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Fiction in Post-War Japan

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  23 March 2011

Joseph K. Yamagiwa
University of Michigan
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In the years following the Manchurian adventure, literature in Japan became more and more nationalistic; it fell into a “dark ravine.” Proletarian literature, which had seen a spectacular rise after World War I, declined rapidly after the death of the leftist writer, Kobayashi Takiji, in a police station at Tsukiji, Tokyo, on February 20, 1933. Writers previously devoted to liberal, progressive, and radical ideas were converted to orthodox thinking. In the late thirties and during World War II the few authors who still nurtured leftist ideas were completely silenced. Some, like Hirabayashi Taiko, went to jail. It was only in the first post-war years, with the release of political prisoners and encouragement given to freedom of expression, that literature once more began to show its former diversity and vitality. As the Occupation continued, various limitations were placed on the activities of the Communist Party, but, as we shall see, leftist authors still have their following.

Copyright © Association for Asian Studies, Inc. 1953

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1 In addition to the usual books, newspapers, magazines, and other documentary sources, this paper draws upon die results of a questionnaire distributed in Japan and upon a number of conversations with Japanese critics and writers. These conversations took place in Japan in the period between September, 1950 and June, 1951. Japanese treatments useful in a study of post-war literature include:

(a) Ara Masahito, “Sengo no bungaku (Post-war literature),” in Ara and others, Shōwa bungaku jūnikō (Twelve Essays on Showa Literature), Tokyo, Kaizōsha, 1950, ch. xii, 301–321;

(b) Itō Sei, Mainichi raiburarii: Nihon no bungaku (Mainichi Library: Japanese Literature), ch. v, “Sengo no bungaku,” 217–235;

(c) Ara Masahito, Itō Sei, etc., Shōwa bungaku kenkyū (Studies in Showa Literature), Tokyo, Hanawa shobō, 1952;

(d) Kindai Bungakusha, comp., Gendai Nihon bungaku jiten (Dictionary of Presentday Japanese Literature), Tokyo, Kawade shobō, 1951, handy for its signed articles on authors, works, and. movements, with accompanying brief bibliographies;

(e) Hisamatsu Sen'ichi, Nibon bungaku meisaku gaikan (Outline of the Major Works of Japanese Literature), Tokyo, Ōbunsha, 1950, “Nihon bungaku yōgo kaisetsu (Explanations of technical words used in Japanese literature),” 244–250;

(f) Kazamaki Kagejirō, ed., Gendai Nihon bungaku techō (Handbook of Present-day Japanese Literature), Osaka, Sōεensha, 1951, 93–98;

(g) the annual editions of the Bungei nenkan (Literature Yearbook), compiled by the Nihon Bungeika Kyōkai (Japan Writers' Association) and published by the Shinchōsha in Tokyo;

(h) the annual Shuppan nenkan (Publishers' Yearbook), published in 1951 and 1952 by the Shuppan Nyūsusha; and

(i) the Bunka jimmeiroku (Shōwa nifūrokunenhan) or List of Men in the World of Culture (1951), compiled by the Nihon Chosakuken Kyōgikai (Japan Copyright Council), Tokyo, 1951

As is customary in Japan, personal names are given throughout this article with the surname first and the given name next. In English, insights into post-war Japanese literature are provided by

(j) Ina Telberg, “The Japanese state of mind,” Saturday Review of Literature, XXXIV, no. 31 (Aug. 4, 1951), 25–26, 54–55:

(k) Harold Strauss, “Letter from Tokyo,” New Yorker 29.4 (Mar. 14, 1953), 98–100, and “Editor in Japan,” Atlantic Monthly, 192.2 (Aug., 1953), 59–62.

(1) Mukai Hiroo, “Letter from Tokyo [to Wallace StegnerJ,” Pacific Spectator, V, no. 4 (Autumn, 1951), 420–425; and

(m) Hiramatsu Mikio, “Post-war Trends in Japanese Literature,” Pacific Spectator, VI, no. 4 (Autumn, 1952), 442–450.

Hiramatsu discusses 12 short-stories recommended to Professor Wallace Stegner of Stanford University by a group of Japanese authors as being representative of the short-story in post-war Japan. Two of the 12 stories have already appeared in English translation:

(n) Mukai Hiroo, trans., Oaaki Kazuo's Mushi no iroiro (Insects of Various Kinds), Pacific Spectator, V, no. 4 (Autumn, 1951), 426–434, and

(o) Murayama Ken, trans., Hirabayashi Taiko's Kisbimojin (The Goddess of Children), ibid., VI, no. 4 (Autumn, 1952), 451–457.

Two other translations, published in the Western Humanities Review through the courtesy of Professor Stegner, are

(p) Shioya Sakae, trans., Umezaki Haruo's Under the Sky, WHR, VI, no. 2 (Spring, 1952), 119–128.

(q) Shioya Sakae, trans., Hayashi Fumiko's Splendid Carrion, ibid., VI, no. 3 (Summer, 1952), 219–228.

2 Kumiai, Tōkyō Shosekishō (Tōkyō Booksellers' Union), Shuppan nenkan (Publishers Yearbook), 1940, 587626.Google Scholar

3 Nyūsusha, Shuppan, Shuppan nenkan, 1952, 412413, 416–448.Google Scholar

4 See Kyōkai, Nihon Bungeika, Bungei nenkan, 1951, 5785, 94–95.Google Scholar

5 Shishi Bunroku, Jiyū gakkō (School for Freedom), Tokyo, Asahi Shimbunsha, 1951. Shishi Bunroku is the pen-name for Iwata Toyoo.

6 Sandei Mainichi, June 24, 1951.

7 Itō Sei, op. cit., 225.

8 Nihon Chosakuken Kyōgikai, Bunka jimmeiroku, 126.

9 The societies and associations with which Japanese writers are affiliated are given under the names of the writers in Nihon Chosakuken Kyōgikai, Bunka jimmeiroku.

10 Perhaps the most convenient listings are those of the Civil Information and Education Section, General Headquarters, Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers. A mimeographed booklet entitled Sengo shuppan hon'yaku tosho mokuroku (Index to Translations Published after the War), I (1945–47), published by the Hon'yaku Shuppan Konwakai (Consultants on Publication of Translations), 1948, lists approximately 1200 titles. Another list of translations is found in Sengo hon'yakusho somokuroku (Complete Index of Post-war Translations), published by the Nihon Shuppan Kyokai (Japan Publishers' Association), 1950. This contains about 260 items.

11 Kenkyukai, Sekai Bungaku, comp., Sekai bungei sakka jiten (Dictionary of Literary Authors throughout the World), Tokyo, Nichieisha, 1949, 294297.Google Scholar

12 Shunsuke, Tsurumi, “Nihon no taishū-shōsetsu (Popular fiction in Japan),” in Yume to omokage (Dreams and Shadows), Tokyo, Chuo Koronsha, 1950, 50.Google Scholar

13 Shimbunsha, Mainichi, Nani ga yomarete iru kcu Dokusho yoron chōsa: 1950 nendo (What is being Read? Opinion Survey on Readership for 1950), Tokyo, 1951, 80. The Mainichi Shimbunsha has published a series of opinion surveys on reading preferences conducted by its Yoron Chosabu or Opinion Survey Section. These include, beside the foregoing:Google Scholar

(a) Donna hon ga yomarete iru ka - dai-ikkai shuppan yoron chosa ni mini (The Kind of Books that are being Read—as Seen from the First Opinion Survey on Publications), Tokyo, 1948.

(b) Dokusho yoron chōsa, issen kyūhyaku yonjūkyūnen (Opinion Survey on Readership, 1949), Tokyo, 1949.

The journal Shijō chōsa (Marketing Research), published by the Yoron Kagaku Kyūkai (Association on Opinion Science), Tokyo, frequently prints short articles on the relative popularity of various magazines and books. Shuppan Nyūsu (Publishing News) often gives best-seller lists. Certain other materials published in mimeograph form by a private opinion survey organization have also been seen, but permission to quote them has not been received. The results they contain do not seem to affect our present purposes.

14 Jun'ichirō, Tanizaki, Genji monogatari (The Tale of Genji), Tokyo, Chūō Kōronsha, 1939–41, 26v.Google Scholar

15 Jun'ichirō, Tanizaki, Sasameyuki (The Delicate Snow), Tokyo, Chūō Kōronsha, 19th printing, 1950. The first part of this novel was privately printed in 1944. It was then newly reprinted by the Chūō Kōronsha in 1946–48.Google Scholar

16 Jun'ichirō, Tanizaki, Shōshō Shigemoto no haha (The Lesser Commander Shigemoto's Mother), Tokyo, Mainichi Shimbun, 1950.Google Scholar

17 Kafū, Nagai, “Kafū no nikki (Kaffū's Diary),” Chūō kōron bungei tokushū, Sept., 1951, 4858.Google Scholar

18 Kawakami Tetsutarō, Takeda Taijun, and Usui Yoshimi, “Shōsetsu geppyō (Monthly Review of Shott-stones),” Bungakkai, Jan., 1952, 173.

19 A recent example is Saneatsu, Mushanokōji, “Akuma no bishō (The Smile of the Devil),” Bessatsu bungei shunfu, Oct., 1951, 5869.Google Scholar

10 Naoya, Shiga, An'ya kotō (Road through the Dark Night), Tokyo, Iwanami Shoten, I, 12th printing, 1950; II, 10th revised printing, 1951.Google Scholar This novel first appeared in installments in die magazine Kaizō from January to August, 1921; January to September, 1922; January, 1923; November, 1926 to March, 1927; September, 1927 to January, 1928; June, 1928; and April, 1937. In book form it appeared in two volumes published by the Kaizōsha in 1922 and 1937. The edition published by Iwanami Shoten first came out in 1938.

21 Yamamuro Shizuka, Shiga Naoya kenkyū (Studies in Shiga Naoya), “‘An'ya kōro’ o chūshin ni (With ‘Road through the Dark Night’ as the Central Subject for Discussion),” quoted in Kindai Bungakusha, Gendai Nib on bungaku jiten, 35.

22 Cf. Nakamura Mitsuo, Fūzoku shōsetsuron (On the Genre Novel) [Shimin bungaku (Peoples' Literature) III], Tokyo, Kawade Shobō, 1951, “Kindai riarizumu no tenkai (The Development of Modern Realism),” 60 passim.

23 See, for instance, Hidemi, Kon, “Ugokanu kao (A Face that doesn't Move),” Bungei shunju, Dec, 1951, 206214Google Scholar, in which the author writes of his wife who is afflicted with half-paralysis of her face. Kon seems to be the model for Han Hidesuke in die short-story by Shirō, Ozaki entitled “Kyūshūgun (The Old Shogun),” Chūō kōron bungei tokushu, Jan., 1952, 181198.Google Scholar

24 Itō, Mainichi raiburarii: Nibon no bungaku, 227–228, tells us that the imaginative vigor displayed by Masamune in his “Nihon dasshutsu (Escape from Japan),” first published in Gunzō in Jan., 1949, amazed the literary world.

25 “Uno Koji, “Ōsaka ningen (Osaka Men),” Bungei shunjū, Feb., 1951, 216–251. Ito, Mainicbi raiburarii: Nihon no bungaku, 227, tells us Uno's works now are marked by a “prudent realism”.

26 “Osaragi Jirō, Kikyō (Homecoming), Tokyo, Rokkō Shuppansha, 6th printing, 1950. Osaragi Jirō is the pen-name for Nojiri Kiyohiko.

27 “Osaragi Jirō, “Kurama tengu (The Long-nosed Goblin at Kurama),” Poketto, 1923.

28 “Yoshikawa Eiji, Taikōki (A Record of Toyotomi Hideyoshī), Tokyo, Shinchōsha, 2nd printing, 1941–45, 9v.

29 Yoshikawa Eiji, Sankokushi (History of the Three Kingdoms), Tokyo, Dai Ninon Yūbenkai Kōdansha, 1940–46, 14v.

30 “Yoshikawa Eiji, Miyamoto Musashi, Tokyo, Rokkō Shuppansha, 1950, 10v.

31 Tsurumi, pp. 53–76.

32 For a bibliography on the taishū-shōsetsu, see Tsurumi, 76–80.

33 Hisamatsu Sen'ichi, op. cit., 248, “nikutai-bungaku”.

34 Funahashi Seiichi, “Yamageisha (A Geisha of the Mountains),” Chūō kōron bungei tokushū, Nov., 1950, reprinted in Nihon Bungeika Kyōkai, Sōsaku daihyō senshū, VII, 495–533.

35 Itō Sei, trans., Chatarei fujin no koibito (Lady Chatterley's Lover, by D. H. Lawrence), Tokyo, Koyama Shoten, 1950.

36 Niwa Fumio, Tōsei munesan'yō (Clearance of Debts in the Present Age), Tokyo, Chūō Kōronsha, 1950.

37 Ishizaka Yōjirō, Ishinaka sensei gyōjōki (A Record of the Deportment of Mr. Ishinaka), Tokyo, Shinchōsha, 1950–51, 3v.

38 Ishizaka Yōjirō, Aoi sammyaku (Range of Green Mountains), Tokyo, Shinchōsha, 11th printing, 1949.

39 Ishizaka Yōjirō, Yama no kanata e (To the Other Side of the Mountain), Tokyo, Jitsugyō no Nihon sha, 6th printing, 1950.

40 Ishikawa Tatsuzō, Kaze ni soyogu ashi (A Reed that Bends in the Wind), Tokyo, Shinchōsha, 1950–51, 2v.

41 See, for instance, Sakaguchi Ango, “Hida no kao (The Face of Hida),” Bessatsu bungei shunjū, Sept., 1951, 100–114.

42 Hino Ashihei, “Mugi to heitai (Barley and Soldiers),” Kaizō, Aug., 1938.

43 “Hino Ashihei, “Tsuchi to heitai (Earth and Soldiers),” Bungei shunjū, Oct., 1938.

44 Hino Ashihei, “Hana to heitai (Flowers and Soldiers),” Tokyo, Asahi Sbimbun, 1938–40.

45 The Gisakuha or Shingisakuha (New School of Caricature) is discussed in Ara, “Sengo no bungaku,” 312–313; Itō, Mainicbi raiburarii: Nihon no bungaku, 230.

46 Dazai Osamu, Shayō (Setting Sun), Tokyo, Kadokawa Shoten, 1950.

47 Kamei Katsuichirō in Nihon Bungeika Kyōkai, Bungei nenkan, 1951, 25.

48 Mishima Yukio, Misaki nite no monogatari (Tale at a Promontory), Tokyo, Sakurai Shoten, 1947.

49 Mishima Yukio, Kamen no kokuhaku (Confession of a Mask), Tokyo, Kawade Shobō, 1949.

50 Mishima Yukio, “Kurosuwādo pazuru (Crossword Puzzle),” Bungei sbunjū, Jan., 1952, 254–265.

51 Shiina Rinzō, Eien naru joshō (Eternal Preface), Tokyo, Kawade Shobō, 1948.

52 Ōoka Shōhei, Musasbino fujin (Lady of Musashino Plain), Tokyo, Dai-nihon Yūbenkai Kōdansha, 1951.

53 Ibuse Masuji, Honjitsu kyūshin (No Medical Examinations Today), Tokyo, Bungei Shunjū Shinsha, 1950.

54 Itō, Mainichi raiburarii: Nihon no bungaku, 227.

55 Ibid., 230–231.

56 Ibid., 227. Shiga's work, Bokuto kitan (Strange Story East of the River), is available in the edition published by Iwanami Shoten, Tokyo, 1937.

57 Itō, Mainichi raiburarii: Nihon no bungaku, 231.

58 For comments on Japan's failure to produce a great war literature, see Komatsu Shinroku, “Sensō bungaku no tembō (The Development of War Literature),” in Ara and others, Shōwa bungaku jūnikō, 194–195.

59 Yokomitsu Riichi, Junsui-shōsetsuron (Theory of Pure Fiction), 1935.

60 Aono Suekichi, Gendai bungakuron (On Present-day Literature), Tokyo, Rokkō Shuppansha, ed. 2, 195.1, 36–37.

61 Hayashi Fumiko, Ōsakajō (Osaka Castle), Bessatsu bungei shunjū, March, 1951, 17–22.

62 Itō Sei, “Saiban (Trial),” Chūōkōron bungei tokushū, no. 10 (Jan., 1952), 100–169.

63 Miyoshi Jūrō, Maruoka Akira, and Nishimura Kōji, in “Shōsetsu geppyō (Monthly Review of Short-stories),” Bungakkai, Mar., 1952, 151–152, object to the designation shōsetsu given to Itō's work.

64 Ikushima Ryōichi, Seiyō no shōsetsu to Nihon no shōsetsu (Western Fiction and Japanese Fiction), Tokyo, Mikasa Shobō, 1950, 214, 217.

65 Amino Kiku, “Shōnen-suri (Young Pickpockets),” in Nihon Bungeika Kyōkai, Sōsaku daihyō senshū, VII, Tokyo, 1951, 253–264.

66 Ikushima, op. cit., 217.

67 Ibid., 220.

68 Usui Yoshimi, “Kitai-suru shinnin (New Authors from Whom Much is to be Expected),” Bungakkai, Dec, 1951, 107–113.