Humanities 210 MIC/WIC- Cora Agatucci
Cultures & Literatures of Asia

Japan Timeline 4:
Post-World War II Period

Asian Timelines Table of Contents Literary & Cultural History
Learn more about selected Japanese topics by clicking the links embedded in these timelines.
And if you find inaccuracies, bugs, or other relevant websites, please let me know:
The timeline pages are under construction and probably always will be...

Post-WWII Showa Period 1945- Present

Japanese, the official language of Japan, is spoken by virtually all of the country's approximately 125 million inhabitants today, as well as by Japanese living in Hawaii, the Americas, and elsewhere. It is also spoken as a second language by Chinese and Korean people who lived under Japanese occupation during the first half of the 20th century.

Post-WWII Literature

The Post-WWII period sees a proliferation of literary movements in Japan, as well as the rise of Japanese film and televised broadcasting.

One of Japan's most highly regarded postwar writers, Mishima Yukio, wrote a number of novels, plays, and short stories concerning his despair over the Westernization of his country and his desire for a return to the nobler Japan of earlier times. Among his haunting works are his first novel, the partly autobiographical Confessions of a Mask (1948; trans. 1960), and his tetralogy, The Sea of Fertility (1970; trans. 1972-75), an epic story of modern Japan. The death-obsessed Mishima ended his life by committing ritual hara-kiri.

After 1951 U.S. occupation of Japan ends; post-WW II Japan’s rapid economic recovery leads East Asia in modeling the benefits of modernization & industrialization while preserving cultural identity; Asian nations increasingly demonstrate the success of diverse non-Western approaches to life in our post-industrialized modern world.
Over time, the Japanese have established a standard, or common, dialect to facilitate communication throughout the country. The two dialect families with the largest number of speakers are the dialect spoken in and around Tokyo (formerly Edo), which is the common dialect, and the dialects of the Kansai region in western Japan, spoken in cities such as Kyoto (formerly Nara), Osaka, and Kobe. Today, due to use of the common dialect through television and radio, most people outside the Tokyo region speak the common dialect, as well as a local dialect. However, because hogen (dialects) are part of a region's culture, recently a movement to emphasize their importance has arisen. (See Kansai Ben, the "most common Japanese dialect.")

Japanese traditionally is written vertically, with lines starting at the right side of the page. While this writing method still predominates, another method, like English, uses horizontal lines and starts from the top left-hand side of the page. There are tens of thousands of characters in the Japanese language. In 1981 the government identified 1945 characters, and increase over the 1850 characters officially identified in 1946, and gave it the name Joyo Kanji List (kanji for daily use.) The characters in the Joyo Kanji List must be learned in primary and secondary schools, and newspapers generally limit the use of characters to this list.

Most characters have at least two readings: the native Japanese reading and the reading that simulates the original Chinese pronunciation of the same character. If the same character came into the Japanese language at different periods or from different Chinese dialects, the character may have several Chinese readings that represent different historical periods and dialectal differences. For example, the character for to go has four different readings: the Japanese reading and three distinct originally Chinese readings.


Cross-Cultural Literatures & Film

"In Children of the A-Bomb [1982], Arata Osado records the testimony of a boy who was a fourth-grader in Hiroshima on August 6, 1945, when the crew of the B-29 bomber Enola Gray dropped the atomic bomb innocuously named Little Boy on that city. He remembers the refugee camp in some field in the Hiroshima suburbs, the stench of rotting flesh and bodies being cremated, the clouds of flies and mosquitoes, and his mother dying there of wounds and radiation sickness after almost two weeks of agony. He concludes his flat list of horrors by saying,

'Too much sorrow makes me like a stranger to myself,
and yet despite my grief I cannot cry.'"

"By the 1950s and 1960s, Japanese writers who were children and adolescents in the year of Hiroshima and Nagasaki had begun to tell the story of the sorrow in a way that might help them recognize themselves. Hiroko Takenishi's 'The Rite' [1963; trans. Eileen Kato] is one of the most powerful of these semi-autobiographical retellings"("Hiroko Takenishi," Western Literature in a World Context, V. 2, ed. Paul Davis et al, New York: St. Martin's Press, 1995; pp. 1889- 1908).
Kazuo Ishiguro (b. 1954 in Nagasaki, Japan) moved with his family to England in 1960, when he was 6 years old, believing they would soon return and preparing him to resume life in his native land. However, they stayed in Britain, and Ishiguro grew up straddling two cultures, the Japan of his parents and his adopted country England. Ishiguro graduated the Univ. of Kent with honors in 1978, and earned his M.A. from the Univ. of East Anglia in 1980. Today Ishiguro is considered one of the leading figures in the new generation of writers. Ishiguro writes delicate, subtle, "perfect" novels about the suppression of feelings and emotion. He affirms history's importance to our comprehension of the present, even as he often departs from strict literary realism.
1982 A Pale View of the Hills, Kazuo Ishiguro's first novel, won the Winifred Holtby Prize of the Royal Society of Literature, was hailed as "a first novel of uncommon delicacy..., and extremely quiet study of extreme emotional turbulence" by the Times Literary Supplement, and has been translated into 13 languages. Critic Cynthia F. Wong judges A Pale View of Hills, with a first person narrator who tells the story of the suicide of one of her daughters, as an excellent example of Maurice Blanchot's theory that narrators recall and relate past experiences to divest themselves of memories and their past. Like his next two novels, the protagonist of A Pale View of Hills, looks back on his or her life, trying to assess the events that have shaped it. The widow recalls her former life in Nagasaki, and while she never mentions the Bomb, it silently stands behind the events recounted in Ishiguro’s first novel.
1968 KAWABATA, YASUNARI, Japan, 1899 - 1972, wins the Nobel Prize for Literature: "for his narrative mastery, which with great sensibility expresses the essence of the Japanese mind"
Ishiguro’s second novel, An Artist of the Floating World, won the esteemed Whitbread Book of the Year prize in 1986. Masuji Ono, the protagonist, also reflects on the events shaping his life. Ono spends his days trying to negotiate the marraigae of his younger daughter, visiting former haunts and playing with his young grandson. Through reminiscences and contacts with old colleagues and students, it is revealed that Ono squandered his artistic talents and channeled his creativity into Japan's militaristic propaganda efforts. In his old age, Ono finds himself condemned for ideas he held so strongly in his youth.
Remains of the Day received England's top literary award, the 1989 Booker McConnell Prize (administered by the National Book League in the United Kingdom, awarded to the best full-length novel written in English by a citizen of the UK, the Commonwealth, Eire, Pakistan or South Africa). See John Rothfork's Zen Comedy in Commonwealth Literature: Kazuo Ishiguro's The Remains of the Day (essay) available:
film version of Remains of the Day was nominated for seven Academy Awards. Ishiguro's latest novel is The Unconsoled (Knopf, 1995).

What I'm interested in is not the actual fact
that my characters have done things they later regret.
I'm interested in how they come to terms with it.

–Kazuo Ishiguro, 9 October 1995

Rhapsody in August (Hachigatsu no kyoshikyoku, Japan, 1991), dir. Akira Kurosawa, with Ishiro Honda for some uncredited scenes. based on "Nabe-no-kaka" by Kiyoko Murata. (See Leonard MaltinSummary for Hachigatsu no kyoshikyoku (1991), from Leonard Maltin's Movie & Video Guide [11-17]).
Akira Kurosawa (1910 - 1998) trained first as a painter (he storyboarded his films as full-scale paintings), then entered the film industry in 1936 as an assistant director, making his directorial debut in 1943. After working in a wide range of genres, he made his breakthrough film Rashomon (trans. In the Woods, Japan) in 1950.  Rashomon won the grand prize at the 1951 Venice International Film Festival (and other awards), gaining worldwide prominance and revealing the richness of Japanese cinema to the West.  It was followed by Ikiru (trans. To Live, Japan, 1952) and Shichinin no samurai (trans. The Seven Samurai, Japan, 1954; remade in the USA as The Magnificent Seven, 1960).  The films Kurosawa directed in the 1960s were very popular, and Yojimbo (1961) remains one of his major box office successes in Japan (information courtesy of Anne Wasserman, MIT, who references Donald Ritchie's Films of Akira Kurosawa [Rev. ed. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1984] and recommends Yoshimoto's Akira Kurosawa). After lean periods in the 1960s and attempted suicide in the 1970s, Kurosawa re-emerged, with the help of admirers Francis Coppola and George Lucas, to make the samurai epic Kagemusha (trans. The Shadow Warrior, Japan, 1980), which won the Golden Palm from Cannes in 1980; followed by his second Shakespeare adaptation Ran (Japan/France, 1985), which was nominated for Oscar's Best Director in 1986 and won for costume design.  Kurosawa's films have been popular in the West (including adaptations of Western genres, authors, and works such as Dostoevsky's The Idiot, Gorky's The Lower Depths, Shakespeare's Macbeth (Throne of Blood) and King Lear (Ran).  U.S. and European filmmakers have frequently imitated and remade his films.  

Kurosawa continued to work into his eighties with the more personal films like Dreams (1990) and Rhapsody in August (1991). in 1990, the Academy Awards presents Kurosawa with an Honorary Award for cinematic accomplishments in world cinema.  He was awarded the D.W. Griffith Award from the Directors Guild of America in 1992.  When Kurosawa died on 6 September 1998, Kabir Chowdhury states: "the world lost one of the greatest film-makers of all the time. His Rashomon (1950), Seven Samurai (1954), Throne of blood (1957) and Yajimbo (1961), to name only four of his remarkable creations, are glorious monuments to his imagination, sensitiveness and ability to handle his chosen themes and establish his particular cinematic style." From "Akira Kurosawa: A Tribute," Celluloid 20.3 [1998]; rpt. online by Asian Film Connections: Japan:

Asian Film Connections: Japan, presents Akira Kurosawa as a featured director: 
Asian Film Connections: Akira Kurosawa Movie Corner (Robert Red-Baer):

Akira Kurosawa Database (Nobuji Tamura, 1996, Temple Univ.).
Toshiro Mifune
(Robert Red-Baer):
Dreams [Yume / Konna yume wo mita] has also been translated as Dreams/I Had This Dream & Akira Kurosawa's Dreams.   See Mr Showbiz MovieGuide: Akira Kurosawa's Dreams

Akira Kurosawa (Dan Kim): 

[Films of] Akira Kurosawa, Classic Film & Television (Michael E. Grost, 2000):  

Rashomon is based on two short stories "In a Grove" and "Rashomon," by Ryunosuke Akutagawa (in Rashomon and Other Stories, trans. Takashi Kojima, New York: Liveright, 1952. "In a Grove," pp. 19-33; "Rashomon" pp. 34-44).

Joan Mellon, The Waves at Genji's Door: Japan Through its Cinema (New York: Pantheon Books, 1976).

Bright Lights Film Journal: Japan features articles on "Akira Kurosawa" and "The Seven Samurai," by Gary Morris : 

Rashomon Film commentary/notes by Brett Johnson, Center for Japanese Studies, Univ. of Michigan: 
for Japan on Film: the University of Michigan Center for Japanese Studies' Guide to Japanese Film Prints: 

1994 OE, KENZABURO, Japan, b. 1935-, wins the Nobel Prize for Literature, as one "who with poetic force creates an imagined world, where life and myth condense to form a disconcerting picture of the human predicament today" (and see more links from Yahoo)

Japan Timeline Sources & Resources for Further Study

Bass, Randall. "Kazuo Ishiguro's Life and Works (1954-)." [Accessed March 1997].

de Bary, William Theodore, ed. Sources of Japanese Tradition. Vols. 1 & 2.
New York: Columbia UP, 1958.

Clerk, Jayana, and Ruth Siegel, eds. Modern Literatures of the Non-Western World: Where the Waters Are Born. New York: Harper, 1995.

Dumoulin, Heinrich, S. J. A History of Zen Buddhism. Trans. Paul Peachey. Boston: Beacon, 1963.

Faure, Bernard. The Rhetoric of Immediacy: A Cultural Critique of Chan/Zen Buddhism. Princeton: Princeton UP, 1991.

Fu, Charles Wei-hsun, and Steven Heine, eds. Japan in Traditional and Postmodern Perspectives. Albany: SUNY, 1995.

Giroux, Joan. The Haiku Form. Tuttle, 1974.

"Hiroko Takenishi" and "The Rite" [1963; trans. Eileen Kato]. Western Literature in a World Context, V. 2, ed. Paul Davis et al, New York: St. Martin's Press, 1995. 1889- 1908.

Hiroko Takenishi. "The Rite." The Crazy Iris and Other Stories of the Atomic Aftermath. Ed. Kenaburo Oe. Grove Press, 1964.

Hisamatsu, Sen'ichi. Biographical Dictionary of Japanese Literature. Kodansha, 1976

Hume, Nancy G., ed. Japanese Aesthetics and Culture: A Reader. SUNY Series in Asian Studies Development. Eds. Roger T. Ames and Elizabeth B. Buck. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1995.

Janik, Del Ivan. "No End of History: Evidence from the Contemporary English Novel. Twentieth Century Literature, 41.2 (Summer1995): 160-199. [Available at COCC Library via Infotrac Elec. Coll.: A17134472.]

Kato, Shuichi. A History of Japanese Literature. 3 vols. Kodansha, 1979-83. State Mutual, 1985.

"Kazuo Ishiguro: A Timeline." [Accessed March 1997.]

Keene, Donald. Dawn to the West: Japanese Literature in the Modern Era. 2v. Holt, 1987. V.1: Nonfiction; V.2; Poetry, drama, and criticism. Preceded by: World Within Walls (Holt, 1976; Grove, 1979) covering 1600-1867.

"Key Aspects of Japan." (in English and Japanese versions). Updated version of the 1993 Traditional Japanese Culture & Modern Japan. LOOK UP THE HTTP ADDRESS ON WEBPAGE!!

Japanese Literature." Microsoft® Encarta 96 Encyclopedia. Microsoft Corp.-Funk &. Wagnalls, 1993-1995.

Lebra, Takie Sugiyama. "Self in Japanese Culture." Japanese Sense of Self. Ed. Nancy R. Rosenberger. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1992. 105-20

.Miner, Earl Roy, Hiroko Odagiri, and Robert E. Morrell. The Princeton Companion to Classical Japanese Literature. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1985

Morris, Ivan, ed. Dictionary of Selected Forms in Classical Japanese Literature. Columbia, 1966. Handbook to decipher lexical meanings and translate Japanese words into English.

Reischauer, Edwin O. The Japanese. Cambridge: Harvard UP, 1977.

Reps, Paul, ed. Zen Flesh, Zen Bones: A Collection of Zen and Pre-Zen Writings. New York: Doubleday, 1939.

Seidensticker, Edward. Genji Days. Kodansha, 1978, 1984. Reviews a phase of Japanese literary development.

Shigeru Miyagawa. "Japanese Language." Microsoft® Encarta 96 Encyclopedia. Microsoft Corp.-Funk & Wagnalls, 1993-1995.

Smith, Huston. The World's Religions. San Francisco: Harper, 1991.

Taylor, Charles. Sources of the Self: The Making of the Modern Identity. Cambridge:
Harvard UP, 1989.

Ueda, Makoto. Modern Japanese Writers and the Nature of Literature. Stanford, 1976. Study examines literary theories, current authors.

Watts, Alan. The Spirit of Zen. New York: Grove P, 1958.

Wong, Cynthia F. "The Shame of Memory: Blanchot's Self-Dispossession in Ishiguro's 'A Pale View of Hills." CLIO 24.2 (Winter 1995): 127- 145. [Available at COCC Library via Infotrac Elec. Coll.: A17174002.]

Yasuda, Kenneth. The Japanese Haiku: Its Essential Nature, History, and Possibilities in English, with Selected Examples. 1957. Rutland, VT: Charles E. Tuttle, 1995.

Japan Timeline 1:  Early Japan (to CE 1185)
Japan Timeline 2:  Medieval Period (CE 1160 - 1568)
Japan Timeline 3: Tokugawa and Modern Japan (17th - mid-20th c.)
Japan Timeline 4: Post-World War II Period & Japan Timelines Sources
URL of this webpage:

Asian Timelines: India China Japan
  were first prepared by Cora Agatucci, in 1998. 
They are slowly being updated in Winter 2001.  Please bear with me.
Other Online HUM 210 Course Resources:
HUM 210 Syllabus Course Plan Assignments Student Writing 
Asian Film Asian Links: India China Japan

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If you're interested in other world literatures and cultures, visit these course websites:
Hum 211 - Culture and Literature of Africa 
Eng 109 - Western World Literatures (late 18th-late 20th centuries)