumption that Japanese modernism was the product of a one-way flow of influence from ‘West’ to ‘East’. Actually a complex 21 22 23 24

Miner 1956: 270. Miner 1956: 275. Miner 1956: 268. Miner 1956: 279.

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valency of multidirectional forces was at work—indeed more so even than with Western modernism. Thus if we ask: What is the relation of Japanese modernism to Western modernism or ‘modernism in general?’, the answer must take account of that convoluted history of influence and counter-influence—a far cry from a simple matter of one-way influence. At any rate, the upshot of this complex history of influence and counter-influence is the paradox at the very heart of Japanese modernism: because realistic yōga or Western-style painting in the post-Renaissance illusionistic tradition represented the most au courant and most anti-traditional form of ‘modern art’ for the Japanese art world until the early twentieth century, and because japonisme was a major shaping force of Western modernism, Japanese modernism may be regarded at least as much as a return to tradition—albeit a somewhat transformed or alien version of Japanese tradition—as a breaking away from the relatively recent, relatively shallow-rooted ‘Western tradition’ that had also been part of Japanese modernity since the Meiji era. The question then arises: did the long-term shaping influence of japonisme on Western modernism (‘from Manet to Matisse, from Whistler to Pollock’) have any ‘blowback’ effect in shaping Japanese modernism itself? Did it have any relevance to Japanese artists of the 1920s? For instance, did it enable them to more readily absorb the various modernist styles that were then arising in Europe: Dadaism, futurism, expressionism, surrealism, etc.? Not a question that has often been asked—until quite recently—but, as already noted, Suzuki Sadami points out herein in his study of Japanese literary modernism that some early-twentiethcentury Japanese modernist poets and critics understood the affinities between their traditional poetry and French symbolism—a realization that made modernism seem familiar and accessible to them and thus provided them with an ‘in’ to modernism in general. Despite his own jaundiced view of Japanese modernism in general, even Kawakita, unlike his Western colleagues, acknowledges its paradoxical situation, at least in regard to fauvism: in answering his own question as to why ‘fauvism, of all the modern trends in European art, was the one that was the most highly favoured in Japan’, he responds: In Europe, where the mainstream of tradition sprang from strict academic realism, fauvism was a destructive, revolutionary movement, and a conscious one at that. In Japan the opposite was the case. Far from being the mainstream of Japanese tradition, academic realism was the conscious revolution undertaken by artists dissatisfied with the past . . . and


roy starrs the subsequent trend through postimpressionism to fauvism represented in many ways the rebirth of the freedom that had been seen in the nanga and the Maruyama-Shijo styles of traditional Japanese art. To Japanese eyes, in short, it required nothing of the ‘wild beast’ to appreciate the fauves. On the contrary, it was like coming home again. . . . In the fauvist medium the Japanese artist could simply let his Japanese self go. Herein lies the reason for the popularity of fauvism among Japanese artists, as well as the reason why the cubist style never caught on.25

It is significant that Kawakita here singles out cubism as a step too far for the Japanese art world. As Charles Harrison points out: ‘It was the development of Cubism in the years after 1907 that most clearly marked a break with previous styles. . . . In 1948 the American critic Clement Greenberg looked back to Cubism as “the epoch-making feat of twentieth-century art, a style that has changed and determined the complexion of Western art as radically as Renaissance naturalism once did”.’26 According to Kawakita, however, cubism ‘never caught on’ in Japan because, unlike fauvism, it lacked roots in the native tradition. But this is certainly an arguable claim. In fact, if one were to look for precedents for cubism in the Japanese art tradition, one could certainly find some convincing examples: in the ‘off-kilter’, spatially disorienting abstract geometric patterns of Zen rock gardens, for instance, or in the way the great medieval ink-painter Sesshū’s powerful ‘axestrokes’ fracture space in a work such as ‘Hui-k’o Offering His Arm to Boddhidharma’ (1496), or in the single simultaneous image of different time-zones in his landscape scrolls of the four seasons. Perhaps this is why the famous Meiji art critic, Okakura Tenshin, claimed that the art of Muromachi-era Zen monks like Sesshū was ‘true modern art’ (shin no kindai geijutsu).27 At any rate, can any other art tradition offer such clear examples of a cubist aesthetic avant le lettre? The truth is that there is a kind of circularity to Kawakita’s argument, and this makes it easy for him to find what he seeks. Because he wishes to privilege a single variety of Japanese modernism, the rather conservative variety represented by Umehara and Yasui, he finds ‘roots’ for their ‘fauvist style’ in the native nanga tradition, and thereupon is able to sanction their work as ‘authentically Japanese’. But he has no taste for the more radical post-cubist forms of modernist practice, and so, as we have already seen, he dismisses not only cubism but ‘futurism, 25 26 27

Kawakita 1974: 118. Harrison 1997: 9. As Suzuki Sadami notes in his chapter herein.

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Dadaism, and surrealism’ as examples of the ‘faddism and decadence’ of the modernism that followed the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923—and obviously he is unwilling to acknowledge that such ‘passing fads’ could be rooted in Japanese tradition. In other words he seeks to prescribe ‘acceptable’ and ‘unacceptable’ varieties of Japanese modernism, with only the ‘fauvist style’ sanctioned as ‘authentic’ and all other variants dismissed as rootless fads. Of course, one could argue that the very search for the ‘roots of modernism’ in any national tradition is a contradictory, futile exercise based on a fundamental misunderstanding of what modernism actually was. After all, as the distinguished art critic Herbert Read pointed out long ago, Western modernism represented, more than anything else, an ‘abrupt break with all tradition . . . The aim of five centuries of European effort is openly abandoned.’ In short, modernism was a development without ‘historical parallel’.28 And the writer C.S. Lewis also emphasized that modernist artists such as ‘the Cubists, the Dadaists, the Surrealists, and Picasso’ were ‘shatteringly and bewilderingly new’, and that modernist poetry too was ‘new in a new way, almost in a new dimension’.29 In their classic study of literary modernism, Malcolm Bradbury and James McFarlane identify the anti-traditional impulse that is at the heart of the modernist project: ‘the shock, the violation of expected continuities, the element of de-creation and crisis is a crucial element of the [modernist] style’.30 This being the case, why then should we expect any form of modernism, Eastern or Western, to be ‘rooted in tradition’? The very idea seems oxymoronic. Ideologically if not quite in actual fact, modernism must remain rootless, or even ‘uprooted’. And certainly it seems almost perverse to claim that any form of modernism is ‘inauthentic’ on the grounds that it is ‘rootless’. On the contrary, one could argue that the more rootless any particular artwork was, the more authentically modernist it would be (although ‘absolute rootlessness’ is also probably a cultural-historical impossibility). Thus, although Kawakita’s treatment of Japanese modernism seems more knowledgeable and discriminating than Stanley-Baker’s or the two Keenes’, ultimately it bases itself on the same cultural-nationalist doctrine that art, to be ‘authentic’, must be ‘rooted’ in the national tradition. The credo that was at the heart of modernism—that a whole new 28 29 30

Quoted in Bradbury and McFarlane 1991: 20. Quoted in Bradbury and McFarlane 1991: 20. Bradbury and McFarlane 1991: 24.


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art could be and needed to be created that was ‘liberated’ both from the nation and from tradition, an art that, in response to the conditions and demands of modernity, was both cosmopolitan and radically new or ‘uprooted’—this fundamental modernist credo was given no more credence by Kawakita than by his Western counterparts of the 1980s. The Historical Context of Japanese Modernism At any rate, the best argument for the ‘authenticity’ of Japanese modernism, if one were needed, derives not from its rootedness in Japanese tradition but from its ‘organic’ relation to the actual historical situation of early twentieth-century Japan. Whether in its Eastern or Western varieties, modernism is best seen from such a historicist perspective because it is, indeed, in a very real sense, time-bound, with its emphasis on the always-new. We live in an age of continual crisis and transition, what has been called a liminoid state, always on the threshold but never completely at home, and modernist artists are responding to this new reality of radical impermanence and instability (as Solzhenitsyn himself recognized). If they are ‘authentic’ artists, how can they do otherwise? Needless to say, Japan had been undergoing a ‘period of rapid and fundamental change’, to return to Solzhenitsyn’s phrase, since the midnineteenth century—in addition to the conditions of early modernity already established in the Edo period. As Ken Henshall points out herein, after the arrival of the US Navy’s Commodore Perry in 1853, ‘the threat of being colonized’ was ‘a very significant stimulant to Japan in its extraordinarily fast “modernization”’. And, as in the West, the progress of modernity in Japan was marked by a number of major traumatic events (like the First World War in Europe): most notably, the Russo-Japanese War of 1904-1905, the increasing incidence of popular riots in the 1910s, the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923, and the rise of militarism and of a fascist ‘police state’ in the 1930s and 1940s. As a matter of fact, a similar argument has often been made about Japanese fascism as about Japanese modernism: that it was not a true and ‘authentic’ fascism because of its differences from the ‘original’ European fascism, differences represented especially by its use of certain Japanese religio-political ‘traditions’, such as the emperor-system and national Shinto. In his recent study of the issue, Walter Skya throws much light exactly on this vexed question of how the ‘traditional’ Shinto religion was made to serve the purposes of a ‘modern’ Japanese fascism.

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Through studies of a number of nationalist ideologues, he shows how radical ultranationalist Shinto was used to ‘mobilize the masses’ for conquest and war—most especially, the ‘holy war’ against the West. At the heart of Skya’s analysis is his contention that ‘a fundamental transformation in the ideology of Shinto ultranationalism took place in the Taishō period’, and that this transformation was necessary because earlier nationalist ideologies (most notably as propounded by Hozumi Yatsuka) portrayed the masses as ‘passive political objects to be acted on’ and thus had little appeal to the masses themselves.31 As with European fascism, a key historical factor in the rise of a new, more populist form of Japanese nationalism was the increasing politicization of the masses in the early twentieth century, beginning with the riots following the Russo-Japanese War in 1905 and culminating in the rice riots of 1918. These demonstrations of popular political power convinced right-wing thinkers that a new form of emperor-centred nationalism was called for, one that would have more popular appeal than Meiji patriarchal authoritarianism. Most crucially, the new ideology would have to inspire an intense religious fervour in the masses, a willingness to sacrifice themselves ‘for the emperor’—or, in other words, for the state. The Japanese did not have to look for a god-like national leader in a Hitler or a Mussolini—they already had one in the emperor, who could just as easily be turned to the uses of a fascist ideology. Right-wing political theorists such as Uesugi Shinkichi and Kakehi Katsuhiko cleverly conjured up the idea of an unmediated union between the emperor and the people, and suggested that all Japanese could bring ultimate meaning to their lives by achieving a kind of mystical union with the emperor—especially, of course, through death in battle. As Skya writes: ‘Loyalty to the emperor was religious devotion. . . . Personal union with the emperor was the individual’s ultimate objective; it was this objective that was at the heart of radical Shinto ultranationalist ideology. The individual was driven beyond the self to his essential being, to the emperor . . . ’32 Emphasizing the religio-political tenor of these developments, Skya characterizes them as shaped largely by the rise of a ‘radical Shinto ultranationalism’. But, as he also recognizes, these developments had much in common with European fascism, which was indeed a major influence on them. In other words, radical Shinto ultranationalism, just like Japanese modernism as a whole, was not a purely 31 32

Skya 2009: 152. Skya 2009: 201.


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indigenous phenomenon and can be properly understood only within the context of the international rise of fascism in the 1920s and 1930s. Indeed, as already noted, scholars of fascism such as Roger Griffin and Emilio Gentile have recently demonstrated that fascism itself may be legitimately regarded as another form of modernism.33 Thus, in Japan, as among its fascist allies in Europe, fascism was another ‘modernist product’—and another, albeit negative, warrant of the ‘authenticity’ of Japanese modernism. The political history of the Taishō/early Shōwa period, the period of ‘high modernism’ in Japan as in the West, thus shows clearly that the same forces that produced artistic modernism— especially the rise of a new mass culture—also produced the dangerous form of political modernism known as fascism. Like its European counterpart, Japanese fascism often disguised its radical novelty or modernism as a ‘return to tradition’ or as a ‘revival of tradition’. In his recent study of the ‘aesthetics of Japanese fascism’, for instance, Alan Tansman has shown how this ‘deception’ was achieved in cultural terms, the fascistic artwork clothing itself in the fascinatingly seductive raiment of the native literary and artistic tradition: ‘the traditionally sanctioned aesthetics of the pathos of melancholy loss, revolving around the affective pull of a feminine figure—a figure that appears across culture, whether in a complex modernist essay or a sentimental popular movie’.34 From a more purely historical perspective, Tansman agrees with Roger Griffin and other recent interpreters of fascism regarding its paradoxical relation to modernity and modernism: in short, fascists were ‘anti-modern modernists’.35 In this respect, Japanese fascism arose from the same historical conditions as its European counterpart: ‘In Japan, as in Europe, fascism emerged as a reactionary modernist response to the threats of social and political division created by the economic and social crises following the First World War.’36 In the political context of the 1920s, Japanese fascism was a reaction against ‘Taishō democracy’ and its ‘cosmopolitan liberalism’, just as German fascism was a reaction against the liberal values of the Weimar Republic.37 Against diversity, cosmopolitanism, and modernity, it opposed a mythical national unity and tradition: the ‘Japanese fascist response to modernity shared much 33 34 35 36 37

See Roger Griffin, Modernism and Fascism. Tansman 2009: 15. Tansman 2009: 17-18. Tansman 2009: 3. Tansman 2009: 9.

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with other inflections of fascism: it provided the possibility for an experience of immediacy and unity that countered the alienation and fragmentation of the modern individual, and it promised an end to class division by promoting the myth of a nation unified by natural bonds of its blood and spirit’.38 Thus, fascist aesthetics were designed as a kind of ‘cure’ to this perceived cultural crisis of modernity and to the sense of malaise and anomie that accompanied this, attempting ‘to resolve the conflicts of modernity by calling for complete submission, either to absolute order or to an undifferentiated but liberating experience of violence’.39 But there was also a hidden price to be paid: ‘It offered a cure to the ills of modernity with solutions that began in the imagination but ended in a politics of death.’40 In order to persuade the public to accept the ‘fascist solution’, then, it was first necessary to convince them that modernity itself was a kind of chronic cultural disease. As Tansman writes, an ‘atmosphere of crisis’ had to be created, and it was in this task, first of all, that writers and artists proved to be of great help to the state. The Japanese Romantic School leader, Yasuda Yojūrō, for instance, obligingly proclaimed that he and his fellow Japanese were ‘mourning the loss of both the gods and ancient Japan itself ’ and that their wounded souls could be consoled only by rapt contemplation of the beauty of traditional Japanese bridges—among other things.41 But, as Tansman points out, Yasuda’s famous essay on the ‘cultural and literary meanings of Japanese bridges’ carries a nasty political punch: ‘from innocent musings on bridges Yasuda arrives at a spiritual glorification of the shedding of blood’.42 Other writers were less wittingly complicit. Certainly Akutagawa, when he ‘sang the swan song at what appeared to be the collapse of modernity’, had no idea of the political implications of his lamentations.43 As Tansman writes: ‘I do not mean to say that Akutagawa’s writings in the 1920s were responsible for the development of fascist aesthetics, only that his melancholy modernism of fragmented, musical moments provided glimpses of things to come and set into motion the beginnings of the fascist aesthetic in its literary form.’44 Nonetheless, 38 39 40 41 42 43 44

Tansman 2009: 3. Tansman 2009: 3. Tansman 2009: 3. Tansman 2009: 16-17. Tansman 2009: 49. Tansman 2009: 40. Tansman 2009: 39.


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although Akutagawa ‘never married those aesthetics to a politics of violence or death’, Tansman argues that ‘Kobayashi Hideo’s modernism, so richly informed by Akutagawa’s, made that very turn.’45 And, for Tansman, Kobayashi’s work is at the ‘heart of the fascist aesthetic’.46 Furthermore: ‘To readers of Kobayashi’s literary essays the people on the battlefield seem like battalions composed of Shiga Naoyas, men of clear vision, concrete experience, and pure action. War provided the aesthetic solution offered by a writer like Shiga. . . . To dispense with literature is to learn to think simply, and to cease and desist from criticizing war.’47 Of course, Akutagawa cannot be blamed for any of this, but, as Tansman states earlier, ‘writers can aesthetically sow the seeds of a fascist atmosphere without intending to do so’.48 Tansman’s argument on this rather delicate and controversial point is given considerable strength and subtlety by his use of the concept of ‘fascist moments’. ‘Through an analysis of these moments’, he writes, ‘we can begin to see the relation between Japanese fascism and its corresponding cultural texts.’49 These are moments of ‘binding’ (musubi) between self and other, moments that provide the glue for the ‘new myth of wholeness’ based on the ‘mystique of national and racial destiny’.50 In their more active, war-like phase, fascist moments ‘offered images of self-obliteration evoked through the beauty of violence, often in the name of an idealized Japan’.51 The apotheosis of all such moments was the achievement of ‘union’ with the emperor by death in battle. Yasuda in particular ‘wrote prose that bestowed beauty on the act of self-immolation in war’, offering a cure to the ‘wounds of modernity’.52 The aesthetico-spiritual experience of becoming one with nature or works of art could thus slip imperceptibly into the religio-political experience of becoming one with the emperor or the state: ‘Rife with state religious implications, musubi suggests the harmonizing powers of the gods and, by extension, the binding power of the state.’53 State power is thereby given a religious rather than a political foundation,

45 46 47 48 49 50 51 52 53

Tansman 2009: 40. Tansman 2009: 32. Tansman 2009: 238. Tansman 2009: 2. Tansman 2009: 18. Tansman 2009: 18. Tansman 2009: 18. Tansman 2009: 53. Tansman 2009: 19.

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leading Japanese fascism to a ‘disavowal of its own politics’.54 Tansman’s study might be regarded as the aesthetic equivalent of works on ‘fascist Zen’ such as James Heisig and John Maraldo’s Rude Awakenings (University of Hawai’i Press, 1995) or Brian Victoria’s Zen at War (Rowman and Littlefield, 2006)—a salutary reminder that even high cultural aesthetic or spiritual traditions can be turned to nefarious uses in an age of ascendant fascism. The Legacy of Japonisme in Japan Itself There are, of course, some significant historical differences here between the Japanese and Western developments of modernism—as is only natural when we consider the different historical situations and forces they responded to. Thus we have a pretty clear idea of what past artistic traditions Western modernism was breaking with, along the lines specified by Herbert Read. But what artistic tradition was Japanese modernism breaking away from? Those who regard it as ‘inauthentic’ might well answer: ‘none at all’, and offer this as further proof of its inauthenticity. And, indeed, it is true that the answer to this question may not seem as immediately clear in the Japanese as in the Western case—mainly, I think, because of two paradoxical historical facts that complicate the relationship between ‘modern’ Japanese and ‘modern’ Western art. On the one hand, for a long time after Meiji artists began to paint ‘Western-style paintings’ (yōga) more or less in the conventional realistic or illusionistic manner of post-Renaissance art alluded to by Herbert Read, this was what was considered ‘modern art’ in Japan—in other words, exactly the ‘traditional’ art that Western modernists were, at the same time, busily trying to break away from. On the other hand, the Japanese art and aesthetics that Western modernists were so eagerly incorporating into their own artistic practice was exactly the artistic ‘tradition’ that the most ‘advanced’ Meiji artists were breaking away from. In short, the two art worlds were to some extent at cross-purposes: the Western artist’s ‘tradition’ was the Japanese artist’s ‘modernity’, and vice versa. As late as the 1970s, for instance, the leading Japanese art historian already referred to, Kawakita Michiaki, argued that the ‘foundation for modern Japanese art was laid in the Edo, or Tokugawa, period (1603–1868). Indeed . . . 100 years before 54

Tansman 2009: 19.


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Meiji began . . . It is clear that the modern Japanese culture of the Meiji era and after began to take form well before 1800 and in some ways manifested itself in a purer state before 1868 than afterward.’55 But what this eminent art historian means by ‘modern Japanese art’ is by no means any kind of modernism. It is rather the early Japanese attempts to imitate traditional Western illusionistic or naturalistic oil painting techniques. Quite the opposite of what would be regarded as ‘modern art’ in the West. Indeed, although the art-historical perspectives of the two sides have begun to come more ‘into alignment’ in recent years, the apparent paradoxes and potential misunderstandings that can arise from this cultural ‘reverse-vision’ are still with us. In his recent study of Japanese cinema, Scott Nygren notes, for instance, that the great postwar film director Ozu Yasujirō is often considered a traditionalist in Japan (for his ‘Zen minimalism’, etc.), but just as often as a major modernist in the West (for his ‘Zen minimalism’, etc.).56 Nygren calls this ‘paradoxical modernism’: The most familiar example of paradoxical modernism in Japanese film is Yasujiro Ozu. As Mitsuhiro Yoshimoto has argued, Ozu’s films are simultaneously considered to be traditionalist in a Japanese context but are treasured as modernist in the West by critics as diverse as Burch, on the one hand, and David Bordwell and Kirsten Thompson, on the other. . . . Ozu’s development of traditional Japanese aesthetics within cinematic form . . . parallels the adaptation of Japanese tradition by Western modernism, although Ozu’s follows from entirely different circumstances.57

Nygren also points out that Ozu’s filmic aesthetics were developed during Japan’s fascist era, and: ‘The isolationism of the period invited both an emphasis on traditional values and innovation in cinematic form outside the conventions of Hollywood classical practice’—which again brings us back to the vexed question of the relation between modernism and fascism.58 Since the early Meiji period, when the new revolutionary regime resolved to ‘modernize’ by a wholesale adoption of all aspects of Western civilization, and much of the population at large seemed to be seized by a mania for all things Western, issues of ‘imitation’ and ‘authenticity’ haunted Japan’s relation with the West. Famous Victorian visitors to 55 56 57 58

Kawakita 1974: 11. Nygren 2007: 34. Nygren 2007: 34. Nygren 2007: 34.

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Japan such as Rudyard Kipling and Pierre Loti began to propagate the stereotype of the Japanese as a ‘race of clever imitators’. The nadir of this trend was symbolized by the Rokumeikan or ‘Deer Cry Pavilion’, a British-designed mock-Renaissance Victorian structure built in 1883 as a guesthouse for foreigners. More importantly, it was also designed as a pleasure palace where upper-class natives and foreigners could socialize in the latest and most fashionable Western style: through ballroom dances, costume parties, Venetian fêtes, billiard games, and other pleasantries. The building itself, and the famous social events held within it, became forever identified with the early-Meiji establishment’s slavish imitation of all things Western, the elite version of the national cult of modernity. In sponsoring these grand soirées the government was hoping to convince the Western powers that Japan was now as ‘civilized and enlightened’ as the West and thus worthy of being treated as an equal—and, more specifically, that the ‘unequal treaties’ they had imposed on Japan after its ‘opening’ in 1853 should be revised. But within a few years the government began to realize that its plan had backfired: the pleasure palace had inspired mostly mockery both from their Western guests and from the Japanese public at large, who openly ridiculed the so-called ‘dancing cabinet’. Not surprisingly, the building was sold in 1889, the very year when the adoption of the Meiji Constitution marked the beginning, in many respects, of a ‘return to tradition’. By the late Meiji period, then, the Japanese themselves had already become sensitized to charges that their version of ‘modernity’ was ‘imitative’ and ‘inauthentic’. Thus it is hardly surprising that certain leading intellectuals welcomed the evidence—in the form of japonisme—that Westerners too were not above ‘imitation’ and had to struggle with their own issues of ‘authenticity’. (How ‘authentic’, for instance, are Van Gogh’s copies of Hiroshige or Eisen, complete with garbled attempts to represent Japanese writing?) Noting that the writer Akutagawa Ryūnosuke (1892-1927) ‘was particularly sensitive to the charge of imitation given the critique of his own fiction as being overly reliant on prior literary sources’, Seiji Lippit in his chapter here quotes the following passage from a late essay by Akutagawa: Westerners are contemptuous of the Japanese for their skill at imitation. . . . The Japanese are skilled imitators. One cannot dispute the fact that our works are imitations of Westerners’ works. Yet they too, like us, are skilled at imitation. Is it not the case that Whistler imitated ukiyo-e in his oil paintings?


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This is a clear expression of what we might call the ‘first stage’ of the Japanese response to japonisme: the simple realization that ‘the Westerners are imitating us, just as we are imitating them’—obviously a confidence-building realization. But soon this evolved into a ‘second stage’ that was far more important in its creative or cultural ramifications: ‘Western modernists are learning so much from the Japanese artistic tradition because there is so much in that tradition that is still of high value; the early Meiji attitude towards Japanese tradition—that it must be abandoned for the sake of modernity—was thus obviously mistaken; tradition and modernity are not necessarily at odds in Japan, and we Japanese modernists should make full use of our own artistic traditions.’ As a number of the authors herein demonstrate, the immediate result of this ‘second-stage’ realization was a revival of native artistic traditions in a ‘modernized’ form. There was also a ‘third stage’, somewhat less salutary in its effects: the rise of a nativist, exclusivist cultural nationalism which, by the 1930s, had allied itself politically with fascist ultranationalism. Indeed, those writers who resisted the Zeitgeist of the 1930s nativist ‘cultural revival’ already seemed to belong to an earlier, more innocent age. As Stephen Dodd points out in his study here of a writer he portrays as a ‘transitional’ figure, Kajii Motojirō: Kajii differs qualitatively from 1930s writers who articulate desire for a ‘pure’ Japanese experience that transcends western influences. It may be that Kajii shares with such writers a tendency to lace rural depictions with a mood of sentimentality and nostalgia, but his texts are driven by anxiety over personal, not national, identity. In that sense, Kajii retains the air of a more individualistic, introverted Taishō writer.

Thus, between the 1870s and the 1930s, the pendulum swung from one extreme to the other: from a total self-abasing surrender of national cultural autonomy to a ‘superior’ foreign civilization to an extreme triumphalist assertion of national-cultural autonomy and superiority. What makes this particularly ironic is that the ‘motive force’ of the pendulum swing was the weight of Western opinion—in cultural terms at least, japonisme. More specifically, the most significant ‘blowback effect’ of japonisme in Japan itself, it seems to me, is the line of what might be called ‘Japanese traditionalist modernism’: that is, the movement to ‘modernize’ traditional native art forms as an alternative to the kind of wholesale adoption of Western art practices initiated by the ‘Meiji modernizers’.

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Certainly some of the most interesting and impressive works of modern Japanese art and literature belong to this category. For Japanese writers and artists they provide an easy way to evade the ‘anxiety of (Western) influence’; and it must be conceded that they are also especially appealing to Western tastes because they seem ‘uniquely Japanese’. A number of the authors herein focus on this ‘hybrid’ variety of Japanese modernism—as opposed to what might be called the ‘pure’ Western-style high modernism of, for instance, Japanese cubists, Dadaists, Mavoists and surrealists. As our authors show, this line of ‘traditionalist modernism’ is traceable back not only to Ozu’s films but to a vast and diverse range of artworks in many different media: including, for instance, Kawabata Yasunari’s ‘haiku novels’,59 Maekawa Samio’s modernist tanka, Miyagi Michio’s modernist koto music, modernist ‘anti-bijin’ nihonga paintings, the ‘modern Noh plays’ of Mishima Yukio, zen-ei shodō or avant-garde calligraphy,60 and also, going in the opposite direction, those yōga oil paintings that drew inspiration from eighteenth-century Sino-Japanese bunjinga painting. As Leith Morton suggests in his study here of the 1920s movement to ‘reform’ the traditional short-poem (31-syllable) genre of tanka (tanka kakushin) led by Maekawa Samio: Modernism not only exercised a powerful influence over tanka, but . . . actually inspired traditional tanka, and after modernist verse was suppressed in the late 1930s onward, and poets like Samio had transformed Modernism into a more Neo-Classical mode of composition, this lesson was not lost. This was especially the case for the new generation of tanka poets who began to dominate the scene from the 1960s onward, and for many of whom, Samio was their only true progenitor.

As Henry Johnson illustrates, at about the same time the modernist composer Miyagi Michio similarly succeeded in ‘renovating’ traditional koto music, overcoming the resistance that had existed up to that point to ‘mixing’ traditional (Japanese) with modern (Western) musical forms. As Johnson writes: During the Meiji period, in music as in the other arts, the ‘traditional’ was soon strictly separated from the ‘modern/Western’, as if they were two entirely different species of art that could not and should not be ‘interbred’. It was only some decades later, during the modernist Taishō period, that some artists began to realize that actually the two ‘streams’ had far 59 On Kawabata’s modernist ‘haiku novels’ see my Soundings in Time: The Fictive Art of Yasunari Kawabata. 60 On zen-ei shodō see Starrs 2008.


roy starrs more in common than was previously recognized and that some creative good could come out of their ‘intermarriage’. It took some boldness and vision for these artists to break what by that point had become almost a taboo. But also the time was right: they were brought to this realization mainly by their encounter with Western modernism, since it obviously, and by no coincidence, had many affinities with ‘traditional’ Japanese art and aesthetics.

In the visual arts too, John Szostak focuses on the modernist response to the traditional bijin (‘beautiful women’) genre of nihonga or Japanese-style watercolour painting: what he calls ‘anti-bijin paintings’, which ‘turned the concept of the bijin on its head by celebrating abject or grotesque images of women’. These ‘neotraditional’ or ‘progressive’ nihonga painters, as Szostak points out, ‘were able to address many of the same issues explored by Yōga painters while avoiding the pitfalls of stylistic mimesis’ [of Western art]. Furthermore, their ‘paintings of grotesque beauties allowed painters to address what amounts to a conflict of artistic identification stemming from an ambition shared with oil painters to contribute to the development of modernist Japanese art counterbalanced by a desire to preserve and promote received artistic traditions’. Indeed, going in the other direction, Japanese Western-style oil painters too, as Matthew Larking shows, began at about the same time to try to ground their art in the Sino-Japanese tradition, drawing inspiration from eighteenth-century bunjinga or literati painting. In the postwar period, zen-ei shodō or avant-garde calligraphy applied a modernist aesthetic to the ancient art of Sino-Japanese calligraphy and became a major and exciting new art form that linked up with the major international modernist art movement of abstract expressionism.61 In the postwar period too, Mishima Yukio’s ‘modern Noh plays’, as Yasuko Claremont demonstrates, represent a remarkably successful amalgam of tradition and modernity, and are ‘able to achieve [the medieval aesthetic quality of] yūgen in modern terms through sharp contrasts: beauty and death, time and timelessness, and the transience of experience on earth’. That this line of ‘traditionalist modernism’ continues on and still has powerful appeal even into the postmodern present is demonstrated here most strikingly by Vera Mackie’s study of Yoko Ono. In Ono’s ritualistic performance art, which is often ‘paradoxical and aporetic, almost like a Zen kōan’, Mackie finds the kind of severe, pared-down minimalism long associated with the aesthetics of 61

See Starrs 2008.

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Zen Buddhism. Ono evokes what Scott Nygren refers to as the ‘abstract modernism of Japanese tradition’.62 In other words, the internationalist movement of modernism paradoxically encouraged a revival of tradition in Japan, which, in the 1930s, sometimes devolved into a nativist or cultural-nationalist traditionalism that explicitly called for an alternate modernism that would ‘overcome (Western) modernity’ by returning to (Japanese) tradition— and ultimately found expression in the ‘Overcoming Modernity Symposium’ mentioned by several of the authors here. As Takao Hagiwara illustrates in his chapter, one common expression of this ‘return to tradition’ was the beautiful natural lyricism and mysticism of writers such as Miyazawa Kenji—and one could add Kawabata Yasunari, Shiga Naoya, and other major writers of the age, who invoked the power of traditional East Asian nature mysticism as a way of ‘salvation’ from the ‘alienation’ of the modern condition. But, as Alan Tansman and others have recently shown, this ‘reactionary modernism’ was also readily made to serve the purposes of the fascist regime—a less salutary expression of the ‘blowback effect’. Indeed, this may well be regarded as the ultimate paradox of Japanese modernism. But this new nativist or nationalist spirit was also challenged by a new spirit of cosmopolitanism—often in the same writer or artist. An interesting example of what Janice Brown calls ‘double-edged cosmopolitanism’—a cosmopolitanism delicately balanced against nationalism—may be found in the globetrotting Mori Michiyo, whose poetry collections Brown presents here as ‘examples of female intervention in the production of the cosmopolitan and cross-cultural in Japanese literary modernism’. Of her several volumes of poetry written during her travels in Europe and Asia, she wrote two in French and three in Japanese. As Brown points out, ‘Mori’s collection thus presents a kind of double-edged cosmopolitanism. On one hand, by presenting her travels in Asia as global experience, Mori sought to appeal to a wider, international body of readers. On the other hand, she also sought recognition and approval from her fellow Japanese, whom she expected to have a different view of her journey. The poet is keenly aware of the requirements of the two separate audiences. . . . ’ Cosmopolitanism was of course a characteristic feature of modernism and of the age in which it flourished—in Japan as elsewhere. Japanese modernists were quick to stake their claim to being bona fide 62

Nygren 2007: 34.


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members of the international avant-garde. As Pierantonio Zanotti finds in his study herein of the ‘aborted modernism’ of the pioneer modernist poet Yamamura Bochō, by inventing a new ‘ism’, namely ‘prismism’, he ‘revealed for a short while, and probably too early, the potential for a local exploitation of the symbolic capital incorporated in the latest things coming from the West. We might even say that, in many ways, it was a mere mise à jour of a well-established power vector (“The West” → Japan) within the international république mondiale des lettres.’ But, as Seiji Lippit also points out herein, this local exploitation of Western symbolic capital no longer equated, in the 1910s, to a ‘sense of cultural subjugation to Western civilization’: ‘In the cosmopolitan intellectual environment following the Russo-Japanese War (1904-05), a time when Tokyo was being proclaimed as the capital of an extensive empire to rival those of the West’, the erstwhile ‘sense of cultural subjugation to Western civilization’ lacked all currency. The typical Taishō intellectual such as Akutagawa felt himself to be the legitimate heir of a global culture that included both the Eastern and Western traditions—and he was also absolutely au courant with the latest European literature and literary trends. Of course, like many other writers, Akutagawa was not entirely free of the ‘anxiety of influence’—and Mats Karlsson provides conclusive proof herein of one possible source of that anxiety: the extraordinary extent to which Akutagawa’s supposedly ‘autobiographical’ study of his own ‘descent into madness’, Cogwheels (Haguruma, 1927), was actually closely modelled on another writer’s work: August Strindberg’s Inferno (1897). Likewise, Rebecca Suter, in her study of Akutagawa’s kirishitan mono or stories of Japanese encounters with Christianity in the sixteenth century, finds that: ‘The notions of cosmopolitanism and anxiety of influence are central to the stories, both on the thematic and on the narrative/linguistic level.’ And also that, although it is the foreign character Organtino who experiences ‘anxiety at the loss of his cultural identity’, nonetheless ‘Akutagawa displaces his own sense of trauma as a modernised/Westernised Japanese onto the foreign characters in order to construct his identity as a cosmopolitan modern intellectual.’ Thus: ‘The story can . . . be read as a compelling universal metaphor for the encounter with the Other, which applies equally well to the Jesuit mission, to Commodore Perry’s gunboat diplomacy, and to Taishō Japan’s own oscillation between cosmopolitanism and nationalism, multiculturalism and assimilationism.’ But Seiji Lippit also finds that Akutagawa managed to turn the tables on the West, in his fiction at least, not just by an ‘appropriation of the

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colonial gaze’—the claim to parity as an imperialist power already alluded to—but, far more significantly from an intellectual-historical perspective, by a quite cogent claim to a superiority of knowledge: ‘For Akutagawa, the imbalance of geopolitical power (it is the Westerners “who rule the world”) is countered by a differential access to cultural knowledge: the contemporary Japanese intellectual has a superior knowledge of both Japan and the West.’ In other words, the Taishō intellectual could claim, quite justifiably, that his knowledge of the West was far deeper and more extensive than the contemporary Western intellectual’s knowledge of Japan (and, of course, this ‘imbalance of power’ in the realm of knowledge still largely obtains even today). Interestingly, Jonathan Dil finds that a major contemporary Japanese writer such as Murakami Haruki, unlike his predecessor Akutagawa, is completely free of any ‘anxieties of influence’ based on a perceived absolute cultural divide between Japan and ‘the West’. Although, as Dil points out, Murakami’s ‘early development as a writer owes much to the influence of American modernism, particularly F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby’, he is ‘a writer very much at home with his primarily American literary influences and acutely aware of how his ability to borrow, transform, and ultimately transcend these influences without anxiety helped him to create his own literary style’. In other words, the struggle between nationalism and cosmopolitanism initiated by Japanese modernism in the early twentieth century seems to have finally been resolved in favour of the latter almost a century later, in the postmodern and thoroughly globalized Japan of the early twenty-first century.


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Klaus Berger, Japonisme in Western Painting from Whistler to Matisse, translated by David Britt. Cambridge; New York: Cambridge University Press, 1992. Malcolm Bradbury and James McFarlane, eds. Modernism: A Guide to European Literature 1890-1930. London: Penguin, 1991. William Gardner, Advertising Tower: Japanese†Modernism and Modernity in the 1920s. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Asia Center, 2006. Roger Griffin, Modernism and Fascism: The Sense of a Beginning under Mussolini and Hitler. London: Palgrave, 2007. Charles Harrison, Modernism. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997. James Heisig and John Maraldo, Rude Awakenings. Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press, 1995. Kawakita Michiaki, Modern Currents in Japanese Art. New York: Weatherhill, 1974. Dennis Keene, Yokomitsu Ri’ichi, Modernist. New York: Columbia University Press, 1980. Donald Keene, Dawn to the West: Japanese Literature of the Modern Era. New York: H. Holt, 1984. Seiji M. Lippit, Topographies of Japanese Modernism. New York: Columbia University Press, 2002. Earl Miner, The Japanese Tradition in British and American Literature. Princeton: Princeton UP, 1958. Scott Nygren, Time Frames: Japanese Cinema and the Unfolding of History. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2007. Walter A. Skya, Japan’s Holy War: The Ideology of Radical Shintō Ultranationalism. Durham, NC and London: Duke University Press, 2009. Joan Stanley-Baker, Japanese Art. London: Thames and Hudson, 1984. Roy Starrs, Soundings in Time: The Fictive Art of Kawabata Yasunari. Richmond: Japan Library (Routledge/Curzon), 1998. Roy Starrs, ‘Ink Traces of the Dancing Calligraphers: Zen-ei Sho in Japan Today’, in Henry Johnson and Jerry C. Jaffe, eds., Performing Japan: Contemporary Expressions of Cultural Identity. London, Global Oriental and Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press, 2008. Alan Tansman, The Aesthetics of Japanese Fascism. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2009. William Tyler, ed., Modanizumu: Modernist Fiction from Japan, 1913-1938. Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press, 2008. Brian Victoria, Zen at War. Rowman and Littlefield, 2006.

REWRITING THE LITERARY HISTORY OF JAPANESE MODERNISM Suzuki Sadami Modernism and Research Methods for its Reception History The Exhibition Lost Paradise: Symbolist Europe held at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts in 1995 was a large-scale attempt to capture the entire history of symbolism. It went beyond the narrow definition of symbolism, following its trail to expressionism and to early modernism.1 In the field of French art, as its aficionados would agree, the borders of the subject progressively move towards the informal in the works of the master symbolist Gustave Moreau (1826–1898). The impulse to shift to the abstract had already begun by the end of the nineteenth century, and some of Moreau’s disciples even became important members of fauvism, the forefather of early modernism. 1 Modanizumu (modernism) in the field of art and architecture can be defined as a movement that begins with a rejection of traditional forms and values. There are three main shifts that are categorized under its name: 1) The move from 1860s impressionism to 1880s neo-impressionism represented by Georges Seurat (1859–1891), with its method of separating colours. This was then followed by symbolism and art nouveau in the late nineteenth/early twentieth centuries. 2) The birth of abstract art from the progression of fauvism (1905–) to expressionism (1905–), cubism (1907–), futurism (1909– ), constructivism (1912–), and finally to vorticism (1914–). 3) The shift from dadaism (1916–) to surrealism (1924–) following the end of the First World War. In the first half of the twentieth century, these were often referred to as the avant-garde as well, and the movements at the beginning of the century came to be known as ‘early modernism’. Modanizumu flourished in the post-First World War era, in the 1920s and the 1930s and was carried over to the 1960s. Today, ‘modernism’ has come to encompass contemporary art such as advertisements and designs on daily goods and has become a relatively stable word in the quotidian vocabulary. In the field of literary arts (bungei), imagism in English poetry, and the French esprit nouveau, named by Guillaume Apollinaire (1880– 1918), are customarily taken up as key examples. Also, ‘post-impressionism’ comes from the exhibit ‘Manet and the Post-Impressionists’ organized by Roger Fry (1886– 1934) and exhibited in London in 1910–1911. This term mainly refers to works by Paul Cézanne (1839–1906), Paul Gauguin (1848–1903), and Vincent van Gogh (1853–1890). Cézanne worked within the impressionist circle, but in the twentieth century, Gauguin and others took him up as a special case. This term has not completely stabilized in its usage. It sometimes includes Henri Matisse (1869–1954), or it could refer to those after ‘neo-impressionism’ and the Nabists. Furthermore, recent scholarship has witnessed the use of the term ‘late-modernism’ in relation to the idea of ‘post-modernism’. These terms appear to refer to two eras: post-First World War and post-Second Word War.


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Within this artistic shift, could we also locate a connection between the representative symbolist Stéphane Mallarmé’s (1842–1898) treatment of Hindu mythology in Contes Indiens (1893) and Moreau’s interest in India (indianisme)? As with Moreau, who was also known for his japonisme, Pierre Bonnard (1867–1947), famous for his turn-of-the-century ornamental style during his days in Les Nabis, followed the impressionists in expressing his fascination with Tokugawa era ukiyo-e (pictures of the floating world). In 1891, he exhibited a work consisting of four screens entitled Femmes aux Jardins at the Salon des Independents, stating that the work was ‘inspired by Japanese byōbu screens, except I separated each panel’. Could we see this perhaps as an example of ‘translation’ where the form of Eastern ‘everyday art’ (seikatsu geijutsu) was translated to fit the rigid criteria of a tableau? This chapter aims to introduce a new historical perspective into the history of modern and contemporary Japanese literary art (bungei). Drawing connections between literature, art, and aesthetic theory, I want to propose a research method that links the broader reception history of modernism (from European symbolism to early modernism) and the history of ‘traditional art’ criticism. In particular, I will focus on the reception of symbolism in order to analyse Japanese ‘modernism’ in the literary arts, for the shift and ‘translation’ of what ‘symbol’ signified pushed forward the progress of modernism and were the first steps for the movement in Japan. The French impressionists praised the beauty of ukiyo-e, in particular the works of Katsushika Hokusai (1760–1849). In contrast, William Anderson’s Pictorial Art in Japan (1886) and Ernest Francisco Fenollosa’s (1853–1908) Revue of the Chapter on Painting in L’art japonais by Louis Gonse (Japan Weekly Mail, July 12, 1884) located the essence of ‘Japanese art’ in Muromachi-era Zen paintings. Art historian Inaga Shigemi elaborates on this point.2 Likewise, Anderson and Fenollosa, before moving to Japan, had the preconception that through screen paintings and ceramics, one could locate the essence of ‘Chinese art’ in sansuiga (landscape paintings). Okakura Tenshin (1862–1913), inspired by both Anderson and Fenollosa, began a new movement in Japanese art, along with Yokoyama Taikan (1868–1958) and Kanō Hōgai (1828–1888). He conducted 2 Inaga Shigemi, ‘Nihon bijutsuzō no hensen—inshōshugi nihonkan kara ‘Tōyō bigaku’ ronsō made’ [Transitions in the Image of Japanese Art—Impressionist View of Japan to the ‘Eastern Art’ Debate] Wa (Summer 2001): 201–202.

rewriting the literary history of japanese modernism 39 excavations of Buddhist statues along with Fenollosa, who worshipped Hegel’s Vorlesungen über die Aesthetik (Lectures on Aesthetics, 1835). In Tōyō no risō—nihon bijutsu o chūshin to shite (The Ideals of the East with Special Reference to the Art of Japan), Okakura appropriated the Hegelian aesthetic notion of the three domains3—metaphorical or Eastern, classical, and romantic, or Christian—to designate the art of Muromachi-era Zen monks like Sesshū (1420–1506) as examples of ‘Asian romanticism’ (Tōyōteki roman shugi).4 He claimed their art to be the ‘true modern art’ (shin no kindai geijutsu) that encapsulated the essence not just of the art of Japan but of Asia as a whole.5 Should we see this as an ‘appropriation’ of Western art, a ‘translation’, or a cunning ‘switch’? In the aforementioned work, Inaga Shigemi also describes how, with the 1900 exhibit of Japanese art in Vienna, the German Secession Movement began to discuss an artistic method that could ‘awaken the sentiments (Stimmung)’ of the beholders.6 Inaga thus reveals how Japanese ukiyo-e and woodblock prints contributed to the dominance of the Hegelian theory of ‘feelings and mood’ (kibun jōchō) among the imported aesthetics of German sentimentalism.7 3 Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, Vorlesungen über die Aesthetik [Lectures on Aesthetics] (1835, 1931), ‘Prospects’ in the introduction, Bigaku (the 1st in 3vols), tranlated into Japanese by Takeuchi Toshio, Complete Works of G. F. Hegel, vol.18, Iwanami-shoten, 1954, pp. 144–182. 4 Mutō Michio, ‘Tenshin no yūshū—sono biishiki no mumeisei’ [Tenshin’s Melancholy—the Anonymity of his Aesthetic Consciousness], in Nihon no geijutsuron— dentō to kindai [On Japanese Art—Classical and Modern], ed. Kanbayashi Tsunemichi (Kyoto: Mineruba shobō, 2000), pp. 218–241. This work shows that in the English translation of Lectures on Aesthetics by the British Hegelian Bernard Bosanquet (1848– 1923) (1886, stored at the Tokyo Art School Library) purchased in 1891 by the Tokyo Art School and someone has translated and written in some of the vocabulary. Even though the time period cannot be determined, Mutō suggests that this was the handwriting of Okakura Tenshin, thus claiming that he had read the work (p. 226). It is also well known that this English translation, along with Rudolph Hertmann Lotze’s (1817– 1881) German version, was commonly sold in Tokyo bookstores. See the ‘bunkai ihō’ (Bulletin of the Literary World) section in Waseda bungaku (October 1892) 18 and Hijikata Teiichi History of Literary Critics in Modern Japan (Kindai Nihon Bungakuhyōronshi, Seitou-shoten, 1937), 95. 5 Okakura Tenshin, ‘Tōyō no risō—nihon bijutsu o chūshin to shite’ [The Ideals of the East with Special Reference to the Art of Japan], in Okakura Tenshin zenshū 1 [Complete Collection of Okakura Tenshin 1], (Tokyo: Heibonsha, 1980), 84. 6 Inaga, ‘Transitions in the Image of Japanese Art—Impressionist View of Japan to the “Eastern Art” Debate’, 202. 7 ‘Feelings and mood’ is a key concept in Hegel’s Lectures on Aesthetics, in the section called ‘Natural Beauty’ (Part 1, Chapter 1, Section 3), Bigaku (the 2nd in 3 vols), translated into Japanese by Takeuchi Toshio, Complete Works of G. F. Hegel, vol.18, Iwanamishoten, 1960, pp. 337–365.


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Two phenomena thus become clear. Within the shift from symbolism to early modernism in Europe, one could locate hints of Japanese and Eastern art. Furthermore, Western aesthetics produced a new way of appreciating ‘traditional’ art in Japan, and there is clear evidence that these two phenomena intercrossed and unfolded together. No matter how one may situate ‘modernism’ in the artistic context, the main focus of this essay is to explore the connection between art or aesthetics (art criticism) and literature, and to investigate the exchange and the trade of artistic stimulation between Europe/the United States and Asia/Japan. As a side note, however, it is beyond the scope of this chapter to include fields such as music. In Japan, modernism was overlooked for a long time in academic studies.8 However, in the early 1980s, sociologists such as Minami Hiroshi first turned critical attention to the movement by expounding on the emergence of mass society (taishū shakai) in Japan. He accomplished this feat through an examination of the left-wing criticisms that undermined the dissemination of Americanism in post-earthquake (The Great Kantō Earthquake, 1923) Japan.9 It is unarguable that artistic modernism in Japan became an official movement after the 1923 earthquake. Murayama Tomoyoshi (1901– 1977), studying abroad in Europe, returned home that year, equipped with the vigor of German avant-gardism, and began a movement in both art and theatre. In the literary field, in October of the following year (1924), Kataoka Teppei (1894–1944), Kawabata Yasunari (1899– 1972), and Yokomitsu Riichi (1898–1947) began publishing Bungei jidai (The Era of Literature). Yokomitsu’s ‘Head and Stomach’, the opening tale of the first volume, contained a new kind of depiction that depended on various metaphors. For example, the work begins with the famous line: ‘It was high noon. The special express train was running at full speed, completely full. The small station along its trail was silenced like a stone.’10 8 One could trace the root of this sentiment to the fact that both the Communist International Theses (1932) and Essays on the Development of Capitalism in Japan, written by Japanese Communist economists, figured prewar Japan as a (half-) feudal society, and this historical perspective was carried into and dominated postwar Japan as well. 9 Minami Hiroshi, ed., Nihon modanizumu no kenkyū—shisō/seikatsu/bunka [Studies on Japanese Modernism—Intellectual History/Daily Life/Culture] (Tokyo: Burên shuppan, 1982). See also Minami Hiroshi, ed., no.188 of Gendai no esupuri: Nihon modanizumu—ero guro nonsensu [Esprit d’Aujourd’hui: Japanese Modernism—Erotic Grotesque Nonsense] (Tokyo: Shibundō, 1983). 10 Yokomitsu Riichi, ‘Atama narabini hara’ [Head and Stomach] (1924), in vol.1 of Yokomitsu Riichi zenshū [Complete Collection of Yokomitsu Riichi] (Tokyo: Kawade shobō shinsha, 1981), 396–403, quote on 396.

rewriting the literary history of japanese modernism 41 Whereas ‘like a stone’ is a simile (chokuyu), he also uses personification by stating that the station was ‘silenced’. Starting from around the beginning of the twentieth century, writers began to use various metaphors like the above to represent in a realistic manner the ‘impressions’ of the five senses. This is not to mean that they were trying to directly ‘recreate’ the realism of impressions, but rather to replace them with expressions that were new and unexpected for the reader.11 Chiba Kameo (1878–1935), one of the top literary critics at the time, named Yokomitsu’s style ‘New Sensationalism’ (shinkankaku). This attracted the attention of literary circles and became one of the keystones of Japanese modernism. Following this, in the early 1980s, literary scholars came to focus on Yokomitsu’s statement in his ‘Memorandum 8’: ‘When I look back, the Great Kantō Earthquake of Taishō 12 greatly influenced Japanese citizens, an influence that could only be matched by that of world wars.’12 This analogy then came to serve as grounds for using the earthquake as a historical divider. However, today, this kind of perspective has come to be amended. Unno Hiroshi came to lead this reexamination, when he refuted the idea of the earthquake as a shifting point in his Modan toshi Tōkyō— 1920 nendai (Modern City Tokyo—the 1920s, 1983). He presented the 1920s depictions of cityscapes and the emergence of mass culture as phenomena that occurred simultaneously with the rest of the world. Following his book, two exhibits—one called ‘Japon des Avant-gardes’ in Paris (1986), the other called ‘Exhibit on mobo/moga’ (1998), organized by Sydney University’s John Clark and Mizusawa Tsutomu of Kanagawa Modern Art Museum—came to reexamine the periods of 1910–1970 and 1910–1935, respectively. We also cannot forget Omuka Toshiharu’s 11 Kawabata Yasunari also uses a similar method. The famous opening line of his book Snow Country (originally published as ‘Yūgureiro no kagami’ [Twilight-Coloured Mirror], 1935) reads: ‘The train came out of the long tunnel into the snow country. The bottom of the night sky turned white.’ Here too, the white snow-covered field at night that the narrator witnesses after the train passes the tunnel is described by the metaphor ‘the bottom of the night sky’ (yoru no soko). These impressionistic metaphors gave a whole new, refreshing sense to the readers of this period, who were used to the [more transparent] depictions of the Japanese Naturalists. At the same time, the Japanese Marxists, who reduced the issue of representation to a scientific deduction, denounced the New Sensationalists’ style as a symptom of ‘bourgeois’ art that relied on cheap tricks. For the opening line of Snow Country, see Kawabata Yasunari, Yukiguni [Snow Country], in vol.5 of Showa bungaku zenshū [Complete Anthology of Showa Literature] (Tokyo: Shōgakukan, 1986), quote on 31. 12 Yokomitsu Riichi, ‘Oboegaki 8’ [Memoir 8] (Original publication date unknown), compiled in Oboegaki [Memoirs] (1935), in vol.6 of Yokomitsu Riichi zenshū [Complete Collection of Yokomitsu Riichi] (Kawade shobō shinsha, 1982), 225.


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Taishōki shinkyō bijutsu undō no kenkyū (Research on Taishō Era AvantGarde Art, 1995), which emerged right between those two exhibits. However, in the field of Japanese literature, there is nothing that matches this development in art history. In the final volume of the tenvolume collection Modan toshi bungaku entitled Toshi no shishū (Collected Poetries of the City, 1991),13 I introduced poems that captured the 1910s city as a spectacle. Since then I have tackled this issue by connecting it to the notion of ‘Taishō Life-centrism’ (Taishō seimei shugi), a discourse that bloomed right after the Russo-Japanese War (1904–1905). Just as the First World War brought about a crisis in modern European civilization, Japan went through a similar experience, even though their own cities had not been burnt to the ground. These crises involved the death and injury of numerous soldiers in the Russo-Japanese War (death toll of 230,000), the sudden, drastic shift within the industrial structure that pushed for the establishment of large factories and heavy and chemical industries, and the ensuing expansion of the city. Many sought to end such detriments, and art and aesthetic theory arose with this cause as their basis. From the late nineteenth century to the twentieth, gaining a great understanding of the shift that was occurring in Europe around the same time, the art and aesthetic theory of Japan developed into their own individual movements. On a separate note, studying the reception history of art and aesthetics also leads us to the problem of cultural translation (bunka honyaku). This problem is made clear just by looking at the vocabulary of translation. A word whose concept matches that of a Western word is chosen as a receptor from traditional conceptions (dentō gainen). It is then transformed into a new word; but depending on the difference between the existing conceptual system (gainen hensei) and the value system that supports it, it results in gaps and biases. There are cases where these things are eventually corrected, but in general it is difficult to reconfigure words whose meanings become rooted and systematized by the sphere of education or publication. An example of this cultural translation is the various significations for the word ‘art’.14 13 Unno Hiroshi, Kawamoto Saburō, and Suzuki Sadami, ed., vol. 10 of Modan toshi bungaku: Toshi no shishū [Modern City Literature: Collected Poetries of the City] (Tokyo: Heibonsha, 1991). 14 See Suzuki Sadami, ‘ “Geijutsu” gainen no keisei, shōchō bigaku no tanjō—wabi, sabi, yūgen zenshi’ [The Construction of ‘Artistic’ Concept, the Birth of Symbolist Aesthetics—Pre-history of ‘Wabi, Sabi, Yūgen’], in Suzuki Sadami and Iwai Shigeki, ed., Wabi, sabi, yūgen—kono ‘Nihonteki naru mono’ e no dōtei [Wabi, Sabi, Yūgen—Its Processes of ‘Japan-esque Things’] (Tokyo: Suiheisha, 2006), 65–164.

rewriting the literary history of japanese modernism 43 This chapter will first sketch out Japan’s broader reception theory of modernism by tracing the shift in its conceptual system and aesthetic principles and then turn to examples of actual works. I will then take up Matsuo Bashō’s haikai as an example of how this reception emerged through a reevaluation of classical literature. Lastly, through an examination of Bungei jidai and ‘The New Sensationalism Manifesto’, I will shed light upon the efficacy of this research method by showing the continuity of Japanese modernism, from its broader sense of the term to its more limited signification, and also by pointing out the rupture that interceded between them. The Reception of Modernism and its Aspects—Conceptual System, Aesthetic Ideas, Works The Establishment of the Conceptual System From the latter half of the nineteenth century, Japan became engaged in constructing the field of ‘literature’ (‘literature’ referring to university literature departments) by modelling it after the conceptual system of the humanities in modern Europe. In general, the transitional era of the twentieth century points to a period where modern Western formations became incorporated. To cite a clear example, around 1910, the word ‘art’ (bijutsu) became limited to the field of paintings and sculpture,15 and ‘literature’ (bungaku) (the narrow sense) or ‘literary art’ (bungei) became deployed among intellectuals to connote works of linguistic art (and their research), mainly poetry, novels, and dramas. It was around this time that a new history of linguistic art emerged. Different from the ‘Japanese literary history’ constructed in 1890 and modelled after humanities, this history eliminated kanbun (Chinese Texts) and focused on the current trends in literary art.16 However, Japan’s ‘humanities’ did not define the humanities as a study of the human in opposition to Christian theology. Rather, it brought religious studies into the field, and following other models of European nationalism [that established their own national religions, especially in Germany], it placed Shintoism at the root of its nationhood. Consequently, neither art history, nor the history of linguistic art, distinguishes art from material or linguistic works belonging to religious thought 15

See footnote 8. Suzuki Sadami, Nihon no ‘bungaku’ gainen [The Concept of ‘Literature’ in Japan] (Tokyo: Sakuhinsha, 1998), see chapter 8, 230–260. 16


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(Shintoism, Buddhism).17 In late Meiji theories on art, there existed also a certain tone of argumentation that emphasized religious elements and spirituality in their aesthetic reception. Their ideas were tied to Emerson’s (1803–1882) transcendental spiritualism, Hegel’s Lectures on Aesthetics, and the theories of Hartmann (1842–1906), who incorporated the ideas on the unconscious of Schopenhauer (1788–1860) and Schelling (1775–1854) into his own art theory. As the representative receivers and translators of these thoughts, one could name Kitamura Tōkoku (1868– 1894), Fenollosa, Okakura Tenshin, and Mori Ōgai (1862–1922). Inaga Shigemi has examined the concept of ‘Japanese art history’ (l’histoire de l’art du Japonais), publicized and created purely for the 1900 Paris World Fair Exhibit. He shows how the image of Japanese art was constructed with early modern European folk art at its centre, and how its historical perspective focused on ancient Buddhist statues.18 Okakura Tenshin, one of the key members of this construction along with Fenollosa, focused on Nara-period Buddhist statues, which in Hegel’s Lectures on Aesthetics, would be deemed as ‘symbolic and/or Eastern art’. Okakura regarded these statues as an art form that corresponded to the Greek and Roman sculptures of Hegelian ‘classical art’, representing the balance between spirituality and materiality.19 There was, however, a difference in the historiography of Fenollosa and Okakura. Fenollosa, who returned to the US in 1890, used the Song Dynasty in China as the classical or the revival era of the classical in

17 This phenomenon has many causes. One is that the Meiji government proclaimed ‘National Shintoism’ to be the act of worshipping the nation’s ancestors, and thus ‘not a religion’. Another is that Romanticism in modern Europe took up both Christianity and paganism as their religious subject. Furthermore, works by Nitobe Inazō, who was influenced by German Protestant theology, and those by Kakei Katsuhiko helped establish the idea of Shinto as a form of national religion (minzoku shūkyō). See Nitobe Inazō, Bushido, the Soul of Japan; An Exposition of Japanese Thought (1899), cf. 5th ed. (Tokyo: Shōkwabō, 1901). The book, originally published in English, was translated into Japanese by Sakurai Ōson in 1911. There is also a New York edition: Bushido, the Soul of Japan: An Exposition of Japanese Thought (New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1908). Also see Kakei Katsuhiko, Koshintō daigi [The Great Cause of Ancient Shintoism] (Tokyo: Shimizu shoten, 1912). 18 Inaga Shigemi, ‘Kindai no kokka korekushon to minkan korekushon no keisei’ [The Construction of the Modern National Collection and the Civilian Collection], in Korekushon no kigōron [Semiotics of Collections], ed. Japan Semiotic Society (Tokyo: Tōkai daigaku shuppankai, 2001), 80–82. 19 Okakura Tenshin’s Tōyō no risō [Eastern Ideals] rephrases the notion of ‘symbol’ as an expression of ‘formalism’ (keishiki-shugi), or in other words as a pursuit of formalistic beauty. It modifies Hegelian theory by claiming that in Eastern ‘symbolic’ art, it is the form of the material that governs the spirit. See this footnote 5, vol.1 of Okakura Tenshin zenshū, 83–84.

rewriting the literary history of japanese modernism 45 his analogies.20 Okakura, on the other hand, located ‘the Eastern ideals’ (tōyō no risō) in T’ang Dynasty ‘classics’, and defined the sansuiga (landscape paintings) ranging from the Song Dynasty to the Muromachi period as ‘true modern art’ (shin no kindai geijutsu). This discrepancy between Fenollosa and Tenshin in the ‘translation’ game of Hegelian aesthetics leads us to explore the relationship between the reception of Western art and the evaluation of classical texts in Japan and the East. What was happening in the case of literary art? Aesthetic Principles (geijutsu rinen) In the early and mid-Meiji period, two literary methods arrived in Japan: realism, which sought to capture the reality of civil societies, and romanticism, which placed its value on creativity and imagination. Chinese poetic writings (kanshibun), whose spirit also upheld reality, and nativist thought (kokugaku) functioned as their receptors, and the principle of depicting realistic feelings and landscapes became very visible.21 During the transition to the twentieth century, however, this went through a complete makeover. Let me summarize this transformation by dividing it into five points. 1) German critic Johannes Volkelt, in his Asthetische Zeitfragen (1895), criticized the move from naturalism to symbolism, focusing on writers such as Henrik Ibsen (1828–1906), Gerhart Hauptmann (1862– 1946), and Joris-Karl Huysmans (1848–1907). These were playwrights and novelists who originally began as naturalists, but who moved towards symbolism, as they began to be interested in the mysticism that could be found in the depth of nature or in the instincts of organisms. Volkelt compared these writers to Max Klinger’s (1857–1920) sculptures and fantastic lithographs, naming them Post-naturalists 20 Boston Museum, Kyoto, Daitokujizō, chūgoku kodai butsuga tokubetsuten kyatarogu [Catalogue on Special Exhibit of Kyoto, Collection at Daitokuji, and Ancient Chinese Buddhist Paintings] (Boston Museum, 1894). Yamaguchi Seiichi, vol.2 of Fenorosa [Fenollosa] (Tokyo: Sanseidō, 1982), 40. In the works of Fenollosa, following his return, one could trace his departure from the Hegelian three-step theory. 21 One could locate this in criticisms of Manyōshū and The Tale of Genji, methods for tanka (short poems), and concepts for novels. See Suzuki Sadami, ‘ “Nihon bungaku” to iu gainen, oyobi koten hyōka no hensen—Manyō, Genji, Bashō’ [The Concept of ‘Japanese Literature’ and Transitions in Classical Criticism—Manyō, Genji, Bashō], in vol. 22 of Nichibunken sōsho [Nichibunken Japanese Studies Series], Katoki no bungaku [Transitional Era Literature], ed. Inami Ritsuko and Inoue Shōichi (Kyoto: International Research Centre for Japanese Studies, 2000). Furthermore, the spirit of valuing direct expressions of one’s emotions, the building of the populace, and linguistic movements came from Ming dynasty China, in particular from late Ming thought, and it continued to be developed throughout the Tokugawa era.


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(Nachnaturalismus). Mori Ōgai then introduced his work to Japan as Sanbi shinsetsu (New Theories on Aesthetic Appreciation, 1900). Subsequently, during the rise of religious sentiments and the heightening of spirituality in post-Russo-Japanese-War Japan, European symbolist art and its movement towards mysticism, represented by Maruice Maeterlinck (1862–1949), was taken up. As representative examples of this trend, we can cite Ueda Bin’s (1874–1916) introduction of ‘symbolist poetry’ in the first half of the 1900s, Kanbara Ariake’s (1875– 1952) works, and the proposal for ‘New Naturalism’ (shin shizen shugi) put forward by Iwano Hōmei (1873–1920) and Shimamura Hōgetsu (1871–1918). Also, the November 1910 issue of the coterie magazine Shirakaba (White Birch) published a special issue on Auguste Rodin (1840–1917), bringing about a Rodin boom among young intellectuals; and his sculptures too were interpreted as symbols of a certain profound ‘life’ (seimei). 2) Henri Bergson’s Matière et mémoire (1896) and William James’ ‘A World of Pure Experience’ (1903) were introduced to Japan. These new philosophies captured consciousness (represented by the senses, perception, direct experience or pure experience) as the basis of human recognition and brought about a trend that focused on the five senses and their impressions, unification with nature, and the unification of the subject with the object. Tayama Katai’s ‘‘Sei’ ni okeru kokoromi’ (An Experiment on ‘Life’, 1908) expands on this emphasis on the five senses by describing it as ‘to write as a phenomenon of just seeing, listening, and touching’.22 Takamura Kōtarō, in his ‘Midori iro no taiyō’ (Green Sun, 1910), also declares that ‘if the sun appears to be green, it is fine to depict it as green’. Theories on the unification with nature could be seen in writings such as Fujioka Sakutarō’s criticism of the Manyōshū (Collection of Ten Thousand Leaves, ca.759), the essays on poet Yamabe no Akahito in his Kokubungakushi kōwa (Lectures on National Literary History, 1907), and Mushanokōji Saneatsu’s ‘Rodan to jinsei’ (Rodan and his Life, 1910). 3) The notion of ‘feelings and mood’ within the imported aesthetics of German sentimentalism became an important issue. A clear example of this can be seen in Kitahara Hakushū’s statement: ‘My symbolic poems mainly revolve around the impressions of sentiments and the symphony of mood’, cited in the introduction to Jashūmon (Heretics, 1909). 22 Yoshida Seiichi and Wada Kingo, ed., vol. 3 of Kindai Bungaku Hyōron Taikei [Collection of Critical Essays in Modern Japan] (Tokyo: Kadokawa-shoten, 1972), 448.

rewriting the literary history of japanese modernism 47 4) In 1911, Abe Jirō published his ‘Naiseikatsu chokusha no bungaku’ (Literature of the Portrayals of Inner Life) in the 29 August issue of Tokyo Asahi Newspaper. The term ‘inner life’ refers to the inner workings of life, or how the mind (kokoro) functions. Around the same time, art critic Louis Hynde’s The Post Impressionists (1911), based on Roger Fry’s London exhibit of ‘Manet and the Post-Impressionists’, became popular among those interested in French art. Kimura Shōhachi thus translated the entire text in the 1913 (vol.17) issue of Gendai no bijutsu (Contemporary Art), accompanying the translation with twenty-four illustrations. Hynde states in the text that representing the object’s appearance is merely an explanatory, outmoded method, that ‘art is what expresses one’s emotions (kanjō)’.23 5) These trends then became categorized under the rubric of ‘the symbolic expressions of life’ (seimei no shōchō hyōgen). This idea does not point to any religious gods or to any matter or laws of motion pertaining to materialism. It is not a universal principle, but rather an expression that upholds the notion of ‘life’ (‘true life’, ‘the great life of the universe’) and places this idea at its centre. ‘Life-centrism’ in Japan, or ‘Taishō-life-centrism’, emerged from the ‘Life-centrist’ thought in turnof-the-century Europe. Lev Tolstoy (1828–1910) in his A Confession (1879–1881) and in On Life (1887) proposed that ‘God is life’. German biologist Ernst Haechel wrote his ‘Theory on All Things Possessing Life’ in Die Lebenswunder (1904). Wilhelm Dilthey (1833–1911) expounded on ‘interpretations of life’ or ‘philosophies on life’ (Lebensphilosophie), while Bergson published his Creationist Evolution (1907). Japan was also introduced to the philosophy of the women’s liberation movement led by Swede Ellen Key (1849–1926), at the core of whose ideas lay ‘the religion of life’. Taishō ‘life-centrism’ was a diverse discourse, which incorporated not only all of these European ideas, but also blended together various ideas such as modern biology (especially theories on evolution) and the Eastern (or Chinese) notion of ‘qi (Spirit)’, Buddhism (especially Zen), the philosophy of Wang Yang-Ming, including its ‘left branch’, and Shintoism. Beginning with Kitamura Tōkoku’s ‘Naibu seimei ron’ (On Inner Life, 1893) and ‘Biteki seikatsu o ronzu’ (On Aesthetic Life, 1901) by Takayama Chogyū who was inspired by Nietzsche (1844–1900), various forms of thought were born, their philosophers ranging from biologists to Buddhists and Shintoists. 23 Kitazawa Noriaki, Kishida Ryūsei to Taishō avangyarudo [Kishida Ryūsei and Taishō Avant-Garde] (Tokyo: Iwanami shoten, 1993), 45.


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Some of these examples are: Iwano Hōmei’s ‘Shinpiteki hanjū shugi’ (Mystical Satyr-ism, 1906), Kinoshita Naoe’s Zange (Confession, 1906), Ueda Bin’s ‘Shin dōtoku setsu’ (New Lectures on Morals, 1910), Nishida Kitarō’s Zen no kenkyū (Studies on the Good, 1911), Kakei Katsuhiko’s Koshintō taigi (The Great Cause of Ancient Shintoism, 1912), Kuriyagawa Hakuson’s Kindai no ren’ai kan (Modern Views on Love, 1921). In the field of aesthetic theory, we can also cite Okakura Tenshin’s Tōyō no risō (The Ideals of the East, 1903), Iwano Hōmei’s Shin shizenshugi (New Naturalism, 1908), Mushanokōji Saneatsu’s ‘Rodan to jinsei’ (Rodin and His Life, 1910), Shimamura Hōgetsu’s ‘Seimei’ (Life, 1912), Watsuji Tetsurō’s Gūzō Saikō (Revival of Idols, 1918), Nishida Kitarō’s ‘Bi no honshitsu’ (The Essence of Beauty, 1920), Saitō Mokichi’s ‘Tanka ni okeru shasei no setsu’ (Theories of Depiction in Short Poems, 1920–1921), and Kitahara Hakushū’s ‘Dōyō shikan’ (My Views on Children’s Songs, 1926). Whether one intended to deepen or heighten one’s emotions, trying to depict one’s experience in a realistic manner, or one wanted to be able to close one’s mind, everything translated into ‘symbols of life’. The artistic theory of ‘the symbolic expression of life’ implied a certain way to free oneself from all boundaries of expression, and each strand of thought came to seek its own form of expression that suited its ideals. The European movement of artistic modernism underwent this trend as well. Italian futurism, influenced by Bergson’s Creationist Evolution, vorticism in Britain, and French surrealism, which was derived from Freudian (1856–1939) psychoanalysis, are all examples of this life-centrism.24 24 The phrase ‘expression of life’ (seimei no hyōgen) appears, for example, in Yves Duplessis, Le Surréalisme (1950), trans. Inada Sankichi, in Collection Que Sais-Je?, no.432. (Tokyo: Hakusuisha, 1963), 105. However, the words of Man Ray, who incorporated the spirit of surrealism in photography, probably reveal its signification in a more concrete manner:

No matter what, an effort pushed by desire must be supported by a subconscious energy that automatically helps establish it in reality. It is from this energy that we attain an endless amount of resources. In other words, the resources are retained and ready within ourselves, so all we have to do is to expel all the entrapped emotions. Like magicians, who deal with many natural phenomena, and like scholars, who employ various contingencies and rules, creators devote themselves to the human value. They submit themselves to the power of the unconscious, tainted by one’s own personality, in other words, to the universal desire of human beings. This is how they bring forward the motives or instincts that have been long suppressed and that serve as the basis for philanthropy and trust. Man Ray, ‘L’age de la lumière’, in Minotaure, no.134 (December 1933), Quoted from Tokyo National Modern Museum, Shintai to hyōgen 1920–1980 [Body and Expression 1920–1980], (Tokyo: Tokyo National Modern Museum, 1996) 254.

rewriting the literary history of japanese modernism 49 Creating Actual Works In turn-of-the-century literary art, there is an attempt to learn from the timely sketches of the impressionists and capture shifts in natural scenery. Tokutomi Roka’s Shizen to jinsei (Nature and Life, 1900) and Kunikida Doppo’s Musashino (The Field of Musashi, 1901) are two examples of this. They drew their ideas from Jean-Baptiste Camille Corot’s (1796–1875) landscape art and William Wordsworth’s (1770–1850) poetry, respectively, and stated that they were trying to depict and write about the essence of nature, or in other words ‘life’.25 In the field of art, Fujishima Takeji (1867–1943) painted ‘Chō’ (Butterfly, 1900). In it, he tried to capture the shift from pleinarism to romanticism.26 Using the story of Psyche in Greek mythology as his topic, he arranged his work based on the symbolic expressions of French romanticism. In 1900, Aoki Shigeru (1882–1911) also became a seminal figure in introducing impressionism, pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood works, and works by Moreau and Chavannes (1824–1898). Aoki’s representative work ‘Umi no sachi’ (Product of the Sea, 1904) gave him the opportunity to become friends with Kanbara Ariake, who composed the poetry anthology Shunchōshū (Collection of Spring Birds), which is seen as the first Japanese work to actually capture the principles of symbolism. The word ‘symbol’ was first introduced to Japan in Véron’s Aesthetics (1884–1885) translated by Nakae Chōmin (1847–1901).27 Eugène Véron, in his L’Esthétique (1878), criticized the training method at the Academie des Beaux-Arts, which consisted of copying other 25 For reference, see Suzuki Sadami’s aforementioned ‘The Concept of “Literature” in Japan’, section 10.2, and Suzuki Sadami, ‘ “Genbun itchi” to “shasei” sairon—“ta” no seikaku’ [Rethinking ‘the Unification of Speech and Writing’ and ‘Sketches of Natural Life’—the Characteristics of the Ending ‘Ta’], Kokugo to kokubungaku (July 2005): 1–21. 26 Pleinarism was a method where instead of the traditional method of finishing up landscape paintings using the artificial light inside the art studio, one would instead pay attention to the effect that light brought upon the figure’s shape and shades, in addition to things like moisture level in the air. In England, Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775–1851) was the representative artist of this movement, as was Jean-Baptiste Camille Corot (1796–1875) in France. They both learned from artists in mid-nineteenth-century Rome, who placed their canvases outdoors and depicted the landscapes there. Claude Monet (1840–1926) and other impressionists all followed this trend, but the term ‘pleinarism’ has also been used to designate the artists belonging to the Ecole de Barbizon, who often chose the forest of Fontainebleau as their subject. Kume Keiichirō (1866– 1934), who studied in Paris, and Kuroda Kiyoteru (1866–1924) brought this method home and started a new era of Western painting in Japan. 27 Kimata Satoshi, ed., Kindai nihon no shōchō shugi [Symbolism in Modern Japan] (Tokyo: Ôfū, 2004), see10.


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masterpieces, and propounded that the expression of the artist’s individualism and emotions could only be born from depicting actual objects. In other words, he sought to accomplish what the romantics envisioned by using the methods of realism. He states that in the art of the past, ‘even sculptors all turned to statues of gods or heroes as their topic. If not, they sculpted strange objects that resisted interpretation and claimed them to be symbols of religious sublimity.’28 His ideas here recall Hegel’s, in that he sees art as a method that symbolizes primitive religious notions, no matter how artistic principles may vary. Separate from this, there was also another use of the word ‘symbol’, which was used to designate a new movement in the arts. Ueda Bin is credited with being the first person to use this term, when in the January 1904 issue of Myōjō (Morning Star), he translated the title of the Belgian poet Émile Verhaeren’s (1855–1916) poem as ‘Washi no uta (shōchōshi)’ (Eagle’s Songs (Symbolist Poem)). Beginning with this, many symbolist works began to be translated and introduced. However, the terms ‘symbolist poetry’ or ‘symbolism’ in Japan came to connote various different movements in turn-of-the-century Europe. Not only limited to French symbolism, it included the symbolist poems of Austrian poet Hugo von Hofmannsthal (1874–1929), who emphasized the ‘feelings and mood’ aspect of German Romanticism, and whose poems were described as touching on the secrets of life. It also referred to the aesthetic appreciation of English critic Walter Pater (1839–1894) and to the works of Arthur Symons with his aestheticism, which appeared between impressionism and symbolism. Rosetti’s sonnets such as ‘The House of Life’ also emerged during this shift, and Verhaeren’s Les Villes Tentaculaires (1895) even compared machine civilization to an organism, singing about its moving powers and its joys and sorrows. Symbolism, then, was a flexible term that encompassed all of the meanings above, not distinguishing one movement from another. This complicated situation also applied to the reception of European paintings, where impressionism, les Nabis, symbolism, and postimpressionism all arrived in Japan as intermixed movements. Students of Western painting like Okada Saburōsuke (1869–1939), Sakamoto Hanjirō (1882–1969), Nakamura Tsune (1887–1924), and Yasui Sōtarō (1888–1955) came to assimilate these various styles. From the 1910s to the 1920s, this extended to the arena of Japanese paintings as well, and 28 Hijikata Teiichi, ed., vol. 79 of Meiji bungaku zenshū [The Complete Anthology of Meiji Literature] (Tokyo: Chikuma shobō, 1976), see 115.

rewriting the literary history of japanese modernism 51 it may be said that the only difference between Japanese and Western paintings lay in their use of pigmentation. Hayami Gyoshū (1894–1935) adopted bold compositions from traditional elements. Tsuchida Bakusen (1887–1936) borrowed from Gauguin’s themes and arrangements. Within the Kyoto art circles, many proto-expressionist artists emerged, including Kawabata Ryūshū (1885–1966), who deployed daring compositions and use of colour. At the same time, Japan also witnessed a revival of nanga—paintings by literary scholars that were adopted from the tradition of China’s nanshūga (Zen painting) and emerged as its own movement during the Tokugawa period. It is said that the revival of nanga occurred along with that of kangaku (Chinese studies) in the 1890s,29 but as far as actual works are concerned, their creation took place around the 1920s.30 A similar trend can be located in the watercolours of Yorozutetsu Gorō (1885–1927) and Murayama Kaita (1896– 1919), both of whom were known as painters in the early modernist style. This is also especially visible in the works of Tomioka Tessai, who in his late years became interested in the School of Yang-Ming. With his free-flowing use of the brush, he created numerous ink paintings that could almost be mistaken for expressionist art, and this style led him to become internationally acclaimed.31 The seeds of European early modernism were being blown over to Japan, landing one after another, all around the same time. With this, the art world of Japan finally came to witness an incredible flowering of talents who appeared to bloom all at once. When Filippo Marinetti (1876–1944) delivered his ‘Futurist Manifesto’ in Paris on 20 February 1909, the Japanese response was swift. Takamura Kōtarō, who was in France at the time, immediately sent his observations to the Japanese newspapers, and Mori Ōgai’s abridged translation of the manifesto appeared in the literary journal Subaru (The Pleiades, 24 March 29

Anonymous, ‘Meiji bijutsu shōshi’ [Short History of Meiji Art], Taiyō 18.3 (September 1912): 196–205. 30 Sakai Tetsurō, ‘Taishōki ni okeru nanga no saihyōka ni tsuite—shinnanga o megutte’ [The Reevaluation of Southern Paintings in the Taishō Era—Tracing New Southern Paintings], Miyagiken bijutsukan kiyō, no.3 (1988). Also see Chiba Kei, ‘Tanaka Yoshikura Nanga shinron ni okeru bunka honyaku no seijigaku’ [The Politics of Cultural Translation in Tanaka Yoshikura’s New Theories on Southern Painting], Shakai bunka kagaku (February 2003). Inaga Shigemi, ‘Bunjinga no shūen to kakusei— Tomioka Tessai bannen no bunjinga/nanga no kokusai hyōka’ [The Death and Awakening of Literati Painting—The International Evaluation of the Literati and Southern Paintings of the Later Years of Tomioka Tessai], Aida (February 2003). 31 Sen Gyōbai, Tessai no yōmeigaku [Tessai’s Yomei Philosophy] (Tokyo: Bensei shuppan, 2004).


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1909) one month later. Following this, the ‘Futurist Manifesto’ was retranslated about every other year. Kanbara Tai (1898–1997), who published his so-called ‘post-cubist poems’ in coterie magazines from the mid-1910s, began to explore a new painting style along with Tōgō Seiji (1897–1978). This style aimed to divide the movements of the body into units of time. Let me cite from Kanbara’s representative work ‘Manatsu (kōki rittai shi)’ (Mid-Summer (Post-Cubist Poem), 1917): oxygen, nitrogen, argon the trembling of the atoms that dance frantically and in disarray air, factories, plants, and roads too come together, unify, then separate to dance to the rhythm of the sun now every colour, every light, every moment infused with life the suffering life of automobiles, cars, airplanes, and bombs all become ours. Oh Mid-Summer, Oh Mid-Summer, Oh the Midday of Mid-Summer thus, Oh Sun now, every living thing, every breathing thing, every moment that will be filled listen to my humble plea and drink them all up32

In 1922, poet and painter Ogata Kamenosuke too produced lyrical abstract art, reminiscent of the constructivism of Wassily Kandinsky (1866–1944). In the field of tanka (short poems), Maeda Yūgure (1881–1951) stands out as the exemplary figure. In the introduction to his third poetic collection Ikuru hi ni (Days of Living, 1914), he states that he created poems that ‘made me feel as if they possessed the most direct connection to the self, gave the strongest sensation of tugging at the self, and gave the feeling of sensing the self ’s own flow of life’.33 Among the poems here are ones influenced by Van Gogh and the Norwegian painter Edvard Munch (1863–1944). One can even find phrases like ‘Remembering the painting of Van Gogh in prison walking in a circle of prisoners’, ‘In the blazing sun, the hollyhock there yonder colours the corner of my world yellow’, ‘Remembering Munch’s The Room of 32 Suzuki Sadami, ed., vol.10 of Modan toshi bungaku [Modern City Literature], Toshi no shishū [City Poetry] (Tokyo: Heibonsha, 1991), see 87–88. 33 Maeda Yūgure, Ikuru hi ni [Days of Living] (Tokyo: Hakujitsuha, 1914).

rewriting the literary history of japanese modernism 53 the Deathbed, I listen to the night wind, trying to sleep.’ There are also post-impressionist style poems that sing of a certain beauty in the wild, filled with light: ‘The diving girl, who strips her kimono in the setting sun, turns towards the ocean and becomes completely naked.’34 In the famous work by Saitō Mokichi, Shakukō (Red Light, 1913), too, one finds similar phrases: ‘The red head of the lion is soaked in the spinning light of the heavens’, ‘Upon looking at the self-portrait of Gauguin, I remember the day when I killed the yamako (mountain demon) in Michinokuni’, ‘The flower field dripping with the red light of the setting sun, blurs and melts in the distance.’ In Aratama (Unpolished Soul, 1921) also, a poem reads: ‘soaked in the tide, naked boys come towards the fires on the beach, transparent and low’. These examples reveal how Western art, from impressionism to expressionism, had deeply embedded itself in the sphere of Japanese literary arts by the 1910s.35 Criticism of Bashō and the Shin kokinwakashū In the introduction to Shunchōshū (Collection of Spring Birds, 1905), Kanbara Ariake claims: ‘When Bashō emerged in the Genroku era, he succeeded in creating a certain spirit by endowing sekku (short verses) with the Zen philosophy of Genchi36 and interweaving with it the ordinary. This is the closest to symbolism in our literature.’37 In other words, Bashō managed to inscribe the secret of the universe in just a few words, while at the same time creating a sense of heightened spirituality through quotidian words. As is evident here, the discovery of symbolism in Japan greatly affected its criticism of classical literature. 34 Maeda Yūgure, ‘Yūgure no uta’ [Song of Twilight], in Maeda Yūgure zenshū [Complete Anthology of Maeda Yūgure] (Tokyo: Kadokawa shoten, 1972), quotes on 112, 114, and 129, respectively. 35 I omitted the reception history of ‘the stream of consciousness’, a characteristic in modernist novels. For reference, see Suzuki Sadami, Kajii Motojirō no sekai [The World of Kajii Motojirō] (Tokyo: Sakuhinsha, 2002), especially chapter 8.7. Also see my ‘Nakamura Shin’ichirō Kumo no yukiki—aruiwa ‘umaku tsukurareta henbō’’ [Nakamura Shin’ichirō’s The Coming and Going of Clouds—or ‘a Well-Constructed Transfiguration’], in vol. 36 of Nichibunken sōsho [Nichibunken Japan Studies Series], Hyōgen ni okeru ekkyō to konkō [Border-Crossing and Mixing in Expressions], ed. Inami Ritsuko, Inoue Shōichi (Kyoto: International Research Centre for Japanese Studies, 2005), see also notes on 134–136. 36 Genchi’s teachings explored the secret source of the world in intellectual Taoism. 37 Kanbara Ariake, Shunchōshū [Collection of Spring Birds] (1905), in vol.58 of Meiji bungaku zenshū [The Complete Anthology of Meiji Literature], ed. Yano Hōjin (Tokyo: Chikuma shobō, 1967), quote on 286.


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Comparing Bashō’s haikai to Japan’s symbolist poetry thus became a popular practice. Noguchi Yonejirō (1875–1947), who actually began his career as a poet in the US, was invited to London in 1914, after his return to Japan. There, he lectured on ‘The Spirit of Japanese Poetry’ (1914, Japanese translation 1915) and spread haiku criticism in Europe. He compared haiku to the poetry of William Butler Yeats (1865–1939) and William Blake (1757–1827), who were fascinated with world excavations and mystical symbolism. Their poetry could be seen as carrying on the ideas that Arthur Symons expressed in The Symbolist Movement in Literature (1899). In contrast to the popular belief that Japanese haikai was merely a form of linguistic play, Noguchi introduced Bashō’s haikai as something that intensifies one’s spirituality in short, easy words. His words affected his own home country as well and brought about a growing interest in Bashō among symbolic poets like Mikiro Fū (1889–1964).38 The movement to reevaluate Bashō reached a peak in the 1920s. Poet Ōta Mizuho (1876–1955) became the centre of this movement and examined classical poetry as symbolic expressions of universal life. He praised Saigyō’s poems, with strong overtones of Buddhism, as a form of high art, and he also applauded Bashō’s notion of sabi (quiet elegance). In 1920, Ōta established a research group on Bashō’s hokku (opening phrase of a renga), along with writer Kōda Rohan (1867–1947), haiku poet Nunami Keion (1877–1958), critic Abe Jirō (1883–1959), Abe Yoshishige (1883–1966), Komiya Toyotaka (1884–1966), and Watsuji Tetsurō. Their meeting minutes were serialized in the poetic journal Chōon (Sound of the Tide). Abe Jirō, Abe Yoshige, and Watsuji Tetsurō were seminal figures in the philosophy of universal ‘life’, and their studies—Bashō haiku kenkyū (Study of Bashō’s Haiku, 1922), Zoku Bashō haiku kenkyū (Sequel to Study of Bashō’s Haiku, 1924), Zoku Zoku Bashō haiku kenkyū (Sequel to the Sequel to Study of Bashō’s Haiku, 1926)—were published by Iwanami-shoten, along with Ōta Mizuho’s Bashō haikai no konpon mondai (Fundamental Issues of Bashō’s Haikai, 1926) and Bashō renga no konpon kaisetsu (Fundamental Interpretations of Bashō’s Linked Poetry, 1926).

38 Hori Madoka, ‘Noguchi Komejirō no eigo kōen ni okeru nihonshi karon—haiku, Basho, shōchōshugi’ [The Poetics of Japanese Poetry in Noguchi Komejirō’s English Lectures—Haiku, Basho, Symbolism], Nihon kenkyū, no.32 (March 2006): 39–61.

rewriting the literary history of japanese modernism 55 With this movement in motion, Bashō’s reevaluation also escalated within the bundan (literary circles). Satō Haruo, in ‘“Fūryū” ron’ (On ‘Fūryū’, 1924) names the moment where nature and the self come together as ‘fūryū’ (refinement) and cites Bashō’s literary world as the epitome of this idea. He calls out to writers to go beyond the modern novel, which focuses on the struggles of the human will, by applying this philosophy. Uno Kōji also states in ‘‘Watakushi-shōsetsu’ shiken’ (My Perspective on ‘The I-Novel’, 1925) that, although no Japanese writer could write great novels like Balzac (1799–1850), no Western writer could recreate the world of Bashō. He corrects his former opinion that works in essay style like Shiga Naoya’s ‘Kinosaki nite’ (At Kinosaki, 1917) could not be considered to be a particular style of fiction and comes to accept the value of ‘shinkyō shōsetsu’ (mental-state fiction), where writers express their state of mind in essay style.39 Meanwhile, poet Hagiwara Sakutarō (1886–1942), who used to be critical towards conceptual symbolist poetry and even wrote an essay called ‘Banish the Poetry of the Mikiro Fū School’, began hailing Bashō’s name as well. In ‘Shōchō no honshitsu’ (The Essence of Symbols, 1926), he claims that, although nineteenth-century French symbolism led by Mallarmé revolved around the themes of ‘mysticism, enchantment, ghostliness, and Eastern fatalism’, today’s European modernism was finally understanding its essence intuitively and approaching symbolism in the East, represented by Bashō.40 This may sound like an unsubstantiated claim, but he was actually basing his ideas on the words of Ivan Goll (1891–1950).41 The German expressionist poet, who was born in Alsace and even partook in the French avant-garde poetry movement, argued once that ‘the model for symbolism is the Japanese haiku’. Following this, Japan witnessed various influences of haiku in the Western world: Ezra Pound’s (1885–1972) imagism, the French poet Max Jacob’s (1876–1944) short poetry movement, and the Russian film director Sergei Eisenstein’s (1898–1948) method of montage.


Suzuki Sadami, The World of Kajii Motojirō, see 331, 595. Hagiwara Sakutarō, ‘Shōchō no honshitsu’ [The Essence of Symbols] (1926), in vol. 8 of Hagiwara Sakutarō zenshū [The Complete Works of Hagiwara Sakutarō] (Tokyo: Chikuma shobō, 1976), quote on 26. 41 Hagiwara Sakutarō, ‘Sanbunshi no jidai o chōetsu suru shisō’ [Thought that Surpasses the Era of Prose Poetry] (1927), in ibid., quote on 64. Suzuki Sadami, ‘Taishō jūgonen’ [Taishō 15], Hennentai taishō bungaku zenshū: taishō jūgonen [Historical Chronology Format Complete Collection of Taishō Literature: Taishō 15] (Tokyo: Yumani shobō, 2003), 654–655. 40


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Hagiwara Sakutarō, then, in a later essay called ‘Nihon shiika no shōchō shugi’ (Symbolism in Japanese Poetry), professed Shin kokinwakashū (The New Poetic Anthology of the Present and the Past, 1205) to be the embodiment of Japanese symbolism. In this manner, Bashō’s haikai and the imperial anthology Shin kokinwakashū came to be narrated as being representative of ‘Japanese symbolism, the king of all symbolisms.’ In the 1930s, this trend continued to be developed by people like Ōnishi Yoshinori (1888–1959), known to be the first researcher of Japanese aesthetics, and Okazaki Yoshie (1892–1982), who promoted ‘the study of Japanese literary art’ (nihon bungeigaku). Borrowing the notion of ‘sentimental symbolism’ from German aesthetics, they spearheaded the argument that ‘things of Japanese-ness’ (nihonteki narumono) were represented by Shin kokinwakashū and by the ideas of wabi (aesthetic of rustic solitude), sabi (aged tranquility), and yūgen (mysterious subtlety) propounded by the great Noh playwright Zeami (ca.1363–1443).42 For this thought to concretize, the Iwanami publishing house once again came to provide the necessary media. Rupture from Early Modernism The word modanizumu in Japanese literary history has often been used to point to the New Sensationalists and their surroundings. However, this designation only looks at the surface of the phenomenon, focusing on the writers’ new metaphorical method or their popular subject of cityscape. This understanding of modanizumu overlooks the important shift in representation that had been taking place since the turn of the century, mainly the move from direct representation (object to representation) to the representation of impressions (object to impression to representation). There was also a new form of representation that dealt with the expression of inner life (naibu seimei). In fact, the manifesto published by the New Sensationalists in their seminal journal Bungei jidai was also infused with the notion of ‘life’. Kataoka Teppei’s ‘Wakaki dokusha ni atafu’ (For the Young Readers, December 1924) emphasized the negotiation between a work’s material and the writer’s ‘life’. Kawabata Yasunari’s ‘Shinshin sakka no shin keikō kaisetsu’ (Analysis of New Trends of the Up-and-Coming Writers, January 1925) stated that ‘new happiness’ (atarashii yorokobi) arose 42 For reference, see Suzuki and Iwai, Wabi, sabi, yūgen—These ‘Japan-esque Things’, cited above.

rewriting the literary history of japanese modernism 57 from being able to swallow everything (banbutsu) into your subjectivity (shukan) and that, vice versa, if one could allow one’s subjectivity to be swallowed up by everything, that would serve as a ‘new salvation’ (atarashii sukui). Kawabata summarizes that it is precisely this ‘unification of the subject and the object’ that governs the newly rising writers of his time.43 The New Sensationalists were trying to theorize the new textual form that was touched off by French works like Paul Morand’s Ouvert la nuit (1922), where numerous metaphors were freely used as a form of style. In ‘Kankaku katsudō—kankaku katsudō to kankakuteki sakubutsu ni taisuru hinan e no gyakusetsu’ (Sensationalism Movement—Sensationalism Movement and the Paradox of Criticizing Sensationalist Works, February 1925; later called ‘New Sensationalism’), Yokomitsu Riichi defines his meaning of ‘sensation’, the symbol of ‘sensation’, as: ‘the instinctive trigger within one’s subjectivity that functions to strip away nature’s outside appearance and jump into the thing itself ’.44 This passage has long attracted the attention of scholars, but it is not as if his ideas were so different from those of Kataoka Teppei or Kawabata. To describe subjectivity as something that ‘strips away nature’s outside appearance and jumps into the thing itself ’ is to say, according to Saitō Mokichi, ‘to enter into reality and depict first-hand the unification of nature and the self ’. In fact, Yokomitsu follows up on the earlier comment and states: ‘With this alone, it would just be an eccentric explanation, and I have not yet experienced the newness within that new sensation.’ Yokomitsu continues to argue that the older notion of ‘sensation’ is something that directly symbolizes the content of one’s intuition: ‘One’s intuition turns into “pure subjectivity” because it bypasses subjectivity and projects the object [of the empty subject].’45 As opposed to this, ‘new sensation’ represents an expression where the dynamism of the intellect (i.e. the action of understanding taking on a dynamic form) takes one’s obtained cognition (the ‘pure subjectivity’ that emerges as the object within one’s subjectivity or ‘subjective objectivity’) and translates it into a ‘symbol’. He was promoting a way of effacing subjectivity 43 Kawabata Yasunari, ‘Shinshin sakka no shin keikō kaisetsu’ [Analysis of New Trends of the Up-and-Coming Writers] (1925), in vol.30 of Kawabata Yasunari zenshū [Complete Works of Kawabata Yasunari] (Tokyo: Shinchōsha, 1982), quote on 177. 44 Yokomitsu Riichi, ‘Kankaku katsudō—kankaku katsudō to kankakuteki sakubutsu ni taisuru hinan e no gyakusetsu’ [Sensationalism Movement—Sensationalism Movement and the Paradox of Criticizing Sensationalist Works] (1925), in vol.13 of Yokomitsu Riichi zenshū [Complete Works of Yokomitsu Riichi] (Tokyo: Kawade shobō shinsha, 1981), quote on 76. 45 Ibid., 80.


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and creating a situation where subjectivity and objectivity were unified. This would result in a new cognitive content, and by endowing the content with an intellectual operation, one would be able to re-construct and create a ‘symbol’. Yokomitsu defines ‘new sensation’ as a way of taking apart a form in order to create a new form. He points to various movements as his examples: futurism and its notion of time, cubism and its concept of space, and the Dadaist and expressionist expression of mental images. From the 1910s onward, Japanese philosophers called what William James (1842–1910) termed as ‘direct experience’, ‘pure consciousness’, or ‘non-reflective consciousness’ as ‘pure objectivity’ (junsui kyakkan) taken in subjectivity. This phrase was used to capture the concept where one effaced self-consciousness and subjectivity in order to unify it with the object. Yokomitsu saw the attempt to directly recreate this ‘pure objectivity’ as an ‘out-moded expression of sentiments’ (kyūrai no kankaku no hyōgen) and called for a way of representing this through a more intellectual method. For this reason, New Sensationalism, for Yokomitsu, did not imply how one sensed or felt the object, but how to create a different world through new uses of metaphors and their fragmentation. This resonates with what Nishida Kitarō claimed in ‘Bi no honshitsu’ (Essence of Beauty, 1920), compiled in Geijutsu to dōtoku (Art and Morality, 1923). In this essay, Nishida applies Bergson’s theory of ‘creative evolution’ and claims that ‘the root of artistic creation lies in élan vital (vital force)’.46 He uses French post-impressionist paintings as examples to define art as a form that represents the ‘life’ resulting from the unification of subjectivity and objectivity. He argues that the essence of art lies in the ‘symbol’, which is to create an independent object of aesthetic appreciation by conflating one’s perception with one’s mentality. He also calls this blending of the various perceptions ‘the construction function’ (kōsei sayō). Art is not a matter of cognition. Rather, as Nishida goes on to explain, it is perception (chikaku) that should be reconstructed as the object of aestheticization. As a literary example of how this ‘unification of the perceptions’ that Nishida propounds in ‘Essence of Beauty’ could be expressed, one may turn to Kajii Motojirō’s ‘Remon’ (Lemon, 1924). This may be a renowned text, but not until recently was its connection to Nishida made clear. 46 Nishida Kitarō, ‘Bi no honshitsu’ [Essence of Beauty] (1920), in vol.3 of Nishida Kitarō zenshū [Complete Works of Nishida Kitarō] (Tokyo: Iwanami shoten, 1965), quote on 270.

rewriting the literary history of japanese modernism 59 In the story, a lemon—like the ones that were actually sold in the city at the time, a product of California—helps brighten up the narrator’s life, dispersing his depression. In that moment, the ‘I’ feels as if that one lemon is worth ‘every good thing and every beautiful thing’ put together.47 In order to write about this experience of inverted values, he recalls every sensation associated with the lemon—its coldness, scent, colour, and shape—and reconstructs it into a physical object. In other words, he transforms the senses (minus, of course, taste and hearing) into a three-dimensional object—the definition of cubism. Except of course, sentences, unlike paintings, are not limited to the sense of sight. Kajii then summarizes this experience as ‘simple senses of cold, touch, smell, and vision’, attributing Chinese characters to each of the senses.48 This strong linking of Chinese phrases signifies the author’s engagement with the reconstruction of the five senses.49 At the Third Institution of Higher Education, Kajii was a student in the science department. Inspired by Hermann von Helmholtz’s (1821-1894) anatomical chart of the sensory organs, he thought of creating a mechanism of communication in literary works that would transport its material from its conveyor to its receiver. From an early age, Kajii had grasped the notion that an expression possesses material form, and was not only the one-way expression of the consciousness of the artist. It is virtually undisputed that Kajii was familiar with Nishida’s ‘Essence of Beauty’, and he was also interested in the avant-garde art of Kandinsky and Picasso (1881–1973). Yokomitsu Riichi too stated that his ‘interest was moving’ towards the constructivist movement led by Kandinsky and others.50 Constructivism sought to assemble colours and shapes without an actual subject of the painting. Cubism witnessed the same phenomenon as well. Around 1913, Georges Braque (1882–1963), together with Picasso, pioneered the method of papier collé by cutting up newspapers and wallpapers and creating a surface by gluing them together. This implied a move away from an art form like still-life, where one would take apart the optic angles of the subject matter and assemble them together onto a single surface. In other words, they sought to skip the subject matter—its senses and impressions—in its entirety and attempted to pursue the beauty of simply 47 Kajii Motojirō, ‘Remon’ [Lemon] (1924), in vol.1 of Kajii Motojirō zenshū [Complete Works of Kajii Motojirō] (Tokyo: Chikuma shobō, 1999), quote on 11. 48 Ibid. 49 Suzuki Sadami, The World of Kajii Motojirō, 55–60. 50 Yokomitsu Riichi, vol.13 of Complete Works of Yokomitsu Riichi, 80.


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creating a surface. The artist’s senses, perception, and cognition would be turned strictly to the surface itself, and inorganic substances like paint, canvas, and tableau must be recognized for what they are—inorganic substances. Furthermore, Dadaists and surrealists then turned to creating ‘objet’ using merchandise products, completely turning away from the use of paint in the case of painting, but also from plaster, bronze, and wood in the case of sculptures. Marcel Duchamp (1887–1968) titled a ready-made urinal ‘Fountain’, signing his name as ‘R. Mutt’, and in 1917 tried to submit this to the Independent Exhibit in Paris, of which he was a committee member. The work was rejected, but it was an attempt to undermine the argument that an artwork must be an expression of the inner self. In Japan, Murayama Tomoyoshi is said to have introduced and created the first objet, when he had just returned from Germany in 1923. That technique continued to be developed internationally, even after the Second World War, and today, it can even be found among everyday ornaments. To summarize, Yokomitsu Riichi’s ‘sensationalist movement’ attempted to consider the materiality of works deemed important by the avant-garde movement and to then expound his own interpretation of avant-garde art as a whole. Of course, his movement was limited by linguistic boundaries and could not break away from the perception of demonstrative objects. Although he used the word ‘symbol’, his definition was completely different from that of Saitō Mokichi, who used the term from the point of view of universal ‘life’ and narrated its significance as if it had derived from ancient China. The stance of Yokomitsu, even though he used the same word ‘symbol’, was thus completely different from that of Saitō Mokichi, who situated himself in the more traditional discourse of symbolic representation within Eastern thought. For Yokomitsu, Saitō’s theory of depiction was only a [direct] recreation of ‘pure subjectivity’. One may go as far as to say that he saw it as an expression of Naturalism. In fact, as we have seen, Japanese Naturalism aimed for a direct representation of impressions. Yokomitsu, on the other hand, was calling for a revolution of representative methods, where one could reconstruct ‘pure subjectivity’ in a more complex manner with expressions that could stimulate the reader and turn it into an object of appreciation, the textual work itself. It should now be clear why I focused on the reception of symbolism in order to analyse Japanese ‘modernism’ in the literary arts. It is because the shift and ‘translation’ of what ‘symbol’ signified pushed forward the progress of modernism, at least in its limited sense. ‘Symbol’ helped Japan’s modern literary perspective divorce itself from the reproduction

rewriting the literary history of japanese modernism 61 of actual feelings or landscapes. It instead turned to reproducing impressions or the beauty of yūgen and to ‘feelings and mood’ (kibun jōchō), finally shifting to the construction of images in material forms (busshikiteki keishō). At the time when France was witnessing a Catholic reaction following the collapse of the 1848 revolution, the French symbolists called upon the symbols of paganism for their poetry and art. When that method was then transported in the twentieth century to a foreign land, the Eastern religious concept of ‘yūgen’ came to be ‘translated’, resulting in the invention of ‘Japan’s traditional aesthetics’. These two events took place side by side. By examining the shifts in both European and Japanese literature and art, I believe that a clearer picture of Japanese modernism’s development has been established. The reception of Japan’s classical art acted as a stimulus for European modernism, and, in turn, this was then received by Japan and advanced her own modernism. In this manner, Japan’s modernism in the literary sphere was engaged in a constant dialogue with other movements, such as the new developments in art and aesthetics, which advanced through reciprocal interactions with foreign countries and also with critiques of classical literature. When we place it in this context and rethink its position as being intertwined with all these discourses, Japanese modernism emerges with a completely new historical face.

MODERNISM AND MODERNITY Charles Shirō Inouye The imprecision of certain key terms of cultural analysis is astounding. One such word is ‘modernism’, which is often confused with ‘modernity’. Although many refer to the cause of modernity as modernism, this is far from the truth. Understandably, this confusion follows from a lack of clarity about modernity’s nature. In order to gain a clear understanding of modernism, we will first have to gain a better grasp of the modern. In Japanese, the two notions are more easily separated than in English. The term ‘early modern’ is ‘kinse’ (䖥Ϫ) and ‘modern’ is ‘kindai’ (䖥ҷ); whereas ‘modernism’ usually occurs in the transliterated form of ‘modanizumu’ (ɪɈɻȬɂɨ) or sometimes as ‘modān’ (ɪɈόɻ). As a generic term that expresses a time distinguishable from the past, ‘kindai’ is actually ancient in usage. In my own reading of Japanese literary texts, the oldest occurrence I have come across is in Kamo no Chōmei’s (ca.1153–1216) Anonymous Writings (Mumyōshō), written sometime between 1211 and 1216. In the section of the work where he sets out his theory of yūgen (mystery), he writes of a ‘modern form of poetry’ (kindai no uta no tai). While providing examples to illuminate his idea about a possible future for Japanese poetry, he consistently differentiates between now (ima no yo) and the past (mukashi).1 It would seem that by this time, people had an awareness of their place in time, a point also suggested by Kawabata Yasunari (1899–1972) who could speak of The Tale of Genji as a modern text.2 Of course, the notion of modernity has accrued many layers of meaning since Chōmei’s time. The modern is often associated with a number of values: progressive, Western, scientific, rational, technologically advanced, and so on.3 Based on such nuances alone, a confusion of modern with 1

Takayashi Kazuhiko, ed., Mumyoshō, (Ōfūsha , 1975), pp. 70–79. See his acceptance speech for the Nobel Prize. Thomas Rimer and Van Gessel, eds., The Columbia Anthology of Modern Japanese Literature volume 2 (New York: Columbia University Press, 2007), p. 523. 3 To this list, we could easily add a number of negative modifiers: alienating, fascistic, racist, sexist, genocidal, and so forth. 2

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modernism is only to be expected. The often referred to international aspect of the modernist movement—where we find Kitasono Katue (1902– 1978) corresponding with Ezra Pound—could be seen as an extension of western influence. Or, to give just one other example of how modernism might be seen as an extension of the modern, the cubist experiments of Yorozu Tetsugorō (1885–1927) could be understood as a multiplication of the truth of perspectivalism. That modernism is often understood as a radical or advanced form of the modern is, in fact, a common misperception with which the cultural critic must deal today. This notion that modernists are somehow ‘more modern than modern’ follows from a fundamental misunderstanding of modernity. Here I will argue that, far from being a radical affirmation of modernity, modernism is a reaction to it, or an intended correction. This is not to say that modernism is always nostalgic, or that it lacks a progressive aspect. From a certain point of view, it is forward-looking, as I will explain below. Once again, the essence of modernism is unclear since the nature of modernity is not well understood despite its centrality to our understanding of the human experience. So then, what is modernity? By what standards would we judge something to be modern? Dissatisfied with the various ways modernity has been defined to this point, I have tried to examine Japanese expression in a way that might reveal something like a modern cultural pattern. Why not survey human expression over large periods of time with the hope of determining what the larger trends are? An analysis of these trends might tell us what we want to know about consciousness in general, and about modern consciousness in particular. Assumed by this social semiotic approach are a few controversial points. One is that there is no way to know modern thought and sentiment unless it has been expressed, and that external expression is an integral part of what we call consciousness (since the mind is continuously rearranging the world ‘out there’ to facilitate the workings of the mind ‘in here’). Indeed, I would hold that modern consciousness—like consciousness in general—is unknowable unless it has been expressed or signified; and that fMRI images of the brain at work are not really expressions of consciousness. This leads to a second, equally problematic point. Our understanding of this expression would require that it be at least semi-permanent, which is to admit that much of the semiotic record has already been destroyed and is unavailable for our perusal. A third point would be that our understanding of the semi-permanent


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residue of modern expression always is an interpretation, possibly reflecting eccentric, self-interested points of view. These difficulties notwithstanding, there is one great advantage in launching a wide investigation of modern expression. Even if diminished, the semiotic record actually exists. A written text, a painting, a photograph, a film, a building, a road, a garden, a statue—any of these might be considered a fossil of past thought. As elements of the semiotic record, they are available for our scrutiny. We can examine them and determine whether they belong to this or that era by noting any significant patterns in their make-up. We can also evaluate these patterns against content (what was trying to be expressed); and we can note the proximity of both to events (what happened at such and such a time). By taking note of these correlations, we can categorize and date various semiotic patterns to see if something like a modern consciousness is expressed by the fossil record. The details of this study are contained in my next book, Figurality and the Development of Modern Consciousness.4 Here brevity requires me to sum up my findings quickly in order to bring them to bear on the problem at hand. If we scrutinize the semiotic field in Japan, certain patterns do in fact emerge. I have identified three trends. One is towards sound-oriented signs, or phonocentrism. A second is towards the homogenization of signs, or realism. And a third is the use of signs to accomplish a symbolic framing of reality, or perspectivalism. To go directly to the main point, what all three of these trends—phonocentrism, realism, and perspectivalism—have in common is a suppression of figurality. Figurality is the term I use to refer to the expressive potential of the grapheme; where the grapheme is, of course, the visible, material aspect of a sign. Obviously, not all expression over the past few centuries conforms to these trends. But when we examine the evidence broadly, the semiotic record yields these general patterns, which are closely tied to each other. They are, in fact, mutually supportive. They confirm an even larger overall pattern of anti-figurality that begins somewhere around 1590 and continues until about 1970, what I take to be the beginning and ending dates of Japan’s modern period. After this date, this movement

4 Treatments of many of the topics covered in the book have appeared in articles. For a brief summary of the main argument, see ‘Figurality ǽ䖥ҷᛣ䄬ȃⱎሩ’ (Figurality and the development of modern consciousness) in Nihon kenkyū 34, pp. 13–49.

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towards lower figurality begins to swing towards higher figurality; thus marking an important turning point in human expression. What these results tell us is that, for whatever reason, modernity does not thrive in a semiotic environment that is high in figurality. Indeed, it seems that without its suppression, modern consciousness would not have been able to develop. But it did. And so we are left to wonder. Why was this suppression of the grapheme necessary? And what made this suppression possible in the first place? In order to find answers to these questions, I have devised a simple exercise that I call the figurality test. I give people thirty seconds to draw a picture of god on one side of a white piece of unlined paper. I then give them the same amount of time to write the word for god on the opposite side. The results are revealing. For one thing, people in Japan draw pictures of god more easily than people in the United States, Canada, and Mexico. Many Japanese draw trees, mountains, rivers, and other elements of nature; though some draw men with beards, and others slip into symbolism, which indicates an interesting misunderstanding of the exercise. By contrast, many Americans struggle to draw anything at all. When asked why, the answers are various: ‘I don’t believe in god, so how could I draw such a picture?’ or ‘God is invisible, so what you’re asking is impossible.’ Others have been taught that to create such an image is sacrilegious. Still others have never acquired the ability to draw anything, even at the most fundamental level. Whatever the reason, even those who have struggled, when asked to write the corresponding word, have no trouble doing so at all. Thirty seconds is more than enough time for everyone to write kami, ǠȔ⼲, god, God, G-d, or Dios.

Figure 1. Signs of god with higher and lower figurality


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I point out that if the picture and the word are both signs for the same thing, why do we struggle to produce one kind of sign and have no difficulties with the other? Why does the picture somehow require more reflection? Why is it more revealing of what we really think? This leads to a fruitful discussion of the fundamental difference between pictures and words: the abundance of figurality in the former, and the lack of it in the latter. Signs with high figurality cause us to pause because they display something much closer to our personal, embodied understanding of reality. On the other hand, words, which are a type of symbol, carefully control, limit, and standardize figurality. As such, they are much easier to produce because, for one reason, they are designed to mask over these differences of personal understanding. By contrast, they give us a sense of agreement, as if we share this or that idiom when in fact we do not. This might explain why even those who could not draw a picture of god could so easily produce another kind of sign for the same referent thirty seconds later.5 As for how this relates to the question of modernity, the semiotic record shows us with surprising clarity that certain kinds of signs dominate during the modern era. These are those with low figurality: the prosaic and colloquial novel, maps, realistic images, newspapers, portraits of the emperor, uniforms, and so on. As for why this should be the case, it probably has much to do with the way that such signs are capable of masking over differences of actual understanding and thereby promoting fictive understanding. We actually disagree. But we can be trained to ignore this disagreement. Why is the suppression of the grapheme useful to the development of modern consciousness? In a word, signs with low figurality are helpful to modernization because, in the modern attempt to discover the vastness of the world, the need arises to give order to the Other on a neverbefore-accomplished scale. In other words, signs with low figurality lend themselves to manageability through the formation of massive social groups—nations, races, classes, political parties, and so forth: people of various backgrounds and understandings who, nevertheless, come to see themselves as one. Shared points of imagined community also make possible mass social movements—such as colonization, mercantilism, fandom, war, and so on. They do this by establishing ever 5 Of course, we might argue that one need not believe in anything to use such a term, or any other term for that matter. I might write, for instance, ‘I do not believe in god.’ But this is beside the point. The issue here is not what we believe, but how figurality forces us to ask the question about belief.

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more conceptual and abstract points of union: big ideas (such as god, nation, country, empire) that each member of the collective thinks he understands in the same way but, in fact, does not. As Benedict Anderson has pointed out, a nation is an imagined community.6 It is not naturally occurring, but needs to be imagined into existence. What I would add to this discussion is that such communities form by way of a semiotic field that consistently supports what Elizabeth Eisenstein has called ‘an invisible public from afar’.7 It does this by masking over actual understanding and replacing it with fictive understanding. This, in turn, is accomplished by lowering the figurality of the signs employed. This latter kind of (fictive) understanding is one that we assume to share, even when we know we actually do not. A semiotic field with low figurality fosters the needed presumptuousness. Without a semiotic field with lowered figurality, modern aggression would be impossible. I agree with Anderson’s point that modern understanding is fictional in nature.8 The dominance of the novel in the modern era was not simply a coincidence. His showing how a fictive context engulfs the various characters of a novel or the events reported upon in a newspaper is important because it illuminates the mechanism by which the citizen becomes engulfed by the state. But there are additional issues to consider. Even more to the point of fictionality, why is it that the novelist tries so hard to make something we accept as being ‘made up’ seem believable and true? Why is verisimilitude a necessary quality of modern fiction? Why this attempt to make fabrications plausible? With equally profitable result, we might ask these same questions of the nation state, the political party, the empire, and so on, these institutions that share a fictive essence. What the figurality test shows us is that, since our actual understanding of reality is so varied, we can only come together as a group if we allow ourselves this ability to think we feel the same way about our commonality when, in fact, we actually 6

Benedict Anderson, Imagined Communities (New York: Verso, 1983). Elizabeth L. Eisenstein, ‘Some Conjectures about the Impact of Printing on Western Society and Thought’, Journal of Modern History 40:1 (March 1968), p. 42. Quoted in Anderson. 8 Anderson argues that the essence of the novel and the newspaper appears as an assumed understanding of the larger reality into which various events neatly fit, like incidents of a fictive narrative work. Such forms of expression acculturate the reader to other fictions, such as the national life, where ‘ . . . fiction seeps quietly and continuously into reality, creating that remarkable confidence of community in anonymity which is the hallmark of modern nations’. See page 36. 7


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do not. This self-contradictory state of understanding, this believable fiction in which modern consciousness roots itself, establishes realism, this mode of expression that brazenly claims to have a special relationship with the real. Signs with lower figurality make this kind of contradictory consensus possible. For this reason, modernity has taken an essentially prosaic approach to reality. It attempts to be inclusive, popular, massive, and, again, realistic. Its need for deception favours fiction over poetry, realism over fantasy, and symbolism or ideological clarity over the chaos of ‘art for art’s sake’. For this reason, modernity makes the gothic problematic, just as it rules out superstition and belief in its drive for consensus and general theories of truth. What the phonocentric novel, the realistic painting, the radio broadcast, and symbolically charged signs such as flags, portraits of leaders, and military uniforms all have in common is this shared lowering of figurality. Sharing this characteristic, they all support a masking of the limitations of actual understanding even as it puts forward a type of fictive understanding that makes such a proposition as e pluribus unum tenable. Ironically, fictional representation can become so thoroughly systematic and vast that it comes to appear as the very lack of distortion: true reality in a modern hegemonic sense. Now, if achieving this kind of massive distortion was one of the principle goals of modernity, exposing this distortion as distortion has been one of the enduring goals of modernism. This is one way to understand the iconoclastic, non-realistic, expressionistic aspects of what many understand to be modernism. To some, ‘modern art’ is unrealistic and essentially non-figural. On the other hand, to equate realism with the figural is to risk another misunderstanding, since the modernist impulse actually takes us towards a restoration of the figurality that modern trueness to the figure consistently suppresses. (A realistic portrait can be figural. But the figurality of such portraits is often suppressed since the expressive potential of each point on the surface of such an image is disciplined so that it does not stand out but, rather, lends itself to the expression of the larger whole.) It is by way of this (realistic) homogenization and (perspectival) use of symbols that the systematically universal context for the modern self is set down. Modern consciousness aggrandizes the self, but only to the extent that this self finds itself within a grid of power relations established by a symbolically omnipresent and stabilizing point of view or perspective. Modernity’s visual mode is realistic in the sense that realism is systematically controlled vision, where the parts are atomized and

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Figure 2. Both of these self portraits are figural. But the one on the right, by Yorozu Tetsugorō (1885-1927), has higher figurality than Yokoyama Matsusaburō’s (1838–1884), which tries to hide both the materiality of paint and the presence of a painter.

given meaning as constituent elements of the whole—where hydrogen is a part of water, a tree is a part of a landscape, a citizen as part of a nation, or a gear is a part of a transmission. This kind of modern individualism is oriented (and made possible) by the vastness of symbolic framing that manifests itself not only as an inclusion of detail in all its variety, but also as an abstract, generalizing source of authority, meaningfulness, fame, and so on. Thus, the surrealistic attempt to go beyond realism is a rebellion against hegemonic vision because it reveals the otherwise hidden mechanics of modern vision, which attempts to homogenize all constituent points of an image through their relationship to a single consistent (and distanced) point of view. Fascist aesthetics are the epitome of modern expression. This is because both are based on notions of comprehensibility and purity (where what is not seen is as important as what is seen, and where the non-standard is consistently and aggressively marginalized and eliminated). What various forms of modernism have in common is an interest in resisting hegemony by restoring figurality and thus disrupting the holistic mirage of fictive agreement. Of course, this is only another way to say that modernism manifests itself as a renewed interest in the ‘stuff ’ of art: words, paint, clay, light, and so on. Just as impressionist painters focused on light as the fundament of painting, so did


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the neo-perceptionalist writers draw attention to literature at the level of the word. This occurred in opposition to the position of the naturalist writers and painters who, in their interest in shasei (sketching), sought to establish a transparent medium that would be appropriate for describing or depicting things just as they are (ari no mama), with no elaboration, flourish, or distortion. Thus, modern artists such as Kuroda Seiki (1866–1924), Masaoka Shiki (1867–1902), and Shimazaki Tōson (1872–1943) came to advocate a descriptive mode that might set things down just as they are seen by the objective eye.9 Needless to say, this modern impulse ran counter to what had for centuries been the fundamental aspect of the Japanese aesthetic tradition: lyricism. A person’s ability to meld one’s sensitivities with the concrete particulars of one’s immediate, physical, and visual-spatial environment had always been crucially important. Indeed, in the eyes of many critics of Japanese culture, this lyrical impulse never did get completely replaced by a more distanced, descriptive mode, even in the modern Japanese novel.10 Certainly, the animistic impulse that provided the foundation for this lyricism was severely compromised by various modern developments, including the consolidation of local worship in the form of State Shintō, a national religion that was instituted in order to establish a monotheistic, symbolic centre of Japanese culture in 1871. In the end, localized animism was not fully eradicated by this generalized apotheosis of Japanese-ness. If anything, locality seems to have made a significant comeback in recent years, thus reinforcing the notion of significant space as a foundational aspect of postmodern culture. If these three semiotics trends towards phonocentrism, realism, and symbolic framing made the development of modern consciousness possible, then modern consciousness began to weaken (and the modern period came to an end) once these trends began tracking in the opposite direction: not away from but towards higher figurality. Why did this happen? Perhaps we could say that modernity was fated to undo itself. Its abiding interest in the inclusive discovery of vastness led to the 9 This attempt at honesty also led many to write first-personal narratives that did not employ the usual methods of modern fictionality: third-person, past-tense narration. Many have written about the so-called I-novel, but one simple way to understand this ‘aberration’ of modern fiction is as a carryover from the lyrical tradition, where the truth emanates from a place that is not separated from one’s immediate space. 10 For appraisals of this lyrical tendency in modern Japanese fiction, see Edwin McClellan, ‘Impressionistic Tendency in Some Modern Japanese Writers’, Chicago Review 17:4, pp. 48–60; and Edward Seidensticker, ‘The Unshapen Ones’, Japan Quarterly 11, pp. 64–69.

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technological development of expressive devices such as the moveabletype press, the camera, the telegraph, and the radio. The deployment of these machines had the effect of moving the semiotic field away from figurality and towards an (invisible) voice as the ultimately meaningful expression.11 Yet the continued development of technology that also led to the further invention of off-set printing, the cinema, and television had the effect of making human expression higher in figurality and thus, increasingly expressive of actual rather than fictive understanding. In a word, in a modern environment, distortion is masked over so that it appears as the lack of distortion. In this sense, realism is the greatest distortion of all, even to the point of appearing ‘realistic’. (As the figurality test shows, diversity, not agreement, is our actual reality. We know this because the chances of everyone drawing the same thing in the same way are so very remote.) By contrast, in a postmodern environment, distortion is allowed to appear as distortion, and consequently it emerges as a rejection of hegemonic vision. Thus, modernist attempts to be non-realistic (and thus expose the limitations and dangers of modern hegemony) can be seen as precursors of postmodern expression. In the end, depending on one’s perspective, modernism can be seen as a retrograde attempt to restore lost figurality, or as a futuristic attempt to establish a new fructified realm of super-figurality. The status of the novelist and playwright Izumi Kyōka (1872–1939) is instructive in this regard. Was he ahead of his time—the forward-looking gothic writer that we now read with interest—or a throwback to the past, ridiculed in his own day as being hopelessly old-fashioned and indebted to Tokugawa-period picture books?12 Kyōka’s most ardent admirers, who mostly came from the two generations younger than his—Tanizaki Jun’ichirō (1886–1965), Akutagawa Ryūnosuke (1892–1927), Kawabata Yasunari, and Mishima Yukio (1925–1970)—understood his position within the panoply of modern writers as tenuous. Yet they applauded it, even to the point where Mishima, who was by far the most modern of all these writers, declared Kyōka to be the only real genius among modern Japanese writers.

11 The logocentrism of which Jaques Derrida wrote is a part of this larger modern trend. As his critique of Rousseau suggests, the ‘West’ possessed an inclination towards phonocentricity. But this is not to say that phonocentricity is inherently Western. 12 This is a subject taken up in my The Similitude of Blossoms: A Critical Biography of Izumi Kyōka (1873–1939), Japanese Novelist and Playwright (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1998).


charles shir inouye

Finally, we come to the question of whether Japan was postmodern before it was modern. Noting similarities between the illustrated forms of kibyōshi and manga, we might make the claim that Japan was in some sense ahead of its time. In my opinion, the problem with both the commonly held notion that Japan did not begin modernizing until the Meiji period and this idea of Japan’s early postmodernity is that they disregard the actual semiotic evidence. What the evidence suggests is that Japan began modernizing, albeit in fits and starts, long before the Meiji era, which was without question a time of more rapid development. Once again, Japan’s rather lengthy modern period probably began in the final decade of the sixteenth century and continued to about 1970, when television became dominant and other advanced technologies contributed to a resurgence of Japanese pictocentrism. It is true that some reactions against modernization, such as the rejection of the moveable-type press in the early decades of the seventeenth century, came as traditional last gasps of a weakening lyrical tradition; but others, such as a flourishing of monstrosity or the so-called ero guro nonsense that preoccupied Tanizaki for some of his career, came as precocious flare-ups against the hegemonic claims of modernity. Small fires can become a conflagration. Japan is today a world of everyday animism and sacred monsters. The novels of Kawabata Yasunari, the manga of Mizuki Shigeru (1922–), or the animated films of Miyazaki Hayao (1941–) contain both premodern and modernist/ postmodern elements; and a competent critic will be able to sort out these various influences—whether backward- or forward-looking. What my recent study of the globalgothic seems to reveal is that the crucial factor in a critical appraisal of Japanese culture in general is the role that animism anciently played in sensitizing the Japanese people to significant space and, thus, to the meaningfulness of (visible) locality. The expression of this sensitivity to one’s immediate physical environment was lyrical. Being spatially oriented, it was also acutely visual. It appreciated figurality in its various manifestations. But with the development of modern consciousness, lyricism yielded to realism. Today, with the advent of postmodernism and at the expense of realism, both animism and a lyrical sensibility seem to be making a comeback, albeit in new technologically enhanced forms. As a precursor to postmodernism, Japanese modernism similarly moved Japan in this deconstructive direction by making manifest the various limitations of modern system. As entangled as modernism and modernity were, however, the latter was not simply an affirming exaggeration of the former.

THE MODERN IN MEIJI JAPANAND ELSEWHERE IN TIME AND PLACE Ken Henshall Worldwide, modernism is mostly identified with the early decades of the twentieth century, and in Japan’s case it is usually associated with later Taishō and early Shōwa. By contrast, this paper primarily focuses on concepts of the modern in Meiji Japan, covering a range of topics from literature to hair-styles. A secondary aim is to show that modernism is a relative matter, and that it is dangerous to attempt to narrow it to any specific time period. To this end examples of concepts of ‘modernism’ will be given from a variety of countries and cultures, including Heian Japan and eighth century Britain. My main focus here is the ‘modern’ in Meiji, but first I would like to dwell briefly on the elusive and relative nature of the term ‘modern’ and direct associates. The word stems from the Latin term ‘modus’ meaning ‘manner’ or ‘style’, and the most direct derivative is ‘mode’, usually used of fashion. This suggests a strong relationship with cultural matters. Indeed, the term ‘Modernism’ with a capital ‘M’ is normally taken to refer to a specific era in the early twentieth century that saw significant cultural developments around much of the world, such as in architectural styles, art, ‘daring’ new fashions, and dances based on selfexpression. Self-expression is important here, for nowadays, as Talcott Parsons and others have indicated, we probably tend to see the ‘modern’ as associated with recognition of the individual, and along with that the idea of related rights, as for example in ‘Thoroughly Modern Millie’. But of course, what is ‘modern’ today is ‘past’ tomorrow, so the term has no absolute meaning, and those who appropriate the term and glorify it with a capital ‘M’ are on shaky ground. They have no exclusive claim. ‘Modernism’, even with a capital ‘M’, can also, for example, be applied to jazz music in the 1950s, which in turn is said to be the source of the term ‘Mod’ as in the Mods and Rockers of the 1960s (at least in the UK). Taking a more common-sense approach and simply seeing ‘the modern’ as a sense of recency that somehow differs significantly from the past, this is surely commonplace around the world. Yes, fashion still


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plays its part in this sense of change—though some of us are old enough to have experienced modernity twice in the form of bell-bottoms, twenty-five years apart! Going much further back in history, in 793, when Lindisfarne was brutally pillaged by the Vikings in their first serious attack on Britain, the contemporary scholar Alcuin lamented inter alia the irony of the recent fashion among young Anglo-Saxon men, especially nobles, to imitate the beard and hairstyle of the Northmen, who had now shown how inappropriate they were as ‘models’ (another term derived from ‘modus’).1 Other indications of modality/modernity in fashions can be found in Seneca the Younger’s condemnation of the latest fashion among mid first century AD Roman women in showing off their bodies by wearing translucent silk recently imported from China,2 and of course the late Heian period in Japan, which saw noble men and women with blackened teeth and painted faces indulging in the latest divertissements at court, which was a sort of fashion show perhaps surpassed only by the court of Louis XIV in seventeenth century France. Fashion is arguably in itself relatively trivial in the big scheme of things, often being transient and fickle, but there are other matters that bring about an awareness of significant difference between what was and what is now. A breakthrough in technology is one major example. The Industrial Revolution springs to mind, as does the Information Revolution that we are currently experiencing, making many older people feel very much ‘un-modern’. But we should still bear in mind that technological breakthrough itself is relative. As a ‘primitive’ illustration, twenty thousand years ago the Solutreans from what is now central France—seemingly the first ‘Europeans’ to set foot in the American continent, many millennia before the Vikings3—developed the needle, which very likely contributed to their ability to produce more effective clothing and thereby survive the arduous journey of skirting the ice-sheet that spanned the Atlantic at that stage (from southern France to Nova Scotia). How is ‘the modern’ treated by historians? For Western historians, ‘early modern history’ usually spans from the end of the Renaissance in the sixteenth century to the beginnings of the Industrial Revolution 1

Alcuin, ‘Letter to Ethelred, King of Northumbria’, in Whitelock, D. (ed.), English Historical Documents, v.1, Eyre Methuen 1979, p. 843. 2 Seneca the Younger, Declamations v.1. 3 Stone Age Columbus, BBC2, 2002; transcript at transcripts/3116_stoneage.html

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in the late eighteenth century, from which point it becomes ‘modern history’—and then (for some historians) ‘postmodern’ and/or ‘contemporary’ from around the 1970s, though I will not pursue these later movements. Of course no-one in seventeenth century Europe thought of themselves as ‘early modern’; they would surely have seen themselves as 100% ‘modern’—but they lacked the benefit of hindsight. And interestingly, ‘modernization’ is almost always seen as progress, though that is not in itself a given. In Japan’s case the Tokugawa/Edo Period is usually treated as ‘early modern’, and Meiji as the start of ‘modern Japan’, the period wherein Japan ‘modernized’. When it comes to ‘Modernism’ with a capital ‘M’ Japan is in line with world trends, usually seen as later Taishō and to some extent early Shōwa. The terms ‘chic’, and ‘mobo’ (‘modan bōi’) and ‘moga’ (‘modan gāru’) are very much associated with this period. In this chapter I focus on the Meiji period, and what was new/‘modern’ about it, because I believe that events in Meiji helped Japan’s emergence as a ‘modern nation’ more so than events in Taishō. Indeed, I believe Japan had become a fully-fledged ‘modern nation’ before the Taishō period. The writer Tayama Katai (1872–1930) is certainly one who would share this view, for he was enraptured by developments during Meiji, referring in his memoirs of 1917 to Japan’s progress in terms of modernization as being ‘like some sort of magic’,4 and how, by the death of Emperor Meiji in 1912, it was ‘enjoying a state of wonderful international nationhood’,5 its coming of age symbolized by the nation’s military victories over China and Russia. I will also quote at some length from Katai’s best known and largely autobiographical work Futon of 1907, which contrasts a Meiji modan gāru, embodied in the form of a live-in pupil who came to study under his tutelage a few years earlier, with an old-fashioned woman, embodied in his much maligned wife: With the sudden rise of women’s education over the past four or five years, the establishing of women’s universities, and the fashion for lowpompadour hairstyles and maroon pleated skirts, women no longer felt self-conscious about walking with a man. To Tokio [Katai himself] nothing was more regrettable than his having contented himself with his wife, who had nothing to offer than her old-fashioned round-chignon hairstyle, waddling walk, and chastity and submissiveness. When he compared the 4 Tayama Katai, Tōkyō no Sanjūnen, 1917, trans Henshall, K., as Literary Life in Tokyo 1885–1915, Brill, 1987, p. 264. 5 Ibid., p. 248.


ken henshall young, modern wife—beautiful and radiant as she strolled the streets with her husband, talking readily and eloquently at his side when they visited friends—with his own wife—who not only didn’t read the novels he took such pains to write but was completely pig-ignorant about her husband’s torment and anguish, and was happy as long as she could raise the children satisfactorily—then he felt like screaming his loneliness out loud. Just like Johannes in Lonely Lives [the similarly frustrated protagonist of Gerhart Hauptmann’s 1891 drama Einsame Menschen], he could only feel how insignificant his own domestically minded wife was.6

Clearly, Katai believed the modern age had come to Japan by this stage, symbolized by modern girls such as his pupil. When Perry steamed into Edo Bay in 1853 Japan—at that stage isolated from the world at large for over two centuries—got one heck of a wake-up call. For a start, weaponry had come on a pace relative to the cumbersome arquebuses the Portuguese had brought with them three centuries earlier. The Japanese had seemingly chosen to believe that they were keeping in touch with Western developments via the Dutch settlement in Dejima, but their belief was far removed from reality. They could not ‘fart away’ Perry and the Western barbarians, as popular cartoons of the day would have it.7 They were in serious trouble, for this was the age of ‘new imperialism’, and America in particular, driven by its so-called Manifest Destiny, was keen to expand its territorial influence.8 Though it is not widely known, Perry himself was keen to occupy part(s) of Japan, but in the end the Americans focused on easier and richer pickings in China and elsewhere, along with other Western powers, and settled merely for a diplomatic presence and various non-territorial concessions. Though it seems to have been downplayed, the threat of being colonized was in my view a very significant stimulant to Japan in its extraordinarily fast ‘modernization’. As Masako Gavin has shown, as late as 1887 the geographer-intellectual Shiga Shigetaka (1863–1927), based on his travels to Australia and New Zealand, sounded a warning about a possible Western take-over of Japan by Anglo-Saxons. He remarks, in

6 Tayama Katai, Futon, 1907, trans. Henshall, K., as The Quilt and Other Stories by Tayama Katai, University of Tokyo Press, 1981. 7 See Steele, M. W., Alternative Narratives in Modern Japanese History, Routledge, 2003, p. 14, and Henshall, K., A History of Japan: From Stone Age to Superpower, Palgrave Macmillan, 2nd edition 2004, p. 70. 8 See, for example, Barber, L. and Henshall, K., The Last War of Empires, Bateman, 1999, pp. 36–37.

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a recorded conversation with a Maori chief Wi Tako who was angry at the British control over Aotearoa, that …some [of our Japanese] clans had disputes with the British. Fortunately they had not been of such serious nature as to threaten invasion, and we have been able to maintain our independence thus far, but I had to admit this could only have been due to good fortune. … Alas! Japan could be another New Zealand. … I fear the threat to my country far away. … I—as a son of the new Japan—must take immediate action to make my people aware of this possibility happening back home.9

But by this stage the Japanese had already taken significant steps to prevent colonization, though they were still theoretically vulnerable. Indeed, they wanted not only to be able to stave off the West, but to become a leading ‘Western-style’ power in their own right. And what did this entail? It entailed adopting a similar infrastructure to the Western powers in spheres such as the political, educational, economic and military, and—as the icing on the cake—overseas territory. Indeed, before too long—from 1881 in fact—Fukuzawa Yukichi was even to suggest disassociating the nation from Asia. The modernization process of Meiji Japan has been well documented, but I will just give an outline below. In 1867–1868 a coup known as the Meiji Restoration was staged by nationalist samurai—who were, fortunately for Japan, genuinely capable and genuinely concerned for the welfare of the nation and not just their own personal welfare—to clear the way by removing ‘dead wood’: namely disestablishing the shogunate, almost certainly assassinating Emperor Kōmei10 (who favoured retention of the shogunate), and installing a fifteen-year-old puppet emperor who danced to their tune, they themselves becoming oligarchs. As early as April 1868 the new emperor proclaimed the Charter Oath, which included the abandoning of ‘evil customs’ of the past and the seeking of knowledge throughout the world in order to strengthen the nation. Reflecting this latter point, the earlier slogan of sonnō jōi (‘Revere the Emperor, expel the barbarians’) was now replaced by the more constructive wakon yōsai (‘Japanese spirit, Western knowledge’). Presently missions were sent overseas to bring back knowledge, and vast numbers of Western specialists in a range of spheres—from banking to the navy to mining to railroad construction—were brought 9

Gavin, M., Shiga Shigetaka, 1863–1927, Curzon, 2001, pp. 83–84. See in particular Calman, D., The Nature and Origins of Japanese Imperialism, Routledge, 1992, pp. 90–93. 10


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to Japan as advisers. The salaries of these advisers are a testimony to Japan’s commitment to modernization, for they accounted for 5% of all government expenditure during Meiji.11 Other evidence of serious commitment is seen in the disestablishment during the 1870s of the samurai—the very class from which the oligarchs of Japan had come—to be replaced by a conscript army. The oligarchs obviously realized that samurai, who generally fought singly, were no match for a massed enemy, especially one using projectile weapons as opposed to swords. (However, during the 1930s Japan was to revive a very idealized form of the so-called samurai code of bushidō and apply it to all soldiers.) Other early policies include (in no particular order) abolition of Tokugawa/Edo Period classes (April 1868); freedom of movement, residence, and occupation (April 1868); a proto-Constitution (July 1868) that provided for a national assembly; replacement of feudal domains and their daimyō with prefectures and governors (1871); and an Education Act (1872) stipulating compulsory education. The Western solar calendar was adopted in place of the old lunar one (1873), telegraphs were installed (1869), a postal service was established (1871), modernstyle newspapers were encouraged and by 1875 there were over a hundred of them. Western-style dress became compulsory for civil servants in 1872. Staying with the fashion scene, Western-style dress became increasingly popular among the general public, especially males. The Emperor himself generally wore Western dress. Western-style haircuts also became very popular very quickly, again especially in the case of males. In 1872 only 10% of males had a Western-style haircut, but a mere fifteen years later in 1887 this had leapt to an astonishing 98%.12 The lyrics of a popular song at the time were that if you tapped a head with a Western hairstyle it would play a tune of ‘civilization and enlightenment’— bunmei kaika, another slogan of the age. The rapid development of the railroad from 1872 on, with 8,000 km of track in place by the turn of the century, was a particularly important agent of modernization. It represented a truly epochal change from the past in that it not only permitted easy, cheap, and speedy movement, it enabled a separation between residence and place of work. That is, 11 See Beauchamp, E., ‘Foreign Employees of the Meiji Period’, in Kodansha Encyclopedia of Japan, v.2, 1983, p. 311. 12 Mita, M, Social Psychology of Modern Japan (tr. Suloway, S.), Kegan Paul, 1992, p. 198.

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it ushered in the age of commuting—for which Japan is of course now notorious—and new patterns of urbanization that included outer suburbs, and new centres of population where rail-lines intersected. Other epochal moments can be seen across many sectors. In political terms, for example, there is the proclamation of the Meiji Constitution in February 1889, the first election for the Diet in July 1890, and the convening of the Diet in November 1890, and later the Anglo-Japanese Alliance of 1902 (the first ever equal treaty between a Western and a non-Western nation). And in matters military, Japan achieved victory over China in 1895 and over Russia in 1905, the first ever defeat of a Western nation by a non-Western nation since the days of the Mongol invasions. It also resulted in their acquisition of territory, such as Taiwan in 1895 and the southern half of Sakhalin in 1905, plus a silent sanction to expand into Korea shortly afterwards. In the economy, the government also played a major constructive role in establishing key new industries, also making use of the advantage of being a late developer able to select the best of processes and equipment that had been trialled by earlier developing nations. In more intellectual and abstract terms, the Meiji period saw a huge influx of Western ideologies and literature, often through translation but much of which was read in English as knowledge of English spread. One has to feel considerable sympathy for Japan here, for so many oftenconflicting ideologies came into the country in such a short time that it must have been very confusing. In literature for example, political novels, neo-classicism, romanticism, and naturalism were condensed into a fraction of the time similar movements had occupied elsewhere. Some writers, such as Shimazaki Tōson and Tayama Katai, switched saddles in midstream and went from romanticism to what is normally seen as its effective opposite, naturalism, within the space of a few years. Samuel Smiles’ ‘self-help’ utilitarian philosophy was hugely popular earlier in Meiji and was encouraged by the government—within limits (become a strong individual but use your strength for the good of the nation)—but at almost the same time Turgenev’s ‘superfluous man’ appeared in the works of Futabatei Shimei (and later also Katai) as a sort of fatalistic consolation for ‘losers’. It was, of course, winners that Japan was most interested in, not losers, and so Darwin’s theory of evolution, and Spencer’s extension of this to the idea of ‘survival of the fittest’ among nations, were also extremely popular. In fact, we are not just talking about private individual readers in this latter case, but the government, for in 1892 the Japanese government secretly approached


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Spencer for advice on how to become one of these fittest modern nations. Spencer gave his advice on condition that his role should not be published until after his death, for fear of accusations of treason. His advice was along the lines that Japan has sometimes been criticized for, such as keeping racial purity and not letting foreigners buy up land, and yes, there was indeed an uproar after he died in December 1903 and his advice became public in Britain shortly afterwards.13 As we can see, Japan’s modernization is very close to being one and the same as Westernization. Nanbara Shigeru, President of Tokyo University, said in 1949 that modernization in Meiji had been external and had omitted to focus on humanistic values.14 It is of course true that it is easier to accept external objects and systems and structures than it is to accept external values, and one notes that the time in which he made this comment was the height of the ‘American’ Occupation, a massive external impact. I myself would argue that, notwithstanding the great waves of external influence that came into Japan during the Meiji period, Japan still retained key values. Importantly, the influx of external/Western elements in the Meiji period was largely voluntary (the main exception being the entry into the country of ‘barbarian intruders’ immediately after Perry’s arrival), unlike the case with the Occupation, in which Japan had relatively little control over imposed Western elements. And, as a number of scholars have argued, Japan tends to adapt rather than simply adopt wholesale, and this is certainly true of the Meiji period. For example, the Imperial Rescript on Education of 1890 deliberately included Confucianist and Shintō elements, encouraging reverence for a divine and paternalistic emperor, while textbooks on morals gradually replaced Western models such as Abraham Lincoln with Japanese models such as the industrious Ninomiya Sontoku (aka Kinjirō). This merging is of course in line with the idea of wakon yōsai. Even with some Japanese elements included, newness of the scale seen in Meiji can cause unhelpful disorientation, as is seen for example in the ‘Ee ja nai ka’ mass hysteria at the beginning of the period. And one of the ways the oligarchs helped assuage any such anxiety was, while getting rid of ‘dead wood’ in many areas, somewhat paradoxically 13

Spencer’s advice was first published in The Times (of London) on 18 January 1904. A convenient copy is given as an appendix to Lafcadio Hearn’s Japan: An Attempt at an Interpretation, Macmillan, 1904, pp. 481–484. 14 See Dower, J, Embracing Defeat: Japan in the Wake of World War II, Norton, 1999, p. 71.

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borrowing the authority of tradition in others, sometimes even inventing it. For example, the policies adopted under the oligarchs in early Meiji towards the West reflect many of the elements of the policies of Yamato-Nara period Japan towards China—a potential threat and colonizer, just like the West was to be in early Meiji. It was a similar attitude of keeping the Japanese spirit while learning from Chinese knowledge and practices, and proving oneself as a respectworthy nation. Commonalities include playing the role of respectful student, centralizing government in a new capital, nationalization, implementing large-scale taxation reforms, drawing up a constitution, and so on. I personally am convinced that, faced with the potential threat of the West and the task of urgently strengthening/modernizing the nation, the oligarchs deliberately drew on history for help in terms of precedent. Numerous other examples of ‘invented tradition’ can be seen in Meiji, such as for example the Shintō wedding, which the vast majority of Japanese even today think of as going back into ancient history, when in fact the first such marriage was that of Crown Prince Yoshihito (later Emperor Taishō) in 1900, with the first commoner Shintō wedding taking place the following year. Another Meiji myth, as Carol Gluck has indicated,15 is the seeming power and centrality of the emperor, whereas throughout much if not most of Japan’s history emperors were peripheral and their power was in name only—including, in actuality, Emperor Meiji. It would seem that, as Hobsbawm has argued in general terms,16 such ‘tradition’ gives a solidity to things, and can make them more acceptable. That is, it would seem we are not necessarily at ease with a perceived excess of modernity, and need the stabilizing presence of tradition—or if that is not available, pseudo-tradition. In summary, I believe that concepts relating to ‘modern’ are relative and largely universal through much of time and place, and that the term should not be used lightly or exclusively. I also believe that, while bearing in mind the previous sentence, when we talk of the modern in Japan—or at least in Japanese history and in terms of modernization— then the Meiji period is where we should be focusing. In my view, Japan had become a fully-fledged modern nation well before the days of the Taishō moga and mobo and Taishō chic.

15 16

See Gluck, C., Japan’s Modern Myths, Princeton, 1985. Hobsbawm, E. and Ranger, T., The Invention of Tradition, Cambridge, 1983.


ken henshall References

Alcuin, 793: ‘Letter to Ethelred, King of Northumbria’, in Whitelock, D. (ed.), English Historical Documents, v.1, Eyre Methuen 1979, p. 843. Barber, L. and Henshall, K., 1999: The Last War of Empires: Japan and the Pacific War, Bateman. Beauchamp, E., 1983: ‘Foreign Employees of the Meiji Period’, in Kodansha Encyclopedia of Japan, v.2, p. 311. Calman, D., 1992: The Nature and Origins of Japanese Imperialism, Routledge. Dower, J., 1999: Embracing Defeat: Japan in the Wake of World War II, Norton. Gavin, M., 2001: Shiga Shigetaka, 1863–1927, Curzon. Gluck, C., 1985: Japan’s Modern Myths, Princeton. Hearn, Lafcadio, 1904: Japan: An Attempt at an Interpretation, Macmillan. Henshall, K., 2004: A History of Japan: From Stone Age to Superpower, Palgrave Macmillan, 2nd edition. Hobsbawm, E. and Ranger, T., 1983: The Invention of Tradition, Cambridge. Mita, M., 1992: Social Psychology of Modern Japan (tr. Suloway, S.), Kegan Paul. Seneca the Younger, 1st century AD: Declamations v.1. Steele, M. W., 2003: Alternative Narratives in Modern Japanese History, Routledge. Stone Age Columbus, BBC2, 2002; transcript at Tayama Katai, Futon, 1907, trans. Henshall, K., as The Quilt and Other Stories by Tayama Katai, University of Tokyo Press, 1981. Tayama Katai, Tōkyō no Sanjпnen, 1917, trans. Henshall, K., as Literary Life in Tokyo 1885–1915, Brill, 1987.

‘OVERCOMING MODERNITY’ AND CONFLICTING VIEWS OF JAPAN’S CULTURAL MISSION: INOUE TETSUJIRŌ AND SAWAYANAGI MASATARŌ Yushi Ito Introduction At a symposium held in Kyoto in July 1942, a prominent group of Japanese intellectuals discussed the question of how to ‘overcome modernity’ (kindai no chōkoku) and the meaning of the war for the nation (Kawakami and Takeuchi 1990).1 This symposium was not the first occasion when the problem of overcoming modernity was debated. It had been debated since the mid-Meiji period when Meiji ‘civilization and enlightenment’ came under scrutiny.2 As Harry Harootunian has suggested, ‘the later defense of cultural spirit (bunka seishin) and widescale rejection of Meiji civilization in the 1930s’ was already prefigured in the late Meiji period (Harootunian 2000: x).3 This paper discusses the conflicting ideas of overcoming modernity of two eminent Meiji/ Taisho intellectuals, Inoue Tetsujirō and Sawayanagi Masatarō. In the course of the civilization and enlightenment movement after the Restoration of 1868, Japanese intellectuals came to feel, by the turn of the century, that Japan’s progress was deadlocked due to ‘increasing tensions between labour and management, exhaustion in the countryside, the decline of agriculture, and the suppression of traditional indigenous culture’ (Matsumoto 1979: i). It was under these circumstances that Japanese intellectuals emphasized the importance of the rediscovery of Eastern culture and cast doubts on the value of a Meiji modernity created 1 Roy Starrs has argued that the ‘overcoming modernity’ discourse is a common ploy or trope of international fascism—an integral part of fascist modernist discourse (Starrs 2009). In this chapter, I discuss conflicting aspects of the ‘overcoming modernity’ discourse presented by Japanese intellectuals in the Meiji and Taisho periods. 2 Kenneth Pyle argued that young people of the Meiji period ‘saw in Westernization the destruction of Japanese identity’ (Pyle 1969: 4). 3 In reference to Takayama Chogyū’s Biteki seikatsu o ronzu (1902), Harootunian regards Takayama’s criticism against Japan’s mediocrity, impoverished creativity, and cultural imitation as a forerunner of the wide-scale rejection of Meiji civilization in the 1930s.


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under the influence of Western civilization. In his popular book, Ideals of the East (1903), Okakura Tenshin, a leading figure in the art world at that time, argued that ‘today the great mass of Western thought perplexes us’ while the ‘mirror of Yamato is clouded’ (Okakura 1986: 209; Okakura 1903: 243). In his view, in the middle of this confused world, Asians should protect and restore ‘the Asiatic modes’, which he thought were well preserved in Japan, ‘a museum of Asiatic civilization’ (Okakura 1986: 207, 20; Okakura 1903: 240, 7). Okakura Tenshin’s views expressed in his Ideals of the East reflected the fact that some Japanese questioned Western civilization and reevaluated Eastern traditional culture at that time. It has been suggested that Okakura had a sense of mission: Japan, which could stand up to the West, should play a major role in developing Asian culture (cf. Aoki 1999: 153). Later, in 1934, such a nationalistic view was repeated by Abe Jirō, who had ‘a sense of mission’ as a Japanese and a leader of ‘the Return to Japan Movement’ (Nihon eno kaiki undō) in the 1930s (Miyagawa 1977: 128). In his work on the Society for the Promotion of International Culture (Kokusai bunka shinkōkai), established in 1934, Shibazaki Atsushi has discussed the nature of Japan’s ‘international cultural project’ (kokusai bunka jigyō) in the prewar period. In his view, Japan performed its dual cultural mission: namely, both to become superior to the uncivilized countries (the East) and to become equal to the civilized countries (the West) (Shibazaki 1999: 256).4 After the end of the Russo-Japanese War (1904–1905), those who advocated Japan’s cultural mission tended to regard Japan as the most superior country in the world, a country that could take the lead in unifying Eastern and Western cultures, and they emphasized the importance of making other countries ‘correctly’ understand Japan and Japanese culture (Shibazaki 1999: 220). It is not the case, however, that such an argument for Japan’s cultural mission was not criticized during the period between the RussoJapanese War and the early Showa period. In this paper I discuss the conflicting views of Japan’s cultural mission between Inoue Tetsujirō and Sawayanagi Masatarō, both of whom were concerned with the ‘undesirable’ outcome of Meiji civilization and enlightenment. In doing so, I suggest that Inoue’s attempt to search for the Japanese traditional spirit in order to overcome Meiji modernity faced strong opposition from more liberal intellectuals like Sawayanagi, who showed keen 4 Kokusai Bunka Shinkōkai was dissolved when the Japan Foundation was established in 1972 (Shibazaki 1999: 256).

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interest in promoting international education in order to remove barriers between the countries of the world. Inoue Tetsujirō’s View of Japanese Uniqueness Inoue Tetsujirō, a philosophy professor at the Imperial University of Tokyo, was a key educator who promoted the spirit of loyalty and patriotism through the state-centred education system in the prewar period (Kano 1971: 72). In 1877, Inoue enrolled as a student of philosophy at the Imperial University and studied under Professor Ernest Fenollosa (1853–1908), a disciple of Herbert Spenser (1820–1903) (Tucker 2002: 37–38). John Tucker considers Inoue to be ‘one of the most overtly and aggressively nationalistic, militaristic, and imperialistic ideologues emerging from the academic arena in the first half of the twentieth century’ (Tucker 2002: 70).5 In fact, the works of Inoue Tetsujirō could be seen as supporting evidence for Shibazaki Atsushi’s claim that those who talked about Japan’s cultural mission in the prewar period tended to emphasize the superiority of Japanese culture and the importance of making other countries ‘correctly’ understand Japan and Japanese culture (Shibazaki 1999: 220).6 In his New Generation in Meiji Japan, Kenneth Pyle has argued that Inoue was one of the Japanese intellectuals who felt an intense need ‘for a national identity in the modern world’ (Pyle 1969: 189). In the midMeiji period, when doubts began to be cast on Meiji civilization, Japanese intellectuals reconsidered Japanese history and tradition in order to find the country’s destination in the future (Pyle 1969: 190–191). Following the promulgation of the Constitution of Great Imperial Japan in 1889, which established the emperor system, the Imperial Rescript on Education was promulgated in 1890 in order to instill the spirit of loyalty and patriotism into people through school education (Kano 1999: 82). In the following year, 1891, journalists and scholars accused the Christian Uchimura Kanzō of lèse-majesté after he failed to bow before a copy of the Imperial Rescript on Education at its ceremonial presentation at the First Higher School in Tokyo. Christian cosmopolitanism 5

John Tucker has discussed Inoue Tetsujirō’s view of bushido as if Inoue did not face any serious objection in his time (Tucker 2002: 35–70; cf. Shillony 2006: 23–52). 6 It should be noted that Inoue Tetsujirō hoped in his early academic career that the ‘inferior’ Japanese would avoid close contact with ‘superior’ Westerners until they became able to compete on equal terms (Inoue 1889).


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was attacked on the grounds that it contradicted state-centred nationalism (kokkashugi). In 1891 Inoue Tetsujirō, a young professor at the Imperial University at that time, published his Chokugo engi (A Commentary on the Rescript) and took the lead in criticizing Christianity.7 It was under these circumstances that intellectuals like Inoue and Takayama Chogyū advocated the principle of ‘Nihonshugi’ (Japanism), which emphasized the uniqueness and superiority of Japanese culture and attempted to overcome Meiji modernity.8 In May 1897, after the Sino-Japanese War, intellectuals including Inoue Tetsujirō and Takayama Chogyū published the first issue of the magazine Nihonshugi. In his speech for a meeting on Nihonshugi in June 1897, Inoue explained what he meant by the term (Inoue 1898: 1). Around the time of the Meiji Restoration, he argued, the Japanese considered Western civilization to be more advanced and therefore decided to introduce Western learning, which made it possible for them to create the present-day Japanese civilization. With the progress of this civilization, however, the Japanese thought it necessary to consider whether or not they should continue to import Western civilization (Inoue 1898: 2–3). Inoue’s answer to this question was that Japan should cultivate ‘the spirit of independence’ and ‘make other countries assimilate to Japan’ (Inoue 1898: 4). While advocating the principle of Nihonshugi, Inoue argued against the Christian cosmopolitanism introduced from the West. In Inoue’s view, Christianity contradicted national moral education because it was based on the idea of a universal truth. In order to advocate his principle of Nihonshugi, Inoue insisted that ‘cosmopolitanism’ (sekaishugi), transcending the boundaries of states, was not practised anywhere in the world (Inoue 1893: 131–134). In his view, the idea of cosmopolitanism was ‘vague’ and ‘intangible’. Japan should not follow the trend of the times as lesser powers did, but should exert its influence on the world (Inoue 1898: 8–9). The nation would become weak if faithful to the principle of cosmopolitanism. Great powers in Europe supposedly followed the principle of cosmopolitanism, but never looked down on their own country. Each of them watched ‘with gleaming eyes’ for the right moment to violate the rights of other countries. They pretended not to violate them, but ‘actually invaded’ the other countries. Japanese 7 Watanabe Kazuyasu has emphasized the importance of the thought of Inoue Tetsujirō in Japanese intellectual history (Watanabe 1985: 100). 8 Yamaji Aizan criticized the vagueness of the concept of Nihonshugi used by Inoue Tetsujirō (Yamaji 1898: 420).

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people were rejected in Hawaii, and an ‘anti-Japanese campaign’ had started in various countries. Therefore, there was not really any country that practised the principle of cosmopolitanism. If people were faithful to this principle, Inoue thought, their country would be disadvantaged (Inoue 1898: 10–11). In this way, Inoue argued that Japan could not maintain its independence unless united under the principle of Nihonshugi, which was ‘the fundamental principle of the state’, rather than follow the principle of cosmopolitanism. John Tucker has suggested that ‘Inoue was probably influenced by Fenollosa’s call for the preservation of Japan’s cultural heritage’, but Tucker has not shown any concrete evidence to support his suggestion (Tucker 2002: 37–38). In fact, Inoue relied on a Japanese classical source in his argument for Japan’s cultural tradition. In his Kokumin dōtoku gairon (An Outline of National Morals, 1912), he referred to Hirata Atsutane (1776–1843) as an eminent scholar who revived old Shinto. In Inoue’s view, Hirata emphasized the importance of ‘the spirit of ancestor worship’ and argued that there had been ‘an unbroken line of emperors’ from the Sun Goddess Amaterasu (Inoue 1912: 99–105). Inoue may have been influenced by Fenollosa’s call for the preservation of Japan’s cultural heritage, but he actually found inspiration in the work of Hirata Atsutane, whose ideas remained influential among Japanese nationalists in later years (cf. Skya 2009: 218). In reference to the forty-seven rōnin in Akō, John Tucker has also asserted that Inoue ‘surely hoped to redirect the kind of ultimate loyalism manifested by the rōnin away from feudal lords and towards the imperial throne’ (Tucker 2002: 45). In Tucker’s view, Inoue valued the spirit of loyalty displayed by the rōnin and ‘was not bothered by the fact that the rōnin were criminals in their own days’ (Tucker 2002: 36). It should be noted, however, that Inoue never liberated the ‘private’ sphere from that of the ‘public’. Inoue’s recognition of the primacy of the ‘public’ sphere over the ‘private’ can be seen in his argument that Japan should be spiritually unified under the principle of Nihonshugi. While believing that Japan had to create a new civilization, adopting the strong points of other countries, Inoue argued that Japan should build a civilization on the basis of state-centred nationalism. In his view, if each individual stuck to his own principle and public opinion was not unified, the nation would disintegrate. If foreign ideas were introduced, Japan might be in danger of being spiritually disunited. In Inoue’s opinion, it was natural for the Japanese to adopt the principle of Nihonshugi, which was ‘a fundamental principle


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for the state’, and they should ‘eternally maintain this principle’ (Inoue 1898: 11–12). Inoue believed that the word Nihonshugi implied dantai no shugi (groupism), which displayed the Japanese national spirit, and he refused to put the ‘private sphere’ of the individual ahead of the state (Inoue 1898: 5–8). Furthermore, he asserted in his article published in 1900 that moral conduct should be ‘objectively’ correct and that it was not sufficient to be ‘subjectively’ correct (Inoue 1900: 60). Thus, he never suggested that the individual’s conduct could be evaluated without reference to ‘public’ national morals. Inoue Tetsujirō’s View of Japan’s Cultural Mission Inoue came to positively express his view of Japan’s cultural mission in the world after the Russo-Japanese War. In his essay ‘Tōyō bunka to waga Nihon no shimei’ (Eastern Culture and Our Country’s Mission, 1924), he argued that Japan should take the lead in harmonizing Eastern and Western cultures (Inoue 1924: 38). In his Ideals of the East (1903), Okakura Tenshin had asserted that Japan was ‘an isolated island country’ and that its geographical condition made it ‘a genuine storehouse of Asian thought and culture’ (Okakura 1986: 20). Like Okakura, Inoue insisted that Japan was located in ‘a special position’ where it could harmonize Eastern and Western cultures. In his view, many Japanese admired Western culture but did not appreciate ‘the value of Eastern culture’. Westerners in general did not understand Eastern culture and most Western scholars of Oriental studies did not fully appreciate the value of the Orient because they saw it from the Western point of view. In contrast, because the Japanese imported Eastern culture including Buddhism and Confucianism in the past, they had an ability to understand ‘the essence of Eastern culture’ (Inoue 1924: 34–35). Therefore, Inoue asserted, it was certain that Japan’s mission to the world was to display ‘the essence of Eastern culture’ and harmonize it with Western culture (Inoue 1924: 37–38). Although attempting to harmonize Western with Eastern culture, Inoue did not tolerate foreign ideologies such as socialism and anarchism, which he thought might be harmful to Japan. He emphasized that Japan had not indiscriminately introduced foreign cultures in the past. In his view, Japan selectively adopted the good aspects of foreign cultures, eliminating their harmful elements. For instance, Japan introduced Chinese and Indian cultures and assimilated them. As regards

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Buddhism, Japan had not adopted the ‘vulgar Buddhism’ of the Hinayana school, focused more on practice for individual liberation, but had accepted ‘the highest Mahayana Buddhism’, based on the possibility of universal liberation from suffering for all beings (Inoue 1924: 28–29). The idea of revolution was cherished in China, and Confucianism also contained the idea of revolution and emphasized that the ruler’s power was based on a mandate from Heaven, which could be revoked. In Inoue’s view, such an idea of revolution caused dangerous incidents such as the High Treason Incident of 1910.9 Excluding elements that were not suitable for Japan from Confucianism, Japan became ‘the ideal Confucian country’ with the help of its national polity (Inoue 1924: 30–33). Since the mid-Edo period, medicine, military science, natural science and arts were introduced from the West and, after the Meiji Restoration, the educational system was reformed and Western culture was actively imported. As a result, some Japanese were fascinated by Western ideas such as socialism and anarchism and ‘disturbed the peace and order of society’, but Inoue believed that they did not have enough power to change the whole nation (Inoue 1924: 33–34). After the appearance of Nitobe Inazō’s internationally popular book Bushido in 1899, Inoue Tetsujirō published his Nihon kogakuha no tetsugaku (Japanese Confucian Philosophy) in 1902. In this book, Inoue challenged Nitobe’s central thesis that there were similarities between bushido and Western chivalry and argued that foreigners had not produced anything comparable to bushido. He believed that the spirit of bushido would serve as the foundation of Japanese morals for the future (cf. Tucker 2002: 42–43). In his essay ‘Tōyō bunka to waga Nihon no shimei’ (Eastern Culture and Our Country’s Mission), Inoue argued that Japan should display the spirit of bushido, which he thought was ‘the unique Japanese spirit’ (Inoue 1924: 38). In his view, Japan had maintained ‘its own culture’ despite its importation of foreign cultures since ancient times. The ‘unique’ Japanese thought is ‘Shinto in a broad sense’, which was not introduced from a foreign country. This thought did not have a name, but was later named as ‘Shinto’ in order to distinguish the belief in gods from the belief in Buddha. Bushido, which was related to Shinto, developed only in Japan (Inoue 1924: 28). Thus, Inoue believed that Shinto and bushido were ‘the unique Japanese spirit’ and 9 Kōtoku Shūsui, who was executed for high treason in 1911, read the Russian anarchist Kropotkin’s Fields, Factories, and Workshops (Notehelfer, 1971: 112).


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‘the unique Japanese culture’, and argued that Eastern and Western cultures should be harmonized on the basis of this Japanese unique spirit. In his essay ‘Nihon tokuyū no mono towa nan zoya’ (What are things unique to Japan?, 1926), Inoue further discussed Japanese uniqueness and urged his countrymen to develop ‘things unique to Japan’ (Inoue 1926: 1). In his view, first, ‘the Japanese people themselves’ were unique in the world because Japan was one of the five great powers and no other non-Western country ranked with the great powers. Second, Japan’s national polity was unique to Japan. A similar sample of national polity which was ‘based on an unbroken line of emperors’ could not be found elsewhere in the world. Third, Shinto had a unique nature as a spiritual product of the Japanese people. ‘The original form of Shinto’ was similar to shamanism, but nothing like Japan’s Shinto could be found in the surrounding countries, including China and India (Inoue 1926: 2–3). Fourth, bushido was unique to Japan. There was something like bushido in China and Western countries, but Japan’s bushido was related to its national polity. Japan’s bushido was not just the spirit of bravery but ‘the way of the empire’ (kōkoku no michi), or ‘the idea of moral principles’, which had been maintained since the foundation of the country. Bushido was modified during the age of Civil Wars, but was revived in the Meiji period and adjusted to a new age (Inoue 1926: 6–7).10 Inoue insisted that the Japanese, who were unique in the world, should ‘assimilate everything to them’ and contribute to the world (Inoue 1926: 9–10). It seems that Inoue’s thought became more isolated and Japan-centred when he regarded not only Shinto, bushido and Japan’s national polity but also the Japanese people themselves as ‘things unique to Japan’. Inoue’s Japan-centred view of the world hardened when Japan was internationally isolated in the 1930s. After the Manchurian Incident of 18 September 1931, Japan was criticized by other countries and, as a result, withdrew from the League of Nations in March 1933. In his essay ‘Koritsu Nihon no shōrai’ (The Future of Isolated Japan), published in April 1933, Inoue wrote that one should not worry about Japan’s isolation. In his view, Japan’s isolation was generally ‘fortunate for Japan’. Since the Meiji Restoration, Japan had tended to follow the West in its diplomacy, politics, business and education, and lacked ‘the spirit of independence’. After the First World War, Japan was annoyed by ‘dangerous foreign thought’ and noticed its harmful influence on soci10 It has been suggested that Inoue Tetsujirō neglected historical facts when arguing that bushido was developed around the core of the imperial house (Ôshima 1975: 69).

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ety (Inoue 1933b: 53). Henceforth, Japan could introduce ‘education based on Nihonshugi’ and display ‘the spirit of independence’ and ‘Japanese uniqueness’. Each nation had its own character, and if it displayed that, it could contribute to ‘the development of world culture’. Inoue believed that Japan should contribute to ‘the development of world culture’ through selectively adopting and harmonizing various ideas, beliefs and arts from foreign countries (Inoue 1933a: 54–55). In the same essay, Inoue also discussed ‘the way of the gods’ (kannagara no michi) as something unique to Japan. In his view, even if isolated in the world, Japan had ‘the way of the gods’ which had been maintained since ancient times. Successive Japanese emperors embodied ‘the way of the gods’, and the Japanese diplomat Matsuoka Yōsuke took an active role in the League of Nations with the spirit of ‘the way of the gods’. From now on, the Japanese should make efforts to ‘clarify the way of the gods and make other countries follow this way’. Inoue thought that his countrymen should become aware of the fact that they had been ‘given the best chance’ to achieve such a cultural mission (Inoue 1933a: 71; cf. Inoue 1933b: 934). Thus, Inoue fanatically insisted that it was necessary for Japan to propagate ‘the way of the gods’ in the world when it became isolated from other countries. Kagoya Jirō has pointed out that Inoue changed his interpretation of the Imperial Rescript on Education around 1930, and came to understand all virtues in terms of the idea of ‘assistance to the imperial house’ (kōun yokusan) (Kagoya 1988: 390). John Tucker has suggested that Inoue’s writings became increasingly nationalistic in the final decade of the Meiji period, and continued to be so during the ‘liberal’ 1920s (Tucker 2002: 39). Inoue’s view of Japan’s cultural mission became mainstream in prewar Japan, but still faced strong opposition from more liberal intellectuals like Sawayanagi Masatarō. Sawayanagi Masatarō’s View of National Moral Education During the Meiji and Taisho periods, Sawayanagi Masatarō, a leader of the Taisho Liberal Movement in Education, was opposed to Inoue Tetsijirō’s view of national moral education. Sawayanagi worked as headmaster of the First and Second Higher Schools, vice minister of the Ministry of Education, member of the House of Nobles, president of Tōhoku Imperial University and of Kyoto Imperial University, and headmaster of Seijō Primary School (Mizuuchi 1989: 149–165). Ozawa


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Yūsaku has argued that Sawayanagi was ‘a whole-hearted imperialist who was eager to rule other peoples’ (Ozawa 1979: 206). Nakano Hikaru has also argued that Sawayanagi supported ‘Japan’s imperial ambitions’ such as the Russo-Japanese War and Japan’s annexation of the Korean peninsula, while he was a leader of the liberal education movement in the Taisho period (Nakano 1990: 43, 54). In opposition to these opinions, Nitta Yoshiyuki has asserted that, after the SecondWorld War, the achievements of leading Japanese figures of the past including Sawayanagi Masatarō were critically examined from an ideological point of view (Nitta 2006: iii). As will be discussed, although not raising objections to Japan’s imperial policies, Sawayanagi criticized national moral education and encouraged the Japanese to ‘contribute to the world’ through the promotion of economic development and the advancement of learning. Sawayanagi Masatarō was known as a liberal educator but, like Inoue Tetsujirō, he accepted the Imperial Rescript on Education as a guideline for moral education. Sawayanagi published Waga kuni no kyōiku (The Education of Our Country) in 1910, which was a draft of the speech he had planned to give at London University in 1908. Like Inoue, Sawayanagi argued in this work that the Japanese developed ‘the spirit of loyalty’ and ‘the spirit of bushido’ while harmonizing the ‘yamato damashii’ (Japanese unique spirit) with Eastern thought such as Buddhism and Confucianism. Since the introduction of Christianity, science, philosophy, laws and social institutions from the West, however, the Japanese became confused about morals. The Imperial Rescript on Education (1890) clearly showed the present-day Japanese morals, which adopted ‘the spirit of Western civilization’ on the basis of ‘Japan’s unique morals’. Sawayanagi asserted that the Imperial Rescript on Education contained not only all morals practised in the society of the day, but also the ‘morals of all ages and civilizations’ (Sawayanagi 1910a: 70). Thus, he attempted to show that ‘Japan’s unique morals’ developed under the influence of Eastern and Western thought. Furthermore, like Inoue, who emphasized ‘the imperial way’ (kōkoku no michi), Sawayanagi did not doubt ‘the unbroken line of Japanese emperors’ (bansei ikkei no kōtō). He thought that it was difficult for foreigners to understand that the Imperial Rescript on Education was the basis of moral education in Japan. In his view, the emperor was situated in the centre of education and the Japanese could be proud of ‘the unbroken line of emperors’. The national character of the Japanese was the spirit of loyalty to the emperor and had ‘not changed since the

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foundation of the country’. In the age of warriors, it was believed that the source of power was the emperor, who had the power to appoint civil servants and military officers even if in name only. Sawayanagi asserted that even in the age when the emperor did not hold real power, people believed that the imperial house was ‘sacred and inviolable’ (Sawayanagi 1910a: 71–72). Thus, Sawayanagi’s argument for the Imperial Rescript on Education is seemingly similar to Inoue’s idea of education. In his ‘Chokugo to dōtoku kyōiku tono kankei’ (Relations between the Rescript and Moral Education, 1893), however, Sawayanagi insisted that Inoue’s interpretation of the Imperial Rescript on Education was not sufficient and was misleading. In Sawayanagi’s view, scholars and educators argued about ‘the policy of moral education’ when the Rescript was promulgated. The point in dispute was what policy should be taken for moral education, but people could not decide between one policy and another and could not reach a conclusion. Then, the Rescript was promulgated and the policy of moral education was clarified in it. Moral education, however, was not ‘just to teach the knowledge of morals’ because people may go wrong even if they know what is good and what is evil. Therefore, it is not enough just to teach the knowledge of right and wrong in moral education; it is important for people to learn how they can actually do good things. In Sawayanagi’s view, Inoue Tetsujiro’s Chokugo engi discussed why the spirit of loyalty was considered to be moral perfection, but what one should investigate was the method of cultivating the will to carry out the morals mentioned in the Rescript (Sawayanagi 1893: 363–371). In his ‘Sengo no shakai jōtai to kyōiku’ (Social Conditions and Education in the Post-war Period, 1916), Sawayanagi further argued that national morals should be practised in deed. After the High Treason Incident of 1910, Inoue published Kokumin dōtoku gairon (An Outline of National Morals), in which he attempted to clarify the ‘true meaning’ of the Imperial Rescript on Education in order to protect his countrymen from the ‘harmful’ Western ideas that were cherished by those who were executed for high treason (Inoue 1912: 10–13). In contrast, Sawayanagi argued that it was not necessary to clarify the meaning of the Imperial Rescript. What was important for the Japanese was to put the knowledge of national morals shown in the Rescript into practice. Although some people were eager to establish an education system based on militarism in order to prepare for war in the future, Sawayanagi was strongly opposed to such an idea (Sawayanagi 1916: 381). While some regarded ‘the promotion of national morals’ as most important


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for education, Sawayanagi thought that the established national morals themselves were nothing but ‘empty and formalistic statements’. The spirit of loyalty and patriotism should be raised, but such a spirit should be ‘substantial’. There was no point in advocating ‘the prosperity of the imperial house’ in words only. One cannot support ‘the fate of the eternal imperial house’ by using ‘empty words’ such as ‘I do not care about my life and property’. Instead, Japan should ‘contribute to the world’ through the promotion of economic development and the advancement of learning. Then, the prosperity of the imperial house would be naturally achieved and it was not necessary to emphasize ‘the promotion of national morals’ in education (Sawayanagi 1916: 383). In this way, Sawayanagi accepted the Imperial Rescript on Education as a guide for national morals, but was strongly opposed to the moral education which forced people to blindly learn the knowledge of national morals. In his ‘Shisō no dōyō ni tsuite’ (About Intellectual Turmoil, 1919), Sawayanagi did not accept the Japan-centred view of the world and urged his countrymen to contribute to ‘the culture of the world’. According to him, those who held the Japan-centred view of the world maintained that Japan was ‘a holy country’ or ‘an ideal country’ or ‘the best country in the world’. In his view, people should have the idea of making Japan ‘the best and most beautiful country’, but the self-centred idea that Japan was ‘the top country in the world’ would hinder the development of the country. The Japanese should acknowledge their country’s good points and should remedy its defects. Modern Japan associated with the Western powers diplomatically but those countries were suspicious and envious of Japan. It was certain that no other country wanted Japan ‘to earn further advancement’. Therefore, Sawayanagi argued, it was important for the Japanese to ‘partially observe’ the position of their country in the fields of business, learning, education, culture and morals in the world (Sawayanagi 1919: 462–465). In this way, he believed that the Japanese should abandon a Japan-centred view of the world in order to avoid international isolation, as revealed in the anti-Japanese campaigns in the USA and China, and in the Korean independence movement.

Sawayanagi Masatarō’s View of Japan’s Cultural Mission Kenneth Pyle has suggested that young intellectuals of the Meiji period complained that Japan’s national progress had been material and had neglected spiritual values (cf. Pyle 1969: 24–25). Although at that time

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Japan attempted to catch up with the industrial and commercial powers of the West, the materialism of the Meiji Enlightenment period was often seen as the main cause of the neglect of spiritual values. As will be shown, Sawayanagi was one of the intellectuals of the Meiji period who were dissatisfied with the materialism of the day and attempted to overcome it by promoting spiritual ideals. In his article on ‘Chi to toku’ (Knowledge and Morals, 1911), Sawayanagi wrote that the spiritual aspect of life, particularly that of morals, had been neglected, whereas materialism had vigorously flourished since the Restoration. He wrote that, although morals were more important than knowledge, ‘there was a tendency among teachers to attach greater importance to knowledge’. Schools attempted to recruit good teachers in order to improve students’ academic abilities, but there was no emphasis on cultivating the moral sense of their students. As a result, even if people accepted in theory that a ‘virtuous’ man was superior to a ‘brilliant’ man, ‘it was not the case in practice’. In order to rectify this situation, Sawayanagi claimed, the education system should be re-examined (Sawayanagi 1911: 429–430). Sawayanagi’s concern about the growing materialism of the Japanese, at the expense of spiritual values including morals, is reflected in his lament that students tended to select practical subjects such as Medicine and Engineering rather than basic subjects such as Arts and Science. In his view, the fate of the country depended on not only its material advancement but also the spiritual aspect of life. He, therefore, believed that students should not select academic subjects merely to satisfy personal material aspirations. Most students who studied practical subjects such as Medicine, Agriculture, or Commerce had selected those subjects only in the hope that they would be employed with a high salary after graduation. He regarded such materialistic, egocentric thinking as a ‘morbid phenomenon’ (Sawayanagi 1912a: 431–434). Mizuuchi Hiroshi has argued that ‘Sawayanagi placed little emphasis on national prosperity in material terms such as the increase in productivity’ (Muzuuchi 1989: 154), but it should be noted that Sawayanagi emphasized the importance to education of basic subjects such as Science on the grounds that these subjects would establish the foundation of an industrial and commercial nation. He suggested that Japan had to develop commerce and industry in order to become rich and powerful. If commerce and industry did not flourish, Japan could not compete with other powerful countries. The development of commerce and industry depended on education, but practical education alone was not


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sufficient. If one observed the development of commerce in Germany, Sawayanagi wrote, one would find that not only practical education but also basic subjects such as Physics and Chemistry largely contributed to its development. In Japan there were some people who insisted that ‘only practical learning was useful to the development of business’, but, in his view, it was a mistake to believe that basic subjects had nothing to do with commerce. Sawayanagi asserted that basic subjects should be further studied and promoted as a way of strengthening Japan’s commerce and industry (Sawayanagi 1912b: 334). Behind Sawayanagi’s concern for the spiritual aspect of life, there was the belief that Japan had almost overtaken Western civilization in material terms, in particular after Japan’s victory over Russia in the Russo-Japanese War (1904–1905). He wrote that during the Meiji period the Japanese had made every possible effort to catch up with the West. They had sought to establish educational institutions and improve transport and industrial facilities. By the time of the Russo-Japanese War, Japan had already imported almost everything that should be taken from the West. Then, the Japanese lost their national perspective and became ‘egocentric’, since they achieved their goal of catching up with the West in material terms. Therefore, Sawayanagi believed that the Japanese should be conscious of their ‘national mission’ for the future (Sawayanagi 1914: 350–352). Unlike Inoue, who asserted that Japan was ‘the ideal Confucian country’ (Inoue 1924: 30–33), Sawayanagi argued that Japan was not yet ‘an ideal country’, on the grounds that its ‘mission’ had not yet been achieved. In his view, Japan had not yet contributed to the world but had constantly owed its development to foreign civilizations such as the Korean, the Chinese and the Western. Even if creating splendid culture in the past, Japan had not yet promoted it to other countries, due to its geographical isolation. Because the world was becoming smaller, however, Japan would be able to contribute to the world by creating and promoting its ‘splendid’ culture. Educators tended to be ‘retrospective’, emphasizing that ‘Japan has the greatest history’, but did not attempt to make their country better than before. It would be necessary to teach students that ‘Japan has a great history’, but it was also necessary to make them realize that Japan has a ‘national mission’ still to be achieved (Sawayanagi 1919: 466–467). For this reason, Japan had to abandon ‘state-centred nationalism’ and do justice to other countries. The most important thing was to understand the position of Japan and abandon self-conceit. Thus Sawayanagi thought that, if one objectively examined

‘overcoming modernity’ and conflicting


the matter, one would find that Japan had not yet achieved its mission (Sawayanagi 1919: 470). In his ‘Nihon kokumin no bunkateki shimei’ (The Cultural Mission of the Japanese, 1920), Sawayanagi further argued that the Japanese had the latent ability to contribute to world culture, although, in his view, they had not yet contributed to the thought and welfare of humanity. In the past, the Japanese had imitated foreign civilizations but he thought that it was not the case that they had never done creative work. While Isaac Newton and Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz formulated the principle of differential and integral calculus in the West, the Japanese mathematician Seki Takakazu did something similar in the same age. Japanese mathematicians of those days had a custom of ‘secretly teaching’ mathematics to only a few students while ordinary people despised mathematics. For this reason, Seki Takakazu’s study of mathematics was not developed any further in Japan. In the field of education, the view of education held by Kaibara Ekken was ‘outstanding’ and would have won ‘eternal fame’ if it had been introduced in Europe. The geographical survey of the whole of Japan conducted by Inō Tadataka, whose achievements were studied by Nagaoka Hantarō, showed ‘the Japanese ability of learning’. Because Japan was located in the Far East, these ‘seeds of creativity’ did not grow any further. Sawayanagi thought that the signs of ‘the Japanese ability of creativity’ could be found in history, even if the Japanese had never ‘contributed to world culture’ (Sawayanagi 1920: 482–488). Believing in ‘the Japanese ability of creativity’, Sawayanagi asserted that the Japanese should display such ability in the future. In his view, the Japanese taught that their history was ‘incomparably great’ but they could not be ‘proud of and satisfied with’ their history because they had not yet ‘contributed to world culture’. Because Japan’s mission had not been accomplished, one could not say that ‘Japanese history is very great’. Henceforth the Japanese must carry out ‘the mission which has not been fulfilled’ by their ancestors (Sawayanagi 1920: 488–489). He went on to say: ‘We cannot be satisfied with or proud of our history even if it was great. We have to create history that we can be proud of in the future’ (Sawayanagi 1920: 489). Thus it was necessary for the Japanese to ‘reform’ or ‘improve’ their educational system without being bound by their traditions (Sawayanagi 1920: 490). Such an opinion was contrary to Inoue Tetsujirō’s idea that ‘the unique Japanese spirit’ should be propagated in the world.


yushi ito Sawayanagi Masatarō’s View of International Education

Mizuuchi Hiroshi has argued that, although Sawayanagi was considered an advocate of Japanese imperialism, ‘these [imperialistic] attitudes towards Asia and the world were inconsistent with those of his later years’ (Mizuuchi 1989: 156). In fact, opposing the Japan-centred view that Japan’s cultural mission should be the propagation of the Japanese spirit, Sawayanagi argued in his later years that Japan should emphasize international education in order to promote goodwill between the countries of the world. After being appointed headmaster of Seijō Junior High School in October 1916, and then, in 1917, as headmaster of Seijō Primary School, he started to travel overseas. In August 1921, he visited San Francisco to attend a conference on education and, in July 1925, he attended the first meeting for the Institute of Pacific Relations held in Hawaii. In October of the same year, he went to China and attended a meeting for educators there. In 1927 he attended the second meeting for the Institute of Pacific Relations held in Hawaii, and in October of the same year, he attended a conference on education in Toronto. In 1923, he became the president of the Institute of International Education (Kokusai Kyōiku Kyōkai) (Nitta 1971: 226). In this way, in his later years Sawayanagi became interested in education outside Japan in order to promote international education. While becoming interested in education in the world, Sawayanagi published an article entitled ‘Kokka kyōiku yori kokusai kyōiku eno katei’ (The Process from National Education to International Education) in 1923, in which he argued that the establishment of the League of Nations was the embodiment of the spirit of international cooperation. In his view, some people thought that the League of Nations was ineffective, but they expected too much of it. The age when countries watched for a chance to invade each other had gone and ‘the age of international cooperation’ had come. The League of Nations was a mere political institution, which could maintain world peace, but the spirit of international cooperation should be cultivated to facilitate the promotion of mutual understanding. In order to promote international education, it was necessary for each country not to cultivate an anti-foreign spirit through education. Because old educators excessively emphasized the spirit of patriotism, narrow-minded patriots were produced. Human beings have a sense of rivalry, but also are strongly attached to each other. Therefore, Sawayanagi asserted, the promotion of international spirit is to develop something inherent in human nature (Sawayanagi 1923: 527).

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In his lecture on national education given in 1924, Sawayanagi argued that it was possible to create an international spirit through school education. In his view, children do not have racial prejudice and narrow-minded patriotism, and do not have hostile feelings towards foreigners. Hostile feelings and chauvinism which grown-ups had were created by ‘education and surrounding circumstances’. Therefore, it was not that difficult to teach unbiased children that racial prejudice was groundless. Sawayanagi believed that it was possible ‘to promote goodwill and friendship between nations’ through this kind of education (Sawayanagi 1925: 481–482). In the 1920s, Sawayanagi was afraid that Japan was ‘completely isolated’ in terms of diplomacy. In order to overcome Japan’s international isolation, he thought, international education should be promoted. There were two measures against the anti-Japanese campaign in the USA, Canada, Australia and China. One measure was ‘to resort to arms to eliminate oppositions and challenges’ and the other measure was ‘to fight for justice and humanity’ and ‘to remove racial discrimination in accordance with Japan’s claim at the Versailles meeting’. Some people argued that Japan should develop economic and military forces, instead of insisting on justice and humanity, which they thought were airy-fairy. Because such an argument was old-fashioned militarism, Sawayanagi argued, Japan should promote international education on the basis of justice and humanity from now on (Sawayanagi 1925: 493–494). In order to put his ideal of international education into practice, Sawayanagi suggested a concrete plan in his ‘Kokusai kyōiku ni tsuite’ (On International Education, 1926). In Sawayanagi’s view, it was important for countries ‘to understand each other’. In order to love one’s own country, one should know the geography, history and literature of one’s own country. It was also important for each country to understand the geography, history and literature of other countries. Japan should be familiar with the West, using textbooks on the West. On the other hand, Westerners should not think that ‘there was nothing to learn from the East’ and should study it ‘with the attitude that they were really wanting to understand its true nature’. Furthermore, Sawayanagi believed, it was necessary ‘to exchange professors and students’ on a large scale in order to promote the spirit of international cooperation. Education could not solve all the problems in society, but he asserted that no one would deny that ‘peace in the Pacific Ocean and the world would come true through efforts made by educators’ (Sawayanagi 1926: 522–527). Sawayanagi was too optimistic about the international situation. After


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his death in 1927, Japan became isolated in the world and withdrew from the League of Nations in October 1933. It was the kind of international isolation of Japan that Sawayanagi had feared most. Conclusion As mentioned in my introduction, Shibazaki Atsushi has argued that Japan’s project on international culture in the prewar period was to accomplish its ‘cultural mission’ by informing Westerners of the fact that Japanese culture was on equal terms with Western culture and by emphasizing its superiority over Eastern culture (Shibazaki 1999: 56). Such an idea of Japan’s cultural mission was expressed by Inoue Tetsujirō, whose view of Japan’s cultural mission can be seen as an attempt to overcome the Meiji modernity that was created under the influence of the West. Inoue denied the idea of cosmopolitanism such as held by Christianity and advocated state-centred nationalism out of his fear that the unity of the country might be damaged by the influx of foreign ideas. Moreover, he believed that Japan should take the lead in harmonizing Eastern and Western cultures and that Japan’s mission was to promote the Japanese spirit in the world. Therefore, Inoue’s idea of cultural mission was fundamentally identical to that of Japan’s project on international culture in the prewar period as discussed by Shibazaki. If one examines the arguments of Sawayanagi Masatarō, however, one finds that there were conflicting views of Japan’s cultural mission at that time. In previous studies, Sawayanagi has often been regarded as an ‘imperialist’ who was eager to rule over other countries. Such a view of him may have originated in an attempt to trace the development of imperialism in the prewar period. If the intellectuals of those days are simply labelled as ‘imperialists’, one cannot understand why those like Sawayanagi were strongly opposed to Inoue’s state-centred nationalism. If that label is removed, one can understand that Sawayanagi’s view of education had nothing to do with the ‘cultural mission’ to demonstrate the superiority of Japan over the East.11 If one takes the conflicting views of Inoue and Sawayanagi into consideration, one can conclude that it is misleading to simply argue that 11 It should be noted that Sawayanagi Masatarō supported Japan’s annexation of Taiwan and Korea. Sawayanagi celebrated the annexation of Korea by Japan in 1910 (Sawayanagi 1910b: 175–176).

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Japan had the one and same view of its cultural mission since the Meiji period. In order to overcome Meiji modernity, Japanese intellectuals struggled to search for their country’s destiny in a rapidly changing world. Inoue Tetsujirō’s attempt to overcome modernity eventually promoted a narrow-minded nationalism which led to the creation of the idea of the Greater East Asian Co-prosperity Sphere and collapsed with Japan’s ruinous defeat in the Pacific War (Yasuda 1971: 454). In contrast, the idea of international education advocated by Sawayanagi Masatarō was neglected during the prewar period, but is still alive today.


yushi ito References

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Notehelfer, F.G. (1971) Kōtoku Shūsui: Portrait of a Japanese Radical, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Okakura Tenshin (1986) Tōyō no risō, Tokyo: Kōdansha. Ōshima Yasumasa (1975) ‘Inoue Tetsujirō—Chishiki to shisaku no bunri-’, in Asahi jaanaru henshūbu (ed.), Nihon no shisōka, chu, Tokyo: Asahi shimbunsha. Ōta, Yuzō (1995) ‘Mediation between Cultures’, in John F. Howes (ed.), Nitobe Inazō: Japan’s Bridge Across the Pacific, Boulder: Westview Press. Ozawa Yūsaku (1979) ‘Sawayanagi Masatarō no chokuminchi kyōiku’, in Seijō Gakuen Sawayanagi Masatarō zenshū kankōkai (ed), Sawayanagi Masatarō zenshū, supplementary volume, Tokyo: Kokudosha. Pyle, Kenneth (1969) The New Generation in Meiji Japan: Problems of Cultural Identity, 1885–1895, Stanford: Stanford University Press. Sakamoto Takao (1988) Yamaji Aizan, Tokyo: Yoshikawa kōbunkan. Sawayanagi Masatrō (1893) ‘Chokugo to dōtoku kyōiku tono kankei’, Dai Nihon kyōikukai zasshi, no. 129, 26 June, in Seijō Gakuen Sawayanagi Masatarō zenshū kankōkai (ed), Sawayanagi Masatarō zenshū, vol.5 Dōtoku no honshitsu to jinsei (Tokyo: Kokudosha, 1976). Sawayanagi Masatrō (1910a) Waga kuni no kyōiku, Tokyo: Dōbunkan, January, in Seijō Gakuen Sawayanagi Masatarō zenshū kankōkai (ed), Sawayanagi Masatarō zenshū, vol.8 Sekai no naka no Nihon no kyōiku (1), Tokyo: Kokudosha, 1976. Sawayanagi Masatarō (1910b) ‘Kankoku heigō shokan’ Hitotsubashikai zasshi, vol.62, September, in Sawayanagi Masatarō zenshū, vol.9, ed. by Seijō Daigaku Sawayanagi Masatarō zenshū kankōkai, Tokyo: Kokudosha, 1977. Sawayanagi Masatarō (1911) ‘Chi to toku’, Shūkyōkai, vol.7, no.8, 10 August, in Seijō Gakuen Sawayanagi Masatarō zenshū kankōkai (ed), Sawayanagi Masatarō zenshū, vol.5 Dōtoku no honshitsu to jinsei, Tokyo: Kokudosha, 1976. Sawayanagi Masatarō (1912a) ‘Chūgaku sotsugyōsei no shibō keikō nit suite’, Kyōiku jiron, no.980, 5 July, in Seijō Gakuen Sawayanagi Masatarō zenshū kankōkai (ed), Sawayanagi Masatarō zenshū, vol.5 Dōtoku no honshitsu to jinsei, Tokyo: Kokudosha, 1976. Sawayanagi Masatarō (1912b) ‘Henchō subekarazu’, Chūō kōron, vol.25, no.4, 1 April, in Seijō Gakuen Sawayanagi Masatarō zenshū kankōkai (ed), Sawayanagi Masatarō zenshū, vol.8 Sekai no naka no Nihon no kyōiku (1), Tokyo: Kokudosha, 1976. Sawayanagi Masatarō (1914) ‘Kongo ni okeru kokumin no kakugo o ronjite kyōiku ni oyobu’, Sawayanagi Masatarō ikō, in Seijō Gakuen Sawayanagi Masatarō zenshū kankōkai (ed), Sawayanagi Masatarō zenshū, vol.8 Sekai no naka no Nihon no kyōiku (1), Tokyo: Kokudosha, 1976. Sawayanagi Masatarō (1916) ‘Sengo no shakai jōtai to kyōiku’, Teikoku kyōiku, no.402, 1 January, in Seijō Gakuen Sawayanagi Masatarō zenshū kankōkai (ed), Sawayanagi Masatarō zenshū, vol.8 Sekai no naka no Nihon no kyōiku (1), Tokyo: Kokudosha, 1976. Sawayanagi Masatarō (1917) ‘Busshitsu sonchō no keikō’, Teiyū rinrikai rinri kōenshū, no.179, 10 July, in Seijō Gakuen Sawayanagi Masatarō zenshū kankōkai (ed), Sawayanagi Masatarō zenshū, vol.8 Sekai no naka no Nihon no kyōiku (1), Tokyo: Kokudosha, 1976. Sawayanagi Masatarō (1919) ‘Shisō no dōyō nit suite’, September, in Seijō Gakuen Sawayanagi Masatarō zenshū kankōkai (ed), Sawayanagi Masatarō zenshū, vol.8 Sekai no naka no Nihon no kyōiku (1), Tokyo: Kokudosha, 1976. Sawayanagi Masatarō (1920) ‘Nihon kokumin no bunkateki shimei’, Teiyū rinrikai rinri kōenshū, 10 April, in Seijō Gakuen Sawayanagi Masatarō zenshū kankōkai (ed), Sawayanagi Masatarō zenshū, vol.8 Sekai no naka no Nihon no kyōiku (1), Tokyo: Kokudosha, 1976. Sawayanagi Masatarō (1923) ‘Kokka kyoiku yori kokusai kyoiku eno katei’, Jiji mondai kenkyū, in Seijō Gakuen Sawayanagi Masatarō zenshū kankōkai (ed), Sawayanagi


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Masatarō zenshū, vol.8 Sekai no naka no Nihon no kyōiku (1), Tokyo: Kokudosha, 1976. Sawayanagi Masatarō (1925) ‘Kokusai kyōiku’, Kokusai kyōikushi, in Seijō Gakuen Sawayanagi Masatarō zenshū kankōkai (ed), Sawayanagi Masatarō zenshū, vol.9 Sekai no naka no Nihon no kyōiku (2), Tokyo: Kokudosha, 1977. Sawayanagi Masatarō (1927) ‘Kokusai kyōiku ni tsuite’, Taiheiyō no shomondai, Taiheiyō mondai chōsakai (ed.), in Seijō Gakuen Sawayanagi Masatarō zenshū kankōkai (ed), Sawayanagi Masatarō zenshū, vol.9 Sekai no naka no Nihon no kyōiku (2), Tokyo: Kokudosha, 1977. Nitta Yoshiyuki (2006) Sawayanagi Masatarō, Tokyo: Minerva shobō. Shibazaki Atsushi (1999) Kindai Nihon to kokusai bunka kōryū: Kokusai bunka shinkōkai no sōsetsu to tenkai, Tokyo: Yūshindō. Shillony, Ben-Ami (2006) ‘The Way of Revering the Emperor: Imperial Philosophy and Bushidō in Modern Japan’, in The Emperors of Modern Japan, ed. by Ben-Ami Shillony, Leiden, Boston: Brill. Skya, Walter A. (2009) Japan’s Holy War: The Ideology of Radical Shinto Ultranationalism, Durham and London: Duke University Press. Starrs, Roy (2009) ‘Japanese Modernism Revisited’, Powerpoint presented for Otago Conference on Japanese Modernism, Otago University, 14 August. Takayama Chogyū (1897) ‘Nihonshugi’, in Takayama Rintarō, Chogyū zenshū, vol.4, Jiron oyobi shisaku, Tokyo: Hakubunkan, 1905. Tanaka, Stefan (1993) Japan’s Orient: Rendering Pasts into History, Berkeley and Los Angeles, California: University of California Press. Tucker, John (2002) ‘Tokugawa Intellectual History and Prewar Ideology: The Case of Inoue Tetsujirō, Yamaga Sokō, and the Forty-Seven Rōnin’, Sino-Japanese Studies, 14, April. Watanabe Kazuyasu (1985) Meiji shisōshi: Jyukyōteki dentō to kindai ninshikiron, Tokyo: Perikansha. Yamaji Aizan (1898) ‘Saionji monshō ni atau’, Sekai no Nihon, 1 February, in Oka Toshirō (ed.), Yamaji Aizan shū, vol.1, Tokyo: San’ichi shobō. Yasuda Takeshi (1971) ‘Ōkawa Shūmei, Daitōa chitsujo kensetsu’, in Hashikawa Bunzō, Kano Masanao and Hiraoka Toshio (eds.), Kindai Nihon shisōshi no kiso chishiki, Tokyo: Yūhikaku.

AWAKENING BETWEEN SCIENCE, ART AND ETHICS: VARIATIONS OF JAPANESE BUDDHIST MODERNISM, 18901945 James Mark Shields Modern Buddhism seeks to distance itself from those forms of Buddhism that immediately precede it and even those that are contemporary with it. Its proponents viewed ancient Buddhism, especially the enlightenment of the Buddha 2,500 years ago, as the most authentic moment in the long history of Buddhism. It is also the form of Buddhism, they would argue, that is most compatible with the ideals of the European Enlightenment, ideals such as reason, empiricism, science, universalism, individualism, tolerance, freedom, and the rejection of religious orthodoxy. It stresses equality over hierarchy, the universal over the local, and often exalts the individual over the commmunity. – Donald S. Lopez, ‘Foreword’ to Paul Carus, The Gospel of Buddha: According to Old Records (LaSalle, IL: Open Court Publications, 2004), p. viii Overcoming the tradition, ‘going beyond’ it, differing from it—these are the [Buddhist] tradition’s own demands, not something counter to it or outside its parameters. Simply to agree with the tradition, to obey its current form, is to fail to receive the ‘transmission’. It is to be ‘ungrateful’ as the Transmission of the Lamp put it. This form of reflection can only derive from a deep sense of historicity; it implies the radically temporal thesis that who we are as human beings is historical through and through. History is conceived here not so much as a force that acts upon our human existence but rather as something closer at hand, something beyond which we will not go. It is true that only a few exceptional Buddhists were ever willing to face


james mark shields this realization in a thorough-going way. Most preferred to apply it to things of ‘this world’ but not of the transcendent realm of Buddhas, nirvanas, and mind-to-mind transmission. – Dale S. Wright, Philosophical Meditations on Zen Buddhism (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1997), pp. 155–156

The term modernism is notoriously difficult to pin down. In trying to do so one often gets caught in a frustrating tautology: anything relating to modern thought, culture or practice. More specifically, modernism (sometimes Modernism) refers to a range of cultural and artistic transformations that resulted from the changes taking place in Western society in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Some of these were large-scale tendencies brought about by scientific and technological changes of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, while others were self-conscious attempts to create new techniques, associations and ideas that would better reflect or deal with these changes. While the links between self-conscious modernist movements and previous streams of Western culture—such as the Enlightenment and Romanticism—are clear, modernists tended to see themselves and their work as part of a break with past traditions, whether aesthetic, literary, architectural, political, or spiritual. Ezra Pound’s motto: ‘Make it new!’ could apply to modernism as a generalized movement. In the realm of thought, it can be said that modernists questioned many if not all of the traditional assumptions of European cultural heritage, including those of the mainstream religious traditions and the Enlightenment, seen as extending from Descartes through Kant and ending in the writings of Hegel.1 This is not to say, however, that modernism can be easily characterized as reformist or socially progressive—the desire to break with the immediate past, especially the Enlightenment, sometimes resulted in a reactionary politics, as can be seen in writings of Italian futurists such as Marinetti and in the person of Pound.2 Moreover, the modernist reaction to science and technology was complex: for some, machines were to be embraced as the future of humanity, while for others—especially those more closely 1 See Pericles Lewis, Modernism, Nationalism, and the Novel (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000), pp. 38–39; also Peter Faulkner, Modernism (London: Taylor & Francis, 1990), p. 60. 2 See Peter Childs, Modernism (London: Routledge, 2000), p. 17.

awakening between science, art and ethics


linked to earlier Romantic streams—modern technology must be limited or rejected outright in favour of a more ‘aesthetic’ or introspective approach to life’s problems. Turning to the case of Japan, definitions of modernism are further complicated by the simple fact that the ‘modern’ was itself a foreign import. Thus, while one sees the same tensions as within Western modernism of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, these tensions take unique and often extreme forms. Among other things, what emerges from a close examination of Buddhist thought in Japan during the five decades between 1890 and 1945 is a debate between competing visions of ‘new Buddhism’—some based on an understanding of ‘modernity’ as a historical locus with specific political and ethical implications, and others based on a ‘modernist’ understanding of religion as a form of ‘aesthetics’ largely abstracted from historical circumstances. This chapter examines the various permutations of ‘Buddhist modernism’ during the period leading up to the Second World War, as well as the implications for postwar and contemporary Japanese Buddhism. Meiji Restoration and Aftermath Virtually all aspects of modern Japan were born out of the Meiji Restoration of 1868—properly not a restoration so much as ‘a complete revolution, which affected all levels of society’.3 In what surely remains a unique historical event, a self-appointed new government in that year effectively invented a modern nation out of what was largely a feudal assemblage of warring states. This invention involved not only the centralization of authority, both literally and symbolically, in the Emperor, but also the drive to modernize Japan—to create an industrial and military power to rival those of the West. Among other scholars, 3 Nishijima Gudō (Wafu) 㽓፟ᛮ䘧 (੠໿), ‘Japanese Buddhism and the Meiji Restoration—With an Introduction to Master Nāgārjuna’s Mūlamadhyamakakārikā’. The American Academy of Religion Annual Meeting, 1997. Web version: http:www. The Japanese term ishin ㎁ᮄ (lit., ‘new ties’) implies something more radical and transformative than the Engish ‘Restoration’. Also see Robert Sharf, ‘Whose Zen? Zen Nationalism Revisited’, in Rude Awakenings: Zen, the Kyoto School, and the Question of Nationalism, edited by James Heisig and John Maraldo (Honolulu: University of Hawai‘i Press, 1994), p. 47, for more on the paradox of modern nationalism: ‘As nationalist representations of self are inevitably constructed in dialectical tension with the foreign ‘other’, the nationalist promise to restore cultural ‘purity’ is always necessarily empty.’


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Najita and Harootunian note the deep and abiding ambiguity at the heart of the Restoration, ‘between the capacity of an indigenous culture to withstand change and the claims of new knowledge demanding transformation’.4 In the preceding Edo period, despite their sympathies with neoConfucianism, the ruling shoguns had largely adopted Buddhism as the de facto state religion.5 Thus, some of the Meiji restorationists felt compelled to launch a sustained critique of Buddhism as non-Japanese, under the slogan ‘Haibutsu kishaku!’ (ᒗң↔䞜; lit. ‘Throw away Buddha and abolish Śākyamuni!’)6 After a short wave of severe persecution (1868-1873), during which the number of temples was reduced from over 450,000 to approximately 70,000 and the number of Buddhists priests from 75,000 to under 20,000,7 the government generally 4 Najita Tetsuo and H. D. Harootunian, ‘Japan’s Revolt Against the West’, in Modern Japanese Thought, edited by Bob Tadashi Wakabayashi (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998), p. 208. ‘On the one hand, the Meiji restorers announced, in the opening decree proclaiming the Restoration, that the aim of the new policy was to return to the ‘events of antiquity and the Jimmu emperor’s state foundation.’ This meant returning to origins, a mythical time before Japan had been corrupted by Buddhism and Chinese civilization, and to the unalloyed practices of native experience. Yet at the same time, the new government declared in the Charter Oath its determination to ‘search for new knowledge throughout the world’ and to ‘eliminate old customs’ ‘based on the universal way’.’ Some bakumatsu ᐩ᳿ (i.e. late-Edo period) intellectuals such as Sakuma Shōzan ԤЙ䭧䈵ቅ (1811–64) had already preached the social doctrine of tōyō dōtoku seiyō gakugei (or geijutsu) ᵅ⋟䘧ᖇ㽓⋟ᄺ㢌(㢌㸧)—‘Eastern ethos and Western technologies’. In the period leading up to the Restoration, this idea was developed further by political activists such as Hashimoto Sanai ‟ᴀᎺ‫( ݙ‬1831–59) and Yokoi Shōnan ῾ѩᇣἴ (1809–69), both of whom eventually fell victim to assassination. See also Bob T. Wakabayashi, ‘Introduction’ to Modern Japanese Thought, p. 3; Hirakawa Sukehiro ᑇᎱ⼤ᓬ, ‘Japan’s Turn to the West’, in Modern Japanese Thought, p. 42; and Kenneth Pyle, The New Generation in Meiji Japan: Problems of Cultural Identity (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1969), p. 106. 5 In Edo Japan, ‘religion supplied a context of ultimate meaning to the central value system through the fact that the primary collectivities in the society—the nation and the family—were conceived as religious as well as secular bodies. . . . Acting in closest accord with the political values of the society, that is, giving one’s full devotion to one’s particularistic superiors, and expressing this devotion in vigorous and continuous performance with respect to the collective goal, was seen as the best means to acquire the approval and protection of divine beings or to attain some form of harmony with ultimate reality. It was precisely the attainment of such approval and protection of divinities or of a state of enlightenment which was the best way to handle the basic frustrations and anxieties of existence’ (Robert N. Bellah, Tokugawa Religion: The Values of PreIndustrial Japan (Glencoe, IL: Free Press, 1957), pp. 39–40). 6 See Nishijima ‘Japanese Buddhism and the Meiji Restoration’, pp. 15–16; also James Edward Ketelaar, Of Heretics and Martyrs in Meiji Japan: Buddhism and Its Persecution (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1990). 7 These numbers come from Winston Davis, Japanese Religion and Society: Paradigms of Structure and Change (Albany, NY: SUNY Press, 1992), p. 161.

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abandoned its zero tolerance towards Buddhism. Though outright persecution came to an end, the growing nationalism of the period placed increasing pressure on Buddhism to prove itself as a truly national religion.8 Thus began a move towards what Winston Davis calls Buddhist strategies of ‘passive enablement’,9 exemplified by the so-called kairitsu ៦ᕟ or ‘praxis’ movement led by Buddhist priests Fukuda Gyōkai ⽣⬄ 㸠䁵 (1806–88), and Shaku Unshō 䞜䳆✻ (1827–1909).10 While it may be tempting to write off the kairitsu movement as a cynical Buddhist accommodation to political winds, it was inspired by the recognition that one reason behind the persecution of Buddhism was its poor public image, and that this poor public image was not wholly undeserved.11 As such the kairitsu leaders sought to reinvigorate Buddhist values among monks and laypeople, by calling for a ‘return’ to the ancient Buddhist precepts and monastic rules (vinaya).12 8 Buddhist leaders actively participated in whipping up nationalist sentiment through the Great Teaching (Daikyō ໻ᬭ) campaign of 1871, in which 80 percent of doctrinal instructors were Buddhist priests, and in 1889, Buddhist leaders from all of Japan’s major sects joined to create the United Movement for Revering the Emperor and Worshipping the Buddha (Sonnō Hōbutsu Daidōdan ᇞ⥟༝ң໻ৠᮁ), whose intent was ‘to preserve the prosperity of the Imperial Household and increase the power of Buddhism. The result will be the perfection of the well-being of the Great Empire of Japan . . . The time-honoured spiritual foundation of our empire is the Imperial Household and Buddhism’ (quoted in Brian Victoria, Zen at War (New York: Weatherhill 1997), p. 18). Also see Brian Victoria, ‘Engaged Buddhism: A Skeleton in the Closet?’ (draft manuscript received from the author, 2001), p. 19; Brian Victoria, ‘When God(s) and Buddhas Go to War’ (draft manuscript received from the author, 2002), p. 8. 9 See Davis, Japanese Religion and Society, p. 160 (also ch. 4, passim.) 10 Who were inspired in turn by the earlier bakumatsu figure Jiun Sonja Onkō ᜜䳆 ᇞ㗙仆‫( ܝ‬1718–1804). ‘To protect the Dharma, these priests elaborated a conservative strategy based on a reaffirmation of the religion’s loyalty to the throne.’ Various slogans proclaimed that the Dharma was virtually coextensive with the law of the land. Buddhist leaders argued that Buddhism was ‘useful’ (buppō kokueki [ң⊩೑Ⲟ]) because it could magically and morally ‘protect’ the nation (gohō gokoku [ᕵ⊩䅋೑]). From this they reasoned that the state, in turn, should protect Buddhism by reestablishing it as an official religion (goyō shūkyō [ᕵ⫼ᅫᬭ])’ (Davis, Japanese Religion and Society, p. 162). 11 Though, as Orion Klautau points out in a recent article, the Meiji ‘discourse on Edoperiod Buddhist decadence’ was infested with ideological aspects. See Orion Klautau, ‘Against the Ghosts of Recent Past: Meiji Scholarship and the Discourse of Edo Period Buddhist Decadence’, Japanese Journal of Religious Studies, 35, 2 (2008), pp. 263–303. 12 Certainly, there is a reactionary—even fundamentalist—aspect to this moral reformation; e.g. in Sōen’s insistence that the sacred esoteric Mount Kōya remain off limits to women. At the same time, unlike most fundamentalists, they also evoked the longstanding Japanese ideal of sectarian and inter-religious harmony, ‘calling for a restoration of the syncretistic ties they traditionally had enjoyed with Shinto and Confucianism’ (Davis, Japanese Religion and Society, p. 162). While Davis’s argument, that this ‘return’ to basic Buddhist values also provided a ‘plausibility structure’ by which the persecution of Buddhism could be rationalized and understood, has merit, it need not be taken as the primary motivation behind the desire for Buddhist reform among the kairitsu masters.


james mark shields The Buddhist Enlightenment: Visions of Buddhist ‘Modernity’

While the impact of these Buddhist ‘restorationists’ cannot be denied, theirs were the voices of a passing generation, which would soon be drowned out by those of a ‘new generation’13 of Buddhist scholars who would actively seek to remake Buddhism for the modern age. These thinkers modelled themselves less on their kairitsu co-religionists than on the secular ‘Civilization and Enlightenment Movement’ (bunmei kaika ᭛ᯢ䭟࣪). Taking its name from a term coined by Fukuzawa Yukichi ⽣≶䃁ঢ় (1835–1901), the Civilization and Enlightenment Movement promoted the benefits of Western learning for Japanese civilization.14 Some members of this group—and within early Meiji intellectual circles more broadly—were convinced that the West’s technological and economic strength was based on its moral and spiritual traditions, and that Japan required Christianity if it hoped to advance.15 Others like Fukuzawa took a view on religion that can be considered ‘rationalist’, ‘Frazerian’ or even ‘neo-Confucian’: all religions, including Christianity and Buddhism, were mere stepping-stones towards the higher wisdom found in science and philosophy. Faced with this challenge, thinkers of the so-called Buddhist Enlightenment—including Hara Tanzan ॳഺቅ (1819–1892), Shimaji Mokurai ዊഄ咭䳋 (1838–1911), Murakami Senshō ᴥϞᇖ㊒ (1851–1929), Inoue Enryō ѩϞ‫ݚ‬њ (1858–1919), Shaku Sōen 䞟ᅫⓨ (1859–1919), and Kiyozawa Manshi ⏙≶⑔П(1863–1903)—attempted in various ways to ‘modernize’ (as well as spread) the Dharma.16 Though the social 13 The phrase comes from Kenneth Pyle, New Generation, and is also employed by Katheen Staggs in ‘‘Defend the Nation and Love the Truth’. Inoue Enryo and the Revival of Meiji Buddhism’, Monumenta Nipponica 38, 3 (Autumn, 1983), pp. 251–281. 14 The ideas of the bunmei kaika found expression in the Meiji Six magazine (Meiroku zasshi ᯢ݁䲥䁠) published by a group that called itself the Meiji Six Society (Meirokusha ᯢ݁⼒)—many of whom were members of the new Meiji government. This group held regular meetings, at which they would discuss all manner of issues related to modern lilfe: human rights, the role of women, the role of scholars in society, economic and political issues, as well as matters of ethics and religion. Though the Press Ordinance and Libel Laws passed in 1875 silenced the group’s organ, they continued to meet until the 1890s. 15 This faction was represented by Nakamura MasanoЁᴥℷⳈ (1834–1891). Best known for his 1871 translation of Samuel Smiles’s Self-Help, Nakamura became an influential member of the Meiji Six Society and converted to Christianity in 1874. 16 Others included Katō Kurō ࡴ㮸б䚢 (1830–90), Ōsu Tetsunen ໻⌆䠘✊ (1834–1902), Akamatsu Renjo 䌸ᵒ䗷ජ (1841–1919), and Ishikawa Shuntai ⷇Ꮁ㟰 ৄ (1842–1931). With the exception of Hara Tanzan, the Sōtō Zen priest and scholar who was the first to establish the academic study of Buddhism at Tokyo Imperial

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and political conclusions of these figures ranged from mildly liberal to solidly conservative and even, in some cases, quasi-imperialist, they present an important bridge to the more progressive New Buddhists as well as the Kyoto School thinkers of succeeding generations. In short, while these Buddhist Enlightenment thinkers may have found inspiration for ‘reform’ in the kairitsu movement of the previous generation, they also attempted to ‘modernize’ the Dharma in line with many of the principles espoused by the bunmei kaika—without, however, going so far as to renounce Buddhism in favour of Christianity or secular philosophy.17 While they were certainly ‘modernizers’, they were not necessarily ‘modernists’ in the sense outlined above. As Western culture and values, including models and methods of Western scholarship on religion, began to make themselves felt in the mid- to late-Meiji period, it was inevitable that such would lead some Buddhist scholars towards a demythologized,18 rational, ethical and historicist understanding of Buddhism.19 Though it can hardly be considered a school or movement in its own right, theories of scholars who University and Shaku Sōen, a Rinzai Zen priest and Buddhist ‘missionary’ to the West, the entirety of these names are connected in some fashion to the Meiji Shin Buddhist Ōtani-ha ‘reform’ movement. For more on Hara, see Sueki Fumihiko ᳿᳼᭛㕢຿, ‘Building a Platform for Academic Buddhist Studies: Murakami Senshō’, translated by James Mark Shields, Eastern Buddhist, New Series 36, 1, 2005. Davis presents a mixed review of the Buddhist Enlightenment, suggesting that, while ‘they deserve respect for their attempts, however feeble, to make sense of their own religious tradition in light of the western scientific and philosophical thought inundating Japan at the time . . . they tended to be critical of society itself but not of political absolutism’, and thus cannot be called truly progressive (Davis, Japanese Religion and Society, p. 164). 17 Though, as Snodgrass notes, in 1881 Fukuzawa would soften his stance, calling on all Buddhist priests ‘amenable to reason’ to defend their faith from attacks. Judith Snodgrass, Presenting Japanese Buddhism to the West: Orientalism, Occidentalism, and the Columbian Exposition (Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 2004), p. 139. 18 This drive towards demythologization of a religious tradition finds a parallel in Western scholarship on religion of the same period, particularly the drive towardss uncovering the ‘historical Jesus’, as well as the slightly later work of German theologian Rudolf Bültmann. As with such Western Christian scholars, the scholars of Daijō hibussetsuron were generally working to preserve some pure essence of their tradition by opening the gates to historical critical method, in the sincere belief that science could provide religious answers that mythology and even centuries of doctrinal development could not. It is important to note the fact that, in both cases, there was a distinctly ‘theological’ undercurrent at work. 19 Parts of the following section on Murakami Senshō have been taken from my article ‘Parameters of Reform and Unification in Modern Japanese Buddhist Thought: Murakami Senshō and Critical Buddhism’, The Eastern Buddhist, New Series 37: 1–2 (2005), pp. 106–134. Thanks to the The Eastern Buddhist for permission to reprint this material. See this essay for more on Murakami and his anticipation of some features of the contemporary Critical Buddhist (hihan bukkyō) movement.


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adopted such tendencies came to be known, often derisively, as Daijō hibussetsuron ໻Ы䴲ң䂀䂪, which may be literally translated as the ‘theory that the Mahāyāna teachings are not true Buddhism’. The term was applied to the writings of several Buddhist scholars beginning in the 1890s such as Murakami Senshō and Anesaki Masaharu ྜྷዢℷ ⊏ (1873–1949), the latter of whom would eventually, and perhaps not incidentally, be appointed as first professor of Religious Studies at Tokyo Imperial University in 1905. Inspired by Western scholarly notions of empiricism and scientific method, Daijō hibussetsuron sought to clarify and demarcate the limits of what should be included under the rubric ‘Buddhism’. In short, they combined a scholarly methodology with an unmistakably normative—and even ‘sectarian’, though in a very broad sense—agenda. The conclusion of Daijō hibussetsuron was that that the so-called Great Vehicle was a repository for supernaturalism, mysticism, deformities or corruptions of the original, pure teachings, better preserved in the early ‘Hinayana’ and latter-day Theravāda streams of southeast Asia. Controversy of course ensued, most of the criticism coming, unsurprisingly, from the Buddhist establishment, those still-powerful institutions understandably reluctant to serve up their longstanding beliefs on the altar of modern (and Western inspired) sensibilities.20 Though often associated with Daijō hibussetsuron, the work of Murakami Senshō provides a good example of some of the ambiguities and complexities of Buddhist Enlightenment modernism. In his magnum opus, Bukkyō tōitsuron ңᬭ㍅ϔ䂪 (On the Unification of Buddhism), Murakami attempted to employ the tools of modern 20 It is also important to note that the most important precedent for Daijō hibussetsuron within Japan are the controversial writings of Edo period scholar Tominaga Nakamoto ᆠ∌ӆ෎ (1715–1746). Tominaga may well have been the first writer ‘systematically to question the assumption that the Mahāyāna sūtras, or indeed others, were transmitted directly from the [historical] Buddha’. Moreover, without, once again, the benefit of Western learning, Tominaga came to this conclusion by ‘the critical, historical method of juxtaposing innumerable variations in the various texts and illustrating how these arose in order for some point to be made over against another school’. Tominaga’s work raised a strong challenge to the authority claims of the various Mahāyāna sects, a challenge hardly mitigated by the aggressive and sometimes derisive tone he took towardss those who ‘vainly say that all the teachings came directly from the golden mouth of the Buddha’ (Tominaga Nakamoto, Emerging from Meditation, translated by Micahel Pye (Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press), pp. 4-5. Perhaps not incidentally, Tominaga may have also been the first scholar in Japan to employ the term shūkyō ᅫᬭ in a sense that approximates its modern usage (Tominaga, Emerging from Meditation, p. 122). As Ian Reader has pointed out, this flies in the face of the assumptions of scholars such as Tim Fitzgerald, who insist that the concept of religion is simply a cultural borrowing (or imposition) from the West (see Reader 2004: 9).

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critical scholarship to discern a clear historical and doctrinal foundation for Buddhism. The result is at once an original, impressive, and yet deeply flawed piece of Buddhist scholarship—a ‘gorgeous failure’21 whose grand aspiration to bring about a ‘scheme for the amalgamation of all Buddhist sects’ was bound to end in disappointment.22 Written in fits and starts over a period of more than twenty years,23 its argument is, on the face of it, quite simple: Buddhism can and should be unified, because, whether Buddhists themselves recognize it or not, underlying all the manifold teachings (kyōsō ᬭⳌ) is a common, fundamental essence of doctrine (kyōri ᬭ⧚), which provides not only the historical trunk but also the life-giving sap of the great Buddhist tree.24 In reading Bukkyō tōitsuron, however, it becomes clear that while Murakami was a self-consciously modern scholar dedicated to rigorous historical scholarship, he was not so quick to follow the Daijō hibussetsuron path of complete demythologization—he clearly states his commitment to uncovering not only the bare facts of Buddhist history, but also to the more elusive religious or doctrinal dimensions 21

Sueki Fumihiko clearly outlines the main failings of Murakami’s scholarship, not least of which are his complete lack of Sanskrit and dismissal of Western scholarly conclusions on Buddhism. See Sueki, ‘Building a Platform’). 22 As Murakami himself, by the time of writing the final chapter on ‘Practice’ (1927), came to acknowledge: ‘At the time of its first publication, theoretically and also practically, there was a possibility of Buddhist unity, as well as the thought that such was necessary.’ However, after this time, he could not help but acknowledge that while, ‘the theoretical possibility remained, the practical possibility did not’. This seems to contradict or at least problematize his earlier admission that the unification he sought was not to be taken at the ‘formal’ level. In any case, Sueki argues, correctly, I think, that the failure of Unification has as much if not more to do with inherent problems in Murakami’s approach as it does with changing social and religious circumstances. (See Sueki, ‘Building a Platform’.) there was a possibility of Buddhist unity, as well as the thought that such was necessary.’ However, after this time, he could not help but acknowledge that while, ‘the theoretical possibility remained, the practical possibility did not’. This seems to contradict or at least problematize his earlier admission that the unification he sought was not to be taken at the ‘formal’ level. In any case, Sueki argues, correctly, I think, that the failure of Unification has as much if not more to do with inherent problems in Murakami’s approach as it does with changing social and religious circumstances. (See Sueki, ‘Building a Platform’.) 23 Successive volumes were published in 1901, 1903, 1905 and 1927. 24 Murakami Senshō, Bukkyō tōitsuron ңᬭ㍅ϔ䂪 (On the Unification of Buddhism), edited by Ōta Yoshimaru (Tokyo: Gunsho, 1997 [1922]), p. 10. Murakami’s use of kyōsō, is of course related to the traditional, particularly Mahāyāna Buddhist teaching of upāya kauśalya (Jp. hōben ᮍ֓)—expedient means or ‘beneficent deception’— used especially by Chinese Buddhists ‘to help deal with the hermeneutical problem of reconciling the disparities among the different teachings attributed to the Buddha—to explain that the differences in the teachings of the Buddha delivered in his forty-nine year ministry were the result of the different audiences he addressed’ (Charles Muller, Digital Dictionary of Buddhism, ‘upāya kauśalya’).


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that bind Buddhists of all stripes together. In other words, Murakami employs what he refers to elsewhere as a ‘Buddhistic’ (Bukkyō shugi ң ᬭЏ㕽) approach to history. He concludes that while faith should not be completely irrational, it does and must come into play.25 At the same time, although Murakami’s commitment to historical studies appears to weaken over the decades, it never entirely disappears, and serves to keep him apart from the growing trend towards the ahistorical, existential brand of modernist Buddhism developed in the early and mid-twentieth century by D. T. Suzuki, the Kyoto School, and continued by many postwar Western Buddhist popularizers. Before turning to this alternative form of modernism, however, let us examine several movements dedicated to reforming Buddhism along lines of humanism and social reform. Warp and Woof: The Birth of New Buddhism In 1894, twenty-three year old Furukawa Isamu (Rōsen) স⊇࢛(㗕 Ꮁ) (1871–1899) founded the Warp and Woof Society (Keiikai ㌠㏃ Ӯ), dedicated to Buddhist reform. The members of Warp and Woof were harshly critical of the existing Buddhist establishment, and made it their mission to show that, contra neo-Confucian claims, Buddhism was not—or did not have to be—a superstitious and otherworldly religion. In particular, they followed the lead of Buddhist Enlightenment figure Inoue Enryō in rejecting so-called ‘magical Buddhism’ (kitō bukkyō ⼜⽋ңᬭ) in favour of a Buddhism that was humanistic, progressive, and this-worldly in focus. Warp and Woof was based on two central principles: ‘free investigation’ (jiyū tōkyū 㞾⬅㿢お) and ‘progressive reform’ (shinshū ᮄׂ). At the same time, the society also had a messianic aspect. According to their manifesto: ‘This Association is a union of those who believe in Buddhism as the highest and greatest religion and who want to propagate Buddhism and universally spread its blessings to all humanity.’ 25 ‘As a rule, are there not two main forms to what is referred to as religious faith? One, which does not require an appeal to common sense, is belief beyond or outside anything rational, while the other is faith obtained through approval of an appeal to reason or common sense. In these two types of faith, the first cannot help but block the advance of society and progress, while the second cannot help but accompany social progress. In our humble opinion, the function of training based on a rejection of the irrational, and adjudication in terms of common sense, is all the more important among the present generation of thinkers’ (Murakami, Bukkyō tōitsuron, p. 464, my translation; also see Sueki Fumihiko, Meiji shisō-ka ron—Kindai Nihon no shisō: Saikō I ᯢ⊏ᗱᛇᆊ䂪—䖥ҷ᮹ᴀȃᗱᛇg‫ݡ‬㗗I (Tokyo: Transview Press), p. 21).

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Furukawa was the leading light in Warp and Woof. During a decade characterized by a series of incidents related to the so-called Conflict between Religion and Education (kyōiku to shūkyō no shōtotsu ᬭ㚆ǽ ᅫᬭȃ㸱さ) the majority of Buddhist leaders and scholars—including some associated with the ‘Buddhist Enlightenment’—had joined their voices to the chorus of anti-Christian and anti-foreign rhetoric. In contrast, Furukawa’s writings present a decidedly impartial appraisal of the current problems and crises facing modern Japan and Buddhism. In 1894, on the eve of the Sino-Japanese War, Furukawa published an article entitled ‘Entering an Age of Doubt’ (Kaigi no jidai ni haireri ឤ⭥ȃ ᰖҷȀܹȡȟ) in which he proclaimed the birth of a ‘new Buddhism’ (shin bukkyō ᮄңᬭ),26 though the seeds of his ideas can be found in a 1892 essay simply entitled ‘On Buddhism’ (Bukkyō-ron ңᬭ䂪).27 All philosophies and religions, according to Furukawa, go through three stages: dogmatism (dokudan ⣀ᮁ), doubt or scepticism (kaigi ឤ⭥), and criticism (hihyō ᡍ䀩). While Christianity has passed through its age of doubt and entered an age of criticism, Buddhism was only just emerging from dogmatism and entering into a period of doubt and scepticism. Unless Buddhism passes through what might be called this

26 Three years earlier, in a piece entitled ‘Nijūyon-nen igo no nidai kyōto Ѡकಯᑈҹ ᕠȃѠ໻ᬭᕦ’ [Adherents of Two Faiths: 1891 and Beyond], published in the journal Hansei zasshi ডⳕ䲥䁠, Furukawa noted that, although Buddhism was superior to Christianity in terms of its ‘truths’, it lagged behind its Western rival when it came to social concerns, having over its long history become enmeshed in rituals, superstitions, regulations and fallen prey to general irrationality. For these reasons, reform—directed in particular towardss social engagement—had become necessary. At this point, Furukawa’s ideas were still largely derivative of Enlightenment figures such as Nakanishi Ushio Ё㽓⠯䚢 (1859–1930). See Yoshinaga Shin’ichi ঢ়∌䘆ϔ, ‘Furukawa Rosen no bukkyōron’, Panel on The Discursive Space of ‘New Buddhism’ and its Meaning in the History of Religion and Culture, Proceedings of the 67th Annual Convention of the Japanese Association for Religious Studies, Shukyō kenkyū 82, 4, 2009, p. 1041. 27 Published in the journal Bukkyō ԯᬭ. Here Furukawa also expresses his conviction that scholarship must persist, even if such leads to a crisis of personal faith—a belief shared by the DJHB scholars as well as their contemporary Western counterparts in the so-called Religionswissenschaft movement. See Yoshinaga ‘Furukawa Rosen’, p. 1041; also see Max Müller’s remarks about the ‘scientific’ study of religion, which inevitably ‘entails losses, and losses of many things which we hold dear. But this I will say, that, as far as my humble judgement goes, it does not entail the loss of anything that is essential to true religion, and that if we strike the balance honestly, the gain is immeasurably greater than the loss’ (F. Max Müller, Introduction to the Science of Religion: Four Lectures Delivered at the Royal Institution with Two Essays of False Analogies, and the Philosophy of Mythology (London: Longmans, Green and Company, 1873), pp. 9–10).


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cleansing period, it will not be able to enter into its perfected, critical stage.28 At the same time, this emphasis on a ‘scientific’ approach to the study of religion held a concomitant danger of losing sight of the practical and this-worldly aspects of Buddhism that Furukawa and other ‘new Buddhists’ wished to promote. In an article entitled ‘The Practical Direction of New Buddhists’ (Shin Bukkyō-to no jissaiteki hōmen ᮄңᬭ ᕦȃᅳ䱯ⱘᮍ䴶) published in the journal Bukkyō in 1893, Sugimura Jūō argued that an emphasis on ‘scientific Buddhism’ (gakuri jūshi no bukkyō-ron ᄺ⧚䞡㽪ȃңᬭ䂪) should not take precedence over a Buddhism committed to ‘social activism’ (shakai-teki katsudō ⼒Ӯⱘ ⌏ࢩ). In similar fashion, Furukawa, while mindful of the importance of a ‘scientific’ approach to Buddhism, emphasized the priority of lived experience (keiken ㌠俧) to theory (riron ⧚䂪).29 Although Warp and Woof disbanded in 1899 upon the untimely death of Furukawa, their torch was soon passed to a new group calling themselves the New Buddhist Fellowship.30 This group consisted of a dozen or so young scholars and activists including Sakaino Satoru (Kōyō) ๗䞢૆ (咘⋟) (1871–1933), Watanabe Kaikyoku ⏵䖎⍋ᯁ 28 Here we might note the similarities between Furukawa’s stance and that of Paul Carus (1852–1919), the German-American writer who was simultaneously formulating a ‘modernist’ interpretation of Buddhism that would be enormously influential in both Asia and the West. Though best known for his Gospel of Buddha (1894), Carus published a work entitled Science: A Religious Revelation in 1893—the year of the Columbian Exposition—in which he expressed his conviction that ‘science’ was a necessary scourge of orthodox religious belief, and yet the final result would be not irreligious materialism but rather a higher ‘religion of science’ (see Martin Verhoeven, ‘From Crisis to Conversion: The Religion of Science’, in Paul Carus, The Gospel of Buddhism: According to Old Records (LaSalle, IL: Open Court Publications), p. 8). In 1899, the year of Furukawa’s death, Carus wrote the following paean to science as harbinger of true religion: ‘There is no peace of soul for him whose religion has not passed through the furnace of scientific criticism, where it is cleansed of all the slag and dross of paganism. If God ever spoke to man, science is the burning bush; and if there is any light by which man can hope to illuminate his path so as to make firm steps, it is the light of science . . . for science is holy, and the light of science is the dwelling place of God’ (quoted in Richard Hughes Seager, ed., The Dawn of Religious Pluralism: Voices from the World’s Parliament of Religions, 1893 [LaSalle, IL: Open Court Publications, 1993], p. 72). 29 See Yoshinaga, ‘Furukawa Rosen’, p. 1041. 30 Although New Buddhism is a term that is sometimes applied to the broad sweep of reform movements in Buddhist thought and practice from the 1870s, the term shin bukkyō refers more specifically to a short-lived movement of the late 1890s and early 1900s. Founded in 1899 as Bukkyō Seito Dōshikai ԯᬭ⏙ᕦৠᖫ᳗ (Buddhist Youth Fellowship), the group changed its name to Shin Bukkyō Dōshikai ᮄԯᬭৠᖫ᳗ (New Buddhist Fellowship) in 1903. The New Buddhists were all in their mid- to late twenties, from similar middle-class backgrounds, and were largely unaffiliated with a particular sect. Their youth gave a spirit of freshness—as well as cheekiness—to their writings.

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(1872–1933), Sugimura Kōtarō (Jūō; Sojinkan) ᴝᴥᑗ໾䚢 (㏺῾; Ἦ Ҏ‫( )ݴ‬1872–1945), Katō Kumatarō (Totsudō; Genchi) ࡴ㮸❞໾䚢 (੘ූ; ⥘ᱎ) (1873–1965), and Takashima En (Beihō) 催፟‫㉇( ݚ‬ዄ) (1875–1949).31 Like the Warp and Woof Society, the New Buddhists were critical of the ‘old Buddhism’, which they believed had been complicit in the conservative forces that had thus far inhibited ‘progress’ in Japan—particularly in the areas of education and ethics.32 In July 1900, a magazine entitled ‘New Buddhism’ was launched as the movement’s mouthpiece. Here could be found their Statement of General Principles (kōryō ㎅䷬), summarized in the following six points: 1. In our view, Buddhism is fundamentally a faith based in morality. 2. We will work hard to foster sound religious beliefs, knowledge, and moral principles in order to bring about fundamental improvements to society. 3. We advocate the free investigation of Buddhism in addition to other religions. 4. We resolve to destroy superstition. 5. We do not accept the necessity of preserving traditional religious institutions and rituals. 6. We believe the government should refrain from favouring religious groups or interfering in religious matters.33 Despite the increasing dangers, New Buddhists engaged in mild forms of social activism, by protesting, for example, the government’s actions during the Tetsugakkan Affair (Tetsugakkan jiken ૆ᄺ仼џӊ) of 1902 and the publication of the Ministry of Education’s Order Number One (Kunrei Ichigo 㿧Ҹϔো) in 1906. They also expressed criticism of neo-Confucianism, bushidō, the Boshin Imperial Rescript (Boshin Shōsho ៞䖄䀨᳌) of 1908, as well as the state-sponsored Hōtoku ฅ ᖇ and the National Morality (kokumin dōtoku ೑⇥䘧ᖇ) movements. 31 Other members were: Hayashi Takejirō (Kokei; Bakuan) ᵫネ⊏䚢 (স⏧; ⤣ ᒉ) (1871–1941), Tanaka Jiroku (Gakan) ⬄Ё⊏݁ (៥㾇), Andō Hiroshi ᅝ㮸ᓬ, Kawamura Jūnirō (Gohō) ᎱᴥकѠ䚢 (Ѩዄ), Ito Sachio Ӟ㮸Ꮊग໿, Kimura Teitarō (Daisetsu) ᳼ᴥ䉲໾䚢 (໻᢭) and Dōyū Gen 䘧㵡⥘. 32 Like many of their conservative peers, they also promoted abstinence, non-smoking, and an end to prostitution. 33 See Shin Bukkyō ᮄԯᬭ 1, 1, 1900, my translation. As the final point above shows, unlike some ‘reformers’ of the day, they were not looking for government support of Buddhism—in fact, they were highly critical of any government involvement in religious matters. This was based on their analysis of Buddhism during the late Edo and early Meiji periods, which, in their estimation, had become corrupted by state support—and compliance with the ‘Tennō system’ (tennōsei ໽ⱛࠊ) in particular.


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Some members openly expressed ‘war weariness’ at the time of the Russo-Japanese War, though only one—Takashima Beihō—went so far as to publicly oppose the war.34 As a result, their magazine was forcibly shut down several times during its brief existence. In making the case that Buddhists—and Japanese more generally— owed a debt of gratitude to ‘all sentient beings’ (shuyō-on 。ᾬᘽ), interpreted here to mean ‘society’, the New Buddhists attempted to combine traditional Buddhist teachings and Confucian concepts of debt (on) and gratitude with the emerging constitutional language of the day. In turn, it was the role of the sovereign or state to preserve the political order (kengi ឆ㕽). As such, they distinguished themselves from conservative factions, both religious and political, that emphasized the necessity of returning gratitude via complete submission to the Emperor, state or ‘national body’ (kokutai ೑ԧ). In fact, following Winston Davis, the New Buddhists were at the forefront of what can be called ‘the Buddhist discovery of society’.35 In a piece entitled ‘Reply to Dr Kato’, Sakaino embraces the ‘new’ aspect of New Buddhism, while rejecting the notion that the movement is simply a form of Buddhist ‘liberalism’.36 New Buddhism is based on a return to foundational Buddhist principles, but is also that such a return will involve a certain measure of ‘reform’ (kairyō ᬍ㡃) and ‘making new’ (arata ni suru ᮄȀǮȠ) As such, New Buddhists see no problem in calling their movement ‘new’.37 But what, Sakaino goes on to ask, is it that lies at the foundation of Buddhism? His answer, rather suprisingly, is a ‘pantheistic worldview’ (hanshinron-teki sekai-kan ޵ ⼲䂪ⱘϪ⬠㾇)—by which he means something like a (Shinto?) recognition of the ‘sacred’ quality in all things.38 With regard to the question of how Buddhism relates to other forms of religion and scholarship, New Buddhists contend that Buddhism must invariably support a broad-minded and tolerant perspective. Indeed, Sakaino suggests that it is ‘a matter of course’ that Buddhism should engage and even adopt principles from other religions and scholarship,


See Davis, Japanese Religion and Society, p. 168. Davis, Japanese Religion and Society, p. 179 36 Shin Bukkyō 2, 9, p. 383 37 Shin Bukkyō 2, 9, p. 383 38 ‘We New Buddhists wish to establish Buddhism on the basis of a pantheistic worldview. A pantheistic perspective shall be the foundation of Buddhism. Upon this foundation, the Buddhism of the future can be continuously improved and purified. This is what we are calling New Buddhism’ (Shin Bukkyō 2, 9, p. 384, my translation). 35

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if these can provide surer support to Buddhism.39 Moreover, ‘just as historical Buddhism was transformed by the thought of various periods, so too must the many sects and schools in existence today be transformed by contemporary thought’.40 Thus, while it is true that New Buddhists look towards the ‘original’ foundations of Buddhism as a source—in the assurance that Buddhism holds the most profound ‘truth’—they also recognize that a number of ‘evil practices’ have arisen throughout Buddhist history, leading to a condition in which contemporary Buddhism has become ‘unsatisfactory’.41 A major criticism faced by the New Buddhists—and one raised by several members themselves in the pages of The New Buddhist—was that they had let social and political concerns overtake ‘spiritual’ ones, and thus had effectively removed themselves from mainsteam Buddhist tradition. Indeed, some critics such as Buddhist scholar Ōuchi Seiran ໻‫ݙ‬䴦Ꭶ (1845–1918) questioned whether they could even call themselves ‘Buddhist’ at all, given that they had failed to produce a ‘new faith’? Of course, such criticisms raise numerous complex questions about the definition of ‘religion’ versus ‘politics’ or ‘ethics’.42 It is fair to say that the New Buddhists, along with their Warp and Woof predecessors, shared the conviction that their ‘new faith’ was intrinsically connected with social concerns.’43 Nishida’s Pure Experience and the Origins of Zen Modernism This final section will focus on several key themes in the writings of Nishida Kitarō 㽓⬄ᑒ໮䚢 (1870–1945), founder of the Kyoto School (Kyōto gakuha Ҁ䛑ᄺ⌒), the most prominent philosophical school of twentieth-century Japan. Though not affiliated or grounded in religion per 39

Shin Bukkyō 2, 9, p. 384 Shin Bukkyō 2, 9, p. 384 41 Shin Bukkyō 2, 9, p. 384 42 These questions remain as complex today as a century ago, as we can see in the following remark by Winston Davis: ‘Nevertheless, the New Buddhists would not have recognized a purely secular salvation as enlightenment, or an enlightenment without the spirit of emptiness, self-control and non-ego as salvation’ (Davis, Japanese Religion and Society, p. 170). What, we are compelled to ask, does Davis mean by ‘purely secular salvation’ or ‘the spirit of emptiness’? 43 Though, as Davis notes, while some New Buddhists ‘tried to move towardss the workers, like other ‘bourgeois intellectuals’, their sympathies usually stopped short of direct political action (Davis, Japanese Religion and Society, p. 170). This turn was left to more radical movements such as the ‘Youth League for Revitalizing Buddhism’ (Shinkō Bukkyō Seinen Dōmei ᮄ㟜ңᬭ䴦ᑈৠⲳ), led by Nichiren Buddhist layman Senō Girō (1889–1961). 40


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se, the philosophy developed by Nishida and his main successors, including Tanabe Hajime ⬄䖎‫( ܗ‬1885–1962) and Nishitani Keiji 㽓䈋ଧ⊏ (1900–1990), was deeply indebted to Buddhist and Zen thought in particular. Moreover, their work reflects a different flavour of modernism—one distinguished by a turn away from the lure of science and historical scholarship and towards an existential and aesthetic interpretation of religion. In Nishida’s earliest work, the groundbreaking Zen no kenkyū ୘ȃ ⷨお(An Inquiry into the Good, 1911), he introduces his fundamental concept of ‘pure experience’ (junsui keiken ㋨㉟㌠俧).44 For Nishida: To experience means to know facts just as they are, to know in accordance with facts by completely relinquishing one’s own fabrications. What we usually refer to as experience is adulterated with some sort of thought, so by pure I am referring to experience just as it is without the least addition of deliberative discrimination. . . . In this regard, pure experience is identical with direct experience. When one experiences one’s own state of consciousness, there is not yet a subject or an object, and knowing and its object are completely unified. This is the most refined type of experience.45 44 As many scholars have noted, contemporary Western thinkers such as William James and Josiah Royce (1855–1916) deeply influenced Nishida’s Inquiry into the Good. James had discussed the root of all experience in terms of an ‘instantaneous field of present’ in which all experience is ‘pure’,and noted that: ‘It is as if there were in the human consciousness a sense of reality, a feeling of objective presence, a perception of what we may call “something there”, more deep and more general than any of the particular “senses” by which current psychology supposes existent realities to be originally revealed.’ See William James, Essays in Radical Empiricism (New York and Boston: Longmans and Green, 1912), pp. 23–24; and The Varieties of Religious Experience (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1985), p. 55. And yet, despite the reliance on James, in some respects Nishida’s Inquiry into the Good brought an end to the direct and often uncritical import of Western philosophy characteristic of the Meiji period and prompted the beginnings of a genuine Japanese philosophy. During the later period of his life, Nishida openly acknowledged that his Inquiry into the Good was too psychological and mystical: ‘As I look at it now, the standpoint of this book is that of consciousness, and it might be thought of as a kind of psychologism.’ These remarks can be found in a preface to the 1936 edition entitled ‘Upon Resetting the Type’. See Abe Masao 䰓䚼ℷ䲘, ‘Introduction’ to Nishida Kitarō, Inquiry into the Good, translated by Abe Masao and Christopher A. Ives (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1987), pp. vii–xxviii. Also see David A. Dilworth, ‘Introduction’ to Nishida Kitaro, Last Writings: Nothingness and the Religious Worldview, Nishida Kitarō. Honolulu: University of Hawai‘i Press), p. 18; and Jacynthe Tremblay, Nishida Kitaro: Le Jeu de l’individuel et de l’universel (Paris: CNRS Éditions, 2000), pp. 14–15, for a discussion of the various periods of Nishida’s life and thought. 45 Nishida Kitarō, Inquiry into the Good, translated by Masao Abe and Christopher Ives (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1987), pp. 3–4. One might, again, refer here to an aesthetic way. ‘Artistic experiences are often ‘pre-conceptual’ in the sense that they are not mastered by a conceptualizing intellect. In a way, these experiences give the impression of unfolding themselves ‘all alone’, that is of taking place without any conscious effort from the part of the subject.’ See Thorsten Botz-Bornstein, Place and Dream: Japan and the Virtual (Amsterdam: Editions Rodopi, 2004), p. 11.

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Moreover, against Immanuel Kant as well as the New Buddhists, Nishida contends that ‘religion does not gain adequate definition from the moral standpoint. The religious form of life does not even arise from that standpoint. Even if such a thing were to be imagined, it would not be true religion.’46 Religious experience, says Nishida, is not about ‘ethical progression’ of any sort, but it is grounded in the realization of the problematic nature of one’s very existence. In short, Nishida conceives of religion as the ultimate ‘transvaluation’ of morality. ‘To speak of religion in moral terms’, he concludes, ‘is to set up social existence as the basis of the self ’s own existential condition.’47 Although he never abandoned the idea, in his later writings Nishida turned away from speaking of pure experience, replacing such with a more nuanced and, in his understanding, more clearly Buddhist concept of basho จ᠔—usually translated as topos, locus or ‘place’.48 Yet, extending through all works is the conviction that ‘the religious horizon of concrete immediacy is the deepest a priori of the self, underlying the a priori of cognitive intellect, moral will, and aesthetic feeling’.49 In Nishida’s final writings, the ‘logic of place,’ along with the philosophy of ‘active intuition’, come to be more closely related to ethics and political behaviour.50 ‘Religiously 46 Nishida Kitarō, Last Writings: Nothingness and the Religious Worldview, translated by David A. Dilworth (Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press, 1987), p. 82. In these words one hears echoes of Søren Kierkegaard (1813–1855), particularly his three ‘stages on life’s way’: aesthetic, ethical, religious—except that in Nishida’s conception, the aesthetic realm is indistinguishable from the religious. 47 Robert Carter, summing up Nishida’s critique of Kant, says ‘Clearly, the ultimate goal of Buddhism, and of Zen, is not morality, but spirituality’ (Robert E. Carter, The Nothingness Beyond God: An Introduction to the Philosophy of Nishida Kitarō, 2nd edition (St. Paul, MN: Paragon House, 1997), p. 129. 48 In the 1920s Nishida developed his ideas of basho along lines borrowed from Edmund Husserl (1859–1938), the neo-Kantians and Johann Gottlieb Fichte (1762–1814), and placed emphasis in particular on pure feeling as the basic condition or ground for ‘true subjectivity’ and as ‘a more profound level of consciousness than intellectual cognition’. His final works written in the period leading up to and through the Pacific War (1930–45), deal more extensively with basho vis-à-vis ‘the world of action’ and historical reality. See Tremblay, Nishida Kitaro, p. 16, n. 5. As Dilworth notes, Nishida’s ‘nine successive volumes of purely philosophical writing during 1911 and his death in 1945 were a continuous process of articulation of a central insight concerning ‘the immediacy of experience’ in Buddhistic terms’. See David A. Dilworth, ‘Nishida Kitarō: Nothingness as the Negative Space of Experiential Immediacy’, International Philosophical Quarterly 13, 4, 1973, p. 463. Here, Dilworth refers to the series of volumes, eleven in total, published between 1911 and 1945. Nishida’s complete works in nineteen volumes were published by Iwanami Shoten in 1965. 49 Dilworth, ‘Nishida Kitarō’, pp. 469–471. 50 This late turn has been called Nishida’s Kehre from a philosophy of self-consciousness to one of history-politics, possibly as a response to the writings of his erstwhile disciple Tanabe Hajime. See Huh Woo-Sung, ‘The Philosophy of History in the ‘Later’ Nishida: A Philosophic Turn’, Philosophy East and West 40, 3, 1990, pp. 343–374.


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awakened people’, writes Nishida, ‘become “master of every situation” as the self-determination of the absolute present. In all respects these people are active. For each, “the place in which one stands is truth” . . . From a true religious awakening one can submit to the state.’51 Ironically, in his attempt to give a more concrete and socio-historical understanding of basho, Nishida ends up creating a highly abstract and de-historicized ideological basis for the imperialist vision of the day. As Christopher Ives puts it, ‘Nishida helped provide a philosophical foundation for the ‘holy war’ being waged in the name of the emperor.’52 Indeed, a major critique of Kyoto School philosophy—and Nishida’s pure experience and logic of place in particular—is the tendency towards a dehistoricized noetic ground for awareness and subjectivity which ‘makes it impossible in the end to consider the “contradictions” of this world as tragic contradictions; it slants one in the direction of esthetic contemplation’.53 In speaking of Nishida’s later move towards understanding basho in light of absolute nothingness, Jan van Bragt argues that it ‘seems to wipe away every imperfection of actual human life by proclaiming a higher standard from which all such things are seen to be non-existent or illusory’.54 51 Quoted in Christopher Ives, ‘Ethical Pitfalls in Imperial Zen and Nishida Philosophy: Ichikawa Hakugen’s Critique’, in Rude Awakenings, p. 23. This idea is repeated in an essay written in 1944: ‘True obedience to the nation should be derived from the standpoint of true religious self-awareness. Mere seeking one’s own peace of mind is selfish’ (Nishida Kitarō, ‘Towards a Philosophy of Religion with the Concept of Pre-Established Harmony as Guide’, translated by David A. Dilworth, Eastern Buddhist, New Series 2, 1, 1970, p. 45). Even more significant, Nishida—borrowing a line from Kegon Buddhism— emphasized the importance of ‘See[ing] the universal in the particular thing.’ This notion may be fairly innocuous in itself, but Nishida situated it in concrete terms by locating the universal principle in the particular locus called the Tennō ໽ⱛ—the Japanese emperor. 52 Ives, ‘Ethical Pitfalls’, p. 25. It should be noted that, particularly in his personal letters, Nishida feels some obvious discomfort as to the way ultranationalism was sweeping the country in the 1930s and 1940s. Some commentators have suggested that, in fact, Nishida was mimicking the language of the militarists in order to bring it up from the concrete reality of war and into some higher philosophico-religious sphere. This is not a very strong claim, even when coupled with the fact that Nishida did come under suspicion by some rightists for some of his moderate writings. 53 Kitamori Kazuo ࣫Ể௝㬉, quoted in Jan Van Bragt, ‘Kyoto Philosophy—Intrinsically Nationalistic?’ in Rude Awakenings, p. 252. 54 Van Bragt, ‘Kyoto Philosophy’, p. 253. Van Bragt adds: ‘I do not wish to challenge the value, the incalculable value, of such a standpoint for religion—provided that it opens a path back to a heightened awareness of the actual contradictions, beautiful or tragic as they may be, provided that it elaborates this path in sufficient detail to constitute a norm for our imperfect attempts at being fully human.’ For Heisig, ‘the consequences of [Nishida’s] position come to this: the non-I that emerges from the selfawareness of absolute nothingness looks for all the world to be a highly cultivated form of ataraxia, a self-transcendence of which the highest good consists of its inability to be moved by either good or evil’. See James W. Heisig, Philosophers of Nothingness: An Essay on the Kyoto School (Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press, 2001), p. 86.

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Conclusion: Legacy of Aesthetic Modernism Despite the relatively liberal cultural and intellectual climate of the period which later came to be known (rather wistfully) as ‘Taishō democracy’, the first decades of the twentieth century saw increased resistance on the part of nationalistic groups to the incursion of foreign ideas and values. Though there remained a stalwart few who attempted to construct a more moderate and even progressive model for modern Japan, by the late 1930s even these moderate voices were lost amid the rising tide of nationalism.55 Far from being a fringe movement, this intellectual turn between early Taishō and early Shōwa—from cosmopolitanism to what has been called ‘culturalism’ (bunkashugi ᭛࣪Џ 㕽)—is reflected in the writings of mainstream intellectuals, writers, political and religious leaders.56 Among other things, within this intellectual trend we see a highly Romantic spirit; not least in the contrast between culture (meaning creative self-realization, depth of spirit, and aesthetic value) vs. civilization (meaning the rational, material, pragmatic, but ultimately spiritually vacuous wisdom of the modern industrial West). In addition to the obvious echoes of Ferdinand Tönnies’s classic distinction between Gemeinschaft and Gesellschaft, this turn away from civilization, ethics and politics towards culture and aesthetics reflects what Marxist critic Tōsaka Jun ᠌ഖ┸ (1900–1945) referred to as a widespread move among Taishō and early Shōwa intellectuals from ‘political’ to ‘cultural liberalism’. According to Tōsaka: [As t]he very meaning of such liberalism is literary, it must be a liberalism that is decisively cut off from liberalism in the sense of political actions (which would necessarily lead to the pursuit of democracy). Even in its political aspect, it is here nothing more than liberalism as a literary concept, one that utterly transcends politics. . . . Now surprisingly enough, such literary liberalism contains a path that runs through fascism.57 55 ‘Many believed that by realizing the best of East and West, Japan had achieved a new cosmopolitan culture. The recognition of having achieved this unprecedented synthesis validated the subsequent belief that Japan was uniquely qualified to assume leadership in Asia, although much of the rhetoric that writers used referred to the world at large’ (Najita and Harootunian, ‘Japan’s Revolt’, p. 208). 56 ‘Whereas an earlier cosmopolitanism promoted the ideal of cultural diversity and equivalence based on the principle of a common humanity, which served also to restrain excessive claims to exceptionalism, the new culturalism of the 1930s proposed that Japan was appointed to lead the world to a higher level of cultural synthesis that surpassed Western modernism itself ’ (Najita and Harootunian, ‘Japan’s Revolt’, p. 208). 57 Tosaka Jun, quoted in Karatani Kōjin, ‘Overcoming Modernity’, in Contemporary Japanese Thought, edited by Richard F. Calichman, pp. 101–118 (New York: Columbia University Press, 2005).


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Modern interpretations of Buddhism—and Zen in particular— continue to reflect this mindset, developed in large part by thinkers such as Nishida and D. T. Suzuki.58 Although we cannot simply dismiss this interpretation of Buddhism as false, it is imperative to recogonize its manifest hybridity, with sources that lie as deep within modernist conceptions as within traditional Buddhist teachings.59 Moreover, it is also important to recognize the variations in modernist interpretations of Japanese Buddhism. While the aesthetic or existentialist interpretation of Buddhism has come to dominate postwar understandings of Japanese Buddhist thought, it is in fact only one of the various forms of Japanese Buddhist modernism to flourish in the late Meiji through early Shōwa periods. Others, such as the New Buddhist movements discussed above, show a quite distinctive but equally fertile combination of modernist currents with Buddhist thought and practice.

58 Robert Sharf, one of the more astute and critical contemporary scholars of Asian Buddhism, argues that modern Zen as developed in the various writings of Zen-influenced philosophers like Nishida and Suzuki came to be conceived as a ‘mystical or spiritual gnosis that transcends sectarian boundaries’ (Sharf, ‘Whose Zen?’, p. 43). Such an understanding of Zen, Sharf argues, is quite distinct from anything preceding the Meiji period, and vastly different from what goes on in the regular Zen monastery to this day. Stuart Lachs makes the same point, suggesting that Suzuki in particular ‘promoted a non-traditional, modernist interpretation of Zen’ by emphasizing a Zen ‘freed from its Mahayana Buddhist context, centred on a special kind of “pure” experience and without the traditional Buddhist concern for morality’. This view, according to Lachs, was taken up by the Kyoto School in an attempt to accentuate the aspects of Buddhism ‘that are both most different from Western traditions and most distinctively Japanese’—an ironic twist, given that it is largely the modernist element of such an interpretation of Zen that has attracted so many Western Buddhists of the past several generations. ‘This view has fostered in the West a widespread conception of Zen Buddhism as a tradition of exclusively cognitive import, inordinately preoccupied with the ideas of Sunyata, non-duality, and absolute nothingness but with little talk of karma, Marga (the path), compassion, or even the “marvelous qualities” of Buddhahood. Such a view fails to give adequate attention to the positive disciplines, including morality, that comprised the lives of Buddhists, and easily leads one to think that Buddhists are unable to treat the ordinary world of human activity seriously.’ See Stuart Lachs, ‘Coming Down from the Zen Clouds: A Critique of the Current State of American Zen’, web article: , p. 1. 59 In a recent book entitled The Making of Buddhist Modernism (New York: Oxford University Press, 2008), David McMahan has traced many of these sources. While Buddhist Modernism is invaluable in presenting a nuanced overview of the construction of Buddhist modernism in the West, as the author himself notes, there is much more work to be done in terms of uncovering the specifics, as well as the variations, of Buddhist modernism as it developed in Asian contexts.



A MODERNIST NOSTALGIA: THE COLONIAL LANDSCAPE OF ENLIGHTENMENT TOKYO IN AKUTAGAWA RYŪNOSUKE AND EDOGAWA RAMPO Seiji M. Lippit Introduction The urban landscape in modernist literature typically served to frame the massive technological, economic, and social transformations of the contemporary age. The city of Tokyo in particular, in the dizzying pace of its change—including the transition from Edo and the extensive destruction and reconstruction resulting from the 1923 earthquake—tended to embody for early twentieth-century writers the sharp break from the past that characterized Japanese modernity. As literary critic Kobayashi Hideo famously said in 1933, the ever-changing city lacked the physical repositories of memory to provide any material link to the past, giving rise to a pervasive sense of cultural homelessness.1 At the same time, however, precisely because of such an evacuation of memory from the physical landscape, Tokyo also gave rise to various discourses of nostalgia in the early decades of the twentieth century. Perhaps the most famous literary example of such a longing for the past is represented by the work of Nagai Kafū, who, upon his return from a fiveyear sojourn to Europe and America in 1908, expressed distaste for the vulgarity of contemporary Japan that its capital city embodied, and from which he tried to escape into a fantasy of a vanishing Edo. As Maeda Ai wrote, after his return Kafū depicted a landscape that framed conflicts between elements of modernity and premodernity; his story ‘The Fox’ (Kitsune, 1909), for example, stages ‘a symbolic drama in which brooding memories stored up in an Edo space are eradicated by the utilitarianism and rationalism of “civilization and enlightenment” ’.2 Subsequent works by Kafū, including his famed ‘Sumida River’ (Sumidagawa, 1909) 1

Kobayashi Hideo, ‘Literature of the Lost Home’, in Literature of the Lost Home, ed. and trans. Paul Anderer (Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press, 1995), 48-49. 2 Maeda Ai, ‘The Spirits of Abandoned Gardens: On Nagai Kafū’s ‘The Fox,’’ trans. William F. Sibley, in Text and The City: Essays on Japanese Modernity, ed. James A. Fujii (Durham: Duke University Press, 2004), 104.


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explored the surviving remnants of the old city of Edo within the modern space of the capital city.3 Yet, beyond such attempts to discover in the cityscape lingering traces of a premodern past, another kind of apparent urban nostalgia can also be found in modernist writings of the Taishō and early Shōwa periods, one that focused on the Tokyo landscape of the Meiji period. The object of this nostalgia is not the romanticized vision of an unsullied state prior to a traumatic encounter with the modern West, but rather the image of a culture in the very process of opening up to the outside. It can best be described as a colonial landscape, one that is characterized by the ostentatious mimicry of European civilization and that is marked by a state of transition between the premodern and the modern. In particular, certain works by Akutagawa Ryūnosuke (1892–1927)—including his famous depiction of the Rokumeikan era in ‘The Ball’ (Butōkai, 1920)—and by Edogawa Rampo (1894–1965) revolve around a fascination with the period of bunmei kaika—usually rendered as ‘civilization and enlightenment’—which was characterized by an enthusiastic embrace of foreign culture. On its face, these writings appear to express a nostalgia for precisely the type of mimicry that Kafū decried, and which Natsume Sōseki, Akutagawa’s mentor, denigrated as a form of subjugation to the West: Here is an example that may not come under the heading of ‘civilization’, but just look at how we socialize with Westerners—always according to their rules, never ours. Why, then, do we not just stop socializing with them? Sadly enough, we have no choice in the matter. And when two unequal parties socialize, they do so according to the customs of the stronger. One Japanese may make fun of another for not knowing the proper way to hold a knife or fork, but such smug behaviour only proves that the Westerners are stronger than we are. If we were the stronger, it would be a simple matter for us to take the lead and make them imitate us. Instead, we must imitate them. And because age-old customs cannot be changed overnight, all we can do is mechanically memorize Western manners—manners which, on us, look ridiculous.4

In the cosmopolitan intellectual environment following the RussoJapanese War (1904–1905), a time when Tokyo was being proclaimed as the capital of an extensive empire to rival those of the West, such 3

See Edward Seidensticker, Kafū the Scribbler: The Life and Writings of Nagai Kafū, 1879–1959 (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1965), especially 32–52. 4 Natsume Sōseki, ‘The Civilization of Modern-day Japan’, trans. Jay Rubin, in Kokoro: A Novel and Selected Essays, trans. Edwin McClellan (Madison Books: Lanham, Maryland, 1992), 279.

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a sense of cultural subjugation to Western civilization—of which the Rokumeikan was a prominent emblem—lacked currency. What, then, is the driving force behind such a fascination for a colonial landscape within modernist literature? I examine this question through readings of some of the key texts in question by Akutagawa and Rampo, focusing in particular on the depiction of a contest over the colonial gaze that, I argue, is not simply confined to a past history, but also expresses certain desires and anxieties about the present. Akutagawa and the Aestheticization of the Enlightenment Akutagawa wrote a number of historical stories set in the early to midMeiji period, but three in particular have been grouped together under the rubric of ‘enlightenment pieces’ (kaika mono): ‘The Enlightenment Murder’ (Kaika no satsujin, 1918), ‘Enlightenment Husband’ (Kaika no otto,’ 1919) and ‘The Ball’.5 Of these, ‘The Ball’ is by far the bestknown, having been established as one of Akutagawa’s representative works and a masterpiece of modern literature, while the other two have been largely forgotten.6 While scholars have grouped the three works together based on their common reference to either the Viscount Honda or his wife Akiko, they are quite different in style and tone. ‘Enlightenment Murder’, for example, represents Akutagawa’s attempt to write a detective story, and is written in the language of pre-genbun itchi Meiji writing. Yet the stories offer important insights into the meaning of the enlightenment landscape for Akutagawa. ‘Enlightenment Husband’, for example, describes the allure of earlyMeiji era Tokyo, while also registering Akutagawa’s ambivalent posture towards this period of history. The story is set in a display room in the national art museum at Ueno, at ‘an exhibition on the civilization of early Meiji’.7 In the exhibit’s last room, the narrator of the story—whom 5 I have previously examined Akutagawa’s fiction, including brief discussions of his enlightenment fiction, in Topographies of Japanese Modernism (New York: Columbia UP, 2002), 39–71, and in the introduction to The Essential Akutagawa (New York: Marsilio, 1999), xi-xxviii. 6 See Miyasaka Satoru, ‘‘Butōkai’ shiron’ (Essay on ‘The Ball’), in Shimizu Yasutsugu, ed., Butōkai: Kaikaki, gendaimono no sekai (The Ball: The World of the Enlightenment and Contemporary Stories), vol. 4 of Akutagawa Ryūnosuke Sakuhinron shūsei (Collected Essays on the Works of Akutagawa Ryūnosuke) (Tokyo: Kanrin Shobō, 1999), 32. 7 Akutagawa Ryūnosuke, ‘Kaika no otto’ (Englightenment Husband), in Akutagawa Ryūnosuke zenshū (The Collected Works of Akutagawa Ryūnosuke), vol. 3 (Tokyo: Iwanami Shoten, 1977), 3.


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we later learn is a writer of fiction—spies the ‘delicate’ figure of an elderly aristocrat, Viscount Honda, dressed in a ‘formal, black Western suit, wearing an elegant bowler’.8 Together, the two look at the visual display of enlightenment Tokyo, including a copperplate print depicting the Tsukiji foreign settlement that catches their eye: The mica-like waves inscribing Tokyo Bay, the steamships sporting various flags, the Western men and women walking down the avenue, the Hiroshige-like pine tree, spreading its branches into the sky above a Western building—there was a certain blending of East and West common to both form and content that was unique to the art of the early Meiji period, and which displayed a beautiful harmony. Since then, this harmony has been forever lost from our art. No, it has disappeared as well from the Tokyo where we live. I nodded again, and said that this picture of the Tsukiji settlement was interesting not only as an individual print. It also had a nostalgic value, in that it recalled to memory the age in which rickshaws decorated with images of peonies and Chinese lions and glassplate photographs of geisha proudly took part in the age of enlightenment. The Viscount continued to display a smile on his lips as he listened to my words, but he soon quietly left that glass case and walked slowly towards a woodblock print by Taiso Yoshitoshi. ‘Then have a look at this Yoshitoshi. Kikugorō in Western clothing and Hanshirō in a ‘gingko leaf ’ coiffure, performing a tragic scene under a fiery moon. When I look at this image I feel as if that age—when it is impossible to say whether it is Edo or Tokyo, in which night and day are made as one—has vividly floated up before my eyes.’9

The passage articulates the basis for early-Meiji Tokyo’s aesthetic allure: it provides an image of modernity in Japan coming into being, still in a half-formed, in-between state. At the same time, the passage makes clear the sense of distance between the contemporary age and the past— the period of bunmei kaika is relegated to the dusky exhibition rooms and display cases of a museum. The room is described as a materialization of Honda’s own memory, and it also serves as an archive of cultural memory, a visualization of the early, formative history of modernity. In this room, Honda tells the narrator a tale set during this earlier time, one that reflects an alternate, disturbing side to the alluring exterior shown in the museum prints. It is, in sum, a story of infatuation and ultimate disillusionment with the enlightenment. The story concerns a man named Miura, whom Honda had come to know as a young man during his return voyage from France. The son of a wealthy landowner 8 9

Ibid., 3. Ibid., 4–5.

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and himself a wealthy capitalist, Miura nominally held a position at a bank, but actually spent his days holed up in his ‘stylish Westernstyle study’ in the family mansion in Ryōgoku, immersed in reading.10 Honda describes the room as emblematic of the time period: The French windows looking out on the Sumida River, the white ceiling with its gold borders, the red Moroccan-leather chairs and sofa, the portrait of Napoleon I hanging on the wall, the large, engraved ebony bookshelves, the marble fireplace with attached mirror, on top of which rested the pine tree bonsai treasured by his late father—all of it made one feel an antiquated novelty, a gaudiness that was almost gloomy, or to put it another way, it made one think of a somewhat out-of-tune musical instrument—it was a room that was representative of the age.11

In this somewhat lurid library, the previously mentioned ‘harmony’ between East and West gives way to an image of something askew and off-key. Furthermore, that this overwrought embrace of European trappings is in fact an effect of a certain colonial relationship of power is indicated by the description of Miura, ‘amidst such surroundings, always taking up his position (jindori nagara) underneath Napolean I, wearing a silk kimono and perhaps reading Hugo’s Les Orientales’.12 The military trope (jindoru, to station one’s troops) and the reference to the prominent text of European exoticism underscore the fact that Miura’s desire for the West is, in effect, the other side of an orientalism that is presided over by an icon of European imperial conquest. Later in the story, this figurative subjugation to the West turns specifically into an experience of emasculation. Miura has always said that he would never agree to a marriage not based on love, and he thus remains unmarried for many years, despite the concerns of his family (and their entreaties to at least take on a concubine so that the family line can continue). Yet, while Honda is living in ‘Keijō’ (Seoul), Korea, where he has taken up a position on ‘an official errand’, he is surprised to receive an announcement of Miura’s marriage to a woman named Fujii Katsumi.13 Upon his return to the ‘inner territory’ [naichi], Honda finds that Katsumi’s portrait has replaced that of Napoleon in the sitting room.14 And he also notices that an atmosphere of gloom has descended upon the daily life of Miura. 10

Ibid., 6. Ibid., 7. 12 Ibid., 7. 13 Ibid., 10. 14 Ibid., 12. 11


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The cause of this depression soon becomes clear after Honda encounters Miura’s wife at the theatre, where she is in the company of a Mrs Narayama, an advocate of equal rights for women who is also the subject of never-ceasing rumours of suspicious behaviour. It later turns out that Miura’s wife has been carrying on an affair with her cousin, a disagreeable man whom Honda meets at the Miura estate.15 Honda discovers that Mrs Narayama was previously a ‘Westerner’s concubine’ [rashamen ⋟ྒ] in the Kobe region.16 For his part, Miura, thinking that his wife’s affair is a matter of true love (which he still holds as an ideal), at first allows this affair to continue, but when he discovers that Katsumi’s cousin is also involved in intimate relations with Narayama, he divorces his wife. One evening, while taking a boat ride on the Sumida River (which still retains strong traces of the Edo period), Miura tells Honda of the whole affair and expresses his disappointment with bunmei kaika. In this way, underlying the sense of disillusionment with the colonial culture of early Meiji is the undermining of the masculine seat of power in patriarchal society—it is, in short, an ambivalence expressed through the allure and threat represented by the Westernizing woman.17 The story, which opens with a description of the powerful aesthetic appeal of early Meiji thus shifts into a narrative of enlightenment gone astray, a complete subjugation to the power of European civilization, here represented by the Westernized female body. By way of a chain of association stretching from Narayama, a foreigner’s concubine, to Miura’s wife, whose image replaces that of Napoleon overlooking Miura’s library, Miura himself is placed in a subservient and emasculated position in relation to the West. By contrast, Honda himself implicitly represents an overcoming of that sense of subjugation to the West, someone who goes on to enjoy a successful government career as a diplomat. Significantly, the moment of Miura’s capitulation takes place while Honda is stationed in Korea on official business. This business is not explicitly described, but the text implies that it is related to the establishment of Japan’s overseas empire. Of course, the period of the story’s setting would predate any 15

Ibid., 15. Ibid., 19. 17 On the simultaneously threatening and alluring figure of the ‘Westernesque’ woman, see Indra Levy’s Sirens of the Western Shore: The Westernesque Femme Fatale, Translation, and Vernacular Style in Modern Japanese Literature (New York: Columbia UP, 2006). 16

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formal colonial control over Korea, but the use of the name Keijō (the colonial name for Seoul that was officially put in place after the 1910 annexation) as well as the term naichi to describe Japan—a term that was often used in a later period to designate the relationship between Japan and its colonial territories (gaichi)—suggests this is an implicit reference to Japan’s empire at the time of the story’s writing. In effect, Honda avoids the kind of subjugation that Miura embodies precisely through the assumption of the position of colonizer. This reading of ‘Enlightenment Husband’ in turn helps to shed some light on Akutagawa’s ‘The Ball’. At first glance, the ambivalence that pervades ‘Enlightenment Husband’ would appear to be absent in the later, far more celebrated work, which has often been seen to present an idealized and aestheticized image of the Rokumeikan period. Yet ‘The Ball’ is also permeated by the effects of the colonial gaze. The reference to the ‘Westerner’s concubine’ in the earlier story evokes the most famous literary example of such a figure, the title character of Pierre Loti’s Madame Chrysanthème; in ‘The Ball’, Loti himself makes an appearance. ‘The Ball’ is a response to a travel essay by Loti in Japoneries d’Automne entitled ‘Un Bal à Yeddo’ (A Ball at Edo), which describes his attendance at an event at the Rokumeikan in honour of the Meiji Emperor’s birthday. Akutagawa’s story is an alternate account of the same evening, incorporating the perspective of one of the women mentioned by Loti. Akutagawa’s story opens on the evening of 3 November 1886, as the seventeen year-old Akiko climbs the grand stairway at the Rokumeikan, illumimated by bright gas lamps and adorned by imposing wreaths of chrysanthemum. Feeling a ‘pleasurable anxiety’, Akiko had glanced numerous times at the ‘meager lights of the streets of Tokyo’ during the carriage ride taking her to the ball. Yet in contrast to the dismal appearance of the rest of the city, the Rokumeikan represents the bright and flowery showcase of Japanese enlightenment. Inside, Akiko dances with a French naval officer, who looks upon her with bemused admiration, coloured by a touch of melancholy at the global uniformity of such social rituals. Later, they gaze together upon a fireworks display, which evokes for the French officer the fleeting beauty of life itself. Numerous scholars have examined the relationship between the texts by Loti and Akutagawa, focusing in particular on the latter’s rewriting of Loti’s critical and denigrating comments on Japanese efforts at adopting Western manners. In his text, Loti, whose desire for oriental exoticism was betrayed by the display of European costumes at the Rokumeikan, mocks the physical appearance of the Japanese in Western


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dress and expresses a certain disdain for these ‘automatons’ and ‘marvellous imitators’, whose performance of European manners strikes him as ‘something learned, learned very quickly, learned by imperial order and perhaps reluctantly’.18 In his influential explication of ‘The Ball’, Miyoshi Yukio pointed out that Akutagawa’s story elides Loti’s critical perspective, while ignoring the historical context in which the Rokumeikan existed; in place of the earlier text’s critical perspective, ‘the French naval officer appears, before a thoroughly aestheticized Akiko, as an extoller of her beauty’.19 For Miyoshi, this idealization extends to the Rokumeikan and the age it represents. On the other hand, David Rosenfeld provides an alternative interpretation of this aestheticization, casting ‘The Ball’ as a moment of ‘resistance’, a critique of the orientalist and colonialist sensibility that pervades Loti’s writing. Citing the fact that the Rokumeikan was part of a state strategy to revise the unequal treaties with the Western imperial powers, which had placed Japan in a subordinate position within the global order, Rosenfeld argues that Akutagawa’s revisions of Loti’s critical perspective ‘inscribe his resistant subject within the discursive space delimited by the earlier, colonizing text, seeking to wrest control of that space, and of the representation of that historical moment, from the voice of the imperial subject’.20 In particular, Rosenfeld points out that Akutagawa transforms Loti’s denigration of Japanese mimicry into an expression of ‘Japan’s cultural and political accomplishments’.21 For example, Loti’s text includes a description of Chinese officials in traditional clothing, who represent for the French writer an impressive authenticity and physical superiority to the Japanese. In Akutagawa’s text, however, a ‘corpulent’ Chinese official, with his ‘long queue’ casts an astonished glance at Akiko, who embodies the full beauty of the Japanese woman of enlightenment.22 Noting that Akutagawa’s work combines the perspectives of both Meiji and Taishō, Rosenfeld writes that this description of the Chinese official ‘evokes Japan’s twentiethcentury colonial designs on the Asian continent, suggesting a ‘Japanese 18 Pierre Loti, ‘Un Bal à Yeddo’ (A Ball in Edo), in Japoneries d’Automne (Paris: Calmann Lévy, 1890), 94 and 106. 19 Miyoshi Yukio, ‘Seishun no ‘kyomu’: ‘Butōkai’ no sekai’ (The Nothingness of Youth: The World of ‘The Ball’, 1976), in Butōkai: Kaikaki, gendaimono no sekai, 24. 20 David Rosenfeld, ‘Counter-Orientalism and Textual Play in Akutagawa’s “The Ball” (Butōkai)’, Japan Forum 12.1 (2000): 54. 21 Ibid., 59. 22 Akutagawa, ‘Butōkai’ (The Ball), in Akutagawa Ryūnosuke zenshū, vol. 3, 355. A full translation of this story can be found in The Essential Akutagawa, 71–78.

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Orientalism’ that, in terms of both cultural representation and military subjugation, replicated the Western enterprise’.23 As Rosenfeld points out, this moment, when Loti’s condescending gaze is shifted onto the astonished gaze of the Chinese official, represents a key passage in the work, one that touches upon the key elements of the textual strategy driving Akutagawa’s revision of Loti’s text. Yet, while Rosenfeld emphasizes the elements of ‘resistance’ and ‘resentment’ in this strategy, I believe it can best be described as a form of appropriation and incorporation.24 In short, the critical perspective that Loti’s text represents is negated precisely by way of the internalization of the colonial gaze into Akutagawa’s text. In general, Loti’s dismissal of the Rokumeikan and what it represents is undertaken from a position of superior knowledge, a position from where he is able to measure the Japanese copy against the original. For example, arriving at the train station in Tokyo, Loti remarks in surprise: ‘Had we arrived in London, Melbourne, or New York? Around the station stood tall houses of brick, of an American unsightliness.’25 If the manners that the Japanese display have been ‘taught’, it is precisely Loti himself who occupies the position of the teacher, the bearer of knowledge. While a number of scholars have emphasized Akutagawa’s omission of Loti’s critique (including most notably his derisory comments on the Japanese physique),26 the text does retain some traces of Loti’s position of epistemological superiority. For example, near the end of ‘The Ball’, the French officer speaks to Akiko in ‘a teaching tone’ (oshieru yōna chōshi), which contains echoes of Loti’s dismissal of the Japanese performance as ‘something learned’.27 But it is important to note that rather than simply disputing or resisting this perspective, Akutagawa in fact incorporates it into the viewpoint of the text itself, most prominently in its closing passage. In the short coda to the work, set in the autumn of 1918, Akiko, who is now the ‘elderly Mrs H’ (she would have been, critics are fond of 23

Rosenfeld, 61. The difference between resistance and assimilation would in fact become the basis for Akutagawa’s presentation of Japanese culture by way of the opposition between the ‘power to destroy’ (belonging to the West) and the ‘power to remake’ (belonging to Japan) in his later story ‘The Smiles of the Gods’ (Kamigami no bishō, 1922). 25 Pierre Loti, ‘Un Bal à Yeddo’, 79. 26 See for example, Miyoshi, ‘Seishun no kyomu’, 25. Scholars have also pointed out that Akutagawa may have read a Japanese translation of Loti’s text that excluded some of French writer’s harsher comments. 27 Akutagawa, ‘Butōkai’, 362. 24


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pointing out, all of forty-nine at the time), meets a young novelist on her way to her vacation home in Kamakura. Seeing the youth place a bunch of chrysanthemums on the luggage rack, she reminisces about that night at the Rokumeikan so long ago: When she finished her story, the youth casually asked the elderly Mrs H. a question. ‘Do you happen to know the name of that French naval officer?’ Then the elderly Mrs H. gave an unexpected answer. ‘Yes I do know. His name was Julien Viaud.’ ‘Then it was Loti, was it not? Pierre Loti, the author of Madame Chrysanthème.’ The youth felt a pleasurable excitement. But the elderly Mrs H. only looked quizzically at the youth’s face, muttering over and over again, ‘No, his name was not Loti. He was Julien Viaud.’28

The implications of this ending have been the subject of much scholarly commentary. Etō Jun, in an influential reading of the work, writes that it incorporates a moment of self-criticism, reflecting ‘a vivid technique that ironically pierces the distance between the richness of the period of civilization and enlightenment, in which one might touch the body of Loti without knowing his name, and the hollowness of Taishō cultivation, which tries to understand everything by way of names’.29 This perspective is also taken up by Miyoshi, who sees the critique of Taishō intellectualism as an early sign of the crumbling of Akutagawa’s carefully crafted aesthetic world, a disintegration that would come to the fore in his late writings.30 The supposed critique of Taishō also plays into the established view of ‘The Ball’ as presenting an idealized and aestheticized view of the Rokumeikan era. Akutagawa had, in fact, revised the story’s ending between the time of its first appearance in the literary journal Shinchō and its later inclusion in a collection of stories: in the first version, Mrs H. is well aware that the French officer was Pierre Loti. While scholars such as Miyoshi see the revised version as necessary to the central theme of the work, Miyasaka Satoru argues conversely that it introduces a rupture in the characterization of Akiko: ‘Thirty-some years later, the colourful heroine of the Rokumeikan era had been reduced to a woman who does not even know that Julien Viaud is the real name of Pierre Loti, the 28

Ibid. Etō Jun, ‘Akutagawa Ryūnosuke’, in Akutagawa Ryūnosuke hikkei, ed. Miyoshi Yukio (Tokyo: Gakutōsha, 1981), 170. 30 See Miyoshi, ‘Seishun no “kyomu”, ’ 29–30. 29

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author of Madame Chrysanthème, which was widely read at the time. The intelligent, innocent Akiko, who had received a modern European education, had become, thirty-some years later, a woman who could not connect Julien Viaud and Pierre Loti, a woman who, at the very least, is indifferent to Western literature. I cannot help but think that this retreat in the image of Akiko introduces a wound into the beauty of ‘The Ball.’ ’31 Yet, as Miyasaka himself points out, Akiko’s ignorance of European culture was already indicated in the first section of ‘The Ball’, and it can be considered in fact an essential element in her characterization. Thus, in an earlier scene, the French naval officer praises Akiko as being like ‘a princess in a painting by Watteau’. Akutagawa adds: ‘Akiko did not know Watteau. For this reason, the beautiful vision of the past evoked by the naval officer’s words—the vision of floating roses and a fountain in the woods—was forced to dissipate a moment later without a trace.’32 Akutagawa here establishes a clear contrast between Akiko and Viaud based on their respective awareness and ignorance of European culture, but it is important to note that the position of knowledge is also occupied by the text’s narrator and implicitly its reader, who is assumed to be familiar with Watteau and the image that his name would evoke. Such a relationship is then made explicit in the rewritten coda, in which the young novelist—whom Miyasaka calls an ‘incarnation of the reader’—comes to occupy the position of knowledge previously occupied by the French officer (who is now himself rendered an object of historical knowledge).33 In this sense, the critique of Loti’s orientalism that Rosenfeld identifies is accomplished through an appropriation of the colonial gaze, its transposition into the perspective of the youthful novelist, a representative of the contemporary Japanese intellectual, who is able to translate experience (represented by the proper name Viaud) into knowledge (Loti). Furthermore, the youth not only adopts the position of knowledge associated with Loti, he also embodies certain elements of the young Akiko. For example, whereas she had experienced a ‘pleasurable anxiety’ (yukainaru fuan) upon her visit to the Rokumeikan, he experiences a ‘pleasurable excitement’ (yukaina kōfun) upon his own second-hand, narrative encounter with Loti. In effect, he subsumes and transcends the 31

Miyasaka, 36. Akutagawa, ‘Butōkai’, 359–360. 33 Miyasaka, 35. 32


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viewpoints of both Viaud and Akiko, who are thereby relegated to the past. To this extent, Loti’s colonial gaze is negated precisely through its dialectical overcoming: both the colonial perspective that viewed Japan as being a meagre and laughable imitation of the West, as well as Akiko’s naive attitude of admiration and excitement upon entry into the space of Westernization, are reduced to objects of historical knowledge for the contemporary subject. In this sense, the text’s nostalgia for the colonial landscape can be understood not as any desire for the world that it represents, but instead as the enjoyment of a fantasy wherein it is safely relegated to the past, as something that has been successfully overcome. Such an overcoming, of course, can only be guaranteed by the assumption of the position of imperial power in the present, which provided the historical framework for Taishō-period intellectual discourse, and whose traces are visible in the text in the form of the shocked gaze of the Chinese official upon seeing Akiko—a gaze that was invisible to Loti precisely because it belongs not to the period when the ball takes place, but rather to the period of its retrospective narration in the Taishō period.34 No doubt, Akutagawa was particularly sensitive to the charge of imitation given the critique of his own fiction as being overly reliant on prior literary sources. In one of his last works of criticism, entitled ‘Literary, All Too Literary’ (1927), he responded to the charge of imitation levelled against Japanese culture: Westerners are contemptuous of the Japanese for their skill at imitation. Even more, they have contempt for the amusing customs and manners (or perhaps morality) of the Japanese. Reading Horiguchi Kumaichi’s synopsis of the French novel called ‘Yuki-san’ (in the March issue of Josei [Women]), I began to think about this fact anew. The Japanese are skilled imitators. One cannot dispute the fact that our works are imitations of Westerner’s works. Yet they too, like us, are skilled at imitation. Is it not the case that Whistler imitated ukiyo-e in his oil paintings? No, they even imitate one another. Furthermore, if we go back 34 Rosenfeld, for example, writes: ‘But, just as we read Loti’s text as speaking from within the imperial enterprise, we must consider the position of the Japanese response as well; what sort of Japan was Akutagawa writing for in 1920? In contrast to its situation during the days of the Rokumeikan, Japan was now itself a budding imperial power, having colonized Taiwan in 1895 and Korea in 1910. . . . Akutagawa’s text speaks from both these Japans: colonizer as well as potentially colonized, military victor as well as victim’ (55). See also Ebii Eiji’s discussion of Loti and Akutagawa’s differing representations of the Chinese in ‘“Bunmei kaika” to Taishō no kūmusei: Akutagawa Ryūnosuke ‘Butōkai no sekai’ (‘ “Civilization and Enlightenment” and the Nothingness of Taishō: The World of Akutagawa Ryūnosuke’s “The Ball” ’, 1993), in Butōkai: Kaikaki, gendaimono no sekai, 54–57.

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to the past, did not the great civilization of China provide a precedent for them? They may perhaps say that their imitation was a form of ‘assimilation’ (shōka). But in that case, our imitation is also ‘assimilation’. Even though it uses the same type of ink, our nanga [Southern-style Chinese painting] is not the same as Chinese nanga. [ ... ] Furthermore, we understand them a little better than they do us. (This may perhaps be a point of dishonour for us.) They do not cast a glance at us. To them, we are an uncivilized people [mikaijin]. Moreover, the Westerners who live in Japan are not necessarily representative of the West. Most likely, they are a rather poor sample of those people who rule the world. Yet, it is undeniable that due to the presence of Maruzen, we have some understanding of the Westerner’s soul.35

The passage indicates Akutagawa’s sensitivity to the charge of imitation, of the type that permeates Loti’s ‘A Ball in Edo’. For Akutagawa, the imbalance of geopolitical power (it is the Westerners ‘who rule the world’) is countered by a differential access to cultural knowledge: via the institution of Maruzen, the foremost purveyor of foreign books in Japan at the time—and which thus provides a counterpart to the Rokumeikan as a site of encounter with the outside—the contemporary Japanese intellectual has a superior knowledge of both Japan and the West. There is no trace here of the criticism of the Taishō intellectual that scholars have discovered in ‘The Ball’, but instead the critical transformation of the act of imitation into appropriation and internalization. Edogawa Rampo: The Uncanny Landscape of Meiji-era Tokyo Like Akutagawa, Edogawa Rampo was also faced with the charge of imitation, as Yoshikuni Igarashi has noted: ‘Seeing Rampo’s writing as part of the newly emerging genre of detective fiction, many regarded it as a mere copy of Western originals: there was always already something missing in his work. Critics considered his name—which was intended as a tribute to Edgar Allan Poe, the writer from whom he received his literary inspiration—to be typically representative of this lack of originality.’36 Against readings of Rampo that depict his works as a ‘reservoir of the premodern that was repressed in the urban space of Tokyo’, Igarashi analyses Rampo’s writings as a critique of formulations 35 Akutagawa, ‘Bungeiteki na, amari ni bungeiteki na’ (Literary, All Too Literary, 1927), in Akutagawa Ryūnosuke zenshū, vol. 9 (Tokyo: Iwanami Shoten, 1978), 39–41. 36 Yoshikuni Igarashi, ‘Edogawa Rampo and the Excess of Vision: An Ocular Critique of Modernity in 1920s Japan’, positions 13.2 (2005): 302.


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of modern subjectivity, particularly within the context of ‘the reorganization of the body in the scopic field of modern Japan’.37 One of the works that Igarashi analyses, ‘The Strange Tale of Panorama Island’ (Panorama-tō kitan, 1926–27), involves the invocation of a visual device associated with the landscape of Meiji-era Tokyo— the Panorama, an eighteenth-century European invention that was first introduced into Japan in 1890. As Igarashi notes, Rampo’s story revolves around the attempt of one character, Hitomi, to create a utopian world on a desert island consisting of a massive Panorama. As Hitomi describes his memory of the Panorama Hall from his youth, he recalls that the images displayed within it depicted violent scenes from the Russo-Japanese War (1904–1905). Igarashi, noting that his ‘recollections of the panorama point to memories of violence that are sedimented at the bottom of the popular imagination of modern Japan’, analyses this image in psychoanalytic terms as a sign of the violence inherent in the protagonist’s attempt to construct an ideal ego, to the exclusion of corporeality and sociality.38 Two years after the completion of ‘Panorama Island’, Rampo published another story, ‘The Traveller with the Pressed Cloth Picture’ (Oshie to tabisuru otoko, 1929), that likewise casts a retrospective glance at the Meiji-era Tokyo cityscape. This work also revolves around a late nineteenth-century attraction, the Ryōunkaku, popularly known as the Jūnikai (Twelve Storeys), Japan’s first Western-style tower, which was built in Asakusa in 1890, the same year that the Panorama Hall appeared in Japan. The Twelve Storeys was an icon of Meiji Tokyo that symbolized the nation’s adoption of Western technology and civilization. It was also destroyed in the 1923 earthquake, and thus serves as a monument to the vanished cityscape of the capital city. Like the Panorama, the Twelve Storeys can be considered a form of visual technology that placed the observer at the centre of an expansive tableau. In this case, however, the tableau was the city of Tokyo itself, which became an object of a transcendent visual perception. And like the Panorama, Rampo’s Tower also conceals within it a visual marker of colonial violence. The story unfolds as one that the narrator hears from a fellow traveller, whom he meets on a train returning from the seashore town of Uozu, where he has gone to see the mirages that are said to appear above the ocean. The opening passages introduce the conceptual framework 37 38

Ibid., 300 and 299. Ibid., 309.

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within which the traveller’s tale unfolds: ‘If this story was not a dream or an illusion born of temporary insanity, then the man travelling with the pressed cloth picture must himself have been mad. Yet, just as a dream will allow us to peek into another world that diverges from our own, and just as a madman is able to see and hear things that we are unable to sense, it may be that I was able, for a moment, to glimpse a corner of another world outside the field of vision of our own, by way of the strange mechanism of an atmospheric lens.’39 The narrator describes the ‘frightening’ mirage that he sees at Uozu in terms of the technology of cinema: ‘The mirage appeared as though drops of India ink that gradually seeped across the surface of a milky white film had been turned into an absurdly large movie, projected onto the great sky.’40 The narrator surmises that the uncanny spell of the mirage may have continued to govern his experience on the train ride home, when he meets an old man dressed like a ‘Western magician’; he is ‘wearing a black suit, with narrow lapels and tapered shoulders, of the type you might see only in the faded photographs of your father’s youth’, carefully carrying a pressed cloth picture enclosed in black satin wrapping.41 The picture, a ‘lurid’ (dokudokushii) image of a man in Western suit and a woman in kimono, sitting within what appears to be a kabuki stage set, strikes the narrator as exceptionally uncanny, for reasons he finds difficult to describe. Eventually, he determines that it is because the two characters in the image appear to be alive. The old man begins to tell the story behind this picture, which traces back to the year 1895 and revolves around a pair of foreign binoculars, which his brother had bought in Yokohama’s Chinatown, as well as the Twelve Storeys Tower, which loomed over the carnival sideshows of Asaksua Park and could be seen from virtually anywhere in Tokyo. The old man’s brother, the eldest son of a kimono fabric merchant in Nihonbashi, is described as ‘a person who likes new things, with a strange preference for the foreign’.42 Soon after acquiring the binoculars, the older brother undergoes a disturbing physical and emotional change, barely eating, not speaking with anyone, his appearance becoming ever more sickly. Every day, he steals out of the house. Concerned, his mother sends the younger brother to follow him. 39

Edogawa Rampo, ‘Oshie to tabisuru otoko’ (The Traveller with the Pressed Cloth Picture, 1929), in Edogawa Rampo zen tampenshū, vol. 3 (Tokyo: Chikuma Shobō, 1998), 333. 40 Ibid., 334. 41 Ibid., 338 and 337. 42 Ibid., 347.


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It turns out that his destination was none other than the Twelve Storeys in Asakusa. The younger brother follows him into the dim, inner depths of the tower and up to the observation deck, where he is found scanning the city scene below with his binoculars. It seems that the older brother had once caught a momentary glimpse of a beautiful woman through the lenses, and, unable to forget her, was trying desperately to find her again. On that day he succeeds, and he rushes down into the throngs of Asakusa after her. Yet he finds that the image he had seen both times from atop the tower was nothing other than a figure in a pressed cloth picture, part of a peep show set up in Asakusa Park. Seen through the foreign binoculars, she had appeared to be alive. In the climactic moment of the inset story, the crestfallen man asks his younger brother to look at him through the binoculars held in reverse. When he does so, the older brother disappears, having been miniaturized and incorporated into the cloth picture. Ever since that day, the younger brother has kept the picture in his possession. The older brother had seemingly fulfilled his ultimate desire, yet in fact he leads a tortured existence within the frame of the picture. Even as the young woman retains her youth and beauty, he has continued to age. The old man is travelling with the picture to Tokyo in order to show his brother how much the city has changed in thirty years. As the old man puts the picture away, the narrator imagines that the two miniature figures inside send him a slight smile in greeting. As this synopsis reveals, Rampo’s story has a number of elements reminiscent of E.T.A. Hoffmann’s ‘The Sandman’—a work that played a central role in Freud’s explication of the uncanny—including a fascination with vision and visual technologies, the inanimate object come to life, and the act of looking through lenses from the top of a tower. Rampo’s story includes a number of words that express variations on the concept of the uncanny: iyō, myō, hentekoren, hen, kimyō, kikai, fushigi, kimi warui. Typically, the story’s uncanny affect originates from the uncertain borderline between two terms of a conceptual binary. For example, the opening passages introduce a series of oppositions whose borders have been rendered indeterminate—between, for example, technology and nature, the inanimate and the animate, dream and wakefulness, madness and sanity. It is precisely the collapsing of the difference between the two terms of each set that defines the disturbing effect of the visual images projected onto the sky as well as the story that the narrator hears on the train ride home.

a modernist nostalgia: the colonial landscape


The woman who becomes an object of obsession for the older brother, like Hoffmann’s automaton Olympia, also exists on that border between the animate and the inanimate. The narrator of the story, after looking at her through the binoculars provided by the traveller on the train, describes the experience as follows: ‘In the bunraku puppet theatre, there may be, in the span of a day’s performance, once or twice, and only for a brief instant, when the puppet manipulated by the hands of a master may come to life, as if suddenly animated by a divine breath. The characters in this pressed cloth picture appeared as if a puppet, in that one moment of being alive, had been immediately pasted onto the board, not giving the life a chance to escape and thus continuing to live forever.’43 Although the older brother is described as someone who is attracted to all things foreign and new, it is notable that the object of his desire—the character Oshichi, the heroine of an Edo-period historical and literary tale—does not conform to the image of the modern, Westernized woman that one finds in Akutagawa’s enlightenment stories, but is rather situated within a traditional cultural frame. Of course, it is important to note that Oshichi only becomes an object of desire for the older brother when she is seen through the lenses of the foreign binoculars. His desire for Oshichi can thus be seen to express a certain exoticism that is made possible only through the mediation of the Western gaze. To this extent, one might consider that the brother’s desire for Oshichi indicates a symbolic identification with the gaze itself—i.e. a desire to occupy the position of the other (the Westerner)—which is also made visible by the European clothing in which he dresses, a sharp contrast to the kimono silks that his family sells for a living (and which adorn the figure of Oshichi).44 In this sense, the brother’s desire is depicted as being an essentially impossible one—not because Oshichi is (perhaps) inanimate, but because his very attempt to fulfil his desire (to fully occupy the position of the Western observer) only leads to his own entrapment and confinement within the traditional theatrical frame of the pressed cloth 43

Ibid., 341–42. Distinguishing between symbolic and imaginary identification, Slavoj Žižek has written that ‘imaginary identification is identification with the image in which we appear likeable to ourselves with the image representing ‘what we would like to be’, and symbolic identification, identification with the very place from where we are being observed, from where we look at ourselves so that we appear to ourselves likeable, worthy of love’ (Žižek, The Sublime Object of Ideology [London and New York: Verso, 1989], 105). 44


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picture. When the foreign lenses are reversed, he himself is rendered an object of that exotic gaze, and he too becomes a kind of puppet or automaton, subject to the curious gaze of others, including that of the narrator. In this way, the feeling of the ‘uncanny’ that accrues to the figure of the older brother is ultimately situated in the borderline space between Japan and its outside, and it derives from the experience of being simultaneously the object and the bearer of the gaze of the foreign other. According to Freud, the affect of the uncanny marks the site of the return of the repressed, something that had once been familiar (whether as an object of fear or desire), but which has been rendered unfamiliar through repression.45 In Rampo’s text, the double subject position of the brother is not something belonging only to the nostalgic landscape of the Meiji period, for it also has an affective resonance in the present. Its connection to the narrative present is ultimately revealed in the images of historical violence found inside the Twelve Storeys. When, in the old man’s reminiscence, he follows his brother into the inner space of the tower, he is confronted by nightmarish images of a key event in modern Japanese history: namely, the Sino-Japanese War (1894–1985), a conflict fought over control of the Korean peninsula that led to the annexation of Taiwan and the establishment of Japan’s colonial empire: About one floor behind him, I climbed those dimly-lit stone stairs. The windows were quite small, while the brick walls were thick, so it had a chill air, like a cellar. It was the time of the Sino-Japanese War, and oil paintings of the war, still a rarity at the time, were covering the wall to one side. Images of Japanese soldiers with horrifying faces like that of wolves, howling as they charged, Chinese soldiers with their flanks pierced by bayonets, trying to hold back the spurting gore with both hands as they writhed with purple faces and lips, pigtailed heads flying high into the air like balloons—such unspeakably lurid, bloody oil paintings glinted in the dim light from the windows.46

In other words, at the heart of this monument to the incorporation of Western technology and civilization into the native landscape, one finds an image of the founding violence of empire.


See Sigmund Freud, ‘The Uncanny’, in Freud, The Uncanny, trans. David McLintock (New York: Penguin Books, 2003), 147–148. 46 Edogawa, 350.

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Mark Driscoll has persuasively demonstrated the deep involvement of Rampo’s writings (as well as the broader phenomenon of the ‘erotic grotesque nonsense’) in the political and libidinal economies of empire, including the representation of the multiple, phantasmatic, and interchangeable identifications that constitute the imperial subject.47 The images inside the tower underscore this link to the space of empire, which provides the context for the brother’s double subject position. In effect, the tower as symbol condenses two separate colonial landscapes. One is found in the urban space of late nineteenth-century Tokyo, which is in the process of being remade by the transplantation of Western technology and civilization (which in turn serve as objects of fascination and desire). The other is indicated by the gory battlefields of the Asian continent, where it is the Japanese military that serves as the bearer of modern technology, in contrast to the premodern, nonWestern bodies (as indicated by the ‘pig-tailed’ decapitated heads) that the Chinese soldiers represent. The older brother’s experience of being simultaneously the subject and object of the foreign gaze is ultimately situated within this double colonial landscape. And just as, at the moment of his desire’s seeming fulfilment, the brother is entrapped within the borderline space between the animate and the inanimate, in the tower’s images, the moment of achieving a full identification with the colonial gaze also signifies a loss of human identity (‘Japanese soldiers with horrifying faces like that of wolves’). The momentary glimpse of this concealed realm of desire and violence is presented as uncanny precisely because it cannot be safely relegated to a historical past. In contrast to the strict separation between the past (Meiji) and the present (Taishō) that is installed within the structure of Akutagawa’s ‘The Ball’, Rampo’s text continually recounts the collapse of physical and temporal distance. For example, the narrator notes at the beginning of the story that the strangeness of the mirage that he sees at Uozu derives from the fact that it is impossible to determine its distance from the viewer: It looked like a weirdly shaped black cloud, but whereas one can tell the precise location of a black cloud, it was, strangely, extremely difficult to tell the distance between the mirage and its viewer. At one moment it might appear as enormous columns of clouds far off above the ocean and then as a misshapen mist only a foot before one’s eyes, only to then appear 47 See Mark W. Driscoll, ‘Erotic Empire, Grotesque Empire: Work and Text in Japan’s Imperial Modernism’, diss., Cornell University, 2000.


seiji m. lippit like a single point of cloudiness floating on the surface of the viewer’s cornea. This ambiguity of distance lent the mirage a certain uncanny feeling of madness, beyond anything I had imagined.48

The foreign technologies of vision that fixate the older brother are likewise marked by their ability to collapse the distance between the viewer and the object being seen. In the case of the binoculars, it is the separation between the world of the living and the virtual world of the cloth picture that is erased. The temporal distance between the old man’s story and the narrative present is also a precarious one. In the first instance, the traveller is explicitly presented as his brother’s double. When the narrator first sees the man in the picture, he notes: ‘Strangely, his appearance— if you except the fact that his hair was white—was not only identical to the owner of the frame, but even the tailoring of his suit was indistinguishable.’49 Then, at the end of the story, as the traveller disembarks from the train at a small station in the mountains and vanishes into the darkness of the night, the narrator notes that his disappearing figure is identical to that of the old man in the pressed cloth picture. Perhaps more significantly, the narrator himself, with his fascination for visual technologies, including cinema, that has driven him to seek out the ocean mirages in the first place, is implicitly presented as a double of the older brother within the old man’s story. The link among the three characters is underscored in the repetition of the act of looking through the binoculars—the older brother from the top of the tower, the younger brother in front of the peepshow, and the narrator on the train in the present time. The desires and identifications of the older brother cannot, in this sense, be safely relegated to the antiquarian, nostalgic age of Meiji-era Tokyo, for they exist within the narrator himself. Similarly, the affective impact of the violent images adorning the inside of the Twelve Storeys cannot simply be confined to a vanished era. The link between past and present is underscored by the repetition of the term dokudokushii (lurid) to describe both the oil paintings inside the tower recalled in memory and the pressed cloth picture that the narrator 48 Edogawa, 335. There is a resonance here with Walter Benjamin’s theorization of the effects of technical reproducibility on the work of art, which he described as the destruction of the work’s ‘aura’. Benjamin defined the aura of a natural object as ‘the unique phenomenon of a distance, however close it may be’ (Benjamin, ‘The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction’, in Illuminations, trans. Harry Zohn [New York: Schocken Books, 1968], 222). 49 Edogawa, 340. William J. Tyler notes this doubling of the brothers in Modanizumu (Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press, 2008), 377.

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views in the narrative present. Moreover, the tower itself spans the historical divide: an icon of Meiji-era Tokyo, it was also closely associated with a more contemporaneous urban scene, namely the landscape of devastation left in the wake of the 1923 earthquake. As mentioned previously, the tower was famously toppled in the earthquake, and the image of the tower’s ruin, standing amidst the rubble of Asakusa with its top storeys missing, was one of the lasting images of the earthquake and the devastation it wrought upon the Tokyo cityscape.50 This devastation included the violence against Koreans and other colonial subjects that took place amidst the hysteria in the immediate aftermath, and which rendered visible on the streets of the capital city the underlying violence of colonial policy. It is this violence, perhaps, that is the concealed referent of the lurid images adorning the tower in Rampo’s story, along with the conflicting identifications attendant upon Japan’s position as a non-Western imperial power. In this way, the depiction of Meiji-era Tokyo in the works of Akutagawa and Rampo share a number of characteristics. Both writers, for example, depict a colonial landscape characterized by an ostentatious imitation of Western civilization. And in both cases, the representation of this mimicry is interrupted by an image that evokes Japan’s contemporary position as imperial power. Yet in the end, Rampo’s story travels along a different trajectory from ‘The Ball’. Whereas the aestheticization of the Rokumeikan period ultimately marks an overcoming of the colonial landscape of the past through the internalization of both the colonial gaze of Loti and the admiring gaze of Akiko, Rampo’s work provides no such resolution. It is, instead, permeated by the anxiety tied to the double experience of being both subject and object of the colonial gaze, an inherently unstable position that would take on increasingly violent form in the coming years. For both writers, however, one can say that this modernist ‘nostalgia’, their retrospective glance at enlightenment Tokyo, was in fact permeated by the desires and anxieties of the contemporary age.

50 The association between the earthquake and the tower, for example, can be found in another prominent modernist text, Kawabata Yasunari’s The Scarlet Gang of Asakusa (Asakusa Kurenaidan, 1929–1930), which began serialization in the same year that Rampo’s story appeared. See Kawabata, The Scarlet Gang of Asakusa, trans. Alisa Freedman (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2005), 59–61. The fact that the old man is taking his brother to see the changes in Tokyo can be taken as an implicit reference to the earthquake and the disappearance of the Twelve Storeys.

COSMOPOLITANISM AND ANXIETY OF INFLUENCE IN AKUTAGAWA RYŪNOSUKE’S KIRISHITAN MONO Rebecca Suter Taishō Cosmopolitanism and Anxiety of Influence As Seiji Lippit notes in Topographies of Japanese Modernism, one of the defining characteristics of the intellectual panorama of the Taishō (1912–1926) period was its cosmopolitanism, a sense that Japan and the West were inhabiting the same world, that Japan had finally caught up with Western civilization and become ‘modern’. Much like their Euro-American counterparts, for Japanese intellectuals such enthusiasm was accompanied by an increasing sense of displacement and cultural homelessness. Such an ambivalent reaction was related to Japan’s ambiguous status within the East-West binary that played such a significant role in the colonial era. Japan occupied a peculiar position on the international scene in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. The country’s rapid modernization, accompanied by the absorption of Western technologies and modes of thought, had prevented it from being colonized, yet had also resulted in what Yoshioka Hiroshi defines as an ‘internalized colonization’ (Yoshioka: 102). Its widening territorial conquests in Asia constituted a rare case of non-Western modern imperialism, yet were also based on ‘a nativist programme of fighting back against the Western conquest’ (Miyoshi: 40). Both Modernization/Westernization and imperialism in Asia were a source of multiculturalist enthusiasm, but were also perceived and represented as a threat to Japan’s cultural integrity. These concerns are clearly reflected in the literature of the period, particularly in modernist works such as Kawabata Yasunari’s The Scarlet Gang of Asakusa or Yokomitsu Riichi’s Shanghai, which, as Lippit notes, focus on intra-national and international borderline spaces which are ‘marked by fragmentation and flux, as well as by the circulation of human bodies and commodities’ and constitute ‘points of instability in the constitution of national subjectivities’ (Lippit: 119). The figure of Akutagawa Ryūnosuke provides us with a paradigmatic example of the complexity and contradictions of the interwar intellectual milieu.

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On one hand, Akutagawa appears to embrace Taishō cosmopolitanism and its universalist/assimilationist stance, quoting liberally from Chinese, Western, and Japanese sources, and presenting himself as conversant with both national and foreign traditions. On the other hand, his works express a deep-seated sense of dislocation, which is arguably the basis of the ‘vague anxiety’, the ‘bakuzen to shita fuan’ that Akutagawa famously quoted as the reason for committing suicide at the age of thirty-five. Anxiety is a key term here: like many Japanese modernists, Akutagawa experienced an exacerbated version of the ‘anxiety of influence’ that according to Harold Bloom modern writers feel towards the tradition that precedes them. In Bloom’s view, in the modern age writers must struggle to establish themselves as authors by ‘creatively misreading’ the great writers that came before them, and the process inevitably carries a deep sense of uneasiness: Poetic history . . . is held to be indistinguishable from poetic influence, since strong poets make that history by misreading one another, so as to clear imaginative space for themselves. . . . But nothing is got for nothing, and self-appropriation involves the immense anxieties of indebtedness, for what strong maker desires the realization that he has failed to create himself? (Bloom: 5)

Such need to negotiate between ‘tradition and the individual talent’, as T.S. Eliot described it, was a crucial concern for Euro-American modernists. However, Western authors were confronting a cultural capital that they ultimately felt rightful heirs to. For Japanese modernists, on the other hand, the foreign nature of literary influence caused both a more profound sense of uneasiness and a corresponding higher degree of ‘creative misreading’. An intriguing instance of such tension between celebration and fear of the transnational circulation of cultural forms can be found in Akutagawa’s kirishitan mono, a series of short stories set during the so-called ‘Christian century’ of Japan, the brief period of evangelization before the Tokugawa government’s ban on foreign religion and institution of the ‘closed country’ policy. Both in Japan and outside Japan, most scholars examining Akutagawa’s Christian stories have interpreted them as an expression of the author’s spiritual quest. Critics have often focused on the two short pieces ‘Saihō no hito’ (‘The Man of the West’, 1927) and ‘Zoku saihō no hito’ (‘Sequel to the Man of the West’, 1927), both written shortly before Akutagawa’s suicide (the latter was supposedly finished on the very day the author killed himself by overdosing on


rebecca suter

Veronal), scanning them for expressions of the author’s existential crisis, and of his possible search for salvation in religion.1 In Akutagawa to Kirisutokyō (Akutagawa and Christianity, 1995), Cho Sa-ok partly challenged this view by examining all of Akutagawa’s kirishitan mono chronologically, in order to trace the evolution of the author’s relationship with Christianity from the earliest stages of his literary career. More recently, Kawakami Mitsunori in Akutagawa Ryūnosuke to Kirisutokyō (Akutagawa Ryūnosuke and Christianity, 2005), while reiterating Cho’s claim that Christianity was central to Akutagawa’s oeuvre from the beginning, also notes that the texts constantly alternate between what he interprets as pro-Christian and anti-Christian pieces, concluding that the author’s approach to the Christian religion remained fundamentally ambivalent throughout his life: Akutagawa depicted both heaven and hell, and presented the point of view of both believers and unbelievers. His position towards Christianity was ambivalent throughout; he kept both affirming it and negating it. (Kawakami: 62)2

Similarly focusing on the connection between the kirishitan mono and Akutagawa’s biographical experience, Yu Beongchon argues that early Japanese Christians ‘may have served Akutagawa as he tried to reach out towards the West’, but concludes that most of all they ‘embodied the will to transcend their frail human selves and conquer death’ (Yu: 32). Taking Yu’s observation a step further, and moving away from a biographical interpretation of Akutagaawa’s literature, I propose to read the stories as not only an attempt to come to terms with Western culture, but a metaphor for the combination of internationalization and localization that is one of the defining characteristics of Japanese modernism. Modernist Flows and Contra-Flows As Ray Bradbury and Malcom McFarlane note in their introduction to Modernism: A Guide to European Literature 1890–1930, modernism was characterized by an intense exchange and circulation of themes and forms not only across national borders, but also across different genres, media, and fields of knowledge (Bradbury and McFarlane: 31). Such 1

See, among others, Kawamura 1988, Ha 1998, Ishiwari 1999. For a more comprehensive bibliography on the kirishitan mono and on Akutagawa’s relationship with Christianity, see Kawakami 2005, appendix, pp. 126–132. 2

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overlap of the international and interdisciplinary dimension is one of the most distinctive features of the phenomenon. Japanese modernism was no exception: philosophy, literature, and science, native and foreign, constantly intersected and interacted, challenging conventional distinctions and giving rise to new forms. The influence of Bergson’s theory of ‘creative evolution’ on Yokomitsu Riichi’s New Sensationalism via Nishida Kitarō’s aesthetic theory as formulated in ‘Bi no honshitsu’ (‘The Essence of Beauty’, 1920), an influence that has been analysed by Suzuki Sadami, is only one of innumerable instances of such complex interplay of influence and rewriting. Such a combination of transnational circulation of cultural forms, hybridization, and reinvention of local traditions is arguably one of the most distinctive features of Japanese modernism. From Nitobe Inazō’s portrayal of bushidō as the ‘soul of Japan’ to Okakura Kakuzō/Tenshin’s representation of Nihonga and of the tea ceremony as the epitome of Japanese aesthetic sensibility, from Suzuki Teitarō/Daisetsu’s popularization of Zen as the quintessential Japanese religion, to Noguchi Yonejirō’s construction of haiku as the embodiment of ‘the spirit of Japanese poetry’ (Suzuki Sadami p. 54 in this volume), in the Meiji and early Taishō period, a number of Japanese intellectuals, often writing in English, presented the Western audience with images of Japanese traditions. In constructing such representations, they performed a series of operations of cultural translation to render them understandable and to respond to Western expectations. Their representations of Japanese culture were thus already highly hybridized. Nitobe was educated in the United States and Germany and constructed his notion of bushidō in parallel to European institutions and traditions; Okakura had studied under the guidance of Ernest Fenollosa, with whom he later collaborated on the project of ‘rescuing’ Japanese-style painting from the ‘invasion’ of yōga, its Western-style counterpart. Noguchi began his career as a poet in the United States, and he explicitly connected his rediscovery of haiku to his interest in the symbolist poetry of Yeats and Blake; Suzuki became interested in Zen after studying American philosophy under the guidance of Paul Carus, and his interpretation of Buddhism was heavily influenced by Emerson’s Transcendentalism.3 However, the authors’ status as ‘native informants’ attributed their texts authority, and the images of cultures that they constructed acquired what Joep Leerssen defines as ‘recognition value’ 3 For a discussion of the reevaluation of Bashô in the 1920s see Suzuki Sadami in this volume; for a study of Suzuki’s hybridization of Zen and transcendentalism see Leonard 1999.


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(Leerssen 2007) in the Western collective imaginary: haiku became the Japanese poetic genre par excellence, Zen became the Japanese religion. Concurrently, European and North American modernists appropriated these hybridized versions of ‘Japanese traditions’ as a source of inspiration for, and validation of, their own experiments, in the context of what Roy Starrs elsewhere in this volume describes as the ‘Japanese origins of Western modernism’. Ezra Pound and William Butler Yeats’ imagism, the religious syncretism of Paul Carus and his journal Open Court, the formal experiments of the Impressionists and Post-Impressionists were all indebted to Japanese culture, or more precisely to the Japanese-Western hybrids created by mediators such as Okakura and Suzuki. Once these cultural forms attained international recognition, Japanese modernists ‘rediscovered’ them as well. Validated by Western authors and thinkers, these reinvented, hybridized traditions came to be perceived and represented as part of the national canon. Such was the case of ukiyoe and haiku, popular genres that were recoded as forms of high art because of the recognition received abroad, or of Nitobe’s Bushidō, whose original English edition was translated into Japanese in 1908, and parts of which were incorporated by the Ministry of Education in the 1937 kokutai no hongi edict. However, these exchanges happened in a context of persisting power imbalance. In the free market of cultural exchange, European cultural capital still held higher value than Japanese tradition. Haiku and ukiyoe provided sources of inspiration as well as a sounding board for EuroAmerican modernists; Western recognition bestowed on Japanese artworks the status of classics. Like the Orient described by Edward Said, Japan needed Western intellectuals to discover and validate its own traditions. The Orientalism that subtended modernist cosmopolitanism is the background against which we should read the transnational ‘anxiety of influence’ that afflicted Japanese modernists. Compared to its EuroAmerican counterpart, Japanese modernism thus presents us with a set of multiple anxieties and critiques: towards Japan’s modernization/Westernization and the impending loss of cultural identity, towards Western modernity itself, and towards Western modernism and the undercurrent of Orientalism that constituted the flipside of its cosmopolitanism. Akutagawa Ryūnosuke and the Japanization of Christianity Akutagawa’s Kirishitan mono, that cast European Jesuits in the role of the cultural mediators and investigate the ‘Japanization’ of Western religion,

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constitute an interesting counterpart to, and reflection on, these dynamics. The notions of cosmopolitanism and anxiety of influence are central to the stories, both on the thematic and on the narrative/linguistic level. Some of the texts are presented as based on (fictional) seventeenth-century manuscripts, and are written in a language similar to the Japanese of the time, that Akutagawa derived from texts such as the Feique Monogatari, a version of the Heike monogatari compiled by the missionaries to use for Japanese language instruction (itself another intriguing instance of transnational reinvention of the classics!). Others are written in modern Japanese, but are interspersed with hybrid Portuguese/Japanese terms such as Deusu nyōrai (the Christian God, a combination of the Portuguese Deus and nyōrai, the Sino-Japanese translation of the Sanskrit term tathagata, meaning ‘thus come’), bateren (the Japanized version of the Portuguese ‘padre’, priest), kurusu (from the Portuguese cruz, cross), inheruno (from the Portuguese inferno, hell), or the word Kirishitan itself, spelled with the characters for ‘kiru’ (to cut), ‘sasaeru’ (to support) and ‘tan/ni’ (red). The stories also feature a variety of narrative points of view. Some are told from the perspective of the Japanese Christian converts or of the common people of the time, allowing the author to present Western religion from an estranged standpoint, with humorous and thoughtprovoking effects. Notable examples are ‘Ogata Ryōsai no oboegaki’ (Dr Ogata’s memorandum, 1917), in which the magical and superstitious practices of foreign priests and local converts are framed by the rational perspective of Doctor Ogata, inverting the stereotype that associates the West with science and Japan with spirituality/superstition; ‘Itōjo Oboegaki’ (‘The diary of maid Itō’, 1923), which ridicules the Christian belief of the wife of a local Lord through the pointed observations of her disenchanted maid, or ‘Ogin’ (1922), in which the irony of the implied author at the expense of the Christian convert narrator is evidenced by passages such as the following: O-Gin did not believe that Shakyamuni was born pointing to the sky and the ground and proclaiming, ‘Throughout heaven and earth, I alone am the honoured one.’ Instead, she believed that ‘Santa Maria, a maiden profoundly gentle, profoundly compassionate, and sweet above all others’, had come spontaneously to be with child. She believed that Zesus, who had ‘died upon the cross and been laid in a stone sarcophagus deep in the earth’, came back to life three days later. . . . O-Gin’s heart was not, like those of her parents, a desert swept by searing winds. It was an abundant field of ripened wheat mingled with simple wild roses. (‘O-Gin’: 85)

In these texts, whether the narrating voice is consciously distancing Christianity and explicitly portraying it as superstition, as in ‘Ogata


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Ryōsai’, or it ends up presenting it from an estranged perspective through the unintended irony of its earnestness, as in ‘Ogin’, the ultimate effect is to foreground the irrational element of Western culture, undermining the vision of Europe as the motherland of Enlightenment and proposing a more nuanced vision of East/West relations. In other stories, told by a third-person, extradiegetic narrator, the focalization is on the Portuguese Jesuits, or on the Christian devil, that has come to Japan together with the missionaries. Examples include ‘Oshino’ (1923), that features an extradiegetic narrator but tells the facts from the limited point of view of an unnamed Western priest, and ‘Akuma to tabako’ (‘The devil and tobacco’, 1916), again related through a third-person narrative but focusing on the point of view of the devil, who comes to Japan together with Francisco Xavier, and finding himself out of work since there are too few converts to lead to temptation, turns to growing tobacco, a custom that, the narrator tells us, will be much more popular, and much harder to eradicate, than Christianity. In this chapter, I will look at two texts belonging to the latter category, featuring an external omniscient narrator but a focalization on the limited point of view of a priest, in ‘Kamigami no bishō’ (‘The faint smiles of the gods’, published on Shinshōsetsu in January 1922, translated by Seiji Lippit in the anthology The Essential Akutagawa in 1999, and by Yoshiko Dykstra on Japanese Religions in 2006), and of the devil, in ‘Akuma’ (‘Devil’, published on the journal Tenshin in July 1918 and to this day untranslated). Through a close reading of these two texts, I aim to show how Akutagawa portrays the Jesuit missionaries as symbols of the thrills and threats of negotiation and hybridity, and as a universal metaphor for the encounter with the Other. The Melancholic Red-Haired Barbarian The protagonist of ‘Kamigami no bishō’ is a historical figure, Padre Organtino, a Portuguese Jesuit missionary active in Japan in the late sixteenth century. The character is very different from the other redhaired barbarian clerics that appear in Akutagawa’s works. He does not have ‘dishevelled hair’ nor a ‘mad look’ in his eyes, and neither does he gesticulate wildly or shout incomprehensible, ominous chants. Composed and melancholic, Organtino is a relatively sympathetic character, with whom the reader is led to identify.

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In the text, we first encounter him strolling pensively, ‘dragging the skirts of his long robe’ (‘Kamigami’ 115)4 through the garden of the Nanbanji (the ‘Southern Barbarian Temple’, a Catholic church built in Kyōto in 1568). The place is described as a hybrid space, neither fully Japanese nor completely Westernized: In the garden, Western plants—roses, olive, laurel—had been set among the pine and cypress trees. Above all, the roses, just beginning to bloom, gave off a faint sweet perfume into the evening light obscuring the trees. That seemed to lend a mysterious charm to the stillness of the garden, as if it were somehow not Japan. (‘Kamigami’: 115)

Such blend of foreign and local, familiar and exotic makes Organtino even gloomier, triggering memories of his native Europe, of ‘the great Cathedral in Rome, the harbour of Lisbon, the music of the lute, the taste of almonds’ (‘Kamigami’: 115). However, it is not simply longing for home that makes Organtino miserable; there is something intrinsically unsettling about Japan itself, as he explains in his interior monologue: Is this just the sorrow of homesickness? No, it would not have to be Lisbon. Even China, or Siam, or India—in the end, the sorrow of homesickness is not the whole of my melancholy. I feel just that I want to escape from this land, the sooner the better. But . . . But the scenery of this land is beautiful. And the climate, too, is quite mild. (‘Kamigami’: 116)

Such connection between Japan and the sinister feeling engendered by cultural hybridity is a central theme in the story, as we will see. In his state of dejection, Padre Organtino experiences two successive visions. The narrator does not clarify whether we should interpret these as hallucinations or as actual apparitions. In a paradigmatic example of what Tzvetan Todorov defines as the fantastic genre’s hesitation between ‘realist’ and ‘marvellous’ modes of narration, the text does not settle for either a rational or a supernatural interpretation of the events. The reader is left uncertain as to how to interpret the events, and such unresolved ambiguity enhances the overall disconcerting effect of the text. The first vision is a scene of ‘Japanese Bacchanalia’ (in the Roman alphabet in the text), which is partly based on the Japanese myth of the Sun Goddess, Amaterasu, and partly on Nietzsche’s description of the cult of Dyonisus in The Birth of Tragedy. As he prays in the chapel of 4 There are two existing English translations of this story, one by Seiji Lippit, published in the anthology The Essential Akutagawa, and one by Yoshiko Dykstra, published in Japanese Religions. In the quotes I will rely on Lippit’s translation; from now on, I will refer to the text as ‘Kamigami’.


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the Nanbanji, Organtino is startled by the cry of a rooster; frightened by the unexpected sound, he turns around, and notices that the chapel is filled with screaming birds. Under the priest’s incredulous eyes, the frescoes of scenes from the Bible that surrounded him disappear, and are replaced by a gathering of ancient Japanese men and women, dancing wildly and joyously to celebrate the arrival of a ‘new god’. Thinking that they might be referring to Deus, the Christian God, Organtino is intrigued, but as soon as he begins to feel some hope, the feast is interrupted by the arrival of a female deity. The dancers throw themselves to the ground in awe and pledge allegiance to the Sun Goddess; Organtino breaks into a cold sweat and loses consciousness. These first two instances of uncanny hybridity, the melancholic and subtly disturbing atmosphere of the multicultural garden of the Southern Barbarian temple and the terrifying vision of a Shintō myth tinged with Greek undertones, set the ground for the second vision, which offers the reader a possible explanation for the foreigner’s uneasiness towards Japan. Still dazed by the wild apparition, the following evening Organtino is visited by ‘one of the spirits of this land’ (‘Kamigami’: 120). The two have a lengthy conversation, which culminates with the kami’s celebration of Japan’s power to localize and reinvent foreign cultures. Central to the spirit’s argument is the notion of honji suijaku, the syncretism of Amaterasu, the Sun Goddess of the Shintō tradition, and Dainichi, the Buddha Mahavairocana. The reference is particularly interesting if we consider the role played by Dainichi in the context of the cultural negotiations undertaken by the missionaries in sixteenth century Japan.5 Dainichi, Deusu, Daiuso In the first stage of missionary activity, Japan was a monopoly of the Order of the Jesuits, who preached according to the so-called ‘accommodative method’, attempting to present Christian religion in terms understandable to the host culture as much as possible. Such adaptations were often the source of misunderstandings. In Japan, these were also partly caused by the work of Francisco Xavier’s translator, known as Yajirō. A commoner from the han of Satsuma, Yajirō had fled from Japan in 1547 on a Portuguese ship to escape trial for murder. After 5 I base my analysis of Jesuit cultural negotiations mainly on Elison’s Deus Destroyed and Kiri Paramore’s Ideology and Christianity in Japan. For a further discussion of the Jesuits’ missionary activity in Japan, see also Caldarola 1979, Moran 1993, and Mullins 1998.

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settling in Goa, he learned Portuguese and converted to Christianity, taking the name of Paulo de Santa Fe. When Xavier left for Japan in 1549, he brought Yajirō along as an interpreter, to translate for the missionaries into Japanese as well as to provide them with information on the country’s customs, particularly its religious beliefs. Yajirō, however, was illiterate and had almost no knowledge of Buddhism, as Xavier himself noted in one of his early letters: The religions of the Japanese are handed down in certain recondite letters unknown to the vulgar, such as among us are the Latin. On which account Paul, an uneducated man (homo idiota) and quite plainly unschooled in such manner of books, states that he is not equipped to give evidence on the religions of his native land. (Letter to Padre Simon in Portugal, in Epistolae, II, no. 79, 71, quoted in Elison: 32)

Nevertheless, for lack of other sources, the homo idiota’s description of the ‘religions of his native land’ necessarily formed the basis for the Jesuits’ plan for conversion, causing a series of misapprehensions. Perhaps because he had been instructed in Christianity more than he had ever been in Buddhism, Yajirō described the latter as a monotheistic, creationist religion, worshiping a deity called Dainichi, the Japanese name of Buddha Mahavairocana. Much in the same way as they had translated the word God as ‘Shang Di’ (emperor) or ‘Tien’ (heaven) in China, the Jesuits thus adopted the name Dainichi to describe the Christian god, which led the Japanese to believe that Christianity was a variation of Shingon Buddhism.6 The operation bears striking similarities to the kind of cultural flows and contra-flows of the early twentieth century I discussed at the beginning of this chapter. Chosen as a native informant because of his familiarity with Western culture rather than for his expertise on Japan, and probably eager to make himself understood to his Western audience, Yajirō chose one specific facet of the complex religious tradition of Japan, Shingon Buddhism, and ‘translated’ the Buddha Mahavairocana as an entity comparable to the Christian God. The Jesuits, following the ‘accommodative method’, relied on this simplified ‘translation’ and hybridized this construction to develop a version of Christianity that would be palatable to the Japanese people. The result was a Japanization of Christianity, a cultural hybrid very similar to Suzuki’s ‘Japanese-American Zen’ or Ezra Pound’s ‘Imagist haiku’. 6 For a discussion of Yajirô’s role as a cultural mediator see Elison pp. 30–33, Whelan pp. 3–5, and Turnbull pp. 92–93.


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Such hybridization, however, was far from the Jesuits’ ideals. Once he realized that the Japanese thought they were converting to a form of Buddhism, Xavier forbid the cult of Dainichi, declaring it ‘the devil’s invention’, and renamed the Christian god Deusu, from the Portuguese ‘Deus’. On their part, Buddhist priests, playing on the Japanese transliteration of the term, called the Christian god ‘Daiuso’, ‘big lie’. In his analysis of the rejection of Christianity in Japan, George Elison argues that the turn to intolerance set the ground for the Jesuits’ ultimate failure to spread Christianity in Japan despite their initial success. According to Elison, one reason why the Jesuits failed in their mission was that they were unable to compromise and blend with local beliefs in the same way as Buddhism had done in previous centuries. If honji suijaku had helped Buddhism succeed in Japan, the Jesuits’ ‘Deusu purism’ caused the demise of Christianity. Establishing the reasons for the rejection of Christianity in Japan is beyond the scope of this chapter; however, the Jesuits’ approach to cultural translation offers us precious insight into Akutagawa’s use of the Jesuits as a metaphor for Taishō cosmopolitanism, and sheds new light on the conversation between Organtino and the ‘spirit of Japan’ in ‘Kamigami’. In case the allusions to Dainichi and honji suijaku were lost on the bewildered Organtino, the kami makes the comparison even more explicit, and warns the priest that, no matter how much he strives to impose his religion in Japan, his god, too, will inevitably become localized. After relating a long list of instances of Japanese creative appropriation of Asian traditions, from the Chinese writing system to Buddhism and Confucianism, the spirit concludes: ‘In essence, what I want to say is that no one who comes to this land, as Deus has, is a victor.’ ‘But just wait a moment. You say so, but . . . ’ Organtino broke in. ‘Just today, for instance, two or three samurai converted together to the Faith.’ ‘Probably any number will convert. But if it is just “conversion”, most of the natives of this land have converted to the teachings of Siddharta. But ours is not the power that destroys. It is the power that recreates. . . . Perhaps Deus himself will be transformed into a native of this land. China and India were transformed. The West too will have to be transformed. We are in the trees. And in the flow of shallow waters. And in the wind which sweeps over the roses. We are everywhere and always. Beware. Beware . . . ’ (‘Kamigami’: 125–127)

In the preface to his translation of the text, Seiji Lippit notes that the spirit’s argument is reminiscent of Okakura Kakuzō’s idea that the uniqueness of Japan lies in its internalization of other cultures, in its being a ‘vacuum’ that is ‘all-potent because all-containing’ (Okakura: 24

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quoted in Lippit 1999: 43). From this perspective, we could be tempted to read the story as a celebration of Japan’s cosmopolitanism and its successful appropriation of foreign traditions, as well as a critique of the West’s inability to accept hybridity and transculturation, which dooms it to fail. However, by framing the events through Organtino’s point of view, the text induces the reader to identify with the dislocated foreign priest rather than with the all-powerful transformative spirit of Japan. This is further reinforced by the ending, which hints at the possibility that the extradiegetic omniscient narrator is itself a foreigner. The story ends with a metaleptic moment, a confusion of diegetic and extradiegetic levels that further destabilizes the readers’ perception, and renders the identification process more complex. After the departure of the kami, we see Organtino entering a painted screen depicting the arrival of a Southern Barbarian ship, while the narrator addresses the character directly, from the perspective of the present time: Goodbye, Padre Organtino. As you and your companions pace the shore, you gaze at the great Southern Barbarian carrack which hoists its flags into the gilded mist. Has Deus won, or has the Sun Goddess? That may not be easy to decide even today. But it is a problem which we must soon undertake to decide. Look you tranquilly at us from those past shores. Even if you have sunk into the sleep of Lethe, along with the galleon’s captain leading a dog and the black slave boy holding a parasol, the time will surely come when the sound of cannon from our black ships, which recently appeared on the horizon, will ravage your old and familiar dreams. Until then—Goodbye, Padre Organtino! Goodbye, Brother Urgan of the Temple of the Southern Barbarians. (‘Kamigami’: 128)

The reference to the black ships, the Western vessels that forced Japan to re-open its ports in 1853, as ‘our’ leaves the reader to wonder whether the whole story has been told by a foreigner, further blurring the distinction between native Japanese and Western Other. More than the spirit’s triumphant vision of the Japanization of all things foreign, it is Organtino’s anxiety at the loss of his cultural identity that resonates with the feelings of Akutagawa and of many Japanese modernists. To further clarify this point, let me compare this text with an earlier story, ‘Akuma’, where the same Organtino has another close encounter with a demonic creature. Lost in Localization Like ‘Kamigami’, ‘Akuma’ begins with a metatextual moment, which problematizes the degree of reality of the events narrated. In the first


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paragraph, the extradiegetic narrator tells us that Organtino was famous for seeing ‘things that other people could not see’, particularly devils, leaving it unclear whether we are meant to interpret such visions as delusions, within a rational/scientific framework, or as the expression of actual supernatural powers, in a fabulous/religious context. Furthermore, the narrator informs us that the story is based on an ‘old manuscript’ (fictional, but presented as authentic), a self-reflexive device often used by Akutagawa to problematize the fictional status of the text and foreground the textual nature of reality itself. The narrator refers to the text’s interpretation of the main episode of the story he is about to relate, and contrasts it with his own: The author of the manuscript interprets the story about the devil as a trick by Organtino. At one point Nobunaga had fancied the princess, and tried to win her favour. But neither the princess nor her parents saw Nobunaga’s desire very positively. Therefore Organtino, for the princess’ sake, used the devil as an excuse to persuade Nobunaga to back down. The accuracy of this interpretation has been to this day difficult to assess. However, for us this is a very simple matter. (‘Akuma’, my translation).

The narrator does not explain why this is ‘a very simple matter’ or what his own conclusion is, forcing the readers to make a further interpretive decision on their own, another strategy Akutagawa often employs for narrative purposes.7 The plot of the story is very simple: Organtino sees the devil sitting on the chariot of a devout Christian princess, with whom the renowned military leader Oda Nobunaga was allegedly in love, and decides to capture him lest he harm the young woman. Possibly because he is dealing with a Christian demon, rather than with a foreign one, Organtino in this text appears as a much more confident character: he promptly captures the demon with the power of his cross, and drags it to the Southern Barbarian Temple to interrogate him. Conversely, it is the immigrant sprite that undertakes the role of the melancholic diasporic intellectual. The akuma is very different from conventional representations of the Christian devil; he is neither terrific nor horrible, has no horns and no hoofs. Sitting cross-legged, he hangs his head low, and looks ‘deep in 7 Some of the most famous examples of such use of disorientating narrative perspective include ‘Yabu no naka’ (‘In a Bamboo Grove’), with its six narrators giving contradictory versions of the same event, and the short novel Kappa, with its double narrative framing and its insane autodiegetic narrator.

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painful thought’. Articulate and soft-spoken, the devil uses keigo honorific language and sheds silent tears as he talks. Interestingly, the description of the akuma bears striking resemblances to the representations of the Japanese that we find in European and North American writings of the time. Tiny and graceful, with ‘a face as beautiful as a jewel’, polite and self-effacing, the devil could be one of the innumerable little people populating Lafcadio Hearn’s accounts of ‘elfland Japan’. Thus, through the figure of this pensive and beautiful little demon, the text inverts and undermines several sets of binaries, turning both Orientalist and Occidentalist stereotypes on their head. Devil and priest, local and foreign, good and evil are presented as reversible notions, ultimately more similar than radically opposed. Such display of cultural and moral relativism subtends the devil’s account of the structural contradictions of human nature that constitutes the main part of the story. After confessing his plot to tempt the Japanese Christian princess into abandoning her Christian faith, the devil launches on a long monologue revealing his conflicting feelings towards the young woman, and musing on the sad paradox of loving her purity while desiring to destroy it: ‘I wanted to make that princess fall. But at the same time, I also didn’t want to. Why would someone who sees a pure soul desire to plunge it into the flames of hell? I wanted to make that beautiful soul even more shining, unclouded. And yet, the more I thought about this, the stronger my desire to lead her to perdition grew. . . . The thing that I least want to taint is the thing that I want to taint the most. Is there a stranger sadness than this? Whenever I taste this melancholy, I feel as though the bright light of heaven that I once saw and the darkness of hell that I see now become one inside my little chest. Please have mercy of me. I feel so utterly lonely.’ (‘Akuma’, my translation)

The reference to tainted purity acquires further significance if we relate it to the anxiety towards cultural hybridization that I have been discussing thus far. The moral purity of the princess reads as a metaphor for the cultural integrity that is lost in the encounter with the Other. As Lippit points out, unlike later intellectuals, who ‘tried to recover some phantasmatic native identity by “overcoming modernity”’, Akutagawa was ‘painfully aware that any purified self or culture existing prior to the advent of the modern age was inaccessible to him’ (Akutagawa 1999: xxviii). Such anguished awareness of the loss of cultural integrity points at a more ambivalent vision of Japan’s ability to incorporate the foreign and localize it. The distinction between the ‘power that destroys’ and the ‘power that recreates’ is less clear-cut than the spirit in ‘Kamigami’


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seemed to imply: Japan’s ability to appropriate and transform all things foreign is both the source of its strength and the origin of its deepseated anxiety. However, I do not propose to interpret this as a statement of Japan’s uniqueness either. On the contrary, the devil’s desire to destroy purity also reads as a strikingly accurate allegory of the West’s inability to reach towards the ethnic Other without trying to assimilate it, conquer it, and destroy it, its ‘racist love’ of which Japan was an object. The story can therefore be read as a compelling universal metaphor for the encounter with the Other, which applies equally well to the Jesuit mission, to Commodore Perry’s gunboat diplomacy, and to Taishō Japan’s own oscillation between cosmopolitanism and nationalism, multiculturalism and assimilationism. On the narrative level, this universal conclusion is reached through a process of identification and dis-identification with the cultural Other, be it a Portuguese priest or a Christian devil. Akutagawa displaces his own sense of trauma as a modernized/Westernized Japanese onto the foreign characters in order to construct his identity as a cosmopolitan modern intellectual. Which, intriguingly, is what gives his works a global appeal, insofar as its readers are able to share the same sense of dislocation, the same consciousness of the paradoxes of modernity. As the narrator states in the conclusion, ‘Organtino! Spare us, as you spare the devil. We, too, feel the same sadness.’

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References Akutagawa Ryūnosuke. ‘Akuma’ (‘The Demon’). Akutagawa Ryūnosuke Zenshū.Tokyo: Chikuma Shobō, 1971 (1918), vol. 4. ‘Kamigami no bishō’. Shinshōsetsu, January 1922. ‘The Faint Smiles of the Gods’. Trans. Seiji Lippit. The Essential Akutagawa. New York: Marsilio, 1999, pp. 115–128. ‘Smiles of the Gods’. Trans. Yoshiko Dykstra. Japanese Religions 31 (1), 2006, pp. 39–44. Caldarola, Carlo. Christianity: The Japanese Way. Leiden: Brill, 1979. Cho Sa-ok. Akutagawa to Kirisutokyō. Tokyo: Kanrin shobō, 1995. Elison, George. Deus Destroyed: The Image of Christianity in Early Modern Japan. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1973. Ha T’ae fu. Akutagawa Ryūnosuke no kirisuto shisō. Tokyo: Kanrin shobō, 1998. Ishiwari Tōru, Saihō no hito: Kirisutokyō, Kirishitanmono no sekai. Tokyo: Kanrin shobō, 1999. Kawakami Mitsunori. Akutagawa Ryūnosuke to Kirisutokyō. Kyoto: Hakujisha, 2005. Leerssen, Joep and Beller, Manfred. Imagology: The Cultural Construction and Literary Representation of National Characters. Amsterdam and New York: Rodopi, 2007. Leonard, George. ‘D.T. Suzuki and the Creation of Japanese American Zen’. in id. The Asian Pacific American Heritage: A Companion to Literature and Arts. New York and London: Garland, 1999. Lippit, Seiji. Topographies of Japanese Modernism. New York: Columbia UP, 2002. The Essential Akutagawa. New York: Marsilio, 1999. Masao Miyoshi. Off-center: Power and Culture Relations between Japan and the United States. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1991. Moran, J.F. The Japanese and the Jesuits: Alessandro Valignano in Sixteenth-century Japan. London and New York: Routledge, 1993. Mullins, Mark. Christianity Made in Japan: A Study of Indigenous Movements. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1998. Nitobe Inazō. Bushidō: The Soul of Japan (1899). Tokyo and New York: Kodansha International, 2002. Okakura Kakuzō. The Ideals of the East. London: John Murray, 1904. Paramore, Kiri. Ideology and Christianity in Japan. London and New York: Routledge, 2009. Satō Zen’ya. Akutagawa Ryūnosuke no Kurisutozō. Tokyo: Kindaibungeisha, 1997. Turnbull, Stephen. The Samurai and the Sacred. Oxford: Osprey Publishing, 2006. Yoshioka Hiroshi. ‘Samurai and Self-colonization in Japan’. The Decolonization of Imagination: Culture, Knowledge and Power. Eds Jan Nederveen Pieterse and Bhikhu Parekh. London: Zed Books, 1995: 99–112. Yu Beongchon. Akutagawa: An Introduction. Detroit, Wayne State UP, 1972.

LITERARY APPROPRIATIONS OF THE MODERN: THE CASE OF AKUTAGAWA RYŪNOSUKE AND AUGUST STRINDBERG Mats Karlsson Introduction On 12 January 1917 Akutagawa Ryūnosuke (1892–1927) finished reading August Strindberg’s (1849–1912) novel Inferno (1897). In this novel Strindberg purports to render faithfully his ‘infernal’ experiences of a few years earlier when he supposedly was balancing on the edge of insanity. The epilogue of the book, which was originally written in French, ends with an invitation by the author to his readers: ‘The reader who is inclined to consider that this book is a work of imagination is invited to consult the diary I wrote up day by day from 1895, of which the above is merely a version, composed of extracts expanded and rearranged.’1 Strindberg’s testimonial of authenticity appears to have been accepted by Akutagawa. Having finished reading Inferno, he wrote down the following words on the inside back cover of his copy: ‘Kono hon o yonde kara myō ni Super Stitious [sic] ni natte yowatta. Konna myō na sono kuse hen ni shinken na kanmei o uketa hon wa hoka ni nai’ [After reading this book, I have been troubled by becoming oddly superstitious. There is no other book that has given me such a strange yet sincere and deep impression].2 When Akutagawa embarked on his career as a writer he distinctly deviated from the prevailing autobiographical trend of the so-called shishōsetsu, or I-novel, in Japanese fiction. In works like ‘Rashōmon’ (1915) and ‘Hana’ [‘The Nose’] (1916), he drew on Buddhist tales of a thousand years ago, and the breach with the trend of confessional writing could hardly have been more glaring. However, towards the end of his life Akutagawa began to veer in the direction of his own personal circumstances in order to find subject 1

A. Strindberg, Inferno and From an Occult Diary, trans. M. Sandbach (New York: Penguin Books, 1979), p. 274. Hereafter cited by page number. 2 A. Strindberg, The Inferno, trans. C. Field (London: Rider, 1912). Copy in the Ryūnosuke Akutagawa Book Collection at the Museum of Modern Japanese Literature in Tokyo.

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matter for his stories. And so, ten years after having read Inferno, he came to write about his own descent into hell in the short story ‘Haguruma’ [‘Cogwheels’] (1927). Of this work Yukio Miyoshi provides a fine description: To be sure, ‘Cogwheels’ is a modern scene of hell. ‘Boku’ [I, the protagonist] lives a life ‘more hellish than hell,’ the illusionary internal scenery being tantamount to an expansion of his mental world. [It is] a world where time flows by laden only with premonitions of insanity and death. Akutagawa Ryūnosuke descends to the bottom of that abyss to give masterly expression to the gruesome mental scenery of a human being who has chosen death for himself. The successful representation of that grotesque microcosmos, attempted at the risk of his life, conceals ominous reverberations that have yet to have found expression in any novel. It is darkly, ominously, uncannily beautiful.3

However, as several commentators have pointed out, similar ‘ominous reverberations’ had in fact found literary expression in advance of ‘Cogwheels’. As we shall see, Akutagawa’s version of hell has a great deal in common with Strindberg’s. Renowned novelist Hori Tatsuo, for instance, as early as 1929 observed of ‘Cogwheels’: Each and every one of the episodes is pierced straight through with his fear of ‘something unknown’ (he calls this ‘the God of Vengeance’). For this reason, this work makes us readers shudder with every episode while arousing a persistent fear from the succession of shudders. Apart from Akutagawa, who has threatened us with such a fear? It is only the Swede August Strindberg, who just like him also suffered morbidly from ‘something unseen’. Only Inferno, written by this Swede, recalls the fear of ‘Cogwheels’.4

Here, I suggest a way of understanding how assumptions and ideals inherent in European literary modernism came to be incorporated into the Japanese literary sphere by reading Strindberg’s Inferno and Akutagawa’s ‘Cogwheels’ side by side. The primary objective of this investigation is to propose a way of reading the deranged elements to be found on the pages of ‘Cogwheels’ by putting them into their literary and cultural context of modernistic explorations of madness. Furthermore, my reading is closely intertwined with the concepts of authenticity and referentiality as they pertain to confessional writing during the 3

Y. Miyoshi, Akutagawa Ryūnosuke ron [On Ryūnosuke Akutagawa] (Tokyo: Chikuma Shobō, 1976), p. 301. Hereafter cited by page number. 4 T. Hori, ‘Akutagawa Ryūnosuke ron’ [On Ryūnosuke Akutagawa], in Hori Tatsuo zenshū [The Complete Works of Tatsuo Hori], vol. 4 (1929; rpt., Tokyo: Chikuma Shobō, 1978), pp. 601–602.


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modernistic era. In Sweden there is a never-ending debate over whether Strindberg’s alleged insanity really was genuine. In other words, there has been a debate between those who interpret the deranged elements of Strindberg’s confessional writing as more or less raw excerpts from his life and those who argue that they should be understood primarily as literary constructs. It is a particularly opportune moment to give these matters a thorough airing, as Akutagawa, whose deranged impressions incontrovertibly draw on those of Strindberg, has just been canonized on an international scale with the publication a new Penguin Classics edition.5 Inferno and ‘Cogwheels’ Compared Strindberg wrote Inferno between 3 May and 25 June of 1897. This novel deals with his experiences from 1894 onward, when he was living mainly in Paris. During this period Strindberg had temporarily abandoned fiction writing in favour of the natural sciences. Among other activities he conducted chemical experiments with the aim of proving that sulfur was not an element; he also devoted himself enthusiastically to alchemy and the task of making gold. He did, in fact, succeed in publishing papers in scientific journals that gained some recognition from the scientific world. In Paris he published a thesis entitled ‘Introduction à une chimie unitaire’ [Introduction to a Unitary Chemistry], in which he expounds a monistic theory of chemistry.6 To judge from Inferno and various other writings from this time, Strindberg appears to have been in search of nothing less than the hidden law unifying the natural and spiritual realms. The first-person protagonist of Inferno oscillates between moods of megalomania, self-contempt, and paranoia in pursuit of this grand scheme, and the novel itself has been taken as proof that Strindberg experienced a severe spiritual crisis during this period and went temporarily insane. Needless to say, this conclusion can only be reached after identifying the protagonist with the author. According to the various datings of the rather loosely knit six chapters that make up the text of ‘Cogwheels’, Akutagawa wrote it in March and April of 1927, only a few months before committing suicide. This 5 R. Akutagawa, Rashōmon and Seventeen Other Stories, trans. J. Rubin (London: Penguin Books, 2006). 6 A. Strindberg, ‘Introduction à une chimie unitaire’ [Introduction to a Unitary Chemistry], Mercure de France 70 (October 1895): pp. 14–36.

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short story evokes the first-person protagonist’s nightmarish experiences in hellish overtones. Akutagawa, like Strindberg, also took pains to ensure that his readers should identify the story as being autobiographical. Thus, the protagonist and narrator of ‘Cogwheels’, boku (a colloquial word used by males to refer to themselves), is identified as A. Furthermore, the story is meticulously assembled to conform to known biographical facts about the author. At one point boku even quotes an aphorism from one of Akutagawa’s own works, Shuju no kotoba [Words of a Dwarf] (1923–1925): ‘Life is more hellish than hell itself.’7 That Akutagawa was in fact experiencing a severe depression towards the end of his life and felt an intense temptation to commit suicide is apparent from various types of nonliterary evidence and can hardly be questioned.8 Nevertheless, one may doubt whether the particular manifestations of his agony, as they appear in ‘Cogwheels,’ really should be taken literally. In ‘Cogwheels’ the presence of Strindberg’s persona is intense to the degree of giving the protagonist physical reactions: I gave up and left the store for a solitary stroll down the nearly empty street. A foreigner came swaggering in my direction, a man around forty who appeared to be near-sighted. This was the neighborhood Swede who suffered from persecution delusion and whose name was actually Strindberg. I had a physical reaction to him as he passed by. (232)

Strindberg is literally evoked on more than one occasion, though. For instance, boku finds Strindberg’s Legender [Legends] (1898), the sequel to Inferno, on the second floor of the bookshop Maruzen. He glances through a few passages at random only to ascertain that what was written there did not differ much from his own experiences (217). Thus, Strindberg is undoubtedly lurking somewhere behind the scenes in ‘Cogwheels.’ However, what is more important than the explicit mention of Strindberg’s name is the incontrovertible Strindbergian nature of the protagonist’s experiences. The most conspicuous common feature of the protagonists of the two works is without doubt the significance they 7 R. Akutagawa, ‘Spinning Gears’, in Akutagawa, Rashōmon and Seventeen Other Stories, p. 219. I have retained the title of ‘Cogwheels,’ the more orthodox translation of the title of the short story. Hereafter cited by page number. See also R. Akutagawa, Shuju no kotoba [Words of a Dwarf], in Akutagawa Ryūnosuke zenshū [The Complete Works of Ryūnosuke Akutagawa], vol. 13 (1927; rpt., Tokyo: Iwanami Shoten, 1996), p. 52. 8 See O. Morimoto, Shinkō Akutagawa Ryūnosuke den kaiteiban [Reconsideration: Ryūnosuke Akutagawa Biography], rev. ed. (Tokyo: Kitazawa Tosho Shuppan, 1977), p. 242.


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attach to apparently random and meaningless occurrences, which they interpret as correspondences between different phenomena. In short, they find ominous coincidences everywhere around them, which they somehow apprehend as foreboding their own destruction. For instance, in ‘Cogwheels’ the protagonist discovers that his taxi driver is only wearing an old raincoat thrown over his shoulders despite the cold weather (232). From the very first chapter, entitled ‘Raincoats,’ in which the story of a raincoat-clad ghost appears, raincoats figure as an ominous sign. When we turn to Inferno, we find that the novel abounds in similar coincidences that are vested with ominous or, less frequently, auspicious significance. It is as though the role of the protagonist of Inferno is to interpret signs and correspondences that appear mysterious to him. He endeavours to decipher a governing law behind the seemingly incoherent. In a similar vein, boku struggles to solve unanswerable riddles (233). Strindberg shares the use of ‘correspondences’ between natural phenomena and human beings with the symbolists. However, as Gunnar Brandell notes, whereas Strindberg’s correspondences took the form of a multitude of concrete analogies from many different spheres, the symbolists tended to invoke correspondences as a means of lending an abstract and vaguely mystical ring to their expression. For Brandell, Strindberg is more firmly rooted in concrete reality and actual experience than the symbolists.9 Thus, the Strindberg of Inferno is reluctant to consign simple coincidence to the realm of accidental occurrence. The same holds true for the protagonist of ‘Cogwheels’, who at one point utters: ‘I could not believe this had been a coincidence, and if it was not a coincidence—’ (233). This reflection is occasioned by the fact that when, walking only a short distance along a street in the resort town where he lives, boku is passed four times by a black and white dog. Since one of the possible readings of the originally Chinese character for four is identical with that of the character for death, arguably the sheer number of times boku sees a black and white dog adds to the ominous atmosphere of the incident. In addition, the colour of the dog reminds the protagonist of a recent unpleasant experience in a basement bar where he had ordered black and white whisky. Here it should be noted that it has to be a basement bar, all adding neatly to the evocation of an infernal atmosphere. Furthermore, boku recalls that Strindberg had been wearing a black 9 G. Brandell, Strindberg in Inferno, trans. B. Jacobs (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1974), p. 239. Hereafter cited by page number.

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and white tie when boku had seen him strolling down the street. This is too much black and white within a short space of time for the protagonist. He cannot bring himself to accept it as the outcome of chance and instead suspects the intervention of other forces. Generally, colour is an important sign to the protagonists of both works. Colours are divided into those that bring good luck and those that are ominous. For this reason, boku in ‘Cogwheels’ is forced to let several yellow taxis pass before he hails a lucky green one (216). In search of ink, he has to leave the store empty handed, dismayed to find only sepia-coloured ink, a colour that always causes him discomfort (232). Suffice to say here that in Inferno, too, colour belongs to the realm of a symbolic order. Consider, for instance, the colour carnation pink that haunts the hero in the form of the walls and curtains of a bedroom (206), ink, and a cigarette paper (219). As illustrated by the incident with the ink, boku loses his composure at the slightest disturbance in a manner reminiscent of Strindberg’s protagonist. For instance, roaming the stairs and corridors of his hotel, boku suddenly finds himself in the kitchen, where the cold stares of the cooks in their white hats once again give him the sensation of having descended into hell. In this scene we find the infernal associations emphasized by the prison-like corridors and flames moving beneath rice cauldrons in the kitchen (213). In this respect, however, it should be noted that Akutagawa’s approach to the biographical material that made up his own experience is more restrained than Strindberg’s; Strindberg embellishes trifling experiences in a more exaggerated fashion. At times he unhesitatingly evokes even Dante’s Inferno. For instance, he transforms a stroll through the Austrian village where he is visiting his little daughter into a grand vision of hell complete with devils and angels (212–214). Akutagawa’s approach resembles that of Strindberg closely, but it is carried out on a smaller scale. As Miyoshi has pointed out, according to a Tokyo newspaper report, the corpse of Akutagawa’s brother-in-law, who had committed suicide, was found clad in an overcoat. In ‘Cogwheels’, not surprisingly, this overcoat has conveniently been transformed into a raincoat in order to fit the motif of the ominously reappearing raincoats (211; see also Miyoshi: 306). But why was the boku of ‘Cogwheels’ roaming the corridors of his hotel in the first place? At first glance, this may appear an odd question. However, its answer will help us identify yet another thematic trait reminiscent of Inferno. Unable to continue writing a certain novel, the protagonist lies down on his bed and starts reading a book instead. Presently


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he gets up in order to hurl the Tolstoy volume with all his might at a big rat. The rat disappears into the bathroom, and, unable to locate it, boku is yet again suddenly overcome by an ominous sensation. He flees from his room in panic. This scene will give any reader of Strindberg a feeling of déjà vu. It conforms to a motif of sudden departure and escape from place to place in Inferno (see 186). Both ‘Cogwheels’ and Inferno abound in situations from which the protagonist finds himself obliged to escape: from hotel rooms and bedrooms, from various buildings, from cafes and bars. In both works the haunted protagonist’s inability to remain confined within four walls conveys the impression to the reader that they are suffering from claustrophobia. Yet another conspicuously Strindbergian motif throughout ‘Cogwheels’ rears itself in the scenes where the protagonist opens a book and starts to read at random. The lines that he happens to come across seem to contain concealed personal messages to him. Fate has intervened and led him to that particular passage in that particular book. Behind fate there is something looming up, a reason of a higher order that to the protagonist appears ominous (see 217). In Inferno, books even open up of themselves to direct the protagonist’s eyes to significant passages that contain secret messages to him (193). But we have not yet exhausted the literary allusions found in Akutagawa’s version of hell that point in the direction of Strindberg. ‘Cogwheels’ not only appropriates themes and motifs of Inferno but also alludes more directly to it. There are, for example, episodic correspondences between the two works. The woman boku meets on the streets of Tokyo is one such case. From a distance she appears beautiful to him, but on closer inspection she turns out to be wrinkled and ugly (224). This woman is, of course, reminiscent of the woman that the protagonist of Inferno meets on his hellish promenade through the Austrian village. She also appears beautiful from a distance but turns out to be toothless and hideous on closer inspection. Just a while earlier the protagonist has come across a besom and a goat’s horn, the insignia of witches, deliberately placed, or so he fears, so that he will encounter them. However, we also find influences of a more substantial nature in this category of direct paraphrases. Let us, for instance, consider the scene in which a young admirer approaches boku on the street. The young man addresses him with the honorific title of sensei, which to the ears of boku is the most abominable word of all. He cannot stand the respectful epithet since he is under the impression that he has committed all manner of sins. Parenthetically, it should be noted that both protagonists’

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apprehensive Weltanschauung must, furthermore, be seen against the background of the motif of sin and retribution. Boku cannot help but feel the presence of something mocking him. Yet his materialism can only reject the mysticism that the belief in such a presence would entail (213–214). Turning to Inferno, we find a passage that expresses the same doubt about the existence of metaphysical powers. The protagonist has been allowing a walnut to germinate and grow for some time. In the first two rudimentary leaves he detects the hands of a woman or a child stretching out towards him in a gesture of supplication. At first he suspects it to be a vision or a hallucination. But when a friend has confirmed the similarity of the leaves to two clasped hands, he asks himself the meaning of this occurrence. Remember that the protagonist has left wives and children behind him in Sweden and Austria. Therefore, the incident induces in him a feeling of bad conscience. However, still incredulous and too conditioned by an empirical education, he dismisses these thoughts without further ado (129–130). I believe it is not far fetched to suggest that it is exactly this mention of ‘an empirical education’ that we find echoed in the ‘materialism’ of boku and that inhibits his mysticism and belief in the supernatural (213–214). Hence, in both works we also find a balancing force to the belief in ‘the existence of an unseen hand which was responsible for the irresistible logic of events’ (106) to quote from Inferno. Furthermore, it does not seem far from the ‘unseen hand’ and ‘unseen Powers’ of Strindberg to the ‘something’ of Akutagawa. In a different passage boku senses ‘the agency of the finger of destiny’ (231). Yet another common feature of the two works is the theme of random associations—for instance, the way both protagonists make wild, ominous mental leaps from some seemingly meaningless occurrence, such as in the scenes in which they both come across scraps of paper on the street (Strindberg: 172; Akutagawa: 224). Such incidences of similarities between the two texts could be multiplied almost indefinitely. Suffice to say that the ominous atmosphere of Inferno is captured in the following memorable line from the novel: ‘I feel as if someone were working upon me somewhere or other’ (163). This line also captures the atmosphere of ‘Cogwheels’ and the protagonist’s state of mind. Moreover, what unites the two works on a general level is the permeating atmosphere in which reality has given way to a dreamlike experience of life; in these novels there has been a sort of poeticizing of experience, where common-sense rational thinking no longer functions. Needless to say, no author writes in a literary no-man’s-land. The history of literature abounds in intertextual influences and responses. Literary


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works inevitably enter into a dialogue in which texts refer to each other in infinite and multifarious ways. The moment an author starts putting down words, those words immediately get tangled up in other texts. ‘Cogwheels’ could hardly have been written in a literary vacuum. In modelling his hell, Akutagawa had the whole genre of scenes of hell, which has a long literary history, to fall back on. Strindberg, of course, is the guiding and ghostly major influence in ‘Cogwheels.’ This fact is manifested not least in the striking affinity between the suggestions in both works that everything in the visible world constitutes a secret cipher that reveals a spiritual reality. Addressing this feature in ‘Cogwheels’, Seiji M. Lippit notes that: The city here [Tokyo] plays an important role in framing the narrator’s descent into madness. The space through which he wanders is made up of multiple textual allusions [ . . . ] Yet rather than forming an enclosed container for subjectivity [ . . . ] the city creates fluid and unstable significations and is a source of paranoia for the narrator. That is, his experience of the city is labelled as an acute consciousness that everything signifies, that almost all objects function as signs. They may be coded, for example, according to colour. [ . . . ] These colours represent the disintegration of the world and the structures of society into a collection of signs.10

Although the intertextual relationship with Strindberg is overlooked here, Lippit’s observation is important in the present context inasmuch as both narratives record the disorienting shock of urban modernity experienced by avant-garde intellectuals hypersensitive to the emerging metropolis of their respective eras. Both narratives can be seen to, in the words of Edward Timms, ‘reflect a heightened subjectivity of perception’ as a mental readjustment to the ‘culture shock of metropolitan civilization’.11 In this sense urban modernity can be seen not only as the cultural space for the enfolding of the narratives but also as a necessary condition for the two writers’ exploration of madness. Elsewhere, Lippit observes that the ‘dreamlike quality of city space’ creates an experience of dislocation and disjunction, which in its turn becomes a dominant, organizing theme of modernist works like ‘Cogwheels’.12 Still, Akutagawa’s not negligible emulation of Inferno shifts the focus away from the discourse of the dislocating effects of urban modernity. In other words, there is more going on on the pages of ‘Cogwheels’ than the mere registration of 10 S. M. Lippit, Topographies of Japanese Modernism (New York: Columbia University Press, 2002), p. 56. 11 E. Timms, ‘Introduction: Unreal City’, in Unreal City: Urban Experience in Modern European Literature and Art, ed. E. Timms and D. Kelley (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1985), p. 4. 12 Lippit, Topographies, p. 5.

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the psychological effects of the city on the individual. Incidentally, it is interesting to note that Akutagawa was so deeply impressed by the novel at a time when it had not yet been thoroughly canonized. In fact, when Inferno was published, it was by and large treated as unreadable nonsense by the Swedish literary establishment.13 We may speculate whether literary trends had become more receptive towards the modernistic traits of Inferno by the time when Akutagawa emulated the novel. Confessional Writing and Its Reception Paul John Eakin has posed the question: ‘Why should it make a difference to me that autobiographies are presumably based in biographical fact?’ He continues: This is really another way of asking why people read autobiographies, a question intimately linked to the question of why people write them. There seems to be no doubt that readers do read autobiographies differently from other kinds of texts, especially from works they take to be ‘fictions.’ All who have studied the reading of autobiography agree that reference lies at the heart of this felt difference.14

Our present case involves the genre of confessional writing. Still, I would like to argue that reference and referentiality likewise lie at the heart of the way such semiautobiographical fiction is read. In discussing what he terms a ‘referential pact’, Eakin argues that ‘pursuit of a referential aesthetic need not preclude a prominent role for fiction in an autobiographical text’, suggesting ‘an antimimetic impulse at the heart of what is ostensibly a mimetic aesthetic’.15 Still, according to convention, these texts are treated as authentic and reliable documents that more or less faithfully render the raw experience of the writer in unmediated form. To be sure, it is a commonplace that the kind of confessional writing that we are confronted with here is not to be confused with the relation of factual events. Critics and literary historians usually agree that these kinds of semiautobiographical texts must be approached with caution as far as the veracity of their content goes. In practice, however, texts of this kind are often treated as documentation concerning their authors. In the Japanese 13 See A. C. Gavel Adams, ‘Kommentarer’, in August Strindberg samlade verk [The Complete Works of August Strindberg], Vol. 37 (Stockholm: Norstedt, 1994), pp. 356– 362, for an overview of the reception of the Swedish edition of Inferno. 14 P. J. Eakin, Touching the World: Reference in Autobiography (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1992), p. 29. 15 Ibid., p. 31.


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literary academia, for instance, direct quotations from semifictional, or even purely fictional, works are often given in support of biographical claims about the author. This feature was undoubtedly a strong tendency in literary circles at the time Strindberg and Akutagawa were writing. In a discussion on ‘I-fiction’, which was the dominant literary trend in early twentieth-century Japan, Sadami Suzuki has recently observed that even if writers broke down such categories [i.e. literary musings versus fiction], however, the media ignored what they were doing. In other words, even if a writer insisted that his work was fiction, the editor might place it in the literary musings [zuihitsu] column, and the writer could do nothing about it. All sorts of complications arose over such issues.16

To complicate things further, Suzuki also notes the opposite phenomenon, namely works that the writer thought of as diaries being recognized as a genre of fiction. Further on we shall note a similar confusion of fact and fiction in the case of the reception of Strindberg. In any case, it is probably safe to conclude that today’s readers have in general become more cautious of referential interpretations of semiautobiographical fiction than readers of, say, a century ago—especially in the aftermath of postmodernism, according to the teachings of which truth is unattainable to begin with. James Olney notes that early critical approaches to autobiography (a good case can be made out for Inferno and ‘Cogwheels’ as having been understood as pure autobiography) naïvely assumed that the autobiographer could narrate his life in a manner at least approaching an objective historical account and make of that internal subject a text existing in the external world; and [ . . . ] that there was nothing problematical about the autos, no agonizing questions of identity, self-definition, self-existence, or self-deception—at least none the reader need attend to—and therefore the fact that the individual was himself narrating the story of himself had no troubling philosophical, psychological, literary, or historical implications.17

Here, I would like to argue that these assumptions about the nature of autobiographical writing also inform the reception of fictional works that draw on the life experiences of the author. 16

S. Suzuki, The Concept of ‘Literature’ in Japan, trans. R. Tyler (Kyoto: International Research Center for Japanese Studies, 2006), p. 312. 17 J. Olney, ‘Autobiography and the Cultural Moment: A Thematic, Historical, and Bibliographical Introduction’, in Autobiography: Essays Theoretical, and Critical, ed. J. Olney (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1980), p. 20.

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Akutagawa on Strindberg and the I-novel In considering Akutagawa’s adoption of Strindberg, it should be noted that there is something in the way that he was affected by Strindberg’s writings that went beyond a purely aesthetic interest and that may help explain his fascination with Strindberg. Strindberg is not just present in ‘Cogwheels’; there is a broad and documented Akutagawa–Strindberg connection that extends beyond this single work.18 After studying his various comments on Strindberg, one is left with the impression that he was deeply affected not only by the literature but also by the life drama of the man behind the letters. I would like to suggest that in Strindberg Akutagawa recognized a fellow tormented soul and identified with him both as an artist and on a personal level. We can find traces of such a blending of life and art in his appreciation of Strindberg in, for instance, the Words of a Dwarf, here from a posthumously published edition: Two tragedies The life tragedy of Strindberg was a book open to all observers. But the life tragedy of Tolstoy was unfortunately not a book open to all observers. Consequently, the latter ended even more tragically than the former. Strindberg He knew everything. Moreover, all that he knew, he disclosed frankly. All frankly. . . . No, like us, he probably also used calculation to some extent. Furthermore In Legends Strindberg tells of how he conducted an experiment to find out whether death was painful or not. But such an experiment is not something you manage to do just for fun. He, too, was one of those who ‘Wished to die but couldn’t.’19

Here Akutagawa is apparently referring to Strindberg’s semiautobiographical writings, works like Le plaidoyer d’un fou [A Madman’s Defense] (1895), Tjänstekvinnans son [The Son of a Servant] (1886–1909), and 18 Akutagawa in fact mentions Strindberg no less than seventy-four times in twentyfive different texts, both autobiographical and fictional. See O. Morimoto, ‘Akutagawa Ryūnosuke ni okeru Sutorindoberi’ [Strindberg in Ryūnosuke Akutagawa], Ritsumeikan bungaku 10.149. (1957): pp. 688–708, and M. Karlsson, ‘Avtryck i Japan: Strindberg i Akutagawas skrifter’ [Imprints in Japan: Strindberg in the Writings of Akutagawa], Strindbergiana 11 (1996): pp. 31–50 for discussions of Akutagawa’s literary treatment of Strindberg in general. 19 R. Akutagawa, Shuju no kotoba (Ikō) [Words of a Dwarf (Posthumously Published Manuscript)], in Akutagawa Ryūnosuke zenshū, vol.16 (1927; rpt., Tokyo: Iwanami Shoten, 1997), p. 74.


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Inferno, in addition to Legends. To be sure, these works are based to some extent on the life of Strindberg. And to be sure, Akutagawa is cautious inasmuch as he discerns an element of calculation in Strindberg. Still, I would like to suggest that Akutagawa adopts a basically referential reading in which fictitious statements conform to factual events. A case in point is Akutagawa’s stating that Strindberg, the historical person, had conducted an experiment in suicide. What evidence would have been available to Akutagawa, outside of the fictional world, that this was so? Regardless of the claim that Akutagawa read Strindberg in a referential vein, the crucial point is that both writers operated in a similar literary milieu, that is, a milieu that made no sharp distinctions between fact and fiction, or life and art. Thus, relevant to the comparison between the two authors is not only the way in which the reading public received Strindberg and Akutagawa but also, as we shall see especially in the case of Strindberg, the reception that these writers expected of, and projected on, their readers. That writers undoubtedly play on these referential reading conventions and assumptions about authenticity in literature and use them to promote their careers, is obviously part of the picture. In order to become a name you have to create a stir. Akutagawa must have anticipated that a work like ‘Cogwheels’ would inevitably be understood as autobiography—especially since he sprinkled his text with allusions to himself. Therefore, he was obviously aware of the preconceived ideas his readers had. In this respect Donald Keene’s reading appears representative: ‘After reading ‘Cogwheels’ we can only marvel that Akutagawa did not kill himself sooner.’20 Thus, a referential understanding of autobiographical fiction entails complications on multiple levels. It even appears this blending of life and art was a defining feature of the very literary milieux in which Akutagawa and Strindberg were active. Here it should be pointed out that these matters were probably not of any great concern to Akutagawa himself. In an article entitled ‘“Watakushi” shōsetsuron shōken’ [My Views on the Debate on the ‘I’-Novel], he finds a way of evading the matter of inauthentic autobiography by asserting that authors can, in the final analysis, only express what already exists within their hearts. For instance, if a certain author endows the protagonist of the I-novel he is writing with the virtue of filial piety, a virtue he does not possess himself, he may, perhaps, morally be called a liar. However, 20 D. Keene, Dawn to the West: Japanese Literature in the Modern Era (New York: Henry Holt, 1984), p. 584.

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since a protagonist like this existed in his heart before the I-novel found its expression, he is far from being a liar. He has only expressed a kind of inner truth.21 In this sense, Akutagawa gives I-novelists carte blanche, it seems. Still, what Akutagawa—and contemporary readers in general— did not discern in the case of Strindberg is his tendency to indulge in selfexposure, something that made ‘ruthless confession’ his hallmark. To a large extent he apparently staged his own life and crises in order to obtain material for his writing. There is reason to believe that he manipulated his surroundings and at times even deliberately acted insane. So when Akutagawa dispensed carte blanche to I-novelists, he probably did not have in mind the Strindberg type of ‘insincere’ writer. It is now time to turn to the issue of possible insincerity in Strindberg. Strindberg and the Psychosciences In order to better understand the literary milieu in which Strindberg operated we need to take a closer look at the reception of his works. Right from the start of Strindberg’s career as a writer, critics, literary historians, psychiatrists, readers, and the general public declared him insane. In Sweden, where Strindberg is still today far and away the brightest star in the national literary firmament, there is a firmly rooted belief that he was indeed mad. Even people who have never read a single word of Strindberg know that he was at least half crazy. In the twentieth century, the case of Strindberg began to attract the attention of the psychosciences.22 The diagnoses were usually based not only on his fiction but also on diaries and letters, as well as on evidence by people who knew or had met him. However, the diagnoses of most foreign psychiatrists were based solely on Strindberg’s novels. Thus, by placing Inferno ‘on the couch’, psychiatrists permitted themselves to diagnose its author as suffering from manic depression, schizophrenia, paranoia, and so forth. In fact, the German psychiatrist Wilhelm Lange-Eichbaum, who went through Strindberg’s case sheet in 1956, found that Strindberg had been posthumously diagnosed with no less than thirty-six disorders! 21 R. Akutagawa, ‘“Watakushi” shōsetsuron shōken’ [My Views on the Debate on the ‘I’-novel], Akutagawa Ryūnosuke zenshū vol. 13 (1925; rpt., Tokyo: Iwanami Shoten, 1996), p. 24. 22 See U. Olsson, Jag blir galen: Strindberg, vansinnet och vetenskapen [I’m Going out of My Mind: Strindberg, Insanity, and Science] (Stockholm: Brutus Östlings Bokförlag Symposion, 2002), esp. pp. 166–208, for the roots of this discussion of Strindberg and psychiatry. Hereafter cited by page number.


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(166–167). At the beginning of the twentieth century there was a surge of studies of Strindberg carried out by German psychiatrists, spurred on by the contemporary assumption that Strindberg’s writings were entirely, and unproblematically, autobiographical. The novels under study were understood by the new psychosciences to possess veracity as authentic biographical testimony concerning Strindberg, either through what they told or through how they told it. That these novels belonged to a literary genre called autobiography, or confessional writing, was of no concern to the psychiatrists. Thus, they did not take into consideration the obvious fact that the protagonist need not necessarily be identified with the author. One psychiatrist, Siegfried Rahmer, simply concluded that Strindberg’s works constituted a reflected image of his state of mind (180). Consequently, he was thought to be a suitable case for analysis. Here it should be mentioned that subsequent Swedish psychiatric research has been reluctant to diagnose Strindberg with outright mental illness. What this research suggests instead is that Strindberg was suffering from a temporary paranoid psychosis. Reinterpreting Strindberg More recent literary scholarship has taken a more cautious, not to say suspicious, stance towards Strindberg’s confessional writing. The first critic to suggest that Strindberg played at madness in order to promote his creative powers was Evert Sprinchorn in 1967: Strindberg created his experiences in order to write about them. Interested in exploring the frontier where jealousy encroaches on madness, he set up a model of the terrain in his own home [ . . . ] But Strindberg could not step out of his role without being called a fraud. He had to play the game for real even if it meant injuring himself and others.23

Interestingly, well-known novelist and critic Itō Sei made a similar remark in the context of a discussion of the Japanese I-novel in 1948: ‘Part of the newness of the modern Japanese writers’ artistic methods lies in the fact that they experimented with their lives by constructing their selves so that they would be worthy of being described by themselves.’24

23 E. Sprinchorn, introduction to A Madman’s Defense (New York: Anchor Books, 1967), p. xiv. 24 Quoted in T. Suzuki, Narrating the Self: Fictions of Japanese Modernity (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1996), p. 61.

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Furthermore, in a 1979 biography of Strindberg that has since received great attention, positive as well as negative, the distinguished Swedish writer and literary historian Olof Lagercrantz argues that the bias towards reading Strindberg’s oeuvre primarily autobiographically has meant that critics and readers have failed to recognize what is universally human in the characters that Strindberg created. This bias was spurred on by Oscar Levertin, Sweden’s foremost literary critic at the time of Strindberg’s death. Says Levertin: ‘August Strindberg could be called August the First, the Confessor, for it would be hard to find a more ruthless writer.’25 Lagercrantz contests this view: ‘Strindberg the confessor and self-revealer is a myth. When he feels like confessing, he always disguises himself, while the purported self-portraits are designed to lead us on to false tracks’ (237). In the chapter on Inferno, the most controversial part of his book (chapter 13), Lagercrantz conducts a radical reinterpretation of Strindberg’s so-called Inferno crisis. He argues that all of Strindberg’s alleged autobiographical writings, including Inferno, must be understood first and foremost as fiction: But if The Serving Maid’s Son [The Son of a Servant] and A Fool’s Apology [A Madman’s Defense] are unreliable as strict autobiographical material, so is Inferno, and to a much greater degree. The book is completely useless as a source for the description of Strindberg’s life during that period: just as in the Apology, the details are correct, but the overall picture is false. On the other hand, ‘false’ seems too strong a word: Inferno does have its own inner truth and will always be seen as a great human document, but its central figure, Strindberg, is not the same man we are dealing with in the present biography—he is a fictitious character. (263)

In short, what Lagercrantz tries to do is to bring Strindberg down to earth by dispelling myths and legends that have accumulated around his person. In the meantime he gives Strindberg a clean bill of health. It should be mentioned, though, that Lagercrantz’s view had been proposed much earlier in a somewhat diluted form. Brandell, for instance, suggests that Inferno belongs to the category of ‘documents humains,’ or more or less truthful reports from the life of the author, common during the late naturalistic period when psychological curiosities were given a great deal of attention. These works often accentuated the pathological aspects of psychic life. Thus, Brandell places Inferno in the same group of works as Knut Hamsun’s Sult [Hunger] (1890) and Guy de Maupassant’s ‘Le Horla’ [‘The 25 Quoted in O. Lagercrantz, August Strindberg, trans. A. Hollo (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1984), p. 366. Hereafter cited by page number.


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Horla’] (1887) (247). Incidentally, the protagonists of ‘The Horla’ and Inferno show a striking affinity in the way that they perceive themselves as being threatened by an invisible entity or occult force. Consequently, ‘The Horla’ has been identified as a forerunner to Inferno. However, links between ‘The Horla’ and ‘Cogwheels’ are harder to discern. ‘The Horla’ contains nothing like the cipher of correspondences and analogies so common to the other two works. Lagercrantz emphasizes that the purpose of Strindberg’s journey to Paris in 1894 was to promote his career, to conquer the city both literarily and scientifically. In order to succeed he had to create a stir around his own person and he had to make the newest literary trends his own. He needed to secure a position in the literary avant-garde or, if possible, ahead of it. Although Strindberg was not directly influenced by symbolism, he relabelled his works in order to fit in with this leading movement of the day. Fröken Julie [Miss Julie] (1888), which he had proudly claimed as the first naturalist play a few years earlier, now became a symbolist play. Strindberg obviously felt he had to distance himself from naturalism, which was already passé, in order not to appear as a has-been. As plans for Inferno took form, Strindberg started to devote himself to occultism, a fashionable subject of the day. As Brandell has shown, the occultist school that Strindberg joined in 1896 was not an obscure, marginal sect but a trend that had been the focus of literary debate for years and had attracted the attention of many symbolist poets. In short, it was one of the most striking features of intellectual and artistic life of fin-de-siècle Paris (110–111).26 In a letter to a friend Strindberg writes: ‘You said recently that there is need for a Zola of Occultism. I hear that call, in a grand and elevated sense. A poem in prose: called Inferno’ (quoted in Lagercrantz, 277). Behind the infinite combinations of occurrences and coincidences that confront him, Strindberg accordingly imagines a ghostly governing hand. It is this Strindberg, the seeker of the unifying force behind inexplicable correspondences and parallels, who is the protagonist of Inferno. If mysticism and occultism figured largely in fin-de-siècle culture, so did ideas about the hypersensitive artistic intellect. According to Lagercrantz, Strindberg incorporated these ideas into his life and work as well. 26 See also H. G. Carlson, Out of Inferno: Strindberg’s Reawakening as an Artist (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1996), pp. 187–222, for more on Strindberg’s appropriation of the occult.

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Thus, he consciously nurtured his phobias and extravagant notions in order to emphasize his self-portrait as the mad genius and, moreover, in order to obtain material for writing. According to this line of thought, Strindberg, among other things, exaggerated his latent paranoid notions and voluntarily played the role of the sacrificial lamb. Incidentally, Lagercrantz’s view on the autobiographical content of Strindberg’s fiction corresponds intriguingly well with Edward Fowler’s general approach to the shishōsetsu. Lagercrantz notes that ‘around the turn of the year 1894–95, the beggar theme featured more and more frequently in Strindberg’s correspondence. Increasingly, he described himself as a wretched, hounded creature’ (266). Likewise, Fowler discusses the early twentieth-century Japanese I-novelists’ self-proclaimed demand for truthful description of lived experience in terms of ‘approaches to experience’. Thus, for instance, we find the following chapter title: ‘Kasai Zenzō: The Hero as Victim’. Fowler’s argument is that rather than rendering their random experience the I-novelists were occupied with presenting highly unified self-portraits in which only experience consistent with their own visions of themselves were recorded.27 Consequently, Lagercrantz offers a key to understanding Strindberg’s ‘Inferno-crisis’: ‘Strindberg was listening with his inner ear and admitting his fantasies and dreams a reality, which he did not confuse with the facts of his exoteric life’ (276). Lagercrantz’s strongest argument is perhaps that Strindberg’s command of language and intellect, judged, for instance, by the letters he wrote during the time in question, remained intact, even when the drama of his crisis is supposed to have reached its climax. Strindberg’s very life circumstances thus speak against our understanding his confessional writing referentially. In other words, the more we learn about Strindberg’s life circumstances, the less likely we are to take his literary confessions at face value. Authenticity in Akutagawa When we turn to Akutagawa, we find that his narrative stance in ‘Cogwheels’ is remarkably similar to that of Strindberg’s in Inferno. Akutagawa, too, is listening with his inner ear and admitting his fantasies and dreams to be reality. We must remember that the discourse, in both cases, remains perfectly lucid throughout, even when it is rendering a supposedly ‘insane’ 27 E. Fowler, The Rhetoric of Confession: Shishōsetsu in Early Twentieth-Century Japanese Fiction (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1988), pp. 248–289.


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content. Consequently, we may categorize both works as experiments in ‘writing’ insanity. As Miyoshi notes, although ‘Cogwheels’ portrays severe spiritual confusion and a nervous breakdown, the short story itself remains ‘very structural’ and shows ‘no traces of technical failure’ (305). Miyoshi argues that Akutagawa was never able to liberate himself from his views on perfectionism in art, as set forth in ‘Geijutsu sono hoka’ [Art and Other Matters] (306–307). Here we discover yet another reason for understanding the ‘insane’ features of ‘Cogwheels’ as primarily literary constructions. That is, had the ‘insane’ features been completely authentic renderings of experiences, if such a thing is conceivable, one should have expected the verbal representation of them in ‘Cogwheels’ to have been less lucid and more confused—especially since at the time of writing, Akutagawa would have been much closer in time to his supposed experiences than Strindberg would have been to his when he was writing Inferno. As for incoherent renderings of a confused mental content, it seems literary history had to wait for modernism’s more radical experiments with interior monologue and stream of consciousness. I am thinking of, for instance, Benjy’s monologue in William Faulkner’s The Sound and the Fury and also Quentin’s, which is perhaps a better example in the present context since it carries some autobiographical content within the fictional story. From this analysis we may conclude that the boku of ‘Cogwheels’ is a far more fundamentally dramatized character than we initially might have thought. To paraphrase Lagercrantz: he is a fictitious character, not the same man that biographies of Akutagawa deal with. If we still want to insist on a referential, contextual reading, it is revealing to compare the very different images of the author to be gleaned from ‘Cogwheels’ and the likewise seemingly autobiographical short story ‘Shinkirō’ [Mirage] (1927). Written shortly before ‘Cogwheels’, ‘Shinkirō’ is a kind of dress rehearsal of the later work. It centres on a similar theme of elusive apprehension. In it we meet boku (likewise identified in the text as Akutagawa) in a similar oppressed state of mind: ‘Once again I felt something ominous that you were not supposed to feel in the light of day.’28 However, at this earlier stage the narration is still conveyed in a subdued, down-to-earth tone of voice. It is not until ‘Cogwheels’ that imagination is set free and the theme of insanity is investigated to the full.

28 R. Akutagawa, ‘Shinkirō’ [Mirage], in Akutagawa Ryūnosuke zenshū, vol. 14 (1927; rpt., Tokyo: Iwanami Shoten, 1996), p. 95.

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This is not to say that ‘Cogwheels’ entirely lets go of the author’s personal circumstances. The boku of ‘Cogwheels’ is mortally afraid of going insane. At one point in the story he is about to make a phone call to a certain mental hospital but changes his mind at the last moment, realizing that to enter it would be tantamount to dying (230–31). In fact, Akutagawa’s mother had gone insane before her son had turned one, and throughout his adult life he feared that his mother’s illness would prove to be hereditary. Moreover, that Akutagawa did in fact, for example, suffer from hallucinations that took the form of semitransparent cogwheels, which would increase in number to obstruct his sight, is supported by nonfictional evidence, a letter dated 28 March 1927 to Saitō Mokichi, Akutagawa’s psychiatrist.29 Consequently, there is no reason to doubt the general authenticity of ‘Cogwheels’ as a deeply felt testimony of a suffering soul.30 Nor is that what matters here. What matters is an appreciation of the narrative act as fundamentally an imaginative endeavor. When Akutagawa swallowed a lethal dose of sleeping pills before dawn on 24 July 1927, he left a sort of will in the form of a letter to a friend.31 In it he writes of a vague anxiety about the future. Even in Japan, where suicides by writers are not entirely uncommon, Akutagawa, more than anyone else, has come to personify the image of the suffering artist on the verge of a mental breakdown. His death has also come to symbolize the spirit of the age and the end of an era, the Taishō period. This particular niche that has been reserved for Akutagawa in the national literary pantheon of Japan must have some connection to the way in which his literature was received. As Irmela Hijiya-Kirschnereit notes: Shishōsetsu contain innumerable features which arouse the public’s interest in the personality of the author, which obviously refer to his personality, and which, in part, can be understood only if the reader has prior biographical knowledge of the author. Thus, a method of reading is required that the public gladly adopts. There can be no doubt that one important reason for the popularity of the genre is that it sanctions public voyeurism.32 29

See Morimoto, Shinkō Akutagawa Ryūnosuke den kaiteiban, p. 320. I am not, however, suggesting that a piece of fiction has to be true-to-experience in order to be deeply felt by the writer or of concern to readers. 31 R. Akutagawa, ‘Aru kyūyū e okuru shuki [A Memorandum Sent to a Certain Old Friend]’ Akutagawa Ryūnosuke zenshū vol. 16 (1927; rpt., Tokyo: Iwanami Shoten, 1997), p. 3. 32 I. Hijiya-Kirschnereit, Rituals of Self-Revelation: Shishōsetsu as Literary Genre and Socio-Cultural Phenomenon (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1996), p. 285. 30


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After all, these novels based their entire raison d’être on the claim that they were authentic reconstructions of lived experience. According to the tenet of shishōsetsu, authors supposedly pledged that everything they depicted conformed to seen, heard, or experienced facts.33 Hence, I would suggest that a writer like Akutagawa, having suffered a severe sense of dislocation, lingers somewhere in the national memory as the bad conscience of a gruelling modernization process. Put differently, we may safely assume that the late works of Akutagawa led to the development of a kind of pessimistic outlook on Akutagawa in the public consciousness that was reinforced by his suicide, an outlook that remains intact to this day. Cultural and Literary Contexts As we have seen, Akutagawa’s agony, as rendered in ‘Cogwheels’, was inspired by that of Strindberg. What, then, was Strindberg’s agony inspired by? According to a well-known simile, the artistic masterpiece is the product of a sick mind, just as the pearl is the product of a sickness in the clam resulting from its seeking to protect itself from a chafing grain of sand. The end of the nineteenth century saw in Europe the heyday of the notion that only a thin line separates genius from insanity insofar as the necessary condition for brilliant intellectual talent is psychic abnormality. During this period ideas about the dependence of artistic creativity on insanity were asserted perhaps more insistently than ever before. Allen Thiher discusses how late nineteenth-century poets cultivated madness as a means of gaining the supreme knowledge that would enable them to defend a privileged space for literature in opposition to positivist psychiatry, which was seen as a police power, and in opposition to bourgeois cultural norms. In the words of Thiher, ‘this nineteenth-century equation of deviant inner experience with superior knowledge strikes me as something new in our history’.34 Madness was thus seen to grant access to domains of creativity not available to the mentally sound. This trend was spurred on by the appearance of a bohemian and decadent culture that opposed the normality of the 33

See M. Nakamura, Fūzokushōsetsuron [On the Novel of Manners] (Tokyo: Kawade Shobō, 1950), p. 95. 34 A. Thiher, Revels in Madness: Insanity in Medicine and Literature (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1999), p. 221; see also pp. 195–223 for the relevant general argument.

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bourgeoisie. Put differently, ‘the question of who is mad thus begins to seem really the question of who gets to define the criteria: on aesthetic criteria, it is bourgeois materialism and philistinism which seem mad’.35 As contemporary art was diagnosed as insane by bourgeois society, insanity also acquired the status of something desirable. Experiencing confused sensations was a sign not only of mental disorder but also of artistic talent. Soon after arriving in Paris, Strindberg had published an essay in Le figaro with the title of ‘Sensations détraquées’, meaning ‘deranged sensations’.36 As Brandell notes, the word détraqué, like the word décadent, was an accolade for the litterateurs of fin-de-siècle Paris: People wanted to be ‘détraqué’, mad in a brilliant and sensitive way. Behind this fashion lay the idea that the higher, more refined intellectual life was closely allied to madness, or that in any case, it must appear so to the uninitiated masses. Psychiatric discoveries concerning the connection between genius and mental illness, as well as the examples of Poe, Baudelaire, and Verlaine, helped to foster this idea. According to one of Strindberg’s letters, his aim in ‘Sensations détraquées’ was ‘to anticipate the capacities of a future, more highly developed psychic life, which we still lack and which I can only sustain for an instant before falling back, exhausted by the effort, into my old frame of mind’. (188–189)

To be mad and hypersensitive was thus tantamount to being modern. Insanity became fashion merchandise on the spiritual market. Strindberg no doubt knew how to turn this fashion to his advantage by consciously cultivating an opportune insanity not only within the framework of literature but also in his private life. Strindberg’s evocation of occultism is also of a piece with the idea that he was attempting to position himself in the forefront of cultural debate. Thus we have identified the cultural context of Strindberg’s socalled insanity. I would suggest that Akutagawa, perhaps inadvertently, adopted occultism and notions about the half-mad genius and suffering artist through his reading of Strindberg. Furthermore, I would suggest that this is one of the routes by which ideas associated with Europe’s modernity found their way to Japan. It may seem far-fetched or somewhat of an exaggeration to postulate such a route. However, in his well-known essay ‘Fūzokushōsetsuron’ [On the Novel of Manners], 35

T. V. F. Brogan, ‘Poetic Madness’, in The New Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry and Poetics, ed. A. Preminger and T. V. F. Brogan (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1993), p. 929. 36 A. Strindberg, ‘Sensations détraquées’ [Deranged Sensations], Le Figaro littéraire, 17 November 1894; 26 January 1895, and 9 February 1895.


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Nakamura Mitsuo argues along similar lines, although in another context. In this essay, Nakamura tries to answer the question why Tayama Katai’s type of shishōsetsu came to have such a great impact on the development of the novel in Japan. He finds part of the answer in the way that Katai’s Futon [The Quilt] (1906) offered a method to Japanese writers of adapting modern Western literature to Japanese forms. This method consists in ‘becoming’ a character from a Western novel or play in order to experience and explore the motifs of that work, thus offering the writer a position as a sort of participating observer. Next, the writer establishes himself as the protagonist of a new novel of his own and records the experiences of his roleplaying in it. In this respect Nakamura considers the method of the shishōsetsu a convenient device for the transplantation of foreign literature to Japan. According to this somewhat diagrammatic scheme, the writer succeeds in incorporating new foreign thought by choosing the foreign novel most suitable for his personal acting and turning it into the stage for a novel of his own.37 Indeed, there exists a statement by Akutagawa to the effect that he considered Strindberg a kind of representative of the modern spirit and consequently a suitable model to emulate: When I looked at him [Strindberg] I felt as if I was looking at a prism of the modern spirit. In his works all human psychology is dismantled into the seven colours, with all the subtle tonal variations in between. No, when it comes to Inferno and Legends, even the strange ultraviolet rays are captured sharply there.38

The genre of confessional writing constitutes a complex system of disguises and veils. Behind them authenticity slips away between the fingers like wet soap. This investigation has shown us that what to all appearances seemed to be Akutagawa’s personal hell turns out not to be completely his own after all. It is not even, in the final analysis, Strindberg’s. On the contrary, what we find on the pages of ‘Cogwheels’ are verbal constructions, reverberations, and echoes from all kinds of literary sources and cultural trends. Read purely as fiction ‘Cogwheels’ certainly stands on its own as a masterpiece in the genre of renditions of the tormented soul. However, given the fertile ground for referential 37

Nakamura, Fūzokushōsetsuron, pp. 87–90. R. Akutagawa, ‘Ano koro no jibun no koto (Sakujobun)’ [About Myself Around That Time (Deleted Parts)], Akutagawa Ryūnosuke zenshū, vol. 4 (1919; rpt., Tokyo: Iwanami Shoten, 1996), pp. 144–145. The deleted parts belonged to the original publication in the journal Chūō kōron but were deleted from subsequent editions. 38

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readings, the short story gives rise to all sorts of additional assumptions about authenticity and sincerity in literature and about the historic person behind the pen, Akutagawa himself. In contrast to what conventional referential readings of the short story claim, I believe ‘Cogwheels’ is Akutagawa’s attempt at A Portrait of the Artist as Insane. In it we can also recognize projections of European notions of the mad genius. In fact, Miyoshi is arguing along similar lines, although he does not bring Strindberg into the picture: ‘Boku’ has a thorough knowledge of modern ailments, yet he cannot help but die for modernity. While longing for the other, anti-modern, shore, he had stayed on this shore and lived through it, carrying the fate of the modern intellectual class on his own back. ‘Cogwheels’ is a rare work, sounding the depth of the despair and solitude of the self-destructing Western intellectual. (303–304)

By way of conclusion, I would like to argue that this case provides a concrete example of how European fin-de-siècle ideas entered the Japanese cultural sphere. It is nothing less than a case of cultural appropriation in operation.39

39 This chapter is a revised version of my article ‘Writing Madness: Deranged Impressions in Akutagawa’s “Cogwheels” and Strindberg’s Inferno’ that appeared in Comparative Literature Studies (The Pennsylvania State University Press), Vol. 46, No. 4, 2009.

MODERNISM AND ITS ENDINGS: KAJII MOTOJIRŌ AS TRANSITIONAL WRITER Stephen Dodd Men, like poets, rush ‘into the middest’, in medias res, when they are born; they also die in mediis rebus, and to make sense of their span they need fictive concords with origins and ends, such as give meaning to lives and to poems.1

Born in 1901, Kajii Motojirō wrote only about twenty short stories before dying of tuberculosis in 1932, and is best known today in Japan and (if at all) in the West for his short story, ‘Lemon’ (Remon, 1925). His personal history can be briefly stated. Growing up in Osaka, his first ambition was to become an engineer. It was only after he entered Kyoto’s Third Higher School (Sankō) that fellow students encouraged him to develop an interest in music and the arts, and he eventually turned to the writing of literature. In 1924, he went to study at the prestigious Tokyo University, and ‘Lemon’ appeared the following year in Aozora, a coterie magazine (dōjin zasshi) edited by Kajii and his fellow students. However, just as he was beginning to flex his literary muscles his TB took a turn for the worse. He had no option but to leave Tokyo late in 1926 and he convalesced for sixteen months in the hotspring resort of Yugashima on the Izu Peninsula. After a brief return to Tokyo, deteriorating health forced him to return home to Osaka in 1928, where his family nursed him until his death. It really was a brief but, as I hope to demonstrate, significant literary career. Until now, very few critics in the West have seriously explored Kajii and his literature. Even in Japan, although many scholars express interest in his intriguing narrative plots and beautiful poetic prose style, relatively little critical work has been done other than biographical studies. The most important book to date, by Suzuki Sadami,2 places the writer


Kermode, Frank. The Sense of an Ending: Studies in the Theory of Literature. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1968: pp. 6–7. 2 Suzuki Sadami, Kajii Motojirō no sekai (Tokyo: Sakuhinsha, 2001).

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in a broader perspective, but there is still a need to examine Kajii’s literary and cultural importance more closely and in greater depth. In this chapter, I will suggest that one of the reasons to value Kajii’s writing in the development of modern Japanese literature lies in its potential to offer a clearer analysis of cultural change in early Shōwa Japan. Specifically, Kajii negotiated a subtle but fundamental cultural shift during the brief period of his writing. He was active at a moment of change between two very different literary and social environments, and it is precisely because his stories incorporate aspects of the old as well as the new that they throw light on the very process of that transformation. I will pursue this argument specifically through an examination of Kajii’s engagement with Modernism, but this requires some initial reflection on the way in which Kajii might usefully be understood as a transitional writer. Kajii in Context Though the period of Kajii’s literary activity was very short (1925– 1932), it stands out as a moment of substantial cultural change between the mid–1920s and the early 1930s. In order to identify the importance of his work in articulating the transitional nature of this time, let me sketch out the two environments that his writing bridges. The literary space into which Kajii emerged began in 1923 with the Kantō earthquake, a major disaster that caused huge physical destruction to parts of Tokyo and considerable death among its citizens. Equally it became the catalyst for a radical upheaval in the literary world. One of the movements that appeared from the ashes was Proletarian literature, which sought, through Marxism, to transform the political and economic landscape of Japan. The other major literary movement was the Neo-Sensationalist School, the Shinkankaku-ha, of which Yokomitsu Riichi (1898–1947) was a leading figure. While Yokomitsu had felt that the first-person narratives of the I-Novel style, prevalent during Taishō (1912–1926), offered too narrow a representation of reality, his attitude towards Proletarian literature, was no less condemnatory. In his view, its ideological basis was too narrow, and its means of expression not revolutionary enough. Instead, Yokomitsu expressed a desire to draw on Modernist movements—including futurism, Dadaism and surrealism—to create a brand new Japanese language that aspired to nothing less than smashing through bourgeois ideology


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and the strictures of historical precedent. Ultimately, he hoped to produce texts that would speak to a more authentic reality rooted firmly in the world of sensation. The conflicting ideologies of this period have been explored recently in the work of some outstanding scholars. Seiji Lippit suggests, among other things, that a fragmentation of grammar and narrative, which are characteristic of Modernist literature, reflected the mixed mood of unease and excitement during Taishō; Gregory Golley explores the role of scientific discovery in the creation of a Modernist sensibility; and William Tyler offers not only translations of short stories, but also a series of useful essays setting out the main characteristics of Japanese Modernist fiction.3 In contrast, by the early 1930s when Kajii was contemplating the real possibility of his own death, a radically different literary mood had already begun to take shape. Many writers became consumed with the question of identity in the modern world. One major intellectual who gave eloquent expression to this matter was Kobayashi Hideo (1902– 1983), whose seminal essay ‘Literature Without a Native Place’ (‘Kokyō o ushinatta bungaku’, 1933) considered the troubling concept of the native place (furusato). It embodied his reflections on increasingly tenuous links between people and place that he experienced as he grew up. Kobayashi recalls his discomfort whenever he was addressed as a true child of Edo (Edokko), even though he was born and raised in Tokyo. Kobayashi laments how ‘I have a kind of uneasy feeling that I possess no home.’ He felt that his upbringing in a constantly changing urban landscape denied him the ability to identify links between his personal history and fixed physical structures of the city. It could be argued that Kobayashi is rehearsing a familiar Modernist refrain, that modern reality is a fractured and uneasy space resistant to full human integration. During the course of the 1930s, and especially following government repression of Proletarian literature from the late 1920s, this bleak diagnosis of isolated modern individualism became a catalyst for a literary revival. 1933 saw the emergence of writers who sought a renaissance of ‘pure’ Japanese literature that had lost its way, they claimed, under Marxist influence. But it was a second new literary development in the 1930s, the Japanese Romantic School, which offered a more serious critique 3

Seiji, Lippit. Topographies of Japanese Modernism. New York: Columbia University Press, 2002. Golley, Gregory. When Our Eyes No Longer See: Realism, Science, and Ecology in Japanese Literary Modernism. Cambridge: Harvard University Asia Center (distrib. Harvard University Press), 2008. Tyler, William J., ed. Modanizumu: Modernist Fiction from Japan 1913–1938. Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press, 2008.

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of modernity and national identity. This school rejected the Westerninspired key term of ‘civilization and enlightenment’ (bunmei kaika) that had stirred so many in the Meiji Period (1868–1912). Instead, it sought inspiration from poetry, song, myth and emotion—aspects, in short, of an amorphous ‘spirit’ (seishin)—so as to articulate a Japanese version of literary modernity outside the strictures of Western discourse. If individual rootlessness was a problem that troubled a large number of writers as the 1930s began, the Japan Romantics aimed to use that very sense of loss and nostalgia as the common basis for collective experience, from which they hoped to develop a new national subjectivity. Lippit has described this as a move towards the ‘poetics of affect, or sentiment’.4 But it is Kevin Doak who has explored in greatest depth the emergence of the Japan Romantic School and its cultural context.5 While Doak fully acknowledges complex motives among the wide range of writers he covers, overall he depicts an increasingly conservative literary mood in which, unlike the earlier Taishō period, many writers sought to turn their backs on overtly foreign influences. Between these two periods, Kajii gives shape to literary works that do not quite belong to one or the other. Undoubtedly, the influences of the earlier period are clear to see. As I shall explore more fully in the following section, Kajii expressed a strong dislike for the kind of Modernist experimentations carried out by Yokomitsu, and yet some of his stories, including ‘Lemon’, seem to contain very similar Modernist elements. At the same time, Kajii was typical of socially concerned university students of his age with his sympathy towards Marxism; an interest reflected in his final story, ‘The Carefree Patient’ (‘Nonki na kanja’, 1932), which depicts the social effects of TB on various characters living in Osaka. In addition, the highly introverted and selfreflective nature of his writing underlines the continuing attraction of the I-Novel genre. In short, Kajii’s work might be seen as embodying the various literary forms typical of the Taishō period, which he inherited as a young writer. On the other hand, Kajii’s depiction of natural scenes, especially his detailed attention to animals and mountain landscapes, suggests that he prefigures an early 1930s’ desire to return to an emptied out Japanese landscape untainted by decades of contact with Western culture. But this 4

Lippit, op. cit., p. 203. Doak, Kevin. Dreams of Difference: The Japan Romantic School and the Crisis of Modernity. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1994. 5


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would be too simplistic. For one thing, these natural scenes were mostly drawn from his experiences at the time of his enforced convalescence in Yugashima; far from deliberately seeking out any ‘pure’ native landscapes, he was desperate to return to the modern metropolitan centre of Tokyo, and particularly its literary milieu, as soon as possible. In any case, an examination of his stories reveals less differences than one would expect between his portrayals of modern urban and ‘traditional’ rural landscapes. This becomes clear especially through an analysis of the relationship between his narrators and the physical worlds they inhabit. Whether the narrator encounters the rundown, slum area of a city visible from his window,6 or the mating activities of frogs in a mountain stream,7 the stories focus mainly on the narrator’s ambiguous and constantly shifting thoughts that throw any easy distinction between inner self and outer world into question.8 Moreover, Kajii differs qualitatively from 1930s writers who articulate desire for a ‘pure’ Japanese experience that transcends Western influences.9 It may be that Kajii shares with such writers a tendency to lace rural depictions with a mood of sentimentality and nostalgia, but his texts are driven by anxiety over personal, not national, identity. In that sense, Kajii retains the air of a more individualistic, introverted Taishō writer. Even an examination of Kajii’s literary style presents a complex picture that defies easy classification. He produces narrative moments that might be likened to ‘epiphanies’, that is, frozen, ecstatically beautiful points in the text that have been identified by Charles Taylor as distinctly Modernist.10 In ‘Lemon’, the remarkable scene of the fruit shop at night, with its colourful spread lit by a blaze of electrical lights, is an example. Yet in general Kajii’s style appears to lack the same degree of violent fragmentation of language and grammar championed by the young Yokomitsu. Instead, Kajii’s writing more closely resembles the apparently effortless, poetical, and highly aesthetic style found in Kawabata Yasunari’s (1899–1972) 6 ‘Landscapes of the Heart’ (‘Aru kokoro no fûkei’, 1926), pp. 91–105, in Kajii Motojirō zenshû, vol.1, Tokyo: Chikuma shobō, 1999. All quotation from Kajii’s stories are taken from this volume. All translations of this, and other Kajii stories, are my own. 7 ‘Mating’ (‘Kōbi’, 1931), op. cit., pp. 213–222. 8 I explore the theme of self and other in Kajii’s writing in ‘Self and Other in the Writings of Kajii Motojirō’ in R. Hutchinson and Williams, M. (eds.), Representing the Other in Modern Japanese Literature: A Critical Approach, pp. 96–108. London: Routledge, 2006. 9 I am thinking, for example, of the final section of Shiga Naoya’s Dark Night’s Passing (An’ya kōro), completed in 1937, where the central character, Kensaku, experiences a kind of spiritual enlightenment after climbing Mt Daisen. 10 Taylor, Charles. Sources of the Self: The Making of the Modern Identity. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1989, p. 419.

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novel, Snow Country, written during the mid–1930s. The fact that Kajii’s work takes up this wide range of literary influences, but resists obvious definition through them, effectively points to a culture in flux. It would take a full book to explore all the avenues I have outlined above (and this is, indeed, my long-term aim). In the following section, I restrict myself to some comments on Kajii’s engagement with Modernism. It might be useful to bear in mind that Kajii’s personal experience of TB contributed to the production of a literature particularly sensitive to questions of life and death. This sensitivity not only led to a high level of individual existentialist anxiety; it also informed his interpretation of the broader world of literary possibilities around him, including Modernism. To study Kajii is to study how one set of ideas ends and another set of ideas begins. Through his encounter with Modernism and its limitations, Kajii gives shape to his own mortality even as he fumbles for a new way forward. Narrating the Unknowable In The Sense of an Ending, Frank Kermode suggests that an apocalyptic theme pervades the Western literary tradition. The Bible, beginning with Genesis and ending with the Apocalypse (Revelation), presents a narrative shape in which the final ending ‘is traditionally held to resume the whole structure’. This basic pattern—with its beginning, middle and inevitable end—has informed the imaginations of numerous apocalyptic visionaries, even if their predictions have required they develop complex understandings of time’s patterning in order to take into account precisely the unpredictability of the future. Those of a literary bent have been no less keen to adopt and play with this narrative shape so as to try and make sense of their own lives and the world in which they find themselves. Kermode is concerned specifically with the Western tradition, but the same impulse to use narratives as a way of locating human significance in the endless flow of things is also found in Japanese literature. Of course, there are countless variations to the shape these narratives have taken, not least due to the fact that western religions have tended to envisage linear progression through time, whereas Japan has been more greatly influenced by the Buddhist emphasis on cyclical time. But the basic drive towards narrative identified by Kermode holds true, particularly so in the case of Kajii, whose debilitating illness ensured that his fictions were constructed with a heightened awareness of ‘origins and


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ends’. Even so, the fragile nature of these constructions are sometimes laid bare, as in ‘The Ascension of K, or K’s Drowning’ (‘K no shōten, aruiwa K no dekishi’, 1926),11 where the very positive interpretation of K’s death as a removal to a higher realm of existence struggles against the more prosaic, less meaningful possibility implied within the title itself, namely, that he simply succumbed to a watery grave. Kermode goes beyond general observations, however, to suggest that the apocalyptic tenor continued into much of the radical modernist experimentation in early twentieth century literature. If this is true, then parallels with the specific conditions of Japanese writers in the 1920s come into sharper focus. For Kermode, Modernism is infused with a sense of crisis, a feeling that life as we know it is coming to an end. In fact, he warns against viewing this mood as in any way unique to the period; it is, he asserts, common to many earlier moments in history. Nevertheless, if crises may be understood as points of both ending and beginning, then a powerful contribution to the apocalyptic aspect of Modernism in particular is a matter of timing; it came into its own as the nineteenth century turned into the twentieth. The cultural manifestation of this historical axis is encapsulated by the term, fin de siècle, and its phenomena include ‘the utopian renovationism of some political sects and the anarchism of others’, reflected by a similar mix of anxiety over loss and excitement about new possibilities in the arts. It was a period when decadence ‘became a literary category’.12 In Japan, it was not until two decades later during Taishō that an equivalent set of radical ideas in politics and the arts, including those of a Modernist character, flowered. As in the West, some writers revealed an interest in a self-obsessed ‘decadent’ literary style—authors like Satō Haruo (1892–1964) come to mind—while the nervous anxieties of the age are represented in Akutagawa Ryūnosuke’s (1892–1927) depiction of a mind in the process of disintegration in his autobiographical short story, ‘Cogwheels’ (‘Haguruma’), published only posthumously following his suicide in 1927. Newly emerging writers (shinshin sakka), whether identified with Proletarian literature or Modernism, argued that an earlier generation of Naturalists should give way to the force of their own compelling visions. The hothouse nature of this cultural and political environment when new literary and artistic styles jostled for the limelight has even led to the period being identified as Japan’s own 11 12

KMZS, pp. 107–117. Kermode, ibid., pp. 96–97.

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fin de siècle (seiki matsu) moment.13 The devastating 1923 earthquake only further emphasized the apocalyptic nature of the times. Kajii was writing just at this time when Modernist trends were emerging in Japan as a dominant force. In order to gain a clearer picture of Kajii’s distinctive relationship with Modernism, it is useful to consider some comments by Ronald Schleifer, who is also interested in links between Modernism and endings. His ideas on rhetoric and death are particularly relevant. As if to confirm Kermode’s identification of the modern age with crisis, Schleifer refers to what George Steiner has called a great ‘crisis of sense’ occurring ‘in the concept and understanding of language’ at the beginning of the twentieth century. It was no longer possible to articulate any ‘transcendental significance in experience—significance, most specifically, in relation to God and to death’. The result was that: . . . death itself—that great emptiness—has come, in the educated opinion of our time, to be uninhabited by any transcendental understanding that could answer its terrible facticity.

Schleifer does not borrow from Steiner in order to refute Kermode’s assertion that an awareness of endings is integral to Modernism, but he does imply that words may be insufficient to describe death, the most definitive ending of all. Indeed, he believes that it is precisely the inability to fully articulate a sense of death that has fundamentally coloured the discourse of Modernism. But despite the apparent hopelessness of the situation, or rather precisely because of it, rhetoric functions as a tool to convey a reality that constantly threatens to evade disclosure. For this reason, Schleifer’s focus is on: . . . the power of discourse to create effects—of meaning, of affect, and even of an unlocatable dread linked somehow to nonsense—by means of material language in the face of an understanding of life and death as themselves contingent material events.

In the context of Kajii’s literary work, though the death of a Westernstyle transcendental God does not apply, his texts may be usefully understood as a struggle to find the ‘material language’ capable of giving shape to the ‘unlocatable dread’ of his own imminent demise. In order to clarify how Kajii’s texts articulate the ‘material events’ of life and death from a variety of angles, another of Schleifer’s observations is 13 See, for instance, Aeba Takao. Nihon kindai no seiki matsu. Tokyo: Bungei shunshû, 1990.


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worth considering since it identifies Kajii more directly with a key concept of Japanese Modernism. When Schleifer speaks of the sense of death, he is talking of sense not only as meaning but also as ‘feeling or sensation’.14 And it is this very term, sensation (kankaku), which Japanese Modernists identified as central to their own literary approach. Proof that sensation was a key concept is found in the very name, Neo-Sensationalists (Shin kankakuha), by which they identified themselves. In 1924, Kawabata was a leading figure associated with the group, and he wrote an essay on the ‘newly emerging writers’ of his day in which he attempted to define Neo-Sensationalism. He establishes an apocalyptic tone from the very beginning by asserting that only ‘newness’ (atarashisa) would guarantee writers their ‘entry into the kingdom of the arts for a new age’. He goes on to express doubt that Proletarian writers have produced the literary style they aspire to; one that is capable of breaking through false bourgeois consciousness in order to bring about revolutionary change to social and political life. In Kawabata’s view, this is because they have largely failed to address the fundamental question of literary expression, specifically the concept of sensation: ‘without new expression there is no new content; without new sensation there is no new expression’.15 Predictably, he believes it is the Neo-Sensationalists who have seen through the false objectivism of earlier Naturalist fiction, and have discovered an entirely new interpretation of reality that properly entitles them to the term ‘newly emerging writers’. In his view, the key to this groundbreaking literary approach was precisely a heightened attention to sensation. Kawabata provides an example of how Japanese Modernists had broken new ground by reevaluating the relationship between the subject and the objective world: For instance, sugar is sweet. In literature until now, the mind has first picked up this sweet quality from the tongue, and the mind has written; ‘it is sweet’. Now, however, ‘it is sweet’ is written with the tongue. Again, until now people have written, ‘my eyes saw the red rose’, assuming the eyes and the rose to be separate things, but newly emerging novelists take the eyes and the rose to be one thing and write, ‘my eyes are the red rose’.16

The problem with this passage, and throughout the essay, is that Kawabata struggles to indicate convincingly how an unmediated relationship 14

Schleifer, op. cit., p. 3. Kawabata Yasunari. ‘Shinshin sakka no shin keikō kaisetsu’. In Kawabata Yasunari zenshû, 172–83. Tokyo: Shichōsha, 1982: p. 174. 16 Ibid., p. 175. 15

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between subject and object can be attained except through the kind of declarative statements in his example. The closest he comes to clarifying the nature of the relationship is through what he calls a ‘new pleasure’ that arises by ‘trusting in the absolute power of subjectivity’. By allowing this subjectivity to flow freely: . . . self and other become one, all things become one. The result is a monistic (ichigen) world in which the whole of creation loses every boundary and harmonizes into one spirit.17

This literary vision is problematic because Kawabata is resorting to a myth of social harmony unrelated to historical reality, which hardly substantiates the iconoclastic ‘new age’ he claims to champion. More dangerously, he seems indifferent to an important distinction Kermode has made, that ‘fictions can degenerate into myths whenever they are not consciously held to be fictive’.18 By ignoring that distinction, Kawabata appears to be grasping for some semblance of stability through the amorphous ‘spirit’ of a timeless and unproblematic native culture, rather than celebrating radical change. In that sense he prefigures the conservative concerns of the Japanese Romantic School in the 1930s that I touched on above.19 Despite these caveats, however, it is still the case that the terms of his argument raise the possibility at least that sensation is a key to overturning an older way of seeing things, and the creation of a new vision. Yokomitsu also offered his own definition of Neo-Sensationalism in an essay written in 1925, but he highlights in a far more dramatic fashion the destructive potential to sensation. Likewise centring his argument around the relationship between subject and object, Yokomitsu asserts that sensation becomes manifest through ‘the subject’s intuitive ‘contact detonation’ (shokuhatsu butsu) which strips nature of its external aspect and bursts into the thing itself ’. As in Kawabata’s essay, this language is not easy to decode. For one thing, the very words he uses here and throughout the essay do not reflect the usual vocabulary of literary criticism. In part, this points to a Modernist-inspired impulse to deliberately break through the easy familiarity of language with the aim of forging greater insights into reality. But Golley has indicated how expressions like ‘contact detonation’ reveal the author’s specific indebtedness to 17

Ibid., p. 177. Kermode, op. cit., p. 39. 19 Gregory Golley makes a similar point. When Our Eyes No Longer See, p. 57. 18


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western scientific theories then circulating in Japan. Albert Einstein had attracted much popular interest during his visit to Japan in 1922, and his startling theories on the interdependency between apparently discrete concepts of time and space were a source of popular debate. Yokomitsu’s essay might be seen as a response to this scientific approach, by attempting to challenge the seemingly fixed boundaries between subject and object with an equivalent literary language of precision.20 The excitement generated by the new science is even reflected in Yokomitsu’s choice of words: what I have translated as ‘bursts into’ (odorikomu) literally means ‘dances into’. Such language denotes a pleasurable, even ecstatic element that also overlaps with the Modernist concern with epiphanies discussed above. However, it is his association of sensation with total destruction that really stands out. For this writer, the bourgeois subject is no longer conceived of in terms of a self-evidently discrete entity. Rather, the subject is unmasked as a function, or what he calls ‘the active faculty that is cognizant of the actual object itself ’.21 Moreover, at the moment of the subject’s encounter with an object, a violent reconfiguration of both takes place. This is in stark contrast to Kawabata’s relatively mild assertion that sensation is the key to overturning the old order. For Yokomitsu, sensation serves as the trigger for a deadly explosion powerful enough to generate a new world from the shattered fragments of the old. In short, if Kawabata retreats into comforting myth, Yokomitsu pushes the logic of his own fiction to its furthest end. Schleifer implies a link between sensation and death when he speaks of a ‘sense of death’, but Yokomitsu goes so far as to infer that annihilation is at the very core of what we mean by sensation. It is surely not unreasonable to detect an echo of Yokomitsu’s explosive language in the thrilling fantasy of Kajii’s ‘terrifying bomb’ in ‘Lemon’, written in the same year, where the narrator imagines that the lemon he has left on the bookshelves of Maruzen will blow the whole place to pieces. Indeed, Tsuboi Shigeji’s (1897–1975) assertion that poetry was a bomb, in the 1923 manifesto of the anarchist poetry journal, Red and Black (Aka to kuro), had already sown the idea that literature could act as a real tool of revolutionary change. However, Kajii’s confession to Kawabata during his stay at Yugashima that he was not impressed by Yokomitsu’s literary efforts would suggest that the two 20

Golley, op. cit., pp. 60–61. Yokomitsu, Riichi. ‘Shinkankaku Ron: Kankaku Katsudō to Kankaku Teki Sakubutsu Ni Tai Suru Hinan E No Gyakusetsu’. In Yokomitsu Riichi Zenshû, 75–83. Tokyo: Kawade shobō, 1982: p. 76. 21

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writers had little in common. It certainly seems hard to imagine how Kajii could fit easily into the broader theoretical issues addressed by the Neo-Sensationalist school, especially as there is little obvious connection between Kajii’s controlled, lyrical writing style and the wilful disruption of conventional literary language in Yokomitsu’s essay and other writings. On the other hand, Golley makes a compelling argument that Modernism was a ‘crisis of perception before it was a crisis of representation’,22 and this opens the possibility that there is more in common between the two writers than appears at first glance. The fact is that most of Kajii’s stories could be described as studies in sense perception, that is, detailed analyses of the process by which a protagonist interacts through his senses with phenomena in the external world. For instance, Okazaki Kazuo has pointed out that Kajii’s writing reveals a particularly high degree of sensitivity to sound.23 An example of this can be found in ‘Scroll of Darkness’ (‘Yami no emaki’, 1930),24 which outlines a narrator’s thoughts and impressions as he returns from a walk one night to the inn where he is convalescing. The surrounding countryside is enveloped in darkness, broken only by a few lamps dotted along the path that guides him home. At one point he stands on a bridge and looks upstream, where he can see one of these lights set against the middle slopes of an enormous mountain cloaked in shadow that ‘blocked out most of the sky’. The sight of this single light produces a fear that even the narrator cannot explain; perhaps the lamp’s tiny presence amid such overwhelming darkness hints at the frail insignificance of his own solitary life. In any case, most remarkable is the fact that his perception of the light engenders a fear likened to ‘cymbals crashing together’. This amounts to a deliberate confusion of the senses whereby visual impressions are reconfigured into aural imagery. To be sure, Kajii is not the first Japanese writer to employ synaesthesia; it is even found in some of Bashō’s haiku. However, while the earlier poet employed it as a startling technique to revive a tired literary form, Kajii’s use of synaesthesia highlights a Modernist struggle to give adequate literary shape to perceptions. The effect is to emphasize not only the disruptive potential of sound, but also the narrator’s encounter with an anarchy of the senses that threatens any rational grasp on reality. 22

Golley, op. cit., p. 60. Okazaki Kazuo. ‘Kajii Motojirō no buntai: kikimagau mimi, kikisumasu mimi, chi o toppa suru mimi’. In Tokushû: Kajii Motojirō o yomu, Kokubungaku: kaishaku to kanshō, 44–53. Tokyo: Shinbundō, 1999 (June). 24 KMZS, pp. 205–211. 23


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The destructive aspect of sensation, in a way closer to what Yokomitsu had in mind, is even more clearly articulated later in the same story. As the narrator continues along the path, the sights and sounds fill him with increasing dread. Just as he reaches a peak of anxiety, he hears the rumbling river shallows below surge up through a clearing in the woods. Completely alone in the overwhelming vastness of the dark mountains, the narrator experiences these sounds of nature in the unexpected form of human voices: It was a tremendous sound that produced a confusion of feelings. Sometimes it was like a group of carpenters or plasterers having a mysterious drinking party, their high laughter audible in wave after wave. My heart came close to breaking.

Far from easing the situation, this anomalous intrusion of human laughter jars with the natural setting and underlines even more starkly his lonely circumstances. The very unnaturalness of an intoxicated, haunting joviality has the perverse effect of fanning the narrator’s anxiety to such an extent that his heart comes ‘close to breaking’. There is something slightly grotesque at work here, where sounds well up from hidden depths and threaten to turn a familiar world upside down. But most significant is the fact that Kajii is reminiscing from the prison of his sickbed in Osaka. The world of sensation that his words recover from memory is indeed in the process of fragmentation. Awareness of his own mortality led Kajii to engage with Modernist forms in a way that attempted to find links between the self and a broader reality. He is perhaps edging close to the ‘monistic world’ identified earlier by Kawabata in his examination of self and other. But unlike Kawabata and other writers during the later 1930s, Kajii’s literary approach was not simply a matter of ideological choice. Rather, Kajii was driven by a sense of necessity to seek a more inclusive relationship between self and other as he approached the end of his own life.

SHIINA RINZŌ: A JAPANESE LITERARY RESPONSE TO THE ‘OVERCOMING MODERNITY’ SYMPOSIUM Mark Williams ‘I do not yet know whether th[is] symposium was a success’ (Calichman 2008: 149). When the literary and social critic, Kawakami Tetsutarō offered this honest assessment of the ‘Overcoming Modernity’ symposium that took place during the summer of 1942, he was in one sense merely stating the obvious. His brief ‘Concluding Remarks’, written a few months after conclusion of the proceedings,1 were penned at a pivotal moment during the Asia Pacific War hostilities and it was still too early to determine whether the symposium had succeeded in its aim of identifying the threat to Japan’s cultural identity posed by the ongoing hostilities, and of increasing solidarity between the participants ‘so as to provide a more rational and practical solution to the problems of Japan’s modernization’ (ibid: xi). Equally evident in Kawakami’s ‘Concluding Remarks’ is a concern that the papers presented at the symposium and the discussion these engendered would simply be relegated to a footnote when the intellectual history of the period came to be written. The symposium, held in Tokyo on 22–23 July 1942, had, after all, brought together many of the leading thinkers of the day—and had been organized, as Kawakami went on to remind his readers, ‘at a time of intellectual trembling during the first year of the War’—a moment in history when ‘we intellectuals were certainly at a loss . . . for our Japanese blood that had previously been the true driving force behind our intellectual activity was in conflict with our Europeanized intellects with which it had been so awkwardly systematized’ (ibid: 149). With the benefit of hindsight, it is fair to say that the legacy of the symposium failed to live up to Kawakami’s expectations. Widely dismissed as a ‘complete failure’ (Kazutami Watanabe, in Doak and Takada: 58), as having ‘merely served as an ideological moment in justifying Japan’s war against the West’ (Doak, in ibid, 85), and as ‘having failed to achieve 1 Kawakami added this short piece when Sōgensha came to publish the symposium proceedings in book form in 1943; it did not appear in the original transcript of proceedings published by Bungakkai in September and October 1942.


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the goals it had originally set for itself ’ (Calichman, in Calichman 2008: xii), much of the specific criticism of the direction assumed by the discussions was encapsulated in the two most widely cited critiques of the event. The first, penned by Takeuchi Yoshimi in 1959, bemoaned the fact that the paradox inherent in the core thesis (whereby it was argued that the non-West (i.e. Asia) must essentially become western in order to resist the West—and consequently that it must become modern in order to resist modernity) was insufficiently problematized. At the same time, Takeuchi cited the widely disparate interpretations of the very concept of modernity proffered by the various participants— differences that were then not adequately addressed—with the consequence that ‘people differed in their understanding of the “modernity” to be “overcome’” (Calichman 2005a: 115). The second critique, written by Karatani Kōjin some fifty years after the events in question, attributed the lack of any clearly delineated conclusion to the proceedings to a fundamental difference in aesthetics between the two main groupings represented: the literati affiliated to the journal Bungakkai (whom Karatani saw as steeped in French thought) and the philosophers of the Kyoto School (who had more in common with the German philosophic tradition) (Calichman 2005b: 101ff ). The consensus may be clear. And yet, as Kevin Doak reminds us, ‘If the 1942 symposium on Overcoming Modernity is now generally recognized as a complete failure, it is unlikely that the problem of overcoming modernity can be said to have come to an end with it’ (Doak and Takada: 86). The symposium may not have succeeded in offering any practical suggestions as to how precisely the concept of ‘overcoming modernity’, that wartime catchphrase that was substantially ‘bound up with dark memories’ of the Pacific War for the generation of Japanese intellectuals to have lived through the hostilities (Calichman 2005a: 103) might be interpreted and implemented. But the legacy of the symposium in terms of its attempts to influence the parameters of the subsequent intellectual agenda should not be overlooked. In the ensuing discussion, I shall be examining aspects of this legacy, particularly as it impinged on the literary sphere—through a close consideration of the extent to which one influential writer of the immediate postwar era, Shiina Rinzō, can be seen as responding, not necessarily always consciously, to several of the concerns raised during the course of the proceedings. More specifically, I shall be considering how the texts of Shiina, arguably the most influential author of the core Sengoha (après guerre) literary coterie, can be read as one writer’s literary response to

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the deliberations of the symposium and to some of the steps that were implemented in the light of these discussions.

‘Overcoming Modernity’: The Literary Outcomes As suggested above, much has been written by way of analysis of the impact of the ‘Overcoming Modernity’ symposium. Surprisingly lacking in this critical response, however, is any concerted attempt to consider the consequences for the literary community—in terms of the future direction of the literary genre in Japan—of this singular event. Indeed, to cite but one example, literary critics have been at pains to identify and analyse developments and differences (in terms of form, content, and narrative strategy) between the pre- and postwar quasiconfessional shishōsetsu genre; but discussion of the extent to which these developments can be linked to the tenor of the debates that took place during the course of the symposium is conspicuous by its absence. Especially in light of the fact that the event brought together many of the leading literary critics of the day (Kobayashi Hideo, Kamei Katsuichirō, Kawakami Tetsutarō and Nakamura Mitsuo, plus Hayashi Fusao and Miyoshi Tatsuji as leading practitioners of the prose narrative and poetic genres respectively), it is to be expected that the discussion frequently alludes, however indirectly, to consideration of the most appropriate form of literature to facilitate the process of ‘overcoming modernity’ to which all the participants were committed. What is surprising, I would suggest, is the absence of any concerted analysis of the extent to which these deliberations (and those of the Greater East Asian Writers’ Conferences which, as we shall see, represented an immediate and tangible ‘outcome’ of the proceedings) served to shape the literary landscape onto which Shiina and his contemporaries would step during the period of fundamental reassessment of a plethora of conventions, including those in the literary sphere, that ensued. To be sure, as suggested by Calichman, the widely differing interpretations of the very concept of ‘modernity’—and the broad and interdisciplinary direction assumed by the discussion—may have militated against any rigorous analysis along these lines. The proceedings do, nevertheless, offer much of interest to the literary historian—and can be identified as, in one sense, representing a challenge to the next generation of authors to make their contribution to the collective effort of overcoming modernity. Before turning to consideration of the manner whereby one


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specific author, Shiina Rinzō, may have responded to these challenges, we must first consider some of the ideas raised by the participants that can be seen as representing the legacy bestowed by the wartime exponents of the need to ‘overcome modernity’ on the generation of authors, epitomized by Shiina, who rose to literary prominence in the immediate aftermath of the proceedings. As Calichman suggests in his analysis of the ‘Overcoming Modernity’ proceedings, from the outset the participants were confronted with an inherent contradiction with which they ultimately struggled to come to terms. All were fundamentally agreed that the ‘modernity’ that required ‘overcoming’ was associated with the West, and that, consequently, ‘overcoming modernity’ entailed an ‘overcoming’ of the West— and they were not oblivious to the irony that this was to be achieved by pursuit of the very same policy of expansionism that the West itself had introduced. At the same time, however, there was general agreement with the suggestion, made by the celebrated author, Natsume Sōseki, writing decades earlier, that ‘modernization in contemporary Japan [had] resulted in superficial and shallow modernization’ (cited by Keiichi Noe, in Doak and Takada: 7)—and that it was the loss of some loosely defined ‘Japanese spirit’, occasioned by excessive focus on individualism, rationalism, utilitarianism and other concepts that had been introduced in the wake of the indiscriminate drive for bunmei kaika (civilization and enlightenment) during the second half of the nineteenth century that was most in need of being ‘overcome’. According to Hayashi Fusao, the leading author on the panel, in particular, this was particularly evident in the sphere of literature, where the main strands to have emerged from the process of seeking a truly modern literature in Japan (mainly naturalism and proletarian literature) had both originated in the West and ‘thus functioned strictly to conceal or repress the Japanese spirit that otherwise found its proper mode of expression in a Japanese literature that remained faithful to its roots’. What was needed, in a view posited by Hayashi but which found widespread support from the other participants, was a clear distinction between Japan as it actually was and the country’s ‘true nature’ (honzen no sugata), a return to Japan’s ‘original identity’ (Calichman 2008: 2).2 Encouraged to elaborate, Hayashi quickly sought refuge in the figures of the emperor, the 2 The section that follows contains a series of citations from this translation and study of the ‘Overcoming Modernity’ proceedings and these are cited, as page number only, in the body of this essay.

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Japanese language and the Japanese classics—and he concluded his contribution to the proceedings with a passionate call for rejection of all the ‘impurity’ embedded within contemporary society: Japanese literature, return to your true nature! You are the progeny of the country. You are the valiant son who, born from your country, can now exalt it. You must succeed to the proper lineage and genealogy of Japanese literature. Reject all the filth of contemporary literature! (110).

To Calichman, on the one level, Hayashi’s argument can be ‘understood as essentially one with the widespread “Japanism” of the time in its naïve identification of the foreign with that which contaminates the otherwise pure cultural space of Japan’ (3). As will be seen in the discussion of the impact bequeathed by these proceedings on the next generation of authors, however, this call to seek the ‘true nature’ of the world in which they found themselves was one that would resonate deeply, particularly on Shiina and his colleagues within the Sengoha literary coterie. For this generation, operating as it was within the ‘ruins’ (haikyo) of a recently defeated nation, the call for the creation of a literature that captures the honzen no sugata of the situation may have assumed a very different guise—with Shiina, in particular, dedicated to a literary encapsulation of the ‘true nature’ of the plight of the struggling individual through focus on the ‘goodwill of the masses’ (taishū no zen’i).3 I would nevertheless suggest that it is instructive to view Shiina’s literary topos in terms of a search for original/fundamental identity, one that the author effects ‘by introducing a process of subject formation whose telos of producing Japanese citizens who fully embody their essential identity was to be reached sometime in the future’ (8). In assessing the manner in which this discussion of fundamental Japanese identity represented a baton to be picked up by the subsequent generation of authors, however, consideration must also be given to the link developed by several participants, some more explicitly than others, between this call for a return to some honzen no sugata and the ideal of freedom. Given the tenor of the times—with Japan struggling to come to terms with the loss of freedom ensuing from its first experience of defeat and occupation—it is hardly surprising to discern a consideration of the true nature of freedom as lying at the heart of the texts in question. Of particular significance to the present discussion, however, 3 Both the depiction of Japan as reduced to the status of haikyo, and of Shiina as preoccupied with the taishū no zen’i, are drawn from Takadō’s excellent 1989 study of Shiina’s oeuvre.


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is the extent to which the extensive consideration afforded this concept by Shiina and other members of the Sengoha can be seen as building upon ideas developed during the course of the symposium. The connection is clearly drawn, for example, by Shimomura Toratarō who, in the course of an impassioned plea that participants acknowledge that ‘modernity is us, and the “overcoming of modernity” is the overcoming of ourselves’ (111), makes the following telling observation: In contrast to the necessity of nature, the essence of spirit is freedom. Spirit’s axiom consists in its superiority to nature, and this represents a transcendental postulate without which it lacks the meaning of ‘spirit’ . . . The problem lies in the character of this freedom (113).

Taken out of context, Shimomura’s contribution lacks a clear focus. Significantly, however, this particular essay was a subsequent addition to the proceedings—a paper commissioned by the publisher, Sōgensha, when it came to issue the ‘definitive’ version of the proceedings the following year. As such, it is important to consider the earlier contributions made by Nishitani Keiji and Yoshimitsu Yoshihiko in particular during the original symposium. As Kevin Doak reminds us, the seminal contribution to events by these two major philosophers of the day was in their promotion of a ‘return to religion after the presumed failure of secular modernism’, and in this they were picking up on ideas of the ‘postmodern’ expounded earlier by the theologian Bernard Iddings Bell (Doak and Takada: iv). For Nishitani in particular, the reasons behind this presumed failure were clear: when Japan came to modernize in the wake of the Meiji Restoration, it had imported three discrete streams of thought derived from three discrete movements—the Reformation, the Renaissance, and the birth of natural science. These were ‘independent of one another [and e]ach concealed its own entirely distinct course of worldview formation’ (52). Nishitani goes on to observe that, when this scenario infiltrated post-Restoration Japan, it brought with it the concomitant ‘danger of splitting apart the very foundation of the nation’s unified worldview formation such that people would fall into confusion in their self-understanding’ (53). At this point, Nishitani set to considering the kind of religiosity required to counter this situation—and his conclusion had ramifications that would, I suggest, exercise a profound influence on Shiina and so many of his contemporaries: ‘Even more profoundly than “life”, man’s subjectivity can be apprehended only by the fact of his self-interiority, which operates through his spontaneous

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freedom.’ To obtain such freedom, Nishitani continues, requires a ‘transcendence of both the body and its natural world and the mind and its cultural world. Here there is the freedom of religiosity that is absolute freedom from the world’ (55). Of equal relevance, moreover, to any discussion of the applicability of Nishitani’s line of reasoning to the subsequent literary direction travelled by Shiina and his contemporaries is his conclusion that ‘freedom from the world can, in and of itself, turn to freedom in the world. True freedom opens upon both these aspects, that is, world transcendence and world immanence’—and represents, in Nishitani’s typology, the ‘standpoint of subjective nothingness’ (55–56; italics added). In all of this, then, Nishitani is calling for ‘a radically different self-awareness from that of the past’ (59). This same concern was also picked up by Yoshimitsu, a Catholic theologian who, in confronting the question of the ‘modern spirit’, argued vehemently in favour of overcoming modernity by means of a ‘grave counterattack on the part of the soul’ (77). To Yoshimitsu, Japan was embarked on the ‘creation of a new culture in a new century’—and it was literature that had been ‘charged with the task of living man’s theological investigations, as it were, amid the signs of the ineffectiveness of theology and philosophy’ (78). What was required, he suggested, was not a ‘new Middle Ages’, but a rectification of the divisions between politics, religion and culture through the revival of the ‘modern intellect and personality . . . within a higher unity through the idea of metaphysical order’(88). In short, Yoshimitsu too is exploring the significance, albeit at a more metaphysical level, of returning to some loosely defined honzen no sugata; but significantly, his suggestion that ‘above all, overcoming the modern spirit must signify a liberation from the modern ego that exists within us’ is tempered by the following proviso: ‘If, as I have said, the first condition for overcoming modernity is the penitence of the soul, then this matter must begin with the soul of each and every individual’ (90). For Yoshimitsu, then, the problem of ‘overcoming modernity’ is ultimately one of ‘how modern man can find God’ (91)—and he offers as his two prime examples of artists to have confronted this challenge the two authors who arguably exerted the greatest influence on Shiina, and indeed on many of his Sengoha contemporaries: Dostoevsky and Nietzsche. Here, suggests Yoshimitsu, were two figures who ‘were not already expressions of the modern spirit; rather they represented protests on the part of the titanic and heroic soul that sought to save human life from the deluge of this spirit by finding in its greatest depths all its possibilities in the struggle against it’ (77).


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Shiina’s indebtedness to Nietzsche is well documented; indeed, much of his early corpus has traditionally been read as an exercise in the literature of nihilism (cf. for example Takadō 1989). And, to weigh the full extent of this influence, one need look no further than the author’s own acknowledgement that his decision to secure his release from prison through complicity in signing a tenkōsho (document of political apostasy in which the signatory openly rejected earlier left-wing sympathies) was a direct consequence of his confrontation, in Ecce homo, with ‘Nietzsche’s philosophy on the desire for power and authority’ (kenryoku ishi) (Saitō 1980: 250). However, of greater significance to the overall direction of the ‘Overcoming Modernity’ proceedings—and thus to any consideration of their legacy—is the figure of Dostoevsky. A brief consideration of the extent to which the shadow of Dostoevsky hung over the entire discussion is thus in order. In any discussion of literary influences on Japanese authors of Shiina’s generation, mention of the overwhelming presence of Dostoevsky in particular is virtually de rigeur. Certainly, Shiina had no hesitation in acknowledging his debt, as both author and philosopher, to Dostoevsky4—and a similar pattern can be seen in so many of his contemporaries. What is of interest here, though, is that, having been raised as a subject germane to their consideration of how Japan could best face up to the challenge of overcoming modernity, the gauntlet was subsequently picked up by several of the participants. For Kawakami Tetsutarō, for example, it was ‘because of our reading of Dostoevsky and Baudelaire that our interest in the classics arose’ (207). Even more impassioned in this regard was Kobayashi Hideo, whose 1939 biography of the Russian author had been so well received and who remained convinced that Dostoevsky’s greatest contribution to debates about the nature of modernity lay in the fact that ‘Dostoevsky was not someone who expressed modern Russian society or nineteenth century Russia . . . rather Dostoevsky successfully fought against these things. I do not know about mediocre writers, but great writers are always those who have successfully fought against the conventional ideas of their own society and era’ (179). On the basis of this example, Kobayashi remained convinced that literature should not be ‘regarded as a mere expression of its society and era’. Rather: 4 NB. such acknowledgment is not limited to his essays specifically devoted to this topic, e.g. ‘Dosutoefusukii to watashi’ (Dostoevsky and I, SRZ 20), but occur at various points throughout Shiina’s corpus.

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No matter how one examines the social or historical conditions that formed literature, these are merely the dregs or ruins left behind by great writers in their victory . . . Although we live in the modern age and speak of overcoming modernity, it is clear that the great men of all ages discovered their purpose in life in trying to overcome their own times . . . Literature and art appear as an equilibrium rather than as a change of force. Is it impossible to conceive of an extremely propitious situation whereby such harmony and order are achieved by a leveling of forces in the confrontation between the writer and his era? This is what it means for an artist to triumph over his own time (180).

Analysing this particular segment of the discussion, Harry Harootunian describes Kobayashi as discovering, in the literature of Dostoevsky, ‘the itinerary of discovery by a modern who had found the people of Russia and its spirit (kami) after a time of massive social upheaval’ (Doak and Takada: 38). Harootunian’s interpretation of the implications of this assessment of Dostoevsky’s literary legacy is instructive: According to Kobayashi, [Dostoevsky’s] books resemble a record of a war veteran who has come through combat alive and intact to tell another, truer story. Dostoevsky demonstrated how the writer must constantly struggle with questions concerning literary and artistic vocation and determine whether literature is pledged to the task of representing society and the age or should follow an altogether different path in order to defeat both the age and society in which he lives and writes (ibid).

Harootunian is here reminding us of one of the core issues upon which the ‘Overcoming Modernity’ participants were in full agreement: that the challenge confronting the author was to ‘show how art was able to escape the uncertainties of social change and reflect or signify a life endowed with enduring and lasting meaning’ (ibid: 24). To employ Kobayashi’s terminology, the challenge here was for the writer to ‘eliminate all the inevitable obstacles within [man’s] social life and approach the true shape of real life’ (186). Here, for Kobayashi, was the key to the aesthetic beauty that he saw as the hallmark of enduring art—and it was to the work of Dostoevsky that he turned for an exemplar of this tradition. We shall return to consideration of the extent to which writers such as Shiina heeded this call to focus on the ‘commonness of everyday life’ (Doak and Takada: 24). By way of conclusion to this discussion of what I am describing as the literary legacy of the ‘Overcoming Modernity’ symposium, however, let us briefly consider some of the concrete developments that emerged from these discussions—developments that helped shape the literary landscape within which Shiina and his peers were to operate.


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By the summer of 1942 when the ‘Overcoming Modernity’ symposium took place, the ruling regime’s attempts to retain absolute control over the flow of information in all its guises was under the purview of the Jōhōkyoku (Bureau of Information). Founded in 1940, as a successor to the ‘Kokkateki jōhō kikan’ (Office of National Information, itself established in 1936 to monitor the dissemination of information as hostilities on the Asian mainland intensified), the sphere of influence of the Jōhōkyoku was broader, the specific remits of the five divisions into which it was subdivided (Planning, Communications, External Relations, Censorship and Culture) more clearly delineated. Thereafter, with planning for the ‘Overcoming Modernity’ symposium at an advanced stage, the system was further refined in May 1942— with the establishment of the ‘Nihon bungaku hōkokukai’ (Japanese Literature Patriotic Association). Located within the Cultural Division of the Jōhōkyoku, this was designed to serve, not as an association affiliated with any specific literary coterie (bundan), nor as an artists’ union, but rather as a loose affiliation of authors established, in the words of the critic Togawa Sadao, to ‘cooperate in the execution of the national strategy by volunteering to extend the reach of information about this strategy in according with the national needs’ (cited in Ozaki: 4). There may be little direct reference to the Association during the course of the ‘Overcoming Modernity’ proceedings. It is, however, clear that several of the symposium participants were closely involved in the activities of the ‘Nihon bungaku hōkokukai’, especially Hayashi Fusao, who was a member of the conference planning committee, and Kamei Katsuichirō, one of its plenary speakers. And, given the similarities in their stated objectives, it is hard not to discern a direct link between the symposium and the series of Greater East Asian Writers’ Conferences that took place in its immediate aftermath. Devised to enable ‘authors from across the Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere to cooperate in bringing about fulfilment of the Great East Asia War’ and ‘to create a Greater East Asian literature’ (ibid: 21–22), the congress met on three occasions—in November 1942, August 1943 and November 1944. And, with the entire initiative stemming from Tokyo and with authors and artists from the Japanese colonies and other recently occupied territories under considerable pressure to attend, it is clearly not possible to discuss the proceedings of these events without consideration of the political situation that inspired them. Equally, in view of the changed circumstances between the time of the first conference and the third event some two years later, it is dangerous to seek to summarize the

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overall tenor of the proceedings. The aims of the conference were, however, clearly stated from the outset and, in terms of fundamental philosophy, this changed very little over the period. From the start, central to the concerns of the organizing body for this series of conferences was a determination that ‘authors from all areas of the Co-Prosperity Sphere who share a duty to nurture culture during war should meet, understand these shared ambitions and engage in frank discussion’ (ibid: 19). According to the report of the proceedings of the first event in Bungei nenkan, this plan was ‘rapturously received from all areas of the Co-Prosperity Sphere’ (Bungei nenkan 2603 (Tōkei shobō)), and it was not long before the ‘Nihon bungaku hōkokukai’ had appended to the core conference theme of ‘nurturing a Greater East Asian spirit’ a discussion of the need for consideration of ‘literature as a means of harmonizing intellectual culture’ (shisō bunka) (ibid: 23). The second conference of August 1943 pursued this same intellectual agenda, but added another goal, similarly evocative of the central tenets of the earlier ‘Overcoming Modernity’ symposium: ‘through study, trips and other means, we seek to reveal the majestic true nature (songen naru shin-sugata) of our peoples and national polity’ (kokutai) (ibid: 27). Such objectives were tailored to encourage participation from a broad range of authors from across the territories encompassed by the vision of the Co-Prosperity Sphere at the time and, as Marlene Mayo has noted, the events shared a similar discourse—and echoed the same concerns—as the ‘Overcoming Modernity’ symposium that immediately preceded it (Mayo and Rimer: 17). Indeed, as if to acknowledge this parallel, the Japan Times, in an editorial piece introducing the philosophy behind the first Greater East Asian Writers Conference, argued that it had been convened to ‘disseminate the true Japanese spirit’, an overt reference to the attempts that had been made by the ‘Overcoming Modernity’ participants to delineate Japan’s ‘honzen no sugata’.

Shiina Rinzō: Responding to the Challenge The series of Greater East Asian Writers’ Conferences may have been the most tangible development in the literary sphere to emerge in the aftermath of the ‘Overcoming Modernity’ proceedings. Viewed more broadly, however, such activity clearly served to prepare the literary landscape onto which Shiina and his fellow authors were to emerge over the course of the next few years. Seen thus, Shiina’s much-vaunted focus


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on the ‘ruins’ (haikyo), both physical and psychological, effected by the hostilities is clearly not unique: there were others, most notably those who affiliated themselves with the Buraiha coterie of self-confessed ‘decadent’ writers who emerged from—and subsequently portrayed in graphic detail—the destruction wrought by defeat in August 1945. For many, the clarion call was that issued by Sakaguchi Ango, whose bestknown essay, ‘Daraku-ron’ (On Decadence, 1946), has been summarized by Matthew Strecher as representing a plea for Japan to capitalize on its near total destruction in 1945 and to build a new system out of the ashes of defeat that would bear no resemblance to past social systems. To Sakaguchi, what was urgently required was a structure ‘better suited to the new individual subjects he imagined would emerge from these ashes’, and this was most likely to be achieved through the ‘decadence’ of abandoning old customs and constructing something new— by ‘becoming wholly human in a most basic manner’ (Strecher: 342). For Sakaguchi, therefore, the impetus behind such decadence was clear: We fall, not because of defeat in War. We fall because we are human— because we are alive. Man must complete his fall down the path he is destined to follow . . . He must discover himself and attain his salvation by completing his fall (cited in Takadō: 12).

Significantly, however, with Sakaguchi, Dazai Osamu and other members of the Buraiha, for all their sense of having nothing on which they could rely in pursuit of such goals, most at least managed to retain faith in themselves. For Shiina, I would suggest, even such self-defeating trust in the self is lacking: in a very real sense he had completed his ‘fall’—to a point at which any form of salvation appeared impossible—and it is this that leads to the apparent lack of connection, either to earlier or to contemporary Japanese literature (much of which he saw as still overly reliant on the quasi-confessional shishōsetsu form, and which he consequently dismissed as betraying an ‘unforgivably ugly nihilism’ (Takadō: 14)). The ensuing corpus has been depicted by the critic Takadō Kaname, both as a ‘literature of circumstances’—subjective depictions of the circumstances of ruin—and as a ‘literature of existence’ within these ruins (ibid: 16). At first glance, this may appear as an oxymoron; but the portrayal betrays a duality of which Shiina himself was all too well aware. As he wrote in ‘Sengo bungaku no imi’ (The Meaning of Postwar Literature, 1948): Everything essential to man is born of the impossible . . . Postwar literature is characterized by a passion for the impossible. And it is this very

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passion that represents the shaft of flame that destroyed the ugly nihilism which is the fount of all decadence (SRZ 14: 27).

In thus highlighting this ‘passion for the impossible’, Shiina can be seen as responding to the portrayal of all literature, offered by the critic and close affiliate of Shiina, Haniya Yutaka, as ‘an attempt to say that which cannot be said, to transmit that which can never be transmitted—to describe the impossible as though it were possible’ (cited in Takadō: 16). In the Shiina text, the determination to confront this challenge is never far beneath the surface—and leads to the quality often cited as the defining feature of his art: the unwavering focus on an honest portrayal of the working classes, or, to cite the critic Sasabuchi Tomoichi, on the ‘goodwill of the masses’ (taishū no zen’i) (cited in Takadō: 146). The trait is perhaps best exemplified in Utsukushii onna (The Beautiful Woman, 1955), arguably Shiina’s most representative novel and often read as a paean in praise of mundane daily reality, where the author himself admitted to a ‘search for salvation of the lumpen proletariat as and where they are’ (Takadō: 143). Here, as elsewhere in the oeuvre, there are several common denominators to the portrayal of the ‘masses’: all are obliged to work out of necessity, all are overwhelmed by mundane and often seemingly meaningless tasks, none are satisfied with their lot, and all see their work as imposing restrictions on their freedom—and as leading ultimately towards despair. Shiina himself acknowledged this motivation in the following terms: It has occurred to me recently that all artists trying to depict the working classes belong to the intelligentsia. Even when they live as workers in the novel, they still belong to the intelligentsia …. They know nothing of the reality of our situation, of our nihilism—nor of the trivial jokes we trade on a daily basis. They merely depict workers fired by extremely avant-garde ideals. I reacted against [such works] and decided to try to portray the working classes in my novels (cited in Sasaki: 132).

For all his identification with their plight, however, Shiina is here offering no mere blind affirmation of the proletariat: he depicts them in all their ignominy, with the ensuing portrayal by no means entirely positive. All too often, he exposes their meekness, cowardice, deceit and misery—as well as their degradation at the hands of those who stand over them. In so doing, he often criticizes them—but this stems, not from any negative motivation, but in the hope that he can help thereby in leading them to salvation. In so doing, Shiina succeeds in creating a series of protagonists who, while remaining silent about the world, the future and the issues of the day, are able to wax eloquent on these very same issues by virtue of their own physical being.


mark williams A Cry for Freedom

In reading this oeuvre as a literary evocation of the circumstances in which Shiina found himself at the end of hostilities, there remains one overarching trope that represents a concerted attempt to pick up the gauntlet that had been proffered by the participants of the ‘Overcoming Modernity’ symposium. As Japan accepted defeat in August 1945, in keeping with so many of his compatriots, Shiina may have been too desperate to experience any real sense of liberation.5 In the years that followed, however, Shiina produced a body of texts that represent arguably the most concerted attempt to apprehend the freedom—the ‘transcendence of both the body and this natural world and the mind and its cultural world’—that the philosopher Nishitani Keiji had called for in the course of his contribution to the ‘Overcoming Modernity’ discussions (op. cit., Calichman 2008: 55). In part, this stemmed from the author’s pre-war experience of arrest (as part of the round-up of leftwing activists), imprisonment, experience of torture and subsequent decision to secure his release by affixing his signature to a tenkōsho— an experience that the critic Kobayashi Takayoshi has described as ‘the starting point of [Shiina’s] road to freedom, a confrontation with his questioning of the basis of his own self-identity and his first encounter with the primal darkness of his own being’ (Kobayashi 1992: 21). But it was during the War and Occupation, as Shiina eked out a hapless existence, under the constant scrutiny of the military police, that the determination to engage with a form of individual freedom that transcended the mere removal of the physical prison walls was piqued, leading him to argue in his essay, ‘Jiyū to kyōzon’ (Freedom and Coexistence, 1962): During the War, the chant was messhi hōkō (selfless patriotic service); in other words, the correct life choice for the Japanese was to annihilate the self and serve the public good. This way of thinking was obliterated with Japan’s defeat—and, as reflected in the shutaisei debates [on the nature of subjectivity] between the journal Kindai bungaku and the Communists, the call was for strong advocacy of the individual self. And, given that the individual self can only be constructed on the basis of individual freedom, we can say that it was individual freedom that was being so determinedly advocated. Then, with the introduction of existentialism, this tendency was strengthened (SRZ 19: 178). 5 He was described by his friend, Saitō Suehiro, as having listened to the imperial broadcast of surrender on 15 August 1945 ‘devoid of any deep emotion’ (nan no kangai mo naku) (Saitō: 254).

shiina rinz: a japanese literary response


Significantly for Shiina, the War was experienced only vicariously— and he was to equate his subsequent determination to ask basic questions on the nature of existential freedom with that of fellow European writers such as Sartre and Camus. More specifically, he found himself indebted to the concept of ‘absurd freedom’ as depicted by the latter in ‘The Myth of Sisyphus’—and he came to ‘concur with Sartre, Camus and other existentialists that man cannot live without freedom, however deluded that freedom may be’ (Shiina 1957: 85). In the years following defeat, Shiina’s freedom may have been physically curtailed, both by the restrictions imposed upon him by the military police and by those placed on the entire country by the Occupation forces. And, in his Watashi no seisho monogatari (My Journey with the Bible, 1957), he was to admit that he tried a variety of avenues—he singles out the quest for money, the Bible and the literature of Dostoevsky for special mention—in search of ‘true freedom’ (ibid, 89ff ). At the same time, however, he could not help but lament that the nominal freedom to which Japan aspired following the gradual introduction of the instruments of democracy after 1945 had resulted, all too often, in displays of ‘excessive freedom’ (cited in Hibbard, 198). To Shiina, this could never be equated with true freedom—in that it failed to release the individual from the fear of death. The result, as we shall see, was a procession of Shiina protagonists who are depicted as in some kind of bondage—and, in many cases, as ‘convicts’—vainly struggling to escape the walls of their prison-like existences.6 For Shiina, the issue was paramount, and in ‘Jiyū ni tsuite’ (On Freedom, 1956), he acknowledged that, ‘If we ask if we are truly free as human beings, the answer has to be “No”—because we are restrained by our physical bodies and by the world’ (SRZ 16: 395). Again, on the one level, such obsession is clearly not unique to Shiina; indeed, one would not have to look far in the writings of many of his contemporaries— the names of Noma Hiroshi, Haniya Yutaka and several of the authors often categorized as the ‘Daisan no shinjin’ (Third generation of new authors) spring readily to mind—to discover similar sentiments being expressed. Where I would suggest that Shiina does have a unique contribution to make to this discourse—and where he more directly picks up the gauntlet offered by Nishitani, Yoshimitsu and others during the course of the ‘Overcoming Modernity’ deliberations on the topic—was 6 This trait is most evident in, but by no means restricted to, Shiina’s final novel, Chōekinin no kokuhatsu (Confessions of a Convict, 1969).


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in his focus on the transition, clearly evidenced in a chronological reading of his oeuvre, from the earlier protagonists, desperately struggling to secure a sense of freedom from the world, to his more mature protagonists, obsessed with locating freedom in the world. The distinction represents a constant refrain—with Shiina frequently at pains to stress the symbiotic relationship between subjective (or ‘conscious’) freedom from the world (without which the individual is destined to suffocate) and the reality that the physical being can never be entirely (objectively) free of the world, hence the quest to secure physical freedom within the world of mundane activity. As he was to argue in ‘Ihōjin ni tsuite’ (On L’Étranger, 1952), ‘True freedom is both subjective and objective: subjective freedom must be founded on objective freedom’ (SRZ 14: 137). Before moving on to an examination of the manner in which this tension is developed in the Shiina literary text, however, we need to briefly consider Shiina’s carefully constructed dichotomy. It is the essay ‘Bungaku to jiyū no mondai’ (The Question of Literature and Freedom, 1952) that represents Shiina’s most concerted attempt to take up ‘the question of the freedom of the individual’, which he had come to see as ‘the lifelong theme of [his] work’ (SRZ 16: 396). Acknowledging that freedom from the world ‘implies, by definition, a rejection of the world’, he here defines such freedom in the following terms: As humans, our initial exposure to the sense of freedom is often experienced as a sense of intense solitude and loneliness. This is the freedom of each individual from the world, upon which most literature is founded. This sense of natural freedom—the awareness that we are each unique— comes to us in a flash: it is a moment of epiphany, as we are thrown into a new world, a world that only we can inhabit (SRZ 14: 364).

To Shiina, this ‘moment of epiphany’—this realization that one is not of the world, that one is a unique individual inhabiting one’s own world— represents the ‘awakening of the human spirit; by the same token, the human spirit is none other than the awakening of the individual’s freedom’ (ibid: 369). For Shiina as author, such moments were of interest in that they ‘embodied the relationship between the world and our consciousness of the world’ (ibid: 372). Equally, however, he was only too well aware of the ‘illusory’ nature of the freedom thereby engendered. As he argued: Consciousness is always consciousness of something in the world—and this implies that, to be conscious of something requires standing back

shiina rinz: a japanese literary response


and looking at it objectively. At that point, by detaching ourselves from the world, our consciousness acts as though freed. We feel free, even if this represents an illusory kind of freedom (ibid).

Armed with such logic, Shiina was adamant that, ‘as humans inhabiting this world, we have to vehemently reject such freedom’ (ibid). At the same time, however, this rejection of such ‘illusory’ freedom was tempered by an alternative vision of freedom within the world of mundane activity: As humans, we hold fast to this world with a religious fervour, like a child who cannot walk without clinging to its mother’s sleeve. It is as though it is this world in which we live, our daily routine, that gives us life, and freedom. What greater freedom can there be than being in the world? What can be more lacking in freedom, more dead, than the idea of freedom from the world? (ibid: 381–2).

In thus calling for the artist to ‘resist those privileged classes who predicate their lives on freedom from the world’ (ibid: 393) and advocating instead freedom in the world, Shiina can here be seen responding directly to the conviction, raised by Nishitani during the course of the ‘Overcoming Modernity’ symposium, that ‘freedom from the world can, in and of itself, turn to freedom in the world’ (op. cit.; Calichman 2008: 56). On the one hand, he was persuaded that, ‘as authors, we look at others as if we are not human; we look at society and the world as if we don’t belong; we look at history as if we are not part of it’ (SRZ 14: 377). At the same time, however, he could not deny his humanity—with its concomitant ‘attachment to the world, to society and to numerous individuals’ (ibid: 389). The tension is never far beneath the surface of the Shiina text and is specifically addressed in ‘Freedom and Coexistence’, where Shiina notes: To destroy the self and serve the public good entirely is to deform humanity and is clearly inhuman. Equally, however, to destroy the public good and live in absolute freedom is an equal deformity and inhuman. To devote oneself entirely to either one or the other is to leave a certain vacuum, a vague sense of deliberate confusion (aimai na gomakashi) (SRZ 19:178).

The tension was very real to Shiina and, in search of a compromise, he concluded: We cannot cut the chains joining us to the world and to society and still live. To be sure, those chains weigh heavily upon us, but it is through those chains that we gain life. In a sense, those chains are proof of our being alive. In other words, it is only when attached to those chains that


mark williams we are free. We accept this freedom as an obvious fact and don’t raise it to consciousness . . . We cannot remove those chains, but we can attempt to loosen them until they might as well be no longer there. We cannot lose them absolutely, so we strive to make them lighter and more acceptable (SRZ 14: 391).

What Shiina is here moving towards is some form of common ground between the two and, to this end, he goes on to explore another form of freedom—a ‘third’ or ‘absolute’ form of freedom—one that would represent a ‘reconciliation of the two’ (SRZ 19:178)—and which ‘exists to give life to both these conflicting forms of freedom—and that alone can allow the individual to carry on a concrete human existence’ (ibid: 181). It is here that Shiina’s literary debt to the literature of Dostoevsky is perhaps most in evidence—and, in a series of essays of the time, the author was to make much of his belief that he ‘inhabited that world, created by Dostoevsky, in which the only issue was true human freedom’ (SRZ 23:479). This influence will be clear as we turn to a consideration of the means, adopted by Shiina to give literary expression to this ‘third freedom’. From the moment of his entry onto the literary scene with two novellas, ‘Shin’ya no shuen’ (The Midnight Banquet, 1947 [1970]) and ‘Omoki nagare no naka ni’ (In the Sluggish Stream, 1947 [1970]) in which Shiina’s narrator remains obsessed with a portrayal of the depths to which his protagonist Sumaki has fallen and the physical ruins that surround him as a constant reminder of his spiritual degradation, the question of the nature of true freedom is never far beneath the surface. Sumaki, a loner caught up in his own melancholy and unable to feel any sense of solidarity with his neighbours, constantly meditates on the nature of true freedom—and is quick to conclude that his current miserable circumstances are more ‘unendurable’, more ‘stifling and maddening’ even than the prison cell he had earlier inhabited. As he argues: Now, when it rains all day long, I feel stifled. Even when in prison, I could inhale the spray from the rain through the window and could watch thoughtfully as the tall, red brick wall gradually changed hue to an ugly mud colour (SRZ 1: 4).

The emphasis throughout is on Sumaki’s existential circumstances, his only recourse seemingly consisting of maintaining his distance from all around him and by simply enduring (taeru, the core trope of the novella) his grim circumstances. For him, true freedom and release from all burdens is only to be achieved by enduring the present, and he is clear in his conviction that ‘to endure is to live. I could be free from every weight simply by enduring’ (SRZ 1: 43).

shiina rinz: a japanese literary response


Inspired in this way at least to establish a modus vivendi with those who share the tenement building with him, Sumaki is persistent. Acknowledging that, ‘if there is any scholar in the world who can provide a definition and ideology of freedom, I’d love to meet him’ (SRZ 1: 28), he proceeds to try and develop his ideas into a full-fledged ‘philosophy of freedom’. Significantly, however, in keeping with the template for the early Shiina protagonist, he continues to equate freedom with a sense of liberation from something—whether it be from the rigours of life or the fear of death; he is far removed from the more optimistic interpretations of freedom countenanced by the more ‘mature’ Shiina protagonists. For Sumaki, in particular, bitter at the treatment he has received at the hands of mainstream society, life is seen very much as a prelude to death—and his thoughts of freedom can never be entirely disaggregated from his own acute sense of his own mortality. Indeed, along with the majority of the more peripheral characters, he appears manipulated by death—although there is a sense at the end of the novella, as he and his neighbour Kayo become engrossed in their ‘midnight banquet’, of their recognition that their sense of freedom is contingent upon their overcoming this very fear. The portrayal of Sumaki in ‘Sluggish Stream’ is similar, with the key difference being that the protagonist here appears determined, not simply to ‘endure’, but to laugh at his circumstances, hence his ubiquitous ‘smile’ (warai). It was in Shiina’s next major work, Eien naru joshō (The Eternal Preface, 1948), however, that the author creates a protagonist, Sunagawa Yasuta, who is blessed with a passion for existence, so lacking in the portrayal of Sumaki, and whose every action consequently comes to represent an affirmation of life. The contrast is stark, a trait intensified by the initial depiction of Yasuta contemplating the reality of the news he has just received from his doctor: that he has less than three months to live. Standing alone on a bridge and gazing down at the murky waters of the river below, Yasuta is struck by the absurdity of his response to his circumstances: although he had contemplated suicide on several occasions in the past, now, as he confronts his own imminent death, he experiences a ‘fear and exhilaration verging on sexual ecstasy’ (SRZ1: 329) and finds himself ‘aware of some unfathomable power enveloping him’ (ibid: 330). As he does so, he comes to view living for the present as the apogee of freedom, happiness and peace. In short, he is obliged to confront the ultimate paradox, ‘I might not have even one month left to live. Everything should be meaningless. So why am I alive? Isn’t suicide the ultimate freedom?’ (ibid).


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As the novel progresses, so it is this passion for life, born of confrontation with impending death, that comes to represent the driving force behind Yasuta’s search for freedom. As the narrative posits a variety of freedoms—freedom from emptiness, despair, death, and the perceived meaninglessness of mundane existence that had proven so intractable to Sumaki—so Yasuta comes to stand as the personification of true freedom, particularly in his burgeoning conviction that such freedom is ultimately to be found, not in cutting oneself off from society, but rather premised on a strong sense of responsibility—and of solidarity— with society. For Yasuta, therefore, freedom ultimately comes to represent a release from the shackles of death, as suggested by the following depiction: ‘Freedom! Freedom! Yasuta cried out in search of that. Somewhere within Yasuta, the sound of a piano continually echoed. And imperceptibly, an illusion surfaced with that sound: that of the faces of the inhabitants of a land in which all were free from the burdens of death and of life’ (ibid: 337).

For some with whom he now comes into contact, Yasuta’s response leads to his being ridiculed: ‘What’s all this rubbish about freedom?’ (ibid), he is asked, for example by his boss. Undeterred, however, Yasuta comes increasingly to identify with those for whom simply being alive represents the apogee of freedom—and he acknowledges, ‘I have my own Utopia. It is as though, in dying, Utopia has been reborn in my breast’ (ibid: 444). For Yasuta, without this dream of genuine freedom, life would be unbearable and, in this, he is specifically contrasted with his friend and confidant, the ex-Army doctor Ginjirō, who defines his sole raison d’être as his ‘inability to die’. Here is a figure, heavily reminiscent of Dostoevsky’s Stavrogin, who remains wedded to his conviction that ‘to choose death for oneself is not merely right, . . . it is the true meaning of freedom’ (ibid: 429). It is in his response to such absence of hope—and in his rejection of death as a means of potential salvation— that Yasuta comes to embody Shiina’s first concerted attempt to explore a sense of freedom in the world. The Eternal Preface was published in 1948, at a time when the question of the nature of freedom under the US Occupation was of paramount concern for so many Japanese. For Shiina, however, such considerations were inextricably linked with the spiritual questioning with which he was preoccupied at the time—a search that was to lead him to seek baptism into the Protestant church in December 1950. Writing in the wake

shiina rinz: a japanese literary response


of this decision, the author encapsulated his view of the Christian paradox of freedom in the following terms: In Christianity, all are sinners. At the same time, though, one also has to admit that all are saved—and, as such, free. This is a very strange type of freedom. It is a freedom, whereby the individual is absolutely sinful and at the same time provided with a promise of absolute salvation. But since these two cannot be united, they can merely coexist. And yet there is no basis upon which these two conflicting concepts can coexist, either in theory or in practice (SRZ 19: 177).

The tension represents a cornerstone of Shiina’s texts of the 1950s, but is perhaps nowhere more graphically illustrated than in Kaiko (The Encounter, 1952), the novel on which Shiina was engaged at the time of such deliberations. Indeed, Shiina himself portrayed the novel as a turning point: ‘The Encounter is a record of my fight against the nihilism of my past and a confession of the freedom and happiness I gained when I managed to restore myself from that disintegration’ (bunretsu) (SRZ bekkan: 311). The novel incorporates a series of characters, each of whom comes to question the nature of absolute freedom at moments when confronted by his or her own mortality. The ensuing portrayal is of a loose coalition of individuals, living in the throes of nihilism, with each persuaded that true freedom cannot be acquired without the medium of death. Significantly, the entire action of the novel is restricted to a forty-eight-hour time period, a narrative present delineated as December 1951, and everything takes place within the narrow confines of an area of south-west Tokyo. In this, Shiina would appear to be deliberately confining his characters to a restricted world, whilst hinting at the timeless world beyond, in order to confront them with the very limits of human freedom. Most notable in this regard is Nohara Tomoya, a member of the fallen bourgeois nobility who has long sought to shut himself off from the world in the realm of his own consciousness. Tomoya does hold down a conventional job: he is depicted as a rich yet disillusioned ‘industrialist’. But he is driven by dreams of himself as a free ‘eternal traveller’ (SRZ4: 124). His desire for release from all restrictions leads him to resort to the ‘vivid freedom’ (ibid: 282) he experiences only when snorting cocaine, his nihilism thereby portrayed as the weakness of one who has been driven to despair as a result of a reluctance ever to be true to himself. In sharp contradistinction to Tomoya stands Ishida Kakuji, symbol of the strong nihilist, reduced to despair by the restrictions he sees as


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imposed on himself by contemporary society and who dreams of freedom in a future, classless society. Left alone and confronted by the emptiness and hopelessness of his present situation, Kakuji finds himself increasingly drawn to share the ‘pain of the proletariat’, whilst simultaneously conceding to a certain ‘decadence’ in trying to gain one’s freedom directly from society. To him, ‘freedom within society is a bourgeois freedom—and for us to acquire direct freedom, we must cling to such freedom’ (ibid: 167). A similar contrast between opposing aspects of nihilism is to be seen in the dichotomy established between the protagonist, Furusato Yasushi’s sister, Keiko, personification of the passive nihilism of one who has been driven to despair by impending death, and Tomoya’s sister, Jitsuko, symbol of the active nihilism of one who, driven to decadence in a desperate attempt to discern some purpose to her life, ultimately recognizes that hers is a freedom built on emptiness. Over all these, however, stands the figure of Yasushi who, whilst inhabiting the same world and wearing a constant smile of sympathy for the material circumstances that have given rise to the nihilism of his companions, seeks to transcend such concerns. His situation is indeed tragic: his father had lost his leg in an accident, his mother has been driven to despair by the need to care for her husband, Keiko has been fired as a suspected left-wing sympathizer, another sister, Tokiko, has tuberculosis and his younger brother, Iwao, has recently attacked a classmate with a knife. For all his concerns, however, Yasushi continues to smile on life and to pour scorn on those who threaten to succumb to emptiness and despair. The smile may be incomprehensible to those around him—with Kakuji dismissing it as evidence of Yasushi’s ‘ignorance of the facts’ (jijitsu ni taisuru muchi, Takadō: 114) and others remaining equally scornful. Shiina’s narrator, however, appears persuaded: Yasushi’s smile differs from that of his companions in that it is founded on freedom, and as such unintelligible to those who have yet to experience such sense of liberation. Yasushi’s attempt to define this freedom can be cited as representative of the mature Shiina protagonist who has come to perceive freedom as release, not so much from constraining influences, but into some allembracing principle: Freedom is a sense of happiness secured for us by some eternal being. Surely it is only through such freedom that, every day, I am able to accord with the time of this earth, with the world and its history. Thus, it is more important than my suffering, my happiness—even than the love I hold for a woman (SRZ 4: 290).

shiina rinz: a japanese literary response


In such passages, Yasushi appears intent on transmitting to those who are living in the throes of nihilism the meaning of ‘true freedom’. At the end of the novel, however, he is still ‘waiting’ for them, and for the chance to complete this process. He is convinced that, even to those living in the darkness of nihilism, torn between preservation of the self and obligations to society, love and freedom, loneliness and solidarity, such poles can be fused. But he remains powerless to effect this transition in others. In the years that followed, Shiina turned to both critical essays and a more overtly autobiographical tenor to his narratives in an attempt to further address this issue. The trait is epitomized in Jiyū no kanata de (On the Far Side of Freedom, 1953), a novel in which, through closer identification with a single male protagonist, he explores the dichotomy, inherent in his choice of title for the work, between his current self, specifically located on ‘this side of freedom’, and his own former self living, by implication, on ‘the other side’. The dichotomy is established from the outset—with the protagonist, here known as Seisaku, viewing his own former self as a ‘corpse’ and, in keeping with the template noted above, armed with a belief that the mundane routine of daily existence represents the nadir of freedom. At the textual level, this is initially evidenced in the numerous depictions of the youthful Seisaku deliberately plunging through panes of glass on being struck by his boss in a perverted vision of death as release into absolute freedom. This same conviction is emphasized later in the novel in the depiction of Seisaku’s vision of true freedom as epitomized by the lice-infested prison cell into which he had been cast in Kobe. Only in prison, relieved of all obligations to society, does Seisaku feel totally liberated, although he remains unsure how to handle the luxury of his newly acquired loneliness. Equally, however, it is in jail that he learns that too much freedom can be as hard to handle as too little, and the subsequent narrative only serves to reinforce the paradoxical sense of the freedom of the prisoner—in the depiction of his existence as a menial worker at a match factory immediately following his release—a meaningless routine that leads to his sense of being a ‘prisoner of life’ (jinsei no chōekishu) (SRZ 5: 188). Within days of his release, Seisaku’s new-found physical freedom has come to appear totally empty and, in the concluding depiction of Seisaku setting off in a desperate quest for the ‘dazzling freedom’ of Tokyo (ibid: 208), the narratorial implication is strong that no such physical search will succeed in assisting the protagonist across the dividing line between existence ‘on the other side of freedom’ and that on ‘this side’. Indeed, the narrative concludes with


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an acknowledgement by the narrator that appears to represent one final attempt to assert the protagonist’s freedom from the clutches of death, from his own past, and from the sense of emptiness, born of despair, that had characterized his childhood: Strangely enough, Seisaku was destined to die a few years later. Even more strange was the fact that this seemingly irredeemable man was destined to be reborn in heaven after death, as though he were God’s clown (ibid).

For all his resolve to determine his own destiny, the ultimate depiction of Seisaku is of a man who continues to stumble in the face of the stark choice he perceives between pursuing his own physical freedom at all costs and honouring his obligations to society. Two years later, however, Shiina was to compose The Beautiful Woman, a novel which, in its depiction of a protagonist, Kimura, willing and able to confront the gulf between absolute freedom and the shackles of his own mundane existence as a railway employee, has achieved most in securing Shiina’s reputation as an author in pursuit of a literary depiction of true freedom. For an extended consideration of this aspect of Shiina’s best-known novel, I would refer the reader to my earlier essay (Williams 2006). Of particular significance to any discussion of this work as the literary embodiment of Shiina’s vision of the need to allow the two contradictory forces [of freedom from, and freedom in the world] to co-exist, however, is the corollary that the critic Takeda Tomoju draws from this assessment of Shiina’s art. ‘True freedom’, he suggests, ‘can only exist in the mundane world of everyday reality. In order to portray such freedom, Shiina first had to restore the health of everyday reality’ (GNKBZ: 292). It is here that Shiina’s protagonist, Kimura, comes into his own. In keeping with the earlier protagonists, Kimura too finds himself dissatisfied with his destiny; in sharp contradistinction to the earlier protagonists, however, rather than seeking to escape, he attempts, through positive affirmation of the circumstances in which he finds himself embroiled, to effect an improvement from within. The process is one which Kimura is, at the one level, in a position to acknowledge. Crucial to the narrative portrayal of Kimura as released from the constraints of the seemingly irreconcilable forms of freedom with which all the earlier Shiina protagonists had, to a greater or lesser extent, struggled, however, is the all-pervading image of the ‘beautiful woman’, symbol of true freedom, who comes increasingly to appear before Kimura at his moments of greatest despair. On the one level, the ‘beautiful woman’ appears to Kimura as ‘a symbol of dazzling freedom . . . a source of light which illuminates

shiina rinz: a japanese literary response


everything’ (SRZ 6: 274–275). In keeping with the tradition of the ‘belle femme’, however, her function is more complex and, during the course of the novel, she is variously described by Kimura as ‘a being who rescues me from my own strange self ’ (ibid: 274); ‘a being who blows away those strange shadows and fills my heart with a sense of warmth and fulfilment’ (ibid: 279); ‘a being who provides me with my raison d’être and who allows me to experience the fullness of life in its entirety’ (ibid: 280); ‘a being who renders the strangeness of nature and the strangeness of mankind into a powerful and brilliant existence’ (ibid: 307) and a being who ‘enables [me] to delight even in my misery’ (ibid: 350). She serves, in short, to confront Kimura with a sense of freedom which embodies, more completely than anywhere else in Shiina’s corpus, the concept of the ‘third freedom’ as discussed earlier, and it is this that enables him ultimately to achieve his goal of becoming a more ‘humanlike human’ (ningen-rashii ningen, ibid: 359). Conclusion The Beautiful Woman was recognized by the critic, Togaeri Hajime, immediately upon publication, as having ‘pursued the fundamental essence of human nature to a level more profound than any that Shiina had attained to date’ (cited in Takadō 1989: 135). This is due, in large measure, I would suggest, to the author’s ability to achieve a new perspective on the concept that had long represented a central motif in his texts, that of the ‘third freedom’. Here, the author who, even in On the Far Side of Freedom, had portrayed his protagonist as unable to reconcile the two variant forms of freedom with which he found himself confronted, succeeds in portraying a protagonist released from the constraints of such logic and, as such, comes closest to a depiction of ‘true freedom’. The result is a work which provides Shiina’s closest approximation to a depiction of the ‘spontaneous freedom’ (op. cit., Calichman 2008: 55) that the critic Nishitani had called for during the course of the ‘Overcoming Modernity’ proceedings. At the same time, in its unwavering focus on the metaphysical questions posed by a protagonist whom Shiina’s narrator consistently insists on portraying in the guise of an ‘average worker’ (heibon na rōdōsha) seeking to live the life of the archetypal member of postwar society, the novel can be seen as a powerful response to the call for a greater appreciation of the reality—the honzen no sugata—of everyday life in immediate postwar Japan. Indeed, it was these very


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qualities that were acknowledged as grounds for the conferral on the work of the 1955 Ministry of Education Prize for the Arts, as evidenced in the Minister’s commendation: In The Beautiful Woman, Shiina succeeds in portraying, in simple style, a model of an ordinary man, seeking to live with integrity amid the transitions in the social climate, and thereby creates a new image of man in postwar literature (cited in Takadō: 135).

It is in this sense—as a portrayer of the true nature, the ‘honzen no sugata’ of the plight of the ordinary Japanese worker in the immediate aftermath of the Asia Pacific War—that I am citing Shiina as a classic example of an author inspired by the challenge encapsulated in the ‘Overcoming Modernity’ proceedings. Needless to say, as was the case with Kobayashi, for Shiina too, Dostoevsky remained at the level of inspirational role model, whose struggle ‘against the conventional ideas of [his] own society and era’ (op cit, Calichman 2008: 179) may have represented little more than an catalyst for his own literature. There is, however, little questioning of Shiina’s contribution as literary portrayer of the ‘people of his [native country] and its spirit (kami) after a time of massive social upheaval’ (op. cit., Doak and Takada: 38). The trait represents a constant throughout his literary career—albeit it is only with The Beautiful Woman, as he comes to examine the link between ‘the commonness of everyday life’ (ibid: 24) that he portrays, and the ideal of a ‘third freedom’ that had evolved in his imagination over the years, that Shiina’s true legacy as an author encapsulating the spirit of the ‘Overcoming Modernity’ proceedings is fully appreciated.

shiina rinz: a japanese literary response


References Calichman, Richard (ed. and trans.) (2005a) What is Modernity? The Writings of Takeuchi Yoshimi, New York: Columbia University Press. (2005b) Contemporary Japanese Thought, New York: Columbia University Press. (2008) Overcoming Modernity: Cultural Identity in Wartime Japan, New York: Columbia University Press. Davis, Walter A. (2001) Deracination: Historicity, Hiroshima, and the Tragic Imperative, Albany: State University of New York Press. (2003) An Evening with JonBenet Ramsey, Lincoln: Authors Choice Press. (2006) Death’s Dream Kingdom: The American Psyche Since 9–11, London: Pluto Press. (2007) Art and Politics: Psychoanalysis, Ideology, Theatre, London: Pluto Press. Doak, Kevin and Takada, Yasunari (eds) (2002) Overcoming Postmodernism: ‘Overcoming Modernity’ in Japan, special issue of Poetica 56–57. Gendai Nihon kirisutokyō bungaku zenshū henshū iinkai (eds) (1972–1974) Gendai Nihon kirisutokyō bungaku zenshū (Anthology of Contemporary Japanese Christian Literature), 18 vols, Tokyo: Kyōbunkan (cited as GNKBZ). Hibbard, Esther (1973) ‘Proletarian’s Progress’, in Japan Christian Quarterly 39:4, pp. 194–211. Kobayashi Takayoshi (1992) Shiina Rinzō-ron: Kaishin no shunkan (A Study of Shiina Rinzō: The Moment of Conversion), Tokyo: Seishidō. Mayo, Marlene and Rimer, Thomas (eds) (2001) War, Occupation, and Creativity: Japan and East Asia, 1920–1960, Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press. Minamoto Ryōen (1994) ‘The Symposium on ‘Overcoming Modernity’’, in James Heisig and John Maraldo (eds) Rude Awakenings: Zen, the Kyoto School and the Question of Nationalism, Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press. Ozaki Hotsuki (1991) Kindai bungaku no kizuato: kyū-shokuminchi bungaku-ron (The Scars of Modern Literature: On the Literature of the Former Colonies), Tokyo: Iwanami shoten. Saitō Suehiro (1980) Shiina Rinzō no bungaku (The Literature of Shiina Rinzō), Tokyo: Ōfūsha. Sasabuchi Tomoichi (1962) ‘Kindai bungaku no byōsu ni mesu o’ (Taking a Scalpel to the Diseased Element within Modern Literature), in Gekkan Kirisuto (June). Sasaki Keiichi, Shiina Rinzō no bungaku (The Literature of Shiina Rinzō), Tokyo: Ōfūsha. Schlant, Ernestine and Rimer, Thomas (eds) (1991) Legacies and Ambiguities: Postwar Fiction and Culture in West Germany and Japan, Baltimore and London: Johns Hopkins University Press. Shiina Rinzō (1957) Watashi no seisho monogatari (My Journey with the Bible), Tokyo: Chūō kōronsha. (1970–79) Shiina Rinzō zenshū (The Complete Works of Shiina Rinzō), 23 + 1 vols, Tokyo: Tōjusha (cited throughout as SRZ). Strecher, Matthew (2008) ‘(R)evolution in the Land of the Lonely: Murakami Ryū and the Project to Overcome Modernity’, in Japanese Studies 28:3. Takadō Kaname (1989) Shiina Rinzō-ron: sono sakuhin ni miru (On Shiina Rinzō: A Textual Analysis), Tokyo: Shinkyō shuppansha. Takeda Tomoju (1972) ‘Kaisetsu’, in GNKBZ, vol. 8. Williams, Mark (2006) ‘Free to Write: Confronting the Present, and the Past, in Shiina Rinzō’s Utsukushii onna’, in R. Hutchinson and M. Williams (eds) Representing the Other in Modern Japanese Literature, London: Taylor & Francis/ Routledge.



MODERNISM IN PREWAR JAPANESE POETRY Leith Morton To discuss the issue of Modernism in one of the traditional genres of prewar Japanese poetry entails a rethinking of prewar literary Modernism in Japan. This study will attempt to do this and from time to time address the larger problems associated with Japanese Modernism but the main focus will be on the impact of Modernism on the genre of traditional poetry known as tanka. In the prewar era, tanka constituted the major genre of traditional verse as it had inherited the prestige attached to waka, the mainstream of Japanese poetry for over a millennium and a half, and the mode of writing most closely linked to the Imperial family.1 By the first decade of the twentieth century, the name waka (Japanese verse) had been largely replaced by the term tanka (short verse) as part of the combined efforts of various poets to create a new style of poetry that would better reflect the realities of the age in which it was composed.2 I will begin with a few words about Modernism itself and its history in order to trace the beginnings of Modernism in Japanese traditional poetry. What Was Literary Modernism? Chris Baldick in a discussion of Modernism in twentieth century English literature quotes Virginia Woolf writing in 1925 on what the 1 Tanka are short poems usually composed in a fixed metre of 5/7/5/7/7 syllables according to various literary and linguistic conventions. In Japanese, modern tanka can be written as a one line poem, two line poem, three line poem or five line poem (gogyō tanka) but I generally translate them into five line poems in English, with each line corresponding to a 5 or 7 syllabic unit. All translations herein are by the author. 2 Some English-language studies that discuss this process include Donald Keene, Dawn to the West: Japanese Literature in the Modern Era Vol.2 (New York: Holt, Rinehart and Wilson, 1984); Janine Beichman, Masaoka Shiki (Tokyo, New York: Kodansha International, 1986) and Janine Beichman, Embracing the Firebird: Yosano Akiko and the Birth of the Female Voice in Modern Japanese Poetry (Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 2002). For some important studies in Japanese on this topic, see Saigusa Takayuki, Shōwa Tanka no Seishinshi (Tokyo: Hon’ami Shoten, 2005); Ōta Noboru, Nihon Kindai Tankashi no Kōchiku (Tokyo: Yagi Shoten, 2006); Katō Takao, Kindai Tanka no Kenkyū (Tokyo: Meiji Shoin, 2008); Meiji Jingu ed., Meiji Tanka no Bungaku Chōryū (Tokyo: Tanka Shinbunsha, 1996) and Yasumori Toshitaka, Ueda Hiroshi eds., Kindai Tanka o Manabu Tame ni (Kyoto: Sekai Shisōsha, 1998).


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modern signifies for her generation: ‘We are sharply cut off from our predecessors: alienated from the past . . . everyday we find ourselves doing, saying or thinking things that would have been impossible to our fathers’.3 But as Baldick reminds us, in Europe in the first quarter of the twentieth century Modernism was a ‘minority current’.4 He also notes that the use of the word ‘modernist’ was a rarity, the first significant use of the term coming in 1927 with Robert Graves and Laura Riding’s book A Survey of Modernist Poetry.5 What happened in Japan? William Tyler’s magnificent book Modanizumu, a volume of translations of Japanese modernist prose texts published in 2008, has given a new impetus to English-language studies of Japanese Modernism. Tyler is determined to make the case for the synchronicity of Japanese Modernism—that is, he argues, it occurred simultaneously with international modernist movements, as well as being inspired by them to create its own ‘modernist heresy’, to quote the title of another of the myriad works in English on Modernism.6 Tyler notes that Japanese Modernism is located within the ‘schools and movement in the arts . . . MAVO in painting’, first and foremost.7 This echoes the European experience, as Jean-Michel Rabaté writes in his 2007 volume 1913: The Cradle of Modernism, ‘In 1913, more than ever before, the connections between painting, music, and literature were numerous and obvious’.8 This led Jean Cocteau to describe [Stravinsky’s] The Rite of Spring as a ‘pure “Fauvist” work’.9 The mention of Cocteau immediately forges a link to prewar Japanese modernist tanka, which, as we will discover, also calls to mind Virginia Woolf ’s earlier comments, as the postscript to the poet Maekawa Samio’s acclaimed 1930 volume Shokubutsusai (Botanical Revels) reveals: It is only natural for the tanka of today to take on an appearance that is slightly improper. When we turn away from [traditional] sentiment, rid ourselves of common sense then, as a matter of course, poetic sensibility is set free. The speed of a galloping horse kicks the white clouds along. There is 3 Chris Baldick, ‘Modern Beginnings’, p. 2 in The Modern Movement [Oxford English Literary History: Vol.10, 1910–1940]. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004). 4 Ibid. p. 3. 5 Ibid. p. 4. 6 William J. Tyler ed., Modanizumu: Modernist Fiction from Japan 1913–1938 (Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 2008) p. 16. See also Damon Franke , Modernist Heresies: British Literary History, 1883–1924 (Columbus: The Ohio State University Press, 2008). 7 Tyler ed., Modanizumu. p. 19. 8 Jean Michel Rabaté, 1913: The Cradle of Modernism (Malden and Oxford: Blackwell Publishing, 2007) p. 30. 9 Ibid.

modernism in prewar japanese poetry


no necessity for calculation whatsoever. But in the case of tanka only when we calculate poetic sensibility that does not require calculation can we compose good works. To calculate poetic sensibility that is already a matter of calculation will result in poetry that cannot go beyond the mediocre. Japanese tanka because it is Japanese tanka must become more Western in respect of poetics and poetic techniques. However no matter how much Japanese try to become Western, they cannot. That is to say, if we reject from the beginning the attempt to be Western, then, in the long run, our tanka will end up narrow in scope. In the same vein, to start with classical style tanka is a little dangerous. I am in my 20s, still young, to take up the classical mode is to drown oneself in it. So I glance back at the classics, study them, and try to force them away—afterwards the reality will be that I enter correctly upon the path of the classics . . . . . . In this collection, I have, at any rate, endeavoured to continually make it new, to broaden [the scope of tanka]. It is because of my energy that I made a revolution in tanka to bring about revolutionary tanka . . . As Cocteau says, artists do not ascend to the next stage by taking two steps at once. I also intend to ascend one step at a time.10

I will leave the poet here for the moment—who from now on will be called by his given name Samio.11 His manifesto displays characteristics common to modernist contemporaries in Europe and elsewhere. T. S. Eliot once remarked that ‘poets in our civilization . . . must be difficult’, and later observes that the poet must use force, ‘to dislocate if necessary, language into his meaning’.12 Samio’s remarks about calculation fall perhaps into the difficult category, and sometimes his poetry does too. The overall message is clear: he is initiating a break with the past, he is bringing about a revolution in tanka and, finally, he is the Japanese Jean Cocteau. What a splendid example of synchronicity! But what was it that Samio was breaking with? To answer that question we need to outline the contours of the tanka world as it appeared in the first three decades of the twentieth century. Tanka Wars: 1920–1930 By 1910, literature in Japan had fallen under the sway of the Naturalist movement, which for tanka at least, emphasized the truth of the 10

Maekawa Samio, Maekawa Samio Zenshū (Tokyo: Ozawa Shoten, 1996) Vol.1, p. 611. Translations of Samio’s poetry can be found in Makoto Ueda ed., Modern Japanese Tanka: An Anthology (New York: Columbia University Press, 1996) pp. 145–157. 12 Quoted by Peter Nicholls, ‘The Poetics of Modernism’ in Alex David and Lee M. Jenkins eds., The Cambridge Companion to Modernist Poetry (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007) p. 58. 11


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‘inner self ’ with a nod towards the realistic description of everyday life embodied in the notion of ‘shasei’ popularized by the leading tanka journal Araragi (Japanese Yew Tree).13 Motobayashi Katsuo has argued that the Araragi poets broke their ties to the larger world of Japanese literature due to their rejection of the approach of the earlier generation of tanka poets associated with the Myōjō (Morning Star) journal who had seen tanka as ‘tanshi’ or short verse, stressing the links between this traditional genre of verse and modern free-style poetry.14 This constituted a rejection of the earliest stage of literary Modernism championed by such Myōjō poets as Yosano Tekkan and Yosano Akiko.15 By the mid-1920s however younger poets began to revolt against the Araragi position, which had compartmentalized tanka into small, hermetic cliques as had been the case traditionally. In July 1926 a special issue of the leading journal Kaizō (Reconstruction) was published on the topic of ‘Tanka wa metsubō sezaru ka?’ (Will Tanka Become Extinct?). The famous poet Shaku Chōkū (better known by his real name, Orikuchi Shinobu, 1887–1953) who contributed to the journal commented that ‘tanka is already well on the way to extinction’.16 One of the poets who argued a contrary case, Saitō Mokichi (1882–1953) the most distinguished tanka poet of the twentieth century, nevertheless was influenced by the ferment that was engulfing the tanka world. A verse Mokichi wrote in 1929 demonstrates how even poets like himself who were conservative in their approach began to experiment: Aratani no Jōkū wo sugite Shinchū ni ukabu

Crossing the air Above a steep valley This line wells up in my breast

13 For details see Leith Morton, The Alien Within: Representations of the Exotic in Twentieth-Century Japanese Literature (Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 2009) pp. 92–93; Ishimoto Ryūichi, ‘Shizenshugi Undō no Ryūkō—Bokusui, Yūgure o Chūshin ni’ pp 197–216 in Meiji Jingu ed., Meiji Tanka no Bungaku Chōryū and Senuma Shigeki, Taishō Bungakushi (Tokyo: Kodansha, 1985) pp. 146–158. On shasei and Araragi, see Tanaka Junji, ‘Shoki Araragi Shaseisetsu’ pp. 121–139 in Waka Bungaku Kai ed., Ronshū: Myōjō to Araragi (Tokyo: Kasama Shoin, 1983). 14 Motobayashi Katsuo, ‘Atarashiki Utabito’ in Nihon Bungaku no Rekishi (Tokyo: Kadokawa Shoten, 1968) Vol. 11, p. 249. See also Yamamoto Kenkichi and Ueda Miyoji, ‘Gendai Bungaku no Tanshikei’ in Nihon Bungaku no Rekishi (Tokyo: Kadokawa Shoten, 1968) Vol. 12, pp. 162–163. 15 For details of the Myōjō version of Modernism see Leith Morton, Modernism in Practice: An Introduction to Postwar Japanese Poetry (Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 2004) pp. 11–34. 16 Quoted by Yasumori Toshitaka, ‘Shōwa Tankashi’ p. 58 in Yasumori Toshitaka, Ueda Hiroshi eds., Kindai Tanka o Manabu Tame ni.

modernism in prewar japanese poetry ‘Des Chaos Töchter Sind wir umbestritten’


‘We are the undisputed Daughters of chaos!’17

The use of the quotation from Goethe’s Faust to express the connection with Germany that Mokichi (who studied there) felt when viewing craggy peaks from an airplane caused quite a stir amongst his contemporaries. Other leading writers associated with Araragi also began to experiment, composing verse with links to the larger world of art and literature, thus going beyond the narrow outlook associated with the boundaries drawn by the Araragi aesthetic. Take, for example, the following tanka by Maeda Yūgure (1883–1951): Shizen ga Zunzun karada no Naka wo tsūka suru— Yama yama yama

Nature Zips zipping through My body: Mountains Mountains Mountains18

This poem was published in the same year as Mokichi’s verse and is typical of the experimentation of the time. The leap into new and daring modes of tanka composition provoked a strong counterattack from conservative poets, with Matsumura Eiichi’s 1934 article ‘Tanka sanbunka’ (Prosifying Tanka), which took Mokichi and other poets to task for using foreign vocabulary and extravagant Chinese compounds, typical of the trend.19 By the end of the 1920s, the call to reform tanka (tanka kakushin) had reached a crescendo; consequently, reform poets split into two groups: proletarian poets influenced by Marxist doctrines advocating working class revolution and modernist writers known as the ‘shinkō kajin’ (the rising poets), although in the beginning their poetics were similar.20 This brings us back to Maekawa Samio (1903–1990), the greatest prewar modernist poet, although recognition of his status was exceedingly belated, coming only in the last two or three decades. 17 Quoted Yamamoto Kenkichi and Ueda Miyoji, ‘Gendai Bungaku no Tanshikei’ p. 162. Also see Amy Vladeck Heinrich, Fragments of Rainbows: The Life and Poetry of Saitō Mokichi, 1882–1953 (New York: Columbia University Press, 1983) p. 88. 18 Quoted by Saigusa Takayuki, ‘Shinkō Tanka no Mondaiten—Maekawa Samio o Rei to shite’ p. 137 in Yasumori Toshitaka, Ueda Hiroshi eds., Kindai Tanka o Manabu Tame ni. 19 Yamamoto Kenkichi and Ueda Miyoji, ‘Gendai Bungaku no Tanshikei’, pp. 164–165. 20 Saigusa, ‘Shinkō Tanka no Mondaiten’, pp. 134–135. See also Katō Takao, Kindai Tanka no Kenkyū, pp. 253–265.


leith morton Maekawa Samio: The Scream Trapped in a Wall

Samio’s allegiances were originally pledged to the proletarian school. Most of this verse has thankfully been consigned to the dustbin of history but he was one of the better poets, as the following poem demonstrates: Kono hen de Kare wa yarareta To omou na de Senjin yo nemure! Ore wa bira o maku

I believe It was around here He was murdered Mr Korean! Sleep in peace! I’ll distribute the leaflets21

The poem is straightforward and realistic, it paints a clear picture of the fate of Korean activists. The following poem by Samio is darker: Ima no bāi Hyaku no seihen yori Kowai no wa Hitori no uragirimono o Dasu koto da

Right now I’m more frightened Of a traitor emerging Than a Thousand coups d’état22

The sense of fear, the menace of constant betrayal is clearly conveyed in this verse illustrating the reality of proletarian agitators in the late 1920s.23 Neither of these verses makes great claims as poetry but, by and large, they are superior to the bulk of verse in this vein, which is why such poetry has been long forgotten. The famous free verse poet Takahashi Mutsuo, reading Samio’s proletarian tanka, contends that this poetry is more a dramatization of situations than a heartfelt expression of sentiment. This, argues Takahashi, offers a clue as to why Samio soon broke with his proletarian confreres.24 In addition, we should note that Samio’s own family background owed nothing to urban poverty: he was the son of a wealthy 21 Quoted by Takahashi Mutsuo, ‘Kajin Maekawa Samio no Baai’ p. 189 in Takemura Tamio and Suzuki Sadami eds., Kansai Modanizumu Saikō (Kyoto: Shibundō, 2008). 22 Ibid. 23 For more information on proletarian tanka and Samio, see Katō, Kindai Tanka no Kenkyū pp. 253–255 and also Odagane Jirō, Uta no Oni: Maekawa Samio pp. 133–139 (Tokyo: Chūsekisha, 1987). 24 Takahashi Mutsuo, ‘Kajin Maekawa Samio no Baai’, pp. 189–190.

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landowner from rural Nara. This last fact partially explains the title of his famous first collection.25 After turning his back on proletarian tanka, Samio constructed an entirely new modernist aesthetic, as he boasts in the postscript to Botanical Revels. The turn to the West that he identifies in the postscript as a methodological strategy—in other words, a strategy at the level of allusion and mode of expression—is reinforced by his casual namedropping of Jean Cocteau. He expanded on the Western influences on his work in an essay called ‘Shinkotenshugi no Hōkō’ (The Course of Neo-Classicism) first published in the Nihon Kajin (Japanese Poet) magazine in October 1939, and later included in his volume of criticism Tanka Zuikan (Random Notes on Tanka, 1946), where he writes in connection to the postscript to Botanical Revels: ‘If I were to sum it up, it could be called the “esprit moderne”. For example, I passed through Cubism, Dada and Surrealism. I believe that unless you make your way through these [movements] then you cannot be a modern tanka poet in the true sense of the word.’26 Later in Random Notes on Tanka, Samio places his verse in a Japanese context: ‘Although he belonged to the Myōjō school, [Ishikawa] Takuboku’s tanka did not consist merely of dream and fantasy, he managed to achieve something new. Despite belonging to the Araragi school, Mokichi’s verse was not just realism, dream and fantasy is contained in his poetry, demonstrating how much he borrowed from rival Myōjō poets—there is quite a lot of Western smells and tastes in his work.’27 Samio defines his aesthetic in relation to Ishikawa Takuboku (1886– 1912), the pioneer of tanka reform and also in relation to Mokichi, the leading tanka poet of the day. The claim that Samio is making is that both poets incorporate modernist techniques in their work—although he does not use the word Modernism, preferring simply ‘modern’. He also derides the Araragi aesthetic, both in this book and elsewhere, as pallid realism. The link between Samio and Takuboku is so strong, especially in the Botanical Revels poems, that Samio was attacked after the publication of the book by his enemies as a mere imitator of the earlier poet.28 25 For information on Samio’s life, see Odagane Jirō, Uta no Oni and Saigusa Takayuki, Maekawa Samio (Tokyo: Goryū Shoin, 1993). 26 Maekawa Samio, Maekawa Samio Zenshū Vol. 3 (Tokyo: Sunagoya, 2008) p. 225. See also Maekawa Samio and Shimizu Hian, Maekawa Samio Shimizu Hian (Tokyo: Shingakusha, 2007 [Kindai Romanha Bunko 39]) p. 129. 27 Maekawa Samio, Maekawa Samio Shimizu Hian, p. 139. 28 For details, see Odagane Jirō, Uta no Oni, pp. 162–162 and Saigusa, Maekawa Samio, pp. 80–85.


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The inspiration and connections are plain to see as demonstrated by an examination of the following tanka by Takuboku from his celebrated 1910 collection Ichiaku no Suna (A Handful of Sand): Jinjō no odoke naramu ya Naifu mochi shinu mane o suru Sono kao sono kao

Not just a common buffoon Knife in hand, faking suicide That face that face29

Samio’s parallel tanka is: Dare mo heya ni Oraneba hyotto Harakiri no Mane shite mishi ga Sabishiki nari

No one in The room So I faked Cutting open my belly Just got sad30

The youthful narcissism of both poets is evident, as well as the need to create dramatic tension, where the poem can be read as both an expression of disgust with the world and as a story demonstrating this fact. Samio learnt from Takuboku’s embrace of colloquial diction to use the colloquial in his own verse. This was in stark contrast to mainstream tanka, exemplified by the Araragi poets, who were much more conservative in their adherence to classical metre. However Samio, after experimenting with free metre in his proletarian verse, soon abandoned it and returned to the 5/7/5/7/7/ fixed syllabic rhythm hallowed by 2,000 years of tradition, as we can see in the following two poems. First, an exercise in ‘proletarian’ verse by Samio written in 1928. Yokobara o Gusari to sashite Yaru nante Tondemonai koto Da ga ware ni ari

To gut-stab some one From The side is Totally monstrous Yet I have it in me.31

In Botanical Revels, the free metre is rewritten as fixed metre, but the colloquial flavour is preserved. 29 Ueda Hiroshi ed., Ishikawa Takuboku Kashū Zenka Kanshō (Tokyo: Ōfūsha, 2001) p. 57. 30 Maekawa Zenshū Vol.1, p. 140. 31 Cited Saigusa, ‘Shinkō Tanka no Mondai Ten’, p. 138.

modernism in prewar japanese poetry Yokobara o Gusari to sashite Yatta nara Aitsu wa donna Kao suru naramu


If I were To gut-stab him From the side I wonder what expression His face would assume?32

As we can see, a murderer’s state of mind was as popular a subject for poetry in 1930 as it is now. The same subject was famously exploited if not romanticized by the free-verse poet Hagiwara Sakutarō in his poem ‘Satsujin Jiken’ (An Incident of Murder) from his 1917 landmark modernist collection Tsuki ni Hoeru (Howling At the Moon).33 With his unabashed borrowing of themes from free-verse poetry (shi), Samio was seeking to restore the link between tanka and the larger world of modern art and literature. The cover of Botanical Revels was illustrated by the modernist painter Koga Harue (1895–1933) and Samio himself was first introduced to the Modern Movement via the exhibitions of modern art in Tokyo held from 1917 onwards. Botanical Revels contains some 574 tanka that are divided into four chapters entitled ‘Koen no hoshi’ (The Stars of My Home), ‘Gogatsu no dansō’ (May Dislocations), ‘Kako no shō’ (The Chapter of the Past) and ‘Hakuhō’ (White Phoenix), and each of the chapters are further subdivided into up to thirty sequences of poems ranging between eight and thirty individual tanka.34 I will translate some sample verses from the collection in order to grasp the nature of Samio’s modernist aesthetic. Samio was twenty-seven when the collection was published which consisted of poems written between 1926 and 1928, that is, when the poet was aged between twenty-three and twenty-five. So it is not surprising to find some verses that convey a romantic brand of youthful anxiety and despair, like the following: Wakaku shinu Kokoro ga ima mo Waite Kinu Bara no nioi ga Koko kara ka suru 32

The feeling that I will die young Arose in me From somewhere The scent of roses35

Maekawa Samio Zenshū, Vol.1, p. 156. Numerous translations of this poem exist. Two useful volumes of Hagiwara translations are: Hiroaki Sato, trans. Howling at the Moon: Poems of Hagiwara Sakutarō (Tokyo: University of Tokyo Press, 1978) and Robert Epp, trans. Rats’ Nests: The Collected Poetry Of Hagiwara Sakutarō 2nd ed.(Stanwood,. Washington: Yakusha, 1999). 34 Maekawa Samio Zenshū, Vol.1, pp. 634–635. 35 Ibid p. 122. 33


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The self-dramatization is balanced by the dislocation of the last two lines, which act both to romanticize and also parody the youthful sensibility expressed in the verse. The next poem reveals Samio’s strength as a manipulator of language, a most self-conscious distortion of logic: Tenjō wo Sakashima ni aruite Iru yō na Kubi no darusa o Kyō mo oboyuru

As if On the ceiling Walking upside-down A weariness in my neck There again today36

The critic Ōta Noboru comments that this verse reverses everyday reality and transforms the actuality of the poem into another dimension.37 This absorption in mental states may well emerge out of a reading of Takuboku but for the time it was something startling and fresh. The next poem displays the same narcissistic tendencies and also has the distinct air of a Takuboku-inspired verse: Mayonaka ni Gaba to okita ware wa Kichigai de Hibiiru hodo ni Kagami mite iru

Middle of the night I spring awake I’m insane Until it breaks Staring at the mirror38

The next poem is a like-minded experiment in modernist dislocation: Naniyue ni Heya wa shikaku de Naranu ka To kichigai no yō ni Heya wo mimawasu

Why Is a room Square? Like a madman I look about the room39

The next poem is an even more extreme example of dislocation or, following the Russian Formalist aesthetic, estrangement: Toko no ma ni Matsurarete aru 36

In the alcove Placed on a pedestal

Ibid p. 125. Ōta Noboru, Nihon Kindai Tankashi no Kōchiku p. 413. 38 Maekawa Samio Zenshū, Vol.1, p. 132. 39 Ibid p. 102. 37

modernism in prewar japanese poetry Waga kubi o Utsutsu naraneba Naite miteishi


My head. Because this is not real In tears I stared at it.40

Saigusa Takayuki remarks on this poem in his award-winning history of Shōwa tanka (published in 2005) that it is possible to see the narrator as a different ‘I’ from the ‘I’ being observed. The splitting of the self signifies, in Saigusa’s view, the fundamental estrangement that modernity portends. The ‘old self ’, the pre-modernist self, cannot accept the new, modern world, and exists in an uneasy relationship with the new, and the ‘self ’ it has spawned.41 The next poem has been compared to the paintings of Edward Munch (1863–1944), especially The Scream (1893): Kotsu kotsu to Kabe tataku toki Kabe no naka yori Kotaeru koe wa Waga koe nariki

When I knocked Knocked against the wall Inside the wall It was my own voice That came back to me42

Yamashiro Kazunari remarks that inside the wall someone is trapped screaming. Is it the artist himself or his consciousness? He praises Botanical Revels extravagantly, declaring that it is filled with the selftorture, anxiety, madness, longing, despair and rage of youth. Finally, he likens the collection to a kaleidoscope, breaking into a thousand fragments, forming a dizzying, surrealistic illusion. The collection, he argues, opened up a new world for tanka poets, a world coeval with the ghostly presence of Western Modernism.43 Among the selection of poems from Botanical Revels chosen by Yamashiro some verses stand out precisely because their dislocation of language is expressed in a softer, gentler tone. I will translate two of these poems: Tōi sora ni Ima usuaoi 40

In the far-off sky Now eggshell blue

Ibid p. 100. Saigusa Takayuki Shōwa Tanka no Seishinshi, pp. 26–27. See also Itō Kazuhiko’s comments on this famous poem in his Maekawa Samio (Tokyo: Hon’ami Shoten, 1993) pp. 20–21. 42 Maekawa Zenshū, Vol.1, p. 150. 43 Yamashiro Kazunari, ‘Maekawa Samio ‘Shokubutsusai’’ pp. 189–190 in Kindai Tanka o Manabu Tame ni. 41


leith morton Mado ga aki Waga mada shiranu Waga ko ga kao o dasu

A window opens As yet unknown to me My child thrusts out his head44

This verse reminds me a little of one or two paintings by René Magritte (1898–1967), a quintessential Belgian modernist. The sense of shock, and, finally, anticipation moves this painterly poem in the direction of an as yet unknown future, but a future filled with hope. Samio’s technique resembles that of Baudelaire, described by Peter Nicholls in his book on Modernism, as: [invoking] ‘the privileged duplicity of the romantic ironist, his capacity to cast himself as observer and observed and to make that decision the ground of a judgmental authority located somewhere outside the action of the poem. The act of dissociation is vital . . . since if irony is in some sense ‘cruel’, it is because it offends against an apparently ‘sentimental’ view of human nature.’45 This comment, it seems to me, can be applied to much of the poetry collected in Botanical Revels. But the second of the two poems that I translate and that are favoured by Yamashiro is an even more pictorial verse, with a mysterious modern beauty: Issan no Juin ni waga neru Mappiruma No no chō murete Kushiki yume o mau

Under the canopy Of a tree, I doze off In broad daylight Wild butterflies cluster Dancing to an arcane dream46

Peter Nicholls notes that after the First World War a ‘sense of a new period was instigated . . . painters like Picasso, Severini and Juan Gris showed a stronger interest in ideas of restraint in design, with precision of line preferred’.47 Nicholls calls this a move into Neo-Classicism which followed immediately upon the jarring nihilism of Dadaist poetry. An uncanny parallel can be detected in Samio’s verse that also came directly after the publication of Botanical Revels, and this shift in style can also be apprehended in the poem cited above: it displays, to borrow Nicholls’ words: ‘a stronger interest in ideas of restraint and design, with precision of line preferred’. 44 45

Maekawa Samio Zenshū, Vol.1, p. 150. Peter Nicholls, Modernisms: A Literary Guide (London: Palgrave McMillan, 2009)

p. 3. 46 47

Maekawa Samio Zenshū, Vol.1, p. 147. Nicholls, Modernisms: A Literary Guide, p. 266.

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Samio himself referred to this change in poetic theme as ‘shinkotenshugi’, the Japanese translation of ‘Neo-Classicism’.48 As Samio explains in his essay, ‘The Course of Neo-Classicism’, cited earlier, he does not define his version of Neo-Classicism as the equivalent of the Western movement but rather states that it signifies that: ‘We did not want to be put into the same basket as the old-fashioned romantic poets who had dominated the world of tanka, we wanted to make it perfectly clear that our position was fundamentally incompatible with poets associated with absolutism and the new realism, those opportunistic currents found in the present, rather, we wanted to grow as Japanese tanka poets and expand our movement positively.’49 Unfortunately, in the end, Samio did embark upon the same path trodden by many of his modernist contemporaries in the West, and embraced a form of ultranationalism, clearly displayed in one or two of his wartime collections of poetry.50 The exact links between literary Modernism and fascist politics is outside the scope of this chapter but it is a fascinating subject given that so many modernist poets both in Japan and Europe fell prey to the lure of right-wing politics. Samio’s role as a pro-war poet undoubtedly contributed to the swathe of attacks he endured in the postwar period but as more than one critic has observed he was not alone in this, and was certainly not the worst. My view is that his earlier links to the leftist, proletarian poets left him vulnerable to charges of being a turncoat, and as the left dominated postwar tanka circles until the 1960s, he was persona non grata to those who controlled the world in which he moved. The story of the rediscovery of Samio and the recent revival of interest in his work cannot be told here, as engrossing as it is, since this study is a very preliminary essay into prewar Modernism. One possible conclusion to this chapter is that Modernism not only exercised a powerful influence over tanka, but that it actually inspired traditional tanka, and after modernist verse was suppressed in the late 1930s onward, and poets like Samio had transformed Modernism into a more Neo-Classical mode of composition, this lesson was not lost. This was especially the case for the new generation of tanka poets who began to dominate the scene from the 1960s onward, and for many of whom, Samio was their only true progenitor. 48

Maekawa Samio. Maekawa Samio Zenshū Vol. 3, p. 225. See also Maekawa Samio and Shimizu Hian, Maekawa Samio Shimizu Hian, p. 130. 49 Maekawa Samio. Maekawa Samio Zenshū Vol. 3, pp. 226–227. See also Maekawa Samio, Maekawa Samio Shimizu Hian p. 132. 50 See Saigusa, Maekawa Samio and Odagane Uta no Oni for details.


leith morton References

Baldick, Chris. ‘Modern Beginnings’, in The Modern Movement [Oxford English Literary History: Vol.10, 1910–1940]. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004). Beichman, Janine. Embracing the Firebird: Yosano Akiko and the Birth of the Female Voice in Modern Japanese Poetry (Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 2002). , Masaoka Shiki (Tokyo, New York: Kodansha International, 1986). Franke, Damon. Modernist Heresies: British Literary History, 1883–1924 (Columbus: The Ohio State University Press, 2008). Hagiwara, Sakutarō. (Epp, Robert. Trans) Rats’ Nests: The Collected Poetry Of Hagiwara Sakutarō (Stanwood,. Washington: Yakusha, 1999) 2nd ed. (Sato, Hiroaki. Trans) Howling at the Moon: Poems of Hagiwara Sakutarō (Tokyo: University of Tokyo Press, 1978). Heinrich, Amy Vladeck. Fragments of Rainbows: The Life and Poetry of Saitō Mokichi, 1882–1953 (New York: Columbia University Press, 1983). Ishimoto, Ryūichi. ‘Shizenshugi Undō no Ryūkō—Bokusui, Yūgure o Chūshin ni’ pp 197–216 in Meiji Jingu ed., Meiji Tanka no Bungaku Chōryū. Itō, Kazuhiko. Maekawa Samio (Tokyo: Hon’ami Shoten, 1993). Katō, Takao. Kindai Tanka no Kenkyū (Tokyo: Meiji Shoin, 2008). Keene, Donald. Dawn to the West: Japanese Literature in the Modern Era Vol.2 (New York: Holt, Rinehart and Wilson, 1984). Maekawa, Samio. Maekawa Samio Zenshū (Tokyo: Ozawa Shoten, 1996) Vol.1. . Maekawa Samio Zenshū (Tokyo: Sunagoya, 2005) Vol. 2. . Maekawa Samio Zenshū (Tokyo: Sunagoya, 2008) Vol. 3. Maekawa, Samio and Shimizu, Hian. Maekawa Samio Shimizu Hian. (Tokyo: Shingakusha, 2007 [Kindai Romanha Bunko 39]). Meiji Jingu ed. Meiji Tanka no Bungaku Chōryū (Tokyo: Tanka Shinbunsha, 1996). Motobayashi, Katsuo. ‘Atarashiki Utabito’ in Nihon Bungaku no Rekishi (Tokyo: Kadokawa Shoten, 1968) Vol. 11. Morton, Leith. The Alien Within: Representations of the Exotic in Twentieth-Century Japanese Literature (Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 2009). . Modernism in Practice: An Introduction to Postwar Japanese Poetry (Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 2004). Nicholls, Peter. Modernisms: A Literary Guide (London: Palgrave McMillan, 2009). . ‘The Poetics of Modernism’ in Alex David and Lee M. Jenkins eds., The Cambridge Companion to Modernist Poetry (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007). Odagane, Jirō. Uta no Oni: Maekawa Samio (Tokyo: Chūsekisha, 1987). Ōta, Noboru. Nihon Kindai Tankashi no Kōchiku (Tokyo: Yagi Shoten, 2006). Rabaté, Jean-Michel. 1913: The Cradle of Modernism (Malden and Oxford: Blackwell Publishing, 2007). Saigusa, Takayuki. Maekawa Samio (Tokyo: Goryū Shoin, 1993). . Shōwa Tanka no Seishinshi (Tokyo: Hon’ami Shoten, 2005). Senuma, Shigeki. Taishō Bungakushi (Tokyo: Kodansha, 1985). Takahashi, Mutsuo. ‘Kajin Maekawa Samio no Baai’ in Takemura Tamio and Suzuki Sadami eds., Kansai Modanizumu Saikō (Kyoto: Shibundō, 2008). Tanaka, Junji. ‘Shoki Araragi Shaseisetsu’ pp. 121–139 in Waka Bungaku Kai ed., Ronshū: Myōjō to Araragi (Tokyo: Kasama Shoin, 1983). Tyler, William J. ed. Modanizumu: Modernist Fiction from Japan 1913–1938 (Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 2008). Ueda, Hiroshi ed. Ishikawa Takuboku Kashū Zenka Kanshō (Tokyo: Ōfūsha, 2001). Ueda, Makoto ed. Modern Japanese Tanka: An Anthology (New York: Columbia University Press, 1996).

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Yamamoto Kenkichi and Ueda, Miyoji. ‘Gendai Bungaku no Tanshikei’ in Nihon Bungaku no Rekishi (Tokyo: Kadokawa Shoten, 1968) Vol. 12. Yamashiro, Kazunari. ‘Maekawa Samio ‘Shokubutsusai’’ pp. 189–190 in Kindai Tanka o Manabu Tame ni. Yasumori Toshitaka, Ueda Hiroshi eds. Kindai Tanka o Manabu Tame ni (Kyoto: Sekai Shisōsha, 1998).

A MODERNIST TRADITIONALIST: MIYAGI MICHIO, TRANSCULTURALISM, AND THE MAKING OF A MUSIC TRADITION Henry Johnson Introduction As a result of the rapid changes that occurred in Japan during the Meiji era (1868–1912), the nation witnessed a reconfiguration of musical styles in the new political milieu. Japanese music (hōgaku) was dichotomized with Western music (yōgaku), and the latter soon became a predominant musical style (Galliano 2002). Compulsory school education introduced Western music as the starting point for all musical training; the government disestablished the professional performers’ guilds that controlled who could play several types of ‘traditional’ music; and new music and innovation soon flourished in a way that witnessed an array of new musical activity and creativity. This was a cultural response to the far-reaching political reforms, a consequence of Westernization and modernization that resulted in a musical revolution that helped transform the Japanese musical soundscape in lasting and profound ways. The early twentieth century saw a consolidation of the changes that occurred in the Meiji era, along with a stronger Japan in terms of its military presence in Asia and colonial aspirations. By the 1920s, there was a major shift in many creative, literary, and visual arts that has since become known as a period of Japanese modernism (Gardner 2006; Lippit 2002; Takemura and Suzuki 2008). While the term kindaishugi (modernism) had been known since critic Kaneko Chikusui (1870–1937) first used it in 1911 (Kaneko 1911), the 1920s and 1930s was truly a period of Japanese modernism (the romanized version of ‘modernism’, modanizumu, is nowadays usually used). These few decades were certainly a time of continued Western influence, but they were also a moment in Japanese history that saw a localizing of the global in a particularly Japanese way. There was a reaction against conservatism and a production of new Japanese culture that interconnected with other cultural movements in the Western world, especially the movement now referred to as modernism. Starrs (1998: 71), for instance, comments

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on the 1920s and 1930s in connection with Kawabata’s (1899–1972) modernism as a time when ‘modernism and traditionalism are mutually supportive’. Indeed, this is the underpinning argument of this chapter, which focuses on the performer, composer, and educator, Miyagi Michio (1894–1956), as a modernist traditionalist; a pioneer who moved the past into the present. While Japanese modernism could be interpreted as simply adopting the ideas of Western modernism, or perhaps be linked with the notion of Westernization, it was in fact a movement that reflected the social, cultural, and political context of the time, especially in the 1920s and 1930s. Westernization was indeed prevalent, but it was the reaction to that influence that gave Japanese modernism its unique qualities in comparison to other modernisms. Miyagi Michio (original name: Suga Michio) was at the heart of the transformation of traditional music in the twentieth century (Prescott 1997).1 Not only did he continue a tradition, but his modified compositional techniques helped popularize a type of Japanese music at a time when Western musical forms were fast becoming the main styles of Japanese music. As a performer, composer, and educator, Miyagi devised new instruments; he was heavily influenced by Western music; and he founded a performance tradition that continues to flourish to this day. What is particularly significant about Miyagi’s influence on so-called traditional music is that in the period of Japanese modernism he both held on to indigenous instruments yet at the same time transformed them as a way of relocating Japanese culture to the new socio-political environment. Miyagi was profoundly influenced by several musical cultures, including various types of Western and Japanese music. In this context, he can be viewed as working across cultures and taking a transcultural approach as a modernist traditionalist. Miyagi was born 7 April 1894 in Sannomiya, Kobe. He was the son of Wakabe Kunijirō, but given the family name Suga as a child (Kanazawa 2009). His family name was changed to his wife’s family name (Miyagi) at the time of his first marriage. Miyagi became blind by the time he was eight, having suffered eye disease from a very young age. As with many blind people in Japan, he turned to music, and continued a tradition of blind male koto (thirteen-string zither) players dating from the 1

In English, Prescott (1997) provides a definitive history of Miyagi Michio and his activities and has been an invaluable source for this chapter. Ayer (1997) provides a useful discussion on Miyagi’s compositional style for koto and shakuhachi. In Japanese, see, for example, Kikkawa (1990). See also Kanazawa (2009) for a summary of Miyagi’s life and activities.


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seventeenth century. At the time Miyagi was growing up, the koto was known in several main social spheres, including court music (gagaku) and everyday (zokusō) traditions, the latter of which was controlled by a guild of blind male players known as Tōdō (see further Fritsch 1996)— although in 1871 the Meiji government had officially disestablished this guild. For several centuries the guild had controlled most everyday koto performance (i.e. the zokusō traditions)—or at least the professional aspects of who could play, teach, and write for several traditional instruments. Miyagi learned several Japanese musical instruments, including koto, shamisen (three-string lute), kokyū (three-string fiddle), and shakuhachi (end-blown bamboo flute). In addition to these distinctly Japanese instruments, he also took organ lessons from an early age when he lived in Kobe (Prescott 1997: 55). In 1907, when Miyagi was thirteen, he moved to Chōsen (Korea) during the Japanese colonial period to be with his parents who had moved there in 1905. In Korea, Miyagi helped support his family by teaching koto and shakuhachi (the latter to a Japanese army band). In Korea he became well established as an accomplished player and teacher of koto. He was given the title kengyō (master) in 1912 (Kanazawa 2009) and was considered dai-kengyō (grand master) in 1916 (Prescott 1997: 58), a title bestowed upon Tōdō performers of the highest rank, yet one that had been banned by the Meiji government in an attempt to open up the profession to others apart from the blind, male professional performers. Miyagi married Kita Nakako in Korea and changed his family name to one in her family, Miyagi (Kanazawa 2009). As Korea at the time was a Japanese colony, it seems that Miyagi led a very Japanese way of life during his time there. As a teacher and performer of several Japanese traditional musical instruments, he showed a degree of transcultural identity by continuing a Japanese tradition in Korea, learning different Japanese musical instruments and genres (across distinct schools, as discussed later), and gaining knowledge about Western music. As a way of furthering his professional career, Miyagi moved to Tōkyō in 1917, another relocation that showed his ability to cross cultures, whether to different countries (or colonies) or to other regions of Japan. His wife died soon after their move back to Japan, although he soon married again to Yoshimura Sadako (1889–1968), whose nieces, Kazue and Makise, learned koto with him. In Tōkyō, Miyagi continued his professional work in Japanese traditional music and his career soon began to flourish as a koto player, composer, and innovator of new instruments. Soon after his move to Tōkyō, Miyagi continued

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to study koto and shamisen, as well as violin and organ, and he purchased a piano to enable further explorations of Western music and performance practice (Prescott 1997: 61). At this time he was actively absorbing as much Western music as he could, attending concerts and purchasing recordings of Western music (Prescott 1997: 61), although he did not understand the words (Miyagi 1956: 205). Miyagi taught at Tōkyō College of Music (now Tōkyō University of Fine Arts and Music) from 1930, becoming a professor there in 1937. Such was Miyagi’s reputation from the mid–1920s that in 1925 he was heard on the first test radio broadcast in Japan. Indeed, his radio activities continued annually with New Year appearances among numerous other broadcasts with lectures and performances. Much later, in 1950, he received the first NHK (Nippon Hōsō Kyōkai: Japan Broadcasting Corporation) Broadcast Cultural Award. Miyagi’s appearances on radio showed a further way that he was able to be influential across Japan, but now without physically having to travel. Given that Japan is an island nation, and one with various regions that are so distinct that the nation is sometimes described as multicultural (cf. Sugimoto 1997), Miyagi was crossing spheres of his own country in ways that were hitherto unheard of before the advent of radio transmission. Nevertheless, Miyagi did travel widely in Japan, although he made just one overseas visit in 1953 when he recorded for the BBC playing one of his compositions, ‘Rondon no Yoru no Ame’ (‘London’s Evening Rain’; 1953—see Miyagi 1995b). On the same trip he represented Japan at the International Folk Dance Music Festival in Biarritz, France, and Pamplona, Spain. A few years after Miyagi’s return to Japan his life was brought to a tragic end. On 25 June 1956, he was travelling to Ōsaka by train when he fell off and died soon after. Miyagi made a huge impact on the new cultural milieu in the twentieth century. He was inspired by his culture’s own music and by Western music, and transformed the former for the modern age. His popularity was quite unlike that of any other traditional musician of the time, and his influence continues to this day with compositions, recordings, and a performance tradition named after him with thousands of followers. This chapter examines Miyagi’s achievements in the 1920s and 1930s, a distinct period of Japanese modernism. Within a paradigm that stresses transcultural flows, the discussion focuses on three facets of Miyagi’s modernism, particularly in connection with his accomplishments on the koto: the invention of instruments; external and internal cultural flows; and the foundation of a new music tradition. The three


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main parts of the chapter contribute to a re-thinking of Miyagi as a modernist traditionalist, a maker of music tradition. Invention of New Instruments The koto has a history in Japan from at least the Nara period (710–794), having been established as an instrument of Japanese imperial court music (gagaku), which had been transmitted from Tang China (Johnson 2004b). While the instrument may have had distinct Chinese roots, it was soon established throughout Japan and localized as a Japanese musical instrument in many cultural contexts, social strata, and geographic locations. The other main instruments that Miyagi worked with were also transmitted from China. The shamisen has been known in Japan since at least the sixteenth century and probably reached the mainland from China via the Ryūkyū Kingdom (Johnson 2010). Like the koto, the shakuhachi was also transmitted to Japan with gagaku, although in this context the instrument was soon obsolete and it was not until several centuries later that it reappeared within Zen Buddhism. The kokyū’s origins are unclear, although related instruments are known in China and Ryūkyū. Its structure is based on the shamisen, but it has much smaller dimensions.2 Miyagi is best known for his performance accomplishments and compositional creativity on the koto. Over the centuries the koto had already been modified in terms of its physical structure, repertoire, performance practice, and social and cultural connections and associations, but by the time of the Meiji era, and continuing through to the Taishō (1912–1926) and Shōwa (1926–1989) eras, the koto’s life as a traditional Japanese musical instrument was simultaneously consolidated and transformed (Johnson 2003). In the 1920s there was a radical change in Miyagi’s creative career in that he started along a path of instrument innovation with the aim of developing new musical instruments based on pre-existing Japanese traditional instruments, but inspired by Western musical thought. At this time, there were also other experiments in traditional instrument design such as larger shamisen by Kineya Sakichi IV (1884–1945)3 and 2 On these instruments see English summaries in, for example, de Ferranti (2000), Malm (2000), Tokita and Hughes (2008), and Wade (2005). 3 One such instrument by Kineya was referred to as sero shamisen (cello shamisen) or teion shamisen (lower register shamisen), which indicated its lower range.

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metal shakuhachi with keys (Katsumura 1986; Tiba [Chiba] 2002),4 but most of Miyagi’s innovations made a lasting impact. Of particular importance was Miyagi’s experimentation with larger and smaller instruments, which expanded or changed the range of existing Japanese instruments so that they could be used in ensembles consisting of different size instruments. In connection with Miyagi’s drive to invent new instruments as a way of creating new sounds for his music, a study of the historical and contemporary place of these instruments in the world of Japanese music will help show their significance in the period of Japanese modernism. While some instruments soon became obsolete, others became firmly established within solo and ensemble settings with performers and composers increasingly working with them. Moreover, some innovators have taken some of Miyagi’s earlier ideas and devised even more instruments in a way that can be seen as extending the framework in which Miyagi was working. In an attempt to understand his reasons for inventing new instruments, this section of the discussion looks closely at some of Miyagi’s innovations as a way of gaining insight into the cultural context of the time. As Dawe notes, ‘musical instruments are viewed as objects existing at the intersection of material, social and cultural worlds, as socially and culturally constructed, in metaphor and meaning, industry and commerce, and as active in the shaping of social and cultural life’ (2001: 220; see also Johnson 1995; 2004a). Indeed, Miyagi’s experiments with new instruments can be seen as his way of extending his musical ideas, and offering the Japanese public new objects to go with those sounds, and new sounds to go with those objects. Of Miyagi’s main innovations, the jūshichigen (seventeen-string koto), tangoto (short koto), hachijūgen (eighty-string koto), and dai-kokyū (large kokyū) are of particular importance and discussed more closely below (Katsumura 1986).5 The jūshichigen (literally, seventeen strings) is a seventeen-string version of the koto. The instrument was made in several versions during its early years before a recognized form was finally established. Today, the jūshichigen is understood as an instrument in its own right, and not simply a larger version of the koto. While extending the range of the koto to a bass register, the jūshichigen has two main functions. Firstly, it was intended as an ensemble instrument that would provide a bass 4 This type of shakuhachi was known as ōkurauro, after its inventor, Ōkura Kisitirō (1882–1963). 5 Pictures of these instruments can be seen on the Miyagi website at http://www.


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register to accompany the koto, in the same way that some Western music ensembles have instruments of the same family playing different parts in different registers (e.g. a string quartet) (Chiba 1995; 2000: 195–204; Katsumura 1986: 165–166; Prescott 1997: 75–83). Secondly, the jūshichigen is a solo instrument that soon acquired its own repertoire of new music. Miyagi devised the jūshichigen in 1921. As Prescott (1997: 76) has noted, from the outset, the invention of the instrument had been a collaborative process between Miyagi, Tanabe Hisao (1883–1984) (musicologist), and Tsurukawa Shinbee (instrument maker), which helped show Miyagi’s forward-thinking in terms of developing a new instrument that was relevant at the time. At first, the jūshichigen was made in two sizes, a smaller and a larger variety, although this was soon standardized as one type. The first version, which in comparison to the later version was referred to as dai-jūshichigen (large jūshichigen), was 8 shaku (242.2 cm) long and was used in performance on 30 October 1921 with the pieces ‘Hanamifune’ (‘Flower Viewing Boat’)6 and ‘Ochiba no Odori’ (‘Dance of the Fallen Leaves’—see Miyagi 1996c). The second of these pieces, ‘Ochiba no Odori’, which is an instrumental piece just over six and a half minutes duration, was scored for jūshichigen, koto, and sangen (the name of the shamisen in this sphere of traditional music). The score for the piece shows the jūshichigen tuned to a diatonic scale starting on A (the lower ten strings use kanji for 1 to 10, while the higher seven strings use the Arabic numerals 1–7, which shows further Western influence). The jūshichigen part consists mostly of first and third beat plucking that provides a distinct bass line under the koto and sangen parts. Such part-writing was hitherto not found in ensemble koto music, and the jūshichigen offered a bass line that was reminiscent of some Western music forms. The jūshichigen’s part in this impressionistic piece has been noted as accompanimental to the other instruments: ‘Ochiba no Odori’ is Miyagi’s impressions of autumn leaves falling in the garden outside his window. The jūshichigen part, while far from being simple in structure or easy to play, is nevertheless limited in the techniques used. Although there are passages for the jūshichigen which are soloistic in nature, its role is accompanimental. Most of the activity takes place in the lower strings, which is consistent with Miyagi’s desire to create an instrument to fill the low range. (Prescott 1997: 78; see also 144–151) 6

The score of this piece did not survive.

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In connection with the musical form, which is an indicator of further Western influence, as Prescott (1997: 146–148) points out, the piece is in a rondo form (ABACABA), although a somewhat modified version. ‘The listener perceives not so much the Western idea of having heard the melody before, but the more subtle feeling of having heard something similar to that material previously’ (Prescott 1997: 148). At the time Miyagi devised the jūshichigen he was working within a movement of modern Japanese traditional music that developed from meiji shinkyoku (new music of the Meiji era). In 1920, Miyagi and Motoori Nagayo (1881–1945) performed at a concert referred to by Kinko tradition shakuhachi player Yoshida Seifū (1891–1950) as ‘Shin-Nihon Ongaku Dai-Ensōkai’ (‘A Great Concert of New Japanese Music’).7 Referred to as shin-nihon ongaku (new Japanese music, or shin-nihon ongaku undō [new Japanese music movement]), Miyagi’s works of this time were representative of this movement. In 1923, Tsurukawa made a smaller version of the instrument, now with a length of 7 shaku (212.1 cm). Referred to as shō-jūshichigen (small jūshichigen), the instrument was first used in concert in 1924 with the instrumental piece ‘Sakura Hensōkyoku’ (‘Sakura Variations’—see Miyagi 1996d) (Chiba 1995; Prescott 1997: 152–158). This instrumental piece shows Miyagi’s exploration of the variation form around a well-known Japanese folk song (Prescott 1997: 152): ‘New techniques such as the extended trill and contrast between major and minor keys are introduced. By using a theme which was well-known to the Japanese, Miyagi made the variation form accessible to Japanese audiences’ (Prescott 1997: 157–158). The jūshichigen is nowadays usually made with dimensions similar to the shō-jūshichigen, although exact measurements vary according to the instrument maker. The instrument made a huge impact on traditional Japanese music: at first as an experimental instrument, but later as one of the standard instruments in the world of ensemble and solo performance with an ever-increasing number of pieces written for it. As the more recent koto performer Sawai Kazue (b. 1941) notes, ‘it is an instrument that fits contemporary society well’ (in Falconer 1993: 89; see further Andō 1982; Prescott 1997; Tanabe 1974).8 7 Motoori wrote mainly for children in a Western style. Miyagi too wrote many works for children (Prescott 2005). He composed in both Western staff notation and genmeifu (koto tablature). 8 On other types of koto see Johnson (2003; 2004b).


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While the jūshichigen extended the size of the koto, the tangoto (literally, short koto) was a shorter version of the zither that was devised with portability in mind (Chiba 1989b; Chiba 2000: 209–211; Chiba and Chiba 1993; Prescott 1997: 83–84; Tanabe 1964: 235–236). While not an ensemble instrument or one that would replace the standard-length koto, the tangoto is responsible for helping disseminate the koto in a way that perhaps made the instrument more attractive in terms of its size and cost. The tangoto was built by the koto maker Tsurukawa and first sold in 1932. Nowadays, for example, a whole range of smaller koto-type instruments are found, each aiming to capture a market with players seeking to experience the koto in more affordable and accessible ways (see Johnson 2003; 2004b: 43–49). The tangoto had the same register as the koto, but later developments introduced instruments such as the sopuranogoto (soprano koto) that when combined with the koto and jūshichigen truly provided a greater range with regard to register. The hachijūgen (literally, eighty-strings) was a massive expansion of the comparatively slender thirteen-string koto. As a reflection of the great influence of Western music on Japan at the time, the hachijūgen was modelled on the piano. It had a huge range and physically would have been an extremely difficult instrument to play. The instrument was devised by Miyagi in collaboration with instrument makers Tsurukawa Shinbee and Tsurukawa Kihee (Chiba 1989a; 1993; 2000: 204–209; Kamisangō 1979; Kikkawa 1984a; Prescott 1997: 81–83). The hachijūgen had a length of about 213 cm and was 98 cm at its widest point. It was used just once, on 26 November 1929, with a performance in Tōkyō of ‘Kyō no Yorokobi’ (‘Today’s Joy’) and a transcription of a J. S. Bach ‘Prelude’, the latter of which further showed Miyagi’s interest in and influence by Western music. While the original instrument was destroyed in 1945, a replica was made in 1978 and is on display in the Miyagi Michio Kinenkan (Miyagi Michio Memorial Museum) in Tōkyō. While the hachijūgen was never established as a mainstream instrument, and Miyagi never returned to it, the fact that it was invented at all points to the innovative way that Miyagi was enthralled by the idea of devising new instruments for new music at the time. The dai-kokyū (literally, large kokyū) was a large version of the threestring variety. Also, known as miyagi-kokyū, it was invented by Miyagi in 1926 and, like the larger versions of the koto, Miyagi wanted to use the instrument in ensemble settings (Prescott 1997, 85).9 However, 9 Compare also the reikin, which was also a modern development of the time invented by Tanabe Hisao and was like a kind of fusion between a cello and a shamisen.

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while the instrument is sometimes still used in the Miyagi performance tradition, where Miyagi wrote for it in several of his compositions, its use was never popularized in other traditions of Japanese music.10 On the one hand these instruments were a direct continuation of instrument form in that they continued a tradition of instrument type, albeit sometimes modified extensively. On the other hand, however, these instruments were the result of an immense cultural influence on Japan at the time from the Western world. But the instruments were not simply copying Western instruments per se; they were Japanizing ideas and extending traditional music to the twentieth century. While the opening of Japan from the mid-nineteenth century witnessed an acculturation and syncretism of Western ideas on Japan at a rate that was unprecedented at the time (e.g. Hunter 1989; Parisi, Thompson, and Stevens 1995; Shively 1971), after a period of consolidation and adoption of many of these objects and ideas, Japan in the 1920s and 1930s was at a stage of far-right nationalist sentiment, military expansionism, and a search for national identity. Each of Miyagi’s new instruments was devised at a time that might be described as Miyagi’s modernist period, when he was particularly inventive and prolific as a composer, performer, and educator.11 External and Internal Cultural Flows What made Miyagi’s music different in the pre-Second World War period was that he engaged directly with ideas from Japanese and Western music, and adapted them to suit existing Japanese instruments, modified Japanese instruments, or a blend of Japanese and Western instruments. While he was not alone in his explorations of Western music, it might be argued that the way he engaged with both Japanese and Western ideas, and then often mixed them together, perhaps opened up new ideas for a new audience. In this culturally inspired modernist context, Miyagi was both traditionalist and modernist. He continued a tradition yet extended it into a soundscape in which he was surrounded at the time. Miyagi’s influences extended into various spheres of Japanese and Western music. These excursions included crossing various cultural boundaries as a way of extending his musical influences. From the outset, Miyagi’s creative journeys were to musics close to home, but 10 11

On several types of large shamisen see Johnson (2010). On Miyagi’s literary works see Chiba (1992).


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sometimes a world apart. In 1902, when Miyagi was eight, he started to learn koto from Nakajima Kengyō II (1830–1904) in Kobe within the Ikuta performance tradition (Ikuta-ryū).12 After Nakajima died in 1904, Miyagi continued his koto studies with Nakajima Kengyō’s disciple, Nakajima Kengyō III (1874–1915) (Prescott 1997, 54).13 Miyagi received a teacher’s licence and his geimei (performing name) by the time he was eleven, which was Nakasuga Michio (‘naka’ being a kanji taken from his teacher’s name). In Kobe, as well as his formal studies on koto, Miyagi also learned how to play shakuhachi, kokyū, and organ (Prescott 1997: 55). Moreover, in Kobe, Miyagi’s musical eclecticism was influenced by the international district in which he lived, which included listening to the Western sounds of live music permeating from the hotels frequented by Western visitors. Miyagi’s time in Korea was pivotal for him in terms of his explorations of various types of music, Japanese and Western. As well as continuing to study various Japanese instruments and learning much about Western music, his explorations of koto music actually augmented his work in a way that would almost certainly not have happened had he not moved to Korea. While he originally learned koto in Kobe, in Korea his repertoire was small so he took lessons from a Yamada-ryū teacher, something that would have been almost impossible on the Japanese mainland (Prescott 1997: 56). Indeed, the iemoto (head) and ryūha (school/faction) systems in which koto was predominantly learned at the time made the learning of the music of another school extremely difficult if not totally impossible. Koto traditions maintained an internal social structure that allowed the teacher to form a group of students with a hierarchical structure and horizontal dedication to the group. Crossing such cultural boundaries would be viewed with suspicion and students would normally be expected to learn from just one tradition. When Miyagi learned from a Yamada-ryū teacher, he was able to do so as a result of not being in the main Japanese context where such interactions would be frowned upon. Indeed, such transcultural contacts, whether with other styles of Japanese music or Western music he heard in Japan or overseas, were a distinct trait of Miyagi’s creative eclecticism. By the time of Miyagi’s innovative explorations with new instruments in the 1920s and early 1930s, Western influences in Japan were immense. 12

Nakajima was also a master jiuta (lyrical style) shamisen player. Following the Meiji reforms that abolished the Tōdō guild, Nakajima Kengyō II was also known as Nakajima Genkyō. His student, Nakajima Kengyō III or Nakajima Genkyō II, continued the Nakajima tradition of koto performance. 13

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In this context, Miyagi was especially influenced by Western music, although from a transcultural perspective he was actually influenced by the West from two distinct spheres: outside influences that continued to travel to Japan; and internal influences that had already been absorbed into Japan. It might be argued that Miyagi was working across two cultural styles: Japanese and Western. However, the difference with the example of transculturalism is that while Miyagi was clearly influenced by Western musical ideas, he was actually working across cultures within his own cultural context. That is, transculturalism was crossing cultures within Japanese practices that were prevalent and increasingly the norm for most people. Miyagi was working within a musical tradition that was also part of his own culture. His engagement with Western musical ideas was not necessarily his way of working across cultures with different nationalities in question, but was a way of working across cultures within Japan itself. To clarify this point, it is best to look at the historical development of Western music in Japan. In the late nineteenth century, the Japanese government actively looked to the West as a way of modernizing and bringing Japan into the contemporary world after several centuries of relatively quiet trading and cultural influences. Such was the desire to adopt ideas from the West, that Japan acculturated Western music and introduced Western musical learning in compulsory state school education from the early 1880s (Eppstein 1994). Western music educators were brought into Japan to help develop school music teaching, write textbooks, and work with Japanese teachers. Very soon, Western music became the norm in Japanese education. That is, music that might ordinarily be termed Japanese music (music that existed in Japan before Western influence) was almost entirely excluded from school education. This type of music was learned outside of school and has continued to be learned in this way until the present day. Even though some recent educational reforms require some learning of traditional music,14 any form of serious study would have to be undertaken outside the state schooling system. Miyagi wrote over four hundred pieces of music, some of which directly included Western instruments, and others of which were influenced by Western musical forms (see Chiba 2000; Kikkawa 1972; Kikkawa and Kamisango 1979; cf. Tanabe 1931). Miyagi’s compositional influences from Western music utilized structural and harmonic principles and blended them with Japanese traditional music. 14 Instruments such as the koto and taiko (drums) have become well-known in this context.


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Miyagi included various new performance techniques for the koto into his new music. As well as using much thinner plectra and thinner koto strings than most other koto players (Prescott 1997: 85), his new techniques were prevalent in his works. As Prescott (1997: 87; see also 87–185) notes, ‘most were influences by techniques found in Western music. They are staccato, pizzicato, harmonics, arpeggios and chords, tremolo, and glissando.’ Indeed, techniques such as left-hand plucking even appeared in his first composition, ‘Mizu no Hentai’ (1909—see Miyagi 1995a). Perhaps the most notable style of Western influence was with some of his vocal music, which were sometimes written for performers trained in Western techniques (Prescott 1997: 94). Western influences on Miyagi were wide ranging. For example, some Western musical practices have ensemble settings that display instruments of the same family, but with differing ranges. The family of string instruments is perhaps the best example, and one that might be compared directly to developments in Japan with the koto. In Western music, the string section of an orchestra, and some other ensembles too, has three or four main instruments that are directly related: violin, viola, cello, and double bass. The different size instruments allow for a wider range of music and contrasting tone colours. Miyagi did not develop a direct comparison of the koto with Western strings, but he did attempt to expand the koto’s range considerably. The hachijūgen, although just an experimental instrument, radically offered a vast number of strings, and moved the koto’s range into the tenor and bass registers. As a performer and composer, Miyagi was at the intersection of understanding the need for new instruments to play his new music. While he composed prolifically for the koto and shamisen, he likewise wrote for other instruments too (Chiba 2000). While the hachijūgen did not receive the attention of some of his other innovations, and subsequently did not develop a repertoire of new music, there are a number of new works for koto and jūshichigen that show Miyagi’s expansion of the Japanese soundscape; a way of working that shows immense influence from Western music practice: Until Miyagi, Japanese and Western instruments were almost never mixed in a single composition. Miyagi, with his great interest in Western music, began to use Western instruments in his ensembles. ‘Shukuten Koto Kyōsōkyoku’, ‘Etenraku Hensōkyoku’ and ‘Dōkan’ all include flute, and a number of other compositions include a variety of Western percussion instruments ranging from triangle to tambourine. (Prescott 1997: 107).

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By the time Miyagi wrote his first major compositions in Korea he had a good knowledge of Western music. While some of these pieces blend Japanese and Western ideas, including ‘Mizu no Hentai’ (1909), ‘Kara Ginuta’ (1913—see Miyagi 1996b), and ‘Haru no Yo’ (1914—see Miyagi 1996e) (Chiba 2000: 12–19; see further Prescott 1997), he was primarily extending the koto tradition in which he was trained (see further Kamisangō 1980). As Prescott (1997: 98) has noted, ‘even though Miyagi introduced new techniques into koto playing, no single work is so radical that it severs all ties to tradition’. These pieces were pivotal for him in establishing himself as a respected composer, and for consolidating his own blend of traditional Japanese music and Western music. As Prescott (2005: 28) notes, ‘Miyagi’s first work, ‘Mizu no Hentai’ ... (Transformations of Water, 1909) was unlike any koto composition by any composer prior to that time, and this marks the true beginning of the Miyagi style of koto playing.’ ‘Mizu no Hentai’ is a piece for one or two koto and voice (Chiba 2000: 57–60; Prescott 1997: 123–133).15 While the first song begins in a style similar to some earlier traditional koto music, the first instrumental interlude offers a virtuosic passage that hitherto had not been heard in the world of koto music. It is possible that Miyagi had actually been influenced by a Yamada-ryū koto student of his around this time as he was learning some Yamada-ryū pieces, which may have helped inspire this piece (Prescott 1997: 126). Moreover, while following passages in ‘Mizu no Hentai’ continue a quasi-traditional compositional style (i.e. tegotomono form with verses and interludes), later instrumental interludes (tegoto) take virtuosic koto playing to new heights with rapid right- and left-hand passages. The work received much acclaim, particularly from Itō Hirobumi (1841–1909), a prime minister of Japan and Resident-General of Korea (1905–1909) when Miyagi lived there, who wanted to bring Miyagi to Tōkyō. Miyagi wrote ‘Haru no Umi’ (‘Spring Sea’) in 1929 (see Miyagi 1996a) at the height of the Japanese modernist era, and it is arguably his most famous work (Prescott 1997: 160). It was first performed the same year, and Miyagi later arranged it for koto and violin for the French female violinist Renée Chemet when she was touring Japan in 1931 (Prescott 1997: 161). The recording of this piece helped propel Miyagi to the status of international artist. ‘Haru no Umi’ ‘includes a number of techniques and ideas which are drawn from Western music, 15

The honte/kaede (two koto) version was made by Miyagi in 1917 (Prescott 1997: 126).


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but the work still retains a traditional mood, particularly in the lyrical shakuhachi lines’ (Prescott 1997: 166). There are now several versions of the score for ‘Haru no Umi’. One version (Miyagi 1996a), which is the standard one used by most players, includes several types of notation. The koto part is written in traditional genmeifu koto notation, and a five-line staff version is included that shows the koto and the shakuhachi parts. The notation gives guidance for the player to tune the koto to the correct tuning. As a starting point, it is assumed that the player will tune the instrument to the tuning known as hirajōshi, which is by far the most common tuning for the instrument. Indeed, it is with this tuning that the modern world of everyday koto performance is most familiar. That is, Yatsuhashi Kengyō (1614–1685), who was a founding figure in everyday koto performance, started to use it for the koto in the seventeenth century, a practice that is nowadays recognized as opening koto music to a new tuning system that used half-tones, in a way that was far removed from the high art music at that time. From hirajōshi, the player tunes strings 6 and 11, which are usually an octave apart, a half tone higher. String number 1 is tuned an octave below string 6. This tuning system gives the instrument several series of notes that are quite different to hirajōshi, but not unrelated to some other tuning systems used on the instrument. With the tuning for ‘Haru no Umi’ several groups of notes are formed. The first main group is between strings 1 and 6, which gives an intervallic structure of 3-2-1-4-2 (measured in half tones). This grouping is repeated between strings 6 and 11, which provides the same pattern but at the higher octave. While other koto tunings also have repeated structures such as this, the difference here is that the pattern begins on the first string. With hirajōshi, for example, the pattern 2-1-4-1-4 is found between strings 2 and 7, and strings 7 and 12. A second pattern is found between strings 3 and 8, and between strings 8 and 13: 1-4-2-3-2, which is a permutation of the pattern between strings 1 and 6. A further noticeable difference with the tuning for ‘Haru no Umi’ is that it contains two short clusters of notes that each refer to a different scalic system of traditional music. One is found between strings 3 and 6, which gives the pattern 1-4-2, and is repeated at the higher octave between strings 8 and 11. The second is found between strings 5 and 8, which gives the pattern 2-3-2, and is repeated at the higher octave between strings 10 and 13. These patterns are derived from the longer patterns noted above, but what makes the significant difference in this

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tuning is that each pattern relates partly to distinct types of Japanese music. That is, 1-4-2 is a typical pattern heard in much everyday koto music and usually implies the miyakobushi or in scale. The pattern 2-3-2 is in contrast to this and is usually found in court music. While just short patterns, their combination in this tuning allows the music to offer a combination of traditional sounds on the one hand, and move the music to other scalic systems on the other hand. Written in an ABA form, several of the performance techniques outlined earlier are found in this piece, and the music texture includes prevalent use of harmony with left- and right-hand plucking. Indeed, it was in this piece that harmonics in koto performance were first used (Prescott 1997: 91; see also 160–166). Collectively, Miyagi’s new traditional musical instruments expanded the range of the koto, which showed a need to move into new compositional and performance territory with regard to the musical sounds that had become Japanese at the time. These sounds had immense Western influence, although at the same time they were exclusively Japanese in their creation. Miyagi’s experimentation with extended or changed instrument size is simultaneously a Western influence and a Japanese one. While the Japanese practice of copying has been rigorously explored in scholarly discourse (e.g. Cox 2007), particularly copying from the West, Miyagi was simultaneously copying and developing a tradition. He was practising transculturalism at home, working across cultures within his own culture. Foundation of a New Music Tradition Miyagi’s style of koto playing eventually led to the establishment of a new tradition of koto performance. As a way of comprehending how and why such a new performance tradition might have been established, it is important to outline the way traditional Japanese music is socially structured and taught. Broadly speaking, two main divisions of everyday koto performance are usually classified: the Ikuta-ryū (named after Ikuta Kengyō, 1656–1715), which was historically predominant around the Kansai region (Ōsaka/Kyōto), and the Yamadaryū (named after Yamada Kengyō, 1757–1817), which was once mainly located around Kantō (Tōkyō). While nowadays these boundaries are not entirely accurate due to greater movement of people and culture, and many players share a type of imagined community in that their


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traditions are so large they might never know or meet everyone in it (cf. Anderson 1991 [1983]), there is still a strong sense of each tradition being dominant in these geographic regions, with the Ikuta-ryū being by far the larger of the two and the one with the most subdivisions. The social impact of Miyagi in the world of traditional Japanese music was immense. Traditional Japanese music is mainly transmitted socially within the ryūha system, and this school/faction system is dominated by a head, the iemoto, to whom all the students show their utmost respect (see Hsu 1975; Kumakura 1981; O’Neill 1984; Ortolani 1969; Read and Locke 1983; Yano 1992). This type of system is typical of koto teaching and learning, as well as of many other traditional arts. In the world of everyday koto performance, the style of music that developed in the first half of the seventeenth century was the legacy of Yatsuhashi Kengyō (1614–1685). While several traditions of koto performance developed, such as in gagaku court music, the tsukushigoto temple tradition, and in everyday contexts, by far the most widespread was the one that was established with Yatsuhashi. This tradition of performance soon divided into schools and factions, so that nearly four centuries after Yatsuhashi’s birth there are several main traditions, various factions, and numerous branches and performance groups. Such was the impact of Miyagi and his music in the twentieth century that an entirely new school of koto performance was established around him. As a player, Miyagi had enormous impact beyond Japan and there are now Miyagi-kai players and groups all over Japan and in many countries of the world (Chiba and Chiba 1993). The Miyagi-ha (Miyagi faction) represents this branch of the Ikuta tradition, and the Miyagi-sha (Miyagi company) refers to the lineage of koto players who can trace their performance lineage to Miyagi. The term Miyagi-kai (Miyagi group) refers to the organization that is responsible for looking after Miyagi’s music and affairs. The Miyagi-kai was established in March 1951. ‘The activities of the Miyagi Kai are diverse, and the association is more deeply involved with directly promoting Miyagi’s works among the general public than is the Miyagi Sha. The Miyagi Kai sponsors concerts, lectures, competitions, and parties, and publishes the Miyagi Kai Kaihō’ (Prescott 1997: 195; see further Chiba and Chiba 1999: 133; Prescott 1997: 190–201). The extent to which the Miyagi-kai has developed into a huge organization is perhaps best seen in the group’s own publication on its history (Chiba and Chiba 1999). This work is a comprehensive history of Miyagi and key people associated with the Miyagi-kai. There is also a comprehensive name index of high-ranking players.

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Unlike some traditions of koto performance that have an iemoto (head), the Miyagi school has a sōke (literally, head of family) who is the head of the group. After Miyagi died in 1956, the group was led by his wife, Sadako (original name: Yoshimura Sadako; 1889–1968); then by his niece, Miyagi Kiyoko (original name: Makise Kiyoko; 1905–1991); and then by Kiyoko’s sister, Miyagi Kazue (original name: Makise Kazue; 1912–2005).16 Since Kazue’s death, the Miyagi school has not appointed a sōke, but is currently run by an organizing committee.17 Miyagi left a legacy that has had a profound impact on the world of traditional Japanese music. He composed numerous new pieces of music, devised new instruments on which to play his music, was a dedicated music educator, and published, broadcast, and performed prolifically. To this day, Miyagi’s recordings continue to be digitally remastered, and there is an annual koto contest (Miyagi Michio Kinen Konkūru: Miyagi Michio Memorial Contest) in his memory. There are numerous books and scholarly articles written about him, as well as journals or bulletins produced by Miyagi-kai and Miyagi Michio Kinenkan (Miyagi Michio Memorial Hall). In the popular press too he occupies a huge place as an inspirational figure in Japanese traditional music. The Miyagi Michio Kinenkan was established in 1978 in Tōkyō on the site of Miyagi’s residence during his later years. The building includes a library and a museum that displays many of his possessions, and was the first of its kind to remember a Japanese musician in this way. The Kinenkan functions as a museum, as an archive, and as the headquarters of the Miyagi-kai. As a museum, there are several of Miyagi’s traditional and innovative musical instruments on display (including a reconstructed hachijūgen), numerous photographs detailing his life, and various other personal artifacts. The archive is essentially a research library with staff that write extensively on Miyagi. Miyagi has also been remembered around Japan with several memorial stones dedicated to him, each of which helps show the importance he had for many people in various locations (see http://www.miyagikai.

16 For a brief period in the 1950s and 1960s, Miyagi Mamori (now Ono Mamoru; 1915–2001) was the sōke until a rift developed between him and other family members (see further Prescott 1997: 190). 17 On Miyagi-kai, which is translated into English by the group as Miyagi Koto Association, see the official web pages at Much of the biographical information in this chapter is sourced from this web site.


henry johnson Conclusion

Miyagi Michio was central to the Japanese modernist movement in the 1920s and 1930s. He was pivotal to the development of traditional Japanese music, and gave it his own transcultural style that blended ideas from various Japanese and Western music styles. Not only was he especially active as a performer, innovator, educator, and composer, but after his death his works and activities were taken over by an organization that celebrated his work and achievements, making the Miyagi style of koto performance a prominent genre of traditional Japanese music in the present day. Miyagi changed the ways Japanese music was perceived, particularly by the West in both instrument design and musical form, each of which were important in helping to popularize koto music for a new audience that had grown up with Western music as a new style of Japanese music. The time of Miyagi’s major influence in the 1920s and 1930s was during a period of Japanese modernism that links with other new thinkers of the time. This was a period of a distinct Japanese re-negotiation of where the nation was heading after a long period of rapid Westernization and during a time of extreme nationalism that was to have severe and lasting consequences on the nation several decades later (cf. Tiba [Chiba] 2002). Miyagi Michio has received considerable attention in Japanese and non-Japanese scholarly and everyday literature. What I have presented in this chapter has intended to locate Miyagi’s place in the history of Japanese music in discourses of Japanese modernism. Miyagi was a central figure in developing traditional Japanese music and might be labelled modernist traditionalist, someone extending the past to the present, and at the same time offering something new to a rapidly changing social, cultural, and political milieu. Unlike some of his musical contemporaries who abandoned traditional culture for Western culture (see Herd 2009), Miyagi negotiated a path within an already existing tradition of Japanese and Western music with the aim of revolutionizing the nation’s soundscape for the modern era. His achievements, while deeply rooted in the profound Westernization of Japan in the Meiji, Taishō, and Shōwa eras, had a lasting effect on much everyday koto music and its performers to this day. The main instruments that Miyagi worked with (koto, shamisen, shakuhachi, and kokyū) had roots from outside Japan, but were wellestablished Japanese instruments located in many social, cultural, and geographic spheres of Japanese musical creativity. Over the centuries

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that they have existed in Japan, these instruments have gradually been modified to suit Japanese aesthetic and performance practices. For example, the shamisen originally had a snake-skin sound box covering that was changed to cat- or dog-skin, and the biwa’s (lute) plectrum was used instead of a finger pick. The koto, however, maintained a general structure in Japan, but was modified in terms of its intricacies of design, albeit within a recognized form (e.g. shape of sound holes, materials, and decoration). In all, these instruments maintained an overall structure that on one level was very similar to when they were first transmitted to Japan, and were modified slightly to suit Japanese preferences.18 Miyagi’s engagement with transculturalism can be viewed in several ways. He worked across cultures and sub-cultures in various ways and with different levels of activity. He lived in the Japanese colonial period and crossed the Japan Sea to live in Chōsen (Korea) where he continued to master several traditional Japanese instruments. Regardless of whether or not there was any Korean cultural influence on his creative life (see Miyagi 1978), Miyagi crossed cultural borders not to engage with Korean culture, but to continue a tradition of Japanese music in which he embraced various instrumental traditions and sub-traditions of koto performance. He continued a line of traditional Japanese music that emanated from mainland Japan and one that had established several centuries of transmission. While Japanese music is entwined within a social practice that rarely allows activities with players from other schools of performance, Miyagi did cross traditional styles of music by working to some extent with musicians from different lineages and backgrounds. In contrast to his traditional upbringing, Miyagi also drew considerably from Western music that had actually become a dominant feature of the Japanese soundscape. Also, he drew from Western music within Japan that Japanese were increasingly working with as their own music. That is, not only was Western music an occidental ‘other’ that had been absorbed at a time of immense cultural borrowing during a period of rapid modernization and Westernization, but it was a cultural fact, part of what it meant to be Japanese at that time. From one perspective the sounds were Western in comparison to Japanese, but from another perspective they were equally Japanese sounds. 18 It is interesting to note that of these instruments, the koto in its Chinese version (zheng or gu-zheng) was actually modified tremendously in China where it developed 16– and 21-string versions that became the norm.


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Miyagi helped establish a distinctly new music tradition of Japanese koto music, one that extended the past to the present. It included a style of music that on the one hand was a clear extension or continuation of traditional Japanese music, but on the other hand was a musical tradition that on closer examination was seen to be very much influenced by Western music, whether through the invention of new instruments, the adoption of musical forms, or by the use of Western musical principles. This chapter has discussed Miyagi’s innovations in instrument design and musical style in terms of the Western influences that were predominant in Japan from the mid-nineteenth century onward. It has argued that Miyagi operated within a mode of transculturalism: mixing ideas from different cultures and sub-cultures, whether within or outside Japan. In this context, Miyagi’s modernism is inherently linked to transculturalism where he crossed cultures on several different levels. The chapter has shown that Miyagi was a central figure in Japanese modernism, an understanding of which must necessarily consider various levels of cultural flows from both within and outside Japan.

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References Anderson, Benedict. 1991 [1983]. Imagined communities: Reflections on the origin and spread of nationalism. Revised edition. London: Verso. Andō, Masateru. 1982. Koto to jūshichigen ni okeru hatsugen dōsa no jikan teki kaiseki. Tōkyō Geijutsu Daigaku Ongaku Gakubu Nenshi 8: 45–87. Ayer, Christopher A. 1997. Miyagi Michio and his works for koto and shakuhachi. Doctor of Musical Arts, University of Cincinnati. Chiba, Junnosuke. 1989a. Hachijūgen. In Hirano Kenji, Kamisangō Yūkō, and Gamō Satoaki, eds., Nihon ongaku dai jiten. Tōkyō: Heibonsha. . 1989b. Tangoto. In Hirano Kenji, Kamisangō Yūkō, and Gamō Satoaki, eds., Nihon ongaku dai jiten. Tōkyō: Heibonsha. . 1992. Miyagi Michio no chosaku ni miru ongakukan. Tōyō Ongaku Kenkyū 58: 17–38. . 1993. Miyagi Michio ga hachijūgen de hiita kyoku. Miyagikai Kaihō 156: 35–38; 157: 32–35; 158: 37–42. . 1995. Sō jūshichigen no kōan to sono shūhen. Tōhō Ongaku Tanki Daigaku Kenkyū Kiyō 10: 1–16. . 2000. ‘Sakkyokuka’ Miyagi Michio: Dentō to kakushin no hazama de. Tōkyō: Ongaku no Tomosha . 2002. [see Tiba]. Chiba, Junnosuke and Chiba Yūko, eds. 1993 Miyagi Michio no sekai: Miyagi Michio seitan hyaku nen kinen. Tōkyō: Miyagi Michio Kinenkan. . 1999. Miyagi Michio ongaku sakuhin mokuroku. Tōkyō: Hōgakusha. Cox, Rupert, ed. 2007. The culture of copying in Japan: Critical and historical perspectives. New York: Routledge. Dawe, Kevin. 2001. People, objects, meaning: recent work on the study and collection of musical instruments. The Galpin Society Journal 54: 219–232. de Ferranti, Hugh. 2000. Japanese musical instruments. New York: Oxford University Press. Eppstein, Ury. 1994. The beginnings of Western music in Meiji era Japan. New York: The Edwin Mellen Press. Falconer, Elizabeth. 1993. Sawai Kazue, Avant-garde Kotoist. Japan Quarterly 40 (1): 86–91. Fritsch, Ingrid. 1996. Japans blinde Sänger im Schutz der Gottheit Myōon-Benzaiten. Munich: Iudicium-Verl. Galliano, Luciana. 2002. Yōgaku: Japanese music in the twentieth century. London: The Scarecrow Press. Gardner, William O. 2006. Advertising tower: Japanese modernism and modernity in the 1920s. Cambridge: Harvard University Asia Center. Herd, Judith Ann. 2008. Western-influenced ‘classical’ music in Japan. In Alison McQueen Tokita and David W. Hughes, eds., The Ashgate research companion to Japanese music. Aldershot: Ashgate. Hsu, Francis L. K. 1975. Iemoto: The heart of Japan. New York: John Wiley & Sons. Hunter, Janet. 1989. The emergence of modern Japan: An introductory history since 1853. London: Longman. Johnson, Henry. 1995. An ethnomusicology of musical instruments: Form, function, and meaning. Journal of the Anthropological Society of Oxford 26 (3): 257–269. . 2003. Traditions old and new: Continuity, change, and innovation in Japanese koto-related zithers. Journal of the American Musical Instrument Society 29: 181–229. . 2004a. Introduction. Special Issue on ‘Musical Instruments, Material Culture, and Meaning: Towards an Ethno-Organology’. Journal of Chinese Ritual, Theater and Folklore 144: 7–37.


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. 2004b. The koto: A traditional instrument in contemporary Japan. Amsterdam: Hotei Publishing. . 2010. The shamisen: Tradition and diversity. Amsterdam: Brill. Kamisangō, Yūkō. 1980. Traditional elements in the compositions of Miyagi Michio. In International symposium on the conservation and restoration of cultural property: Preservation and development of the traditional performing arts. Tōkyō: Tokyo National Research Institute of Cultural Properties. Kanazawa, Masakata. 2009. Miyagi, Michio. In Grove Music Online. Oxford Music Online, Kaneko, Chikusui. 1911. Kindai shugi no engen. Taiyō 17 (14): 11. Katsumura, Jinko. 1986. Some innovations in musical instruments of Japan during the 1920s. Yearbook for Traditional Music 18: 157–172. Kikkawa, Eishi. 1972. Gendai hōgaku no chichi Miyagi Michio ni oyoboshita yōgaku no eikyō. Musashino Ongaku Daigaku Kenkyū Kiyō 6: 18–37. , ed. 1984a. Hōgaku hyakka jiten: Gagaku kara min’yō made. Tōkyō: Ongaku no Tomosha. . 1990. Miyagi Michio Den. Rev. ed. Tōkyō: Hōgakusha. Kikkawa Eishi and Kamisango Yūkō, eds. 1979. Miyagi Michio Sakuhin Kaisetsu Zensho. Tōkyō: Hōgakusha. Kumakura, Isao. 1981 The Iemoto System in Japanese Society. The Japan Foundation Newsletter 9 (4): 1–7. Lippit, Seiji M. 2002. Topographies of Japanese modernism. New York: Columbia University Press. Malm, William P. 2000 [1959]. Traditional Japanese music and musical instruments. New edition. Tokyo: Kodansha International. Originally published as Japanese music and musical instruments. Miyagi, Michio. 1956. Mizu no hentai. Tōkyō: Hōbunkan. . 1995a. ‘Mizu no Hentai’. Fukuoka: Dai Nippon Katei Ongaku-kai. . 1995b. ‘Rondon no Yoru no Ame’. Fukuoka: Dai Nippon Katei Ongaku-kai. . 1996a. ‘Haru no Umi’. Fukuoka: Dai Nippon Katei Ongaku-kai. . 1996b. ‘Kara Ginuta’. Fukuoka: Dai Nippon Katei Ongaku-kai. . 1996c. ‘Ochiba no Odori’. Fukuoka: Dai Nippon Katei Ongaku-kai. . 1996d. ‘Sakura Hensōkyoku’. Fukuoka: Dai Nippon Katei Ongaku-kai. . 1996e. ‘Haru no Yo’. Fukuoka: Dai Nippon Katei Ongaku-kai. Miyagi, Shinzo. 1978. Miyagi Michio shi to kankoku ongaku. Korea Review 21 (199): 48–54. O’Neill, Patrick G. 1984. Organization and Authority in the Traditional Arts. Modern Asian Studies 18 (4): 631–645. Ortolani, Benito. 1969. Iemoto. Japan Quarterly 16 (3): 297–306. Parisi, Lynn, Sara Thompson, and Anne Stevens. 1995 Meiji Japan: The dynamics of national change. Boulder: Social Science Education Consortium. Prescott, Anne Elizabeth. 1997. Miyagi Michio - The father of modern koto music: His life, works and innovations, and the environment which enabled his reforms. Ph.D. Diss., Kent State University. . 2005. The donkey’s ears go flop, flop: Miyagi Michio’s koto works for children. Asian Music 36 (1): 27–43. Read, Cathleen B. and David .L Locke. 1983 An analysis of the Yamada-ryu sokyoku iemoto system. Hogaku 1 (1): 20–52. Shively, Donald H., ed. 1971. Tradition and modernization in Japanese culture. Princeton: Princeton University Press. Starrs, Roy. 1998. Soundings in time: The fictive art of Kawabata Yasunari. Richmond: Japan Library. Sugimoto, Yoshio. 1997. An introduction to Japanese society. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

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Takemura, Tamio and Suzuki Sadami. 2008. Kansai modanizumi saikō. Kyōto: Shibun Kaku Shuppan. Tanabe, Hisao. 1931 Music in Japan. In Nitobe Inazo and others, Western influences in modern Japan: A series of papers on cultural relations. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press. . 1964. Nihon no gakki. Tōkyō: Sōshisha. . 1974. Miyagi Michio ni yoru gakki kairyō. Kikan Hōgaku 1: 54–57. Tiba [Chiba], Yūko. 2002. Nationalism, Westernization, and modernization in Japan. In Robert C. Provine, Tokumaru Yosihiko and J. Lawrence Witzleben, eds., The Garland encyclopedia of world music. Vol. 7, East Asia: China, Japan, and Korea. New York: Routledge. Tokita, Alison McQueen and David W. Hughes, eds. 2008. The Ashgate research companion to Japanese music. Aldershot: Ashgate. Wade, Bonnie C. 2005. Music in Japan: Experiencing music, expressing culture. New York: Oxford University Press. Yano, Christine R. 1992. The iemoto system: Convergence of achievement and ascription. Transactions of the International Conference of Orientalists in Japan 37: 72–84.

CHANGING THE SUBJECT: MODERNISM AND THE TRAVEL POETRY OF MORI MICHIYO Janice Brown . . . . frequent descriptions of the modern period as a period of deepening despair, paralysis and anxiety fail to address the visions of many female modernists, for whom the idea of the modern was to embody exhilarating possibilities and the potential of new and previously unimaginable sexual and political freedoms. Rita Felski, ‘Modernism and Modernity: Engendering Literary History’ (1994) as quoted in Whitworth, ed., Modernism.

Rita Felski’s contention that gender has been largely ignored as a major determining factor in the perceptions and productions of modernism was the basis of the above cited landmark essay that not only examined the role of women in modernism but also the term modernism itself. As Felski points out, modernism and its literary and aesthetic productions cannot be viewed as a solely male project. Women, too, were full participants, and with their new socio-political freedoms brought fresh perspectives which, as Felski maintains, often focused on the freeing from constraints and the envisioning of new possibilities in contrast to the despair and anguish connected with the male experience of modernism. While such a generalization is extremely valuable in the reclaiming of modernism in broadly gendered terms, it may work less well in the particular and individual instance of each modernist female writer or artist. That is, viewing modernist women through a Felskian lens may not always reveal the affirmative and/or ‘exhilarating’ landscapes thus predicted. In addition, modernist female writers may present difference not only in terms of gender but in other ways as well. For example, although Felski developed her argument further in Gender and Modernity (1995), this study, similar to the earlier essay, continued to focus on the European and American experience and did not attempt to extend the analysis globally. Modernism in Japan, for example, is well beyond the parameters of Felski’s investigation. More recently, as attempts have been made to address modernism more broadly as a global phenomenon, and more specifically, through studies of cultural and/or national perspective, opportunities have arisen to redefine commonly accepted notions of modernism. A recent volume, Geomodernisms (2005), is exemplary of this wider focus, and

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presents a variety of global modernisms deemed worthy of investigation. As editors Doyle and Winkiel point out in their introduction, ‘so much depends. . . . on place, proximity, position’.1 Even though Japan is again outside the purview of this volume, the overall emphasis on ‘placedness’ (Doyle and Winkiels’ term) as well as the call for a focus on gender in modernism as elaborated by Felski would seem to point to the necessity for further interrogations of modernism in Japan and among Japanese female modernists. Such a critical study has yet to appear. Not only does the recent elaboration of a global and gendered perspective point to the possibilities and variations inherent within the conceptions and discourses of modernism, it also indicates that to a great extent modernism represented a critical effort to move beyond the boundaries and limitations of nation and national culture. In Japan, the engagement with modernism received tremendous impetus in the early part of the twentieth century as European modernist movements and ideas swept through the country. At the same time, it should also be recognized that European modernism was itself in part a response to aesthetic principles and ideas that had entered Europe from Japan and other parts of Asia in years prior. As such, the roots of modernism are no less entangled than the later manifestation. Nonetheless, Japanese artists, writers, intellectuals, women and men, were avid participants in all areas of modernist cultural production, interacting with the new ideas and practices both in the domestic sphere as well as abroad. The transnational nature of much of modernist interchange invoked and encouraged a cosmopolitan sensibility, or as some scholars see it, a ‘cosmopolitan style’2 that remains one of the defining features of modernism today. In terms of gender and cosmopolitanism, studies of Anglo-European modernism tend to focus on Virginia Woolf whereas in Japan, Yosano Akiko has been viewed as a possible female ‘pioneer’ of modernism.3 Certainly Akiko’s travels in China and Europe brought 1 Laura Doyle and Laura Winkiel, eds., Geomodernisms: Race, Modernism, Modernity (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2005), 1. 2 For a comprehensive discussion of cosmopolitanism and modernism, see Rebecca L. Walkowitz, Cosmopolitan Style: Modernism Beyond the Nation (New York: Columbia University Press, 2006). 3 In addition to Cosmopolitan Style, Woolf ’s modernist cosmopolitanism is discussed further by Walkowitz in ‘Virginia Woolf ’s Evasion: Critical Cosmopolitanism and British Modernism’ in Bad modernisms, Douglas Mao and Rebecca L. Walkowitz, eds. (Durham,NC: Duke University Press, 2006), and also by Jessica Berman in Modernist Fiction, Cosmopolitanism and the Politics of Community (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2001). For a treatment of Yosano Akiko as a modernist, see ‘Birth of the Modern: Yosano Akiko and Tekkan’s Verse Revolution’ in Leith Morton, Modernism in Practice: An Introduction to Postwar Japanese Poetry (Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 2004).


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a more cosmopolitan focus to her work. In general, however, studies of women in Japanese modernism are few.4 With the exceptions noted as well as translations of selected modernist women writers, very little exists on Japanese women and literary modernism. A recent volume, Modanizumu: Modernist Fiction from Japan, 1913–1938,5 attempts to combine translation with commentary on literary modernism in Japan, but neglects to include a discussion of gender. Female modernists are also given short shrift. Of the eighteen writers selected for study, only two are women. Clearly, such oversight requires a fuller exploration and delineation of women in modernism in Japan and, to follow Felski, a revisioning of the term modernism, or modanizumu, as well. While such a study lies beyond the scope of this chapter, I will undertake to examine one Japanese female modernist, the poet Mori Michiyo (1901–1977), and to consider selected aspects of modanizumu insofar as these are reflected in her poetry. Selections from Michiyo’s travel poetry will be discussed as poetry of enforced mobility and expatriation that resulted in a distinctly gendered and cosmopolitan intervention in the production of Japanese literary modernism.

Mori Michiyo: Poet, Traveller, Expatriate If date of birth is one measure of identifying a generation, then Mori Michiyo clearly belongs to the group of modernist Japanese women writers who were born in the latter part of the Meiji period and began writing in the 1920s. A veritable roll call of female literary ‘stars’—Uno Chiyo, Hayashi Fumiko, Miyamoto Yuriko, Enchi Fumiko, Hirabayashi Taiko—occupy this group, yet in terms of recognition and achievement, Mori falls short, and is infrequently mentioned among their number in 4

Phyllis Birnbaum’s collection of biographical studies, Modern Girls, Shining Stars, The Skies of Tokyo: 5 Japanese Women (New York: Columbia University Press, 1999) present the lives of women who were major participants in Japanese modernism. There is also Elise K. Tipton and John Clark, eds., Being Modern in Japan (Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 2000), but this volume does not focus specifically on women; of the eleven chapters, only one treats women directly while three other chapters discuss some aspect of images of women within the context of other subject matter. The only attempt in English to address the work of Japanese women in literary modernism of which I am aware are a few pages on women in surrealism in Miryam Sas, Fault Lines and Japanese Surrealism (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1999), 141–158, in which the poetry of Tomotani Shizue and Ema Shōko is briefly discussed. 5 William J. Tyler, modanizumu: Modernist Fiction from Japan 1913–1938 (Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 2008).

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Japanese literary histories.6 In comparison to her fellow women writers and poets, Mori was by no means ill educated or disadvantaged. Receiving a scholarship to attend Tokyo Women’s Normal College in 1920 at the age of nineteen, Mori was much more fortunate than many of her literary contemporaries, at least initially. She enjoyed life in Tokyo and published poetry in literary magazines. In 1924 she met the poet, Kaneko Mitsuharu (1895–1975) and married him. For this, she was expelled from the college. In the following year she gave birth to a son. Despite her new marital status and responsibilities, however, Michiyo continued to maintain contact with a former lover. With the hope that Mori would sever ties with this paramour, Kaneko insisted she accompany him on his journeys abroad. As a result, Mori ended up living far from Japan for several years at a time. She thus missed the opportunity to establish herself fully in Japanese literary circles. When the influential Nyonin geijutsu began publishing the work of new women writers, Mori was living and writing in Southeast Asia and later in Europe. Despite the advantages of her international experience, Mori was unable to showcase her work in her native country.7 During the course of her writing career, Mori Michiyo produced four slim volumes of poetry and co-authored one even slimmer volume with her husband and travelling companion. Mori also wrote fiction, but this, too, was fairly meagre, and comprises only one-volume of a collected works.8 Although not as productive as her spouse, or other modernist poets of the time, Mori wrote under unusual circumstances, living an impoverished expatriate existence in China, Southeast Asia, and Europe for a period of around five years, from 1927 to 1932. The poems in her first three collections were written during this time: Ryūjo no hitome (Dragon Woman’s Eye, 1927); Par Les Chemins Du Monde (Sekai no michi kara, 1931); and Tōhō no uta (Poems of the East, 1934). A later collection, Poésies indochinoises (Poems of Indochina) appeared in 1942. Of these four collections, only the first, Ryūjo no hitome, did not result from Michiyo’s travels.9 According to James Morita, Mori 6 For a brief but informative study in English, see ‘Mori Michiyo’ by James R. Morita, in Chieko Mulherrn, ed., Japanese Women Writers: A Bio-Critical Sourcebook (Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press, 1994), 228–236. In Japanese, see Maki Yōko, Kaneko Mitsuharu to Mori Michiyo: oshidori no uta ni moeru (Tokyo: Magajin hausu, 1992). 7 Morita, ‘Mori Michiyo’, 231. 8 Morita, ‘Mori Michiyo’, 231. 9 The co-authored collection, Fuka shizimu (Shark’s Sink, 1927) was compiled after Mori’s first trip to China with Kaneko. Truly a shared production; no indication is given as to which of the eight poems was the work of Michiyo and which of Kaneko. See Morita, ‘Mori Michiyo’, 231–232. A fuller study of Mori Michiyo’s poetic oeuvre awaits availability of copies of this collection as well as of Ryūjo no hitome and Par Les Chemins Du Monde.


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probably wrote her travel poems first in Japanese and then translated them into French. The French translations form the content of Par Les Chemins Du Monde while the Japanese versions were published some years later as Tōhō no uta. Thus, Tōhō no uta covers the same ground as the French translations and provides the most comprehensive compendium of Mori’s early travel poetry as it came to be known in Japanese. The later collection, Poésies indochinoises, was written in French.10 With the intention of viewing the poet’s original travel writings in Japanese, my focus will be primarily on Tōhō no uta. Mori Michiyo’s Journey to the ‘East’ Many recent studies on travel writing and/or critical work on the literature of travel almost always proceed from the assumption that the perspective motivating such accounts is that of the Euro-American traveller’s gaze fixed outward upon a vast global ‘other’. The intent is to produce a textual account, whether ethnography, history, literature, or memoir, that reflects the colonial or post-colonial attitude of the observer. The focus on empire and the ‘imperial eyes’ that constitute the gaze of the occidental traveller has been well documented.11 Should the gaze of the traveller shift, however, from the prototypical occidental to that of the ‘other,’ travel theory has much less to offer. In this regard, Joshua Vogel’s study, The Literature of Travel in the Japanese Rediscovery of China, 1862–1945 (1996) stands out as one approach that is not, as Vogel has it, ‘about East meets West. . . . but about East meets East’.12 Vogel’s examination of travelogues and other travel writing undertaken by Japanese in the modern period documents a variety of travellers’ viewpoints, markedly different in many respects from the writings of travelling Europeans. One major difference with which many Japanese journeyed to China from the Meiji period until the rise of militarism in Japan in the 1930s, for example, was the anticipation 10 Most of the poems in this volume were translated into Japanese in the early 1990s. See ‘Mori Michiyo butsugo shishū “Shishū indoshina” ‘ in Maki Yōko, Kaneko Mitsuharu to Mori Michiyo: oshidori no uta ni moeru (Tokyo: Magajin hausu, 1992), 86–133. 11 Some notable examples include Mary Louise Pratt, Imperial Eyes: Travel Writing and Transculturation (London and New York: Routledge, 1992); Kristi Siegel, ed., Issues in Travel Writing: Empire, Spectacle, and Displacement (New York: Peter Lang, 2002); and Julia Kuehn and Paul Smethurst, eds., Travel Writing, Form and Empire: The Poetics and Politics of Mobility (New York and London: Routledge, 2009). 12 Joshua A. Vogel, The Literature of Travel in the Japanese Rediscovery of China 1862– 1945 (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1996). 10.

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of encountering the familiar.13 Although the expectations of cultural recognition were not always met, it appears that by and large many Japanese travellers to China during this period (1868–1930) undertook the journey with a sense of cultural connection. Nonetheless, Japanese travellers were also fully aware of their own nation’s ascendancy and, similar to the controlling gaze of the European traveller, reflected on where China might ‘fit’ in an East Asia led by a newly modern Japan.14 This doubled gaze of the Japanese traveller in China somewhat tempers the implication that ‘East meets East’ harbours an evenly balanced exchange. Nonetheless, as Japanese interest in China increased, travel to China spread to all walks of life, with travel accounts by Japanese writers, poets, and artists being the most numerous. Vogel notes: In fact, travelling to China seems to have become de rigueur for members of the Japanese literary scene, inasmuch as virtually every major figure during the prewar period made a trip to China, and wrote accounts for their readers in Japan.15

One might also add that even lesser known literary lights made the journey, including Mori Michiyo, who twice visited China from Japan, as well as Kaneko Mitsuharu, who travelled back and forth between the two countries.16 Mori’s journeys to China, however they may reflect Vogel’s ‘East meets East’ criterion, were not undertaken at her own volition. Both journeys to China were at the instigation of Kaneko, and came about largely through Kaneko’s contacts with other literary figures, such as Tanizaki Jun’ichirō, who wrote letters of introduction to Chinese writers, including Lu Xun, whom both Kaneko and Mori met during Mori’s first China journey in 1925. Another reason for travel was Kaneko’s inability to make a living. Continually in debt, he was further upset by his new wife’s entanglement in a rather flamboyant love affair. Hoping to escape his creditors in Tokyo and at the same time separate Mori from her young lover, Kaneko decided to travel to Shanghai and take Mori with him. Their young son, an infant, was left with Mori’s parents in Nagasaki. This journey lasted only for a few weeks, and Mori returned with Kaneko to Japan. Although the couple attempted to settle 13

Vogel, 147. Vogel, 146. 15 Vogel, 251. 16 For details of Kaneko’s travels, see Kaneko Mitsuharu, Shijin—Autobiography of the Poet Kaneko Mitsuharu 1895–1975, trans. A.R. Davis (NSW: Australia: Wild Peony, 1988); and also, James R. Morita, Kaneko Mitsuharu (Boston: Twayne Publishers, 1980). 14


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down together as a family, Mori continued to pursue her affair, and in 1927 Kaneko again returned to Shanghai, this time alone, where he and Yokomitsu Riichi are reported to have spent time in a variety of entertainments.17 Kaneko’s return to Tokyo found Mori settled in with her lover, and even though Kaneko managed to separate the two, he continued to pursue a penurious, bohemian lifestyle. By the autumn of 1928, beset again by debt and the continuing scandal with Mori, Kaneko again insisted that Mori accompany him on his flight from Japan. By December 1928, having again left their son in the care of Mori’s family, the two were back in Shanghai. They would not return to Japan until 1932, and then separately. Mori Michiyo clearly represents a different kind of traveller than those studied by Vogel. Not only was Mori coerced to journey abroad, her travels were largely the result of Kaneko’s indigence and jealousy. Unlike other Japanese female literary travellers, such as Yosano Akiko and Hayashi Fumiko, who made their way to China around the same time,18 Mori did not have a literary reputation that would provide her the financial freedom to pursue her own interests. She did not travel in response to her own desire. An examination of her travels and her travel poetry reveals a complex variation on the Felskian theme. That is, while Mori did take advantage of the loosening of gender restrictions in Taishō Japan to free herself from conventional morality, and to accomplish certain literary and personal goals, her writings do not sound the note of ‘exhilarating possibility’, as suggested by Felski with regard to other modernist women writers. Instead, Mori’s work is often marked by dissatisfaction and self-deprecation, as in the poem that opens the Tōhō no uta collection, ‘Indoyō’ (Indian Ocean): A deep blue sea. Lumpy like a ramune bottle. And above the sea, my body all twisted Like a saxophone. My thoughts consider a swaying path amidst the formlessness. I’m out of sorts, my feelings buffeted into trailing clouds, I gaze at the intersection of the ship’s handrails. It’s morning on a sea like an unripe fruit. 17

Morita, Kaneko Mitsuharu, 47. Akiko visited China in 1929 and Fumiko in 1930. For an English translation of Akiko’s travels, see Joshua A. Fogel, Travels in Manchuria and Mongolia: Yosano Akiko (New York: Columbia University Press, 2001). 18

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Look. My face pale from a hangover, my eyes bloodshot. In the waves float today’s toys. Eyeglasses, a pistol, a lizard, a silk hat, scissors, a parasol, an anchor, ………and 19

The poet equates the ship’s passage over the tropical ocean with an alcoholic hangover that has twisted her body and clouded her mind, stopping just this side of nausea. Keeping her focus on the ship’s handrail, the poetic speaker remains upright, yet still groggy as she enumerates random objects improbably bobbing past on the waves. The final object, ‘anchor’ (ikari), also a homonym for ‘anger’ in Japanese, underscores the mood of barely suppressed resentment that suffuses the poem and, like the drifting objects, cannot be dispelled. The ultimate ‘and’ (sore kara) hints further at an ongoing chaos. In China, things do not seem to improve for the poet. In ‘Shanghai’ (Shanhai), Mori finds a city marked by poverty and starvation. She writes: Wrapped in blazing Foochow damask a woman’s foot like a clenched fist. A nauseous stench. – sallow thing, makes me ashamed That foot will never dance. Not just that. It was being carried along, trembling in the air. A Shanghai merchant attaches new prices to old goods, calling them ‘mushrooms from Foochow’. Standing in front of the shop a female politician shakes her fist and shouts. An old man holding a cane and a long pipe watches this all day, not even bored. But the coolies, bearers, and beggars panting and gasping, glare with eyes narrowed like needles their stomachs that never eat, turning over, – ah, that looks good, don’t it!20

19 Mori Michiyo, ‘Indoyō’, Tōhō no uta (Tokyo: Toshokenkyūsha, 1934), 8–9. This poem has also been translated by James Morita; see ‘Mori Michiyo’ in Chieko Mulherrn, ed., Japanese Women Writers: A Bio-Critical Sourcebook, p. 233. Ramune (derived from the English word ‘lemonade’) is a popular carbonated drink in Japan that comes in a Codd-neck bottle, or bottle with a globe-stopper cap. To the poet, the indentations on the bottle’s neck as well as the greenish cast of the glass give the appearance of a lumpy, undulating mass. 20 Mori, ‘Shanhai’, Tōhō no uta, 80–81.


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Focusing on the bound foot of a prostitute who is being carried along the street, the poet is assailed by feelings of nausea, anger, and shame. For the poet, the image of the fist-like foot protruding from thick silk seems not so different from the ersatz mushrooms in a fancy box that catch the eyes of the starving workers and vagrants. While other Japanese literary visitors to China, including Natsume Sōseki and Yosano Akiko, registered similar concerns at the plight of labourers and women, and even attempted to assuage the conditions they observed,21 Mori’s speaker does not step back in moral indignation but allows her consciousness to enter wholly into the circumstances she describes. The bound foot bouncing along the street embodies the poet’s feelings of anger and disgust that, by the end of the poem, grow to include the realization of wider social deformity. The final line of the poem, ‘ah, that looks good, don’t it!’ (‘are a, umasō da!’) assumes the voice of the ever-hungry coolie and at the same time functions as a sardonic comment on the enslavement of all human beings, both women and men. In the French version of this poem, the poet maintains the caustic tone, yet in the last lines, omits the direct quotation of the Japanese, ‘are a, umasō da!’ The French reads: Mais coolies, wanpotzos et mendiants, Haletants et tremblants, Regardent fruieusement [sic] avec des yeux minces Comme des aiguilles à coudre. L’estomac, à ne jamais manger, se reverse.22

While it is possible to speculate on an appropriate French phrase that might best represent the final Japanese expression, it is difficult to see how this might add to the French poem, given the precision and completeness of the final French line. The poems in Tōhō no uta do not follow the chronological order of Mori’s travels, but range broadly over the time spent in Southeast Asia, moving through the cities of Singapore, Shanghai, and Batavia (Jakarta), selected locales in China, Indonesia, and Malaysia, over the open seas, and eventually, to Paris. The scattering of places and topics does not detract from the collection, but contributes to its cosmopolitan sensibility. Despite such affect, Tōhō no uta does not demonstrate the modernist urbanity of poets like Nishiwaki Junzaburō or Yosano Akiko, who also found inspiration abroad. Instead, Mori’s poetic journey takes place on 21 22

Vogel, 252; 268. Morita, ‘Mori Michiyo’, 232–233.

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the dark underside of Asian streets and cities—coolies, labourers, temple girls, and snake charmers populate her texts while train stations, coastal steamers, and cheap hotels provide the settings. Mori employs the tropical world of the ‘East’ as a lens through which to view her own self and her exile. In some instances, similar to the appropriating gaze of the colonizing European traveller, Mori makes use of the exotic world she encounters in order to construct a poetry of self-reflection and self-exposure. Unlike the European colonialist traveller, however, who tends to make use of such observations as a means of self-affirmation and/or establishment of cultural supremacy, or even as a vehicle for critique of the home society, Mori lets her gaze wander. Attaching itself here and there, seemingly at random, the poet locates various nodes of sight and works to connect them. As the fragments coalesce, the poet discovers unexpected meaning, as for example in the poem entitled ‘Indian Temple Music’ (Indo kyōgakuchō): Encrusted with copper rust ancient brass trays. Nibbling on lotus seeds and tagara grass young girls long brown arms encircled with bangles raise their arms in an offering geometrically, in the shape of a W. Above their trays are soft budding nipples. Will the gluttonous King of Baghdad eat these offerings? Or are they being offered to the Hindu cow? In the mud of Ceylon many nipples come running. Like water lilies. After the peacocks have flocked and played under a purple, red, and golden evening sky. Underneath these mysterious heavens all of you were born. Or, perhaps you were born from a sudden shower sprayed by firemen holding an elephant’s trunk under an electric light, in Gandhi’s time . . . . What kind of person is this?! This one who is seeking a sacrifice for the new age? The nipples bring forth sweet milk, harmonizing with the music of the old Indian accordion, singing a song of prayer.


janice brown – God, if we exist only to serve you, only to starve for you, only to worship you, then why did you create a being like me?23

Observing a ritual she does not understand, the poet finds herself in new and unfamiliar territory, a contact zone, to follow terminology employed by Mary Louise Pratt. For travellers, this zone appears as a ‘space and time where subjects previously separated by geography and history are co-present, the point at which their trajectories intersect. . . . [and where their relations are treated] not in terms of separateness, but in terms of co-presence, interaction, interlocking understandings and practices, and often within radically asymmetrical relations of power’.24 Possibly written during her stay in Singapore when she was recovering from a bout of dengue fever,25 Mori weaves orientalizing images of Arabian kings, peacocks, and elephants into a surreal landscape, establishing an ‘us-them’ dichotomy. Yet the subserviency of the young girls with their budding nipples remains the central image of the poem, calling attention in turn to the poet’s own lowly position. Despite the alien aspect of the ritual, the poet’s assumption of superiority begins to wane. Her thoughts meander feverishly, and by the end of the poem, she finds it increasingly difficult to maintain her supercilious attitude. Faced with unfamiliar cultural norms and unable to make sense of what she sees, the poet is led to speculate on the reason for her own existence. She finds herself brought up short. Her sacrifice for the ‘new age’ seems little different from the prayer rituals of the girls she observes. Entry into the Singapore contact zone has brought awareness not only of the submissiveness and subjugation of the local female worshippers but also perhaps of her own person. Dissatisfied with her discovery, the poet berates God for placing her in such a position. In her Postscript to Tōhō no uta, Mori comments on the years of foreign travel that resulted in the production of the poetry collection. She writes: ‘When I think back on the journey I made at that time, I see it spread out like a kind of flawless bashō leaf. Yet, in reality, that trip tore me to pieces.’26 Mori’s comparison of her self and her journey to the bashō, or banana plant, is a clear reference to the wandering medieval poet, Matsuo Bashō, who took the name of the banana tree to signal 23

Mori, ‘Indo kyōgakuchō’, Tōhō no uta, 12–14. Pratt, 8. 25 Mori, ‘Kōki’ (Postscript), Tōhō no uta, 84. While sick with dengue, Mori reports staying in Singapore in a cheap hotel opposite an Indian temple. 26 Mori, ‘Kōki’, Tōhō no uta, 82. 24

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both strength and fragility. Mori’s admission that her journey resulted in fragmentation and disintegration, in the shredding and tearing of her imagined banana plant, rather than in growth and fulfilment is an intriguing image but one that is not taken up further in the Postscript. Instead, in the brief overview of her journey, Mori mentions being uncomfortable, unhappy, lonely, homesick, and sometimes ill, but these matters are treated only in the most general terms, or are related to the rigors of the journey itself. We do not learn the reason for her journey, nor does she inform the reader of the whereabouts of her travelling companion, Kaneko. There may be several possible reasons for these omissions. First, given the primacy that Mori places on her own personal poetic quest, any mention of Kaneko, a well-known poet in his own right, might have placed her firmly in a secondary role, that is, as the ‘wife of a great poet’ rather than a great poet herself, as biographer Maki Yōko points out. The Postscript does in fact mention numerous people with whom Mori came into contact, including Japanese residents as well as locals of various nationalities, thereby bolstering her role as an individual traveller. Secondly, the fact that the impetus for the journey seems to have lain primarily with Kaneko and not Mori would have undercut her agency as well as the assumed persona of a poet wandering freely through the South Seas. Finally, perhaps the uncommon relationship between Mori and Kaneko was so well known at the time that Mori’s small mentions of her unhappiness, and so on, would have been sufficient for most Japanese readers. This latter possibility is made more likely by the inclusion in the collection of poems about her young son left in Japan, as well as one oblique poem possibly about Kaneko. The reference to Kaneko in Tōhō no uta occurs in the final poem, ‘My heart has turned to cinders’ (Kōkusu ni natta shinzō). In this poem, Mori derides a male figure for abandoning her in Paris. ‘You’re not coming’ (o-mae wa konai) is the poem’s refrain. The poem concludes: . . . . My native land! No one has chased me away from it. A pink Parisian sky at night. Walking along beneath it, I think of ‘going home’…. It’s as if I’ve eaten too much foreign candy. I wonder when the time will come for me to return to my native country? You’ll probably just walk right past me like someone from Mars. Hmpf!


janice brown I’ll bite the eye of that glacier. And when I do, I’ll probably become a true prisoner in exile. The exile of love!! If you must ignore dying for love, for the sake of your work, if your shoes must walk in the iron ditch of theory, that’ll be your big mistake. —I’ve loved an automaton.—27

The ‘automaton’ is very likely Kaneko. The long journey through Asia to Europe has taken its toll, yet the poet seems unable to break the tie that binds her to this inconstant (yet absent) lover. Perversely, she considers sinking deeper into the relationship, which she equates with permanent exile, and on this dubious note of self-denial, Tōhō no uta comes to an end. Although Kaneko and Mori travelled together for most of their time spent abroad,28 Mori denies Kaneko any role in her travels, and effectively writes him out of the Tōhō no uta text (with the possible exception noted above). As well, in the Postscript, which provides broad details of the journey through China and Southeast Asia, Mori makes no mention of Kaneko at all. In Kaneko’s version of the trip, however, as in other biographical accounts,29 Mori is clearly present. Even so, the problematic relationship between the two remains conspicuous by its absence, and consequently provides a troubling subtext that runs through Tōhō no uta like a dark shadow. Conclusion This cursory reading of Mori Michiyo’s modernist poetry has focused on selected works, with the intention of providing further insight into Japanese literary modernism from the perspective of gender, poetry, and the cosmopolitan. While Mori’s poetic texts demonstrate a critical female presence, her writings do not support the concomitant development of a libratory female vision as described by Felski. Instead, Mori’s 27

Mori, ‘Kōkusu ni natta shinzō’, Tōhō no uta, 77–78. After travelling in China and Southeast Asia, Kaneko sent Mori to Paris alone, and later, after reuniting in Paris, the two again separated, with Mori living in Antwerp for a time. After a brief meeting in Singapore, the two retuned separately to Japan. 29 See Morita, Kaneko Mitsuharu, Chapter 2 ‘The Song of Wandering’: 1924–1932; and Shijin—Autobiography of the Poet Kaneko Mitsuharu, trans. A.R. Davis, pp. 151– 172; and Maki Yōko, Kaneko Mitsuharu to Mori Michiyo: oshidori no uta ni moeru for this perspective. 28

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early poetry reveals an acerbic, at times sardonic, self-absorption, as the poet attempts to present a record of her travels through Asia to Europe. The collection as a whole suggests some ongoing personal difficulty which remains incompletely expressed, but which we may associate with relations with her spouse, Kaneko. Given the penury and destitution of her journey, Mori’s travel poetry seems inspired in part by observation of the under classes in whose cultures the poet temporarily resided. Although lacking the controlling, hegemonic perspective of the stereotypical European traveller, Mori nonetheless makes use of what today we would view as orientalized figures and images. In general, however, this practice is not persistent or pervasive, and the poet tends to dissolve, dissipate, or otherwise undercut such images in pursuit of her own particular brand of self-exploration. Unlike many of her modernist Japanese literary counterparts who looked to Europe for inspiration and validation, Mori trained her gaze on China and Southeast Asia, emphasizing scenes and settings from the lower rungs of society. Yet the poems written on her journey were made available first in French translation (1931) before they were published in Japanese (1934). It is not clear what the poet expected to accomplish by this cosmopolitan presentation. According to Morita, ‘The title Tōhō no shi [sic] suggests that Michiyo intended to introduce the East to the West while attempting to establish herself as a poet on both sides of the world.’30 However, the French title was not Tōhō no shi (actually, Tōhō no uta), or ‘Poems of the East’, but Par Les Chemins Du Monde, with the Japanese title being Sekai no michi kara. Neither of these latter titles indicates that the collection is about Asia, or the ‘East’. Doubtless, Mori intended to establish herself as a poet, yet it would seem that her first intention was simply to establish a reputation in Europe, as other poets had done before her. There is no indication that Mori intended to share her insights or to inform Europe or Europeans about Asia per se. Instead, the French title indicates a global awareness, the result of a journey over the roads and byways of the world. The later Japanese title, Tōhō no uta, is directed to Japanese readers, at a time when Japan’s military involvement in China and Southeast Asia was growing. Mori’s Postscript indicates that the collection is a kind of map of her journey for her friends (Kono shishū wo yondekudasaru tomodachi no tame ni, watakushi wa, watashi no tabi no chizu wo hirogemashita).31 This statement as well as 30 31

Morita, ‘Mori Michiyo’, 230. Mori, ‘Kōki’, Tōhō no uta, 86.


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the numerous mentions in the Postscript of Japanese living in China and Southeast Asia who befriended Mori would seem to indicate some opportunism in putting forward the collection in Japanese at that time. Mori’s collection thus presents a kind of double-edged cosmopolitanism. On one hand, by presenting her travels in Asia as global experience, Mori sought to appeal to a wider, international body of readers. On the other hand, she also sought recognition and approval from her fellow Japanese, whom she expected to have a different view of her journey. The poet is keenly aware of the requirements of the two separate audiences, as witnessed by her intervention in the French translation of ‘Shanhai’, for example. Although Mori’s poetry did not receive much critical attention at the time it was written, her work offers numerous possibilities for new readings and new considerations of Japanese modernist texts, particularly insofar as these may contribute to the feminization and globalization of Japanese modernism.

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References Birnbaum, P. Modern Girls, Shining Stars, The Skies of Tokyo: 5 Japanese Women (New York: Columbia University Press, 1999). Doyle, L. and L. Winkiel, eds. Geomodernisms: Race, Modernism, Modernity (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2005). Felski, R. ‘Modernism and Modernity: Engendering Literary History’, Michael H. Whitworth, ed. Modernism (Oxford, England: Blackwell Publishing, 2007). . The Gender of Modernity (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1995). Kaneko M. Shijin—Autobiography of the Poet Kaneko Mitsuharu 1895–1975. A.R. Davis, trans. (NSW: Australia: Wild Peony, 1988). Kaneko M. and Mori M. Aibo: Kaneko Mitsuharu, Mori Michiyo jisen essei shū (Tokyo: Kagyūsha, 1975). Kuehn, J. and P. Smethurst, eds., Travel Writing, Form and Empire: The Poetics and Politics of Mobility (New York and London: Routledge, 2009). Maki Y. Kaneko Mitsuharu to Mori Michiyo: oshidori no uta ni moeru (Tokyo: Magajin hausu, 1992). . ‘Mori Michiyo butsugo shishū “Shishū indoshina”’, Kaneko Mitsuharu to Mori Michiyo: oshidori no uta ni moeru (Tokyo: Magajin hausu, 1992). Mori M. Mori Michiyo sho (Tokyo: Nami shobō, 1977). . Poésies indochinoises (Tokyo: Meiji shobō, 1942). . Tōhō no uta (Tokyo: Toshokenkyūsha, 1934). Morita, J. R. ‘Mori Michiyo’. In Chieko Mulherrn, ed. Japanese Women Writers: A BioCritical Sourcebook (Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press, 1994). . Kaneko Mitsuharu (Boston: Twayne Publishers, 1980). Morton, L. ‘Birth of the Modern: Yosano Akiko and Tekkan’s Verse Revolution’, Modernism in Practice: An Introduction to Postwar Japanese Poetry (Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 2004). Pratt, M. L. Imperial Eyes: Travel Writing and Transculturation (London and New York: Routledge, 1992). Sas, M. Fault Lines and Japanese Surrealism (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1999). Siegel, K. ed. Issues in Travel Writing: Empire, Spectacle, and Displacement (New York: Peter Lang, 2002). Tipton, E. K. and J. Clark, eds. Being Modern in Japan: Culture and Society from the 1910s to the 1930s (Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 2000). Tyler, W. J. Modanizumu: Modernist Fiction from Japan 1913–1938 (Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 2008). Walkowitz, R. L. Cosmopolitan Style: Modernism Beyond the Nation (New York: Columbia University Press, 2006). Whitworth, M. H., ed. Modernism (Malden, Maine; Oxford, UK; and Victoria, Australia: Blackwell Publishing, 2007). Vogel, J. A. The Literature of Travel in the Japanese Rediscovery of China 1862–1945 (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1996).

ABORTED MODERNISM: THE SEMANTICS OF THE AVANTGARDE IN YAMAMURA BOCHŌ’S ‘PRISMISM’ Pierantonio Zanotti Derrière l’image d’un mouvement, plus qu’une cause ou une pensée commune, il y a, dans la plupart des cas, une alliance pour la conquête du pouvoir symbolique, qui s’exprime par des stratégies telles que le regroupement, la fondation de revues, le lancement d’étiquettes et de manifestes, et qui peut réussir grâce à un contexte historique particulièrement favorable. (Boschetti 2001: 14–15)

Hagiwara Sakutarō (1886–1942) was probably elaborating too much on his scarce knowledge of the European avant-garde when, in the short article ‘Nihon ni okeru miraiha no shi to sono kaisetsu’ (Futurist Poetry in Japan and Its Explanation), he suggested that Yamamura Bochō was the representative of a Japanese ‘Futurist School’ that was even better than the Western one.1 Bochō had a rather superficial knowledge of Marinetti’s movement  and poetics, and so it is evident that the attribute of ‘futurism’ is incorrect in relation to his poetry.2 This is also confirmed by an analysis of his poetry gathered in the controversial collection Seisanryōhari (The Saint Prism, December 1915), where it is very difficult to detect anything that can be associated with a preeminent assimilation of Futurist technical and expressive devices, such as

1 In the magazine Kanjō (Sentiment), November 1916. The original can be read in KSGS shinbun zasshi hen, vol. 2: 24–29. Cf. Zanotti 2008 for a brief analysis of this article. 2 In his texts of the period, up until 1916, collected in Yamamura Bochō Zenshū (thereafter YBZ), the word ‘futurism’ (miraiha) appears only once. Marinetti or other futurist artists are never mentioned. Nevertheless, we can reasonably imagine that Bochō gathered a good amount of information on Futurism via the articles and books (some of which were even published in the magazines to which he regularly contributed) that presented the Italian avant-garde to the Japanese public. In any case, Bochō’s writings show no direct meditation on futurist doctrines and aesthetics.

aborted modernism: the semantics of the avant-garde 287 words-in-freedom, destruction of syntax, liberated onomatopoeia, and the like.3 Dance (Dansu) Storm Storm Let there be light on the weeping willow Bud of A baby’s navel Mercury hysteria Spring comes The sole of a foot Softens the storm Does the samovar of love Sadden the oolong tea? The storm is Kicked to heaven4

But was Sakutarō so wrong in claiming that Bochō was the most advanced poet in Japan? And Bochō? Was he completely unaware of his position as a forerunner in the poetry scene? To phrase it more clearly: was Bochō really unaware of his being at the avant-garde? Yamamura Bochō (real name Kogure Hakkujū, 1884–1924) was a curious proletaroid intellectual figure. Born to a peasant family in Gunma Prefecture, he had to struggle to obtain an education. The instability of his family’s economic situation prevented him from finishing elementary school, but he kept on studying and reading, educating himself to the point that when he was fifteen he obtained a teaching job in his former primary school. He later devoted himself to the study of English and converted to Anglicanism in 1902. Some scholars believe that Bochō, a fairly ambitious man, did so because he realized that that was the only way for him to get access to university-level education and improve his social condition (Wada 1976: 25–26, Nakamura 1995: 22). In fact, thanks to his connections within the Church, he was admitted to Tsukiji Seisan Isshin Gakkō (Holy Trinity School), the institute that trained Japanese Anglican ministers (later merged into Rikkyō University), and from which he graduated in 1908. In Tōkyō, he began to cultivate his 3 Western studies on Bochō are nearly non-existent, and translations of his poetry are quite dispersed. Cf. Wilson and Atsumi 1972, Keene 1999: 281–283, Villain 2003. In Japanese, the most relevant studies are those by Wada Yoshiaki (1968, 1969, 1976), Ōoka Makoto (1977: 70–104), Sekigawa Sakio (1982), Tanaka Seikō (1988), Inoue Yōko (1987, 1988), Horie Nobuo (1994), Nakamura Fujio (1995, 2006). 4 Transl. by Leith Morton in Rimer and Gessel 2005: 299.


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literary vocation as well. After graduating, he moved from one appointment to another in a half-dozen north-eastern parishes as a missionary, until he settled down in Taira (Fukushima Prefecture) from 1912 to 1918. A peripheral intellectual with a well-established position in the local chihō bundan, Bochō made every effort to remain in touch with the Tōkyō bundan as well. This may explain the eccentricity of a literary trajectory that reflects a spasmodic search for recognition and empowerment. He made his debut in 1904 as a writer of post-romantic tanka. Then he converted to shi and became fascinated with Kanbara Ariake’s obscure symbolism. At the same time he flirted with Naturalism and kōgo jiyūshi (poetry in spoken language and free verse), only to rapidly change sides when the fortunes of this movement began to decline and the bundan faced a resurgence of the anti-Naturalist trends (Pan no kai, Tanbiha, Shirakabaha, Post-Impressionism, etc.). By 1914, after the publication of the mainly symbolist, namely Verlainesque, collection Sannin no otome (Three Maidens, May 1913), Bochō came to be associated with the disciples of Kitahara Hakushū (1885–1942). At the summit of this repositioning, he established a tactical alliance of sorts with two emerging poets of the same coterie: Murō Saisei (1889–1962) from Kanazawa and Hagiwara Sakutarō from Maebashi. The three young men founded Ningyo Shisha (‘Siren’ Poetry Society) around June 1914 and launched their own magazine in March 1915, Takujō funsui (Tabletop Fountain), to meagre circulation and premature death after only three issues. Around the same time, Bochō edited in Taira two short-lived dōjinshi: Fūkei (Landscape, May-November 1914) and Le Prisme (April-August 1916) where many of his ‘prismist’ works were originally published. The shaky Ningyo Shisha came to an end with the controversies raised by the publication of Seisanryōhari. The collection went largely unnoticed in the dominant sectors of the literary world, but Bochō fell prey to attacks, which were mainly orchestrated by Miki Rofū (1889–1964) and his disciples who wrote for the magazine Mirai (Future).5

5 The actual breadth of these attacks, which were basically confined to the tiny shi scene, was exaggerated by Sakutarō in the commemorative prose piece, ‘Yamamura Bochō no koto’ (On Yamamura Bochō, Nihon shijin [The Japanese Poet], February 1926), where he eulogized his recently deceased colleague by depicting him as a ‘martyr’ of the ignorance of the times. He went on to say that ‘perhaps there has been no writer [in the Meiji and Taishō eras] that experienced the derision and the insults of the poetic world as much as Yamamura Bochō’. In the same piece Sakutarō defined Bochō as the ‘father of the Japanese school of cubist poetry’. Original text in Kindai sakka tsuitōbun shūsei, vol. 9: 119–132.

aborted modernism: the semantics of the avant-garde 289 As for his peers, if Saisei (as we will see) adopted an ambiguous stance of support towards his colleague, Sakutarō, an enthusiastic reader of poems such as Kyokusen (Curve) and Dansu (Dance), was one of the few who publicly defended Bochō’s experimentalism. However, he began to perceive at the same time a growing discrepancy between Bochō’s poetry and his own, which was to be acclaimed before long in the collection Tsuki ni hoeru (Howling at the Moon, 1917).6 Ningyo Shisha de facto disbanded in June 1916, when Sakutarō and Saisei founded another magazine, Kanjō (Sentiment), without inviting Bochō to contribute. In the meantime, from around 1917, Bochō began to abandon his ‘prismist’ poetry and converted to humanitarian, Whitmanesque, ‘democratic’ poetry, which had come into vogue during the war. This change was official by the following collection, Kaze wa kusaki ni sasayaita (The Wind Has Whispered to the Plants, 1918), which practically marked Bochō’s disappearance from the chūō bundan. Within an organization of literary power that privileged the centre over the periphery, Bochō’s trajectory was predictably bound to end on the losing side of the dichotomy. Bochō was to never again provoke the national attention he gained with Seisanryōhari, a collection that doubly profited from his temporary connections in the Tōkyō shidan and from his attempt at somehow appropriating a portion of the emerging discourse of the avant-garde. In fact, after that single exploit, Bochō continued to lose ground in the central bundan. He was already nearly forgotten when he died from complications of TB in 1924. The Japanese avant-garde was then at the height of its efflorescence, but Bochō, confined in a fishing village in Ibaraki Prefecture and almost completely estranged from what was going on in Tōkyō, did not even attempt to rejoin its troops or to claim some sort of literary right of precedence. He left instead, as a sort of reactionary poetic testament, a collection of poetry, Kumo (Clouds), that, posthumously published in 1925, only contributed to the obscuring of his pioneering role in the literary avant-garde, and which established, in the prewar critical discourse of shi, his reputation as a bucolic poet of ‘clouds and children’. Probably Bochō did not have sufficient initial resources (family resources, scholastic prestige, etc.) and specific capital (powerful connections within the world of letters, status as a writer, etc.) to indulge in such experimental and revolutionary poetry as Seisanryōhari’s without having his career tarnished. Poems such as Fūkei (Landscape) were in fact interpreted as little 6 The influence of Seisanryōhari on the first section of Tsuki ni hoeru has been commonly recognized by critics since a seminal essay by Naka Tarō (1962).


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more than bad jokes by his contemporaries, since Bochō lacked that kind of credibility that derives from an established position within the literary field. Rape-flowers everywhere Rape-flowers everywhere Rape-flowers everywhere Rape-flowers everywhere Rape-flowers everywhere Rape-flowers everywhere Rape-flowers everywhere Faint fluting with a wheat-blade Rape-flowers everywhere7

As Pierre Bourdieu has pointed out: The propensity to orient oneself towards the most risky positions, and especially the capacity to hold on to them in the absence of any economic profit in the short term, seems to depend in large part on the possession of significant economic and symbolic capital. [ . . . ] In fact, those who manage to maintain themselves in the most adventurous positions long enough to obtain the symbolic profits which may be provided there are recruited essentially from among the most affluent, who also have the advantage of not being obliged to devote themselves to secondary jobs for subsistence. This contrasts with so many poets coming from the petite-bourgeoisie who have been forced to abandon poetry sooner or later for the sake of literary activities which are better remunerated, such as writing novels of manners, or else have been obliged to devote a major share of their time to the theatre or novels. . . . Those who accede to positions where their presence is totally improbable are subject to a structural double bind which. . . . may survive their more or less rapid expulsion from an impossible post. This double contradictory constraint often condemns the momentarily ‘miraculous ones’ to projects of a pathetic incoherence, sorts of autodestructive homages to the values of a universe which denies them any value. . . . (Bourdieu 1996: 261, 263. Emphasis in the original.)

And in fact, after the fiasco of his prismist poetry, Bochō veered progressively towards fiction, until he found a relatively remunerative niche in the thriving genre of children’s literature (jidō bungaku). Nevertheless, in the years surrounding 1914–1916, that is as long as he was led by his habitus to market himself as an avant-garde poet, Bochō did try, in a manner that was absolutely unprecedented in Japan, to elaborate his own self-representation as an avant-garde author.


Fūkei, lines 1–9, as translated in Wilson and Atsumi 1972: 466.

aborted modernism: the semantics of the avant-garde 291 My chapter deals with a particular aspect of this: Bochō’s use of the semantics of the group/movement as a tool of empowerment within the literary field, and its textual overtones and side effects. A Position in the Field As can be inferred from what is written above, I would like to tackle the problem of Bochō’s avant-gardism by using a series of interpretive tools taken from Pierre Bourdieu’s sociology of art. These include: 1) the notions of habitus, field, trajectory, symbolic capital, etc; 2) the ‘methodological postulate . . . of the homology between the space of positiontakings (literary or artistic forms, concepts and instruments of analysis, etc.) and the space of positions occupied in the field’ (Bourdieu 1996: 298); 3) the caveat against interpreting social conducts more as the mere consequence of premeditated calculation or cynical strategies than as the result of the actualization of an incorporated habitus; and so on. I will not trace here a history of the Japanese literary field between the Meiji and Taishō eras. One can gather many useful indications (even if not from a strictly Bourdieuvian perspective) on the states of the field from comprehensive histories such as Itō Sei and Senuma Shigeki’s Nihon bundan shi (History of the Japanese Literary World, 24 vols., 1978–1979). However, as for Japanese literature, it is difficult to gauge the rate of completion of the ‘three operations which are as necessary and necessarily linked as the three levels of social reality that they apprehend’: 1) the analysis of ‘the position of the literary (etc.) field within the field of power, and its evolution in time’; 2) the analysis of ‘the internal structure of the literary (etc.) field [ . . . ], meaning the structure of objective relations between positions occupied by individuals and groups placed in a situation of competition for legitimacy’; 3) the analysis of ‘the genesis of the habitus of occupants of these positions, that is, the systems of dispositions which, being the product of a social trajectory and of a position within the literary (etc.) field, find in this position a more or less favourable opportunity to be realized’ (Bourdieu 1996: 214). In this direction, there is still much work to be done.8 Therefore, far from adopting a de-historicized perspective, I will use Bourdieu’s terminology to analyse Bochō’s case as long as we can posit the existence of a series of structural and historical homologies between 8 I think that works such as Hockx 1999, on the Chinese literary field, may constitute a good example in this direction.


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the European (namely French) literary field studied by him and by his followers and its contemporary Japanese literary field. These homologies are to be investigated further but, for a start, we can assume that the history of the field in Japan as in Europe was generated by a dialectic opposition between those who had more ‘specific symbolic capital’, in other words, those who had been ‘consecrated’, and the ‘new (meaning younger) entrants’ who were interested in putting under scrutiny and attacking the dominant fraction of the field and the aesthetic models they produced and reproduced (Bourdieu 1996: 239–240). Another important homology is the similarity in the relation between an overpowering cultural centre (Paris/Tōkyō) and its periphery. Moreover, as far as the topic of this chapter is concerned, in Japan as well as in France: In this struggle for life, for survival, one can understand the role given to marks of distinction which, in the best of cases, aim to pinpoint the most superficial and visible of the properties attached to a set of works or of producers. Words, names of schools or groups, proper names—they only have such importance because they make things into something: distinctive signs, they produce existence in a universe where to exist is to be different, to ‘make oneself a name’, a proper name or a name in common (that of a group). False concepts, practical instruments of classification which make resemblances and differences by naming them, the names of schools or groups which have flourished in recent painting . . . are products in the struggle for recognition by the artists themselves or by their appointed critics, and they fulfil the function of signs of recognition distinguishing galleries, groups and painters, and by the same token, the products that they fabricate or put on offer. (Bourdieu 1996: 157, emphasis in the original)

In this sense, this chapter can be seen as the story of a writer who tried to ‘make oneself a name’, and failed. Chant of the Saint-Prismists ⰹ⾙යࡵࡡࡢណㆉ࡞᪂ࡄࡾኬẴ࡚࠵ࡗ࡙ⰹ⾙Ⓩ࣑࣭࣒ࣥࣤࢹࡢ යິ᥺ Art in itself is the atmosphere inside consciousness; the artistic movements are its perturbations (‘Tangin shigo’, Poetic Words in D#, Shiika [Poetry], March 1916, YBZ, vol. 4: 186)9 9 In this paper, kanji are given in their modern form, while I keep the historical orthography for kana syllabary. Unless otherwise specified, all translations from Japanese are mine.

aborted modernism: the semantics of the avant-garde 293 Bochō’s writings of the so-called prismist period are marked by an ambivalent stance towards the avant-garde topos of the creative group shaped by the free will of its members, and that, as such, is opposed to the other artistic groups (especially those perceived as obsolete) as well as to the art institutions and the audience who are deemed unable to understand it.10 As many authoritative studies have already shown, Ningyo Shisha probably represented the most significant and best-organized project Bochō took part in, in order to claim for himself and for his coterie a prominent place in the shidan (that is to say, a certain amount of specific capital). It is not my task to analyse here the group dynamics at work in this tiny but relevant current within the Taishō poetic scene. There are already many well-researched studies on it, complete in the historical as well as the critical point of view, such as those by Itō Shinkichi (1979), Tanaka Seikō (1988: 275–342) and Kitagawa Tōru (1995). To briefly summarize their conclusions, it can be said that Ningyo Shisha operated as an action group with its own original but sometimes confused project of literary politics; that they used communicative techniques that thematized the affiliation of its single members to a well-defined group (the habit of marking with common signatures or denominations the poems they published in magazines external to the group, or the periodic issue of group declarations [sengen] in allied magazines); that, despite all this, the group was defective in terms of interaction among its dōjin, and that especially Bochō was quickly marginalized by the axis formed by Hagiwara Sakutarō and Murō Saisei. Even from a purely stylistic point of view, the birth of Ningyo Shisha was the effect of a mere temporary convergence between the poetics of its three members, who, when the magazine Kanjō was founded, had already taken diverging routes. In my chapter, more than on the self-representation of Ningyo Shisha as an avant-garde group, I will focus on the use of the words ‘purizumizumu’ (prismism) and ‘seipurizumizumu’ (saintprismism), attested for a short period (circa mid-1915) in Bochō’ writings to designate his own poetics. Even if it was conceived in the same period, Prismism never represented a shared and organic poetics within Ningyo Shisha. It was more like the sublimation of the individual creative practices of just one of its members: the one who, at that time, was the most advanced in his poetic experimentations. This was Yamamura Bochō.11 10

Cf. Poggioli 1968: 17–40. The other two members considered themselves more as representatives of ‘Sentimentalism’ (see further). 11


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Materially, Bochō’s Prismism cannot for certain be compared to an actual literary school or current. But the fact that it was conceived and linguistically formalized in these terms, i.e. by using a neologism of foreign flavour, can possibly tell us something about: 1) its significance as a tool for appropriating symbolic capital; 2) the penetration of the avantgarde discourse in Bochō’s self-representation of his own literary activity. I will begin with the presentation of what is probably the most wellknown attestation of the term: the one contained in Murō Saisei’s foreword to Seisanryōhari, a short piece called Seipurizumisuto ni atau (To the Saint-Prismist(s)): It is extremely recently that I discovered the sharp crystalline rhythm in your poems.12 They possess blades that almost cut one’s arms and legs. This creates a fresh situation that has no equal with that of former Japanese poets. For instance, with this sort of poetic nature, you completely cut in half even the very rhythm that springs up. Moreover, many lines that are set forth by you completely become your creations. The morning of a freezing winter day, the ache of an airplane in the eyes,13 and, then, the finger of a man on the top of a distant sand hill14: to make real these things is not necessarily a mistake. There is no doubt that for you a woman’s body is shining on the tabletop.15 Even what the others would call a miracle, when they see it, for you is usual. Your amusement is no more a play of senses or perceptions; it’s the way of truly dreadful monomania that those who live in the new times follow. Love, which reaches into the crystals, into the noble metals, passes right away through plants and insects, and expands itself on humankind. It is now a long time since you cast your eyes on the insects. Now you stand before the most minute and darkest light which is in the inner part of strange metals. Now, you climb the epileptic triangle.16 Really from your point of view the coffee cup bends, the table gets twisted. A truly solemn thing is the eternal instant. You have towards nature and man a really severe look. Since its nature is too intense, it happens that it ends in staring at the form of things. The heart that strives to see through menaces is not a right heart. For me there is nothing as unpleasant as when I see the menace in your poems. In those moments your melancholy starts to rot. In the end it’s just a pose. It is acknowledged that your art is difficult to understand. Even I, in my ignorance, have received many letters from people both known and unknown. They were shouts like ‘it’s all obscure’, ‘it’s difficult’, ‘is it not 12 Emphasis on rhythm (inritsu, rizumu) as the most important distinctive trait of a poetic style is typical of Ningyo Shisha and of Sakutarō in particular. 13 Probable reference to the poem Rinso (Phosphor), in Seisanryōhari. 14 Probable reference to the poem Misaki (Promontory), in Seisanryōhari. 15 Probable reference to the poem Ōsenji (Great Rescript), in Seisanryōhari. 16 Reference to the poem Zuan (Design), in Seisanryōhari.

aborted modernism: the semantics of the avant-garde 295 self-complacence?’17 For a while, I was moved by what people said too, and felt uncomfortable for you. But what I cannot say, you say. What I cannot see, you see. What I do not have, you have. In this lies the difference between me and you. This alone is proof of the fact that you have something great that I do not. I think. I wish that your poems become more and more trying, more and more incomprehensible, poems that only you can understand. I respect your idea that the less you understand, the more you understand.18 May no one understand you! You polish and give light to the soiled heart that is similar to painful sexual desires that rise up in a summer night. The fact that those who understand you could increase even by a single person, could be considered as an insult to you. At least, you can take this attitude. If you don’t understand, shut up! I want to give these words to those who murmur around you. June 1915, in my hometown (YBZ, vol. 1: 534–535, emphasis in the text)

Saisei’s foreword is an extremely ambiguous text. Even if it was written about six months before the publication of Seisanryōhari and the ensuing controversies, it already shows a perplexed attitude towards Bochō’s poetry, as to cautiously take some distance from it. The foreword was composed in a moment when tension among the two poets was particularly strong. This was mainly because Takujō funsui was experiencing serious financial problems. Indeed, the issue of June 1915 was to be its last one, and Saisei was probably already aware of that while he was writing the foreword. In a postcard to Kitahara Hakushū of 27 May 1915, he describes Bochō as ‘scum’ (senmin) he no longer wants to have anything to do with. It is almost certain that this hatred was due to Bochō’s belatedness in paying his share of the magazine printing expenses.19 17 Saisei is probably referring here to some letters he received as the editor of Takujō funsui, where some poems later included in Seisanryōhari (such as Dansu) were originally published. Cf. Itō 1979: 11. 18 Part of an aphorism in the prose-poem ‘Kakusen’ (Clear Line, Takujō funsui, May 1915): ‘The less you understand, the more you understand. The less you understand, the more it is true. The less you understand, the more it shines’ (YBZ, vol. 4: 341). 19 Cf. Ichimura 1995: 40–44. Japanese scholars have remarked that the difficulties Saisei was experiencing in appreciating Bochō’s poetry were for aesthetic reasons. For instance, Ōoka Makoto (1977: 91–92) points out that Saisei found in Bochō’s poetry a threat to his own stability. Sekigawa Sakio (1982: 202) speculates that Saisei nurtured similar feelings of aversion even for Sakutarō’s style of that period. Quite isolatedly, Horie Nobuo (1994: 24–25) finds in the foreword an attitude of ‘sympathetic understanding towards the obscurity of Bochō’s poetry’. At the beginning, it was planned that Sakutarō too should compose a foreword for Seisanryōhari, but in the end it was never written (cf. Wada 1968: 176–177).


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However, Saisei was obliged to publicly support Bochō, in order, among other things, to repel the attacks from the rival Mirai faction. So he did even later, in the short essay ‘Kansō’ (Remarks, Shiika, September 1915), where, although he conceded that the ‘despotic’ nature of Bochō’s poetry severely put his understanding to the test, he defended him against the criticism levelled at him in previous months by Rofū’s followers Kawaji Ryūkō (1888–1959) and Yanagisawa Ken (1889–1953).20 Having to mitigate his personal resentment in the name of the common cause of Ningyo Shisha, which was also to be the publishing company of Seisanryōhari, Saisei adopted in his foreword an allusive, maybe even sarcastic, language, in order to defend the obscurity of his colleague. Indeed, obscurity is an element that, at a certain point in his career, Bochō adopted as a distinctive trait of his style and an attribute to construct his own peculiar identity as a poet. It was not necessarily something cynically calculated; Bochō’s particular socio-cultural habitus, a mix of the romantic cult of originality and symbolist orphism, where a proletaroid component can also be found,21 inclined him to choose the position of ‘obscure poet’ so as to better stand out among his competitors within the literary field. Seisanryōhari can be seen as the summit of this rhetorical and socio-literary process. Obviously, such an activity was also accompanied by a conscious attempt at theoretical self-justification: in quoting in his foreword an aphorism from Bochō’s prose ‘Kakusen’ (Clear Line, Takujō funsui, May 1915), Saisei himself shows his own acquaintance with those writings where Bochō had articulated the idea that (to quote a similar sentence from ‘Mizu no ue’, On the Water, Shiika, September 1914), ‘the less he is understood by people, the more the self goes deep into art’.22 Besides all this, Saisei deployed in the title of his foreword a term he must have become acquainted with during the period in which, having

20 Cf. Tanaka 1988: 324–331. Kawaji, who was later to become the main supporter of the futurist poet Hirato Renkichi, had attacked Kitahara Hakushū and his Ningyo Shisha ‘followers’ in ‘Shiika geppyō’ (Monthly Criticism of Poetry, Mirai, February 1915), while Yanagisawa had expressly picked on Bochō and Saisei in ‘Bankin no shidan wo ronzu’ (On the Recent Poetry Scene, Bunshō sekai [World of Letters], July and August 1915). Bochō briefly responded to Yanagisawa in a short passage of ‘Chōshi senpyō’ (Selection and Commentary of Long Poems, Shūsai bundan, August 1915, YBZ, vol. 4: 569). 21 Cf. Bourdieu 1975, passim. 22 YBZ, vol. 4: 181. Emphasis in the original. An anti-democratic nuance can be detected in Bochō’s writings of this period where he often attacks what he calls gunmō (the blind populace). Actually, this formula stands more realistically for the practitioners of shi who didn’t understand his poetry, a number of people far from being a ‘populace’.

aborted modernism: the semantics of the avant-garde 297 to coordinate their efforts for the publication of Takujō funsui, contacts among Ningyo Shisha members must have grown more intense.23 But what did it mean to create almost out of the blue a daring word like ‘seipurizumisuto’? What meanings did it convey? What was its socio-literary currency? The Rhetoric of the ‘isms’ and Japan The majority of notions which artists and critics employ to define themselves or to define their adversaries are weapons and stakes in struggles (Bourdieu 1996: 297)

First of all, I will tackle these questions from a historical and lexical perspective. ‘Ism’ (-shugi ୹⩇, -izumu ࢕ࢫ࣑),24 as a suffix used in defining a specific artistic school, preexisted the historical avant-gardes, in Europe as well as in Japan. As known, in Japan it was used interchangeably with ha ⌒, meaning ‘current’ or ‘school’. Since the end of the nineteenth century, Japan too had been invaded by a huge quantity of denominations from abroad: their birthplace being mainly France.25 Such a process was relatively harmonized with the sectarian tradition of the Japanese cultural world, where it was a common practice to designate a group of authors from the name of the magazine they published in, or from a commonly recognized master (e.g. Myōjōha, Araragiha, Tanbiha, etc.). We may even notice, in the Japanese specialized press of that period, a certain inclination towards the coinage of designations of European schools that had no circulation in their homeland itself.26 23 In reality, since a large part of Bochō’s letters is now lost, the documentation of his epistolary contacts with the other two members of Ningyo Shisha is extremely scarce. No letters to Sakutarō or Saisei ante 1917 are collected in YBZ. In Sakutarō zenshū one can find only two letters to Bochō (both of September 1914), that survived merely because they had been published in Bochō’s dōjinshi Fūkei. 24 It is understood that one can create derivational words using the suffixes –shugisha and –isuto (corresponding to the English ‘-ist’). 25 A list of the plethoric number of schools, many of them absolutely ephemeral, that existed in France around 1912, is presented in Lista 1973: 66. This phenomenon can be seen as the result of the establishment of a ‘logic of permanent revolution’ in an artistic field where an ‘institutionalization of anomie’ was taking place (Bourdieu 1996: 123–125, 132). 26 For instance, in the essay ‘Doitsu no jojōshi ni okeru inshōteki shizenshugi’ (Impressionist Naturalism in German Lyrical Poetry, Waseda bungaku [Literature of Waseda], June 1908), Sakurai Tendan, writing about the German and Polish scenes, besides using such accepted denominations as ‘symbolism’ and ‘decadentism’, introduces names of schools and currents such as ‘libidinism’ (seiyokuha) and ‘sorrow-ism’ (hitsūshugi) that do not seem to be attested in their countries of origin.


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The main difference, speaking always from a lexical perspective, is that the suffix ‘izumu’, when introduced in Japan not as a part of a katakana loanword from English or French (e.g. ‘shinborizumu’, symbolism), could be used to create new words exclusively in combination with roots of foreign origin. So, for instance, we could have ‘shinkankakuha’ (School of New Sensibility), but not *‘shinkankakuizumu’. Therefore, ‘izumu’ became an infallible semantic marker for words that designated schools, concepts and trends marked by a xenophilous flavour, if not of direct foreign derivation. It was particularly with the presentation of the movements of the European artistic avant-garde from the Fauves on, that the suffix ‘izumu’ came to be associated not only with a foreign origin, but also with the image of a recent and potentially subversive trend. We have therefore, often in competition with neologisms in kango, the consolidation of such designations as ‘fōvizumu’ (‘yajūshugi/ha’), ‘anchinachurarizumu’ (‘hanshizenshugi’), ‘anākizumu’ (‘museifushugi’), ‘fyūchurizumu’ (‘miraishugi/ha’), ‘kyūbizumu’ (‘rittaishugi/ha’), ‘ekusupuresshonizumu’ (‘hyōgenshugi/ha’), ‘shinkuromizumu’, ‘conpojishonarizumu’, etc. After the initial reception, in Japan too, a backlash against the proliferation of short-lived schools and manifestos came to take place. As a result, especially for the detractors, the suffix ‘izumu’ came to incorporate a vaguely derogatory connotation, since it was associated with doctrinal superficiality, ephemeral dedication and insincere inspiration. Another ground for criticism against these sorts of schools came from the intellectuals who were closer to the creative individualism of Shirakaba (White Birch). They stigmatized the epigonic nature of the most recent ‘isms’, contrasting them with the exaltation of such solitary geniuses as Van Gogh, Cézanne and Rodin, who formed a true pantheon for many Japanese intellectuals of the first two decades of 1900. Militancy in a group with cogent common guidelines, they stated, would end up mortifying the creative spirit of the individual artist.27 27 In this they expressed a position not different from that of Baudelaire, who, criticizing those he called ‘littérateurs d’avant-garde’, accused them of being spirits ‘faits pour la discipline, c’est-à-dire pour la conformité’ (quoted in Russell 1985: 18). A similar criticism can be found in Natsume Sōseki’s earlier essay ‘Izumu no kōka’ (The Merits and Flaws of -isms, Asahi shinbun, 23 July 1910), where the author states that ‘if our mental lives were to fall under the sway of some -ism, that predetermined pattern would immediately cause us to feel constrained in our existence’ (Natsume 2009: 240). Even if Sōseki’s target is Naturalism, and not the new movements from Europe, one can detect in his defense of individual freedom a motif that was also typical of later polemics against the -isms.

aborted modernism: the semantics of the avant-garde 299 We have a clear example of such a conception in the presentation of Cubism given by the post-impressionist painter and critic Kimura Shōhachi (1893–1958) in ‘Rippōha ni tsuite’ (On Cubism, Sōzō [Creation], December 1913), an article that Bochō, being a contributor to that magazine, most likely read. ‘Cubism’, declares Kimura flatly, ‘is the degeneration of modern art’ because, being too intellectual, it denies the creative life of the single painter.28 Echoes of such an attitude can be found in Bochō’s writings as well; he probably took from Kimura a low esteem for Cubism, which they both defined as a school of ‘epigones’ (aryū). ྞష࡞ࡢ࢕ࢶ࣑࠿࡝࠷ࠊࡐࡡᮆὮࡡ⺣⹰࠿ࡌ࡝ࡢࡔ࢕ࢶ࣑࡚࠵ ࡾࠊࢷࢠࢼࢠࡢ࢕ࢶ࣑ࡡ⑋Ẵ࡚࠵ࡾࠊ In the masterpieces there are no ‘isms’. The maggots of their worst currents, those are the ‘isms’. Technique is the disease of the ‘isms’. (‘Shiran senpyō’, Selection and Commentary for the Poetry Column, Shūsai bundan [The Literary Circle of the Talented Ones], February 1915, YBZ, vol. 4: 561) ࢟ࣛࢨࣕⰹ⾙࡞ὮὬࡢ࡝࠷ࠊఢࡊࡌ࡬࡙ࡡὮὬࡢࡐࡆࢅ″ἠ࡛ ࡌࡾࠊ In Greek art there are no currents. But all the currents have their source there. (‘Tangin shigo’, Shiika, March 1916, YBZ, vol. 4: 186)

To sum up what has been said before, around 1915, the suffix ‘izumu’ added to the name of a certain artistic or philosophical current a series of potential meanings, that were not necessarily present altogether in a given attestation: 1) foreign origin or programmatic imitation of foreign models; 2) recent or extremely recent formation (the latest trend); 3) rupture with the previous tradition, often the immediately preceding one; 4) extemporariness, recentism, superficiality, volatility. If we apply this semantic grid to the meanings alluded by Saisei with the choice of the word ‘seipurizumisuto’ in his foreword, we may suppose that he intended, even if with different nuances of pertinence, all of these points. The third point is made clear by the reference to the ‘freshness’ of Bochō’s poetry in contrast to the former tradition. Even the fourth point is inferred by his veiled distancing from Bochō’s obscurity. An ironic interpretation of the foreword does not abolish these nuances, but instead it reinforces them, for Saisei, by exposing a term like 28

Now in KSGS shinbun zasshi hen, vol. 1: 147–155.


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‘seipurizumisuto’, might have deliberately adopted the same derogatory strategies of those European critics of Futurism who, to mock Marinetti’s movement, created fake names of alternative schools that sounded ridiculous. Ironically or not, Saisei had therefore assimilated (even if only at a merely journalistic level) the practice of designing the literary schools and the latest trends in the intellectual field by resorting to an ‘ism’. After all, he himself, together with Sakutarō, was using the word ‘senchimentarizumu’ (sentimentalism) to design his own poetics later transfused in Kanjō.29 It is interesting that ‘(sei)purizumizumu’ ⪯ࣈࣛࢫ࣐ࢫ࣑, to the best of my knowledge of the literary domain, is the first case of an ‘izumu’ created in Japan. From the morphological point of view, it is basically a hybrid word that combines kango + wasei eigo (Sino-Japanese + pseudo-English). Saisei probably took this word from the aforementioned ‘Kakusen’ (Takujō funsui, May 1915), where Bochō had defined the true poet as a ‘saint-prismist’: ࡱࡆ࡛ࡡモெࡢ⤦⏤ࢅ᎒ࡢࡠ࡜ࠉ⤦⏤ࡻࡽࡵ㡚ᴞࢅࡆࡡࡲࠉ㡚ᴞ ࡻࡽࡵ∸ࡡ㤮Ẵࢅࡈࡼ࡞ይࡳࠊ஻ࠉ㤷㮭࡛஑㣏࡛≤ெ࡛㈴⩽࡛ࢅ ይࡳࠊິ∸ࡻࡽࡢ᳔∸ࠉ᳔∸ࡻࡽࡢ㔘▴ࡡ㢦࡚࠵ࡾࠊᖲ࿰࡛㈱ㆥ ࡛ໂຫ࡛ᩅ⫩࡛㐠ᚠ࡛ᖲẰ࡛♣ఌ࡛ᨳ἖࡛㐅Ṅ࡛ࢹࣚࢪࢹ࡛࡞ࡢ ୌᮇࡡẗ➵࡮࡜ࡡᮅ⦆ࡵ⦽࠿࡝࠷ࠊ༱㝜࡛୘Ꮽ࡛౱㎧࡛ῐⷑ್࡛ ᛨ࡛㈏᪐࡛ᏺᩅ࡛ⰹ⾙࡛಴ᛮ࡛⛁Ꮥ࡛ᗣ㢐࡛㔕⺽࡛࠿࠹ࡿࡊࡈ࡞ ࡐࡡᣞࢅ๎ࡼࡊࡴࡾࠊࡈࡿࡣ࡚࠵ࡾࠊḴᴞࡻࡽࡢᝊဖࠉฉಐࡻࡽ ࡢඁ⚵ࠉ㎾ୠࡻࡽࡢཿ௥ࠉ⤊㥺ࡻࡽࡢ├つࠉ೸ᗛࡻࡽࡢ⑋ᘽࠉ஥ ᐁࡻࡽࡢᖹᙫࠉ⿞㣥ࡻࡽࡢ⿼మࠉ㟚ฝࡻࡽࡢ₧ᅹࠉỄ㐪ࡻࡽࡢๅ 㑛ࠉ⌦᝷ࡻࡽࡢẴฦࠉ⨶㮿ࡻࡽࡢᛱ␏ࠉ㟃ࡻࡽࡢ⫏ࠉ፡ⳃࡻࡽࡢ ⴷาࠉ㣏∸ࡻࡽࡢ✭Ẵࠉ⪃ࡵវつ୕ࡡⓏ☔࡝ࡾ㐽ᢝ࡞᪂࡙ࡢᮂᮃ ࡒࡿ࡜ᚪ❭ࠉୌ಴Ềᬏࡡࢱ࢕ࢻ࣏࢕ࢹ࡚࠵ࡾࠊ ࣈ ࣛ ࢶ ࣐ ࢪ ࢹ

ࡐࡊ࡙⪯୔⛰⋶⍭⩽࡚࠵ࡾࠊ The true poet, though he does not dislike painting, more than painting loves music, more than music loves the fragrance of things. Then, he loves the stupid, the beggars, the mad and the wise. He is more akin to plants than to animals, more to minerals than to plants. He has not the least lingering attachment to peace, praises, diligence, education, ethics, the people, society, politics, progress, the trusts. Danger, anxiety, contempt, lust, boredom, nobility, religion, art, individuality, science, decadence, barbarism make him cut his fingers in joy. So it is. Sorrow rather than 29

The use of this term, which is certainly less daring and rich in foreign implications than ‘seipurizumizumu’, is already in a letter from Sakutarō to Bochō dated September 1914: ‘my position and Saisei’s is sentimentalism’ (Sakutarō zenshū, vol. 13: 57). Moreover, it can be found in many of his critical essays published in that period (e.g. ‘Sentimentalism’, in Shiika, October 1914).

aborted modernism: the semantics of the avant-garde 301 pleasure, excellence rather than mediocrity, antiquity rather than modernity, intuition rather than experience, sickness rather than good health, visions rather than facts, nudity rather than decoration, latency rather than exposure, the moment rather than eternity, mood rather than ideals, oddity rather than beauty, flesh rather than spirit, funeral processions rather than bridal beds, air more than food, and then in the accurate sensorial choice, even if dim, in the end he is a crystal of dynamite.30 And he is a saint-prismist. (YBZ, vol. 4: 340–341)

The original coinage of the word seems therefore to be attributable to Bochō. It should be remembered, for instance, that the title originally conceived for Seisanryōhari was Seipurizumu,31 and that even the dōjinshi Le Prisme is sometimes indicated by Bochō by this name, in the writings covering the period before its publication. However, Bochō adopted almost at the same time the abridged denomination ‘purizumizumu’, which in the following became his favourite one. ᭧࡙ெず᮶᪺Ắࡢ⚶ࢅࢱ࢕࢓࣍ࣛࢪࢹ࡛࠷ࡨࡒࠊ๑⏛ኟᬵẮࡢ ࣅࣗࣛࢰ࡛ࣤゕࡨࡒࠊ㎾㡥ᑹᒜ⠔஦㑳Ắය௙ࡡ஦୔ࡢ࢞ࣗࣄࢪ ࢹࡓ࡛ゕࡨ࡙ࢃࡾࡈ࠹࡚࠵ࡾࠊ ࡈ࠹࠾ࡊࡼࠊ̿ࡐࡊ࡙⚶ࡢࡐࢆ࡝லὮ࡞ᒌࡊ࡙ࡢࢃ࡝࠷ࠊ⚶࡞ ࡢ୹⩇ࡷὮὬ࠿࡝࠷ࠊ⚶ࡢ✪❭ࠉ⚶࡚࠵ࡾࡣ࠾ࡽ࡚࠵ࡾࠊ ᙁ࡙ࠉࡆࡿࢅịࡳࡿࡣ⚶ࡢࣈࣛࢶ࣐ࢪࢹ࡚࠵ࡾࠊ ⚶ࡡモࡢࣈࣛࢶ࣐࡚࢜ࣜ࠵ࡾࠊ㐽ビࡵࡈ࠹࡚࠵ࡼ࠹ࠊ Once, Hitomi Tōmei called me a Satanist. Maeda Yūgure called me a puritan. Lately, I hear that Oyama Tokujirō and another two or three say that I am a cubist.32 30 Actually, dynamite does not take on a crystalline shape. Maybe Bochō is confusing dynamite with nitroglycerine, which can turn into crystals when exuding from dynamite sticks. This image nonetheless, maintains a certain interest if read in context with the ‘explosive’ motif in avant-garde (especially Futurist) propaganda. It is however to be noticed that Bochō declares in this passage his preference for antiquity rather than modernity, a statement that is far from being futurist. 31 The first advertisement announcing the collection (Shiika, April 1915, YBZ, vol. 4: 563) bears in fact this title, which can be found again in a column edited by Bochō in the October 1915 issue of Shūsai bundan (YBZ, vol. 4: 574). 32 Hitomi Tōmei (1883–1974) was a Naturalist poet and Yomiuri shinbun journalist who had many connections in the Japanese post-impressionist scene. He edited the magazines Geki to shi (Theatre and Poetry, 1910–1913) and Sōzō (Creation, 1913–1916), to which Bochō regularly contributed. Maeda Yūgure (1883–1951) was a tanka poet and the editor of Shiika, a magazine that was among Bochō’s favourite showcases. Oyama (1889–1963), the founder of the magazine Itan (Heresy), was a tanka poet close to Hakushū. It is not clear whether Bochō is alluding in this passage to specific texts or to information he gathered orally. I do not know of any article (by Oyama or by anyone else) ante 1916 where the presumed cubism of Bochō is mentioned.


pierantonio zanotti It may be. But I do not belong to such a school of epigones. I have no ‘ism’ and no current. In the end, I am only me. If I must be something, I am a prismist. My poetry is prismatic. And maybe so are my comments in this column too. (‘Sensha mōgo—chōshi’, Lies of the Selector—Long Poems, Shinhyōron [New Criticism], May 1915, YBZ, vol. 4: 564) ᬵ㫵࠿≺๭ࡡୠ⏲࡞㢦↋ࡀࣈࣛࢶ࣐ࢫ࣑ࢅ㈮ࡊයモ࡞භ㫾ࡌࡾ ࡵࡡࡢ㏷࡞஢⣑㔘ኈළࢅ῟࡫࡙⏞㎰ࡱࡿࡒࡊࠊ Those who praise Bochō’s original prismism [he speaks of himself in the third person], which is unique in the world, and consent with his poetry, are asked to quickly pre-order [a copy of Seisanryōhari] by attaching one yen. (‘Chōshi senpyō’, Selection and Comment of Long Poems, Shinhyōron, June 1915, YBZ, vol. 4: 567)

Bochō’s usage of the word ‘purizumizumu’ and of its derivatives is significantly limited to mid-1915, that is to the moment when his poetry reached its most daring results with the composition of the poems Dansu (Dance), Fūkei (Landscape) and Geigo (Delirium), all published between April and June 1915, and later included in Seisanryōhari.33 We must bear in mind that in this same period, the books of Kimura Shōhachi on Cubism and Futurism were available to Bochō, who could also become acquainted with the latest European trends through a number of articles in the specialized and generalist press.34 This scenario strengthens the hypothesis that, besides the suggestions coming from the scientific technolect of optics and from the language of religion (especially via Hakushū), the title of Bochō’s collection and the name of the related ‘movement’ might have been conceived with an ear to the geometric associations echoing in the discourse of Cubism. Perhaps Oyama Tokujirō, who, according to Bochō, defined him as a cubist, became aware of this too. After all, it is a short distance from ‘cubes’ to ‘prisms’ anyway. 33

Another attestation of the term can be found in the poem ‘Seipurizumisuto gensō’ (Visions of the Saint-Prismist, Shūsai bundan, July 1915), which is mentioned (but not quoted) in Inoue 1987: 168. Inoue states that she was not able to find the original text. In fact, according to the summaries of the collections stored in the libraries of the Webcat circuit and of the Kindai Bungakukan of Komaba and Kanagawa, it seems that the issue in question is now lost, just like many others of that same year. 34 Kimura published Geijutsu no kakumei (Revolution in Art) in May 1914 and Miraiha oyobi rittaiha no geijutsu (The Art of Futurism and Cubism) in March 1915. Both contained essays and translations of Futurist and Cubist materials. According to Inoue Yōko (1988: 33) and Tanaka Seikō (1988: 191), Bochō personally owned the second book. He also knew Arthur Jerome Eddy’s Cubists and Post-Impressionism (1914): he translated a short passage from it in an essay of January 1916 (cf. YBZ, vol. 4: 359). For a survey of the press coverage of Futurism and Cubism in 1910s Japan, cf. Omuka 2000, Hackner 2001: 38–50, and KSGS.

aborted modernism: the semantics of the avant-garde 303 However, perhaps even more than the verbal root (purizumu), it is the suffix ‘izumu’ that evokes the idea of an attempt, carried on among many contradictions, at associating one’s formal experiments with the new European movements. I find particularly dense the passage I quoted from ‘Sensha mōgo’. Bochō not only declares his independence from all established schools, as Kimura Shōhachi and his friends did (a symptom of a lingering attachment to the romantic topos of the individual genius); he also steps forward in founding his own school, which is plainly contradictory. Certainly, this is not totally new in a scene like the Japanese one, where a marked tendency towards fractionation is easily detected. But the linguistic modality with which Bochō chose to designate his art is absolutely new: a term, ‘purizumizumu’, which was so rich in echoes from the recent revolutions in the European scenes. The word ‘purizumizumu’ was a lexical consequence of the homology between Bochō’s position as an ambitious ‘pretender’ in the literary field and his choice of stylistic defiance in poetry: the appropriation of the language of the European avant-garde should have been for him a warrant for legitimacy. But it wasn’t so. Lacking the necessary ‘specific capital’, he was not able to occupy and maintain such a risky position in the literary field. The Avant-Gardizing Effect of Words What interests me here are not the aesthetical or technical contents of (Saint)Prismism. In fact, they seem to be quite confused: perhaps, Bochō himself did not think of them as fully expressed in Seisanryōhari; and they probably differed from the idea that Saisei elaborated of them. What matters is that Bochō and Saisei, in order to designate a literary school that was exclusively Japanese, supported and spread in the literary field a denomination that was based on the model of similar neologisms of the European languages. This denomination had an effect, in the same moment the term was reproduced in the contemporary press (though not too often, to be honest), that evoked, almost automatically, the four connotative points presented above, and contributed to the reinforcement, even beyond the original intentions of Bochō and Saisei, of the analogy between Bochō’s poetry and the art of the European avant-gardes. Here we have Le Prisme, born as the devout altar of art of the so-called prismists (purizumisuto) around Yamamura Bochō [ . . . ] We have great


pierantonio zanotti expectations in the future of this movement founded by the tiny yet solid group of the prismists in the poetic scene of this country. (Quoted in Tanaka 1988: 43. The article is unsigned)

This passage is taken from a welcoming editorial published in the magazine Shinrisōshugi (New Idealism) of 20 April 1916. Prismism is already seen as a ‘movement’ (undō). A later attestation of the ‘prismist’ (purizumisuto) label can be found in a recollection by Yoshino Yoshiya (1894–1970) published in January 1925 in the Taira magazine Hashusha (The Sower). Yoshino, also known by his pen name Mino Konton, got to know Bochō around 1914 in Taira. According to his recollection: In the period when I knew Bochō, he was entrenched in the credo of futurism (miraiha no shinjō). It’s a thing of ten years ago [1915]: his art was the ‘Saint Prism (sento purizumu)’. He was confronting the world at the head of a group of young men and women around him, the Gunshū e Sha (Society of To the Masses). By the poems of the slim Gunshū e he was explaining as a prismist (purizumisuto) his serious personal convictions. (Quoted in Wada 1968: 395)35

This passage evokes the guiding role that Bochō had among the young poets in Taira, but it is to be considered with great caution. First of all, it is not clear if Yoshino, who is not a totally reliable source, is using the word ‘miraiha’ in its broader and generic sense or if he actually means Italian Futurism and Marinetti’s ideas. But, setting aside this problem, what is interesting here is that in the retrospective representation of Bochō’s literary activity given by Yoshino, there clearly emerges the association between Prismism and the European avant-garde. In Yoshino’s narrative, Prismism was a movement led by Bochō under the influence of ‘futurist’ (i.e. ‘outrageously new and Western’) ideas. In reality, both Saisei and Bochō were aware that (Saint)Prismism, in material terms, did not exist as a school with its own disciples and editorial organs. The society founded in Taira to support the magazine Le Prisme was actually called S P B (where S and P probably stood for ‘Saint Prism’),36 and Bochō certainly had some disciples, 35 Cf. also Yoshino 1975: 136–138. Gunshū e, a Taira dōjinshi edited by Bochō’s friend Hanaoka Kenji (1887–1968), ran from June 1915 to February 1916 (Kikuchi 2001: 63–64). 36 Tanaka 1988: 50. Bochō mentions this society for the first time in the column ‘Chōshi senpyō’ in Shūsai bundan, April 1916 (YBZ, vol. 4: 584). Three-letter acronyms were quite in vogue at that time. Their prototype was the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood (PRB). For instance, during his period as a student at Tōkyō Bijutsu Gakkō, Kawaji Ryūkō used to sign his works with the initials PRK (Poet Ryūkō Kawaji). Cf. Tanaka 1997: 162.

aborted modernism: the semantics of the avant-garde 305 mainly in Taira. However, it seems that they formed a circle scarce in number and disparate in inclinations, to the point that none of them showed any immediate propensity to follow him on the path traced by Seisanryōhari’s experiments.37 This situation was reflected by the fact that Bochō’s magazines too, Fūkei and Le Prisme, presented heterogeneous if not aesthetically and stylistically contradictory contributions. And yet, the very use of the prismist label played a role in creating, among amateur readers and posterity, who were not particularly interested in the intrigues of literary circles and who could not be aware of all that was going on behind the scenes of the literary world of that period, the illusion of a current with its organized group of followers. More than this: of an avant-garde current. An indication in this direction comes from Bochō’s letter of 12 February 1916 to the Sendai poet Iwai Ryokutei (1894–1918):38 ா㒌ኬᏕ࡚ࡵࠉ᮶ாࡡ⨶⾙Ꮥᰧ࡚ࡵࠉᙔᆀ࡚ࡵࠉ♼ᡖ࡚ࡵࠉࣈ ࣛࢫ࣑ఌ࠿࠵ࡽࡱࡌࠊ There are Prism Societies in the University of Kyōto as well as in the Tōkyō Art School; in this area [Taira] as well as in Kōbe. (YBZ, vol. 4: 664)

This letter was sent just a few weeks after the publication of Seisanryōhari: in it, Bochō promises to his correspondent that he will soon send him a copy of his collection. What are these ‘Prism Societies (Purizumukai)’? Are they local branches of the future editorial board of Le Prisme, through which Bochō plans to deliver his book to Iwai? If so, that would be quite a premature local organization when we consider that Bochō mentions his new project for the first time in a letter dated the following 22 March.39 Moreover, the cities mentioned in the letter to Iwai do not correspond to the ten ‘branches’ that were created just a few months prior for the distribution of Fūkei (as we can infer from the ‘Editorial’ in the October 1914 issue of that magazine).40 37

Whether someone, especially in the Taira area where Bochō resided while his experimental phase was in full bloom (1912–1918), might have done it some years after his departure should be the object of further research. 38 Bochō had become acquainted with Iwai during his Sendai period (1910). 39 It is to be remembered, however, that the letters by Bochō we can read today in his Complete Works are probably just a part of his correspondence. Therefore, it is possible that the arrangements for the foundation of Le Prisme had been initiated well before this letter. Moreover, with the exception of a few cases, I did not inspect the letters Bochō received during this period: they are not included in YBZ and are scattered around in many private archives and collections. 40 Cf. YBZ, vol. 4: 554–555. The Sendai branch was indeed Iwai’s private home. However, the names of places given by Bochō in his letter to Iwai can be quite ambiguous: is ‘Kyōto daigaku’ designating Kyōto Teikoku Daigaku or Kyōto universities in general?


pierantonio zanotti

The most intriguing explanation is that Purizumukai were spontaneous amateur societies (study or reading groups) of admirers of Seisanryōhari and of Bochō’s prismist works, which were presumably established in the period around the publication of his collection. Wada Yoshiaki, a major Bochō scholar, is inclined to acknowledge this interpretation, too.41 It is a hypothesis that, to be definitively confirmed, would require a micro-historical research on the archives of the aforementioned institutions, so as to verify if there is any documental trace of the activities of such groups. It would also be important to determine through which channels Bochō had come to know about the existence of such groups. If we admit that Wada’s hypothesis is correct, such information would prove the existence of a network of admirers of Bochō’s poetry; a network connected to, among others, the world of university students and of art schools. These were, because of their nature and history, the best disposed to appreciate the experimental flavour of Bochō’s project. It is not difficult to imagine that the members of these Prism Societies superimposed the current paradigm of the European avant-gardes on what they knew about Bochō’s ‘movement’. As for the posthumous reader, it should be remembered that the process of assimilation of Seisanryōhari to the European avant-garde and its inclusion in the prehistory of the Japanese avant-garde was sketched only in the 1940s.42 Unlike Bochō’s contemporaries, the authors who had begun their career in the 1920s and 1930s had had the possibility of acquiring a direct knowledge of the poetry of the historical avantgardes, which in the mid-1910s were still limited to a few fragments. Not by chance, the poets who had animated the experience of the modernist magazine Shi to shiron (Poetry and Poetics, 1928–1931) were the same who rediscovered Seisanryōhari after the Second World War, and who linked Bochō’s works to the introduction of the avant-gardes in Japan.43 Does ‘Tōkyō no bijutsu gakkō’ stand for Tōkyō Bijutsu Gakkō (today’s Geidai), where many artists such as Kawaji Ryūkō, Yorozu Tetsugorō, Takamura Kōtarō, Onchi Kōshirō and Tanaka Kyōkichi had studied? Tōkyō Bijutsu Gakkō was at that time characterized by great vitality and interest towards the new European movements. It also hosted a lively literary circle (cf. Kikuya 2005). 41 YBZ, vol. 4: 831. Wada thinks that Bochō actually meant Tōkyō Bijutsu Gakkō. 42 Sakutarō too, who sketched this assimilation in ‘Nihon ni okeru miraiha no shi . . . ’ (1916), articulated it in the most accomplished way no sooner than in the 1926 article ‘Yamamura Bochō no koto’. Cf. Zanotti 2008. 43 This role was played among others by Kitagawa Fuyuhiko and Haruyama Yukio. Cf. Seki 1978: 89, Sekigawa 1982: 152–153, 223, Kitagawa 1995: 267.

aborted modernism: the semantics of the avant-garde 307 I believe that such an operation of historical and critical repositioning was helped by the fact that a label like ‘(Saint)Prismism’, with all its ambiguity and evocativeness, was already available and extremely visible, since Saisei’s foreword (paratext par excellence). The crucial role that the word ‘(sei)purizumisuto’ had (and still has) in preliminarily orientating the reading of Seisanryōhari towards the analogy with the European avant-garde cannot be underestimated. This sole word was one of the main foci of the optical effect that brought Prismism into existence as an avant-garde movement, and that did it at a mere linguistic level. Epilogue Although it represented just a short and seemingly isolated episode in the history of Japanese literature, the circulation of the term ‘(sei) purizumizumu’ was in many ways comparable (from a morphological, semantic and socio-literary point of view) to the terms used in the European discourse of the avant-garde to designate many movements of the new art. Moreover, it is evident that the coinage and the use of this term by Bochō, even among many contradictions connected to the remnants of a post-romantic aesthetic, replied to an interest in being included in the European paradigm of the ‘isms’ that were abundantly presented at that time by the Japanese press. Even if it ended up in failure, Bochō’s attempt at linguistically creating a para-school of Japanese avant-garde can be considered as a step in the process that, within the Japanese literary field, was leading to the emergence of new positions available to those whose habitus configured as potential avant-garde writers. A word like ‘prismism’ revealed for a short while, and probably too early, the potential for a local exploitation of the symbolic capital incorporated in the latest things coming from the West. We might even say that, in many ways, it was a mere mise à jour of a well-established power vector (‘The West’ → Japan) within the international république mondiale des lettres.


pierantonio zanotti References

Boschetti, Anna (2001) La poésie partout: Apollinaire, homme-époque (1898–1918), Paris: Seuil. Bourdieu, Pierre (1975) ‘L’invention de la vie d’artiste’, Actes de la recherche en sciences sociales, 2 (March), pp. 67–93. Bourdieu, Pierre (1984) Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgement of Taste, London: Routledge. Bourdieu, Pierre (1996) The Rules of Art: Genesis and Structure of the Literary Field, Cambridge: Polity Press. Casanova, Pascale (1999) La république mondiale des lettres, Paris: Seuil. Hackner, Thomas (2001) Dada und Futurismus in Japan—Die Rezeption der Historischen Avantgarden, Munich: Iudicium. Hagiwara Sakutarō zenshū (1986–1989), 16 vols., Tōkyō: Chikuma Shobō. Hockx, Michel, (ed.) (1999) The Literary Field of Twentieth-Century China, Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press. Horie, Nobuo (1994) Yamamura Bochō no bungaku, Tsuchiura: Tsukuba Shorin. Ichimura, Kazuhisa (1995) Shishi Kanjō—Bochō, Sakutarō no kyoshū to shiha no shinten, in Nihon no shi zasshi, Nihon Gendaishi Kenkyūsha Kokusai Nettowāku (ed.), Tōkyō: Yūseidō, pp. 39–53. Inoue, Yōko (1987) ‘Seisanryōhari ron—‘hikari’ imēji no seiritsu’, Nihon bungaku kenkyū, 23, pp. 159–169. Inoue, Yōko (1988) ‘Bochō to zen’ei kaiga—Imajizumu to kaiga shiron (1)’, Kyūshū Daigaku gobun kenkyū, 65, pp. 25–37. Itō, Shinkichi (1979) Imajizumu no shijintachi, in Takujō funsui, ‘Kindai bungei fukkoku sōkan’, Tōkyō: Tōshi Shobō Shinsha, bessatsu. Keene, Donald (1999) Dawn to the West—Poetry, Drama, Criticism, New York: Columbia University Press. Kikuchi, Kiyoko (2001) ‘Yamamura Bochō nenpukō’, Iwaki Meisei Daigaku Jinbungakubu kenkyū kiyō, 14, pp. 58–71. Kikuya, Yoshio (2005) ‘Taishō shoki kara chūki ni okeru shōdantai, shō gurūpu no sōkan kankei - Kōjusha to Hakkakai wo chūshin toshite’, in Taishōki bijutsu tenrankai no kenkyū, Tōkyō Bunkazai Kenkyūjo Bijutsubu (ed.), Tōkyō: Chūo kōron bijutsu Shuppan, pp. 291–310. Kindai sakka tsuitōbun shūsei (1987), vol. 9: Kuriyagawa Hakuson, Kinoshita Rigen, Yamamura Bochō, Tōkyō: Yumani Shobō. Kitagawa, Tōru (1995) Hagiwara Sakutarō ‘gengo kakumei’ ron, Tōkyō: Chikuma Shobō. KSGS (Kaigai shinkō geijutsuron sōsho, kanpon/shinbun zasshi hen) (2003–2005), 22 vols., Omuka Toshiharu, Hidaka Shōji (eds.), Tōkyō: Yumani Shobō. Lista, Giovanni (1973) Futurisme—Manifestes, proclamations, documents, Lausanne: L’Age d’homme. Naka, Tarō (1962) ‘Yamamura Bochō to Hagiwara Sakutarō to no kankei—Tsuki ni hoeru no shihō no seiritsu ni kanshite’, Mugen, Hagiwara Sakutarō Tokushūgō, 12, (December), pp. 128–135. Nakamura, Fujio (1995) Yamamura Bochō ron, Tōkyō: Yūseidō. [reprinted in 2006 by Chūsekisha as Yamamura Bochō seishokusha shijin] Natsume, Sōseki (2009) Theory of Literature and Other Critical Writings, Michael K. Bourdaghs, Atsuko Ueda, Joseph A. Murphy (eds.), New York: Columbia University Press. Omuka, Toshiharu (2000) Futurism in Japan, 1909–1920, in International Futurism in Arts and Literature, Günter Berghaus (ed.), Berlin and New York: Walter de Gruyter, pp. 244–270. Ōoka, Makoto (1977) Meiji, Taishō, Shōwa no shijintachi, Tōkyō: Shinchōsha.

aborted modernism: the semantics of the avant-garde 309 Poggioli, Renato (1968) The Theory of Avant-Garde, Cambridge/London: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press. Rimer, J. Thomas, Gessel Van C., (eds.) (2005) The Columbia Anthology of Modern Japanese Literature—Volume 1: From Restoration to Occupation, 1868–1945, New York: Columbia University Press. Russell, Charles (1985) Poets, Prophets, and Revolutionaries: The Literary Avant-Garde from Rimbaud through Postmodernism, New York/Oxford: Oxford University Press. Seki, Shunji (1978) Bochō no shi, in Bochō, Takuji, Kyōjirō, Seki et al. (eds.), Maebashi: Miyama Bunko, pp. 72–106. Sekigawa, Sakio (1982) Bōdorēru, Bochō, Sakutarō no shihō keiretsu—Geigo ni yoru Tsuki ni hoeru shitai no kaimei, Tōkyō: Shōwa Shuppan. Tanaka, Atsushi (1997) ‘Kōki inshōha—kō—1912nen zengo wo chūshin ni (jō)’, Bijutsu kenkyū, 368, (December), pp. 153–172. Tanaka, Seikō (1988) Yamamura Bochō, Tōkyō: Chikuma Shobō. Villain, Franck (2003) ‘Étude comparative sur la notion du seuil. Bochō Yamamura et René Char’, Tsukuba Daigaku chiiki kenkyū, 21, pp. 229–247. Wada, Yoshiaki (1968) Yamamura Bochō kenkyū, Tōkyō: Toshima Shobō. Wada, Yoshiaki (1969) Yamamura Bochō, Tōkyō: Ōfūsha. Wada, Yoshiaki (1976) Yamamura Bochō to Hagiwara Sakutarō, Tōkyō: Kasama Shoin. Wilson, Graeme, Atsumi Ikuko (1972) ‘The Poetry of Yamamura Bochō’, Japan Quarterly, 19, 4, (October/December), pp. 458–466. Yamamura Bochō zenshū (1989–1990), 4 vols., Tōkyō: Chikuma Shobō. Yoshino, Sei (1975) Bochō to Konton, Tōkyō: Yayoi Shobō. Zanotti, Pierantonio (2008) ‘Il futurismo di Yamamura Bochō secondo Hagiwara Sakutarō’, Atti del XXXI Convegno di Studi sul Giappone, Venezia: Cartotecnica Veneziana, pp. 399–414.

‘OVERCOMING MODERNITY’ IN KENJI MIYAZAWA Takao Hagiwara Problems of Modernity In this chapter, I use the terms ‘modernity’ and ‘modernism’ primarily to refer to ‘Western modernity’ and ‘Western modernism’. Thus, ‘modernization’ as I use it largely overlaps with ‘Westernization’. Also, as I will further discuss below, I consider modernism, the cultural and artistic movement considered to have arisen in Europe in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, to be a kind of reaction against modernity.1 Sociologist Hitoshi Imamura characterizes modernity as comprising the following: 1. A mechanistic view of the world. 2. An emphasis on rational and systematic methods of production and construction, and on the supposed autonomy of individuals. 3. An emphasis on systematized, citizenship-based societies and governments. 4. The reduction of all human activities to ‘labour’ (࢈‫)ڡ‬. 5. A homogeneous and linear progressive sense of time.2 One might argue that underlying all these observations is Max Weber’s famous thesis that modernity is ‘disenchantment’ (Entzauberung), or rationalization. As Chaplin’s film Modern Times comically yet eloquently shows, the problems of modernity lie in the efficient but highly mechanized and alienating (dehumanizing) administrative/bureaucratic systems underlying almost every aspect of human life, from politics and


See, for instance, the following: It [Modernism] is the art consequent on Heisenberg’s ‘Uncertainty principle’, of the destruction of civilization and reason in the First World War, of the world changed and reinterpreted by Marx, Freud and Darwin, of capitalism and constant industrial acceleration, of existential exposure to meaninglessness or absurdity. It is the literature of technology. . . . Modernism is then the art of modernization . . . . (Bradbury and McFarlane: 27) 2 Imamura: 236–239. My translation, with modifications. Unless otherwise specified, all the English translations in this essay are mine.

‘overcoming modernity’ in kenji miyazawa


the economy (capitalism) to communication, family, education, religion, international relations, military affairs, and so on. Modernity and Modernism I think that while modernism is rooted in modernity, modernism is also a kind of reaction against and/or an attempt to overcome modernity: in the sense that it is rooted in modernity, modernism’s attempt is to overcome itself. Reflecting the negative aspects of modernity described above, (Western) modernism contains many elements of modernity that often give the reader excruciatingly frustrating sensations of alienation, absurdity, disruption, incoherence, fragmentation, violence, and destruction, feelings expressed particularly in works employing imagism, cubism, fauvism, futurism, expressionism, magic realism, etc.3 However, despite these negative elements, modernist art is after all a kind of creation: underlying its negativistic overtones one can glimpse, albeit faintly and ambiguously, some craving for and adumbration of unity, harmony, completion, and salvation (see, for instance, Kafka’s Kierkegaardian ‘Before the Law’, The Metamorphosis, The Castle, and The Trial; Joyce’s Ulysses and Finnegans Wake; Eliot’s Four Quartets; Pound’s The Cantos; Proust’s In Search of Lost Time; and even Beckett’s Waiting for Godot). As he lived in modern, Westernized Japan, Kenji Miyazawa (1896– 1933) inevitably was influenced by Western modernity and modernism. And as the following passage from his Nōmin geijutsu gairon kōyō (Notes for an Outline of Agrarian Art) shows, Miyazawa was also keenly aware of the problems associated with modernity: While they were poor, our ancestors once enjoyed life in their own ways. They had both art and religion. Now we have only labour and survival. Religions have been exhausted and replaced by modern science and, moreover, science is cold and dark. Art has departed from us and, besides, it is impoverished and degraded. Now religionists and artists are those who monopolize and sell truth, good, and beauty. We cannot afford to buy them, nor do we need such art and religion. We now have to go along the right path and create our own beauty. We must refine our grey labour in the furnace of art. Here is our constant, pure and joyous creation. (Miyazawa 1976: 10) 3 For the relation to modernity of the elements of violence, destruction, and fragmentation in modernism as seen in Pound, Eisenstein, and Benjamin, see Hagiwara 2000.


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While deeply rooted in modernity, Miyazawa dedicated his life and literature to overcoming such modern problems and, by extension, his own modernism itself. The following essay explores how modernism and modernity in the work of Kenji Miyazawa ‘overcome’ themselves. Miyazawa’s Modernity and Modernism Miyazawa studied modern scientific agronomy and geology at college, and as his letter to the poet Shinpei Kusano (1903–1988) indicates, he saw himself primarily as a scientist: ‘I am not confident as a poet, but I would like you to recognize me as a scientist’ (Kusano: 253). Miyazawa dedicated a large part of his short life to educating others about scientific agriculture at a local agricultural school, advising local farmers about farming and, towards the end of his life, to working as an engineer-salesman at a local rock-crushing factory. Reflecting his academic and career backgrounds, his work abounds in scientific geological terms. The poet Sōnosuke Satō (1890–1942) comments that in his poems Miyazawa employed the terminology of meteorology, mineralogy, botany, and geology (Satō). One good example of this is the ‘Proem’ (introductory poem) placed at the beginning of Haru to shura (Spring and Asura), a collection of his poems published in 1924: The phenomenon called ‘I’ is a blue illumination of the hypothetical, organic alternating current lamp (a compound of all transparent ghosts) a blue illumination of the cause-effect alternating current lamp that flickers busily, busily with landscapes, with everyone with such assured certainty (the light persists, while the lamp is lost) In the twenty-two months, which in my perception lie in the direction of the past, I have linked these pieces on paper, with mineral ink ............................................ For each of them, the man, the galaxy, Asura, the sea urchin,

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eating cosmic dust, breathing air or salt water, may conjure a fresh ontology, but that too will be no more than a mental scene. ........................................... But while these words, supposed to have been copied honestly in the accumulation of the vast, bright times of the Cenozoic era and alluvial epoch, change their structures and contents in a flash of light and shadow (or in Asura’s billion years) the possibility is always there that both the printer and I feel them as immutable. ..................... Perhaps, two thousand years from now, an appropriately different geology may win the time, apposite evidence may turn up from the past, everyone may think two thousand years ago colorless peacocks filled the blue sky, fresh bachelors of arts may excavate wonderful fossils from the top stratum of the atmosphere, the glittering freezing point of nitrogen, or discover the enormous footprints of an invisible mankind among the Cretaceous sandstone strata. All these propositions are asserted in the four-dimensional extension as the attributes of imagination and time. (Miyazawa 1973a: 6-7. Excerpts quoted with the translator’s permission.)

Here, we see science (rationality or modernity) and religion (magic or pre-modernity) synthesized in such a way that the poem evokes a unique sense of what might be called Miyazawa’s modernism. Some Western modernist poets, artists, and thinkers might have also attempted to synthesize science (rationality) and magic, two distinct entities, as, for instance, in the magic realism of Kafka, Mann, and Borges. However, their works generally lack the haunting beauty—the dazzling colours, the weightlessness of innocence, and the soaring imagination—that characterize Miyazawa’s poems and tales such as Suisenzuki no yokka (The Fourth of Narcissus Month), Okinagusa (Windflowers), and Gingatetsudō no yoru (The Night of the Galactic Railroad). See also the following passages from Nōmin geijutsu gairon kōyō and the poem ‘Spring and Asura’, respectively:


takao hagiwara First of all become, together with others, the shining modica of the universe and be scattered throughout the limitless sky. (Miyazawa 1976: 15) As I breathe the sky anew Lungs contract faintly white (body, scatter in the dust of the sky) (Miyazawa 1989: 36)

What generates all these special qualities in the work of Miyazawa is, I believe, his genuine sense of joy (and sorrow) in the life force (⫳ ੑ࡯ǃ⫳ੑᛳ). It is as if Miyazawa retained that fresh sense of joy, wonder, fear, awe, and sorrow that some sensitive children or ‘primitive’  people have when mingling and interacting with nature. At the same time, however, Miyazawa’s modernism is unique in Japanese modernism: for instance, in comparison to Miyazawa’s, Kawabata’s modernism is subdued, quiet, dark, and introversive, as evident in such works as Yukiguni (Snow Country), Yama no oto (The Sound of the Mountain), and Nemureru bijo (Sleeping Beauties). Miyazawa’s literature is brilliantly colourful, vibrant, and extroverted to the point of being cosmic. Miyazawa breathes, dances, laughs, and cries in rhythm with the entire universe (see, for instance, the tales and poems cited above). This kind of cosmic sensibility renders Miyazawa’s modernism more profound than Western embodiments of modernism,4 which, in what Ortega y Gasset would characterize as their ‘dehumanization’, not only indict the irony of modernity’s alienating inhumanity but also express their strong scepticism about humanity. Following the philosopher Keiji Nishitani (1900–1990), I think that the problems of modernity—alienation, nihilism, destruction, and so on—arise from the split between science (rationality) and religion (magic/irrationality),5 which 4

Miyazawa’s modernism is simultaneously ultra-modern and ultra-primitive: ultramodern in that within his animism, shamanism, and Buddhism, he embraces the findings of modern science; but ultra-primitive in that through his knowledge of modern science, his understanding of such ancient sensibilities as shamanism, animism, and Buddhism goes beyond the order of mere thousands or tens of thousands of years back along an astronomical scale of billions of years. See, for instance, his ‘Proem’, quoted in the Miyazawa’s Modernity and Modernism section of this essay. 5 See Nishitani. It would be rather simplistic to just brush away the kindai no chōku (overcoming modernity) symposium held in Japan in 1942 as a mere nationalistic attempt to replace Western modernity with traditional Japanese values. I think the symposium shared with Western modernists the problematic of how to deal with destructive and alienating modern Western civilization. What the symposium participants thought, it seems to me, was that traditional Japanese sensibilities might be useful to this end.

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is connatural with the Cartesian splits between mind (rationality, soul) and body (irrationality, res extensa); humans and animals; etc. In other words, the problems and despairs of modernity and modernism are ironical outcomes of humanism and anthropocentrism. In contradistinction to these idiosyncrasies of Western modernity and, by extension, modernism, one of the salient characteristics of Miyazawa’s modernity and modernism is their cosmic non-anthropocentrism, a quality which makes Miyazawa’s world not only exceptionally bright and joyous but also very dark and sorrowful, as suggested in the title Spring and Asura.6 More specifically, for Miyazawa, the primary cause of this darkness and sadness lies in what Norman O. Brown would call ‘cosmic autophagy’ (life eating itself): ‘This world as food feeds on itself. The mystical body feeds on itself. Autophagy. . . . The identity of the eater and what he eats . . . ’ (Brown: 170). The issue of autophagy constitutes one of the central themes of Miyazawa’s life and literature, a concern apparent in his vegetarianism and his tales, including Yodaka no hoshi (Nighthawk Star), Furandon nōgakkō no buta (The Pig of Frandon Agricultural School), Chūmon no ōi ryōriten (The Restaurant of Many Orders), and Bejitarian taisai (Grand Conference of Vegetarians). Also, see the following excerpts from Miyazawa’s unfinished poem, ‘Nagaretari’ (‘The Water Flows’): Oh, only heads, only heads, Some, gnashing and gritting their teeth, Come down, cutting across the flow Some bite at the shoulders of the dead And as they then bite at their backs Some of them wake up and become angry (Miyazawa 1973a: 192)

Autophagy in Miyazawa’s work is closely connected to his Japanese Buddhism, a synthesis of Indo-Sino Mahayana Buddhism with Japanese animism and shamanism.7 The Mahayana Bodhisattva ideals of compassion for all sentient and non-sentient beings coupled with the indigenous Japanese sense of animism and shamanism engenders for Miyazawa the problem of autophagy, a deep sense 6

In Buddhism, asura (Skt.) are demigods characterized by wrath and bellicosity. The Nichiren sect of Buddhism that Miyazawa deeply believed in is an example of this kind of synthesis. As for Nichiren’s and Miyazawa’s shamanistic and animistic sun worship, see, respectively, Natsuishi and Hagiwara 1988: ch. 3. 7


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of guilt and sorrow. At the same time, however, his keen sensitivity towards nature (including both sentient and non-sentient beings) is the source of his above-mentioned joyful conviviality with nature, a perspective which verges on mysticism. 8 This paradox centring on autophagy is, I believe, the crux of how Miyazawa overcomes modernity. Before further discussing this point, however, I would like to briefly compare Miyazawa with the animator Hayao Miyazaki (1941-). Miyazawa and Miyazaki It is, I argue, the issue of autophagy and its corollary, non-anthropocentrism, that distinguish Miyazawa’s modernism not only from its Western counterparts but also from that of such Japanese artists as Hayao Miyazaki, who seemingly remarkably resembles Miyazawa in his synthesis of science and magic (animism and shamanism), and whose work many—especially those in the West—seem to see as providing an effective solution to modernity’s deep-seated problems, problems which critics like Anthony Giddens consider to have now become almost uncontrollable (Giddens). I nevertheless disagree with this view of Miyazaki’s anime: Miyazaki, in spite of his surface resemblance to Miyazawa, is, in the final analysis, a proponent of such values of modernity as humanism and anthropocentrism, as the following examples show: 1. In both the manga (comic) and anime versions of Kaze no tani no naushika (Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind), evil (kyomu, or nothingness) attacks Nausicaä, the young heroine, a departure from the trademark moral ambiguity of Miyazaki’s villains. Neither the manga nor the anime versions of Nausicaä suggest that the apparently innocent heroine, Nausicaä, is in any way evil. Furthermore, while Nausicaä lives harmoniously with nature, especially animals and plants, the work does not address the issue of her eating (destruction). In one scene in the anime version of the story, Miyazaki has Nausicaä eat chico seeds, which are supposedly highly nutritious, thereby evading 8 Walter Stace would call Miyazawa’s nature mysticism “extroversive mysticism,” a belief that finds union with the world by dispersing and/or melting one’s self into the entire universe. See Stace: ch. 1.

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direct confrontation with the issue of autophagy. Except for this scene, neither the manga nor the anime version even contains scenes in which Nausiciaä eats. And, in the manga version, Kecha, a Dork girl, expresses her anger at the Tormekians’ cruel treatment of innocent Dork children, saying, ‘They beat those Dork children as if they were cattle. Tormekians are baser than pigs!!! (Miyazaki: 27). Here, Kecha, and presumably Miyazaki behind her, are clearly anthropocentric. Yet Nausicaä ostensibly advocates equality and friendship between humans and other animals. 2. In Sen to Chihiro no kamikakushi (Spirited Away), the heroine Chihiro’s main concern is to disenchant her parents, who have been magically turned into pigs; thus, as in Nausicaä, the protagonist’s concern is anthropocentric. Also, the anime contradicts its Marxian, humanist indictment of the exploitation of innocent characters like Chihiro and the cute creatures of soot. Chihiro refuses to accept the gold nuggets offered by Kaonashi (the faceless hobgoblin), saying ‘I don’t want money’; but Miyazaki anime itself is a commercial success: it has made millions of dollars not only domestically but also overseas via its contract with the Walt Disney Company. 3. In Mononoke hime (Princess Mononoke), a recycled version of Nausicaä, the Shōjō (the Apes) say that they want to eat human flesh to attain human power. This is an instance of social Darwinism, an important element of modernity. And in their battle with the humans of the Tataraba foundry-fortress, the boars, who call themselves ‘our tribe’, smear themselves with white clay like some native Americans used to do, thereby enacting a North American confrontation between natives and white men, an important element of the North American frontier spirit version of modernity and the Enlightenment. For these reasons, I consider that despite its surface animism and shamanism, Miyazaki anime contains the underlying anthropocentric values of modernity: humanism, human rights, etc. Therefore, the ideologies of Miyazaki anime are essentially ineffective in showing a way to overcoming modernity. As I have pointed out, modernity is based on anthropocentric humanism, but precisely because of this anthropocentrism ironically suffers modernity’s decentring effects, as exemplified by Copernican heliocentrism, Darwinian evolutionism,


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and the Freudian notion of the unconscious (see Sheehan: 6–7).9 Modernity (humanistic anthropocentrism) thus subverts itself, revealing the self-referential situation of autophagy (nurturing and devouring, or cosmic cannibalism), the fundamental condition not only of humanity but also of the earthly world itself. It seems to me that unless one addresses this fundamental condition, one cannot overcome the problems of modernity.10 As Imamura argues, humanism engenders ‘cannibalism’ because humanism inevitably alienates and degrades what it regards to be base and/or animalistic in humans, both individuals and ethnic groups (Imamura: 225–227). This kind of cannibalism was predicted in, for instance, Kafka’s animal stories like The Metamorphosis, and indeed it has been actualized in modern colonialism, slavery, the Nazi holocaust, etc. Conclusion Western modernism and Miyazaki anime are, in the final analysis, anthropocentric; thus, they are self-subverting and doomed to fail in their attempt to overcome modernity. Because of his fundamental non-anthropocentrism, however, Miyazawa’s modernity and modernism offer a radically different approach to overcoming themselves. 9 The decentralization of human beings takes radically different forms in Miyazawa’s non-anthropocentric, Buddho-pantheistic cosmic vision, which subsumes such interrelated elements as autophagy, a deep sense of joy and sorrow, and a centrifugal style (see, for instance, the excerpts from Nōmingeijutsu gairon kōyō and the poem ‘Spring and Asura’ quoted in the Miyazawa’s Modernity and Modernism section of this essay). 10 The ideas of neo-Marxists Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri regarding both ‘Empire’, ‘a decentered and deterritorializing apparatus of rule that progressively incorporates the entire global realm within its open, expanding frontiers’ (Hardt and Negri 2001: xii) and the ‘multitude’, which, in contrast to the ‘people’, ‘is not unified but remains plural and multiple’ (Hardt and Negri 2005: 99) seem to parallel those of Miyazaki anime. For instance, the iron foundry fortress of Miyazaki’s Mononoke hime seems to typify the subverting power of ‘multitude’ against Hart and Negri’s ‘Empire’, while the members of the fortress constitute outcasts (lepers and prostitutes) and lowranking commoners who are pitted against the powers and rules of the imperial regime and the feudal lords. Moreover, unlike Hardt and Negri’s concept, many Miyazaki characters seem to be non-human animals or even hobgoblins, equals in nature yet mutually contending and contesting, fellow members of a ‘multitude’. However, despite these subverting elements that go a step beyond Hardt and Negri’s ‘multitude’, both Miyazaki’s and Hardt and Negri’s ideas of ‘empire’ and ‘multitude’ are, in the final analysis, humanistic and anthropocentric, and thus embody a crucially different perspective from Miyazawa’s non-anthropocentric outlook. For further comparison between Miyazawa and Miyazaki, and between them both and Hardt and Negri, see, for instance, Hagiwara 2008: ch. 9 and Hagiwara 2006, respectively.

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Because of his non-anthropocentric cosmic view, Miyazawa’s world is infinitely bright and joyous; but at the same time and for the same reason, it is extremely dark and dismal (see, for example, the poem ‘Nagaretari’ [‘The Water Flows’] quoted above). The darkness and sorrows are as vast and bottomless as the universe itself. However, in this world of joys and sorrows, there are fleeting moments and scenes that I think represent, for lack of a better phrase, some kind of religious tones or prayers, some sense of salvation. One example occurs in the last scene of Nametokoyama no kuma (The Bears of Mt. Nametoko), a short story about the old hunter Kojūrō who, though he likes and respects the bears, has to hunt them to support himself and his family. In the end, Kojūrō is killed by one of the bears; but the bears give him a funeral: It was the evening of the third day following. A moon hung in the sky like a great ball of ice. The snow was a bright bluish white, and the water gave off a phosphorescent glow. The Pleiades and Orion’s belt twinkled now green, now orange, as though they were breathing. On the plateau on top of the mountain, surrounded by chestnut trees and snowy peaks, many great black shapes were gathered in a ring, each casting its own black shadow, each prostrate in the snow like a Muslim at prayer, never moving. And there at the highest point one might have seen, by the light of the snow and the moon, Kojuro’s corpse set in a kneeling position. One might even have imagined that on Kojuro’s dead, frozen face one could see a chill smile as though he were still alive. And Orion’s belt moved to the center of the heavens, it tilted still further to the west, yet the great black shapes stayed quite still, as though they had turned to stone. (Miyazawa 1972: 37)

This is a world that transcends environmentalist issues, an element of modernity based on the anthropocentrism that goes back to the biblical stewardship of Adam and Eve. Such a world, I believe, exemplifies Miyazawa’s overcoming of autophagy, and by extension, of modernity.


takao hagiwara References

Bradbury, Malcolm and James McFarlane, eds. Modernism: A Guide to European Literature 1890–1930 (London; New York: Penguin Books, 1991). Brown, Norman O. Love’s Body (New York: Vintage Books, 1966). Giddens, Anthony. Runaway World: How Globalization Is Reshaping Our Lives (London: Profile, 1999). Hagiwara, Takao. Hokubei de yomitoku kindai nihonbungaku: tōzai hikakubunka no kokoromi (Modern Japanese Literature Read in North America: A Comparative Perspective) (Tokyo: Keibunsha, 2008). . ‘Globalism and Localism in Hayao Miyazaki’s Anime’. The International Journal of Humanities, 3.9 (2006) 7–12. . ‘Modernity and (Post)modernity: Superposition, Montage, and Dialectics in Haiku, Pound, Eisenstein, and Benjamin’. Archív Orientalní, 68 (2000) 549–570. . Miyazawa Kenji: Inosensu no bungaku (Kenji Miyazawa: Literature of Innocence) (Tokyo: Meijishoin, 1988). Hardt, Michael and Antonio Negri. Multitude: War and Democracy in the Age of Empire (New York: Penguin Books, 2005). . Empire (Harvard: Harvard University Press, 2001). Imamura, Hitoshi. Kindaisei no kōzō: ‘kuwadate’ kara ‘kokoromi’ e (Structure of Modernity: From ‘Enterprise’ to ‘Attempt’) (Tokyo: Kōdansha, 1994). Kusano, Shinpei. Miyazawa Kenji oboegaki (Memoranda on Kenji Miyazawa) (Tokyo: Kōdanshabungeibunko, 1991). Miyazawa, Kenji. A Future of Ice: Poems and Stories of a Japanese Buddhist: Miyazawa Kenji. Tr. Hiroaki Sato (San Francisco: North Point Press, 1989). . Kōhon Miyazawa Kenji zenshū (Variorum Edition of the Collected Works of Kenji Miyazwa), XII–A (Tokyo: Chikumashobō, 1976). . Spring & Asura: Poems of Kenji Miyazawa. Tr. Hiroaki Sato (Chicago, Ill.: Chicago Review Press, 1973a). . Kōhon Miyazawa Kenji zenshū (Variorum Edition of the Collected Works of Kenji Miyazawa), V (Tokyo: Chikumashobō, 1973b). . Winds from Afar. Tr. John Bester (Tokyo; Palo Alto [Calif.]: Kodansha International, 1972). Miyazaki, Hayao. Kaze no tani no Naushika (Naucicaä of the Valley of the Wind) (comic version), V (Tokyo: Tokumashoten, 1991). Natsuishi, Banya. ‘Nichiren no chikara: Hokekyō ni yoru taiyō saiseigirei no purosesu’ (‘Nichiren’s Power: A Process of the Rejuvenation Ritual of the Sun’). Susumu Nakanishi, ed., Nihon no sōzōryoku (Japanese Imagination) (Tokyo: JDC, 1998) 90–118. Nishitani, Keiji. ‘Kindai no chōkoku shiron’ (‘Personal Views on Overcoming Modernity’). Tetsutarō Kawakami et al., Kindai no chōkoku (Overcoming Modernity) (Tokyo: Fuzanbō, 1979). Satō, Sōnosuke. ‘Jūsan’nendo no shishū’ (‘Collections of Poems in 1924’). Nihon shijin (Japanese Poets), 4.12 (1924) 95-96. Sheehan, Paul. Modernism, Narrative and Humanism (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002). Stace, Walter. The Teachings of the Mystics: Being Selections from the Great Mystics and the Mystical Writings of the World (New York: New American Library, 1960).



REORIENTING PAINTING Matthew Larking As Japan began to change its cultural reference point from China to the West at the end of the Edo period, Western-style painting (most commonly Yōga or Seiyōga, although other terminologies have been used) was introduced, and the Japanization of this, usually meaning the representation of local places and personages, followed. The labours of painters working in Western painting idioms in modern Japan have not been received favourably in the West. Most of the early work from the end of the Edo period through to the First World War has largely been considered derivative by Western and occasionally Japanese critics alike, even though these artists have varying degrees of fame within Japan, or have memorial museums and parks dedicated to preserving their works and legacies. When the art critic for Time Magazine in 1988, Robert Hughes, was reviewing an exhibition on the impact of French art on Japanese painters between the years 1890 and 1930, he was merely repeating what early Japanese critics had discerned from the beginning: ‘‘Paris in Japan’, is not popular stuff,’ wrote Hughes, ‘it does not contain a single masterpiece; almost everything in it is derivative, and not always very intelligently so. One would not normally cross the street to see earnest Japanese pastiches of Renoir, looking like inflamed rubber dolls.’1 The paintings in this exhibition were occasionally well known works but mostly small pieces, few of which are considered the masterpieces of these artists. This was probably due to it being easier and much less expensive to borrow comparatively small, minor works, for a show which began at The Washington University Gallery of Art in Saint Louis. Artists, however, could be just as frank about stylistic indebtedness. Nakagawa Kigen (1892–1972) wrote in a letter of his ambitions and the failed ones of his teacher after having visited Matisse: ‘Masamune (Tokusaburō) copied Matisse’s style for a while upon his return to Japan, but his character 1 Robert Hughes, ‘Art: Japanese with a French Accent’, Time, (25 January 1988). (Accessed 14 September 2009,,9171, 966528,00.html)


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could hardly bear the peculiar direction and he soon went back to his original Impressionist style. Nobody has yet accomplished Matisse’s style, so I secretly believe that I will be able to become the most prominent figure in Japan.’2 While some artists may work more comfortably in the style of another, the above commentary by Nakagawa extended as a general characterization of painting in Western styles would merely lead to a distorted and misleading picture of Japan’s modern painting development. Indeed, Nakagawa’s youthful preoccupation with Matisse was soon abandoned for a newfound interest in Nihonga and then Nanga style works in oils after the Second World War. Words of praise for Japan’s Expressionist painters, however, can be found in what is perhaps an unexpected Western critical quarter in a late interview with arguably the most discerning American art critic of the twentieth century, Clement Greenberg. This pregnant comment made in passing noted: ‘the Fauve way of painting—alla prima, no underpainting, no glazing and so forth—became the lingua franca by 1910. . . . And the same thing in Japan. Their efforts to do Western painting weren’t so hot except when they went Fauve. I should have written about that.’3 The point, ostensibly, is that Greenberg saw something else going on in Japan’s Expressionist painting movements beyond the mere copying of European sources, and this carries the implication that Japanese Expressionist painters were doing something other than being the uninspired inheritors of European originators. Rather than the unreflective and disengaged transmission of painting practices from Europe to Japan, a slow and developing lineage of Expressionist painting came to emerge that laid claim to a more local parentage, amounting to a re-orientation, following the earlier ‘Japanization’ of oil painting. In this, painting in Western styles, particularly from the end of Post-impressionism and the Expressionist movements which followed, were coupled to the Chinese-derived painting ideals and aesthetics of Literati/Nanga painting which were practiced in Japan from the eighteenth century, so bringing together painting movements that developed under the influence of foreign cultures. 2 Nakagawa Kigen cited in Fauvism and Modern Japanese Painting (Exhibition catalogue), edited by The National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo, The National Museum of Modern Art, Kyoto, Aichi Prefectural Museum of Art, (Tokyo: The Tokyo Shimbun, 1992), p. 301. 3 Clement Greenberg, ‘The Edmonton Review—The Edmonton Contemporary Artists’ Society Newsletter’, Vol. 3 Issue 2 and Vol. 4 Issue 1, (1991). (Accessed 14 September 2009,

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This coupling is part of a shift away from direct confrontation with Western art, to its mediation, reinterpretation, and eventual assimilation to already existing pre-modern imported painting precedents as a continuation and development upon these. It is also about artists and critics becoming sensitive to culturally distant art, and interpreting ‘those aspects of the alien art in reference to their own culture’, or more specifically in this case, to the indigenization of previously imported painting practices.4 With new precedents in art transposed to new soil, there are frequently hypersensitivities to how things foreign may be naturalized. The Western-style painter Koide Narashige (1887–1931), whose own work was brought into rapprochement with Nanga, likened Westernstyle painting in Japan to a kind of ikebana metaphor, ‘a cut flower . . . with no roots’.5 Roots for Western-expressionist painting, however, were already being established from the end of the Meiji period and this continued across the Taishō period and throughout the twentieth century. As the painter and critic Ishii Hakutei (1882–1958) observed in 1925, ‘The spirit of modern European painting and a taste for nanga are entangled.’6 By ‘Expressionist painting’ I refer to the lumping together of Postimpressionist painters such as Paul Cézanne, Vincent Van Gogh and Henri Matisse (initially understood as a Post-impressionist painter in Japan) and the Fauvism that was introduced to Japan at the end of the Meiji period, and encompassing Cubism and the painting of Kandinsky introduced at the beginning of the Taishō period. This is a broad and even confusing jumbling together of different painters, styles and conceptual concerns, but most of the Japanese painters mentioned herein dabbled in and out of various of these, and they came be collected under the catholic Japanese term ‘Hyōgen-shugi’—Expressionism. This cobbling together of various movements under the term Hyōgen-shugi was due in large part to the near simultaneous or close succession with which these movements were introduced to Japan. The term Nanga (the so-called Southern School of painting) here designates Japanese Literati painting or Bunjinga and also Nanshūga; terms


Michael Podro, The Critical Historians of Art, (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1984), p. 186. 5 Koide Narashige, ‘Shin gihō to nihonjin’, in Koide Narashige Zenbunshū, edited by Takumi Hideo, (Tokyo: Satsuki Shobō, 1981) p. 284. 6 Ishii Hakutei cited in Fauvism and Modern Japanese Painting, p. 307.


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often treated as synonyms, though not unproblematically.7 These refer to the Chinese-derived Literati tradition introduced to Japan in the early eighteenth century. Nanga, a contraction of Nanshūga, appears first in print in 1883 in the Tetsuō Gadan (Tetsuō’s discussions about painting)8 and so seems of relatively recent coinage. However, there is no reason to believe that Tetsuō Somon (1791–1871) invented this term. It was likely in use long before as most painters wrote little in the Edo period compared to the amount of aural discussion that would have taken place and the fact that Tetsuō’s discussions on painting were published many years after his death. The route by which Western painting came to be yoked to Nanga was primarily through painters working in Fauve and Expressionist idioms (though the word ‘Fauve’ was not widely used at the time), several of whom had exhibited in the Fusain-kai exhibition of 1912. It was the slightly earlier Post-impressionist painters, however, who first grasped an affinity with Nanga and its practitioners. As early as 1911 the Western-style painter Fujishima Takeji (1867–1943) noted in an interview in Bijutsu Shinpō that: ‘It can certainly be said . . . that from a psychological point of view, Gauguin, Cézanne and Van Gogh share mutual concerns with (Ike no) Taiga and Yosa Buson,’ among others.9 Then again from another Western-style painter in 1911, Wada Eisaku (1874–1959): ‘artists such as Taiga and Buson are especially interesting I think, they are the closest to us, they have a close affinity in feeling’.10 A few years later in 1915, Kosugi Hōan (1881–1964), a Western-style painter with broad stylistic affinities, reported that when he was travelling in Paris, where he was for approximately a year from 1913, he saw reproductions of Taiga’s ‘The Ten Conveniences’ and reflected that the style he saw before him was 7 Problems largely arise from the differing origins of these terms, especially for the latter two in China, yet what and who they refer to in Japanese painting is largely identical. 8 Tsuji Nobuo, ‘The Creative Force of a Multi-Artist: A Guide to the Yosa Buson Exhibition’, in Yosa Buson: On the Wings of Art (Exhibition catalogue), (Miho Museum, 2008), p. 392. 9 Hayami Yutaka, ‘Strange Dialectic?: Nanga and European-style Painting’, in Kimura Shigekazu, Iio Yukiko and Hayami Yutaka, What is Nanga? An Aspect of Modern Japanese-style Painting, (Exhibition catalogue), (Hyogo Prefectural Museum of Art, 2008), p. 250. Toshio Watanabe adds further to Fujishima’s conception of the connection between Fauvism and Nanga, noting: ‘Fujishima even claimed incongruously that Fauvism, only then being developed in the West, had existed in the Orient from a long time before and that the French movement was probably stimulated by nanga.’ Toshio Watanabe, ‘Japanese Landscape Painting and Taiwan: Modernity, Colonialism and National Identity’, in Refracted Modernity: Visual Culture and Identity in Colonial Taiwan, edited by Yuko Kikuchi, (University of Hawai’i Press, 2007), p. 71 10 Ibid.

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an old one in Japan, but a most up to date one in the modern world.11 Such reflections by Western-style painters appear to be the initial points of departure for the yoking of Western painting styles to Nanga, as if they recognized something of their own situation in that of past Japanese painters who had also worked in imported painting styles and methods, cherished individualism and placed emphasis on the painter’s subjectivity. The paintings of artists working in Expressionist styles did not come to be connected to wider Nanga principles until later in the 1910s. In a review in the Yomiuri Shimbum from 1912 on the Fusain-kai exhibition which was one nexus inaugurating Expressionist painting trends in Japan for example, the critic Uchida Roan writing in the Yomiuri Shimbun noted more the indebtedness to European styles of Japanese painters than connections to Nanga. ‘First of all they lack in originality,’ he notes. ‘They call their works expressions of the self, but most of the works shown at the Fusain-kai exhibition were copies of Gauguin, Matisse, and Cézanne. Very few of them indeed showed evidence of true self-discoveries.’12 One of the principal Western-expressionist and Nanga painters of the Taishō period, Yorozu Testugorō (1885–1927), confirmed as much about his ‘Nude Beauty’ of the same year, noting Matisse and Van Gogh as influences. This particular work has come to represent the beginning of Expressionist painting in Japan, though it was Yorozu’s university graduation project. His submission of the work led to him being ranked sixteenth of the nineteen graduating class members due to the plein-air academicism that prevailed in the Faculty of Western Painting at the Tokyo School of Fine Arts.13 While the above comments by Fujishima, Wada and Kosugi initially appear to indicate commensurable visual properties between Nanga and painting in Western-styles at the end of the Meiji and the beginning of the Taishō periods, it is more importantly to the qualities of subjectivism, lyricism and rhythms, artistic personality and a structural correspondence that fuller connection can be made. To the first of these, subjectivism, the Western and Nanga artists mentioned by the painters Fujishima, Wada and Kosugi prove instructive. A provisional list includes the early masters of European modernism, Cézanne, Van Gogh and Gauguin, to whom can be added Matisse and Kandinsky, and they are being compared to Nanga painters of the eighteenth century, Ike no 11

Ibid., p. 253. Uchida Roan cited in Tanaka Atsushi, ‘Introduction of Fauvism into Japan’, in Fauvism and Modern Japanese Painting, p. 290. 13 Fauvism and Modern Japanese Painting, p. 293. 12


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Taiga (1723–1776) and Yosa Buson (1716–1783), to whom can also be added Uragami Gyokudō (1745–1820). These references are not to the earlier generation of Nanga artists, such as Sakaki Hyakusen (1697– 1752) or Yanagisawa Kien (1704–1758), and this is in part because of the seeming recognition that the slightly later generation of Literati painters of which Taiga and Buson were preeminent are often understood to have localized or Japanized the imported Chinese Literati painting style and lifestyle more than their predecessors had done. Such digressions from the imported Chinese traditions would include Buson doing things in painting that Chinese artists did not, such as taking up Chinese sources for the most part unknown in China such as Buson’s pictures after Jin Hong, or his addition of Japanese haiku inscriptions within his paintings, or uptake of the kind of subject matter antipathetic to Chinese Literati traditions. In a late painting, ‘Snowclad Houses in the Night’ (late eighteenth century), Buson depicted a prosaic scene of the city at night gathering a cloak of snow, the ochre hues in the windows suggesting townsfolk settling down for the night. The city, however, was the kind of subject the Chinese Literati would not usually do, as it was considered a vulgar place of commerce and mundane affairs, less fit for depiction than deep mountain scenery at furthest remove from urban affairs. Taiga too Japanized or localized Literati painting, basing some of his work on Yamato-e, Japanese Butsuga, and Rinpa, and he also painted local pictures of Japanese scenery and famous views within Japan (shinkeizu). In Nanga what can be discerned is the rise of personal expressiveness in painting drawn from the artists’ individual nature or inner artistic vision, and in the work of artists such as Buson and Taiga in particular, we can observe a shift from Chinese-inspired Literati styles to further Japanized ones that drew less directly from their Chinese sources, engaging existing Japanese pictorial precedents. James Cahill notes this emphasis on subjectivity and personal aesthetic inclination in his discussion of Yosa Buson in contrast to the narrowed range of Literati subjects and critical ideas in Chinese painting (though with several important exceptions) in the eighteenth century: ‘Japanese painters of the later centuries, by contrast, appear to have been less hampered. Coming from a tradition that lacked such authoritative precedents or built-in constraints and taboos, or such powerful theorists to admonish them, they were freer to follow their own preferences and those of their audience. . . .’14 14 James Cahill, The Lyric Journey: Poetic Painting in Japan, (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2002), p. 1.

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This dialogue of subjectivism and the freedom to follow one’s personal aesthetic inclinations in painting could overlap with the same emphases placed upon European painting movements such as Fauvism, characterized by Jean Leymarie as the movement which launched ‘twentieth century art on its destined path towards subjectivism and total freedom’.15 The Japanese painter and critic, Ishii Hakutei (1882–1958) noted similar sentiments. Returning to Japan after nearly two years spent in Europe, he penned an essay, ‘Fauvism and Anti-Naturalism,’ in the December 1912 issue of Waseda Bungaku. ‘There is no system or rules to Fauvism,’ he wrote, ‘the Fauvists are willing to incorporate in their works any new findings and attitudes that would contribute to self-expression.’16 In Western-expressionist painting in Japan too, the same insistence on subjectivity obtained as a core value throughout the Taishō period. The degree to which an artist was free to follow his own subjectivity is arguably nowhere more evident than in the stylistic eclecticism of Kishida Ryūsei (1891–1929). Usually categorized as a Western-style painter, Kishida began following the pleinairisme (Gaikō-ha) taught at Kuroda Seiki’s Hakuba-kai Art Institute, then became sympathetic and very close in style to the Post-impressionists, Fauvism and Expressionism. He soon after withdrew from the ‘temptations’ of modernism and pursued a realistic style following after the Northern Renaissance’s Rembrandt, Van Eyck and Dürer.17 To these he added works that fit more conventionally within the Nihonga genre and Nanga paintings with brushed calligraphic inscriptions, while also taking a collecting interest from around 1919 in Japanese Ukiyo-e painting and Chinese bird and flower paintings from the Song and Yuan periods (960–1368). There is a noticeable tendency to downplay Kishida’s Nanga paintings and in books and exhibitions on the artist, discussion of his Nanga works or the featuring of reproductions is often relegated to the final pages or goes without mention. One dubious reason Kishida’s late works from the early 1920s have not been favourably appraised is due to his fondness for alcohol and a rumour that the artist had ‘started turning out quantities of Japanese-style paintings to sell and he even counterfeited money’ in order to finance an increasingly extravagant


Jean Leymarie, Fauvism: Biographical and Critical Study, Translated by James Emmons, (Geneva: Skira, 1959), p. 15. 16 Ishii Hakutei cited in Tanaka Atsushi, ‘Introduction of Fauvism into Japan’, in Fauvism and Modern Japanese Painting, p. 291. 17 Kishida Ryūsei, Kishida Ryūsei Zenshū, (Tokyo: Iwanami Shoten, 1979), p. 299.


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lifestyle.18 Another reason, ostensibly, is that the diverse genres, styles and mediums in which Kishida worked are considered to constitute distinct practices that do not comingle. However, in 1921 Kishida exchanged his own artworks for Literati painting manuals at a second hand book shop in Nagano and around 1923 it appears he discovered the Literati manual, The Mustard Seed Garden Manual of Painting (Kaishien Gaden), the Qing Dynasty painting manual which had extensive, though not exclusive, influence on the development of Japanese Nanga.19 In addition to more conventional Nanga painting, Kishida applied the sketchy and abbreviated brushstrokes of Nanga to works in oil that were completed in mere days such that the coats of paint did not dry properly, and following his move to Kamakura in 1926, he again turned to the rapid brushstrokes associated with Nanga in search of an individual style.20 Brought under the rubric of ‘subjectivity’, the extent of Kishida’s activities, and those of other Western-expressionist artists drawing Nanga into rapprochement, may arguably be unified and understood not as distinct practices, but part of the same artistic activity. As Kishida noted, after having dispensed with following in the styles of Van Gogh and Cézanne, ‘[they] taught me to look at nature out of the needs of my inmost heart’.21 While Ishii Hakutei had noted the self-expression or emphasis on subjectivity evident in Fauve painting that would map onto earlier Nanga precedents and subsequently painting in Western-expressionist idioms, he also perceived a lyrical and rhythmic quality in European Fauve painting that could be reconciled in an analogous fashion. ‘All of them are after rhythm, either consciously or unconsciously,’ wrote Ishii, ‘either in the lines or the colours, and either simple or complex, there is rhythm in all paintings by Fauvists.’22 Another Western-style painter with Nanga affinities, Nakagawa Kazumasa (1893–1991), would note much the same several years later of his own painting practices and 18 Koike Masahiro, ‘The Art of Ryūsei Kishida’s Later Period’, 50th Year Posthumous Exhibition: Kishida Ryūsei (Exhibition catalogue), (The National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo, The National Museum of Modern Art, Kyoto, The Asahi Shimbun, 1979), p. 25. 19 Ibid., p. 30. 20 Ibid. 21 Kishida Ryūsei cited in Asano Tōru, ‘The Art of Ryūsei Kishida’s Early Period’, 50th Year Posthumous Exhibition: Kishida Ryūsei (Exhibition catalogue), (The National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo, The National Museum of Modern Art, Kyoto, The Asahi Shimbun, 1979), p. 22. 22 Ishii Hakutei cited in Tanaka Atsushi, ‘Introduction of Fauvism into Japan’, in Fauvism and Modern Japanese Painting, p. 291.

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those of Cézanne. Nakagawa is another instance of an artist bringing together his interests in Western and Chinese learning. In 1925, for example, he translated a book on Van Gogh and around the same time worked in a similar painting style. From 1927 he joined Kosugi Hōan’s Rōsō-kai where he lectured on the Chinese classics until the end of the Second World War.23 Of his own stance in relation to the perception of movement in painting, he wrote: ‘A movement is the emotion that functions instinctively by coming into contact with something . . . It is something instinctive and intentional.’24 On Cézanne he would say that ‘modern paintings [are] lyrics. . . . Cézanne is particularly good at this. In that sense, I wonder how a person like Cézanne could have been brought up in the West. His works are very similar to oriental paintings.’25 For Nanga, lyricism has a particular pertinence given the relatively equal weight placed upon, and the perceived equivalence of, the traditional Literati accomplishments of painting, poetry and calligraphy. In Western-expressionist painting too, the perception of a lyric quality that James Cahill notes of Nanga painting, ‘does not really necessitate that the painting respond to the poem, or be in any sense “poetic” ’, became apparent.26 Rhythms and the perception of lyricism had long been part of the critical foundation of Chinese painting, corresponding in part to the first of the ‘six laws’, ‘kiin seidō’, formulated by Hsieh Ho and published c.500. Variously rendered as ‘spirit resonance’, ‘rhythmic vitality’, or ‘spirit in life movement’ among other translations, its ascription related to the innate gift of making manifest aspects of the Ch’i in the movements of the artist’s brush.27 In the introduction to an article from 1922, ‘Bunjinga to hyōgen-shugi’, the art historian Taki Seiichi drew a parallel with the Expressionist painting that developed in the West, noting that it was in accord with the principles of Literati painting.28 He elaborated that it was in the lyrical quality observed in the artist’s expression that the artist’s character, 23 Tazawa Yutaka (supervising editor), Biographical Dictionary of Japanese Art, (Tokyo: Kodansha International with the International Society for Educational Information, 1981), p. 184. 24 Nakagawa Kazumasa cited in Tanaka Atsushi, Fauvism and Modern Japanese Painting, p. 309. 25 Ibid. 26 James Cahill, The Lyric Journey: Poetic Painting in Japan, p. 5. 27 Mai-Mai Sze (translator and editor), The Mustard Seed Garden Manual of Painting: Chieh Tzu Yuan Hua Chuan, 1679–1701, (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1992), pp. 19–20 28 Taki Seiichi, ‘Bunjinga to hyōgen-shugi’, Kokka, 390, (November 1922), p. 160.


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personality, or individuality (jinkaku) emerged, and as Aida Yuen Wong has noted, he also drew together Kandinsky’s concept of ‘Innerer Klang’ (Inner sound) with the ‘spirit resonance/rhythms’ (kiin seidō) of the six laws.’29 The art historian, Nakai Sōtarō (1879–1966) noted the same. While largely forgotten today, Nakai was a scholar of Buddhist, Ukiyo-e and Western art, advised such well-known Kyoto-based Nanga-inflected painters as Ono Chikkyō (1889–1979) and Murakami Kagaku (1888–1939), and was said to have performed a similar role in Kyoto as Okakura Tenshin had done in Tokyo.30 As Nishimaki Isamu has observed of Nakai’s Kindai Geijutsu Gairon (An Outline of Modern Art) (1922), Nakai too drew a parallel between the ‘rhythm of the line’ in works by Edgar Degas and Van Gogh, relating it once again to the first of the canonical six laws of Chinese painting, ‘the rhythms of life in nature,’ and the harmonious fusion of the painter’s subjectivity with nature evident in the paint and brushwork.31 Perhaps the Western-style painter most commonly identified with the idea of the Nanga artist was Yorozu Tetsugorō, who from the early 1910s was making Western Expressionist paintings, combining a Nanga aesthetic with oil painting in the 1912 painting ‘Gaslight’ in the ethereal and looming mountains that flank the pole, and more exclusively Nanga paintings in black ink a few years later. Yorozu similarly had recourse to lyricism and rhythms when looking at Nanga painting: ‘What the viewer perceives is a unified rhythm. The rhythm of the brush, the rhythm of the ink, of course, it is the rhythm of man. I cannot help feeling as though I were looking at a modern expression.’32 Like his contemporary Kishida Ryūsei, Yorozu too cultivated a stylistic eclecticism in his work and his involvement with Nanga spread beyond the practice of painting. Yorozu expressed admiration for Nanga practitioners such as Ike no Taiga, Uragami Gyokudō (1745–1820) and Kuwayama Gyokushū (1746–1799), and conducted his own private research and more further public disputes on Literati painters such as the back and forth critical exchange over a period of months with Honma Hisao in 29 Aida Yuen Wong, Parting the Mists: Discovering Japan and the Rise of Nationalstyle Painting in Modern China, (Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press, 2006), p. 72. 30 Nishimaki Isamu, ‘On Kindai Geijutsu Gairon (An Outline of Modern Art) and its Chinese Translation—Chinese Reception of European Art and its Japanese Influences’, Bulletin of the International Research Center for Japanese Studies, No.26, (December 2002) p. 145. 31 Ibid., p. 161. 32 Yorozu Tetsugorō cited in Fauvism and Modern Japanese Painting, p. 307.

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1922 in the pages of Chūō Bijutsu.33 While the recognition of rhythms and lyric qualities could be treated as a visible manifestation of consonance between Nanga and Western-expressionist painting values, it could also be understood as a transitional concept that could lead to the discernment of the character or personality of the artist, as noted by Taki’s mention of ‘jinkaku’, which similarly was part of the basis for Nakai’s appreciation of Western painters.34 Literati painting in Japan took hold of the long-standing Chinese tradition wherein the character of the artist was constitutive of painting. Kuwayama Gyokushū had the following to say in his Gyokushū gashu: ‘Even the refined styles of Mi Fu and Huang Kung-wang, when used by vulgar people, will become vulgar, and the vulgar styles of Ma Yüan and Hsia Kuei, when employed by a person of lofty character, will have spiritual elegance.’35 In Western-expressionist painting too, the same conception developed whereby the character of the artist could be discerned in the painted surface. Yorozu Tetsugorō noted that, ‘In order for painting to become an art, it has to become introspective. . . . In essence a problem like this cannot be solved without going back to the artist himself. Therefore, first of all, I think it is important to create the person. How can an artist create a person? That is something that has to be cultivated between each brushstroke.’36 The attention to the role of the artist’s personality in Japanese Expressionist painting is not exclusively the province of its yoking to imported Chinese painting ideals. As Inaga Shigemi has pointed out, following Kinoshita Nagahiro, the Japanese of the period did not have a great deal of access to the oeuvres of artists such as Van Gogh, except for the most part in black and white and through the biases of reproductions such as those in the well-known journals Shirakaba or Gendai no Yōga. This in turn led in part to the idealizing of the personality of the painter, the admiration for which was accentuated by lack of accessibility to the original oeuvre.37 33 Kagesato Tetsurō (ed.), ‘Yorozu Tetsugorō no nihonga’, Kindai no Bijutsu, Vol.29 (Tokyo: Shibundō, 1975), p. 83. 34 Nishimaki Isamu, ‘On Kindai Geijutsu Gairon (An Outline of Modern Art) and its Chinese Translation—Chinese Reception of European Art and its Japanese Influences’, p. 145. 35 Kuwayama Gyokushū cited in Melinda Takeuchi, Taiga’s True Views: The Language of Landscape Painting in Eighteenth-Century Japan, (Stanford University Press, 1994), p. 140. 36 Yorozu Tetsugorō cited in Fauvism and Modern Japanese Painting, p. 307. 37 Inaga Shigemi, ‘Théodore Duret, Kuroda Jūtarō et Fen Zikai: Biographie de Van Gogh et sa répercussion en Asie de l’Est’, Japan Review, Vol.10, (1998), p. 98.


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Personality could be subject to further distorting interpretations, however, such that European artists could be brought to conform closer to Eastern precedents, as noted above in Nakagawa Kazumasa’s interpretation of Cézanne, but also Van Gogh. Inaga Shigemi has noted that Van Gogh was interpreted in Japan with an exacerbated personality that accentuated his supposed ‘madness’. Received unfavourably by European critics, Van Gogh’s eccentric personality was viewed positively by young Japanese artists as an attribute connected to creativity.38 ‘Madness’ or eccentricity is deeply related to specific Japanese and Chinese artists, particularly in connection to bizarre or uninhibited brushwork, meticulous technique, and imaginative approaches to conventional subject matter. Kishida Ryūsei, for example, wrote that each tableau of Van Gogh’s is at once creation and destruction that showed him the intensity and extremity of the living artist.39 Pushed further, excessive attention to the sinicizing of the personalities of European painters could lead to overwrought interpretations. Nakai, for example, claimed that painters such as Cézanne, Van Gogh and Paul Gauguin shared a common hatred of commercialism kindred with that of Literati painters in the East who were highly esteemed for their detachment from vulgar commercialism. Nakai also seems to have understood the rusticity of Cézanne as commensurate with the eremitism idealized by the Literati.40 Such comparison, while strained, was invoked to draw Eastern and Western art into rapprochement and also to understand the rapid emergence of new developments in Western art in relation to the continued importance of traditions in Japanese art history. To subjectivity, lyricism and personality can be added a further concrete point of correspondence: the structure in which Nanga and Western-expressionist painting were introduced and developed in Japan. Yasuhiro Shimada would note just this in 1993 in a brief essay titled ‘The Japanization of Oil Painting’, drawing out the apparent parallels: Just as the painting of the Sui and Tang dynasties imported from China had been localized to produce Yamato-e, and the Nanzong painting of the Ming and Qing dynasties had been Japanized into Nanga, Western painting, through absorbing the local elements, was transformed into 38

Ibid., p. 93. Ibid., p. 97. 40 Nishimaki Isamu, ‘On Kindai Geijutsu Gairon (An Outline of Modern Art) and its Chinese Translation—Chinese Reception of European Art and its Japanese Influences’, p. 153. 39

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Yoga, as Japanese oil painting came to be called, which was very different in nature. What is notable is that, in search for a new form of Japanese oil painting, experiments have been made in uniting Nanga, which is a Japanized version of Nanzong painting, with Western painting.41

To the parallel of imported and subsequent development of painting movements, Paul Berry discerns a further nuanced structural engagement: A definition of Japanese literati painting . . . would stipulate that it is a movement of painters who eclectically adopted features of various schools of Chinese painting and Chinese literati painting theory and mixed them with older traditions of Japanese painting; and that they created an aesthetic community of like-minded individuals . . . Their bond had less to do with fidelity to certain stylistic models than to a sense of romanticized individualism which they expressed through the aesthetic choices they made . . . That the members of these literati gadan frequently had little in common stylistically signalled a new form of artistic practice in Japan, one that precluded the establishment of hereditary schools or firmly maintained stylistic allegiances.42

On the complementary structure found among painters working in Western idioms, Berry noted that their ‘situation so paralleled that of literati artists that a definition of Yōga could claim the same paradigm as presented above for literati painting simply by replacing the metaphorical “China” with the Japanese “West”. . . . In the end the paintings were reabsorbed in to a largely sealed Japanese aesthetic system that privileged the “West” as it had premodern “China”.’43 Given the parallel structure, Westernexpressionist painting could then be understood as a successive development upon early modern eighteenth century Nanga painting, a conception born out in the 2008 exhibition ‘What is Nanga: An Aspect of Modern Japanese-style Painting’ at the Hyogo Prefectural Museum of Art. The succession exhibited was not one where Japan’s Expressionist painters merely followed Western originators, adding nothing significant to the development of those movements, which would render those artists as essentially anaemic and second-tier if not worse, as in Robert Hughes’ estimation. 41 Shimada Yasuhiro, ‘The Japanization of Oil Painting’, Fauvism and Modern Japanese Painting (Exhibition catalogue), edited by The National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo, The National Museum of Modern Art, Kyoto, Aichi Prefectural Museum of Art, (Tokyo: The Tokyo Shimbun, 1992), p. 306. 42 Paul Berry, ‘The Relation of Japanese Literati Painting to Nihonga’, in Modern Masters of Kyoto: The Transformation of Japanese Painting Traditions—Nihonga from the Griffith and Patricia Way Collection, (Seattle Art Museum: distributed by the University of Washington Press, 1999), p. 36. 43 Ibid., pp. 36–37.


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Indeed, no European paintings were shown in the exhibition, so what emerged was a self-contained sense of art history that developed internally in Japan without prominent recourse to European painting movements. The exhibition began with eighteenth century Literati painters Ike no Taiga and Yosa Buson, and moved forward into the early twentieth century with more traditional Nanga practitioners and Nanga-inflected Nihonga painting, culminating with Western-style painters such as Yorozu Testugorō, Suda Kunitarō (1891–1961), Kumagai Morikazu (1880–1977), Yasui Sotarō (1888–1955), Kojima Zenzaburō (1893–1962), and Nakagawa Kigen (1892–1972) in addition to several other important painters, effectively positioning these Western-expressionist painters within the Nanga tradition as an extension of already localized painting practices.44 Despite similarities between Western-expressionist painting and Nanga, it has not usually been the case that the two are considered entirely commensurate. The ascription of Nanga to Expressionist painters is not thoroughgoing, as it applies to some artists and not others, or to parts of an artist’s oeuvre if not the whole. Indeed, Western painting by Japanese artists was a highly esteemed artistic activity in itself, as evident in the plein-air painter Kuroda Seiki (1866–1924) being appointed an imperial court painter in 1910, the first Western-style painter to so be honoured. Indicating the differences between the two painting movements came to seem as paramount as revealing points of similarity. While Taki’s ‘Bunjinga to hyōgen shugi’ introduces Expressionism as carrying forward particular Literati ideals, the majority of the essay is devoted to the explication of why the two are incommensurable, based upon four ideas central to the Literati not taken up by Western-expressionist painters: anti-commercialism; that the painting 44 While Nanga had been drawn into sympathy with Western-expressionist painting, similar kinds of claims could also be made in reverse. Hashimoto Kansetsu (1883– 1945), one of the leading Nanga painters of the Taishō period, noted that ‘Nanga is neither realism nor Impressionism, it is Expressionism.’ Hashimoto Kansetsu cited in Paul Berry, ‘The Relation of Japanese Literati Painting to Nihonga’, p. 38. Here Hashimoto took up the same term for Expressionism, Hyōgen shugi, as that used to describe Western painting. Western reception of Literati painting could also be analogous. Following a visit to Japan in 1933, the architect Bruno Taut wrote of the Literati painter Tomioka Tessai in his Houses and People of Japan that ‘the name of Cézanne seemed again to suggest itself, although merely in the feeling of the work and not in the influence’. Bruno Taut, Houses and People of Japan, (London: John Gifford Ltd., 1938), pp. 268–269. In similar fashion, according to James Cahill, the 1957 Tessai exhibition in America ‘provoked a variety of enthusiastic responses among US viewers: typically, they were struck by Tessai’s evident affinities with the Post-Impressionist masters of European painting, seeing him as a kind of Japanese fauve’. James Cahill, ‘20 seiki kaiga ni okeru sekai-teki kyoshō’, Bessatsu, Vol.10, (1989), p. 218.

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be poetic; that appropriate brush skills and techniques of the Literati were necessary; and the primacy given the use of sumi ink.45 While it is clear that the majority of Western-expressionist painters did not follow the Literati practices advocated by Taki, however, it is not clear that Japanese Literati painters entirely adhered to these tenets. It was the ideal yet rarely the practice in Japan that Literati painters avoided commercialism, and while sumi ink was a Literati medium, there is no obvious basis on which to grant it primacy in Japanese Literati painting. In 1979, another art historian, Kawakita Michiaki, confirmed the distance between Nanga and Western-expressionist painting by degrees. Nanga by Western-style painters and also men of belle-lettres such as Akutagawa Ryūnosuke (1892–1927) and Natsume Sōseki (1867–1916), the latter selected among the top ten Nanga painters in Japan by Kobayashi Isamu in the Nihon Keizai Shimbun, had the strong quality of an avocation.46 Taki discerned a difference in technical skills between the artists, though with important exceptions, like the Western-art-trained Kosugi Hōan, who had also translated a contemporary version of the Literati painting text, the Mustard Seed Garden Manual of Painting, published in 1935/36.47 Nanga as an avocation relates in part to the priority accorded the eye over the hand (Gankōshutei), or a high level of discrimination that is nonetheless short on practical facility and execution. This is a large and problematic issue as Literati painting often looks untutored, though there are very different standards for how brushstrokes are appreciated. In this sense there are few correspondences to Western-expressionist pigment applications despite the occasional apparent visual similarities such as between Pointillism and the ‘Mi dots’ of Literati painting, horizontal oval dots often used in the depiction of summer mountain scenes to suggest abundant greenery. Beyond these, further fundamental distinctions can be observed in that the Literati painter follows a particular kind of lifestyle often idealized as a reclusive one. One cannot become a true Literatus unless one does the things that Tomioka Tessai (1837–1924) advocated as fundamental to the Literati lifestyle, such as learning and polishing one’s character. As stated in the old Chinese phrase Japanese artists could also find in the Mustard Seed Garden Manual of Painting, one had to ‘read ten thousand books and walk ten thousand miles’.48 45

Taki Seiichi, ‘Bunjinga to hyōgen-shugi’, p. 164. Kawakita Michiaki, ‘Dai isshō: Bunjinga to Nanshūga’, Bunjinga to sho, (Tokyo: Shogakukan, 1979), p. 96. 47 Ibid., p. 121. 48 Melinda Takeuchi, Taiga’s True Views: The Language of Landscape Painting In Eighteenth-Century Japan, p. 87. 46


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Despite the long and sustained reflection on how Nanga and Westernexpressionist painting have been drawn together, however, it seems not to have been central to equate the two movements as one, nor to obviate the roles played by European artists and movements, although it is clear that Japanese modernism is not simply equivalent to Westernization. While the stimulus and importance provided by European painting and precedents is by no means annulled through forging local connection to parallels in Nanga, what seems more apparent is that imported Western styles aided Japanese artists in furthering their own indigenized Nanga tradition. What this amounts to is not the Japanization of European painting but a reversal such as the description of Western-expressionist painting in Japan as ‘Nanga in oils’ proffered by Aoki Shigeru and Tano Yasunori in 1993 in the pages of Geijutsu Shincho in a discussion on Japanese Fauvism.49 This, then, is a fundamental reorientation of the relation between source and recipient cultures and their interaction, adaption and development, and not merely the transplantation of domineering European painting practices which are subsequently acclimatized to local tastes. Given that Nanga is one form of Expressionist painting, we can understand Japanese Western-style Expressionist painters and their works as part of the continuing development of Japan’s Nanga tradition. In doing so, we can also understand these early twentieth century paintings as withstanding comparison to the past achievements of Nanga, as they were brought into rapprochement and exhibited in ‘What is Nanga: An Aspect of Modern Japanese-style Painting’. In this respect, these Western-expressionist painters and paintings contributed to the ongoing development of Nanga in the twentieth century, even though the artists worked in different subjects, genres and painting materials, and thus presented Western-expressionist painting as a kind of Nanga painting by other means. One of the functions of Western-expressionist painting in Japan, then, has been to draw this paternity out.50

49 Aoki Shigeru and Tano Yasunori, ‘Fauvism to ha nan na no da’, Geijutsu Shincho, Vol.44, no.3, (1993), p. 86. 50 The author would like to thank Dr Paul Berry for his time and much appreciated advice during the development of this chapter. The author would also like to thank Kyoto Notre Dame University for the research grant that allowed him to attend the conference organized by Dr Roy Starrs.

TRANSCENDING THE BOUNDARIES OF THE ‘ISMS’: PURSUING MODERNITY THROUGH THE MACHINE IN 1920S AND 1930S JAPANESE AVANTGARDE ART Chinghsin Wu In the 1920s and 1930s, the machine became a popular concept that was widely discussed in relation to numerous genres of art, including the fine arts, graphic design, architecture, film, literature, and photography. The machine, as a neutral, quintessentially modern subject matter that was not bound by a preexisting aesthetics inherited from traditional genres of arts, was able to transcend the boundaries between various artistic ‘isms’ and retain its popularity as the subject of both artistic representation and art-theoretical discourse. From the middle 1920s, Mekanizumu (Mechanism), kikai bigaku (the aesthetics of the machine), or kikaishugi (Machine-ism) became phrases that critics frequently used to talk about art.1 The concept of the machine was often connected with the idea of a bright and optimistic future or praised as a new, fresh, and unconventional image. By applying themselves to this new subject matter, artists would be able to escape the bonds of traditional modes of representation and achieve a revolutionary expression. Japanese art critics and artists viewed the machine as an important element in the development of different ‘isms’ in the history of avant-garde art. To their discussions of the application of mechanical elements in art, these critics often brought a sense of evolution and described a narrative of progress. In other words, they viewed the changing role of the machine in the history of avant-garde art as a progressive process of constant improvement, in which later periods and new developments were more advanced and better than what had come before. On the other hand, the fraught and complicated relationship between humans and machines, and a simultaneous embrace of and resistance against a highly industrialized and mechanized modernity can also be 1 See Omuka Toshiharu, ‘Mekanizumu no suimyaku [The Lineage of Mechanism]’, Nihon no avangyarudo geijutsu: mavo to sono jidai [Japanese Avant-garde Art: The Era of Mavo] (Tokyo, Seidosha, 2001), 285–318.


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seen in the artworks of the 1920s and 1930s. Especially as the Proletarian Art movement started to boom, understandings of the role of machine in the society became more ambivalent and were not characterized by a single, optimistic perspective. This chapter first examines how the machine was discussed, portrayed, and elaborated across different artistic ‘isms’, and how the focus and emphasis of these conceptions changed over time to adjust to contemporary social or political exigencies. Second, this chapter explores how the machine provided a new format, new subject matter, or new theoretical lens for refining and redirecting preexisting concepts of art and artistic genres, and for reflecting or refracting the artists’ inner feelings towards the mechanical world. From Futurism to Constructivism: The Machine as an Agency for the Evolution of Art Among the avant-garde artistic trends in the twentieth century, Futurism was probably the first ‘ism’ that embraced the mechanical world. The term ‘Futurism’ first came to international attention when Italian writer Filippo T. Marinetti published an article entitled ‘Le Futurisme’ in the Paris newspaper Le Figaro on 20 February 1909. The main aim of Futurism was to break free from the traditional artistic genres by embracing the new modern aesthetics of the machine and of speed. Marinetti’s ‘Le Futurisme’ was first translated into Japanese within only three months of its French publication by Mori Ōgai, who published his partial translation in Subaru in May 1909. However, the concept of Futurism itself was not particularly well-received in Japan in the 1910s.2 Beginning in the early 1910s, articles introducing and discussing Futurism were randomly but continuously published in Japanese newspapers or journals. These articles, however, generally did not dwell on the dynamism of the modern city or modern industry that the Italian Futurists emphasized, but rather simply offered up discussion of the stylistic aspects of Futurist art, such as the colours employed and how strokes were applied, frequently expressing skepticism towards or criticism of the art itself, without significantly engaging with the 2 Asano Tōru, ‘Rittaiha, miraiha, to taishōki no gaiga [Cubism, Futurism, and Taishō Era Painting in Japan]’, Tōkyō kokuritsu kindai bijutsukan nenpō (1978), 89.

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theoretical aspects of the movement.3 One of the reasons why Japanese writers did not particularly sympathize with the Futurist manifesto, especially the crucial preoccupation of the Futurists with praising the speed and grace of the modern machine such as the automobile or the airplane, was probably because Japanese industrial development had not yet reached European levels in the 1910s. Although the spinning industry was flourishing by the early 1910s, the heavy industries necessary to produce more visibly majestic machines such as trains or automobiles had not yet fully developed.4 Many of the mechanical objects that the Italian Futurists were so enthusiastic about and found so attractive could yet not be seen on a daily basis in the Japanese urban environment. In the early 1920s, the arrival of some Russian Futurist artists, such as Varvara Bubnova and David Burliuk, sparked broader Japanese interest in Futurism. Burliuk, in particular, exhibited his artworks at several prominent avant-garde exhibitions and gave numerous lectures during his stay in Japan from 1920 to 1922.5 However, it does not seem that Burliuk was especially interested in the mechanical beauty which the Italian Futurists embraced, since the motifs of most of the artworks he showed or created in Japan (at least those which remain) are not of machines or factories and do not focus on mechanical speed and dynamism, but rather applied Futurist stylistic approaches to depicting nonmechanical subjects such as portraits and landscapes. After Burliuk’s departure, Kinoshita Shūichirō, who had worked in close cooperation with Burliuk and had adopted his theory and ideas almost wholesale, published a book called What is Futurism? An Answer in 1923. In this book, Kinoshita focused on how to properly locate Futurism within the context of the historical development of modern art, among such recent trends as Impressionism, Post-impressionism, or Cubism, as well as on the basic artistic methods for producing abstract art in a Futurist mode.6 3 Ōtani Shōgo, ‘Itaria miraiha no shōkai to nihon kindai yōga senkyuhyakujūni nen zengo no dōgō [The Introduction of Italian Futurism and Western-style painting in Modern Japan: The Trend around 1912]’, Geisō 9 (1912), 105–126. 4 Ishida Hitoshi, ‘Nihon miraishugi to rittaishugi [Japanese Futurism and Cubism]’, Ishida Hitoshi ed., Miraishugi to rittaishugi (Korekushon Modan Toshi Bunka 27) [Futurism and Cubism (Modern Urban Culture Collection 45)] (Tokyo: Yumani Shobō, 2007), 738. 5 Omuka Toshiharu, ‘David Burliuk and the Japanese Avant-Garde’, CanadianAmerican Slavic Studies 20, no.1–2 (Spring-Summer 1986), 111–130. 6 Kinoshida Shūichirō and David Burliuk, Miraiha to wa? Kotaeru [What is Futurism? An Answer] (Tokyo: Chūō Bijutsusha, 1923), 52–55.


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By the mid–1920s, however, Japanese critics had begun to explore the connections between Futurism and the new subject matter of the machine. Ichiuji Yushinaga, for example, in his book, Cubism, Futurism, Expressionism (1924) focused clearly on how Futurism expresses the power of a steam engine, the majesty of a hydroelectric power station, or the otherworldliness of an electricity-transforming substation; how the artists convey their passion for and rapture at these sudden explosions of power and energy; and how they transfer and adapt this kind of dynamic atmosphere—the speed, the heat, the sparkling lights—to their artworks.7 The most complete study of Futurism in Japanese, however, was conducted by Kanbara Tai. In the mid-1920s, Kanbara translated several important articles on Futurism, such as the Futurist Manifesto and its later interpolations. For example, in Miraiha kenkyū (‘Futurism Research’), published in 1925, Kanbara included a translation of an article called ‘The Art of Machine’, which had originally been published in the Futurist journal Noi on 11 January 1923. This article claimed that in 1909, when the Futurist Manifesto was first written in Milan, a city with ‘the most mechanical streets’, Futurists had already begun to ‘worship the machine as the symbol, wellspring, or prime mover of a new artistic consciousness’. In reviewing the development of Futurism in the 1910s, this article pointed out how Futurist artists had created various kinds of art in new formats inspired by the machine, including poems, opera, musical compositions, choral chanting, and dance, all attempting to convey the artists’ passion for the dynamism of the machine, its mechanical rhythms and melodies, or its power and speed.8 Around the same time Kanbara conducted his study, another newly-emergent art trend, Constructivism, was introduced into Japan. Murayama Tomoyoshi, an assertive avant-garde artist who had studied in Germany in the early 1920s, offered his personal thoughts and interpretations regarding Constructivism and argued for Constructivism as the only ‘ism’ that could adequately comprehend and fully utilize the machine. In his study Kōseiha Kenkyū (‘Constructivism Research’) he claims, ‘One of the primary characteristics of Constructivism

7 Ichiuji Yushinaga, Rittaiha miraiha hyōgenha [Cubism, Futurism, Expressionism] (Tokyo: Arusu, 1924), 326–327. 8 Kanbara Tai, Miraiha kenkyū [Futurism Research] (Tokyo: Idea Shoin, 1925), 291–293.

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is an ardent love for the machine.’9 In his article, ‘The Introduction of Mechanical Elements into the Arts’, he views the historical development from Futurism to Constructivism as an evolutionary process. Murayama argues that there were different stages in the introduction of mechanical elements into the arts, among which he identifies three distinct periods.10 In the first period, artists depicted the machine and tried to capture a sense of dynamism. Early Italian Futurist Boccioni is offered as an example of this stage. In the second period, artists deployed shapes and colours that implied the spirit of the machine or its dynamism, but without directly depicting actual machines, as seen in Leger’s or Prampolini’s ‘Modern Futurism’. In the third period, artists either used machine-like imagery to depict non-mechanical ideas or simply luxuriated in the outward appearance of the mechanical without relating it to any specific idea, as can be seen in Constructivism and the works of Japanese artists such as Ōura Shūzō and Okada Tatsuo. Murayama believed that the transition from the first to the third period was a process of improvement. He viewed the first period, Boccioni’s early Futurism, as an immature and narrow kind of art which had been rightfully abandoned. The second period, he argued, was a crucial stage in the evolutionary process that ultimately produced the third period. Murayama emphasizes how Leger, as the only French painter who extensively incorporated the mechanical into his painting, had had first-hand experience of the machine as part of his service in an engineering unit during the First World War: ‘At the warfront, Leger found endless materials for his art. The cannon, the machine gun, and the telescope are all full of life, form, and beauty.’11 By the third period, Murayama argues, the Constructivists had achieved an extremely clear theory of the merits of mechanical forms. This concept of art constantly improving, progressing, and advancing, can also be seen in discussions of the machine in Cubism. For example, the painter Koga Harue argued, ‘The aesthetics of Cubism were established on a basis of the accuracy of science.’ In contrast to the conceptual and sensuous aesthetics of the Futurists, Koga argues, Cubism emphasizes the concrete, the productive, and the practical. Koga believed that although Futurism was the first ‘ism’ that celebrated the 9

Murayama Tomoyoshi, Kōseiha kenkyū [Constructivism Research] (Nagasakimura, Tokyo: Chūō Bijutsusha, 1926), 47. 10 Murayama Yomoyoshi, ‘Kikaiteki yōso no geijutsu he no dō’nyū [The Introduction of Mechanical Elements into Art]’, Mizue 227 (January 1924), 10. 11 Ibid., 9.


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dynamic force, speed, or noise of the machine, it was only an initial period of romanticization of the machine and the Futurists’ depictions of the machine on canvas remained abstract. By the time of Cubism, Koga argues, depictions of the machine focused on its concrete elements, emphasizing materialist expression over conceptual expression. In other words, by the Cubist stage, art had entered a more rational age of a materialism that rejects the spirit and abandons emotion.12 In Murayama’s point of view, however, Cubism was merely a process of bringing art closer to industry and architecture. For Murayama, Cubism only reaches a first level of artwork, because it focuses on constructing artworks within a two-dimensional plane,13 and thus can only grapple with issues of form, colour, or shape. The ‘ism’ that reaches a second, higher level, in Murayama’s point of view, is of course Constructivism, which has abandoned the two-dimensional plane of Cubism and aims to create a three dimensional space. Borrowing from the theory of Bubnova, Murayama emphasizes how this kind of artwork must accord with the laws of dynamics, and demands a close examination of the materials themselves in order to understand their mechanical structure and how best to combine them together.14 Murayama claims, ‘In Constructivism, the machine is not only an impulse or a stimulant for people to adore. Constructivists intend to construct machines that, drawing upon ideas from industrialism, have actual functions.’15 Murayama sought to draw a delicate distinction between the traditional term ‘composition’ and the new term ‘construction’. He argues that ‘composition’ only encompasses connotations such as ‘decoration’, ‘ornamentation’, ‘romanticism’, and ‘prettiness’, and because it is ‘greatly disconnected from life’ therefore ‘only serves to encourage outmoded forms and to pander to the delusions of an exhausted spirit’.16 The term ‘construction’, however, holds very positive nuance for Murayama: ‘Construction’ is the most representative approach for the modern age because it is inspired by manufacturing, the machine, and science. Construction borrows the methods and materials used in the manufacturing process. It utilizes products synthetically combined using mathematical precision and structural logic, such as iron, glass, and concrete, circles, triangles, cubes, and cylinders, etc. Construction scorns prettiness and 12

Koga Harue, ‘Kikai to bijutsu [The Machine and Art]’, Wakakusa (June 1931), 109. Murayama Tomoyoshi, ‘Kōseiha hihan [Criticizing Constructivism]’, Mizue 235 (September 1924), 9. 14 Ibid. 15 Murayama, Kōseiha kenkyū, 57. 16 Ibid., 59. 13

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pursues a mode of action that encourages power, clarity, simplicity, and a vigorous life.17

Like Murayama, who believed Constructivism had achieved a climax in the depiction of the merits of the machine, Koga Harue also believed that in the period of Constructivism, the machine and the arts had become one. According to Koga, the Constructivists admired any kind of utilitarian, industrial object and believed that only rationality is beautiful. In their definition, artists are simultaneously engineers and architects. Koga gives examples such as the Bauhaus Institute or Le Corbusier’s theory.18 Similarly, Murayama praises Vladimir Tatline’s Monument to the Third International as a particularly outstanding example of Constructivism, since it combines sculpture, painting, architecture, and manufacturing and simultaneously embodies creative and practical purposes. Murayama lauds the monument for applying the methods of architecture and construction and a deep understanding of the utilization of iron, as well as ideas from astronomy and electrical engineering.19 The Machine as Inspiration Across Artistic Genres In 1929, the art magazine Atorie published a special issue called ‘Profile of the New Form of Beauty’, (shin keitai bi danmen), in which it invited art critics and artists to discuss new forms of art in general or their application within specific existing genres of art. Nakada Sadanosuke, an art critic, argued in his article, ‘A Theory of the New Form of Beauty’, that modern people have discovered ‘mechanical beauty’ on their own, without the guidance of traditional aesthetics. Nakada asserted that the conventional standards of beauty have changed in modern times and that no matter in which genre of art, a new concept of beauty has emerged, based on efficiency, rationality, and practicality. Moreover, Nakada claimed, ‘praise for the machine has become the common language of modern mankind. Since the machine is the most mysterious symbol created by human beings, human beings have developed a fanatical adoration for the machine.’20 The machine, in Nakada’s theory, is a representation of the basic values of modernity. Created for a specific function, designed based on detailed 17

Ibid. Koga, ‘Kikai to bijutsu’, 110. 19 Murayama, Kōseiha kenkyū, 59–62. 20 Nakada Sadanosuke, ‘Shin keitai bi setsu [A Theory of the New Form of Beauty]’, Atorie 6–5 (May 1929), 4. 18


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calculations, and following the dictates of order, logic, and rationality, the machine has established a new standard of beauty and has redefined the very meaning of beauty itself. Nakada pointed out that there are even people who have such a fanatical adoration of machines that they view the machine as the sole owner (mochinushi) of beauty and go so far as to declare that there is no such thing as an ‘ugly’ machine.21 Citing examples of machines, such as trains, cars, airships, battleships, airplanes, iron bridges, factories, and skyscrapers, Nakada praises their scale as gigantic and magnificent, their ingenious construction that follows the dictates of order and rationality, and their forms comprised of simple, straight lines and basic geometric shapes. The machine, Nakada declares, provides a ‘healthy’ and ‘fresh’ new model for art in modern society.22 The period of 1929–30 can be considered the climax of the discourse of the machine in Japanese Art, as the machine became a common topic across a wide variety of artistic genres, including literature, theatre, film, painting, music, dance, photography, and architecture. In 1930, Tenjinsha published a book called Kikai Geijutsuron (‘Theory of the Machine and Art’) as part of its series entitled Shinkō Geijutsu (‘New Art Trends’).23 This book presents articles by ten authors from different fields of art, each writing on the relationship between the machine and their particular genre. Another book called Kikai to Gejutsu Kakumei (‘The Machine and Artistic Revolution’) was also published in 1930,24 edited by Kimura Toshimi, who included translations of articles by several Western authors including R. M. Fox and Edward J. O’Brien, as well as two of Kimura’s own articles. This book focuses on reviewing how the machine played crucial roles at the times when various new artistic styles emerged as well as the relationship between the machine and capitalism or the proletariat. Class-based Critiques of the Machine During the late 1920s and the early 1930s, a main concern within the theory of the machine was the question of who can best appreciate the beauty of the machine. In other words, art critics sought to locate 21

Ibid., 5. Ibid., 12. 23 Kikai geijutsuron [Theory of the Machine and Art] (Tokyo: Tenjinsha, 1930). 24 Kimura Toshimi ed., Kikai to gejutsu kakumei [The Machine and Artistic Revolution] (Tokyo: Hakuyōsha, 1930). Reproduced in Baba Nobuhiko, ed., Kikai to geijutsu (Korekushon Modan Toshi Bunka 45) [Machine and Art (Modern Urban Culture Collection 45)] (Tokyo: Yumani Shobō, 2009). 22

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the theory of the machine within the context of the discourse of class. Kanbara Tai, although he had been one of the first artists to advocate and introduce Futurism into Japan, in 1930 began to criticize Futurism for being ‘petit-bourgeois art’. Kanbara argued that the Futurists only saw the surface of the machine but did not understand the role the machine played in actual society. For them, the machines ‘were not weapons of exploitation. Even if the machine is not producing anything of value, it is fine, as long as the steel is shining and the machine is in operation.’ In other words, Kanbara criticized the Futurists for ignoring the role of the machine in the relationship between consumers and producers.25 Similarly, Murayama Tomoyoshi also began to criticize Futurism’s optimism towards the beauty of the machine. In Kōseiha Kenkyū (1926), Murayama had already drawn distinctions between Constructivism, Futurism, and Neo-Dadaism according to their different attitudes towards the machine. Murayama categorized Futurism and Neo-Dadaism together since these ‘isms’ are based on the viewpoint of bourgeois artists who simply praise the beauty of the machine without examining the machine itself. They either simply represent the dynamism of machine, or else use geometric shapes and colour to imply the dynamic spirit of machines or machine-like objects, in a manner that is, according to Murayama, ‘totally devoid of purpose, overly aestheticized, formalistic, emotionalistic, asocial, oblivious, unorganized, individualistic, and impractical’.26 Murayama emphasizes that Constructivism is of a totally different nature, which is much closer to the communist view of the machine. Beginning in 1929, Murayama began to criticize the bourgeoisie for harboring an immature conception of the machine. According to him, the bourgeoisie project their extremely conceptual, emotional and non-realistic views onto the machine. He criticized those who would believe that the machine is objective and class-neutral as holding a viewpoint just as abstract and conceptual as that of those who believe in mysticism. He believed that those petit bourgeoisie who argue for the beauty of the machine or that the machine’s practice is objective are only following their imagination and that the machine is nothing but a religious icon that eases their worries.27 25 Kanbara Tai, ‘Kikai wa nani ga yue ni warera puroretariato ni totte nomi utsukushii ka [Why is the Machine Only Beautiful to Us, the Proletariat?]’, Shi Genjitsu 3 (December 1930), 43. 26 Murayama, Kōseiha kenkyū, 56. 27 Murayama Tomoyoshi, ‘Saikin no geijutsu ni okeru kikaibi [The Beauty of the Machine in Contemporary Art]’, Atorie 6–5 (May 1929), 22


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For Murayama, only the proletariat can truly appreciate the beauty of the machine. He claimed, ‘The machine that made the proletariat is a tool that the capitalists have used to produce and control power, but it is also the machine that the proletariat uses to fight back against the controllers, the machine that has created the possibility of a flourishing society, and the machine that is a symbol of the proletariat as firmly rooted, indefatigable, magnificent, and richly productive.’28 This type of Proletarian thought was widely accepted in early 1930s Japanese art circles. For example, Kimura Toshimi, in his article, ‘The Machine and Artistic Revolution’, presented an argument similar to Murayama’s. Kimura emphasized the authenticity of Proletarian Art’s lineage as the true heir to Constructivism’s ‘realistic depiction of the machine’, which appropriately responds to the needs of the masses, recognizes the proper relationships between materials, and seamlessly combines art with industry.29 He further praises Proletarian socialist realist paintings for seeing beyond the surface of the machine to expose the real relationships between human beings and mechanical devices, revealing how machines have enslaved the Proletariat, how the machine is used for the benefit of monopoly capital, and the role of the machine in the struggle between the working class and bourgeoisie.30 No consensus was reached, however, regarding the precise role of the machine in the class context. The meaning of the machine for both proletarian and bourgeois society was ambiguous, and sometimes different conceptions could coexist without conflict. Art critic Itagaki Takao, for example, offered a more neutral assessment: ‘The machine favours the expansion of bourgeoisie, but also to the same degree bestows happiness upon the proletariat.’31 The machine was thus simultaneously the tool the bourgeoisie used to suppress the working classes and a weapon that the proletariat might use in its fight against capitalism. A New Hierarchy of the Arts Based on Mechanical Aesthetics One of the most notable works to investigate the relationship between art and the machine was Itagaki Takao’s study, Kikai to Geijutsu to no 28

Ibid. Kimura Toshimi, ‘Kikai to gejutsu kakumei [Machine and Art Revolution]’, in Kimura ed., Kikai to gejutsu kakumei. Reproduced in Baba, ed., Kikai to geijutsu, 331–333. 30 Ibid., 326. 31 Itagaki Takao, Kikai to geijutsu to no kōryū [Interactions between Art and the Machine] (Tokyo: Iwanami Shoten, 1929), 71. 29

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Kōryū (‘Interactions between Art and the Machine’, 1929). In this book Itagaki, borrowing heavily from the theory of Le Corbusier, argues that rationality has become the guiding principle for any kind of art in modern society. He believes that based on this rationalism, the machine and art are drawing closer and closer to each other. The machine has not only transformed our understanding of the arts, but the machine itself has become artistic. Viewing art through this ‘machine-centric’ approach, Itagaki examines each genre of the arts and proposes a new hierarchy of the arts. He believes, ‘The best genres for expressing the mechanical environment in all the visual arts are probably architecture, industrial arts (kōgei), and film.’32 Itagaki claims that architecture, just as Le Corbusier argued, is a machine for living (machine a habiter) and the industrial arts, which had originally emphasized decorative aspects, have become increasingly mechanized in fulfilling the requirements of rationality and functionality. As for film, Itagaki claims, ‘Films educate the eyes of those people who have not yet recognized the beauty of the machine.’33 Painting, however, has become the most useless genre under the new aesthetics of the machine: ‘In the case of painting, no matter how much the format may be changed, it can not depict the functionality of the machine. Films, however, with their sensitivity to the smooth skin of the iron, can fully demonstrate the functionality and efficiency of the machine….Paintings simply have no hope of competing with the latest photographic technology when it comes to depicting the mechanical environment.’34 Not only does painting fail to adequately depict or represent the machine, but Itagaki further criticizes painting as too inaccessible for general audiences. Under the previous art system, each painting only had one original version, so art could be easily controlled by a few rich people. Rarity kept prices high such that the general public had no chance to own or appreciate paintings. In modern times, however, the machine has allowed art to be mass-produced so it can be more widely distributed throughout society. Itagaki therefore urges the further development of techniques for making prints, which can be mass-produced.35 Murayama Tomoyoshi similarly argued that once mechanical elements had been introduced into the Arts, it was only natural that art 32

Ibid., 91. Ibid., 87. 34 Ibid., 86–90. 35 Ibid., 106–107. 33


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would become more ‘machine-ized’, and that this tendency is consistent with the general trend towards industrial mass production.36 Murayama singles out prints, photography, and film as three new genres that should capture artists’ attention. The print, in particular, as a medium that was formerly used merely as a means of copying text or images and used to be considered inferior to the original objects, has become of ‘incomparable value’ in the new mass-production, mass-consumption society of the modern age.37 Attacks on the traditional hierarchy of artistic genres, such as those offered by Itagaki and Murayama, were taken seriously by the Japanese art world in the early 1930s. For example, Nakagawa Kigen, an established artist in the prominent ‘Second Section Society’ art group, found himself reconsidering his role as a painter and what kind of artworks he should produce. He openly wondered if he might have to quit oil painting, since it lacks social utility, cannot be mass-produced, and therefore cannot be popularized. He pondered whether he should venture into other genres of the arts, such as photography or printmaking, in which he would be able to work from a more straightforward format, using standardized techniques, and thus create artworks more easily conveyed to a wider audience.38 Rationality as Weapon: Saving Surrealism from Itself In their arguments about the role of the machine in art, critics often emphasized ‘rationality’ as one of the most important characteristics of the machine. Itagaki Takao, for example, in his article, ‘The Birth of the Beauty of the Machine’, asserts that the advent of the machine demands a ‘robust rationalism’ over and against the ‘passive traditionalism of the previous century’, and calls for artists to ‘draw inspiration from the machine as a product of a thoroughgoing rationalism’ that would ‘break the habits of the past that led to slavish imitation of older styles’.39 Similarly, literary critic Nii Itaru, in his article, ‘The Machine and Literature’, argues that one of the primary effects that the advent of the machine has had on literature is the promotion of a new, rationalist 36

Murayama, Kōseiha kenkyū, 67. Ibid., 68. 38 Nakagawa Kigen, ‘Hitotsu no mujun [A Contradiction]’, Binokuni (September 1930), 49. 39 Itagaki Takao, ‘Kikaibi no tanjō [The Birth of the Beauty of the Machine]’, in Kikai geijutsuron [Theory of the Machine and Art] (Tokyo: Tenjinsha, 1930), 7. 37

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approach: the machine, he asserts, ‘has brought about a trend towards a rationally composed literature, and has resulted in a rationalistic revision of the overly emotional literature of the past’. Although Nii concedes that ‘literature is not fundamentally a product of the rational intellect’, he nevertheless argues that by following this new rationalism of ‘machine-ism’, those literary works containing ‘extraordinary or abnormal emotionalism’ might be driven from the literary world and thus contemporary literature would be greatly improved.40 One literary and artistic trend which was closely associated with the discourses of machine-ism and rationalism was Surrealism, which had been introduced into Japan from the mid–1920s but which had not become more widely known until the late 1920s and early 1930s. In the thinking of some art critics, Surrealism and machine-ism coexisted and were at times even indistinguishable.41 In the beginning, Surrealism was viewed as a kind of formalist aestheticism.42 From 1929, this insistence began to draw harsh criticism from the newly emerging Proletarian Movement, which criticized Surrealism as ‘bourgeois escapism’ which was ‘only suitable for the Late-Capitalist period of history’.43 This criticism was taken to heart by Takenaka Kyūshichi (1907– 1962), the founder of a Surrealist literary journal, Rian. Takenaka had originally embraced formalism when the first issue of Rian was published in 1929, but soon decided that in order to ‘rescue’ Surrealism from the Proletarian criticisms, he would provide a new theory of Surrealism, differing from the original definition of Surrealism offered by French theorist André Breton. Takenaka believed that his new theory of Surrealism, which he called ‘Scientific Surrealism’, rendered it possible for Surrealists to join the Proletarian Art movement while still remaining Surrealists.44 In Takenake’s definition, Surrealism would free itself from conventional thinking by using its ‘weapon’, namely, reason. He claims that, ‘Reason is the immortal spirit of Art. Changes in Art’s history are changes in artists’ rationality’, and concludes that ‘if artists are 40 Nii Itaru, ‘Kikai to bungaku [The Machine and Literature]’, in Kikai geijutsuron, 23–24. 41 Ōtani Shōgo, ‘Chogenjutsushugi to kikaishugi no hazamade [Between Surrealism and Machine-ism]’, Geisō (November, 1995), 101–131. 42 Hosea Hirata, The Poetry and Poetics of Nishiwaki Junzaburō (Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1993), 143. 43 Yomiuri Shimbun, (20 September 1929), 4. 44 Nakano Kaichi, Zen’ei shi undō shi no kenkyū: modanizumu-shi no keifu [Research on the History of the Avant-Garde Poetry Movement: The Lineage of Modern Poetry], (Tokyo: Ōhara Shinseisha, 1975), 339.


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rational, even if they do not read André Breton’s “Surrealist Manifesto”, they can still produce true Surrealism.’45 This conception of Surrealism was drastically different from Breton’s original formulation, which focused on automatistic expressions of unconscious desires and Freudian concepts such as repressed childhood trauma. Although Takenaka did not explain in detail how to apply rationality to art, Koga Harue, one of Takenaka’s close friends and a Surrealist painter who agreed with Takenaka’s ideas about ‘Scientific Surrealism’, elaborated on how to apply Takenaka’s theories to art and believed that under this new theory, mechanical objects would be increasingly integrated into the fine arts as a matter of course. He asserted, ‘Whether it be machines, medicines, the streets and roads, the shapes of houses, colours, daily-use products, or toys, absolutely everything is a scientific object and a mechanical object. Therefore, if we ask what is happening in the world of the fine arts, we have already seen a change in actual artworks, which are increasingly based on scientific principles.’ In accordance with this trend, Koga considered it only natural that the future of art would be a ‘Scientific Surrealism’.46 In short, from 1929 to 1930, the machine, in being viewed as the harbinger of a new age of rationality, played a crucial role in efforts to reevaluate and redefine contemporary artistic trends. For many critics, especially the authors of volumes such as Kikai Geijutsuron, the machine and machine-ism was a welcomed outside agency which provided them with a theoretical polychrest for overcoming or abandoning the strictures of conventional artistic genres of art in order to establish modern, healthy, and rational art forms. In some cases, such as in the theories of Takenaka Kyūshichi and Koga Harue, the rationalism that the machine provided even served as inspiration for the creation of alternative definitions of original Western ‘isms’ that more closely accorded with the social and political needs of contemporary Japanese society. The Machine in Avant-garde Art Moving beyond how the machine was conceptualized within the discourses of art and literary theory, the remainder of this chapter will examine how images of the machine and the mechanical were actually 45

Ibid., 26. Koga Harue, ‘Shin keikō kaiga to nikka [New Tendency and the Second Section Society]’, Atorie (September 1933), 41. 46

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deployed within artworks produced in Japan during the 1920s and 1930s, and to what extent these images accorded with the theoretical discourses of the time. Although Futurism had received great attention following the arrival in Japan of Russian Futurist David Burliuk and the establishment of The Futurist Art Association in Japan in 1920, Japanese Futurist artworks did not lavish particular attention on mechanical or industrial objects, instead drawing their energy from artists’ efforts to express their own individuality or their own subjective experience. Thus artist Shibuya Osamu, in his article, ‘The Futurists at the Sanka exhibition’, explained, ‘Our Futurist paintings are subjective. They are expressions of absolute subjectivity. They are not words of “explanation”. They are direct manifestations of the inner “soul”, and not of “things”. ’47 Burliuk himself claimed that what he had brought to Japan was a ‘Russian’ Futurism that ‘combines the dogma of Italian futurism, the ideology of Kandinsky, Symbolism, and Cubism’.48 Japanese Futurist works featured a mix of characteristics that blended understandings drawn from several avantgarde trends, and thus it is often difficult to distinguish them or classify them into a single ‘ism’. The artworks exhibited by the Futurist Art Association from 1920 to 1923 were typical in that they retained the Futurist emphasis on the dynamic use of light, colour, movement, and a focus on inner emotions and subjectivity, but at the same time the machine was not the a dominant subject matter in their works. On the other hand, at the Shuto Fine Art Exhibition, another avantgarde group which had been established to provide an alternative to the mainstream exhibitions,49 an artwork titled Mekanizumu (‘Mechanism’, Fig. 1) by artist Kawabe Masahisa was exhibited in 1924. The title clearly conveys the artist’s intension to make the mechanical his primary subject matter. In this work, Kawabe combines images of numerous mechanical devices and components with images of a partially dissected human hand and head and clippings from publications, such as part of a map showing Madagascar and southern Africa and a scrap of text reading ‘L’ESPRIT NOUVEAU’. As a medical student who was studying dentistry, Kawabe 47 Shibuya Osamu, ‘Sankaten no miraiha [The Futurists at the Sanka Exhibition]’, Chūō bijutsu (December 1922), 16. 48 ‘Dōteki seimei o utsushita miraha no sakuhin [The Works of the Futurists Reflect the Dynamism of Life]’ Kokumin shinbun, 10 October 1920, 5. Quoted in Gennifer Weisenfeld, Mavo: Japanese Artists and the Avant-garde, 1905–1931 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2002), 49. 49 Omuka Toshiharu, Taishōki shinkō bijutsu shiryō shūsei [Documents on the New Artistic Trends of the Taisho Period] (Tokyo: Kokushokankōkai, 2006), 372.


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Figure 1. Kawabe Masahisa, Mekamizumu (‘Mechanism’), 1924

may have borrowed mechanical forms for this work from the medical equipment he was using as part of his studies and the dissected human body parts from his anatomy textbooks.50 Although discourses on images of the machine in art at this time were extolling the beauty and power of mechanical objects and describing artists’ ardent love for the machine, this painting offers a more conflicted interpretation of the relationship between man and machine. The partially dissected human head and hand, both obviously no longer alive, when surrounded and intertwined with broken or disassembled fragments of mechanical devices, endows the work with a somewhat cold and even sinister tone, suggesting something less than perfect harmony between man and machine and perhaps even casting the French words for ‘new spirit’ in an ironic light. Kawabe’s work was one of few examples in the Shuto Fine Art Exhibition that focus on the machine as a subject matter, but in the mid-1920s artists associated with the Mavo and Sanka groups increasingly focused 50

Omuka, ‘Mekanizumu no suimyaku’, 289.

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Figure 2. NNK and Mavoists, Sanka Exhibition Entrance Tower, 1925

on the machine in their artworks. Under the influence of Constructivism and especially the theory of Murayama Tomoyoshi, they strove to move beyond conventional flat paintings by producing three-dimensional artworks composed of combinations of various mechanical objects and industrial materials, and also produced architectural models or even the ticket machines or other installations at the exhibition entrance. For example, ‘NNK’, an art group founded by three of the Mavoists (Okada Tatsuo, Takamizawa Michinao, and Toda Tatsuo) cooperated with other Mavoists to create a massive installation called Sanka Exhibition Entrance Tower (Fig. 2), which they placed at the entrance to the second Sanka exhibition in 1925.51 Using various industrial materials such as a metal cooking range, burned steel wire, mechanical tubes, and wooden and metal beams, this work created a machine-like structure, which 51

Weisenfeld, 110–111.


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Figure 3. Takamizawa Michinao, Model for the Kant 200-Year Memorial Tower, 1924

emphasized the geometric aspects of the various materials, such as different sizes of circle, horizontal and vertical lines, and diamond-shaped patterns created by overlaying darker and lighter materials. By incorporating a preexisting street lamp within the work itself, Entrance Tower blurred the borders between art and reality. Meanwhile, the flexible tubes weaving in and out of the main structure of the work echo its function as a welcoming presence to beckon and guide visitors to the entrance of the Sanka exhibition. The erratic entry and exit of the tubes from various openings in the tower’s structure also suggest that this is an exhibition that visitors will enter in an unconventional way and where they can expect to see works which need to be appreciated from different angles. Mavoist and Sanka artists also blurred the boundaries between different artistic genres, such as painting, sculpture, and architecture. For example, Takamizawa Michinao exhibited a work called Model for the Kant 200-Year Memorial Tower (Fig. 3) at the ‘Exhibition of Plans for the Reconstruction of the Imperial Capital’, which was held by the Citizens’

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Figure 4. Yanase Masamu, cover for Senki (‘Fighting Flag’), January 1930

Art Association in 1924 following the great Kanto earthquake of 1923.52 This work combined several vertical metal rods with an assortment of metal hoops, cogwheels, bicycle chains, and drive belts. At the base of the ‘tower’, a hand-painted wooden signboard displayed the title of the artwork and the artist’s name. By collecting prefabricated mechanical components and welding them together to suggest the appearance of the interior of a machine, Takamizawa produced an artwork that is simultaneously an architectural model (for a ‘memorial tower’) and a sculpture. As Gennifer Weisenfeld has argued, the Mavoists’ attitudes towards a rapidly industrializing Japanese society were ambivalent, and ‘machineism’ is not always equated with ‘rationalism’ in their works. On one hand, by rearranging mechanical parts into carefully crafted, orderly designs, and by highlighting the sharp, clean lines and perfectly geometrical shapes, the Mavoists offered up an image of the machine as organized, rational, and at times stunningly beautiful. But in other ways, many Mavoist works subtly expressed a dissatisfaction, or a disquietude about certain aspects of breakneck industrialization, whether by reversing text, 52

Ibid., 88.


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Figure 5. Yanase Masamu, cover for Senki (‘Fighting Flag’), May 1930

distorting space or perspective, or otherwise emphasizing the convoluted and disorienting aspects of modern machines.53 In the late 1920s, when the Proletarian Art movement began to advocate new perspectives for understanding the role of the machine, works by Proletarian artists increasingly incorporated mechanical objects. Yanase Masamu, for example, often appropriated images from the mechanical world, especially factories or heavy industrial equipment, in his designs for Proletarian magazines, newspapers, and posters. In these works, Yanase frequently depicted members of the working class as the dominant figures in various mechanical environments, in compositions suggesting that it was the worker who controlled the factory and deserved to receive the benefits of its productivity. A typical example can be seen on the cover of Senki (‘Fighting Flag’, Fig. 4) for January 1930, in which a worker strikes a confident pose in front of various types of heavy machinery, with his hand on a lever, suggesting control, and wearing a broad smile indicating his feelings of triumph. Similarly, Yanase’s cover for Senki’s May 1930 edition (Fig. 5), features a muscular 53

Ibid., 126–130.

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Figure 6. Koga Harue, The Sea, 1929

worker waving a red flag in the shadow of looming chimneys and using the flagpole’s pointed end to smash a hole in a factory wall as an army of his fellow workers prepares to storm through the breach to freedom, symbolizing the power of the working class to smash or destroy the mechanical world when necessary. Japanese Surrealist artists similarly turned to the machine as a subject matter in the late 1920s and early 1930s, although often to somewhat different effect. Koga Harue, for example, in a series of paintings in a Surrealist mode executed from 1929 to 1933, frequently combined images of machines with an image of a human being (typically a woman). In The Sea (Fig. 6), for example, a woman wearing a swimsuit is standing to the right surrounded by numerous mechanical objects, including a submarine, a lighthouse, a factory, an airship, and a sail boat. Koga lavishes attention upon the minute structures of the machines, particularly in his depiction of a detailed schematic view of the interior of the submarine. Compared to Yanase’s artworks which emphasize the struggle or the tension between labourers and the factory or between the working classes and their unseen oppressors, in Koga Harue’s paintings human beings and the machine coexist in relative harmony. By choosing to


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Figure 7. Yanase Masamu, Capitalismus, ca. 1924

depict the newest or most cutting-edge technology, such as the German airship Graf Zeppelin, which had just flown the skies over Tokyo, or the latest model of submarine that was equipped for laying underwater mines, Koga’s paintings praised a bright future in which machines would penetrate ever higher into the sky or ever deeper into the sea. The difference between Koga’s and Yanase’s works can be seen even more clearly by examining how they used the same images to different effect. In Yanase’s Capitalismus (Fig. 7), for example, he inverts an image of a German forge and places images of the industrious proletariat on top, whereas caricatured images of the bourgeoisie or capitalists are pushed to the bottom of the frame along with a corpulent pig, strongly suggesting a criticism of the bourgeoisie’s controlling power and the artist’s intention to reverse the current situation by overturning the factory. Koga borrows this exact same image of the German forge in his painting The Sea.54 However, this time the forge is standing rightside up and its shape echoes the pose of the woman on the right. There 54 See Nagata Ken’ichi, ‘Koga Harue Umi 1929 to tokeru sakana: puroretaria bijutsu/ Makkusu Erunsuto/bauhausu to tenkai suru kikaishugi [Koga Harue’s ‘The Sea’ (1929) and ‘Soluble Fish’: Proletarian Art, Max Ernst, Bauhaus, and the Evolution of Machineism]’, Bigaku 226 (September 2006), 31–33.

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is no obvious tension between the woman and the machine and their parallel poses actually place them into harmony with each other. Conclusion The theory of the machine, or ‘machine-ism’, in 1920s and 1930s Japan offered a new perspective for both creating and understanding art, and this discourse intertwined with other emerging discourses such as ideas of modernity, the new artistic trends of Constructivism and Surrealism, and the new proletarian thought. The machine was often seen as an ideal subject matter, method, or strategy, which offered artists and theorists a new or even revolutionary tool to demolish conventional definitions of art, transcend traditional styles, and break free of the corrupt art exhibition system. Although written critiques and theory on the role of the machine in this period were generally optimistic and at times even adoring of the machine, there are also examples, particularly among the works of the Mavoists or Proletarian artists, of the relationship between the machine and human beings being portrayed more in terms of conflict or contrast. Entering the 1930s, across many genres of the arts, the machine was seen as the most representative symbol of the modern world, and the mechanical form and ‘mechanistic’ ideals came to dominate the visual world, not only in mainstream art circles, but also in the mass media, such as in popular magazines, posters, or newspapers. The machine thus not only transcended the boundaries of the ‘isms’ that emerged in 1920s and 1930s Japan, but also bridged the fine-art world and the mass media, thus linking art to wider general audiences. By tracing the development of theories of the machine in the arts from the late 1920s to the early 1930s, this chapter has explored how the machine can be used as a lens through which we can better understand artists’ and critics’ hopes and ideals for modernity, and also how art can be used as a lens to understand how artists and critics understood the role of the machine in society.

‘FAIR IS FOUL, AND FOUL IS FAIR’: KYOTO NIHONGA, ANTIBIJIN PORTRAITURE AND THE PSYCHOLOGY OF THE GROTESQUE John D. Szostak Introduction In non-Western cultural contexts where modernization is historically associated with Westernization, the emphasis of art historical narratives can often foreground the importation of formal styles emblematically linked to Euro-American modernist art movements. Such an emphasis is very useful to confirm the historical institutionalization of powerful Western cultural influences. This chapter explores indigenous expressions of artistic modernism that are as closely informed by pre-modern tradition as they are by Western modernist formal precedents and ideological models. In ‘Living in a Post-Traditional Society’, Anthony Giddens observes that ‘the continuing influence of tradition within modernity remained obscure as long as “modern” meant “Western”’,1 and notes that modern social development in its early phases is best described not as the destruction of tradition by modernity, but as a negotiated collaboration between the two.2 Such a description, I believe, accurately characterizes the practice of many progressive Meiji and Taishō era artists, particularly those who worked in the painting genre known as Nihonga. Literally translated as ‘Japanese pictures’, the term Nihonga was coined in the 1870s as a categorical rubric intended to differentiate native Japanese modes of painting from Yōga, or ‘Western pictures’, created with Western-imported media, styles and techniques.3 I characterize progressive Nihonga 1 Anthony Giddens, ‘Living in a Post-Traditional Society’, in Ulrich Beck, Anthony Giddens, and Scott Lash, Reflexive Modernization: Politics, Tradition and Aesthetics in the Modern Social Order (Cambridge: Blackwell Publishers Ltd., 2000), p. 57. 2 Giddens, p. 91. 3 For detailed discussions of the historical development of modern Japanese art terminology, see Satō Dōshin, ‘Nihon bijutsu’ tanjō: Kindai Nihon no ‘kotoba’ to senryaku (Tokyo: Kōdansha, 1996), 76–104; and Kitazawa Noriaki, ‘“Nihonga” gainen no keisei ni kan suru shiron’, Meiji Nihonga shiryō, ed. Aoki Shigeru (Tokyo: Chūō Kōron Bijutsu Shuppan, 1991), pp. 469–534.

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painters as follows: first, they were intellectually engaged in a contemporary Japanese artistic and aesthetic discourse catalysed by growing knowledge of Western art; and second, they worked to update traditional Japanese painting subjects, styles, and techniques in order to give them a new contemporary relevance in Japanese society. One of the most abiding thematics handed down as part of Japan’s pictorial heritage is bijinga, literally ‘pictures of beauties’. Images of beauties are most closely associated today with illustrations of the pleasure quarters of the Azuchi-Momoyama (1568–1600) and Edo (1600–1868) eras, and defined by Kobayashi Tadashi as the expression of female beauty through ‘costume, maquillage and performance’.4 Although artists frequently differentiated between the classes and occupations of the beauties they illustrated, Kobayashi confirms that ‘we are not shown the uniquely individualized features of particular woman in these pictures. Rather, these compositions depict the idealized and appreciated qualities associated with connoisseurial expectations.’5 Despite this tendency to generalize and idealize the female subject, many Edo-era print designs and paintings featuring bijin still managed to communicate very sophisticated messages, often psychologically revealing and even humorous ones, through intertextual references, visual puns, and unexpected pairings. Mainstream bijin images, however, focused on the illustration of notions of universal beauty, and as such typically refrained from expressing any psychology or sentiment more revealing than the flash of a gentle smile or a poignant glance. Both types of bijin portraiture were important sources of inspiration in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century for Nihonga painters of both progressive and conservative bents. Kyoto, the location under exclusive consideration in this study, had a rich tradition of bijin portraiture that inspired its native Nihonga artists, but, as we will see, many of these same painters also embraced the priorities of modernist art, as interpreted from examples of European postImpressionist painting introduced and reproduced in contemporary Japanese art journals. One of the most dynamic results of this ‘negotiated collaboration’ is the anti-bijin image, which I have so named due to its negation of some or all of the characteristics traditionally associated with mainstream bijin portraiture. As such, special emphasis is put on 4 Kobayashi Tadashi, ‘The Kanbun Bijin: Setting the Stage for Ukiyo-e Bijinga’, in Amy Reigle Newland (ed.), The Hotei Encylopedia of Japanese Woodblock Prints (Amsterdam: Hotei Publishing, 2005), p. 83. 5 Kobayashi, p. 86.


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unsightliness, and examples of anti-bijin imagery range from the mildly ugly to the profoundly grotesque. Yet anti-bijin Nihonga portraits are not all of a kind, and can be divided into groups according to their broader message agendas, two of which I identify as ‘aesthetic critique’ and ‘social critique’. Through the use of this adaptable anti-bijin trope, progressive Nihonga painters were able to address many of the same issues explored by Yōga painters while avoiding the pitfalls of stylistic mimesis. At the same time, anti-bijin images were a rejection of the conscious archaism exhibited in the work of conservative Nihonga painters, an archaism whose manifestation in Meiji-era literature was decried by critic Takayama Chogyū (1871–1902) as a pathological addiction to ‘derivative culture, art, architecture, and fashion that clearly belongs to another’s historical experience’.6 Anti-Bijin Images as Aesthetic Critique Although the pictorial tradition known as Ukiyo-e (‘floating world pictures’), so closely associated with images of beauties, has its ultimate origins in Kyoto, Ukiyo-e entered its heyday as a form of popular art after Japan’s political capital moved to Edo. For this reason the styles associated with the prints and paintings of the most famous Ukiyo-e artists, such as Kitagawa Utamaro (1753–1806), Torii Kiyonaga (1752–1815), and Tōshūsai Sharaku (active 1794–1795), were not typically part of the artistic vocabulary of Kyoto-trained artists, who relied on locally developed traditions. This changed around the time of the founding of the Bunten (abbreviation for Monbushō Bijutsu Tenrankai), the national juried exhibition organized by Japan’s Ministry of Education in 1907. With the creation of a national arena for contemporary Japanese art, it became more desirable to appeal to a national audience, and particularly to that of Tokyo, the site of the Bunten’s selection process and home to the majority of its judges. As a result, Kyoto artists began exploring the influence of painting styles and movements associated with Edo, Nagasaki, and other locales with regional traditions, in addition to those of their home city. By 1910, Kyoto Nihonga experienced what might be described as a Ukiyo-e boom, as Edo-era prints gained new currency among the city’s young Nihonga painters. Irie Hakō (1887–1948), at the time a post6 Quoted in Harry Harootunian, Overcome by Modernity: History, Culture, and Community in Interwar Japan (Princeton: 2000), p. x.

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Figure 1. Tsuchida Bakusen, Hair, 1911. Framed: ink, colour on silk. Kyoto City University of the Arts.

graduate Nihonga student at the Kyoto Specialized School for Painting (Kyoto Shiritsu Kaiga Senmon Gakkō), was among those who reacted excitedly to this hitherto locally neglected aspect of Japan’s artistic legacy. Later, he recalled how he and his friends from school would scour the used bookstalls in search of Ukiyo-e prints and Edo-era woodblock printed books, and incorporate what they learned from these discovered treasures into their school assignments.7 As a result, many graduation paintings created by students at the Specialized School for Painting during the 1910s show strong Ukiyo-e influences, including Hair (Kami; Fig. 1), created by Tsuchida Bakusen (1887–1936) in 1911.

7 Yoshida Yoshio, ‘Irie sensei o shinobu’, in Irie Hakō, Garon. Kyoto: Kitaōji Shobō (1949), p. 198.


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Based partly on his studies of bijin portraits by Utamaro and partly on life sketches of a hired model,8 Hair features a young woman dressing her hair in front of a mirror, a theme with countless Ukiyo-e precedents. Many of the Edo-era examples of this subject indulge in a visual game of simultaneous concealing and revealing by turning the woman’s back to the viewer, only to reveal her features in the mirror’s reflection. Bakusen refrains from device in his interpretation, choosing instead to completely block his subject’s face by the positioning of her arm, ensuring the complete anonymity of the woman and allowing for her unchallenged objectification. After his graduation, Bakusen submitted Hair to the national Bunten exhibition, where it won Honourable Mention, proving that Ukiyo-e inspired Nihonga paintings of this sort had appeal on the national as well as local level. But the proven acceptability of Ukiyo-e at the national Bunten is not enough to explain the rapid expansion of interest in ‘artists of the floating world’ among the students at the Specialized School of Painting. Another critical factor was the presence on the teaching faculty of Nakai Sōtarō (1879–1966), a critic and art historian who would later count among his former protégés many of Kyoto’s most talented and influential artists of the twentieth century. Nakai studied at Tokyo Imperial University, where he trained in German aesthetic philosophy under Raphael von Koeber (1848–1923), a professor of German nationality who also helped familiarize Nakai with the history of European art, including its modernist movements. In Kyoto, Nakai was hired by the Specialized School for Painting essentially to lecture on the history of Western art, but he was also versed in and strongly admired Japan’s premodern and early modern art history. As a professor, his students and peers recalled his penchant for cross-cultural parallels, referencing the art of Cézanne, Courbet, or Van Gogh in his lectures and then naming examples from Japan’s own rich painting traditions in the same breath.9 Nakai had particularly high respect for the actor prints designed by Tōshūsai Sharaku (active 1794–1795), despite the fact that Sharaku had yet to enjoy a comprehensive scholarly rehabilitation in Japan; indeed, Nakai may have believed that restoring this artist to respectability in his own country was one of his scholarly tasks. Between 1915 and 1919 8 For a more detailed discussions of this work, John Szostak, The Kokuga Sosaku Kyokai and Kyoto Nihonga Reform in the Meiji, Taisho and Early Showa Years (1900–1928), PhD dissertation (University of Washington, 2005), pp. 108–109. 9 Kuroda Jūtarō, ‘Nakai Sōtarō-san no omoide’, Tōka ryūsu (Kyoto: Nakai Ai, 1966), pp. 34–35.

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Figure 2. Tōshūsai Sharaku, Actor Sanokawa Ichimatsu III as the Gion Courtesan Onayo, 1794. Colour woodblock print. © Trustees of the British Museum.

he published six articles in various publications, two of them serialized over several weeks, on the subject of Sharaku and his art.10 His regard for this artist was apparent in the earliest of these treatments, where Nakai noted the appreciation of art connoisseurs for Sharaku in Europe, where his prints were collected and displayed alongside those by Rembrandt, Goya and Lautrec.11 Not only does this observation 10 The titles and publications list as follows: ‘Sharaku no geijutsu: Yakusha nigaoe no tensai’ in Osaka Asahi Shinbun (1915); ‘Sharaku no kenkyū’ (serialized) in Ukiyo-e (1915–1916); ‘Sharaku no geijutsu’ (serialized) in Shinmi (1915–1916); ‘Sharaku-hitsu: Daidōzan no seinen ni tsuite’ in Ukiyo-e (1916); ‘Sharaku no kenkyū’ in Bijutsu no Nihon (1916); ‘Sharaku no geijutsu’ in Bijutsu no Nihon (1919). This bibliography is listed in Nakai Sōtarō, Nihon Kaigaron (Tokyo: Bunsaisha, 1976), pp. 357–358. 11 Nakai Sōtarō, ‘Sharaku no geijutsu - Yakusha nigaoe no tensai’, reprinted in Nihon Kaigaron, 201.


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elevate Sharaku’s status to that of these luminaries of Western art history, it also suggests that Sharaku’s obscurity in Japan was due to a lack of sophistication among artists and academics who lauded European artists while neglecting the excellent works produced by artists right at home. For Nakai, Sharaku’s allure lay in his keen powers of observation, which allowed him to pierce the surface of his subjects and reveal their true character. He ascribed to the artist an unwillingness, perhaps even an incapacity, to satisfy popular demand for attractive and idealized actor portraits. Instead, Sharaku ‘ripped off the actors’ costumes and took away their masks’12 in his eagerness to reveal what they concealed beneath. The results could be shocking, particularly in his portraits of oyama, male actors who specialized in female roles (Fig. 2). Sharaku often emphasized the masculine qualities that oyama were trained to conceal, challenging the fragile illusion that even the most popular of these actors (some of whom, according to Sharaku’s treatment, were not getting any younger) could indeed convincingly portray youthful beauties. Nakai cited an oft-quoted statement from the Edo-era Ukiyo-e ruiko (‘Various Thoughts on Ukiyo-e’, 1844) that identified this penchant for realism as the primary reason Sharaku’s art fell from favour despite the genius of his designs.13 In 1911, the same year Bakusen won an award for Hair, a student at the Specialized School for Painting named Furukawa Shōko (dates unknown) created a peculiar portrait with the eponymous title Woman (Onna). Although it is lost today, Woman was discussed in detail the following year in the Kyoto journal Geibun by Ueda Jūzō (1886–1973), then a young aesthetics instructor at Kyoto University, later its prestigious Chair of Aesthetics. Ueda identifies the subject of Shōko’s painting as a geisha, but the image he describes is hardly that of an idealized beauty: A conservative critic. . . would find nothing of value in the work, nor would a connoisseur of the female form. In fact both would turn away from the painting after just a glance, rejecting it for its ugliness. She bears a large mole on her face, and her mouth is twisted and coloured a blackish-red. If I showed this painting to a housewife and her children, the former would have nothing but contempt for the sexuality she exudes,

12 13

Nakai, ‘Sharaku no geijutsu’, 208. Nakai, ‘Sharaku no geijutsu’, 207.

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Figure 3. Inagaki Chūsei, Tayū, 1919. Framed: ink, colour, gold, silver on silk. The National Museum of Modern Art, Kyoto. while the latter would burst into tears, terrified by her dreadful eyes and oily black hair straggling down her cheek.14

According to Ueda, Woman was the fruit of Shōko’s study of Sharaku’s portraits. Like Nakai, Shōko also seems to have admired Sharaku’s gift for capturing the psychology of his subject, although he, too, achieve this result at the expense of the bijinga norm of idealized beauty. Not much is known about Shōko’s life and practice, and it is a mystery why an artist who showed such promise as a student and who attracted the attention of influential critics fell so completely into obscurity; in any case, Shōko’s Sharaku-inspired Woman is the earliest recorded exploration of the anti-bijin trope. Other painters picked up the experiment where Shōko left off, taking the anti-bijin thematic to further heights of ugliness. We witness a similar kind of psychological exposure at work in an overtly grotesque image produced by Inagaki Chūsei (1897–1922) entitled Tayū (Tayū, Fig. 3) from 1919. Tayū were a rank of yūjo (‘women of pleasure’), a 14

Ueda Jūzō, ‘Shōkō no onna’, Geibun, vol. 3, no. 4 (April 1912), 126.


john d. szostak

Figure 4. Okamoto Shinsō, Lip Rouge, 1918. Two-panel folding screen: ink, colour, gold, silver on silk. Kyoto City University of the Arts.

euphemism for prostitute, yet tayū are better understood as entertainers, even celebrities, and were widely admired for their beauty, cultural accomplishments and wit, the forerunners of geisha. Chūsei’s intention, however, was to strip away all fantasies of glamorous encounters with paragons of beauty from past eras by presenting a ghastly spectacle, the grotesque impression of which is compounded by the artist’s strongly naturalistic approach, emphasizing the sensual, material excesses of the oiran. Harsh light shines obliquely across her features, reflecting brightly off of her oily lacquered wig with its heavy gold and silver hair ornaments, and illuminating her pasty white make-up with a wan, sickly hue. Her lower lip is painted blood red, emphasizing the dull gray of her gums and black of her coated teeth, creating a repulsive smile that threatens rather than welcomes. The resulting effect is reminiscent of Tanizaki Junichirō’s remarks from his satirical ‘In Praise of Shadows’ (Inei raisan), where he notes how vulgar, even filthy, a heavily made-up Japanese woman appears in bright electric lights, suggesting that, for the sake of aesthetics, it would be better for her to remain hidden in the dark.15 Anti-bijin portraits of women applying make-up under strong illumination were created by many Kyoto Nihonga artists of Chūsei’s 15

Junichiro Tanizaki, In Praise of Shadows (New Haven, CT: 1977), pp. 29–30.

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generation, including Okamoto Shinsō (1894–1933), Uda Tekison (1896–1980), and Kainoshō Tadaoto (1894–1978), as well as by several Osaka-based painters such as Kitani Chigusa (1895–1947) and Shima Seien (1892–1970). Make-up is intended to disguise physical flaws and enhance beauty, yet in their treatments of the anti-bijin thematic, makeup functions in an inverted capacity, emphasizing artificiality and suggesting hedonism and decadence. Shinsō’s Lip Rouge (Fig. 4), another graduation work from the Specialized School of Painting, also appears to take a cue from Sharaku’s works, namely the Edo-era artist’s proclivity for distorting his subjects’ bodies and hands into impossible poses to further emphasize artifice. Shinsō deforms his maiko as she inclines into the candle’s light, her body bent and unnaturally foreshortened, her arms thrusting insect-like through the folds of her kimono. She seems entirely constructed out of artifice, and the prospect of her unclothed form is an unnerving one. In 1912, around the same time these artists were creating their anti-bijin images, Sigmund Freud published ‘The Most Prevalent Forms of Degradation in Erotic Life’, in which he analysed the capacity of disgust as a psychological dam or barrier to repress desire for forbidden or taboo objects.16 Nearly a century later in The Anatomy of Disgust, William Ian Miller confirms this function but also notes an entirely opposing notion, the disgust of surfeit, which punishes us for overindulgences both real and imagined.17 Rather than damming, this second response pays us back for our desires even after we have renounced them, embarrassing and shaming us by their revelation. In the words of Julia Kristeva, the anti-bijin portraits of Shōko, Teruo, and Chūsei pull us into ‘a vortex of summons and repulsion’18 by both confirming and denying the viewer’s yearning for a life of pleasure, simultaneously playing up and obliterating the fantasies illustrated in Ukiyo-e paintings and prints. Where we expect to encounter the fair, we experience the foul, yet if this analysis of the disgust reaction is correct, then viewers should not be shocked, for the ugliness revealed therein is brought to the images by the viewers themselves. 16 Sigmund Freud, ‘The Most Prevalent Forms of Degradation in Erotic Life’, Collected Papers, Vol. IV: Papers on Metapsychology, Papers on Applied Psycho-Analysis (New York: Basic Books, Inc., 1959). 17 William Ian Miller, The Anatomy of Disgust (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1997), p. 120. 18 Julia Kristeva, Powers of Horror: An Essay on Abjection. Trans. Leon S. Roudiez (New York: Columbia University Press, 1982), p. 1.


john d. szostak Anti-Bijin Images as Social Critique

While artists like Chūsei and Shinsō experimented with what might be described as a ‘psycho-aesthetic’ critique of the traditional Ukiyo-e imagery, other Nihonga artists utilized the anti-bijin trope as a vehicle for social observation. Critics identified this second group by the label Jinseiha, or ‘Humanist School’, the coining of which may have been suggested by Nakai Sōtarō in an essay he published in 1913. Nakai described the ideal painter in the essay’s title as ‘A Painter Who Critiques Human Life’ (‘Jinsei hihan no gaka’), and in its body he argues that painters must search for inspiration by reflecting on the nature of human social experience; indeed, he insisted that all great art works created throughout human history demonstrate this kind of moral reflection.19 Nihonga painters also received encouragement to explore social themes from the pages of the arts and literature journal Shirakaba, which from the time of its inaugural issue in 1910 until its cancellation in the aftermath of the Great Kantō Earthquake of 1923 was one of the most popular as well as seminally important and authoritative sources on modernist European art, literature, and thought. Of particular relevance to discussions of the Humanist School is the journal’s October 1913 issue, dedicated to the French painter Gustave Courbet (1819–1877), for besides constituting the first critical biography of the French social realist painter in Japanese, the issue also reproduced several monochrome reproductions of his paintings, including The Stone Breakers (Les Casseurs de Pierres, 1849) and other iconic images of the French social realist movement. Nihonga painter Ono Chikkyō (1889–1979) recalled that a concurrent rise of interest in Russian realist fiction also contributed to the popularity of Humanist themes, noting in particular the impact of Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s (1821–1881) novels, due to their sharp psychological portrayals.20 The Humanist School was not an organized movement, but a shared interest among Kyoto Nihonga painters who chose as their general site of artistic inquiry the negative consequences of Japan’s rapid Westernization, particularly on those who were left behind or victimized in the 19

Nakai Sōtarō, ‘Jinsei hihan no gaka’, Kyoto Bijutsu, vol. 27 (April 1913), 72. Ono Chikkyō, ‘Jinseiha no taido’, Tōjitsuchō, pp. 225–226. Crime and Punishment was available in Japan as an abridged translation by Uchida Rōan as early as 1892, with Dostoevsky’s larger oeuvre becoming widely available to Japan readers by 1917. See Mochizuki Tetsuo, ‘Japanese Perceptions of Russian Literature in the Meiji and Taishō Eras’, in J. Thomas Rimer (ed.), A Hidden Fire: Russian and Japanese Cultural Encounters 1868–1926 (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1995), p. 18. 20

fair is foul, and foul is fair


Figure 5. Chigusa Sōun, Day Filled with Monotony, 1909. Framed: ink, colour on silk. The National Museum of Modern Art, Kyoto.

process. The social and cultural landscape they illustrate is not unlike that described forty years earlier by Émile Zola (1840–1902) when he characterized France as a nation ‘sick with progress’ whose literature was ‘the direct product of our anxiety, of our bitter striving, of our panic, and of the general uneasiness that afflicts a society heading blindly towards an unknown future’.21 Some of the first Nihonga artists to attempt social critique in this way were members of the Heigo Painting Society (Heigo Gakai), an exhibition collective active from 1906 to 1913.22 Works by Heigo 21

Émile Zola, Mes Heines (Paris: G. Charpentier, 1879), p. 57. The group named itself after the fact that 1906, the year of its founding, was designated the year ‘heigo’ according to the pre-Meiji cyclical calendar. For more on this group, see John D. Szostak, ‘Takeuchi Seihō, Chigusa Sōun and John Ruskin’s Modern Painters: Reconciling Realism with Japanese Painting, 1900–1910’, in Crossing Cultures: Conflict, Migration and Convergence, Jaynie Anderson (ed.), (Melbourne: University of Melbourne Press, 2009), pp. 363–368. 22


john d. szostak

Figure 6. Kajiwara Hisako, Used Clothing Market, 1920. Framed: ink, colour on silk. Kyoto Municipal Museum of Art.

painters frequently featured images of day labourers, fishermen, itinerant performers and factory workers, rendered with careful naturalism in compositions designed to play upon viewer sympathies and a sense of social justice. Day Filled with Monotony (Tsurezure no hi, 1909; Fig. 5), painted by group founder Chigusa Sōun (1873–1942), is exemplary of the society’s approach. Sōun’s painting is set in an archery gallery, a fixture in urban entertainment quarters. Sōun offers us a portrait of the gallery’s bored, beautiful attendant, her monotony palpable in her posture and facial expression as she waits for customers who do not come. Day Filled with Monotony is just one of several paintings of beautiful women subjects with symptoms of ennui, exhaustion or discontent that Sōun painted in the first decade of the twentieth century, all early prototypes for the anti-bijin soon to follow. Kajiwara Hisako (1896–1988) was a student of Sōun who became one of the most prolific and longest producers of Humanist School works. Among them is Used Clothing Market (Furugi ichi, Fig. 6), which

fair is foul, and foul is fair


Figure 7. Takemura Hakuhō, Rikisha Driver and his Wife, circa 1918. Hanging scroll: ink, colour on silk. Umi no Mieru Mori Bijutsukan.

debuted in 1920 at the Imperial Academy of Fine Arts Exhibition (Teikoku Bijutsuin Bijutsu Tenrankai), which had replaced the Bunten as Japan’s most prestigious national juried art show. As Hisako explained several years later, the painting was based upon an encounter with a used clothing vendor: I had no intention of painting a pretty woman in the traditional style, which was precisely what I wanted to break away from. There was a morning fair at a temple near my house, where I saw a middle-aged woman selling old clothes. I based the image in the painting on her. I was attracted to the life of such a woman, particularly to the sorrow and sadness of it.23

Used Clothing Market depicts the woman in question seated on a veranda on the grounds of the temple. She is set against a backdrop of 23 Kajiwara Hisako, ‘Omide no arubamu’, Nihon Bijutsu, no. 107 (1974). Quoted in English translation in Michiyo Morioka, Changing Images of Women: Taishō Period Paintings by Uemura Shōen, Itō Shōha, and Kajiwara Hisako, PhD dissertation (University of Washington, 1990), p. 271.


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displayed used garments, and set beside her is a basket of stained and yellowed tabi socks. Long-standing negative attitudes in Japan equated second-hand objects with material and spiritual pollution, and made their purchase and sale the purview of society’s poorest classes.24 The suggestion of melancholia and dissatisfaction present in Day Filled with Monotony are experienced here as well, but where Sōun offers a variation of the traditional bijin theme, by the artist’s own admission Hisako thoroughly rejected this ideal. In its place she presents an anti-bijin in the form of a plain woman clothed in a borrowed kimono several sizes too large, hair dishevelled, complexion mottled, and eyes weary. It is the portrait of a woman who endures hardship on a daily basis, both in the form of economic privation and, as suggested by her trade, class-based social discrimination. Another artist interested in illustrating the lives of the poor was Takemura Hakuhō (1895–1943). Born in Toyama prefecture, Hakuhō moved to Kyoto in his late teens in order to enroll in the Specialized School for Painting. Rikisha Puller and His Wife, a work created around 1918 (Fig. 7) while Hakuhō was still a student, offers upwardly mobile viewers a glimpse into the existence of those who live on the very edge of subsistence. The scene is probably a chilly autumn or winter evening, an impression conveyed by a hibachi charcoal brazier placed in close proximity to the woman, and by the wool blanket lying next to the man, ostensibly to keep his customers warm as they are taxied through the cold. Nighttime is implied by the presence of the low-hanging lamp over the woman’s workspace, and by the presence of a candle lantern the driver will use to illuminate the road. The family’s privation is emphasized by the ragged condition of their small dwelling, with its rent shoji window and cracked plaster walls, and by the wife’s engagement in piecemeal labour to supplement the family income; Hakuhō depicts her folding pieces of blue and white paper into envelopes, work that is mindless, repetitive, and judging by the size of her supply of paper, never-ending. It is the woman’s features, however, that makes this image most relevant to our thesis. Her face is marked by a swollen and buckled left eyelid, symptoms of trachoma, a disfiguring eye disease which if not properly treated can lead to blindness. Trachoma is spread by communicable bacteria, and was endemic in Japan in the early twentieth century, particularly in areas where people lived in close quarters with 24

Morioka, p. 266.

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limited access to hygienic facilities.25 Hakuhō had no shortage of trachoma sufferers to choose among for his model, for in 1919 the number of trachoma cases in Japan reached near epidemic levels, prompting the Imperial Diet to pass legislation mobilizing a national eradication campaign.26 Other Nihonga painters also chose the trachoma outbreak as the subject of their work, including Kajiwara Hisako, who created a portrait of two prostitutes marked by the facial disfigurement symptomatic of the disease.27 These anti-bijin images of impoverished women, their features marred by an avoidable, treatable disease, were intended to generate public sympathy for trachoma sufferers in general, and to spread awareness of the disease’s incidental causes, namely the substandard, unhygienic living conditions of Japan’s urban poor. Poverty, endemic disease, and also madness were themes addressed by Kyoto Nihonga painters in the 1910s. Their interest in mental illness and mental disability as subjects for painting arose partly due to mass media attention to the subject. Starting in the last decades of the nineteenth century and continuing into the 1930s, insanity and its treatment underwent a national reassessment by Japanese medical professionals and government authorities alike, and as a result the image of those suffering from psychological conditions and mental impairment underwent a dramatic shift in the public eye. This shift received artistic interpretation in the 1926 film A Crazy Page (Kurutta ippeiji, 1926), which, along with Nihonga paintings we will examine, helps to illustrate the move away from premodern depictions of the mentally ill as subjects of entertaining spectacle and towards a modern understanding of madness as an empathy-worthy condition of medical origin. In his study of A Crazy Page, Jonathan Able notes the appearance between 1903 and 1919 of several serialized reports in popular journals and newspapers that describe visits to mental institutions.28 The earliest of these serializations was entitled ‘Mankind in the Dark World of Mental Hospitals’, and appeared in the newspaper Yomiuri Shinbun over 25 The Sabin Vaccine Institute, ‘Global Network for Neglected Tropical Diseases – Trachoma’. Http:// (accessed 22 November 2009). 26 Miyashita and MacCallen, ‘Legal and Social Measures Against Trachoma in Japan’, British Journal of Ophthalmology, 19, 6 (June 1935), 324–325. 27 For example, Kajiwara Hisako created a painting in 1920 entitled At the Train Station that features two prostitutes infected with trachoma. The work is discussed in Morioka, p. 269. 28 Jonathan Abel, ‘Different from Difference: Revisiting Kurutta Ippeiji’, Asian Cinema, 12, 2 (Fall-Winter 2001), 83–84.


john d. szostak

Figure 8. Soga Shōhaku, Beauty (Mad Woman), 1765. Hanging scroll: ink, colour on paper. Nara Prectural Museum of Art.

several weeks in 1903. Cultural historian Shiba Ichirō characterizes the content of these early serialized reports as sensationalistic celebrations of the odd and uncanny symptoms exhibited by the institutionalized patients.29 In subsequent reports, however, the views expressed in ‘visit to the asylum’ journalistic accounts began to shift away from that of madmen and women serving as raw spectacle towards characterizations of the same as sufferers of unfortunate medical conditions. Abel recounts one of final asylum reports published in 1919, in which ‘the only difference between the sane and the insane was that the insane could not distinguish reality from their perceptions’.30 In other words, the emphasis shifted to points of similarity and away from behavioural difference, a paradigmatic shift that Abel argues made possible the kind of sympathetic depiction of the dementia sufferers encountered in A Crazy Page. 29 Shiba Ichirō, ‘‘Kyōki’ o meguru gensetsu: Seishin byōsha kango hō no jidai’, Medeia, hyōshō, ideorogi: Meiji sanjū nendai no bunka kenkyū, Komori Yōichi (ed.) (Tokyo: Kozawa Shōbo, 1998), p. 110. 30 Abel, 84.

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Figure 9. Tokuoka Shinsen, Mad Woman, circa 1918. Framed: ink, colour on silk. The National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo.

This attitudinal shift is also present when we compare depictions of mad subjects in Edo-era paintings, such as the image of a madwoman executed by Soga Shōhaku (1730–1781; Fig. 8), and examples created in Kyoto of the 1910s. Shōhaku’s image might just as accurately be described as a ‘mad beauty’, since the artist approached the theme as a subcategory of the bijin rubric, which was typical of Edo-era treatments of the kyōjo (‘madwoman’) theme. Shōhaku depicts his subject wandering barefoot through reedy tall grass, which, the background obscured by foggy mist, is suggestive of a riverbank, the edge of a swamp, or some other water margin setting. Her allure is captured in her idealized facial features, her elaborate hairdressing and ornaments, and her richly painted kimono, but these attractive attributes are disjointedly paired with her bizarre behaviour. She is shown blissfully consuming a shredded letter, an action traditionally associated with women driven mad by jealousy after abandonment by faithless lovers. The woman’s barefoot condition may indicate the depths of her distraction, or if a


john d. szostak

Figure 10. Kajiwara Hisako, Sisters, circa 1915. Framed: ink, colour on silk. Kyoto Municipal Museum of Art.

water margin setting is accurate, possibly her intention to commit suicide by drowning, and while the painting is a tour-de-force of artistic execution, it is clear that evoking the viewer’s sympathy is not part of Shōhaku’s agenda, and the woman’s madness is treated as another quality for idealization. In 1918, Tokuoka Shinsen (1896–1972), a recent graduate of the Specialized School for Painting, offered his own interpretation of the madwoman theme (Fig. 9). His approach was radically different from Shōhaku’s, for like the others at the school, Shinsen abandoned the generalized and idealized bijin archetype in favour of a carefully described and individualized image of a madwoman. He faithfully records the woman’s crooked smile, rheumy eyes and dishevelled hair, creating an overall abject impression that is intensified by the pallor cast over her features. Kajiwara Hisako adopted a similarly naturalistic approach in her own treatment of two mentally disabled girls in Sisters of 1916 (Fig. 10), in whom she illustrates some of the common physiognomic symptoms of Down syndrome. But how do these truthful renditions of

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the insane and mentally disabled, their abnormalities so emphatically emphasized, differ from the entertaining spectacle of Shōhaku’s mad beauty? How can such grotesque portraits be interpreted as sympathetic gestures? The answer to this question can be found in the function of the grotesque as described by literary theorist Wolfgang Kayser to represent ‘the world in the process of dissolution and estrangement’, with mental illness being ‘the climactic phase of estrangement from the world’.31 The portraits by Shinsen and Hisako serve as advocates for the alienated subjects they depict, who are both part of and yet apart from the realm of normal, everyday human existence. The painters utilize no histrionics, they demonstrate no intent to idealize or romanticize these figures, yet simply by offering images of real-world unfortunates, their individuality carefully observed and recorded, the gravity of their conditions becomes specific and empathy-worthy. Such portraits take measure of viewers’ own morality by daring them to treat such unfortunates with contempt, superiority or indifference. What appears foul at first glance is, in truth, fair, as long as our compassion allows us to recognize the humanity inherent in these abject figures. Conclusion We have studied several aspects of the anti-bijin thematic and examined just a few of the many examples produced by Kyoto Nihonga painters in the 1910s and early 1920s. These paintings of grotesque beauties allowed painters to address what amounts to a conflict of artistic identification stemming from an ambition shared with oil painters to contribute to the development of modernist Japanese art counterbalanced by a desire to preserve and promote received artistic traditions. The anti-bijin thematic began to lose its currency by the mid-1920s, and by 1930 Nihonga images of ‘grotesque beauties’ had virtually disappeared from the view. This was partly the result of the 1923 Great Kantō Earthquake, which gravely disrupted the national economy and gave rise to an era of increasing social and political conservatism. As a result, many of the artists who explored Humanist themes and who experimented with Western-influenced naturalism either turned to more conservative themes and approaches or 31 Wolfgang Kayser, The Grotesque in Art and Literature (New York: McGraw-Hill Book Company, 1966), pp. 58, 74.


john d. szostak

Figure 11. Yanagi Miwa, My Grandmothers: Akiyo, Mai, Hitomi and Noriko, 2004. Photograph. Collection of the artist.

stopped painting Nihonga entirely, a shift that Michiyo Morioka describes as ‘the victory of native allegiance to beauty over modern humanist sentiment’.32 Interestingly, however, several contemporary Japanese artists have rediscovered the anti-bijin thematic and have established international reputations for their nightmarish, repellent, and powerful images of female subjects. These include Nihonga painter Matsui Fuyuko, whose surreal and often sexually-charged portraits of women reflect, in the artist’s own words, ‘a condition that maintains sanity while being close to madness’;33 the multi-media artist Aida Makoto, whose violent treatment of young women in his artworks parodies and critiques the sexual objectification of prepubescent girls in mainstream popular media; and the photographer Yanagi Miwa, who regularly features grotesque female portraits to undermine clichéd concepts of femininity and womanhood. Of these three, Yanagi is particularly aware of the artists we 32

Morioka, pp. 284–285. Matsui Fuyuko, interviewed in C.B. Liddell, ‘Nihonga to Nihonga: Young, Fresh and Traditional Japanese Artists’, The Japan Times (9 March 2006). 33

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have examined in this chapter, having graduated from the Kyoto City University of Arts (Kyoto Shiritsu Geijutsu Daigaku), as the Specialized School for Painting is known today; in a work from a series entitled My Grandmothers (Fig. 11) she includes an elderly woman dressed as a maiko who applies make-up by the light of a candle stand, an homage to Lip Rouge, the graduation painting of fellow former student of the school Okamoto Shinsō. As the work of these contemporary artists demonstrate, the shock and sense of threat we experience in grotesque images of anti-beauties still has power to mock, to chasten, and to thrill, and is still capable of offering cutting critiques of the (post) modern human condition.



JAPANESE MYTHOLOGICAL MODERNISM: THE STORY OF PUCK AND THE APPEARANCE OF KINDAIJIN Roman Rosenbaum Together magazines and manifestos, along with related artistic activities and forms of independent production, belonged to the institutions that sustained and promoted modernism.1 For the most part, though, it would be fair to say that magazines have represented an unexplored place on the map, or more prosaically the library shelves and basement archives of modernism, rather than a new intellectual territory busy with students and researchers.2

Introduction As the above two views on the relationship between magazines and modernism suggest, the significance of the so-called ‘small magazine’3 to the promotion of modernism around the beginning of the twentieth century has not yet been fully explored. In fact, it was the simultaneous emergence in America and Europe of the ‘small magazine’ and its eventual spread into Asia via illustrators and caricaturists—the ambassadors of modernism—that promulgated the consciousness of the modern. Even though the encyclopaedic collection referred to above offers the first comprehensive study of the wide and varied range of ‘small magazines’ instrumental in introducing the new discourse that came to constitute literary and artistic modernism in the Western world, unfortunately the absence of an Asiatic dimension to this discourse limits the examination of the magazine media in the paradigm of modernism experienced around the world. The research presented below investigates specifically how the notion of the so-called fūshi zasshi (satirical magazine) also emerged as 1

Peter Brooker and Andrew Thacker. The Oxford Critical and Cultural History of Modernist Magazines: Volume I: Britain and Ireland 1880–1955, 2009, 2. 2 Ibid, 3. 3 A term coined by Ezra Pound that suggests the importance of magazines in the dissemination of modernism. Ibid, 2.


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a visual avatar of modernism in Japan. What would the European art world look like had it not been influenced by japonisme and chinoiserie? These influences were by no means unidirectional and just as the art of Vincent van Gogh, Camille Pissarro, Paul Gauguin, Bertha Lum, Will Bradley, Aubrey Beardsley, Alphonse Mucha and Gustav Klimt were influenced by all things Japanese, so too the repercussions of modernism transmitted through the emerging field of European avant-garde magazines were felt keenly in Japan. The addition of Japanese magazines to a discussion of the nature of modernism significantly expands the inquiry from a Eurocentric cultural nationalist discourse into a transcultural and transnational movement of, on the one hand, the imagined nation and, on the other, the sociopolitical and cultural realizations that defined the early part of the twentieth century. In order to answer the question whether magazines are indeed vessels of modernism, Tokyo Pakku (᮶ாࣂࢴࢠ, hereafter Tokyo Puck), a predominantly satirical magazine founded in the late Meiji period that was published in four instalments from Meiji to Taishō and Shōwa Japan was chosen for this investigation. Tokyo Puck began life in 1905 with satirical depictions of the political impact of the Russo–Japanese War on Japan’s emerging modern capitalist society. As an offshoot of its American cousin Puck from the late nineteenth century, Tokyo Puck became a transcultural conduit that arguably functioned in what Homi Bhabha has referred to as ‘the third space’. That is to say, the iconic images of a Japanese-specific modernism in Japan was a process that enabled Japanese society around the beginning of the twentieth century to hybridize and thereby transcend the superimposed superiority of the West. And, more importantly, it enabled the conceptualization of a Japanese kindaijin (modern women and men) and made it available for consumption by the readers of the magazine. It achieved this by transposing foreign cultural values onto a palimpsest that combined the best aspects of the international with the local in a mythological combination of Tokyo (Japan) and the Western trickster figure of puck. This act of cultural and linguistic imitation and translation opened up a ‘third space’, as discussed by Homi Bhabha below: The act of cultural translation denies the essentialism of a prior given original or originary culture, then we see that all forms of culture are continually in a process of hybridity. But for me the importance of hybridity is not to be able to trace two original moments from which the third emerges, rather hybridity to me is the ‘third space’ which enables other positions to emerge. This third space displaces the histories that

japanese mythological modernism: the story of puck 389 constitute it, and sets up new structures of authority, new political initiatives, which are inadequately understood through received wisdom.4

Tokyo Puck thus functioned as a third space from which the new hybridity of the kindaijin in the Japanese nation was able to emerge via processes of cultural and linguistic display and translation. Western cultural superiority was displayed at the same time as it was displaced, circumnavigated and ultimately made redundant. As such, the magazine mimicked in the Japanese amphitheatre the function it had performed in its American setting when the magazine was first published in German. After Kitazawa Rakuten, known in Japan as kindai manga no chichi (the father of modern manga),5 founded Tokyo Puck in the late Meiji period its popularity grew well into the Shōwa period and introduced many readers of the Meiji, Taishō and Shōwa periods to specific aspects of American and European models of modernism. Tokyo Puck offered its readers specific linguistic and visual examples of foreign cultural aestheticism, and in the process transplanted it from an exotic other place to the local geography. This overlaying of visual representations of modernism found in magazines like Tokyo Puck is a startling sociocultural glimpse of modernism as it was promulgated by the Japanese printing press in the early twentieth century. Towards a Rhetoric of Japanese Modernism William Gardner has argued in his Advertising Tower: Japanese Modernity in the 1920s, that ‘Japanese modernity itself is not a closed phenomenon but is constituted through international economic, political, intellectual, and bodily exchanges’.6 This accurately suggests that Japanese modernism is a product of transcultural exchange, internationalization and competition with the rising awareness of alterity made increasingly possible at the end of the nineteenth century. As early as 1939, in his book Japanese Modernism, Amar Lahiri divided the concept into the three periods of Meiji, Taishō and Shōwa modernism,7 reminiscent of 4

Rutherford, ‘The Third Space: Interview with Homi Bhabha’, 210–211. In this article the complex term ‘manga’ is used holistically and incorporates cartoons as well as caricatures. A detailed discussion of the term is beyond the scope of this chapter. 6 Gardener, 2006, 17. 7 Amar Lahiri, Japanese Modernism, 1939, Contents. 5


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Oscar Wilde’s famous aphorism that ‘it is only the modern that ever becomes old-fashioned’. Lahiri’s early suggestion of the recurrence of modernism hints at the continual decline of the modern, and thus suggests that, rather than being a straight line or cyclical development, modernism in twentieth-century Japan is an undulating process of crests and troughs, punctuated by devastating conflicts arising from the archipelago’s interaction with the outside world. If modernism has indeed been shaped as a response to Japan’s interaction with its newly discovered alterity—the Western world rather than China—then is Lahiri’s emperor-centred modernism accurate and should we consider the possibility of a Heisei modernism? The answer, clearly, is in the negative. There is no Heisei modernism simply because one of the main ingredients, namely, large-scale social upheaval in the wake of a major war, is missing, though the possibility remains. There is also, within the wider discourse surrounding the critique of modernism, a profound Western-centric claim of ownership of the legacy of the new consciousness arising from modernism. To illustrate this point we must take a closer look at the broad-shouldered giants of modernism: Tzvetan Todorov, who says he wrote The Imperfect Garden in 1939 because ‘I find it disconcerting to use a single word to designate these reactions, such as modernity, or individualism, or liberalism, or rationality, or subjectivity, or ‘Western’, especially since the amalgam imposed by such terms is often used to polemical purpose’;8 Harry Harootunian, whose History’s Disquiet (2000) was written because of an ‘interest in the historical question of modernity and how its experience was conceptualized in the everyday’;9 and finally Fredric Jameson who in his A Singular Modernity: Essay on the Ontology of the Present (2002) asks cheekily, ‘What purpose can the revival of the slogan ‘modernity’ still serve, after the thoroughgoing removal of the modern from all the shelves and shop windows, its retirement from the media, and the obedient demodernification of all but a few cantankerous and selfavowedly saurian (reptilian) intellectuals?’10 Quite to the contrary, in Antiquity and Modernity (2008) Neville Morley juxtaposes modernity with its obvious binary antecedents of ‘tradition’,11 and postulates that if we have never been modern, was antiquity ever ancient? Yet, modernism, argues Robert Scholes in his recent Paradoxy of Modernism 8

Translated by Carol Cosman in 2002. Columbia University Press, 2000, 5. 10 Verso, 2002, 6–7. See also his next work entitled Modernist Papers. Verso, 2007. 11 See Morley’s discussion in the Preface, ix–xiv. 9

japanese mythological modernism: the story of puck 391 (2006),12 is beyond such simplistic binary oppositions as high/low, old/ new and even self/other and perhaps gained its recognition precisely because it eschewed simplistic classification but rather symbolized a particular Zeitgeist that marked a transcendence from one mode of thought to another. It is in this tapestry of literary critique that we discover the very essence of modernism as an avatar of Bhabha’s notion of the third space and its potential to transcend predefined notions of what modernism in Japan really signified. In all these quite remarkable studies on the subjectivity of modernism, surprisingly little, if anything at all, is said about alternative modes of modernism experienced outside the dominant European and American paradigms. The lack of cross-cultural and cross-national consideration is a major flaw in the recent critique of modernism. Without the Asiatic dimension, modernism becomes yet another example of a hegemonic discourse claiming world supremacy. The few studies that have successfully looked towards the East in an attempt to transcend the narrow worldview of colonialism and nationalism exemplify the transcultural generative power of a spawning modernism. For example, Roland Barthes in The Empire of Signs (1982) and Fredric Jameson in Modernist Papers (2007), where he discusses Sōseki,13 have both been enthralled with the alter-modernity they discovered in the empire of the Far East. Undoubtedly, the threshold between Japan and its Western allies offers many vantage points from which an investigation of trans-modernity or the slipstream of the modern into the realm of Japan can be observed. This process began with one of the most famous American satirical magazines from the late nineteenth century, which found its way across the Pacific and appeared in an ‘Easternized’ manifestation as Tokyo Puck. Modernism, it seems, reflects a symbolic self/other dialectic that can not come into existence without examples of sociocultural alterity. Magazines, Modernism and War: Satire as Harbinger of the Modern Japan has a modest number of early satirical magazines, such as The Japan Punch, its first humour magazine, established in 1862 by Charles

12 13

See Scholes’ explanation in the Preface ix–xii. ‘Sōseki and Western Modernism’ in Jameson Modernist Papers, 2007, 294–310.


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Wirgman14 and the short-lived Eshinbun Nipponchi, founded in 1874. Wirgman’s The Japan Punch in particular, as an offshoot of its English counterpart Punch, established by Henry Mayhew and the engraver Ebenezer Landells in 1841, ushered in a period of satirical social comedy that established ponchi-e, a phonetic rendering of the magazine’s name, as a term for cartooning that preceded the term manga (whimsical drawing), invented several decades later by Kitazawa Rakuten. Ponchi-e belonged to the tradition of Japanese sobyō (rough sketches), which were also known in Japan as dessan or the French dessin, meaning a rough sketch. This cross-linguistic vocabulary is also evidence of the spread of a modernist diction that facilitated the satirical rendition of a new way of urban life. In 1874, Kanagaki Robun and Kawanabe Kyōsai attempted to mimic the success of Wirgman and created the first Japanese manga magazine, Eshinbun Nipponchi. It published only satirical drawings but closed prematurely after only three issues because of its conservative content and criticism of popular modernist thinkers like Fukuzawa Yukichi and Itagaki Taisuke.15 Japan Punch lasted until 1887, but by the time it ceased publication it had already been superseded by a number of local satirical magazines that were quickly filling the vacuum. Inspired by the prototype Eshinbun Nipponchi, several other newspapers and magazines began publishing satirical drawings. Kisho shimbun started in 1875, followed by Marumaru chinbun in 1877, and Garakuta chinpo in 1879.16 The first boys’ magazine, Shōnen sekai (Boys’ World), which according to Owen Griffiths had a strong focus on the first Sino–Japanese War, was created in 1895 by Iwaya Sazanami, a famous writer of Japanese children’s literature.17 It was followed in 1905 by Japan’s longest-running satirical magazine, Tokyo Puck, inaugurated by Kitazawa Rakuten. Most of these magazines depicted the modern unfolding in fin-de-siècle Japan via satirical perspectives that adopted the innovative cultural media of graphic manga representation and thus pioneered the critique through satire of unchecked modernism. It is no coincidence that perhaps the defining feature of Japanese manga booms is that they occur after major 14 Shimizu Isao wrote that, at best, several hundred prints were produced but even so it was distributed in Tokyo, Kobe, Nagasaki and the kyoryūchi (foreign settlements) in Shanghai. Shimizu Isao, Wāguman Nihon sobyōshū, 1987, 60. 15 Shimizu Isao, ‘Nihon’ manga no jiten, 70–71. 16 Ibid, 78. For details see also the website of the Kyoto International Manga Museum at (accessed: 29 July 2011) 17 See, for example, Owen Griffiths, ‘Militarizing Japan: Patriotism, Profit, and Children’s Print Media, 1894–1925’. Accessed: 23 August 2009.

japanese mythological modernism: the story of puck 393 conflicts. This phenomenon of a rise in the satirical mode in Japan after major wars has been discussed by Japan’s leading researcher into graphic satire, Shimizu Isao, who wondered whether the reason for these booms was that postwar depressions give rise to lots of satirical vantage points in modern societies.18 This lends an even more ‘unsettling’ air to the satire in Japanese manga magazines and the outpouring or the discharge of modernism following major wars. In Japan this is true for the inauguration of Japan Punch after the end of the Bakumatsu seclusion and the beginning of the Meiji Restoration. It is also true for Tokyo Puck in 1905 after the Russo-Japanese War. It is still accurate at the end of the First World War, in 1919, with the third instalment of Tokyo Puck. Then in 1921, Jiji shinpō (ᰖџᮄฅ) begins its Sunday satirical Jiji manga (ᰖџ⓿⬏), triggering a manga boom similar to that seen with the rise of Tezuka Osamu and story manga after the end of the Asia-Pacific War in 1945.19 Yet these booms and the overwhelming longevity of Tokyo Puck have a sinister side to them, and it is incorrect to assume that postwar satire heralded a time of joy and growth. Quite on the contrary, the reason for these booms is that, for Japan, the aftermath of wars, even victorious ones, was often worse than war itself due to postwar depression, loss of territory, the human toll and starvation, all of which gave rise to lots of satirical vantage points in modern societies.20 Japanese modernism portrayed through the satirical mode is thus the offspring of war, a graphic literary reaction against the confines of national hegemonic discourse that enabled a critique of the sociopolitical transition from Meiji to Taishō Japan and beyond. Tokyo Puck’s originality lay in its indiscriminate criticism of all aspects of Japan’s modernizing society. An example below from the Taishō edition of the magazine shall suffice to illustrate that neither social class nor the military were safe from satirical depiction. Such severe and direct criticism of formerly taboo subjects was arguably unprecedented in Japan and, together with the visceral impact of manga to accentuate the message, made for a potent weapon on the road to modernizing Japanese society. This particular cartoon illustrates the democratizing influence of Tokyo Puck, depicted through the cultural mythology of the trickster figure puck. It was the puckish 18

Shimizu Isao, Manga zasshi hakubutsukan: Tokyo Pakku—Taishōki, vol. 7, p. 2. Even earlier examples like the boom following the Sino–Japanese War in nishiki-e (䣺㍉ colour-woodblock prints) and giga (᠃⬏ caricatures) can be observed but cannot be covered in this investigation of modernism and graphic representation. 20 This is similar to Western postwar discourse which was shaped by the social trauma following the First World War and other factors like the 1918 flu pandemic. 19


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Figure 1. Kōsai no umai gunjin (The sociable soldier, 1913)21 English caption: Who is tactful? The diplomat? The Household official? The businessman? It’s the fellow who, the sword in hand and haughty to the people, would yet brush the coat for his superior officer. Grovelling beggar? Japanese explanation by Shimizu Isao: A caricature that suggests that in peacetime it is the military man that is most successful in life, referring to his political finesse and his ability to ask for an expansion of the military budgets.

qualities of ridiculing and subverting the existing social hierarchy, in terms of what Michael Bakhtin has called the carnivalesque mode,22 that signified the threshold where innovation clashed with tradition. In fact, puck’s appearance in Japan itself functioned as a harbinger of social change and provided some evidence of the establishment of a national class consciousness as the provenance of modernism. 21

Shimizu Isao, Manga Zashi Hakubutsukan: Taishō jidai hen, 41. The comparison of modernism with Bakhtin’s notion of the carnival as a site that subverts as well as liberates the underlying presumptions of a dominant sociocultural style or atmosphere through humour and chaos is intriguing but it goes well beyond the scope of this inquiry. For details see, for example, Mikhail Bakhtin, Problems of Dostoevsky’s Poetics, 1984, 107. 22

japanese mythological modernism: the story of puck 395 Lawrence Cahoone has argued in From Modernism to Postmodernism that ‘Perhaps ironically, it was the relative stability and unprecedented prosperity of the period following the defeat of German fascism and Japanese militarism that became the background for the Western tradition’s deepest self-criticism.’23 The same is also true for Japanese traditions and arguably self-criticism and introspection are also defining characteristics of Japanese society and culture in the environment of postwar modernism. It was major conflicts like the Russo-Japanese War and the First World War that marked the birth of Japan’s most culturally significant modernist magazines as the cicatrice of modernism. The expression of these complex emotions through innovations in graphic art mark manga as a satirical mode of expressing modernism. The Importance of Puck24 Shimizu Isao defines the importance of Tokyo Puck as a chronicle of social history by suggesting that ‘if we assume that gendai shakai (contemporary society) was conceived after the Earthquake [1923] then the issues of Tokyo Puck published beforehand mark the end of kindai shakai (modern society)’.25 Tokyo Puck ceased publication for five years after the Great Kanto Earthquake and when it finally reappeared in 1928 the magazine reflected the new Zeitgeist of the Shōwa period. All of a sudden kindaijin became the centre of the urban lebensraum. For example, in an article entitled Saisei no ben (The Rebirth of Speech) the author laments that kindaijin are always under strain (kinchō) and do not have time to relax (kutsurogi).26 In order to find the necessary relaxation from this strain kindaijin needed a special environment, where ‘the sense of modern love cannot be experienced without the intermingling of loud colours and light’.27 This space was provided by the emergence of the café in the metropolitan areas of Japan.


Lawrence Cahoone, From Modernism to Postmodernism: An Anthology, 1996, 269. Arguably Japan’s first satirical magazine was Japan Punch (ࢩࣔࣂࣤyࣂࣤࢲ), named after its English cousin Punch and established by Charles Wirgman in 1862. Punch was a British weekly magazine of humour and satire published from 1841 to 1992 and from 1996 to 2002. 25 Shimizu Isao, Manga zasshi hakubutsukan: Tokyo Pakku—Taishōki, vol. 7, Preface. 26 Published in the July 1928 edition of Tokyo Puck,