On the wings of a bird: Folklore, nativism, and nostalgia in Meiji letters

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Abstract

In the wake of Western colonial expansion in Asia, the Meiji government of Japan (1868-1912) began a massive push toward bunmei kaika (civilization and enlightenment). This campaign was not limited to the political sphere but extended into the cultural realm, resulting in growing public interest in all things Western. Despite this sea change in Japanese cultural orientation, however, there was a constant literary undercurrent of nativism and a recurrent interest in folk practices and oral traditions as well as in the Japanese countryside, rather than the developing cityscape. Focusing on the work of ethnographer Yanagita Kunio and his impact on the Meiji literary climate and particularly on the work of Izumi Kyōka, this article will suggest some of the ways in which Japanese authors in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries mined the folklore and rural customs of Japans past in order to express their fear, excitement, and ambivalence about life in the modern age.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-20
Number of pages20
JournalAsian Folklore Studies
Volume65
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 1 2006

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Cultural Studies
  • Anthropology
  • Visual Arts and Performing Arts

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