A podcast about Japanese literature and some of its best works.

Episode 11: The I-Novel, Osamu Dazai, and No Longer Human

Today, we’re talking about the I-Novel—the highest form of literature in Japan in the 1910s and 20s.

We’ll also be looking at the life and work of Osamu Dazai and asking, “What does it take to get disqualified as a human being?”

(CW: addiction, suicide, rape, misogyny)

Episode 10: Taisho Magazines and Akutagawa’s Vision of Hell

“Woman Holding a Black Cat” by Yumeji Takehisa, circa 1919 (via Wikimedia Commons)

The father of the Japanese short story shares his dark vision about what it means to be an artist.

We’re taking a look at Japan in the 1910s and 1920s, the era of the Taishō Democracy and the heyday of Japan’s literary magazines and serial novels.

(CW: addiction, suicide, sexual assault)

Episode 9: The Women Writers of Meiji Japan

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

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”.

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

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.

Episode 7: Kaidan—Japan’s Ghost Stories

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

Episode 6: High and Low Literature in Edo Japan

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?

Episode 5: Setsuwa and Medieval Japanese Buddhism

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.

Episode 4: Yoshitsune Ballads and Tomoe Drama

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.

Episode 3: The Tale of the Heike

The great samurai epic and the rise of the samurai class.

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.)

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.

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