We have a lot going on around here. Books are pouring in, and our first round of Spring Reviews will be posted in about a week. Some great titles to tell you about—as per usual, some old, some new.
In honor of what happened in Tokyo recently, I’ll leave you this for the in-between-time:
Now, educate yourself:
Early works of Japanese literature were heavily influenced by cultural contact with China and Chinese literature, often written in Classical Chinese. Indian literature also had an influence through the diffusion of Buddhism in Japan. Eventually, Japanese literature developed into a separate style in its own right as Japanese writers began writing their own works about Japan, although the influence of Chinese literature and Classical Chinese remained until the end of the Edo period. Since Japan reopened its ports to Western trading and diplomacy in the 19th century, Western and Eastern literature have strongly affected each other and continue to do so.
The Meiji period marks the re-opening of Japan to the West, and a period of rapid industrialization. The introduction of European literature brought free verse into the poetic repertoire; it became widely used for longer works embodying new intellectual themes. Young Japanese prose writers and dramatists struggled with a whole galaxy of new ideas and artistic schools, but novelists were the first to successfully assimilate some of these concepts.
A new colloquial literature developed centering on the "I novel", with some unusual protagonists such as the cat narrator of Natsume Sōseki's Watakushi wa neko de aru (I Am a Cat).[dubious – discuss] Natsume Sōseki also wrote the famous novels Botchan and Kokoro (1914). Shiga Naoya, the so called "god of the novel," and Mori Ōgai were instrumental in adopting and adapting Western literary conventions and techniques. Ryūnosuke Akutagawa is known especially for his historical short stories. Ozaki Kōyō, Kyōka Izumi, and Ichiyo Higuchi represent a strain of writers whose style hearkens back to early-Modern Japanese literature.
In the early Meiji period (1868–1880s), Fukuzawa Yukichi authored Enlightenment literature, while pre-modern popular books depicted the quickly changing country. Then Realism was brought in by Tsubouchi Shōyō and Futabatei Shimei in the mid-Meiji (late 1880s–early 1890s) while the Classicism of Ozaki Kōyō, Yamada Bimyo and Kōda Rohan gained popularity. Ichiyō Higuchi, a rare woman writer in this era, wrote short stories on powerless women of this age in a simple style in between literary and colloquial. Kyōka Izumi, a favored disciple of Ozaki, pursued a flowing and elegant style and wrote early novels such as The Operating Room (1895) in literary style and later ones including The Holy Man of Mount Koya (1900) in colloquial.
Romanticism was brought in by Mori Ōgai with his anthology of translated poems (1889) and carried to its height by Tōson Shimazaki etc. and magazines Myōjō and Bungaku-kai in early 1900s. Mori also wrote some modern novels including The Dancing Girl (1890), Wild Geese (1911), then later wrote historical novels. Natsume Sōseki, who is often compared with Mori Ōgai, wrote I Am a Cat (1905) with humor and satire, then depicted fresh and pure youth in Botchan (1906) and Sanshirô (1908). He eventually pursued transcendence of human emotions and egoism in his later works including Kokoro (1914) his last and unfinished novel Light and darkness (1916).