UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

The other in modern Japanese literature Tong, Pi-Ta


The concept of the Other plays a critical role in individual as well as national cultural identity. Each society's definition of the Other is based on its social, political, cultural, racial and spiritual paradigms. From ancient times, the concept of tasha or the Other has been an integral part of the Japanese world-view. At the outset of the Meiji period (1868), the role of the Other shifted from China to the West. During the Meiji Restoration the Japanese embraced the Western world and its modern technology, seeing it as a way to build Japan's strength. However, the inherent danger of losing their culture and traditions eventually became apparent. The Second World War and the Allied Occupation contributed to a growing resentment of the West and a rejection of many Western values. Today Japan is a nation that belongs to neither the Asian nor the Western world but rather exists in a territory somewhere in between. The complex and ambivalent attitude of the Japanese toward the West is reflected in modern Japanese literature and is the focus of this paper. The work of writers such as Mori Ogai ("The Dancing Girl" and "Under Reconstruction"), Tanizaki Jun'ichiro (The Makioka Sisters), Oe Kenzaburo ("Human beings as Sheep") and Yamada Eimi ("Bedtime Eyes") are examined for what they reveal about the values and assumptions of Japanese culture and the changing perceptions of the West as the Other. Historical events from the Meiji Restoration onward are chronicled and then interwoven with an analysis of the literature to provide insight into the conflicting forces of tradition vs. modernity, nationalism vs. individualism, rejection vs. reconciliation and pride vs. humiliation, which have contributed to Japan's complex relationship with the West.

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