We cannot verify your location
Browse Book and Journal Content on Project MUSE

Mad Wives and Island Dreams

Shimao Toshio and the Margins of Japanese Literature

Philip Gabriel

Publication Year: 1999

Hailed by the noted critic Karatani Kojin as a more important and lasting writer than Mishima, Shimao Toshio (1917-1986) remains almost unknown in the West. Several of his short stories have appeared in English translation, yet it is only now, with the publication of Philip Gabriel's comprehensive and searching study, that Shimao's work is being introduced to the worldwide audience it deserves. Mad Wives and Island Dreams not only is a thorough assessment of the literary legacy of a highly original and influential writer, but also represents a significant contribution to the consideration of much broader issues relating to the emergence and nature of the postwar Japanese sense of identity. Shimao's fiction covers a wide range of topics: the war and its aftermath, the unconscious, the nuclear family, madness, the position of women, the culture of Japan's southern islands. Shimao's experiences as a survivor of a "kamikaze" unit underscore much of his literature and resulted in a series of compelling short stories unique in modern fiction. Many of these early, critically acclaimed works, including the classic "Everyday Life in a Dream," are based on the narrative logic of the unconscious. Mad Wives and Island Dreams contextualizes these "dream stories" as a literary expression of wartime trauma and argues that Shimao's powerful narration of guilt and victimization challenges standard readings of Japanese war literature. Shimao's most popular works are the byosaimono (literally "stories of a sick wife"), which chronicle the real-life crisis of his wife's madness in the mid-1950s. Among these is the writer's best-known work, the 1977 novel Shi no toge (The sting of death), widely recognized as one of the masterpieces of Japanese literature. The novel further explores Shimao's "literature of the victimizer" and wartime experience while revealing a feminist perspective that explores links between the suppressed aspirations of women and madness. Perhaps, most importantly, just as the novel examines the relationship between the wife, Miho, and her southern island roots, Shi no toge parallels Shimao's growing concern over the culture of marginalized regions and notions of cultural diversity-a concern that would eventually result in the Yaponesia essays. In Mad Wives and Island Dreams, Gabriel succeeds in linking all of the seemingly disparate strands within Shimao's oeuvre--the war stories, the byosaimono, the dream stories, the Yaponesia writings-categories all too often discussed in isolation. He shows convincingly that together they represent a consistent and concerted attempt to depict the existence of "the Other," the significant periphery of a less than homogenous whole. This volume will prove fascinating and important reading for those interested in questions of cultural identity and marginalization as well as Japanese literature and culture.

Published by: University of Hawai'i Press


pdf iconDownload PDF


pdf iconDownload PDF


pdf iconDownload PDF
pp. vii-viii

read more


pdf iconDownload PDF
pp. ix-xii

" MANY PEOPLE have aided me during the years it took to bring this project from initial germ of an idea to dissertation to the present book. Prof. Kageyama Tsuneo first brought Shimao’s literature to my attention in 1986, as I was about to leave Japan for graduate school. His encouragement and advice, especially in the beginning stages of my study, were invaluable. In graduate school my..."

read more


pdf iconDownload PDF
pp. 1-6

"SHIMAO TOSHIO (1917-1986) once summed up his life as a failure to experience. Having left the Kanto region days before the 1923 earthquake, he escaped the horrific natural catastrophe that leveled Tokyo and Yokohama. Likewise, as a naval lieutenant in World War II in charge of a kamikaze squadron of “suicide boats,” Shimao was just one radio message away from oblivion when the emperor’s..."

read more

One Self-Apocalypse: Tales of the Tokkōtai

pdf iconDownload PDF
pp. 7-50

"WHO WERE the kamikaze? In the West these suicide warriors have been seen as everything from fanatical, inhuman automatons to thoughtful inheritors of a 'noble' historical tradition of self-sacrifice who willingly, even eagerly, gave up their lives. During World War II, unsurprisingly, the kamikaze (hereafter tokkotai)1 were viewed by the Allies as one more example of Japanese 'barbarous and..."

read more

Two Dreams and the Alphabet of Trauma

pdf iconDownload PDF
pp. 51-98

"IN THE lexicon of postwar Japanes literature, dreams and the work of Shimao Toshio are nearly synonymous. In a burst of creativity just after the war (1946–1948) Shimao wrote eighteen stories, twelve of them dream narratives, that is, short stories based on the logic of the unconscious. Several of these, most notably 'Yume no naka de no nichijo'..."

read more

Three Out of the Abyss: The “Sick Wife Stories”

pdf iconDownload PDF
pp. 99-159

"IN THE spring of 1954 Shimao's wife went mad. As she recalls in a later essay, on the day of her husband’s birthday, April 18, Miho took her two small children to greet him at the Koiwa Station in eastern Tokyo, hoping that Toshio, who often spent days away from home, would return for the celebration she had planned.1 I had prepared a nice birthday dinner of whole bream for the four of us, and...

read more

Four Island Dreams: Yaponesia and the Cultural Unconscious

pdf iconDownload PDF
pp. 160-214

"FROM THE late 1950s through the 1970s Shimao was absorbed in two projects: the fictionalized account of his wife’s mental illness that became Shi no toge (see chapter 3), and the depiction of his relationship with his island home, which is the topic of this chapter. To divide these two projects, however, is to risk missing how they are in many ways one. As noted at the end of chapter..."

read more


pdf iconDownload PDF
pp. 215-222

ASKED IN 1981 whether he ever planned a sequel to Shi no toge, Shimao remarked, 'I feel that I wrote about what happened afterward in Hi no utsuroi.' Shi no toge is indeed continued in the 1976 Hi no utsuroi, translatable as 'The changing [or passing] of the days.”1 The same cast of characters appears—the tokkotai survivor husband/narrator, the wife, who is a former mental patient, the son, and..."

Appendix: Plot Summary of Shi no toge

pdf iconDownload PDF
pp. 223-234


pdf iconDownload PDF
pp. 235-272


pdf iconDownload PDF
pp. 273-280


pdf iconDownload PDF
pp. 281-290

E-ISBN-13: 9780824863432
Print-ISBN-13: 9780824820121

Publication Year: 1999

OCLC Number: 300862781
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Mad Wives and Island Dreams

Research Areas


UPCC logo

Subject Headings

  • Shimao, Toshio, 1917- -- Criticism and interpretation.
  • You have access to this content
  • Free sample
  • Open Access
  • Restricted Access