Presented by Kamei Hideo
At Columbia University, Feb.15, 1996
〔Japanese version / 日本語版〕
In the decade following the Imperial Decree in 1881, the people of Japan had experienced a strange history.
As you know well, in that year, the Emperor Meiji issued an Imperial Decree that promised the people that a National Diet would be inaugurated in 1890. The course of Japan was directed, by means of this Decree, toward a single political goal; the establishment of a modern parliamentary system. But from another point of view, the people were thus deprived of their right to choose another type of communal society; that is to say, they were forced by the Decree to pursue a single fixed course as their own history; there was no alternative.
They were, of course, offered an alternative with regard to the political party that would form a Cabinet within the framework of the nation's parliamentary system. Around the time the Decree was issued, parties such as the Liberty party, the Constitutional Reform party and the Constitutional Imperial party were organized and began competitive campaigns to win the leadership of the National Diet that was to be inaugurated ten years hence. Behind the vigorous campaigns, however, a separate argument about the necessity of parliamentary system concealed itself and disappeared from view.
There must have been many people at that time who felt betrayed by the Meiji State because it has abandoned the slogan, "repelling the barbarians !". But once the Imperial Decree was issued, motivation and the significance of designing of alternative to the parliamentary system was lost. More to the point, under the circumstances, they were simply unable to design another political system and social order. It was in this sense that I called the contemporary political situation "history without an alternative" at the beginning of my tale.
If every events occurred in according with the plan forecasted in advance, we would not call the series of events "history". In this sense, the words "history without an alternative" involve two contradictory concepts. This is one of reasons I used the phrase "a strange history" before. But there was another and more important reason in my mind when I used the phrase.
In fact, the people of Japan could not have a sense of committing themselves to "history" until they were directed along a course of political improvement by the Imperial Decree. In other words, enabled by the Imperial Decree, which showed them the goal, they could for the first time own in common a plot of master narrative about the modernization or the westernization of Japan, and were able to find a way of taking part in "history". Or, it may be that they were obliged to hold the master narrative in common, and were compelled to take part in this history by the Meiji State.
Now, in the decade we are examining, the 1880's, many narratives called seiji-shosetsu (literally, "political novel" 政治小説) were generated. Most of their authors were not literati, but statesmen who intended to make manifest this master narrative, and devised various unique narratologies.
I would like to discuss two features of these narratives with regard to their focus on the sense of "time", and try to clarify some of the possibilities which were lost once the Japanese modern novel came into being.
One of two is a chronological method of narrative technique classified by Yanagida Izumi（柳田泉） within the genre of seiji-shosetsu as miraiki-shosetsu (literally, "future novel" 未来記小説). Despite the fact that it contains the adjective merai, that is future, the miraiki-shosetsu differs what usually referred to as science fiction or Utopian novels. We might refer to it as a 'prediction novel', but I can not help feel that the phrase does not describe its character fully. Instead, I will explain its characteristics by citing one or two narratives which are classified as miraiki-shosetsu.
In the prologue of Suehiro Tetcho's Setchubai（末広鉄腸『雪中梅』1886, the year Meiji 19）, the date for setting of the novel is March 3, the year Meiji 173. This would be the 150th anniversary of the National Diet. It corresponds to the year 2040 of the Christian era, since Meiji 23, when the National Diet was established, corresponded to the year 1890 of Christian era. In the prologue of Setchubai there appeared an illustration of a Tokyo which had grown into an internationally known capital city. In the illustration, drawn as if from a great distance, many factories chimneys crowd together, sending up clouds of smoke. This was a view of the future from a time when people regarded the dense smoke of coal rising from smokestacks and funnels as a symbol of the development of a modern nation; and yet of course the Government would be called to account for the ensuing environmental problems if such a scene actually existed today.
At any late, the story on discovery of an old document called Setchubai is described as follows in the prologue in the novel. One day in 2040, an ancient stone monument is uncovered after a landslide in the cliff zone by accident at Uguisudani （鶯谷）in Tokyo's Ueno ward. The name of a famous statesman of 150 years earlier is inscribed on the monument, and people became interested in the details of the opening of the National Diet. A newspaper reporter finds the old document which Setchubai purports to be in the Ueno library.（※1）
As you can see from the story mentioned above, the narrator of this novel provides about the conditions in and around the year 1890――that is Meiji 23――as "the past", having removed himself to an era 150 years after the year of the first National Assembly. On the other hand, the content of the story belongs to "the future", that is, 4 years after the publication of the novel. In this sense, it is a narrative of "a future recalled".
Why did the author manipulate the interrelationships of time in such a complex way ? In the tradition of narrative in Japan, as in the literary tradition of many countries, there has been a tacit convention that narrative tells of events which have already happened from a point at which the difficulty has been resolved. Perhaps the author of Setchubai was unconsciously following this convention, and located the prologue in a future from which he could look back on the year Meiji 23, the year of the inauguration of the Diet. In addition, at the level of objective consciousness, it would seem he intended to imply that the establishment of the National Diet was not only the goal of the Popular Rights Movement, but also its starting point.
We have to accomplish one aim completely in order to make a good start toward the achievement of the next. In order to achieve completely the aim of the reformation of social state, we must reform the entire sweep of the social state――the political and economical circumstances, as well as the manners and customs of Japan. Therefore, we must be on our guard to identify obstacles which stand in the way of reforming the social state. In this kind of syllogistic way, Suehiro Tetcho predicted some of those obstacles and told of the process by which the hero overcame them. Since he was one of the representative statesmen of the Constitutional Reform party, he was responsible for constructing the course of events which would lead toward the year Meiji 23. In other wards, he had to construct a plausible chronicle by looking back on the present from the future of Meiji 23.
In addition to this, it would be seem that he planned to reform the novel itself in order to tell his history effectively.
He may have been enlightened in this respect by Tubouchi Shoyo's
Shosetu Shinzui (坪内逍遥『小説神髄』）, which had been published the
This understanding of "realism" was no more than an opinion borrowed from Shosetu Shinzui. However, Suehiro was able to put the idea of "realism" to work as a method of imagining future events realistically. This was where the novelty of his method lies.
The same intention may be found in Sudo Nansui's novels Ryokusadan （須藤南翠『緑蓑談』1886）and Shinso no Kajin（『新粧之佳人』1887）.
In Ryokusadan, the date of prologue is given as 2539 of the Japanese era. However, the main story begins in April of the Japanese era 2549――10 years after the date of prologue. This date is supposed to correspond to the year 1890 of the Christian era. This means that Sudo Nansui was depicting the social conditions four years after the date of publication of the novel. He explains in the preface that he was able to speculate how the realities of society and human nature were going to progress during the next four years by observing the present, and had to describe that imaged world.
In Shinso no kajin, Sudo does not specify the dates of events in the story. But he described how women came to occupy the social conditions they did as if the inauguration of the National Diet and the competition for administrative power between a conservative party and a reform party were faits accompli.
Another interesting aspect of the novel is Sudo's image of Japan as a heterogeneously internationalized world; the characters include a refugee from Ethiopia, a family of immigrant from Ireland, and some Chinese laborers.
About a year before of this Shiba Tokai-sanshi's novel Kajin no Kigu （柴東海散士『佳人之奇遇』1885）began to appear in a serial form. The author was attempting to delineate a world history in which oppressed refugees from colonized countries all over the world gathered in Philadelphia and conducted campaigns to emancipate their native lands from the great powers. Perhaps the author of Shinso no kajin was influenced by Kajin no Kigu.
* * * * * * * * * *
In this way, the miraiki-shosetsu brought several new methods to Japan's narrative tradition. One of the merits of this sub-genre is that it made it possible to treat social trend as subject matter.
Another important merit was that it provided a new viewpoint from which to observe "reality" in a negative light. This viewpoint was limited by modernization, because it was founded merely on the improved, reformed social state of the near future. The literary heirs of this viewpoint received a precious legacy, however, because a critical view of reality became an essential constituent of the literature which followed.
A third merit of the miraiki-shosetsu was its ability to include
readers to regard the present reality as one dimension of progression
toward a single ultimate purpose.
Now, having noted the new features of a group of seiji-shosetsu
that emerged along with the Imperial Decree, I would like to move to the
next topic, concerning a second characteristic of the seiji-shosetsu.
This feature and the one I mentioned above had different, even contradictory
effects as narrative technique.
The heroine of the first half of the narrative is a geisha named Ko-tami（小民）, who lives in Ginbashi（銀橋）in Edo. At the opening of the story, she is seventeen years old. When she was fourteen, she was apprenticed to a geisha in the geisha house Azuma-ya（東屋）, but her term of service will not end until she reaches the age of twenty-three. However, she run away from Azuma-ya because the demands of her cruel mistress are too terrible for her to bear, and she is rescued by a hermit woman called O-nobu（お信）, who lives on the bank of the Sumida River.
It is my guess that readers of the novel understood
the allegory of the relationships between the characters in the novel.
Just to make sure, I will outline the allegory. From the Chinese characters
used for the names of geisha house and the geisha herself, one can see
that the geisha house Azuma-ya（東屋） implies a country in the Far East――the
country of Japan (Nippon)――and the name of the heroine Ko-tami
（小民）implies the people of Japan, the Japanese. Ko-tami's age, seventeen,
corresponds to the year of the publication of the novel, Meiji17 (1884）.
Therefore, we are free to conclude that the year she became an apprentice
represents the year of the Imperial Decree, and the appointed year of
her emancipation represents the year of the establishment of the National
Diet. One can conclude also that her mistress, whose name is O-kan（おかん＝お官）,
represents the bureaucratic rule of the han clique government.
Using the plight of geisha as an allegory for the situation of the Japanese people was as a whole initiated in Toda Kindo's 1880 novel Jokai-haran（戸田欽堂『情海波闌』), usually regarded as the first of seiji-shosetsu. The device became a common trope in seiji-shosetsu from that time on.
Needless to say, the plight of the geisha was a trope
uniquely suited to represent the situation of a people deprived of their
freedom by authorities. In addition, it should be noted that in Edo-era
usage, the term geisha itself was limited within ten years; a woman
was not considered a geisha after the age of twenty-eight. In those
days, girls from poor families were sold to geisha houses at sixteen or
seventeen years old, and their term of service were up when they reached
the age of twenty-six or twenty-seven.
This allegory is, when you think about it, rather disparaging of both the people and the Emperor. But it is undoubtedly a suitable representation of "history without an alternative".
However, the hidden meanings in these narratives were revealed only in the way they were read by their readers. The writers themselves were interested only in fictitious stories with no particular connection to any historical background. Komuro Shinsuke was so scrupulous about this point that he used the name Edo instead of Tokyo for the place name of the large town, and instead of using the usual characters for Edo（江戸）, he used different ones （荏土）in order to eliminate any feeling of reality.
I would like to take a moment to explain the use of place name in this narrative in more details. The narrator turns from the story of O-nobu's rescue of Ko-tami to the story O-nobu herself; one might say that the heroine in the latter half is O-nobu.
Her father Hitomi Kenpei （人見権平）lived before his death at the foot of Kongo mountain（金剛山）in Kawachi province. He turns out to be a cousin of Ohshio Heihachiro（大塩平八郎） of Osaka, and to have lost life fighting alongside his cousin in the rebellion Ohshio led against the government.
After her father's death, O-nobu goes to Kyoto with her elder sister O-taka, and O-taka becomes an attendant to a court noble named Imoto-ohji Kintomo（妹大路今朝）, until one day he is assassinated by some unknown person. O-nobu marries Sakurayama Jiro（桜山二郎）, a ronin （浪人）from Yamato province. Sakurayama is associated with a group of loyalists from Choshu-han（長州藩）, and after their defeat at Hamaguri-gomon（蛤御門） he flees from Kyoto to Choshu with the group and joins the kiheitai（奇兵隊）, the revolutionary troops.
Thus having parted with her husband, O-nobu starts out for Edo, and on the way she forms a friendship with a woman bandit named Fuefuki no O-riki（笛吹きのお力） near Asama mountain. She travels farther north, and at an inn in Takasaki, in Josyu province, she makes friends with two other women, O-kin（お金） and Tomoji（智次）, who were the daughters of one of the great landowners in Mito province. His name is Fujita Heiji（藤田平二）.
These four women, that is O-nobu, O-riki, O-kin and Tomoji, work together to free Ko-tami from her bondage to O-kan.
* * * * * * * * * *
From this brief introduction you may have been able to see that the author, Komuro Shinsuke, had borrowed the character system from Takizawa Bakin's Edo era novel Nanso satomi hakkenden（滝沢馬琴『南総里見八犬伝』）. As you know well, each of the eight young samurai in the novel is supposed to personify one of the Confucian virtures. Tamenaga Syunsui followed Bakin's character system in his narrative Teiso onna hakkenshi（為永春水『貞操婦女八賢誌』）, a kind of feminized variant of the Hakkenden.
In Komuro's novel, the eight women worriers are reduced to four
women patriots and Komuro allegorized the four women's name as follows;
O-nobu（お信） means Faith（信義）, O-riki （お力）means
Power（武力）, O-kin （お金）means Wealth（財力）, and Tomoji
In his use of this allegorized devices, Komuro was relying on the narratology of Edo period. But if you try to decipher the allegorical device that lies below the relations of married couple and parent and child within the novel, it becomes clear that while using some devices of Edo period gesaku（戯作）, or "playful" writing, Komuro is criticizing the events of the Meiji period.
For example, the name of O-nobu's father Hitomi Kenpei （人見権平）suggests the word jin-ken（人権）, or people's rights, and the place he is supposed to live, Kongo mountain （金剛山）in Kawachi province, was the base of operations for Kusunoki Masashige（楠木正成）, a well-known loyalist in the Nanbokucho period（南北朝時代）. O-nobu's father is also supposed to be a cousin of Ohshio Heihachiro（大塩平八郎）, an actual historical character who plotted and led an armed uprising against the Bakuhu（幕府）.
In addition to this, the name of O-nobu's husband Sakurayama Jiro（桜山二郎）, as well as his birthplace , Yamato （大和）remind the reader of Yoshino （吉野）district. Yoshino was not only a stronghold of the Kusunoki's family, but also the place in which Tenchu-gumi（天誅組） rise an army in 1863. The Tenchu-gumi was a band of loyalist ronin, one of the forerunners in the campaign for Imperial rule. And the name of the court noble, Imoto-ohji Kintomo（妹大路今朝）, is a thinly-disguised cover for the name of one court noble Ane-koji Kinsato（姉小路今知）, well-known at the time a hard-core member of the "revere the Emperor and repel the barbarians" movement（尊皇攘夷運動）; he, too, was assassinated by some unknown person in 1863. The name of the wealthy Mito land owner, Fujita Heiji（藤田平二）, suggests to the readers the name of Fujita Koshiro（藤田小四郎）, the leader of the Mito Tengu-to（水戸天狗党）.
Now, after having considered the series of historical events recalled by the details of the story, we can see that O-nobu's role or function in the narrative is to link together some of the sporadic or isolated local revolts which took place in the 1860's. It is not difficult for the contemporary historians to see relationship between all of the revolts took place simultaneously at various provinces and the Meiji Restoration; in fact, this point of view is almost unquestionable. I used the words "sporadic" here because I can not imagine that any of the parties concerned could have realized the inter-relatedness of their activities at the time.
It is safe to say that neither Yoshimura Torataro （吉村虎太郎）of Tenchu-gumi nor Fijita Kosiro（藤田小四郎） of Tengu-to perceived the other activities as being related to his own; in fact, they cannot have been known to each other at all. It is also safe to say that there was no possibilities of the two of them having shared a common understanding of the "historical meaning" of their own activities, nor of their having fomented these uprisings in a conspiratorial way. Neither of these movements spread beyond a local area, and each of these men died solitary deaths with no prospects to future glory.
In order to resuscitate their motivations from apparent obscurity by linking their actions together and discovering a significance for them, one needs a fixed vision and imagination. It should be noted as well that O-nobu serves as the vision and imagination. It should be noted as well that the source of O-nobu's motivation or vision is located in the action of Ohshio Heihachiro.
It is possible that the disturbance at Hamaguri-gomon（蛤御門） and the operations of the special forces ――the kiheitai（奇兵隊）――headed by Takasugi Shinsaku （高杉晋作）were already included in the "orthodox history" of the Meiji Restoration. Since most of the high officials of the Meiji state were from Satsuma-han（薩摩藩） and Chosyu-han（長州藩）, they were interested, from the motive of self justification, to clarify the historical meanings of events in which they had taken part.
Compared to those events, the statesman-historian of the time probably had a difficult time defining a position for and evaluating the role that Tenchu-gumi and Tengu-to played in the flow of socio-historical events leading up to the Meiji Restration. From their perspective as distinguished heroes who occupied the center of the Meiji administration, these two uprisings must have looked like random outbreaks of violence. However, although they shared the idea of "restoration of the Imperial rule" and the spirit of royalism, the political strategies of the leaders of Tenchu-gumi and the leaders of Satsuma-han and Chosyu-han were very different.
* * * * * * * * * *
In order to collect materials for a historical survey of the Meiji Restoration, an association of scholars called Shidan-kai（史談会） began to interview the survivors of various groups within anti-Tokugawa movement in the last stage of Edo era, although the authorized history it produced was not published until the twentieth century.
As far as I read the records of interview, it would seem that the main concern of Shidan-kai was composing an account of the Satsuma Chosyu alliance （薩長連合）at the beginning of the survey. This is because the alliance was the turning point of the campaign of anti-Tokugawa movement. Therefore, the fact that early in the survey, the role of Sakamoto Ryoma（坂本竜馬）, who mediated the alliance between Satsuma and Chosyu, would be of interest. Yet, despite this focus, the rebellion led by Ohshio Heihachiro is referred to as early as the fifth interview of the Shidan-kai. I do not entirely understand the reason for this. But the only thing I can say with certainty is that the central concern of the interview was on the process of rebellion. There was no attempt to portray Ohshio as a conceptual source of the Meiji Restoration.
When we consider the situation as I have outlined it here, it is possible
to see, in Komuro's text, criticism rather large scale. He created
a critical narrative which was able to relativize in advance the history
put forth by the Meiji state-centric view point. There were only three
places in his narrative where he specifies the dates of particular events;
the date of Ohshio's rebellion, the assassination of Imoto-ohji
Kintomo――actually of Ane-koji Kinsato――and disturbance at Hamaguri-gomon――but
he did refer neither to the Meiji Restoration itself nor to Boshin civil
war（戊辰戦争） in 1868.
Here one might say that Komuro Shinsuke's narrative includes some strategies to neutralize in advance the narrative of orthodox history of the Meiji Restoration which would eventually be put force by the Meiji sate.
In Komuro Shinsuke's narrative, however, neither the Meiji Restoration nor the change of the city of Edo has happened yet. There are neither new stages of history, nor is there an administrative system which urges people on into the future. The novel was published in the same year as the rebellion at Kaba mountain（加波山） and ,subsequently, the rebellion in Chichibu（秩父） province. It is quite possible that Komuro Shinsuke's narrative was a kind of message to the people who participated in these rebellions.
Now, at the conclusion of my talk, I would like to call your attention to more one thing.
What I would like to stress here is that the narratology in Jiyu enzetsu onna bunsho also had the ability to criticize miraiki-shosetsu. The consciousness of history and the structure of "time" in the miraiki-shosetsu were never able to disengage themselves from the plot of actual political events. As long as they understood the establishment of the National Diet in 1890 as their main telos, the writers of miraiki-shosetsu could not but agree with the Meiji state's chronicle of events since they were the ones who had set the dead line. In addition to this, they never questioned that Tokyo would be chosen the seat of the National Diet. Judging from the illustrations of Setchubai and the scenery depicted at the beginning of Shinso no Kajin, it is easy to guess that their respective writers believed Tokyo would be the inevitable center of modernization or westernization in Japan, and would be the only international city in Asia.
As the politicians belonged to the Constitutional Reform party, Suehiro Tetcho, the author of Setchubai, and Sudo Nansui, the author of Shinso no Kajin rather preferred the decentralization of authority to the centralization of administrative system. But they were no more than Tokyo-centrarization-ists when it came to mapping out of future world in their narratives.
In contrast to this, Komuro Shinsuke's narratology carried within it a criticism which worked out to de-construct the miraiki-shosetsus in advance of the latter's appearance.（※2）
If I may re-emphasize the point, however, I would like to stress again the critical qualities in Komuro's narrative as outlined above are not the clear expressions of the author, but merely the results of my interpretation of the text.
If one did not have a way of reading the text which would allow the combination of the place name Yamato and a character name Sakurayama to be read as a cipher for the Tenchu-gumi, or the combination of the place name Mito and the character name Fujita to be understood as the Tengu-to, or if one could not understand intuitively the code of the seiji-shosetsu, and the way it gives names such as Ko-tami of the Azyma-ya to the people of Japan, one would not be awakened to the criticism in the text of the master narrative of the Meiji state. To a poor reader who was not so prepared, there would all seem like awkward variations on the character naming system of Takizawa Bakin'.
In fact, most of the Japanese scholars of modern Japanese literature have been poor readers for a long time. They have been unable to properly evaluate seiji-shosetsu, and consequently they have reduced the status of early Meiji literature to no more than a vestige of popular literature of the Edo period. This fatal flaw in their methodology has led the narrow point of view that locates the beginning of modern literature in Futabatei Shimei's Ukigumo （二葉亭四迷『浮雲』）and Mori Ogai's Maihime（森鴎外『舞姫』）.
I have been working on the early Meiji literature in order to break down this stubborn trend by considering different ways of regarding those texts which appeared at the beginning of the modern era, and I have tried to pursue in my research the meaning of the term, "modern". Today I have attempted to show you an example of this work.
Thank you for your attention.
※1：“A newspaper reporter finds the old document”は、私の勘違いで、原文は次のようであった。