Authors who were active in the Meiji era

    Many authors are listed in this digital exhibition, “Portraits of Modern Japanese Historical Figures.” In this section, let us briefly introduce some authors who were active mainly in the Meiji era (1868-1912).

    TSUBOUCHI Shoyo wrote Shosetsu shinzui, the first full-fledged literary treatise in modern Japan. He insisted novels should faithfully reproduce human psychology and aimed for realistic novels distinct from the stories popular since the Edo period or the political novels popular at that time. Ukigumo, written by FUTABATEI Shimei, was considered the pioneer of modern Japanese novels. Shimei tried to write a more realistic novel by choosing a colloquial style for this work, but it was shortly before the “unification of colloquial and written style” became the standard for Japanese literature. Until then, for example, MORI Ogai wrote Maihime with a literary style full of Chinese expressions, and OZAKI Koyo, a popular author at that time, wrote his works in a style reminiscent of IHARA Saikaku.

    In the early 1900’s, when “the unification of colloquial and written style” had become common, SHIMAZAKI Toson, TAYAMA Katai, MASAMUNE Hakucho, TOKUDA Shusei and others published excellent naturalist novels. They advocated their motto of “exposure of reality,” and tried to depict the suffering of modern people in an objective style excluding subjectivity as much as possible. The attitude of NATSUME Soseki, who kept some distance from such direct expressions and depicted modern suffering through overflowing poetic sentiment, is often referred to as “yoyu-ha” (the leeway school). The term “yoyu-ha” appeared in the preface written by Soseki for Keito, the short stories of TAKAHAMA Kyoshi, which expressed his attitude to face life with flexibility.

    Representative works by authors introduced in this section can be read in the NDL Digital Collections via links on each author’s page. We hope this introduction will help you to read modern Japanese authors’ works.

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