Japan Arts and Literature


In the modern and contemporary period, from the Meiji Restoration (1868) to the present, literature has renewed itself under the influence of the West. The need for a new type of novel, inspired by contemporary reality and attentive to the psychology of the characters was expressed above all by Shōyō Tsubouchi (1859-1934) in his essay Shōsetsu shinzui (The essence of the novel). At the same time, a real movement was organized aimed at renewing language, giving up literary forms inspired by classical texts, in favor of colloquial ones. Among the first prominent writers of the new literature of the century, it remembers Shimei Futabatei (1864-1909), author of Ukigumo (Floating Clouds), Kyōka Izumi (1873-1939) and the writer Ichiyō Higuchi (1872-1896). The current of ” naturalism “, which developed at the beginning of the century, in turn played a role of the utmost importance both in the evolution of a type of narrative that observed reality with an objective and “scientific” attitude, and in the development of a literary language. as close as possible to the spoken one. The turn of the twentieth century saw some of the greatest writers assert themselves: Ogai Mori (1862-1922), who better than any other personifies the figure of the enlightened intellectual, poet, translator, essayist and author of novels and theatrical dramas; Sōseki Natsume (1867-1916), one of the most original voices, attentive to the reality of the new Japan and its contradictions, but whose analysis of the individual’s needs for affirmation often ends with a pessimistic assessment of the loneliness to which modern man is inevitably doomed. And again Kafū Nagai (1879-1959), whose nostalgia, veiled in aestheticism, for situations and atmospheres of the past does not exclude the interest in the social reality that was developing. In the field of poetry, attempts are made to renew the schemes of traditional genres. Restorers of tanka were the poet Akiko Yosano (1878-1942) and Takuboku Ishikawa (1885-1912); the haikai (now redefined haiku), Skiki Masaoka (1867-1902).

Others, such as Hakushū Kitahara (1885-1942) or Sakutarō Hagiwara (1886-1942), tried new forms, detached from tradition and close to Western models. Tōson Shimazaki (1872-1943) was himself a poet before successfully landing on naturalistic fiction. The influence of naturalism, in the interpretation offered by Japanese writers, played a dominant part in the elaboration of a particular type of novel, defined watakushi shōsetsu (novel of the self) and characterized by the autobiographical and intimate component, which would dominate for a long time the literary scene. Naoya Shiga is the celebrated author of this genre (1883-1971). The interest in the European avant-garde movements led, towards the twenties of the twentieth century, to experiment with new forms of novel. From the so-called School of new sensations, Shinkankakuha, Yasunari Kawabata (1899-1972), Nobel Prize for literature in 1968, would emerge . In the same period, Junichirō Tanizaki (1886-1965), another of the twentieth century masters, perfected his speech on a well-structured novel, full of imagination and color, not devoid of interest in romantic or decadent elements. The 1920s, very rich in the literary field, also saw the emergence – albeit for a brief moment – of a leftist literature attentive to the appeal of a political commitment, exemplified by the works of Takiji Kobayashi (1903-1933). The interlude of the Pacific War and the defeat of 1945 brought important upheavals. The immediate postwar period was marked by an extraordinary flowering of authors and works of all kinds. Among the most prominent names, Osamu Dazai (1909-1948), exponent of a defeated and disillusioned generation, led to narcissism and dissipation like the characters of his most famous novels: Shayō (The sun goes out) and Ningen shikkaku (Not more human). Later the contradictory figure of Yukio Mishima emerges (1925-1970), somehow anchored to the past and to a tradition of values ​​that seemed increasingly anachronistic and confused in the years of recovery and new prosperity. His contemporary and equally critical of the system, even if moved by opposing ideals, is Kōbō Abe (1924-1993), while the novels of Kenzaburō Ōe (b.1935), Nobel Prize 1994, often harsh and provocative, analyze the problems without illusions of contemporary society. Among the writers, Fumiko Enchi (1905-1986) and Sawako Ariyoshi (1931-1984) stand out.


According to shoefrantics, document of the first artistic manifestations in Japan are the clay artifacts made by the Neolithic bearers in an era of advanced development (III-II millennium BC). In its most advanced phase, the Jōmon pottery was replaced by the painted pottery made on the wheel of the Yayoi period (4th-3rd century BC-III AD). This culture, characterized by influences from southern China and Korea, marked the introduction of agriculture and the beginning of the age of metals with the production of objects of a religious nature. The megalithic activity carried out in this period with the construction of dolmens and menhirs introduces the Kofun period, or of the “ancient tombs”, which goes from the sec. III-IV to the century. VI d. C., with persistence that touches the end of the century. VII and the beginning of the century. VIII, that is already in the Nara epoch. Around these ancient tumulus burials (some of which in the shape of a large patch, such as the tomb of Emperor Nintoku in Ōsaka) – there are approx. 50,000 – the haniwa were there, clay cylinders bearing in the upper part human images (including animals or miniature objects) performed with elementary stylizations and inspired by models of the society of the time (dancers, falconers, warriors and knights). Relations between Han China and Japan Yayoi and Kofun are documented by the discovery in the tombs (some of which from the late period have pictorial wall decorations in violent colors) of Chinese-made bronze mirrors (with geometric motifs of the “TLV” type.), considered cult objects and venerated in Japan in the shintō temples, whose architecture derives from the original form of the rustic granary of the Yayoi civilization, as it appears in the ancient shinto shrine of Ise (7th century). shimmei-zukuri, taisha-zukuri, sumiyoshi-zukuri and kasuga-zukuri) taken from recurring elements of the first temples of Ise, Izumo and Nara, later however sensitive to stylistic changes and updates for the assimilation of architectural elements Buddhist.

Japan Arts

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