Episode 9: The Women Writers of Meiji Japan

A print of a Meiji-era Japanese woman in Western dress via Wikimedia Commons

Check out Episode 9 of the Read Japanese Literature podcast.

In the last episode, we talked about the coming of the West and the way it impacted Japanese literature.

This time we’re talking about women as they take up a prominent position in the story of Japanese literature for the first time in almost 1000 years.

Special focus on Ichiyō Higuchi and her best-beloved story “Takekurabe”.

Please note that this episode mistakenly attributes quotes from Higuchi’s diary to translator Melek Ortabasi. The translations are by Kyoko Omori.

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In the Shade of the Spring Leaves by Robert Lyons Danly. Includes translations of 9 of Higuchi’s stories, including “Child’s Play”, translated by Robert Lyons Danly

The Modern Murasaki edited by Rebecca Copeland and Melek Ortabasi. Includes a chapter about Ichiyō Higuchi and translated excerpts from her diary

Modern Japanese Literature: From 1868 to the Present Day edited by Donald Keene. Includes “Growing Up,” translated by Edward Seidensticker

More to Read

Daughters of the Samurai: A Journey from East to West and Back by Janice P. Nimura. An historical account of five Japanese girls sent to study in the United States in the 1870s.

Find Out More

“Deep Tokyo: Ichiyo Higuchi” from Pei-Pei Channel. A video tour of Tokyo sites related to Higuchi’s life.

“Where Are the Women Writers? The Missing Literature of Japan’s Edo Period” @ CUPBlog.org. A translator’s reflection on why so little women’s writing from the Edo Period is available to English-language readers.

“Tori-no-Ichi Fair: Experiencing Asakusa’s Amazing Festival! @ Live Japan. More information about how the Otori Festival is celebrated today.

The History of Japan Podcast, hosted by Isaac Meyer

Linfamy’s Japanese History and Folktales YouTube Channel

Understanding Japan: A Cultural History by Professor Mark J. Ravina. Produced by The Great Courses, 2015.

  • 17: The Meiji Restoration

“Literature” at Japanese Wiki Corpus

Japanese Literature at Facebook

Selected Sources

Copeland, Rebecca. Lost Leaves: Women Writers of Meiji Japan, U of HI Press, 2000.

–. “The Meiji Woman Writer ‘Amidst a Forest of Beards’” in Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies, 1997.

–, ed. Women Critiqued: Translated Essays on Japanese Women’s Writing, U of HI Press, 2006.

Copeland, Rebecca and Melek Ortabasi, eds. The Modern Murasaki: Writing by Women of Meiji Japan, Columbia UP, 2006.

Danly, Robert Lyons. In the Shade of the Spring Leaves: The Life of Higuchi Ichiyo, with Nine of Her Best Stories, Norton, 1992.

De Bary, Theodore, et al., eds. Sources of Japanese Tradition, 1600-2000, Columbia, 1964.

Gordon, Andrew. A Modern History of Japan: From Tokugawa Times to the Present, 4th ed. OUP, 2019.

Hideo Kamei. Transformations of Sensibility: The Phenomenology of Meiji Literature. Trans. Michael Bourdaghs. U of MI, 2002. (Open Access)

Kenne, Donald. “Higuchi Ichiyō” in Dawn to the West: Japanese Literature of the Modern Era—Fiction, 4th ed., 1999.

Marcus, Marvin. Japanese Literature from Murasaki to Murakami, Association for Asian Studies, 2015.

Mitsutani, Margaret. “Higuchi Ichiyō: A Literature of Her Own” in Comparative Literature Studies, 1985.
Sakaki Atsuko. “Sliding Doors: Women in the Heterosocial Literary Field of Early Modern Japan” in US-Japan Women’s Journal, 1999.

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