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Read Your Way Through Tokyo

With the influx of Western thought and concepts into the newly opened Tokyo within the late Nineteenth century, intellectuals grappled with the conflicts that arose between traditional Confucian ideologies and contemporary European spirituality. Natsume Soseki taught literature on the University of Tokyo after studying abroad in London, and when he later became a author, he brilliantly sublimated these conflicts in his novels. Such ideological tensions, nevertheless, are usually not externally visible in his fantasy stories:Dreams of ten nights“. Although these 10 absurd stories could appear incredibly crazy, as if drawn from the depths of the unconscious, they’ve timeless and universal qualities. How many colourful depictions of life in Nineteenth-century Tokyo!

Author Kafu Nagai traveled to the United States and France where he was deeply immersed in Western thoughts and concepts. He began publishing fiction within the late Nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. IN “A wierd tale from the east of the river(also translated as “Something strange on the opposite side of the river“) the stage is Tokyo, which is undergoing massive changes in the times leading as much as World War II. The appeal of this work lies in its metafictional structure, which depicts the poignant relationship between the author and the prostitute. Just if you think the story is over, the writer himself shows as much as convey various episodes from the ever-changing city as a part of the plot. Here too, the narrative of the nesting box allows the reader to contemplate the passage of time.

Now we’re finally getting closer to the layers that make up today’s Tokyo. After Japan’s defeat in World War II, the country again underwent drastic changes. The narrator of the novel Kenzaburo Oe”Seventeenis a young man who murdered a politician. The novel is an in depth portrait of a lost young man who sinks into depression and pursues terrorism. The story alludes to an event that took place shortly before its publication, by which the chairman of the Japanese Socialist Party was stabbed to death by an ultra-nationalist in Hibiya Public Hall in Tokyo. After the publication of “Seventeen” in a literary magazine, many protests and threats were made against Oe himself. Although it has been translated into various languages ​​and published in lots of countries, the novel was made available in book form in Japan only 4 years ago – 57 years after it was written – when it was included within the omnibus edition of Oe’s complete works.

The short story “The Final Moments” from the 1961 collection “Hunting babies and other stories,by Taeko Kono, is a few woman who suddenly finds out that she is going to die the following day and describes how she spends hours after realizing this. Despite the terrible premise, the story is surprisingly calm and matter-of-fact. I’ve often heard people say it’s hard to inform what a Japanese person thinks, and this woman is not any exception: she doesn’t show her feelings. Whenever I reread the story, I all the time marvel at how Kono selected as an example the workings of this woman’s mind with such audacious and complicated creativity.

The women who appear within the stories in Kuniko Mukoda’s collection, “The woman round the corner”, embody the values ​​of the generation that got here of age during World War II. Although Mukoda’s stories were written 20 years after Kono, one way or the other Mukoda’s women feel more distant. Nevertheless, Mukoda skillfully captured those Tokyo women who, at the tip of the twentieth century, through the period of economic prosperity of Japan, still struggle to enhance their position. They offer an affidavit of their pursuit of even the only of freedoms despite the social oppression they faced.

Written on the turn of the Nineteenth and twentieth centuries, Haruki Murakami’s story “Super-Frog saves Tokyotakes place in Kabukicho, the red-light district of Tokyo’s Shinjuku district, and tells the story of a frog saving town from an enormous earthquake. In January 1995, the Great Hanshin Earthquake occurred in western Japan, and in March of the identical 12 months, members of the cult Aum Shinrikyo movement carried out a sarin attack within the Tokyo subway. Murakami’s story was inspired by these events and is included in “After the earthquake”, a set published five years later that addresses the origins of the assorted problems facing Japan. These stories include links to his next best-selling novel “1Q84but viewed individually, they showcase Murakami’s brilliance as a storyteller, and After the Quake is considered one of my favorite collections.

I like to recommend the anthology”Book of Tokyowhich features the stories of 10 contemporary Japanese writers. Tokyo is an unlimited city. Even those that were born and raised here, like me, do not know its size. There are uninhabited forests and densely built-up zones and areas with the stays of town from the start of the twentieth century. Reading these 10 stories set in modern-day Tokyo, I feel like I’ve come home after a protracted journey. This is us, now in Tokyo. Yet we still travel. And so long as we travel, world writers will proceed to jot down stories.

Hiromi Kawakami is one of the popular contemporary Japanese writers. She has won quite a few literary awards in Japan and the United States, including the Akutagawa Prize for “Snake Stepped On” and the Tanizaki Prize for “Strange Weather in Tokyo.”

Allison Markin Powell is a New York-based literary translator who has translated Osamu Dazai and Kaoru Takamura, and whose Kawakami translation “Nishino’s Ten Loveswon the PEN America Translation Prize 2020.

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