In 1911, Takahama Kyoshi traveled to Korea (or, as it was called at the time, “Chosun”), which had become a part of the Japanese Empire, and wrote the novel Chosun. In this work, Kyoshi is considered to have “sketched” unfamiliar things in the newly colonized land of Korea and thus satisfied the exoticism of many Japanese readers. On the other hand, however, the story itself is of a Korean political activist called Ko-san, and his Japanese colleague, Ishibashi. This paper will explore the complex interconnections between the representational aspect of the novel and the political story that focuses on Kosan and Ishibashi.
this novel, “ I,” the first-person narrator, depicts Ko-san’s actions and expressions, but never reveals his inner emotions and thoughts. In fact, before Japan took over Korean rule in 1910, Ko-san was a pro-Japanese political reformist who had been living in Japan for twelve years as a refugee, becoming friends with many Japanese activists including Ishibashi. Political novels written before 1910 often portray the friendship and cooperation between such Korean and Japanese activists; in Chosun, however, Ko-san and Ishibashi have nothing to do with the new political situation after 1910. They just impress readers with their mysterious appearances, and nothing seems to happen in the world they live in. In this sense, the novel Chosun does not tell any interesting political story―only a calm and domesticated political space of a colonized Korea is fully described in Kyoshi’s “sketch”.
Kajin no kigū （『佳人之奇遇』） written by Tōkai Sanshi (1852-1922) was one of the most popular political novels in the Meiji Era. In the book he vividly described European invasions of lesser countries in the world including Egypt and Madagascar, and told how Japan should deal with great powers, emphasizing that each country must preserve its national dignity and respect for its own culture.
His personal experience was indispensable for the origin of the story. Born in a family of Aizu clansman, he became a refugee after the armed conflict between the Shōgunate party and loyalists in 1868. Having tasted the bitters of life, he managed to get a chance to study in the United States on a scholarship from 1879 to 1884. He published the first volume of Kajin no kigū in 1885, based on the knowledge acquired both at home and abroad, and completed the work in 1897. He was the first Japanese who could identify Japan with Africa which was on the verge of European colonization.
This paper is an attempt to examine his view of Africa and show how unique it was in the light of modern Japanese history.