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.

Support this podcast by buying from Bookshop.org. 

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.

Episode 8: Meiji Literature and Japan’s Most Famous Literary Cat

In this 1874 print by Kyōsai, Japanese yōkai adapt to the modern era.
via the Museum of International Folk Art

Check out Episode 8 of the Read Japanese Literature podcast.

In this episode, we’re looking at the Meiji Era of Japanese history and its literature.

The shogunate is replaced.

Japan looks outward to the West and inward toward itself.

And a man named Natsume Sōseki chronicles it all from the perspective of a stray cat.

Support this podcast by buying from Bookshop.org. 

I Am a Cat by Natsume Soseki

Kusamakura by Natsume Soseki

More by Soseki:

Find Out More

A synopsis of I am a Cat via Somesmart.com

The Meiji at 150 Project at UBC

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

Fujii, James A. “Contesting the Meiji Subject: Sōseki’s Neko Reconsidered” in Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies, 1989.

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

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

McClellan, Edwin. “An Introduction to Sōseki” in Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies, 1959.

McKinney, Meredith. “Introduction” in Kusamakura. Penguin Classics, 2008.

Fillmore, Millard. Letter to the Emperor of Japan, 13 November 1852.

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

Nathan, Richard. Soseki’s Cat: A Quantum Leap for Japanese Literature at RedCircleAuthors.com, 2021.

Perry, Matthew C. Letter to the Emperor of Japan, 14 July 1853.

Episode 7: Kaidan—Japan’s Ghost Stories

An image of Okiku, the ghost who inspired The Ring, by Toyohara Kunichika (via Wikimedia Commons)

Check out Episode 7 of the Read Japanese Literature podcast.

In this episode, we’ll be talking about Ueda Akinari and his Tales of Moonlight and Rain, some of the most influential Japanese ghost stories ever written.

A raging intellectual debate

A supernatural party game

And a friend just dying to keep his promises

Support this podcast by buying from Bookshop.org. 

Find Out More

“Japanese Confucian Philosophy” at Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy

“Japanese Philosophy: Neo-Confucianism, the Samurai Code and Tokugawa Society” at Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy

“The Kokugaku (Native Japan Studies) School” at Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy

The History of Japan Podcast, hosted by Isaac Meyer

Ueda Akinari 1734-1809: Scholar, Poet, Writer of Fiction by Blake Morgan Young (Open Access PhD)

Zach Davisson’s website, Hyakumonogatari Kaidankai—Translated Japanese Ghost Stories and Tales of the Weird and Strange

“The Real Japanese Story That Helped Inspire ‘The Ring’ at iHorror.com

“Smartening Up” by Aoko Matsuda at Granta Magazine

Linfamy’s Japanese History and Folktales YouTube Channel

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

“Literature” at Japanese Wiki Corpus

Japanese Literature at Facebook

Selected Sources

Araki, James T. “A Critical Approach to the Ugetsu Monogatari” in Monumenta Nipponica, 1967.

Chambers, Anthony, trans. “Introduction” in Tales of Moonlight and Rain, 2008.

–. “Hankai: A Translation from Harusame Monogatari” in Monumenta Nipponica, 1970.

Davisson, Zack. Yurei: The Japanese Ghost, 2015.

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

Kato Kazumitsu. “Some Notes on Mono no Aware” in Journal of the American Oriental Society, 1962.

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

Meyer, Isaac. “Episode 355: Tales of Moonlight and Rain”.  History of Japan Podcast, 2020.

Reider, Noriko T. “The Emergence of ‘Kaidan-Shū’:The Collection of Tales of the Strange and Mysterious in the Edo Period” in Asian Folklore Studies, 2001.

Roddy, Stephen J. “In Praise of Jeweled Streams: ‘Ugetsu Monogatari’, Nativism, and Tea” in Japanese Language and Literature, 2015.

Saunders, Dale. “‘Ugetsu Monogatari’ or Tales of Moonlight and Rain” in Monumenta Nipponica, 1966.

Teeuwen, Mark. “Review: Kokugaku vs. Nativism” in Monumenta Nipponica, 2006.

Whitehouse, Wilfred, trans. “Shiramine” in Monumenta Nipponica, 1938.

Young, Blake Morgan, trans. “‘Hankai’ A Tale from the Harusame Monogatari by Ueda Akinari” in Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies, 1972.

Episode 6: High and Low Literature in Edo Japan

Saikaku’s illustration of Yonosuke sailing for the Island of Women.

Check out Episode 6 of the Read Japanese Literature podcast.

This episode is marked mature.

How does “this fleeting world” transform from a Buddhist precept to a name for the red-light district?

What did reading look like in early Modern Japan?

And how many dildos does a man need to pack for a trip to the Island of Women?

It’s time to talk about high and low literature in Edo Japan.

Support this podcast by buying from Bookshop.org. 

Early Modern Japanese Literature: An Anthology, 1600-1900 ed. Hauro Shirane

Find Out More

The Freer-Sackler Library’s collection of Illustrated Japanese books.

Eminent scholar of Japanese literature Donald Keene on Saikaku: The Comic Novelist.

History of Japan Podcast, hosted by Isaac Meyer

Linfamy’s Japanese History and Folktales YouTube Channel

“Literature” at Japanese Wiki Corpus

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

  • 11: Japan’s Isolation in the Tokugawa Period

Japanese Literature at Facebook

Selected Sources

Drake, Chris. “Introduction” in Excerpts from Life of a Sensuous Man, Aksornsami Press, 2010.

Huffman, James L. Creating a Public: People and Press in Meiji Japan, University of Hawaii, 1997.

Korniki, P. F. “Literacy Revisited: Some Reflections on Rirchard Rubinger’s Findings” in Monumenta Nipponica, 2001.

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

Moretti, Laura. “Kanazoshi Revisited: The Beginnings of Japanese Popular Literature in Print” in Monumenta Nipponica, 2010.

Rubinger, Richard. “From ‘Dark Corners’ into ‘The Light’: Literacy Studies in Modern Japan” in History of Education Quarterly, 1990.

Shirane, Haruo, ed. Early Modern Japanese Literature—An Anthology, 1600-1900. Columbia, 2002.

Episode 5: Setsuwa and Medieval Japanese Buddhism

A 15th century illustration of Kiyohime

Check out Episode 5 of the Read Japanese Literature podcast.

Enjoy the story of a vengeful would-be lover who turns into a 40-foot snake, a sharp-witted woman with criticisms of her husband’s equipment, and a curmudgeonly Buddhist priest who learns to love poetry. In this episode, we’re talking about setsuwa—medieval Japanese anecdotes. Many of them originate as Buddhist preaching, so we’ll also take a look at “Kamakura Buddhisms”: Pure Land, Zen, and Nichiren.

Support this podcast by buying your copy from Bookshop.org. 

Shirane, Haruo, ed. Traditional Japanese Literature: An Anthology, Beginnings to 1600. Columbia, 2008.

Tales of Times Now Past, translated by Marian Ury, U of Michigan, 1992.

Find Out More

“Smartening Up” by Aoko Matsuda

History of Japan Podcast, hosted by Isaac Meyer

Linfamy’s Japanese History and Folktales YouTube Channel

“Literature” at Japanese Wiki Corpus

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

  • Pure Land Buddhism and Zen Buddhism

Japanese Literature at Facebook

Selected Sources

Childs, Margaret H. “Kyōgen-Kigo: Love Stories as Buddhist Sermons” in Japanese Journal of Religious Studies (1985).

Dykstra, Yoshiko K. “Miraculous Tales of the Lotus Sutra: The Dainihonkoku Hokkegenki” in Monumenta Nipponica (1977).

De Bary, Theodore, et. al, eds. Sources of Japanese Tradition: From Earliest Times to 1600, Columbia, 1964.

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

Shirane, Haruo, ed. Traditional Japanese Literature: An Anthology, Beginnings to 1600. Columbia, 2008.

Episode 4: Yoshitsune Ballads and Tomoe Drama

A 19th century woodblock print of Yoshitsune and Benkei fighting with swords via Wikimedia Commons

Check out the Read Japanese Literature podcast.

We’re talking about two central genres of Medieval Japanese literature—the warrior ballad and Noh drama. We’ll see two characters from The Tale of the Heike again, including the valiant female warrior Tomoe. This time, she’s a mournful ghost.

Support this podcast by buying your books from Bookshop.org.

Ataka at The-Noh.com (free online)

“The Story of Yoshitsune” in Traditional Japanese Literature: An Anthology, Beginnings to 1600, Columbia, 2008.

Tomoe at The-Noh.com (free online)

Warrior Ghost Plays from the Japanese Noh Theater: Parallel Translations with Running Commentary, Translated by Chifumi Shimazaki, 2010.


Yoshitsune: A Fifteenth-Century Japanese Chronicle, Translated by Helen Craig McCollough, Stanford, 1966.

Find Out More

Samurai Rising: The Epic Life of Minamoto Yoshitsune by Pamela S. Turner, illustrated by Gareth Hinds, 2016. (YA narrative nonfiction biography of Minomoto Yoshitsune)

The-Noh.com

“Tomoe Gozen: Badass Women in Japanese History” at Tofugu.com

The History of Japan Podcast, hosted by Isaac Meyer

Japanese Literature at Facebook

Linfamy’s Japanese History and Folktales YouTube Channel

“Literature” at Japanese Wiki Corpus

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

  • Lecture 7: The Rise of the Samurai
  • Lecture 9: Samurai Culture in the Ashikaga Period
  • Lecture 10: Japan at Home and Abroad, 1300-1600
  • Lecture 12: Japanese Theater: Noh and Kabuki

Sources

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

De Bary, Theodore, et. al, eds. Sources of Japanese Tradition: From Earliest Times to 1600, Columbia, 1964.

McAlpine, Helen and William. Japanese Tales and Legends, Oxford, 1989.

Mori, Masaki. Epic Grandeur: Toward a Comparative Poetics of the Epic. State University Press of New York, 1997.

Oyler, Elizabeth. “Gio: Women and Performance in the ‘Heike Monogatari’.” Harvard Review of Asiatic Studies, 2004.

Shirane, Haruo, ed. Traditional Japanese Literature: An Anthology, Beginnings to 1600. Columbia, 2008.

Episode 3: The Tale of the Heike

A 19th century woodblock print of Tomoe from The Mirror of Beauties Past and Present via Wikimedia Commons

Check out the Read Japanese Literature podcast.

Episode 3: The Tale of the Heike—The great samurai epic and the rise of the samurai class.

Support this podcast by buying your copy of The Tale of the Heike from Bookshop.org. 

Find Out More

A. L. Sadler’s text of The Tale of the Heike (free online)

Website for The Tale of the Heike (Heike monogatari)

  • Reading notes and summaries of the entire Tale of the Heike

The History of Japan Podcast, hosted by Isaac Meyer

Linfamy’s Japanese History and Folktales YouTube Channel

“Tomoe Gozen: Badass Women in Japanese History” at Tofugu.com

Japanese Literature at Facebook

Sources

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

De Bary, Theodore, et. al, eds. Sources of Japanese Tradition: From Earliest Times to 1600, Columbia, 1964.

McAlpine, Helen and William. Japanese Tales and Legends, Oxford, 1989.

Mori, Masaki. Epic Grandeur: Toward a Comparative Poetics of the Epic. State University Press of New York, 1997.

Oyler, Elizabeth. “Gio: Women and Performance in the ‘Heike Monogatari’.” Harvard Review of Asiatic Studies, 2004.

Shirane, Haruo, ed. Traditional Japanese Literature: An Anthology, Beginnings to 1600. Columbia, 2008.

Episode 2: The Tale of Genji

Check out the Read Japanese Literature podcast.

A 19th-Century Illustration of The Tale of Genji via Wikimedia Commons

Episode 2: The Tale of Genji—The world’s oldest novel. A hero who is a paragon of beauty with an extreme Oedipus complex.

(CW: sex, rape, incest, pedophilia.)

Support this podcast by buying your copy from Bookshop.org. 

Find Out More

Project Gutenberg: The Tale of Genji. The full on-line text of the Arthur Waley translation of The Tale of Genji

Tony’s Reading List. A comparison of different English-language translations of The Tale of Genji

Sources

Bargen, Doris G. “Yūgao: A Case of Spirit Possession in The Tale of Genji” in Mosaic, 1986.

Marcus, Marvin. Japanese Literature from Murasaki to Murakami. Association for Asian Studies, 2015.
De Bary, Theodore, et. al, eds. Sources of Japanese Tradition: From Earliest Times to 1600. Columbia, 1964.

Episode 1: The Kojiki

Kobayashi Eitaku, Izanagi and Izanami, c. 1885
via Wikimedia Commons

Check out the Read Japanese Literature podcast.

Episode 1: The Kojiki—Gods having sex, founding of the imperial dynasty, and some of the origins of WWII. Plus thoughts on the role of women in early Japanese history.

Support this podcast by buying your copy of The Kojiki from Bookshop.org. 

Find Out More

Read the full on-line text of the Basil Hall Chamberlain translation of The Kojiki for free at Sacred-Texts.com.

The Goddess Chronicle by Kirino Natsuo (trans. Rebecca Copeland)

The Kojiki: The Birth of Japan—The Japanese Creation Myth Illustrated by Kazumi Wilds

Tono Monogatari by Shigeru Mizuki (trans. Zack Davisson)

Sources

Ellwood, Robert. “Patriarchal Revolution in Ancient Japan: Episodes from the ‘Nihonshoki’ Sujin Chronicle” in Journal of Feminist Studies in Religion, 1986.

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

De Bary, Theodore, et. al, eds. Sources of Japanese Tradition: From Earliest Times to 1600. Columbia, 1964.