Tuesday, October 06, 2009


The return of Soseki Natsume from the two years' stay in London, in retrospect, was a watershed in the cultural history of modern Japan.

Records show that he was an excellent writer of English. His knowledge of the English literature was vast and deep, reinforced by intensive readings of volumes of the genre during his stay in the United Kingdom. Had he chosen to do so, he could have started a successful career in English prose, rather like Mr. Kazuo Ishiguro of contemporary times.

However, history had it that Soseki chose to write novels in Japanese, much to the benefit and enrichment of the Japanese literature for sure, but effectively closing the Japanese mind at the same time.

To date, considering the significant presence of Japanese economy, it is astonishing that Japanese intellectuals have produced so little in English writings. Surely, natural scientists do write papers, but then the expressions tend to be dry and do not reflect the subtle nuances of living on the island. It is a remarkable fact that there has not been an active English voice based in Tokyo, The Japanese scholars, especially in the humanities, have been primarily importers rather than exporters.

The result is a void in which the inner visions have never found a channel for expression. Such novels as "Memoirs of a Geisha" has strange connotations seen from a insider's viewpoint, as if the proportions are distorted and feelings were trodden on. The film "The Last Samurai" was in many ways a joke in facts and sensitivities.

These misrepresentations are all due to the lack of vigor in Japanese intellectuals in expressing the insider's viewpoint in the lingua franca, to the loss of both the island inhabitors and people at large.


Lily Ruby said...

I completely agree with your point! But also I think this will change with time for there are more kids being brought up in or with English nowadays :-)

I am more concerned if they've got a style...the kinda style that includes courage, forbearance, and sympathetic joy...

"Although the future I cannot foresee
My boat will always find your quay
Over the moon-lit sea"

砂山鉄夫(Tetsu Sunayama) said...

Dr.Mogi today has pointed out important issues concerning linguistic affairs to us Japanese.

It seems there are several things to think deeply about in this article.

We might have to reread Kazuo Ishiguro as an important and interesting person in this field of linguistics.