Episode 13: Literature of Change in the 1960s—Mishima and Oe

“Ukiyo-e Today, No. 7” by Okamoto Ryusei, 1974 (via Ukiyo-e.org)

Check out Episode 13 of the Read Literature podcast.

Today, we’re talking about the literature of change in the 1960s—how writers took on questions about what it meant to be Japanese in the post-war era and what was the continuing role of Japanese tradition.

We’re looking especially at Yukio Mishima and Kenzaburo Oe.

*This episode incorrectly states that Kenzaburo Oe was born in 1925. He was born in 1935.

Content warning: This episode addresses fascism and suicide.

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The Sea of Fertility Tetralogy by Yukio Mishima

Nip the Buds, Shoot the Kids by Kenzaburo Oe (translated by Paul St. John MacKintosh and Maki Sugiyama)

Other Books Mentioned in This Episode:

Beautiful Star by Yukio Mishima (translated by Steven Dodd, available in UK markets only)

“Patriotism” by Yukio Mishima (translated by Geoffrey W. Sargent) in The Penguin Book of Japanese Short Stories

“The Day He Himself Shall Wipe My Tears Away” (translated by John Nathan) in Teach Us to Outgrow Our Madness 

Find Out More

The Constitution of Japan (English)

Read Japanese Literature’s Review of Yukio Mishima’s Novel Life for Sale

Ruminations on America, 1965. A translation by Hiroaki Sato of a part of Ōe’s essay, including his thoughts about Huckleberry Finn. (CW: Quotes Twain’s use of a racial slur)

The Swedish Academy’s 1994 Press Release about Kenzaburo Oe’s Nobel Prize for Literature

Kenzaburo Oe’s 1994 Nobel Lecture, “Japan, the Ambiguous, and Myself”

The History of Japan Podcast, hosted by Isaac Meyer

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

  • 22: Japan’s Economic Miracle

“Literature” at Japanese Wiki Corpus

Japanese Literature at Facebook


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

Iwamoto Yoshio. “The Nobel Prize in Literature, 1967-1987: A Japanese View” in World Literature Today, 1988.

Keene, Donald. Dawn to the West: Japanese Literature of the Modern Era—Fiction, 4th ed., 1999.

Kersten, Rikki. “The Intellectual Culture of Postwar Japan and the 1968-1969 University of Tokyo Struggles: Repositioning the Self in Postwar Thought” in Social Science Japan Journal, 2009.

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

Napier, Susan J. “Death and the Emperor: Mishima, Ōe, and the Politics of Betrayal” in The Journal of Asian Studies, 1989.

–. Escape from the Wasteland: Romanticism and Realism in the Fiction of Mishima Yukio and Oe Kenzaburo. Harvard, 1991.

Nathan, John. “Introduction” in Teach Us to Outgrow Our Madness. Grove, 1994.

Oe Kenzaburo. “Japan’s Dual Identity: A Writer’s Dilemma” in World Literature Today, 1988.

–. “Nobel Lecture: Japan, the Ambiguous, and Myself” at NobelPrize.org, 1994.

Remnick, David. “Reading Japan” at The New York Yorker Online, 1995. (free)

Sakurai Emiko. “Kenzaburo Ōe: the Early Years” in World Literature Today, 1984.
Schieder, Chelsea Szendi. Coed Revolution: The Female Student in the Japanese New Left. Duke, 2021.

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