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Unformatted text preview: ea of Japanese culture during the modern era.
The most successful writer in the years immediately before and after
the Restoration was Kanagaki Robun, an edokko or “child of Edo” who
specialized in the traditional genre of “witty books” (kokkeibon). One of
Robun’s post-Restoration works was A Journey by Foot Through Western
Lands (Seiyò Dòchû Hizakurige), in which he attempted to give a modern
twist to Jippensha Ikku’s famous story of two rogues frolicking their way
down the Tòkaidò from Edo to Kyoto; another was Eating Beef Stew
Cross-Legged, the parody on the aping of Western customs that we noted
earlier in this chapter. A prime example of Robun’s irreverent humor
can be observed in the title of still another of his books, Kyûri Zukai.
This title was phonetically the same as Fukuzawa Yukichi’s Physics Illustrated; but, in the Sinico-Japanese characters used by Robun, it meant
On the Use of Cucumbers. Such punning was of course frivolous, an adjective that may be applied to much of the work done by Robun and his
fellow Edo authors. Although these men continued to hold the center of
the literary stage for a while, they produced almost nothing that was
memorable. The future of Meiji literature lay clearly in the assimilation
of powerful artistic ideas and styles then being imported from the West.
In the first decade or so of Meiji, those Japanese writers and scholars
interested in foreign literature devoted themselves mainly to the translation of famous Western works. An adaptation of Robinson Crusoe had, in
fact, been completed even before the Restoration, and a Japanese rendering of Aesop’s Fables existed as one of the few products of the old
Jesuit press that had survived the attempt by the Tokugawa shogunate to
eradicate all traces of contact with the Catholic Christian countries
during the century from the 1540s to the 1630s. Among the earliest
Western translations to appear in print in the Meiji period was Samuel
Smiles’s Self-Help, a book of success stories whose very title suggests the
kind of subject matter that Japan’s passionate new devotees of civilization
and enlightenment were most likely to appreciate.
One of t...
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This note was uploaded on 02/08/2013 for the course ANTH 142 taught by Professor Hans during the Spring '13 term at The University of British Columbia.
- Spring '13