A Journey to the Archipelago: Shimao Toshio and the Transnational Imagination of Place in Cold War JapanI

Shinnosuke Yang Takahashi

Victoria University of Wellington, Wellington, New Zealand

This paper revisits the meaning of Shimao Toshio’s (1917-1986) Japonesia by tracing his travels to the United States and Central and Eastern European countries from 1963 until 1967. Through exploring his travelogues and related historical documents, I ask how Shimao’s rich overseas experiences across the Cold War division informed his critical geo-cultural vision of Japanese nationhood. Shimao is arguably one of the most celebrated novelists in the post-WWII Japanese literary scene. Yet, what distinguishes Shimao’s career beyond the literary world is his essays on Japanese nationhood from the archipelagic perspective of Japonesia. Since it was first proposed in 1961, Japonesia has been referred to as an alternative image of Japan not as a highly centralised and homogenised nation but as a place that consists of patches of different historico-cultural spaces. Whilst the meaning of Japonesia has been a major subject of enquiry, rarely examined are Shimao’s travel experiences, that were not only uncommon in that period but also had a crucial impact on Shimao’s views on the regional diversity of Japanese nationhood. I will use these examples to show the process through which foreign exposure increasingly transformed Shimao’s Japonesia into a social, or even political, concept.


Biography: 

Shinnosuke Takahashi is a lecturer in Japanese studies at School of Languages and Cultures, Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand. His recent research looks at Japanese Christian social reformists and their ‘antipodean’ experiences in the late 19th and the early 20th century.

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