Grand Demons and Little Devils: Akutagawa’s Kirishitan mono as a Mirror of Modernity


Like many Japanese intellectuals, Akutagawa Ryūnosuke had a deep interest in European traditions, including Christianity. Scholars have often looked at Akutagawa’s representations of religion to shed light on the author’s personal beliefs; in this article I focus on the writer’s portrayal of the Kirishitan of the seventeenth century as a metaphor for the ideological and cultural transformations of modern Japan. Through a close reading of three short stories, I investigate the interplay of perceptions and representations of national past and foreign culture in Taisho Japan and the role that Akutagawa’s “rediscovery” of early Kirishitan culture played within this context.