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  • The Topography of Dalian and the Cartography of Fantastic Asia in Anzai Fuyue's Poetry
  • Toshiko Ellis

In 1924 when the first issue of the poetic journal, A, was published in Dalian, Japan, in its intent to colonize nearby nations, was rapidly expanding its geographical borders. The five founding members of A, Anzai Fuyue, Kitagawa Fuyuhiko, Takiguchi Takeshi, Kidokoro Eiichi and Tomita Mitsuru, were either residents of Dalian or members of families that had recently moved to Dalian.1 Published in this central port city in colonial Manchuria, the poetic works of A embrace a distinct kind of consciousness characterized by a certain sense of detachment from the dominant Japanese culture as well as from the local Manchurian culture.

The journal A has often been quoted by literary historians for its importance as a precursor to Shi to Shiron (Poetry and Poetics), one of the most well-known poetic journals representing the modernist movement in pre-1945 Japan. It is characterized by its interest in formalistic innovativeness and its concern for the artistic effect of verbal composition, which were aspects of little concern for the so-called minshushi-ha (people's poetry), the contemporary colloquial free verse poets, for whom the primary purpose of writing poetry lay in conveying easy-to-understand messages to their readers, consequently giving little regard to the stylistic economy of the text. The poets of A were also aware of the latest attempts in avant-garde poetry, namely the "Dada" works of Takahashi Shinkichi and the works presented by the poets gathering around Aka to Kuro (Red and Black, 1923-24), the self-named "black criminals who throw a bomb on the hard walls and doors of prison."2 Hagiwara Kyojiro, one of the founding members of Aka to Kuro, was to publish his Shikei Senkoku (Death Sentence) in 1925. The poets of A took a critical stance toward Hagiwara's challenge in [End Page 482] experimenting with the printing layout, freely using the space on paper with characters of different sizes facing different directions. Rather, the interest of A poets lies in the newness of poetic imagery presented through the composition of carefully selected words, smartly lined up on a blank sheet of paper. Their pursuit of imaginative originality and formalistic rigor was to have a decisive influence on the inauguration of Shi to Shiron, the first issue of which was published in Tokyo in 1928.

In this paper, I will concentrate on the poetic works of Anzai Fuyue (1898-1965), the central figure in the publication of A, with a particular focus on the relevance of his works to the idea of "Asia," which acquired distinct cultural and political significance around this time. The fact that A was published in Dalian, the central port city in colonial Manchuria, is symbolic. After discussing the general background to the publication of A and its relationship to the emerging idea of "Asia," the development of Anzai's works will be examined, tracing in particular the transformation in his perception of "Asia" with the changing context of Japan's socio-historical situation.3

The thirty-five issues of A were published between 1924 and 1927. The origin of the title of the journal is well known. According to Anzai, who first suggested it, this single-letter, single-syllable name evoked an exotic atmosphere distinct from that of island Japan. The shape of the Chinese character "" also looked distinctly foreign and pictorially effective. The sound is simple and resembles "Ah!", as readers might exclaim when they read the journal. Furthermore, "" is the first character of "" (Asia) and is appropriate for a journal inaugurated on the Asian continent. The others agreed to its naming, and Kitagawa wrote the character "" in calligraphy, which was later printed on the cover page of the journal.4 Anzai's reference to the Asian continent is particularly emblematic when we consider the geo-political relationship between Japan and "Asia" in 1924. Since the end of the Sino-Japanese War, "Asia" had acquired a new meaning for the Japanese nation as a ground for the expansion of Japanese colonial interests. Following the victory in the Russo-Japanese War, in 1905 Japan obtained administrative control over...


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