ASIA212Varley

Like shiga himself kensaku is not particularly

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Unformatted text preview: perial palace in Tokyo, the country was jolted by sensational news. General Nogi Maresuke (1849–1912), hero of the Russo-Japanese War, had committed suicide along with his wife. What made the news sensational was that Nogi had disemboweled himself in the ancient samurai tradition of junshi to follow his lord (the emperor) in death. In the words of Carol Gluck, “On first hearing it did not seem possible that one of the bestknown figures in Meiji national life had committed junshi. . . . In a nation in the midst of a solemn celebration of its modernity, its foremost soldier . . . had followed a custom that had been outlawed by the Tokugawa shogunate as antiquated in 1663.”12 To some, Nogi’s act was deserving of highest admiration as a dramatic reminder of values of the past that may have been lost in the headlong drive to modernize. Among the most profoundly affected was Mori Ògai, who from this time on devoted himself chiefly to writing works that dealt with Japanese history. And in the popular culture Nogi soon took his place at the forefront of the pantheon of Japan’s youth heroes along with the fourteenth-century loyalist fighter Kusunoki Masashige and the fortyseven rònin. Some, on the other hand, regarded Nogi’s junshi as a national humiliation that went against everything that had been achieved during the Meiji period. To the novelist Shiga Naoya (who will be discussed 284 The Fruits of Modernity shortly) Nogi was a “stupid fool” (baka na yatsu).13 Very likely many Japanese were ambivalent in their feelings about Nogi. As one journalist put it, “[W]hile emotionally we express the greatest respect [for General Nogi], rationally we regret that we cannot approve. One can only hope that this act will not long blight the future of our national morality.”14 It should not be thought that all writers of the late Meiji and early Taishò periods were pessimistic or skeptical about the values of a modernized Japan. On the contrary, a new group of authors, known...
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