From Secluded Paradise to Hell on Earth
Hino Ashihei’s Imaginative Geography of Okinawa
This paper focuses on the writings of Hino Ashihei (1907-1960) about Okinawa, a corpus of twelve works composed over a period of sixteen years that were inspired by three visits to the Ryūkyū Islands. Hino is best known as a writer of war novels, but these twelve works have received almost no attention, partly because they are not considered Okinawan literature since Hino was a native of Kyūshū. The aim of this article is to show that Okinawa is not merely a setting for these neglected writings but rather a complex representation that incorporates the author’s gaze, his stance toward the region, and a topography of power. Moreover, this representation evolved over time to produce an array of at times contrasting images of Okinawa, whether as a tropical paradise, the shield of the nation, or a symbol of its occupation. On the other hand, the narrator’s stance, which is characterised at first by the strength and assertiveness of a first-person narrator, underwent a progressive disengagement that was intended, by this article’s interpretation, to introduce greater objectivity into Hino’s prose.