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Discourses on Death-and-Life in Modern Japan and the Desire behind Them

Quest for the New Identity among Modern Japanese Elites

Susumu Shimazono    University of Tokyo, Japan    



It was at the beginning of the 1900s that the term shiseikan, the ‘view on death and life’, was devised in Japan and many people became interested in the discourses on it. In the three decades from 1900 to the outbreak of the Asia-Pacific War in 1931, discourses on death-and-life showed some level of deepening. The author throws light on why discourses on death-and-life had spread around 1900, and then refined by the educated intellectuals in the following decades. The feature of the novelist Shiga Naoya’s view on death-and-life is investigated. The process of Shiga Naoya himself overcoming serious crises of youth by squarely facing the guiding principle of his life and the problem of spiritual independence from his parents is described. Spiritual independence includes overcoming conflicts in human relations centring on one’s family and accompanying moral questions, and searching to find one’s proper position in relation to a lofty ideal and a transcendental dimension. In the process, the experience to attain a view on death-and-life and the creation of literary expressions to the view played a great role. It will be observed that views on death-and-life and their expressions have found suitable roles to play as elements for selfhood formation based on the inner selves of the modern intellectuals of Japan.

Dec. 9, 2016
Aug. 30, 2016

Keywords: Leo TolstoyIdentity QuestSelfhoodKinosaki niteShiseikanShiga Naoya

Copyright: © 2017 Susumu Shimazono. This is an open-access work distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction is permitted, provided that the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. The license allows for commercial use. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.