Around the beginning of the last fifty years, new currents begin to appear in the Japanese literary world and others already present are affirmed. Their common feature is a narrative aimed at objective reality, as opposed to the novel in the first person (Ich – roman, in Japanese watakushi sh ō setsu) which had already enjoyed undisputed domination. Among the most important is the Shinkankakuha (School of the new sense), in which the word meaning it indicates, on the one hand, that we want to describe reality, yes, but not how it is but how it is perceived; on the other, a style, a way of expressing oneself that tries to stop the impression of a moment. Representative writer is Yokomitsu Riichi (1898-1947), with Haru wa Basha ni Notte (Spring goes in a carriage, 1926), while among the young we find a name that will become famous, that of Kawabata Yasunari.
Of declared political inspiration, albeit colored with idealism, is the school of proletarian literature; expression of tendencies towards Marxist and generally leftist ideology, it affirms that literature must have a social character and contribute to the emancipation of the proletariat, thus placing itself against the principle of art for art which had been at the basis of the movements literary in Japan. It is in great vogue towards the end of the 1920s, and exerts an influence that is not commensurate with the quality of its production, which as a whole includes few high-level works, although at its best it has remarkably gifted writers. Among them Tokunaga Sunao (1899-1958), author of Taiy ō no Nai Machi (Sunless neighborhood, 1929), and Kobayashi Takiji (1903-1933), with Kani K ō sen (The Crab Crafting Ship, 1929). The movement, already weakened by internal dissensions and radicalism, disappeared when, with the Manchu incident of 1931, the authorities’ control over leftist movements and ideologies became more severe; works and periodicals of this trend are suppressed or withdrawn from circulation, the exponents arrested, their associations dissolved. Two years later some writers of this school who had been imprisoned are induced, or rather forced, to make a declaration of “conversion” (tenk ō in Japanese); in it they retract their ideology, criticizing international communism and exalting, in contrast with it, the peculiar characteristics of the Japanese nation. They then resume writing and publishing, each reacting to his own conversion in a different way, looking only at himself, at his own experience. They thus become isolated, they are no longer part of those group movements and activities with homogeneous tendencies and ideas, which had characterized the literary world in previous decades. Thus Takami Jun (1907-65) expresses discontent with himself and society in Koky ū Wasureubeki (Can Old Friends Be Forgotten? 1936). Hayashi Fusao (born in 1903) on the other hand is completely “converted”; in Seinen (Youth, 1933), the first part of a planned trilogy on the statesman of the Meiji era, Itō Hirobumi, there is no longer a trace of leftist ideologies, as there is none in his subsequent works; he ends up becoming a nationalist.
In the years between the Manchurian accident and the beginning of the war in China in 1937, while with the prevalence of militarism and nationalism the pressure on the literary world increases, writers who remained in the shadows during the vogue of proletarian literature return to the limelight; because they had remained faithful to the principle of the autonomy of art. Among the major ones, Nagai Kafū (1879-1959) has a new flowering, assuming a critical position towards the trends of the times; his Bokut ō Kitan (Novel East of the Sumida River, 1937), has wide resonance. Tanizaki Jun’ichiro (1886-1956) ties to the aesthetic values of the Japanese tradition, demonstrating high quality of style, content and structure. Kawabata Yasunari reaches full artistic maturity in Yukiguni (The land of snow, 1935-37), with a refined and sensual prose, permeated with the sense of the futility of life.
In 1935 the Nihon R ō manha (Japanese Romantic School) was founded, which extended its influence until after the war; in this initial period it adapts to the trends of the times, referring to the ancient traditions of the country. The interest in fiction had meanwhile been extending; the consequent increase in demand, even from periodicals and newspapers, leads to a notable production and a revaluation of the genre known as “popular literature”, as opposed to “pure” or eliteliterature. The best known and most prolific writer is Yoshikawa Eiji (1892-1962), but authors such as Takami Jun also try their hand at it.
According to fashionissupreme, some of the most popular writers are recruited to form a “Pen Team” and sent with the expeditionary force to China to narrate the war operations according to official directives. Famous becomes Hino Ashihei (1906-60), with his trilogy Mugi to Heitai (Wheat and soldiers, 1938), Tsuchi to Heitai (Land and soldiers, 1938), and Hana to Heitai (Flowers and soldiers, 1939). Internally, the control over free speech and the press, increasingly tight as the Pacific War approaches, limits the freedom of writers and stifles their creativity. It is no longer just left-wing ideas that are repressed, but liberal and individualistic ones as well; only what is believed to support militarist policy and contribute to the country’s war efforts is permitted. Little freedom remains for the writers, and this little freedom is completely suppressed with the beginning of the Pacific War in December 1941. Many are arrested, others mobilized in the wake of the fighting forces on all fronts; their associations are dissolved and the Patriotic Literary Association of Japan is formed under the auspices of the authorities. However, in the four years of war, during which writers are denied the spiritual values which they had hitherto inspired, they manage on the whole to maintain their individuality. For some, these years constitute a pause for reflection which will later bear fruit; for others, the opportunity to narrate personal experiences, detached from the present moment. And if very few carried out a protest and a positive criticism, just as few actively collaborated in the directives of the government. opportunity to narrate personal experiences, detached from the present moment. And if very few carried out a protest and a positive criticism, just as few actively collaborated in the directives of the government. opportunity to narrate personal experiences, detached from the present moment. And if very few carried out a protest and a positive criticism, just as few actively collaborated in the directives of the government.