Talk:Japanese literature

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Page needed help[edit]

This page seemed in need of some tender loving care, so I did a major edit on it based largely on the Japanese language version of the page. While still lacking and probably in need of more editing, I hope it can at least provide a new start! My main changes:

- Introduction: still not happy with it, but better than what was there I think

- History: added more historical-era divisions that reflect political and cultural changes better, added more detail on specific works and authors

- Links: added the Japanese authors link, deleted a broken link

- Names: there was a mixture of Japanese and Western order, changed all to Japanese order (surname then given name)

I am not a literary expert but I enjoy Japanese literature ... here's hoping we can make this site the equal (or better!) of the other pages on literature out there CES 07:27, 24 Jun 2004 (UTC)

CES, thanks for the attention. I also had been meaning to draw from the Japanese page, but have not found the time. Your historical divisions look good, and I like the selections you've drawn. About the introduction: I had originally included some (admittedly) sweeping generalizations about the tone and character of Japanese Lit. (heroes usually lose, sense of detachment, etc). What if we included something like that in a "themes" section? contact me via email if you would like to discuss (see Orkut) Davejenk1ns 14:53, 24 Jun 2004 (UTC)


Was Shakespeare the first English playwright? Of course not. Same with Murasaki Shikibu. The Genji is not even the first Japanese novel, there were others written at the same time, and before. Japanese don't call it the world's first novel, why should we? Of course they're quite proud and pleased that the work is known abroad.Vincent 12:37, 18 Sep 2004 (UTC)

Lots of other Genji problems.

  • "The Tale of Genji (early 11th century) by Murasaki Shikibu is arguably the most famous work in all of Japanese literature"

This is POV and innacurate. POV because it prefers Heian literature to others. What of Kokoro by Natsume Soseki, for example? People see Soseki's face everyday because he's on the 1000 yen bill (say, ten dollars about) Wouldn't that make this author more famous?

And within Heian literature many people prefer The Pillow Book to the Genji. One could certainly argue that this is the more influential work of the two: Japanese are mad for light essays and collections of them and they are a major part of today's publishing scene. The same cannot be said of psychological or novels or "roman fleuve", today murder mysteries are more popular. So wouldn't that push Sei Shonagon above Murasaki Shikibu?

I'm not saying the Genji isn't a great work. I've read it many times and it will again many more. I prefer it to the Pillow Book, but that's my own POV. It's silly to call it "the most famous" when at least two other candidates exist, or the "first" when many earlier (but perhaps much poorer) examples exist. Vincent 03:54, 19 Sep 2004 (UTC)

Vincent makes a good case for this. My lit professors all called it the first novel, so I guess I was parroting them, but I am satisfied with Vincent's arguments and his wording-- good job. (BTW, I am in Nakano, just down the street-- how about a beer? ANyone else here living in Tokyo?Davejenk1ns 04:21, 19 Sep 2004 (UTC)

Thanks. Ah, parroting. I've been guilty of that myself now and again. Stephen Jay Gould wrote an interesting essay about that phenomenon. He talked of Eohippus, the evolutionary ancestor of all horses. Most biology textbooks say it was the size of a cocker spaniel. Why a cocker spaniel? I don't know what a cocker spaniel looks like, do you? Do most people? The point of Gould's essay is that the original popular description of eohippus was written at a time and for an audience that DID know what a cocker spaniel was, and writers have been parroting ever since. Same goes with introducing evolution by first discrediting Lamarck and mentioning the necks of giraffes. Vincent 04:39, 19 Sep 2004 (UTC)
True, with words like "famous" and "oldest" it's hard to prove them or make them non-POV. Still, it would be nice to emphasize the place of the Tale of Genji in both the canon of Japanese literature and world literature. I haven't read Gould's essay, but I imagine the textbooks are trying to give their audience a general image of the Eohippus by comparing it in size to a cocker spaniel, a common breed of small dog. Similarly by calling the Tale of Genji one of the oldest novels, it gives the audience a point of reference. But like you said, the phrase was POV ... is there a way to say it without losing the impact of the idea?
The Japanese version of Wikipedia has the following phrase, which I think might be better than either version we've come up with: 日本文学の黎明期における最高傑作とも評され、しばしば世界最古の小説とさえ言われる which translates something close to: "[The Tale of Genji] is sometimes called the finest masterpiece written at the dawn of Japanese literature, and sometimes even said to be the world's first novel." Whether you consider it the finest masterpiece in Japanese literature or the world's first novel (the first is debatable, the second improbable!) it still would be nice to mention that these are the monikers Genji lives up to. In other words, the point is that there may have been older novels, but other than the Tale of Genji, few have stood the test of time. The Pillow Book holds a similar position in the genre of essays and writings on esthetics. Both works are highly regarded and influenced popular and literary culture for centuries, all the way to the present day. I don't think anyone is saying one is better than the other, or that they're better than modern literature. It's apples to oranges. It would be nice if we expanded on the impact these works had on society and literature instead of just "X is a novel/collection of poems/etc. written in the year Y". This article is still a work in progress; let's continue to expand and improve it! Sounds like we have well-researched people out there ... continue to make bold edits and additions! CES 13:28, 19 Sep 2004 (UTC)
CES, While I (and Vincent, surely) and many others certainly share your opinion of Genji Monogatari, the phrase (both Japanese and your translation) still boil down to subjective opinion. Passive voice ( iwareru) is the bane of Japanese language, and has certainly inflicted more than its share on Japanese research (in all fields) in my opinion. But I digress.
I understand (and share) your desire to build on the impact this novel has had on Japanese literature. I've been thinking about a section of common _themes_ in Japanese literature, but am trying to work out how to structure it. Suggested topics--
  • celebration of the loser (heike monogatari, shayou, Ukigumo)
  • transitory nature of life (bassho, all the aktagawa stuff)
  • mono-no-aware (the effivencence of things)-- this is certainly the major theme of Genji, and appears throughout most subsequent literature. This is the stringest theme I can see (IMHO), and is of the same scale as Homer's Odessey creating the hero journey in western lit. Thoughts? Davejenk1ns 14:27, 19 Sep 2004 (UTC)

With literature in particular it's difficult (if not impossible) to avoid subjective opinion ... my thought is that while subjective opinion should not be stated as fact (as I made the mistake of doing), it can sometimes be important to report others' subjective opinions to get the big picture of things. But I too digress.
I think it would be great to have a section on common themes in J literature, especially since many themes are rooted in relatively unique cultural and/or religious traditions. I'm not sure of a good structure either. If you've got ideas, go ahead and put something up. It's easier talk about it and edit once we have something to work with. CES 14:51, 19 Sep 2004 (UTC)

I don't mind at all comments on how influential the Genji has been, or how early it was written, or that it stood the test of time better than its contemporaries. We can count the nummber of references to the Genji in modern novels, we know when it was written, and we know that other tales written at the same time aren't read today as much as is the Genji. All of these are verifiable and so objective statements. Strong factual statements are fine, as long as we don't apply subjective superlative qualifiers (e.g. " it's the best novel ever") or subjective definitions (e.g. "the earliest novel" depends on what we call a novel) . The Genji is the Genji. That's honor enough, I should think. Vincent 06:46, 20 Sep 2004 (UTC)


  • Um, I didn't mean to step on any toes with my comment that the page is a stylistic and factual mess, because I know a lot of work has gone into it. I'll help expand it, since I know a little bit about the topic. My main sources are Kato Shuichi's 日本文学序説 and a couple of other reference works. I'm also considering writing an overview of Classical Japanese (古文) and an overview of Kanbun, based on American and Japanese textbooks I have as well as my Oubunsha Dictionary of Classical Japanese (旺文社:古語辞典). If anyone wants to help, let me know (by emailing me through the email link on my personal page.) Reldam 18:40, 8 Mar 2005 (UTC)


Why are comics treated as irrevocably separate from literature? With things like Maus, it should be obvious by now that the style has no bearing on the content. This effect is amplified in Japan simply due to the sheer volumes produced.

  • I'd disagree (as would most mangaka) that style has no bearing on content. Just as painting isn't included in the section on literature, manga is a genre completely unto itself. If you're complaining that people don't give manga the respect they do to traditional literature, well, that has nothing to do with the form. Reldam 19:48, 9 Mar 2005 (UTC)
  • I'd disagree too. Manga is a different thing from literature. It belongs to fine art rather than literature, I think. It is different from illustrated books. The heart of manga is drawing, not words in my opinion. Larus.r

Major authors[edit]

Why are some famous poets and playwrites like Fujiwara no Teika (editor of Shinkokinshu and Hyakuninisshu) or Chikamatsu Monzaemon? Is there any other articles for them? Larus.r

Copied Work[edit]

it seems that pieces of this text al litteraly copied from this website : i don't know if it is done with permission bt just wanted to point it out.-- 16:05, 1 January 2006 (UTC)


i was browsing through the japanese version of this page, and i came across an interesting notion i hadn't heard of before. says this article(日本の近現代文学史 ): lately, there has been a development of popular literature, dubbed J-literature (J文学), after the music genre J-pop, geared at younger generations and with local variatons, such as Shibuya-style or Shinjuku-style.

apparently, Keiichiro Hirano, one of the J-literature writers was even awarded the Akutagawa prize. this sounds fascinating. does anyone know more about this? can anyone elaborate? 22:55, 1 March 2006 (UTC)

"Pure Lit vs. Pop Lit" in Japan?[edit]

The debate between "pure literature" junbungaku (純文学?) and "mass media literature"/ "pop fiction" taishūbungaku (大衆文学?) seems to be mentioned without mentioning the Japanese terms. This really isn't an area that I know much about and I was wondering if someone could expand on these concepts in the article? The original Japanese article for junbungaku is here純文学 --Kunzite 00:43, 12 March 2006 (UTC)


I've got a real issue with calling the Edo Period the "early-modern period". Not only is it not the Japanese term, but it is more accurate to use with respect to Meiji and Taisho. Before Meiji, Japan was "premodern", not "early modern". I would furthermore use "modern" for either Showa onward or post WWII onward. MSJapan 16:08, 21 May 2006 (UTC)

I agree. The use of "early modern" comes from terminology commonly used in European studies to describe the Renaissance period. Even there it is a highly dubious term which comes out of a debate on political correctness about stratifying European achievements. The use of "early modern" with reference to Japan is like an contextually inappropriate North American academic contamination without justification. I've also never seen it used ANYWHERE in this context outside of wikipedia. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 23:47, 13 March 2010 (UTC)

"I Am a Cat" as "I Novel"?[edit]

The article says;

A new colloquial literature developed centering on the "I novel", with some unusual protagonists such as the cat narrator of Natsume Soseki's Wagahai wa neko de aru (I Am a Cat).

It seems contradictory to what "I novel" is. --LittleTree 00:51, 24 August 2006 (UTC)

Good question. I haven't read the book, but I would assume that maybe the situations are realistic as far as the cat is concerned. The I novel article had a problem classifying Mishima as an I-novelist, so a similar metaphorical problem may be at work here with Soseki. Moreover, it's really not a great article. As it stands, I removed the Mishima reference pending some further source hunting, because there's not enough in the article to base a definition of I novel on that can then be contradicted with exceptions. MSJapan 01:53, 24 August 2006 (UTC)
Well, comparing to what I have learned about Japanese "I Novel", I am a cat cannot be an "I Novel", the cat being far from the author himself, the story describing the cat's life. On the other hand, Shiga did write one. What he did was not only adapting Western literary conventions and techniques. I will try to find what I can do to improve this paragraph. --LittleTree 00:08, 6 September 2006 (UTC)
I think you could call this a variation on the I-Novel. All the cats reflect the personalities and behaviours of their masters. Their society parallels the human society above them. The school teacher seems to be a caricature of the author, so the protagonist can be seen as an indirect representation of the author as well. — Preceding unsigned comment added by Soulpa7ch (talkcontribs) 04:14, 2 March 2012 (UTC)

Naming orders all mixed[edit]

Somebody standardise the naming conventions of all names in this article, to either English or Japanese, preferably English. Skinnyweed 10:32, 19 September 2006 (UTC)

By English You mean MoS naming? feydey 10:59, 19 September 2006 (UTC)
Someone tried (in good faith) to clean it up by listing all the modern authors Japanese-style, but this simply created a lot of new redlinks and even more redirects. I've reverted the edits and added a note about Wikipedia's naming conventions at the start of the section. Aristophanes68 (talk) 18:26, 25 October 2009 (UTC)

What a mess...[edit]

This article suffers from too much copy/pasting, it seems. There are linguistic discussionsa that don't belong here, and the chronology is way off. I've removed a lot of the extraneous material, though I need to doublecheck the dates I changed. Some of the information is still not quite right, but I need to source it before I change it. As a note, the pioneer of "modern weird fiction" would not be Akinari, but more like Tsubouchi Shoyo or Izumi Kyoka, because modern styles and Western influence were used as a backlash against Edo literature like yomihon, which people felt had run their course. MSJapan 04:10, 10 February 2007 (UTC)

invisible text?[edit]

In editing the Meiji etc. period, I noticed the following half paragraph has been hidden from view:

A new colloquial literature developed centering on the "I novel", with some unusual protagonists such as the cat narrator of Natsume Sōseki's Wagahai wa neko de aru (I Am a Cat). Natsume Sōseki also wrote the famous novels Botchan and Kokoro (1914). Shiga Naoya, the so called "god of the novel," and Mori Ogai were instrumental in adopting and adapting Western literary conventions and techniques. Ryūnosuke Akutagawa is known especially for his historical short stories. Ozaki Koyo, Izumi Kyoka, and Higuchi Ichiyo represent a strain of writers whose style hearkens back to early-Modern Japanese literature.

I see from the discussion here that the "I Novel" statements are disputed. But what about the rest of the passage? Can it be restored?

Aristophanes68 20:43, 2 August 2007 (UTC)

  • 2 years later: I've made the paragraph visible--I hope now someone will edit it to make it fit the flow of the section. Aristophanes68 (talk) 18:35, 25 October 2009 (UTC)

western influence in first paragraph[edit]

Does anybody else think it's highly inappropriate to claim that "When Japan reopened its ports to Western trading and diplomacy in the 19th century, Western literature had a strong effect on Japanese writers, and this influence is still seen today" right in the introduction? Japanese culture and literature (and visual art for that matter) immediately influenced the west as well. Simply another example of flamboyant eurocentricity.

I would change it but people who make such egotistical (even unwittingly so) claims are themselves egotistical, and will be more dogged than I am and change it back. (talk) 17:56, 5 February 2008 (UTC)

I agree. You only need to spend 2 minutes looking at Impressionist art to see the effects. —Preceding unsigned comment added by Artjunky (talkcontribs) 17:06, 2 March 2008 (UTC)

  • I think the current edit, which stresses mutual influence, solves the problem. Aristophanes68 (talk) 18:37, 25 October 2009 (UTC)

Light Novels?[edit]

The Japanese version of this article has light novels stated on the "modern literature" article. Since manga is there, is it possible to add light novels too? --Koheiman (talk) 03:39, 25 June 2008 (UTC)

Modern lit section needs help[edit]

Unfortunately, the first section under "modern" lit sounds horrible. Here's how it is currently articulated: Modern Asian literature has not encapsulated western society, its illuminating origins seemingly foreign to nations such as England, American and Australia. Many of Asia's finest works remain buried under contemporary, generic arts. However, a magnitude of secrets contained within this eloquent Asian literature, are not portrayed through orthodox, western styles. But through more traditional mediums such as on stage and through culturally rich artworks.

The prose here is absolutely terrible and confusing as well as grammatically flawed. Bottre73 (talk) 02:58, 6 February 2011 (UTC)

Thanks for pointing that out. The problem was incredibly weird: The bad paragraph wasn't even part of the article, but was part of the {{Modern Asian literature}} box out to the right. To remove the paragraph, I had to edit the template. Which means I've now removed the crappy paragraph from 9 pages at once! Aristophanes68 (talk) 05:26, 6 February 2011 (UTC)
Hah, that explains it! I was crawling all over the history trying to figure out where the section had gone. It seemed to vanish from under my nose! Good work. /ninly(talk) 05:36, 6 February 2011 (UTC)


Much surprised to see nothing about Haiku, and not much about poetry. Ptyxs (talk) 13:23, 7 January 2012 (UTC)

We have Japanese poetry. Oda Mari (talk) 15:36, 7 January 2012 (UTC)

Classification of Heian literature as "classical"?[edit]

It seems "classical literature" is a standard enough translation of koten-bungaku (古典文学?, literally, virtually all Japanese literature until the Meiji Period) in Japanese, but in this article it is apparently used as a translation of chūko-bungaku (中古文学?, [1]). If some authors use "classical" to mean chūko, then it is okay for us to use it here, but the problem is that then we have no term to refer to Japanese literature pre-Meiji. "Pre-modern" doesn't work, since we already have Edo literature classified as "early-modern" (近世 kinsei?). Is there any precedent for "early-ancient" and "late-ancient", or even "early-classical" and "late-classical"? Keene almost exclusively uses political era names (Nara, Heian, Kamakura, etc.), and I recently created a page at Heian literature in which I supplied a literal translation "mid-ancient literature". Chūko literature is a partial translation in that article, but in the context of this one I think we need English-language terms, right? Another possibility would be to group Heian and pre-Heian literature together, since while Japanese sources often distinguish 近代 (kindai, literally, 1868-1945) from 現代 (gendai, literally, 1945-present), we have the single term "modern" here. elvenscout742 (talk) 02:37, 3 October 2012 (UTC)

Rewrite of Kamakura-Muromachi section[edit]

I have rewritten this section to add more sourced information, and to make a more clear division between trends of each period. There is probably enough information on Kamakura and Muromachi literature to split them into different sections later, but for now I have kept them together.Mineffle (talk) 04:55, 22 November 2016 (UTC)