Japanese Popular Literature
By Satoru Saito (Fall 2000)
literature is at once a historical and a generic term whose definition
has been highly contested in Japan. Originally, popular literature
(taishû bungaku) was a term used in the late Taishô
and early Shôwa Period to designate a popular form of historical
fiction. But it soon became associated with other generic terms such
as tsûzoku shôsetsu (popular or contemporary novels)
and tantei shôsetsu (detective fiction) and came to suggest
a work of fiction that emphasized its entertaining qualities rather than
its artistic merit. To get the basic understanding of the term taishû
bungaku and its relationship to other generic terms that will be used
in this bibliography, students should read the entries to taishû
bungaku, tsûzoku shôsetsu, suiri shôsetsu,
jidô bungaku, and rekishi shôsetsu in Kôdansha's
Kindai Nihon bungaku daijiten.
overview of popular literature uses these and other terms for classification
purposes without reconsidering their definitions. In doing so, an
emphasis is given to sources that focus on authors and works not covered
in traditional literary dictionaries and histories and to sources dealing
with popular literature in the prewar and immediate postwar periods rather
than those dealing with contemporary works of popular literature.
Moreover, there is no information in
this bibliography concerning primary texts. Multi-volume compendia
of primary texts and complete works of individual authors can easily be
found through referring to most of the more extensive bibliographies contained
in the secondary sources that are introduced in this overview. However,
Starr Library holds very few works of popular literature, with the exception
of children's literature. Students seeking a specific primary text
should use the inter-library loan system or check with Kinokuniya and other
bookstores, which still sell many works of popular literature from the
postwar as well as the prewar period.
General Works on Popular Literature
As a result of the multi-faceted and
highly-contested nature of the term "popular literature,"
have not been many secondary sources that encompass the many sub-genres
of popular literature in a systematic manner. Because the sub-genres
of popular literature developed in relation to each other, however, it
is important to understand the general trends and characteristics of popular
literature as a whole. The list below provides the few works that
attempt to deal with various aspects of popular literature.
Students seeking an introduction
to popular literature and its history should start with the two essays
listed below, Ara's "Taishû bungakushi"
and Asai's "Taishû
bungaku no tôjô", followed by Sakai, Histoire
de la litterature populaire japonaise, before moving onto the works
introduced in the following sections on sub-genres of popular literature.
For a more complete bibliography
of popular literature, students should refer to the bibliographies included
in Nihon bungaku shinshi: Kindai
(pp. 416-419), Sakai, Histoire de
la litterature populaire japonaise (pp. 331-338), and Ozaki, Taishû
bungaku (pp. 176-201) listed below.
Masahito, "Taishû bungakushi," in Iwanami kôza: Nihon bungakushi,
vol. 14. Iwanami shoten, 1959.
no.: 910.4 N571 v.14 (shelved in Prentis)
of the most important essays in the postwar scholarship on popular literature,
"Taishû bungakushi" offers an introductory literary history of popular
literature, covering its many sub-genres such as political novels, period
fiction, detective fiction, romance novels, and adventure novels.
While information given here is not extensive by any means, this work provides
good basic knowledge of the general trends and characteristics of the development
of popular literature in Japan and should serve as a starting place for
students interested in popular literature.
Kiyoshi, "Taishû bungaku no tôjô," in Maeda Ai and Hasegawa
Izumi, eds., Nihon bungaku shinshi: 5. Kindai. Shibundô,
no.: PL 716 .N535 1990 v.5
article within a larger work of literary history, "Taishû bungaku
no tôjô" is an excellent introduction to the development of
popular literature in Japan from the Meiji to early-Shôwa Period.
Because of its short length, this should be one of the first places to
turn for new students in the field after Kindai Nihon bungaku daijiten.
It is well-written and easy to understand, especially because of the head
notes which provides information on key authors and terms in the main text.
It also includes an extensive bibliography on popular literature at the
end of the volume, which should prove very useful for further research.
Sakai, Histoire de la litterature populaire japonaise : Faits et perspectives.
Paris : L'Harmattan, 1987. Translated into Japanese by Asahina Kôji
as Nihon no taishû bungaku (1900-1980), Heibonsha, 1997.
no.: PL 726.55 .S235 1987; Japanese version not available in Starr Library
from French into Japanese, Histoire de la litterature populaire japonaise
is a very useful introduction to popular literature because of its clear
structure and wide-ranging content. Beginning with a reconsideration
and re-contextualization of the term taishû bungaku, this
work divides the term into three sub-genres: jidai shôsetsu
(period fiction), gendai shôsetsu (contemporary fiction),
and tantei/suiri shôsetsu (detective fiction). From
this division, it proceeds along two axes: first, tracing the development
of each genre from Edo Period to the present; and second, analyzing the
common themes within each genre. Moreover, it analyzes the publishing
industry and its methods, the position and function of popular fiction
writers, and the readers of popular literature from a socio-cultural perspective.
It includes an author index and a fairly detailed bibliography of mostly
Japanese and French sources.
Hotsuki, Taishû bungaku. Kinokuniya shoten, 1980.
no.: PL 740.5 .O9 1980
by the leading scholar of popular literature, Taishû bungaku
traces, albeit fragmentarily, the development of popular literature from
the 1920s to the postwar period. This work is of particular interest
to students starting out their research in popular literature because of
its extensive bibliography of criticisms, journal specials, literary histories,
multi-volume compendia, and complete works of individual authors provided
at the end of the work.
Taishû bungaku no sekai to hansekai. Gendai shokan, 1983.
no.: PL 747.65 .I37
geared to serve as an introductory work than Sakai's work, Taishû
bungaku no sekai to hansekai is one of the few works about Japanese
popular literature that approaches this genre from a theoretical perspective.
Besides offering an insightful understanding of the emergence of popular
literature in the 1920s in relation to other literary trends during this
period such as Shinkankaku ha and proletarian literature, this work
juxtaposes various sub-genres of popular literature (historical fiction,
detective fiction, science fiction, works of humor and of horror, etc.)
to analyze their common themes.
Richard G. Powers
and Katô Hidetoshi, eds., Handbook of Japanese Popular Culture.
New York: Greenwood Press, 1989.
no.: DS 822.5 .H347 1989
work contains essays that provide a cultural background necessary for understanding
popular literature, as well as essays on detective fiction and science
fiction that may prove useful. Although the essays have some mistakes
and are generally too superficial to inspire interesting directions for
further research, this work is worth a mention because it is one of the
few works in English dealing with Japanese popular literature. Students
who are interested in Japanese science fiction should also refer to Robert
Matthew, Japanese Science Fiction, New York: Routledge, 1989 (Call
no.: PL 747.57 .S3 M37 1989).
Hon no hyakunen shi: Besuto serâ no konjaku. Shûppan
Nyûsu Sha, 1965.
no.: 023.1 Se5 (shelved in Prentis)
by the leading literary scholar of the Taishô Period, Hon no hyakunen
shi examines the cultural history of the book and the publishing industry
by tracing the best sellers from the Meiji to Shôwa 40s. The
result is a literary history that offers a new perspective on popular literature.
Moreover, numerous figures on book sales as well as an extensive index
make this work a good place to turn for information not provided by other
bungaku kenkyû. Published quarterly by Nanbokusha, 1961-1968.
no.: PN 56 .P55 T2 (first 20 volumes shelved in Prentis)
by the leading scholars of popular literature, including Ozaki Hotsuki,
bungaku kenkyû is a quarterly journal that was published from
July 1961 to June 1968. It contains various interesting essays on
popular literature as well as a round-table discussion on a particular
aspect of popular literature.
Sub-genres of Popular Literature
fiction (jidai shôsetsu) is one of the most confusing categorizations
within popular literature because of its close ties to historical fiction
(rekishi shôsetsu). Students should note that while
most scholars differentiate between these two terms by defining period
fiction as a popular or vulgar form of historical fiction, some scholars
use these terms interchangeably. Period fiction, as a popular form
of fiction portraying the life of pre-Meiji years, is a field that has
not received much academic attention. Although there are numerous
reviews and commentaries on the works of period fiction available, they
are mostly geared toward the fans of period fiction and lack the systematic
analysis that can be seen in the scholarship on detective fiction and children's
literature. As a result, students seeking introductory as well as
bibliographical information on period fiction should refer to the introductory
works cited in the previous section. In particular, Sakai, Nihon
no taishû bungaku provides an extensive history of period
fiction from the pre-Meiji to the postwar period.
ed., Taishû bungaku jiten. Seiabô, 1967.
no.: REF PL 747.6 .T34 1967
the hanrei at the beginning of this work indicates, Taishû
bungaku jiten takes the original meaning of the term taishû
bungaku and focuses on period fiction. It is organized into two
sections: literary history of period fiction and biography of authors.
The first section divides the development of period fiction from the Meiji
10s to the postwar period into five stages and offers an introductory overview
of each stage, which is a good place to start for students new to the field.
These overviews are followed by entries for works that comprise these stages.
These entries contain a summary of the work's storyline, which is useful.
Moreover, this work includes a nenpyô, a subject and author
index, and a separate index for fictional characters of period fiction.
Taishû bungaku gojûnen. Kôdansha, 1969.
no.: PL 740.5 .O92
bungaku gojûnen, a collection of essays written for newspapers
between February to May of 1969, attempts to deal with various sub-genres
of popular literature such as detective fiction, its primary focus is on
period fiction, as it is expected from Ozaki who is the leading scholar
of this sub-genre. This work provides a genealogy of period fiction
beginning with Nakazato Kaizan's Daibosatsu tôge, often considered
the founding work of popular literature in Japan. The introductory
chapter, however, traces the development of popular literature in relation
to the changing media (newspaper, magazine, film, radio, and television),
and the closing chapter attempts to grasp the significance of popular literature
as a whole. These chapters should be useful for anyone researching
in the field of popular literature.
(tantei shôsetsu / suiri shôsetsu), as a quick look
at any of the below works will reveal, is a term which subsumes a vast
number of other types of fiction such as fantasy, grotesque, and horror.
With the change in terminology after the war from tantei shôsetsu
to suiri shôsetsu, however, the definition of detective fiction
has become narrower. Scholarship on detective fiction, similar to
the scholarship on period fiction, has been largely unsystematic, but in
the 1980s, two leading scholars in the field, Nakajima Kawatarô and
Itô Hideo, published literary histories of Japanese detective fiction
that have provided its systematic treatment much needed in the field.
Students seeking bibliographical information on primary texts should refer
to Nakajima, Nihon suiri shôsetsu
jiten, which provides an extensive list of multi-volume compendia
and complete works by individual authors.
Kawatarô, Nihon suiri shôsetsu jiten. Tôkyôdô
no.: REF PL 770.6 .D45 N35 1986.
good place to turn for factual information on detective fiction, Nihon
suiri shôsetsu jiten is organized into two sections. The
first section, which is the bulk of this work, contains entries of authors
and magazines of detective fiction. A famous detective story is given
a separate entry under its author entry. The second section gives
definitions and etymologies of terms such as tantei shôsetsu
and torimonochô. Moreover, this work contains a list
of multi-volume compendia and individual author's zenshû published
over the years, as well as what is contained within each volume of the
compendium or zenshû. It also includes nenpyô
of Japanese and foreign detective fiction as well as an index of detective
stories cited in the work.
Nihon tantei shôsetsu jiten. Ed. Shinpo Hirohisa and
Yamamae Yuzuru. Kawada shobô shinsha, 1996.
no.: PL 826 .D6 N54 1996
spite of its name, this is not really a dictionary, but rather a collection
of previously published reviews and criticisms that Edogawa Rampo wrote
on various authors and works of detective fiction over the years.
The work is organized by the author's name. What is interesting about
this work is that the entries for the authors also contain a review or
criticism that the author has written on Rampo. Although this may
not be a useful work for gathering basic information on detective fiction,
it is nonetheless a very interesting work for anyone who is an avid reader
of detective fiction.
Nihon suiri shôsetsu shi. Tôkyô Sôgensha,
1993-1996. 3 vols.
no.: PL 747.67 .D45 N35 1993 v.1-3
from the beginning of Meiji to the postwar period, Nihon suiri shôsetsu
shi, a collection of past articles written by the author, provides
a comprehensive literary history of detective fiction in Japan. This
work is particularly useful because it does not focus only on the works
of detective fiction themselves but also provides the contexts for their
production and reception through its examination of translations, magazines,
literary criticism, etc. Each volume contains an author index and
a title index. At the end of volume 2, there is a list of major works
contained within each issue of Shinseinen, a magazine that played
a major role in the development of detective fiction in Japan, from its
first appearance in January 1920 to its last in July 1950. At the
end of volume 3, same information is given for Purofîru, a
short-lived (May 1933-April 1937) but influential magazine of detective
fiction in the prewar period.
Meiji no tantei shôsetsu. Shôbunsha, 1986.
no.: not available in Starr Library
Taishô no tantei shôsetsu. San'ichi Shobô,
no.: PL 747.63 .D45 I86 1991
Shôwa no tantei shôsetsu. San'ichi Shobô,
no.: not available in Starr Library
in scope to Nakajima's three-volume work, this trilogy examines the development
of detective fiction from early Meiji Period to the Shôwa 20s.
In contrast to Nakajima's work, however, this work emphasizes the detective
stories themselves and provides numerous plot summaries of famous and obscure
works of detective fiction as well as adaptations/translations of foreign
detective fiction. It also includes nenpyô and an index
of names and titles at the end of each volume.
Hideo, Kindai no tantei shôsetsu. San'ichi Shobô, 1994.
no.: PL 747.57 .D45 I86 1994
the development of detective fiction from the early Meiji to the Shôwa
20s, Kindai no tantei shôsetsu is the single-volume supplement
to the above trilogy. Because it includes information not contained
in the trilogy, these works should be used in conjunction with each other.
the other two sub-genres of popular literature, children's literature (jidô
bungaku), which has maintained a semi-autonomous position in relation
to popular literature both historically and academically, is a field that
has been extensively studied. This section will introduce few works
that may prove particularly useful for those who are just starting their
research. Students seeking bibliographical information on primary
texts should turn to Nihon jidô
bungaku daijiten; and while many of the works introduced below
contains a fairly extensive bibliography of secondary sources, for the
most comprehensive bibliography of secondary sources on children's literature,
students should turn to Torigoe Shin, ed., Jidô bungaku (Kadokawa
Shoten, 1982), pp. 353-371 (Call no.: PL 751.5 .J5 1982).
Kokusai Jidô Bungakkan, ed., Nihon jidô bungaku daijiten,
3 vols. Dai Nihon Tosho, 1993.
no.: REF PN 1009 .J3 N5 1993 v. 1-3
three-volume work contains vast amount of information useful for anyone
doing research in children's literature. The main body of this work,
taking up the first volume and part of the second, consists of entries
for authors of children's literature, including famous authors who have
written what can be considered children's literature as well as more obscure
authors of children's literature who are not listed in regular literary
dictionaries. Each entry is signed, and a bibliography is provided
at the end of each entry. Important works by the authors are given
a sub-entry under the author's entry. The second volume of the work
contains various entries for terms, publishers, literary groups, magazines,
etc. associated with children's literature. The third volume contains
a list of multi-volume compendia of children's literature and what is contained
in each volume. The entries for each compendium are very detailed,
containing a description of its physical composition and bibliographical
information pertaining to the compendium. The third volume also provides
a list of children's literature awards and their recipients and an index
of names, titles, and topics that appear in this dictionary.
Torigoe Shin, Nihon
jidô bungaku. Kenpakusha, 1995.
no.: PL 751.5 .N54 1995
by one of the leading scholars in the field, Nihon jidô bungaku
as a good introduction to the history of children's literature. Organized
into four historical periods (Meiji, Taishô, early Shôwa, and
late Shôwa), this work is well-written and provides an understanding
of children's literature in relation to the socio-cultural conditions of
each period. It also provides a short but annotated bibliography
of sources that the author suggests for students of children's literature.
Kan Tadamichi, Nihon
no jidô bungaku. Ôtsuki Shoten, 1956.
no.: not available in Starr Library
cited as the founding work of postwar scholarship on children's literature,
no jidô bungaku is a key work in understanding the history of
scholarship on children's literature. Moreover, because this work
still exercises great influence over current scholarship in the field,
students of children's literature should take a look at this work.
and Kami Sôichirô, eds., Nihon jidô bungaku kenkyû.
Miyai Shoten, 1974.
no.: 909 M37 (shelved in Prentis)
jidô bungaku kenkyû is a collection of essays by literary
scholars in various fields. Organized by historical periods from
pre-Meiji to early Shôwa Period, it is a good place to turn to get
a sense of the issues that have been addressed by past scholars on children's
literature in various historical periods, especially because it provides
an overview of the essays that appear in the work. It also contains
an appendix which provides a fairly extensive bibliography on children's
bungaku gakkai, ed., Kenkyû: Nihon no jidô bungaku.
Tôkyô Shoseki, 1995. 6 vols.
no.: PL 751.5 .N544 1995 (Starr Library only has vols. 2 and 3)
six volume series (1. Kindai izen no jidô bungaku 2.
bungaku no shisôshi / shakaishi 3. Nihon jidô bungakushi
o toinaosu 4. Gendai jidô bungaku no kanôsei
to irasutorêshon 6. Media to jidô bungaku)
is a collection of essays that attempts to reconsider children's literature
from a new perspective, organizing its analysis around a particular subject
matter rather than on a particular historical period, author, or work.
For example, the essays contained in volume 2 of this series reconsider
children's literature through examining its relationship to nationalism
and Christianity. Because of its approach, this work may not be useful
as an introductory work for students who are starting their research in
children's literature, but it may prove useful for those who want to incorporate
children's literature into their project in another field.
bungaku gakkai, ed., Jidô bungaku kenkyû. Kyûzansha,
1994. 3 vols.
no.: PL 751.5 .J54
bungaku kenkyû is a collection of the first 25 issues (1971-1993)
of Nihon Jidô Bungakkai's journal and contains articles on various
topics in children's literature. While some of the articles look
very interesting, researchers should be aware that the articles are written
by the members of Nihon jidô bungakkai whose background and affiliations
are not clear and their quality varies from one to the other.