Frontiers and Borderlands of Japanese (Language) Literature
by NISHI Masahiko
I. Gaichi and Indigenous Literature
In present-day Japan, the term gaichi” (for ”Japanese overseas territories”) is an
obsolete word. The reason for this is because immediately following defeat in World War II, Japan had to relinquish all of its colonial territories. Nevertheless, this does not mean that the Japan of today confirms exactly to what was former mainland, ”naichi”
(or ”Japan proper”). The inception of systematic emigration of Japanese people to Hokkaido began with the annexation of this northern territory as a new frontier in 1869. Ever since then, immigrants to Hokkaido have identified themselves as ”naichi-jin”
(or ”people from Japan proper”). One should probably think of this manner of
identification as the daily work of affirmation of the historical fact that the former ”Ezo-chi” (the land of Ezo) was not originally a Japanese territory. The same type of affirmation work is made also by the Ainu when they called immigrants from the Japanese interior by the name of ”Shamo” (neighbor in Ainu) or ”Wa-jin” (nickname of
Similar to the present circumstances and history of the aboriginal peoples of the American continents, there are many occasions when modern borders cut into and divide the spaces in which aboriginal people conduct their daily lives. And it is not rare for aboriginal tribes to become embroiled in national border disputes and be ordered to abandon their previous borders. It would not be overstating things to say that modern Japan took its first step as an imperial nation when it took the region called ”Hokkaido”
and made it into a national territory rather than a zone along Japanese borders.
However, ever since Ezo-chi was annexed as a national territory, the Ainu became targets of assimilation, and no matter how much they tried to accept living reforms that changed their livelihood from hunting and collecting to farming, it took time before they were regarded the same as migrants who had moved in from the interior. As for the relations between immigrants and indigenous peoples, they laid the foundation for a structure of discrimination that can be called nothing short of racism. The expression ”Kyû-Dojin” (for ”former aborigine”) found in the Hokkaido Ainu Protection
Act (1899) revealed one aspect of this. Along with its discrimination against ”new
shin-heimin), modern Japan renewed its embrace of discrimination with commoners” (
its posture toward ”former aborigines.”
Just as with other exmples of every region of the world where aboriginal tribes have succumbed to the political and socio-cultural pressures of immigrants, the
literature of Hokkaido has produced since the Meiji period can be classified into the following four categories.
1) Immigrant literature. Starting with the settlers and colonizers who looked to the old warrior class as their ancestral body, the laborers who interoduced and developed large-scale farming, mining, and fishing industries (which included overseas workers and victimes who were brought over from Korea) are the people who constitute the mainstream of Hokkaido literature. Exemplars of this category are Arishima Takeo‟s ”The Descendants of Cain” (1917), Kobayashi Takiji‟s ”The Crab Canning Boat”
(1929) ; Lee Hoesung‟s ”Again Another Road” (1969).
2) Reports on indigenous culture made by intellectuals who visited in the name of conducting missionary or scientific surveys. The pioneers in this field were the Englishman, John Batchelor, the Pole, Bronislaw Pilsudski and the Japanese linguist, Kindaichi Kyôsuke.
3) Members of indigenous groups who expressed themselves (sometimes bilingually) and had won the favor of the above-mentioned intellectuals. This applies to people such as Chiri Yukie, the transcriber and translator of ”Collected Songs of Ainu Gods” (1923)
and the poet Batchelor Yaeko who wrote ”For the Young Ainu” (1931).
While they also seemed apparently servile to colonialist Japan‟s policy, they
should probably be considered as representatives of Ainu descent who, through literary expression, protested against the stereotype of the ”disintegrating Ainu.” This attitude,
which pushed Ainu consciousness to the forefront while using the Japanese language, was succeeded to the work of younger Ainu writers such as Iboshi Hokuto and Moritake Takeichi. The decline of Ainu language and culture is increasingly serious, but the contributions to Japanese language literature by indigenous peoples are expectable with an eye to the future. The rise of indigenous literature in all places around the world make it certain.
naichi writers who aimed to face down the coloniality of Hokkaido. 4) Real experiences of
In addition to early efforts like Chûjo Yuriko‟s ”Koropokkurs Come Riding upon the
Winds” (written in 1918) and Oguma Hideo‟s ”A Flying Sleigh” (1935), works such as
Takeda Taijun‟s ”The Festival of the Wood and Lake” (1958) and Ikezawa Natsuki‟s ”The
Peaceful Earth” (2003) constitute another one of the most forward battle lines of modern literature that critically considers the role that the indigenous-embracing nation-state should play.
This paper intends to focus on how Japanese people (that is, people from the mainland) and indigenous and local people existed in the space called gaichi, and how
the shape of that experimental co-existence was treated in literature. Imperial Japan
gradually expanded the space that became its overseas territories, and it not only sent people there from the homeland there, but it also forced the Japanese language on local people who were not from the mainland, and, with this ”national langauge”, it
gaichi literature is the encouraged their participation in literature. In short,
collaborative work of Japanese settlers from the interior and native inhabitants of the exterior. To say what follows in advance, I would like, above all, to confirm that Hokkaido was the place that served as the first test site for this collaborative work.
II. The Continental and Southern Advances
Concurrent with its advance to the north, Imperial Japan turned to the Asian Continent and South Sea Islands as it pushed forward with the expansion of territory and the emigration of Japanese from the homeland. This included events such as the cession of Taiwan (1895) by Q‟ing China, the acquisition of South Sakhalin and the
take-over of concession rights to the Liaodong peninsula (1905) from Russia, the annexing of Korea (1910) in the absorbed form of the Kingdom of Joseon and the military occupation and take-over of the Micronesian Islands, a former German territory, on the coattails of World War I. (The territory of Okinawa, derived from the ”disposition of the Ryûkyû” (Ryûkyû shobun) will be discussed separately in Section
V.) In these regions, the extra-territorial acquisition of possessions by Westerners took place from the mid-nineteenth century on. And there were also cases like the Kingdom of Jesong, which like Japan, embarked on establishing itself as a modern nation-state in order to protect the Western colonization. There were also regions like Taiwan where, since the Q‟ing period, a deadlock had already developed between Chinese immigrants and various native groups. However, the longer each region‟s history was, the more
Japanese people from the homeland projected these overseas territories as lands overflowing with exoticism. Immigrants from Japan proper to these lands, which relative to Hokkaido were densely populated, tended to be military personnel, government officials, merchants and female laborers. And, unlike in Hokkaido, active labor movements centering on people from the mainland were rare. But in its place, powerful government rule was needed in order to suppress anti-Japanese ethnic movements.
The development of railroad networks and the expansion of sea routes in China and the South Sea caused an acceleration of human traffic between Japan proper and its overseas territories. A lot of gaichi literature took the form of travel journals. And
while, during the Sino- and Russo-Japanese Wars, this literature was still the exclusive domain of soldiers like Mori Ôgai and war correspondents like Tayama Katai, from
Taishô period on, it became a new field of Japanese literature in which anyone could participate.
Japanese rule, which put the Taiwanese colonial governor‟s office at the apex,
often encountered armed uprising by Taiwanese natives. Satô Haruo, who visited
Taiwan as a traveler, left a short sketch in the form of a travel journal, ”Musha” (1925),
which stages a small mountain village immediately after a bloody insurrection by indigenous militants. The work not only depicts the scars carved into indigenous society by Japanese rule, but also portrays the everyday lives of native and Japanese women who earns a scant living in the Taiwanese hinterland. It demonstrates the new
gaichi literature. In addition to interoducing indigenous Taiwanese possibility of
folklore, Satô‟s ”Demon Bird” (1923) makes a dig at the „civilized nation‟ that,
manipulated by groundless rumors, massacred numerous Koreans immediately after the Great Kantô Earthquake. It is a work that is extremely critical of civilization.
According to many people from the interior, the overseas territories offered alluring new jobs. Nakanishi Inosuke, who was a journalist of The Pyongyang Daily
, had the experience of being imprisoned for exposing the oppression of Newspaper
miners after the annexation of Korea. Human contacts with Korean prisoners are skillfully drawn on in his work, ”Those Fed by Red Earth” (1922). Even among the
experiments of Japanese-written Korean literature, his attitude calling for solidarity through literature is outstanding. It protested against the moral decay of Korean society at a historical time when the movement for the recovery of independence was being entirely suppressed and the land was being plundered. Nakanishi was also engaged in the translation and introduction of Korean-language novels.
Nakajima Atsushi found employment in the South Sea Agency of Palau in 1941. He had spent his childhood in Korea together with his father, who worked as a junior high school teacher in Seoul. In ”Mariyan” (1942) he depicts a female member of the
island intelligentsia who had previously studied abroad in Japan as a symbolic character of the Pacific Islands on the road to modernization. In the 1920s and 1930s, the introduction of works that made a point of selling ”exoticism” got udnerway in
Japan: for example, Loti and Gide from the French-speaking world, and Stevenson and Conrad from the English (Stevenson was one of the most favorite writers of Nakajima). Such conditions of this era are reflected in the discovery of a Japanese translation of ”Le
marriage de Loti” on the bookshelf of the Kanak woman, Mariyan.
Shanghai was a port city that underwent rapid growth, with the English and the French concessions established at the end of the Opium war. Many industrials and intelligentsia from Japan also began to stream to Shanghai. Surely it can be said that
Yokomitsu Riichi‟s ”Shanghai” (1928-31) was a book that truly excelled among Japanese novels that depicted the cosmopolitan city. The work skillfully distributes characters who color the landscape of Shanghai: from a Japanese man who feels
that ”physically-occupied space is flowing unremittingly into the hands of Japanese territory” to a Japanese woman who works in a ”Turkish bath”; to Russian beggars and
prostitutes who wander through Asia after abandoning post-revolutionary Russia: and finally to a female activist of the Chinese Communist Party. Meanwhile, in addition to creating a vivid profile of the Shanghai at the time of Shanghai Incident, this is a work that cynically depicts Japanese people‟s wandering in Asia. In order to take a literary
and historical look back on to the Shanghai of the 20th century, the Japanese, Chinese and Korean do not suffice. A comparative literary approach that goes as far as including languages like English, French and Russian would be certainly indispensable.
However, along with the intensification of the Second Sino-Japanese War, Japanese overseas territories including Shanghai were being pushed to culturally reorganize within the vaporous construct of ”Greater East Asia.” It was the coming of
a period when anyone using this region as a base of activity for self-expression had to state his position as either ”pro-” or ”anti-Japanese.” (For writing in Japanese, it
became a situation where people practically did not have the option to be ”anti-Japanese.”) A clear example of this is the Greater East Asian Conference of Writers held by the Japanese Literary Patriotic Association from 1942 to 1944. At these events, writers representing not only all regions of Imperial Japan but also ”pro-Japanese” writers of Manchukuo and Nanjing government were invited.
Looking back from the present, it would be easy to declare that it was a farce. It would be crucial, however, to make this problematic event into something from which we can learn, that is, that the ritual of an international writers‟ conference has the propensity
Tanaka Hidemitsu‟s ”Drunken Boat” (1948) is a retrospective novel that depicts a
literary circle composed of Japanese and Koreans who welcome Manchukuo writers in Seoul after they have attended the Second Greater East Asian Conference of Writers in Tokyo in 1943. Its portrayal of official, pro-govenrment Japanese writers in overseas territories as a „drunken boat” is interesting.
III. Literature of Overseas Migrant Territories – North America, South
America and Manchukuo
New territories of the Greater Japan absorbed quite a lot of ambitious Japanese people but Taiwan and Korea, which had dense populations, did not necessarily provide
adequate conditions as the promised land where subsistence farmers from the mainland could move. Consequently, as destinations of migrants from Japan proper, places like Hawaii (a U.S. territory from 1898) and North America along with Hokkaido were attractive. The speculations of postal shipping and emigration companies also operated widely in the beginning of 1890s. It was the holy trinity: agricultural reform, maritime transportation and colonization policies. (A similar example of situation of this type can be seen in overseas emigration operation of Germany.)
North America (especially the U.S.) was not necessarily the dream destination of agricultural and fishing migrants alone. With exchange students like Tsuda Umeko and Uchimura Kanzô who learned at the east coast, school students who worked as house
kinrô gakusei) went one after another chiefly to the west coast starting in the servants (
1880s. Under this backdrop, there was an amendment to the conscription law that permitted applications from young men currently studying abroad to postpone their military conscription. There was an admiration for the „sacred land of freedom‟ among
young people who were discouraged after fighting for the Freedom and People‟s Rights
Movement. The political hues of journeys of people such as Katayama Sen and Kôtoku
Shûsui to America were deep. In ”The Broken Commandment” (1906), Shimazaki
Tôson attributes his main protagonist with a resolve to „go to Texas.‟ The meaning of
Segawa Ushimatsu‟s crossing to America was supposed to be closer to that of a working student or a political exile. Winning popularity with the expression ”Merican Jap” in the
early Shôwa Era, Tani Jôji‟s portrayal of America is extremely important for considering the acute experiences of Japanese student workers in America. In addition, later there were distinctive Japanese who found their lifework while studying abroad in the United States. There were people like Yone Noguchi (Noguchi Yonejirô), who became known as
an English-language poet; Abiko Kyûtaro, the founder of Japanese newspaper of San
Francisco, ”Nichibei Times”; and Maedakô Hiroichirô, the proletarian writer.
However, for migrants working abroad, the American cultural topography, which was probably fascinating in the eyes of young, empty-handed people, did not fully satisfy their dreams in the same way. The racist gaze that was directed at Chinese laborers was also directed at Japanese ones, and the emigration/immigration framework that was supposed to be guaranteed through intergovernmental cooperation was curtailed. No matter how much first generation Japanese immigrants (issei)
aspired for permanent residency, they were kept away from citizenship. They were stigmatized as ”people incapable of assimilation.” The Japanese migrants organized
their own Japanese society, and they had no other choice but to discover their positions of expression and political claims based on their own identity.
Okina Kyûin, who was himself an author, was a theorist who advocated the importance of literary activity in places where Japanese had migrated. ”From now on,
imin); it is time to Japanese living in America are cutting short their lives as emigrants (embark on life as immigrants (ijûmin). Through our descendants, we will certainly
acquire people after the mid-twentieth century who, using world-class languages –
using English – will write stories. Until that day arrives, we, as intermediaries, must profess, according to the traditions of the Japanese people, the emotional pain that we have endured in another country.” In 1924, Okina proffered these remarks and then
returned to Japan. This was the year that emigration operations from Japan to the U.S. were completely suspended. After this until the end of the Second World War, the North American community of Japanese people encountered a winter-like season.
When the emigration boom to North America ended, Brazil became the country that was the new center of attention. Pre-departure Japanese dreams of a „Brazil
steeping in the business of coffee‟ were immediately smashed after their arrival. But
Japanese-language journalism established by those who escaped from the contractual farmlands came to life, and a literary fever took off. In overseas Japanese societies there were many general enthusiasts of haiku and waka, and among the migrants who came
to Brazil after finishing Japanese education, there was no small number of people who had gained a basic literary knowledge before leaving Japan.
Ishikawa Tatsuzô‟s debut work of fame, ”The Grass-like People” (1935-1940) is a
semi-autobiographical documentary novel based on his own experiences of boarding the same ship as migrants traveling overseas. The novel does not go as far as depicting the process of Japanese immigrants getting established in Brazil. And the appearance that the novel is riding the wave of gaichi literature of that same period is strong. (This novel is the first novel to receive the Akutagawa Prize, which constituted an authority that encouraged gaichi literature.) Around the same time, Japanese language literature from Brazil was in a stage of strengthening its foundation, as it moved toward a realization of the ideals that Okina Kyûin of the United Sates advocated earlier.
Japanese language literature in Brazil called itself ”Colonia Literature.” (In
pre-war-defeat Japan it was customary to call any land of overseas migration by the name of Colony (shokumin-chi).)
However, with the beginning of the 1930s, pressures to assimilate heightened even in Brazil, and racist policies that limited the number of non-European immigrants were being adopted. Accordingly, Manchukuo soon materialized as the destination for sending laborers from the Japanese homeland.
Originally, as an overseas territory infused with exoticism, the leased land of
Kwantung (Dairen), like Shanghai, was seen as the sacred land of modern literature. And then Manchukuo, setting its capitol in Hsinking (present-day Changchun), became the testing grounds for a new national policy in literature. Moreover, unlike other overseas territories, the multi-lingualism and culturalism of the Manchukuo Empire
gozoku-kyôwa). were championed by the slogan ”Harmony between the Five Nations” (
Just as the American continents of Japanese immigrants had come to be seen as a new location for Japanese-language literature, Manchukuo also became a country where Japanese-language literature could blossom. Manchukuo should not have been a country where Japanese as one of the minorities had to suffer destitution and privation. But Manchukuo was not one of the gaichi‟s by its nature, because, if it was to be an
independent nation at all, it was necessary to ensure a place for the activities of non-Japanese, ethnically or linguistically, writers, for example, Nikolai Baikov, the russian (-language) writer and Imamura Eiji, the Japanese-language writer of Korean descent.
But, as a result, the dream of Manchurian literature proved to be no more than a dream. The majority of anticipated Chinese-language writers from the northern part of China went off to Shanghai, which was the center of anti-Japanese literature. Another reason is that Manchukuo itself collapsed, just after having furnished a location for the activities of vangard and converted writers who had come from the mainland―and soon
after opening the door for Japanese writers who were born or raised in Manchukuo.
IV. War Defeat and Total Repatriation
On August 15, 1945 (in Japan Time) approximately 6,600,000 Japanese encountered the end of the war abroad in the overseas territories. Representing more than nine percent of Japan‟s total population of roughly 70,000,000 (leaving out those who had departed for the ”colonies” in foreign countries), this was a dreadful number. As a reference, the following is a breakdown of the location of the 6,600,000 people:
? The military district of Russia (Manchuria, Nothern Korea, Sakhalin and
Kurile Islands): 2,720,000
? Military district of China (China – excluding Manchuria, Taiwan and Nothern
French Indochine): 2,000,000
? Military district of the U.S. (the Philippines, Southern Korea and area of the
North Pacific Islands): 990,000
? Military district of Australia (Borneo and Eastern New Guinea): 140,000
? Military district of Southeast Asia (Southeast Asia and Pacific Islands,
excluding all regions mentioned above): 750,000
Spanning the Extreme East to Southeast Asia, this Japanese occupation zone (the area where Japanese from the mainland advanced) rushed into a long process of decolonization in the form of repatriation and political reshuffling. Consequently, at the outset, it was necessary that the Japanese in these regions be completely moved out. The wishes of the Japanese side, which aimed to guarantee the safety of the Japanese people, were in accord with the policy of evacuation.
The mass migration of people after the war defeat caused the circulation of a large quantity of documentary literature in Japanese markets. Its majority glorified the experiences of military campaigns and the life-endangering experiences of repatriation. Although they were works that exaggerated and reminisced nostalgically about life in the overseas territories, the mission of the post-war writers was to build the ethical bulwark called literature against this type of artless, recollective taste. As a result, the writers struggled against war heroism as well as forgetting that comes from the trauma of combat and evacuation.
Ôoka Shôhei, who wrote ”Taken Captive: A Japanese POW‟s Story” (1947)
and ”Fires on the Plain” (1951), gave himself the task of giving words to extreme
experiences. A repatriate from the American military zone himself, Ôoka Shôhei, used
calculated literary techniques to depict a Japanese war prisoner‟s experience of moving
from a sense of shame to criminality following liberation by U.S. armed forces. Moreover, despite looking back on his experiences in the military in the Philippines, he feared that the process of using one‟s personal experiences alone might facilitate the
rise of a cliquish citizentry through collective war memories. Thus, ”A Record of the
Battle of Leite” (1971) was another effort to flesh out the memories of the battle of Leite according to Philippine people and American soldiers as well.
One could say that these experiments constitute Japan‟s response to the post-war
literature of Europe. Whether a national citizentry that suffered defeat like Japanese or German, or whether a Jew who was the extreme victime of targeting for total destruction, human beings that had survived the cruelty of war were similar from the point of feeling guilt and shame toward neighbors and friends who were sacrificed. The lives of human beings who have been released, alive, from the hell of the battlefield are mutually entwined in unlimited traumas and taboos; and no matter their national belonging or language, the survivors share mutual problems. The same thing can be said out about the literature of Hasegawa Shirô and Ishihara Yoshirô which was based
on experiences of detainment in Siberia.
Demobilized soldiers and repatriates were not the only people who had to go on living in a cruel post-war age. This could also be said about writers who were drafted by
military authorities and forced to produce national policy literature during the war. Ever since ”Wheat and Soldiers” (1938), which is based on the experience of military
campaigns in the Second Sino-Japanese War, the once hailed popular writer, Hino Ashihei struggled with a sense of inner conflict and responsibility as a war-time collaborator. He also struggled simultaneously with the critical gaze that veterans were forced to face in post-war Japan. And, in ”Floating Clouds” (1951), Hayashi Fumiko
depicts Japanese man and woman who, after the war, look back on the honeymoon days spent in the occupied French Indochine. A person who was drafted as a writer in the south, she makes effective use of battle front observations (especially opinions about women in the overseas territories) within a framework of post-war literature. As for writers who cooperated with the war, their post-war era overlapped, for example, with that of the Nazi collaborators in France. Those men and women had to take on difficulties such as disguising themselves or undergoing a second ideological conversion.
Conversely, repatriates of the younger generation who did not feel a strong burden to shoulder responsibility for the war also debuted as new bearers of post-war literature. There were writers like Kiyooka Takayuki, who wrote ”Acasias in Dairen”
(1970), and Gotō Meisei, who wrote ”Dreams Talk” (1976). There was a great gap
between those Japanese people who only had the experience of conceptualizing the overseas territories and those who were born or raised there. This is seen, for example, in the sensitivity of reactions to news about Korean War or the Algerian War of Independence. Upon hearing the news of Algerian independence, the people in post-war Japan whose sensibilities identified with the image of the Algerian French were probably limited to those who had experienced war defeat as citizens born in the colonies. And if, immediately after hearing the broadcast from Pyongyang or Seoul, the memory of the 38th parallel was suddenly revived with the overwhelming sense of presence, that type of feeling was the unique disposition of someone who had actually experienced crossing the 38th parallel. Pre-war Japanese literature only portrayed the overseas territories conforming to the national policy, but in the post-war one, the former gaichi are colored with the internal suffering and nostalgy of individual type. But this type of suffering does not have nothing in common with that of the people who were involved in the process of decolonization. (Similar tendencies can be strongly seen in German writers‟ attitude toward former Prussian territories.)
Among this type of literature, the positions of Takeda Taijun and Hotta Yoshie are unique. Takeda Taijun, who was in Shanghai when Japan was defeated, was also present at the 1944 Third Annual Greater East Asian Conference of Writers in Nanjing. When he began to write, he focused chiefly on the daily offensiveness that imbued the