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  • A Tokyo Anthology: Literature from Japan's Modern Metropolis, 1850–1920 ed. by Sumie Jones and Charles Shirō Inouye
  • Michael Emmerich (bio)
A Tokyo Anthology: Literature from Japan's Modern Metropolis, 1850–1920. Edited by Sumie Jones and Charles Shirō Inouye. University of Hawai'i Press, Honolulu, 2017. xiv, 507 pages. $70.00.

A bit more than halfway through A Tokyo Anthology: Literature From Japan's Modern Metropolis, 1850–1920, an ambitious, engaging, and quirky [End Page 445] anthology of modern Japanese literature coedited by Sumie Jones and Charles Shirō Inouye, I found myself lingering over a sentence from Saiankoku no Tōkyō (In darkest Tokyo), Matsubara Iwagorō's harrowing 1893 account of Tokyo's slums: "Once one steps over into this other world, as represented by the depths of this monstrous slum, one sees the ragged patterns that exist on the reverse side of life's elegant brocade of lies" (pp. 262–63). My attention was first caught by the parallel between Matsubara's metaphor, in Inouye's translation, and Don Quixote's famous suggestion that "translating from one Language into another … is just like looking upon the wrong side of Arras-Hangings: That altho' the Pictures be seen, yet they are full of Thread Ends, that darken them, and they are not seen with the Plainness and Smoothness, as on the other side."1 The notion that the perspectival shift Matsubara's entry into the slums occasions might itself be viewed as a sort of "translation" of Tokyo into a darker, rougher mode intrigued me. It also occurred to me that this anthology of translations might best be characterized by—and valued for—its editors' willingness to go "slumming," as it were, by including works that are not only noncanonical but not even "literary" in the conventional sense of the word, and for the "ragged patterns" it presents.

Structured around eight capacious themes ("Responses to the Age of Enlightenment," "Crime and Punishment, Edo and Tokyo," "The High and Low of Capitalism," "Modernity and Individualism," "A Sense of the Real and Unreal," "Romance and Eros," "The City Dreams of the Country," and "Interiority and Exteriority"), A Tokyo Anthology presents selections of satirical cartoons and newspaper accounts of "monsters" (yōkai) alongside famous and lesser-known works of both high literature and popular fiction, placing considerable emphasis on texts previously unavailable in English. Thus we find, for instance, a brief booklet by Mantei Ōga called Kinsei akire kaeru (Toad fed up with modernity, 1874) that can hardly be said to have entered the canon but nicely represents a strand of early Meiji anti-Enlightenment satire; an excerpt from Kanagaki Robun's and Morikawa Chikashige's Takahashi Oden yasha monogatari (Takahashi Oden, devil woman, 1879), best known today as the first gōkan (combined volume) published in Tokyo to make use of moveable type, if only in its first book; along with previously untranslated stories by Izumi Kyōka, Tanizaki Jun'ichirō, and Iwano Hōmei, and an absolutely invaluable collection of essays that includes Nakajima Shōen's "Dōhō shimai ni tsugu" (To my fellow sisters, 1884); Futabatei Shimei's "Yo ga genbun itchi no yurai" (The origins of my colloquial style, 1906) and "Yo ga hansei no zange" (Confessions of half a lifetime, 1908); Ishikawa Takuboku's "Jidai heisoku no genjō" (The [End Page 446] impasse of our age, 1913); Tayama Katai's "Rokotsu naru byōsha" (Raw depiction, 1904); and Kitamura Tōkoku's "Ensei shika to josei" (Pessimist poets and women, 1892). To my mind, these six essays alone, together with Inouye's nuanced, affecting translation of Hōmei's "Bonchi" (Rich boy)—the first work by this important writer ever to appear in English—make this anthology an essential addition to the library of anyone interested in modern Japan, and especially those who teach modern Japanese fiction. Dylan McGee's scintillating, thought-provoking translation of Kawakami Otojirō's "Oppekepe uta" (or more commonly "Oppekepe bushi"; Oppekepe rap) is itself worth the price of the book and will serve as an excellent prompt to classroom discussion of issues relating to translation.

The decision to join works in a mode conventionally understood as "literary" with...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1549-4721
Print ISSN
0095-6848
Pages
pp. 445-450
Launched on MUSE
2018-07-31
Open Access
No
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