The Fiction and Essays of Koda Aya
Publication Year: 1999
Published by: University of Hawai'i Press
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This book is based on parts of my dissertation at the University of Michigan. A Fulbright-Hays Fellowship made it possible for me to pursue research in Tokyo and to interview K
A Note on Names
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Part One: Life and Writings
1. A Literary Life
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Köda Aya (1904–1990) never wanted to be like her father, the dedicated and prolific writer Köda Rohan (1867–1947). Most of her life, Köda had stayed at home raising a daughter and caring for her father in his old age.1 Far from her father’s world of art and literature, she devoted herself to work in the kitchen. After Rohan’s death in 1947, Köda took up writing herself, primarily as a...
2. The Father: Kōda’s Autobiographical Texts
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At the start of her career, Köda Aya had the advantages of a famous name and a tolerant age. The postwar era encouraged an outpouring of literary creativity and fostered a diversity of voices and interests. In this exhilarating atmosphere, Köda grappled with the assignment of presenting her father’s home life to an admiring readership. But now that she no longer had the responsibility of caring...
3 Flowing and the Literature of the Demimonde
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In 1955, Köda surprised readers when she published the novel Flowing (Nagareru), a work about a geisha house in early postwar Tokyo. Readers and critics alike wondered at Köda’s switch from memoirs about her family to prose narrative on a radically different subject—the world of the geisha and prostitute.1 Köda had consistently produced sober, mature works focusing on domestic...
4. Narrative Authority and the Postwar Realm: Two Exemplary Short Stories
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Many works of fiction by modern Japanese women writers convey a strong undercurrent of female self-repression and anger directed at the sexism of Japanese society.1 Readers who seek expressions of “‘female rage’ against patriarchal oppression” in Köda’s writings, however, will not find it.2 Certainly her earlier works concentrate on the pain resulting from her relationship with...
5. Torn Sleeves and the Anti-Oedipal Family
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Never has there been a more dazzling and diverse list of titles available to a reader than in the Japan of the late twentieth century. Heedless of critics’ insistence that fiction is dead, hard and soft covers enclose a dizzying array of narratives: some heavy on plot, some not; written by women or men; boldly pornographic or discreetly lyrical; avant garde or conventional in style and conception;...
Part Two: Translations
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I live among the charred ruins of Omotech
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In those days, I wore a black striped apprentice’s kimono with a chintz sash so threadbare that you could barely see the floral print. A long, straight apron hung firmly from the waist of that sash, like a shield, like a plaster cast, like a fire door. With the resounding failure of my husband’s business, I had fallen from the status of proud young mistress of a prosperous Shingawa liquor wholesaler to...
Dolls for a Special Day
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I have heard that Girls’ Day dolls vary in appearance from one generation to the next because they are modeled after the reigning empress. I wonder about that. The sets of Girls’ Day dolls familiar to us today generally contain fifteen figures. Twelve of the fifteen—the emperor and empress, ladies-in-waiting, five-member musical ensemble, the Minister of the Left, and the Minister of...
A Friend for Life
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I have a rather large full-length mirror at home. It is an old mirror, one that I bought nearly forty years ago. Not surprisingly it has begun to wear out. Last year, cloudy spots started appearing, one after another, all over the mirror’s surface. I suddenly developed a great attachment to the mirror, and though I had never been faithful about keeping it clean, I set out to prevent the blotches...
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Publication Year: 1999