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influenced by conceptions of illusionist realism in Western-style painting.”24 Here is an example of one of Shiki’s tanka in the mode of realistic
depiction that, in fact, is very much like a haiku in its poetic effect: Encounter with the West 264
At the verandah’s edge
The tightly curled young plantain
Unfolds its leaves,
And five feet of green
Cover the wash basin.25 It appears that, with Shiki, we have still another example of the strong
impulse on the part of so many modern Japanese scholars and artists
(indeed, probably all of them during at least one phase or another of their
careers) either consciously or unconsciously to relate to their own national
past those features of modern culture that emerged in the West and that
they admire or wish to utilize. But history is cruel to this impulse, for the
unalterable fact is that the West evolved such things as modern realistic
literature first and the Japanese will never know whether they could have
done it independently.
In contrast to their relatively recent exposure to Western literature
(that is, belles-lettres), the Japanese had had a rather long historical
acquaintanceship with the visual arts, particularly painting, of the West.
Unencumbered by a language barrier, the visual arts are obviously more
amenable to cross-cultural transmission, although in the case of Japan this
in fact meant simply that the inevitable clash between Japanese tradition
and Western modernity could be precipitated even more readily and with
greater abandon than it could in literature. At the same time, as Sansom
has suggested, it is also possible that in the visual arts Japan’s aesthetic
heritage was better prepared than it was in literature to stand up against
The Jesuits had first introduced Western visual arts to Japan in the
sixteenth century and had even trained Japanese artists in contemporary
painting techniques. But the anti-Christian measures of the Tokugawa
shogunate had, of course, eliminated this and almost all other Western
influences from the coun...
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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