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Japanese Literature

Charles Moss World Literature LAE 4469 Summer 2013


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Novels Classic Natsume, Sōseki. Kokoro: A Novel. South Bend, IN: Gateway Editions, 1967. Print. ISBN: 9780809260959 The two part novel begins with a college student has a chance encounter with a man he will grow to admire and call Sensei. The narrator struggles to understand the complex older man, his own place in the world, and his family. The second part of the novel is in the form of a letter from the Sensei to the protagonist explaining his life circumstances and foundations for his philosophy. What are the reasons for the Sensei’s odd mannerisms, mistrust, and monthly visits to his unnamed friend’s grave?

Contemporary/ Young Adult Takami, Kōshun. Battle Royale. San Francisco, CA: VIZ, LLC, 2003. Print. ISBN: 1-56931-778-X Frequently, but erroneously, compared to The Hunger Games, Battle Royale depicts a futuristic Japanese society that has instituted a “military training program” that randomly selects a high school class to participate. The novel mainly follows Shuya Nanahara as he is forced to fight for his life against his classmates and friends in a franticpaced novel that reads fast, despite its 616 page length. As the student’s numbers dwindle, will our animalistic nature win out, or will humanistic compassion prevail?

Contemporary/ Young Adult Mishima, Yukio. The Sailor Who Fell from Grace with the Sea. New York: Vintage International, 1994. Print ISBN: 978-0679750154 Young Noboru’s world is turned around when his widowed mother meets a sailor. His fascination with ships and sailing helps him form a bond with Ryuji that clashes with the philosophy expounded by his dark gang of friends. How far will the young boy go to retain the favor of his friends?



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Ishiguro, Kazuo. Never Let Me Go. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2005. Print. ISBN: 1-4000-4339-5 This dystopian novel that depicts a society that has taken the societal class system to an extreme. There is now a new class of people- clones raised specifically to be organ donors for the general population. Two clones, Tommy and Ruth become romantically involved and cling to the hope that their relationship can survive their intended purpose in the world.

Infusion Tanizaki, Jun'ichirĹ?, and Anthony Hood. Chambers. Naomi. New York: Knopf, 1985. Print. ISBN: 0-394-53663-0 Naomi is the story of a man, Kawai Joji, who becomes infatuated with a much younger, lower class girl he meets at the restaurant she works in. They are both fascinated with American culture. They move in together and begin a relationship that is tested as Naomi’s material taste and social habits evolve over the years. Naomi explores what a man is willing to do to stay with the woman he loves.

Non Fiction Work Ellwood, Robert S. Japanese Religion: A Cultural Perspective. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: PrenticeHall, 1985. Print. ISBN: 9780135092828 This book takes a thorough look at the diverse religions of Japan. Ellwood traces the history of Japanese religion from the earliest myths to the acceptance of Buddhism, arrival of Shintoism, and much later Christianity. The author does an outstanding job of illustrating each religion, describing their rituals, festivals, and rites in vivid detail, while not over whelming the reader.


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Short Stories Classic Himegimi, Mushi “The Princess Who Loved Insects” Tales of the Riverside Middle Counselor. By Robert Backus. Stanford, CA, Stanford University Press. 43. Print. ISBN 0-8047-1260-3

A young daughter of a government official has a rather unusual obsession with caterpillars, much to the disdain of her parents. In a reversal of gender roles, she would give the boys in the neighborhood pretty things in exchange for caterpillars. A young man reads a poem she rights and becomes intrigued by her internal beauty and so makes a visit to see her. Despite her unconventional beauty and eccentric interest in insects, the man is quite taken with her internal beauty.

Contemporary/ Young Adult Shimamoto, Rio. “Inside” Inside and Other Short Fiction: Japanese Women by Japanese Women. By Cathy Layne. Tokyo: Kodansha International, 2006. (P. 43) Print. ISBN: 978-4-7700-3006-1 “Inside” provides an insight into the daily life of a young Japanese teenage girl as she is faced with many of the challenges faced by teenagers the world over: her sexuality and family problems. Her boyfriend is sexually assertive and she struggles to find herself in that relationship as her mother lays ill in the hospital and her father is having an affair.

Infusion Mishima, Yukio. “Thermos Flasks” Mishima, Yukio, and Yukio Mishima. Death in Mid-

summer, and Other Stories. [New York]: New Directions, 1966. Print. ISBN: 978-0811201179 “Thermos Flasks” tells the story of a middle aged Japanese man who travels to San Francisco for business, where he has a chance encounter with a former lover, also in town on business. Both have adopted western style dress and mannerisms, but instantly detect each other in a crowd and make fun of how much they stick out despite their efforts not to. They meet and talk, which leads to an elicit affair.



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Fujino, Chiya “Her Room” Inside and Other Short Fiction: Japanese Women by Japanese Women. By Cathy Layne. Tokyo: Kodansha International, 2006. (P. 125) Print. Chiya Fujino draws a distinct portrait of a woman than is so concerned with appearing proper and polite that her life is temporarily taken over by an acquaintance. Kyoko meets Kithara-san with a group of friends and the other woman takes a liking to her, constantly calling her and inviting herself along to lunches and dinners. Kyoko ends up at the other woman’s house one evening and things get uncomfortable…

Classic Akutagawa, Ryunosuke. “The Spider’s Thread” Japanese Short Stories by Ryunosuke Akutagawa. New York: Liveright, 1961 187-92. Print. This story reflects Chinese influence on early Japanese literature. Buddha glimpses down through a pool into the depths of hell and sees an individual he believes deserves redemption and lowers a spider’s thread to allow the thief Kandata to climb out of Hell. However, while ascending, Kandata notices hordes of other sinners climbing the rope and becomes concerned only with his escape, admonishing all the others to turn back. The spider’s head broke as soon as Klamata let his selfish demands be known, and he fell back to the bowels of Hell. Life on Earth (Paradise) continued on.

Contemporary Shohei, Ooka. "The Nervous Person /." Literary Review 46.1 (2002): 89-102. OmniFile Full Text Mega (H.W. Wilson). Web. 17 June 2013. “The Nervous” person is the most unique of the short stories reviewed for this assignment. It is more Western in its character descriptions than any of the other stories, and also is more concerned with actions than thoughts, which is counter to the traditions of Japanese literature. It tells the story of a WWII veteran with what we identify as PTSD, perfectly functional in some aspects of his life, but unable to do some simple things, such as reading an elaborate work of literature. He is offered pay to write about his war experiences, but simply cannot do so, putting his family in difficult financial circumstances. Trying to avoid the stress of the circumstances, they move constantly and try to make money, but in the end, he must face his internal demons.


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Children’s Literature Shigeharu, Nakano “News of the Earthquake” A Rainbow in the Desert: An Anthology of 20 Century Children’s Literature. Armonk, NY: M.E. Sharpe, 2001. Print. th

An earthquake occurs while a man is away in Tokyo for work, rushing him home to assess the damage. While on the way, he finds out the epicenter for the earthquake was in his town, which leads him to conclude that his house is likely destroyed. He finds the traveling difficult, as the roads had been destroyed, and upon his arrival, find the entire village leveled. His family has to wait a long time because as society has become increasingly “civilized” they have forgotten how to do many other useful things, like clearing a house destroyed by an earthquake, and implores the readers to not fall into the trappings of society and become people who can take care of themselves.


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Poetry Classic Basho, Matsui “Miscellaneous” Traditional Japanese Poetry: An Anthology. By Steven D. Carter. Stanford, CA: Stanford UP, 1991. 374. Print. In this floating world of ours All must meet Komachi’s end.

Classic Monk Tonna ““Miscellaneous” Traditional Japanese Poetry: An Anthology. By Steven D. Carter. Stanford, CA: Stanford UP, 1991. 257. Print. If you cast it all away The load will get much lighter Don’t brush it off And it will break in the snowBamboo by the window

Classic Narihira, Ariwara “Laments” Traditional Japanese Poetry: An Anthology. By Steven D. Carter. Stanford, CA: Stanford UP, 1991. 81. Print.

Upon this pathway, I have long heard others say, Man sets forth at lastYet I had not thought to go So very soon as today.


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Contemporary Ozaki, Kihachi.” A Word” Anthology of Modern Japanese Poetry. By Edith Marcombe. Shiffert and Yuki Sawa. Rutland, VT: Charles E. Tuttle, 1972. 57. Print. ISBN:0-8048-0672-1

I have to select a word for material. It should be talked about in the smallest possible Amount and Have a deep suggestiveness like nature, Bloom from inside its own self, And at the edge of the fate encircling me It will have to become darkly and sweetly ripened.

Of a hundred experiences it always Has to be the sum total of only one. One drop of water dew Becomes the harvest of all dewdrops, A dark evening’s one red point of light Is the night of the whole world.

And after that me poem Like a substance entirely fresh, Released far away from my memory, The same as a scythe in a field in the morning, The same as the ice on a lake in spring, Will suddenly begin to sing from its own reflections.


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Contemporary Takami, Jun “At the Boundary of Life and Death” Anthology of Modern Japanese Poetry. By Edith Marcombe. Shiffert and Yuki Sawa. Rutland, VT: Charles E. Tuttle, 1972. 107. Print.

At the boundary of life and death What exists I wonder? For instance, concerning the boundary of country and country, During the war, on the border of Thailand and Burma, Although I saw it when I crossed through the jungle, Nothing unusual was found at that place. There was nothing like a boundary line drawn. Also at sea when passing directly over the equator Nothing special like a beacon mark was visible. No, at that place was the wonderful dark blue sea. On the Thailand- Burma border was a wonderful sky. After a squall a wonderful rainbow hung in the sky. On the life- death boundary too might there not be something hung like a wonderful rainbow, Even though my surroundings And also my self Were a devastated jungle?

Contemporary Takahashi, Shinkichi “Broken Glasses” Anthology of Modern Japanese Poetry. By Edith Marcombe. Shiffert and Yuki Sawa. Rutland, VT: Charles E. Tuttle, 1972. 97. Print.


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Petals of chrysanthemums have been burnt by flames and blackly scorched. Inside the roaring sounds of the city’s commotion fragrance has faded away. The slaughter keeps on continuously. The bombs of the bombing planes Are released like waterfalls. Immature books have been plasted away, Superfluous desires have been burnt out, The ground is completely filling with poisonous gases. Amongst the accumulated smells of rotting There is only one thing that is not at all shaken, An abandoned pair of glasses.


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Films Documentary Pray For Japan (2012) Runtime 1:37, Rated TV- PG This documentary examines the impact of the Tohoku earthquake and resulting tsunami in 2011. The film contains a lot of home and Japanese news footage that was previously unseen in the United States. It examines the event as well as the community and worldwide response to the event. Some of the most gripping excerpts are interviews with people who lost their entire families in the event and the aftermath. One man recalls how it was originally announced to be a 20 foot wave, and so they weren’t worried because of the protective levee system around the town. However, as the wave drew nearer, it radically increased in size to 60 feet and he realized they were in great danger, but it was too late to escape. He was inside his house as the water levels rose, ripped the house from its foundations, and started carrying him down a river of debris.

Contemporary 13 Assassins (2010) Run time: 141 minutes, MPAA rating: R 13 Assassins is a work of historical fiction that combines several factual events into one incident. In the film, an evil government official is rising in power while terrorizing his subjects. He murders, rapes, and tortures them on a whim despite admonishments for relatives and other officials. When it seems that the cruel master may ascend to power, a group of samurai vow that they will save the country and assassinate him. The samurai gather a small but proficient force and plot a surprise attack. Along the way, they survive counter strikes from their opponent before finally arriving at the site of the final battle: a small town that blocks the road that has been transformed into an ambush site. An epic final battle pits the 13 assassins against a force numbering in the hundreds in a classic example of good versus evil. The film accurate depicts living conditions of the period, as well as the political climate, which was in upheaval, with factions of samurai constantly at war with each other and uniting to counter attempts to establish a federal government that would strip the warlords of their influence and power. Interestingly enough, this film fictionalizes and condenses events that immediately precede the events of the American film The Last Samurai starring Tom Cruise. The true events behind 13 Assassins set in motion the events that would lead to the historical basis for The


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Last Samurai, which is also heavily fictionalized, condensing and altering historical events into one compact script. The filmmakers did an excellent job with the costumes and set design, going a more authentic route than some of the more stylized works that have been released. The film also eschewed the excessive CGI and special effects trend that permeates Hollywood, making the film even more believable. Even the extensive set piece used in the final battle comes across as authentic despite its elaborate construction. Utilizing authentic settings, costumes, and sets allows the viewer to suspend any disbelief and enjoy the movie without having any “that’s just not possible� moments. While 13 Assassins does not provide an in depth look at many aspects of Japanese culture, it is a decent introduction to the history of the country and samurai culture at the end of the age of the Shogunate. The story is very well scripted and executed, keeping the viewer engaged for the duration of the film. Viewers can expect 13 Assassins to offer them an entertaining and semi- educational experience.

Charles Moss