Essay about Japan Culture: Literature


Literature can be referred to as the “society’s mirror”. This is because, through literature, authors are able to address pertinent issues affecting the society. An author can address him or herself directly to the issue and give his or her ideas regarding the issue. The society, therefore, takes up the issue while trying to resolve any problems associated with the issue as raised by an author. Through literary fiction, authors are able to create unnaturally occurring scenarios thus push the reader’s imagination. Most readers find this relaxing and thus have reading fictional work as a favorite pastime.

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One of the central aspects of Japanese culture is Japanese literature. Japanese literature has heavily evolved through the year. This has been influenced by various factors including technological advancements and culture changes. Ancient Japanese literature borrowed heavily from the Chinese. The Japanese created the man’yogana from assimilating characters known as the Kanji from the Chinese. Some of the works done in this period known as the Nara period include the Kojiki and Nihon shoki. Both of this works were mainly based on Japanese history with Nihon shoki being more illustrated than the former. The classical era also referred to as Heian period introduced fictional writing into Japanese literature. This was a new form of writing. Among the most prominent works in this era includes Genji Monogatari. This is a fictional masterpiece written by Murasaki Shikubu, which created waves in the world of literature for years. Some other works from this era includes Kokin Wakashu, which was a poetry anthology.

The tale of the Genji revolves around, who is the son of the emperor. His father is emperor Kiritsubo, who has a Korean concubine. As a result of the increased acrimony at the court, Kiritsubo dies leaving behind, Genji, the emperor’s son. The emperor is distraught and thus marries another concubine; Fujitsubo. Genji lacks support at the court and thus is not crowned prince. Genji thereby marries Princess Aio. Genji life is filled with controversy and mystery. For example, he approaches one of his friend’s wives. He sleeps with his friend’s wife and but later the lady discourages the relationship.

There are different themes that emerge from the above work. One the primary theme is lust. Genji sleeps with many women and does not find them appealing. This leads to acrimony between him and his wife. Genji’s wife, Lady Aio bears him a son who later dies and thus marries Murasaki. The literary styles employed in the above text include satire. While Genji is a son of the emperor, he does not engage in any meaningful political activities. This is quite evident where after he is turned 40, his political and love life was on the decline. In addition, the use of poetry in the makes the work of quite difficult to comprehend as it made of certain analogies that require completion by the reader.

Early modern Japanese literature is associated with the Tokugawa or Edo period. This period (1603-1868) was peaceful, and thus genres that are more literary were introduced into Japanese literature. Authors were able to blend various genres together and come up literary masterpieces. For example, Tokaidochu Hizakurige by Jippensha Ikku was a travelogue that incorporated comedy. Success of Japanese literature in this period was aided by among other factors, increased rural- urban migration. Town residents were well read and thus, increased the demand of more creative writing from Japanese authors.

Modern Japanese literature is associated with Meiji period (1868-1945). Japan opened its borders to international trade after a period of isolation. Therefore, there was rapid industrialization as the Japanese assimilated outside technology into their methods of production. Similarly, there was increased influence of western literature in Japanese literature. Authors shifted from fiction and historical writing to addressing themselves to issues affecting the society. Some of the issues addressed by the authors include poor working conditions for workers, disparity within society and women rights. Most of these societal problems were as a result of rapid industrialization being experienced in the country. Authors, also, introduced new themes in novel writing including romanticism and naturalism. Authors such as Mori Ogai introduced romanticism through his translated poems and magazines such as Bungaku – Kai. Naturalism, which in Japanese is Watakushi-shosetu, revolved the author’s mental states. This was depicted in Katai Tayama’s work, Futon, in 1907.

After the Second World War, Japanese literature was heavily influenced by war themes that include loss of life and property and rebuilding Japan after her defeat in the war. Works such as The Setting Sun by Osamu Dazai depicted a dejected soldier returning from the war. The American School by Nobou Kojima is a story about coping mechanisms employed by Japanese, English teachers due to increased American presence in their territory.

In the present day, Japanese literature has significant influence in the world literature. Introduction of Manga, comic books, has been significant and the idea has been adopted in many other disciplines as an effective mode of communicating the authors’ message. Additionally, introduction of cell phone novels has greatly improved reading among Japan’s young adult population. These novels are more reader friendly and thus readers are quite comfortable while going through them.

Japanese literature is, therefore, considered an important part of the Japanese culture. Culture refers to the way of life of a group of people. From the above analysis, it is clear that most authors’ themes were informed by culture of the Japanese people. Ancient literature, for example, provided a form of written communication through which vital communication could be relayed. However, there are several additional aspects to Japanese culture apart from Japanese literature.

One of the most distinct aspects of the Japanese culture is Japanese architecture. One of the mainstays of Japanese architecture was the introduction of Buddhism in Japan. This saw the construction of huge temples based on the design of Ch’angan, the Chinese capital. These designs were exemplified after the introduction of tea party and were central to the silent protest against excessive aristocratic power. Traditionally, the Japanese put emphasis on interior design ensuring its remains simple with natural decorations. Some of the materials preferred for this interior design include rice straw mats, silk and bamboo. Shonji is used to separate rooms and thus add to the intricacy of the rooms.

The “kimono” is popular Japanese clothing worn by women, men and children. It is worn for various occasions and is in several designs. Women Kimono designs include Furisode, which is worn by young, unmarried women. Both the married and single women wear the Homongi and Iromuji designs can, however.


Japanese culture is quite diverse as evidenced by the above analysis. One of the central aspects of Japanese culture is Japanese literature. Japanese literature has evolved through the years incorporating new literary styles and themes. Therefore, it has been used as a main communication tool while addressing various issued within the society. Post war Japanese literature, for example, was instrumental in encouraging citizens to participate fully in national rebuilding. Modern Japanese includes a variety of literary styles that are suitable for the diverse tastes and preferences of the readers. Aspects such as Japanese architecture and clothing are also an important part of Japanese culture.

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