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The Kojiki

The Kojiki

2021-09-2922:19

Gods having sex, founding of the imperial dynasty, and some of the origins of WWII. Plus thoughts on the role of women in early Japanese history.
The Tale of Genji

The Tale of Genji

2021-10-0628:48

The world's oldest novel. A hero who is a paragon of beauty with an extreme Oedipus complex.(CW: sex, rape, incest, pedophilia.)
The Tale of the Heike

The Tale of the Heike

2021-12-0425:49

The great samurai epic and the rise of the samurai class.Visit this episode's webpage for information on buying the book and resources for further reading.
We're talking about two central genres of Medieval Japanese literature—the warrior ballad and Noh drama. We’ll see two characters from The Tale of the Heike again, including the valiant female warrior Tomoe. This time, she's a mournful ghost.https://readjapaneseliterature.com/2021/12/22/episode-4-yoshitsune-ballads-and-tomoe-drama/
Enjoy the story of a vengeful would-be lover who turns into a 40-foot snake, a sharp-witted woman with criticisms of her husband’s equipment, and a curmudgeonly Buddhist priest who learns to love poetry. In this episode, we’re talking about setsuwa—medieval Japanese anecdotes. Many of them originate as Buddhist preaching, so we’ll also take a look at “Kamakura Buddhisms”: Pure Land, Zen, and Nichiren. For notes, links to the suggested reading, and a great picture of Kiyohime as a fire-breathing snake, please visit the episode's webpage.
How does “this fleeting world” transform from a Buddhist precept to a name for the red-light district?What did reading look like in early Modern Japan?And how many dildos does a man need to pack for a trip to the Island of Women?For notes, links to the suggested reading, and an illustration of sailing to the Island of Women, please visit the episode's webpage.
In this episode, we’ll be talking about Ueda Akinari and his Tales of Moonlight and Rain, some of the most influential Japanese ghost stories ever written.- A raging intellectual debate- A supernatural party game- And a friend just dying to keep his promisesFor notes, links to the suggested reading, and an illustration of Okiku, please visit the episode's webpage.
In this episode, we’re looking at the Meiji Era of Japanese history and its literature.The shogunate is replaced.Japan looks outward to the West and inward toward itself.And a man named Natsume Sōseki chronicles it all from the perspective of a stray cat.Notes and sources are available on the podcast episode webpage.
Last episode, we talked about the coming of the West and the way it impacted Japanese literature.This time we’re talking about women as they take up a prominent position in the story of Japanese literature for the first time in almost 1000 years.Special focus on Ichiyō Higuchi and her best-beloved story "Takekurabe".Notes and sources are available on the podcast episode webpage.
The father of the Japanese short story shares his dark vision about what it means to be an artist.We’re taking a look at Japan in the 1910s and 1920s, the era of the Taishō Democracy and the heyday of Japan’s literary magazines and serial novels.Content warning: This episode addresses addiction, suicide, and sexual assault.Notes and sources at the podcast episode website.
Today, we’re talking about the I-Novel—the highest form of literature in Japan in the 1910s and 20s.It’s a genre one American scholar describes as “perhaps the most striking feature of modern Japanese literature.”And it’s a genre Haruki Murakami claims to have an allergy to.We’ll also be looking at the life and work of Osamu Dazai and asking, “What does it take to get disqualified as a human being?”Content warning: This episode addresses addiction, rape, suicide, and misogyny.Notes and sources at the podcast episode website.
Today we’re talking about the 1930s and 40s in Japan—fascism, World War Two, and the American Occupation.In particular, how did 20 years of censorship shape Japanese literature?We're also taking a look at the life and work of Akiyuki Nosaka, whose novella, "Grave of the Fireflies" inspired the classic anime film. We'll discuss his short story, "The Cake Tree in the Ruins".Notes and sources at the podcast episode website.
Today, we’re talking about the literature of change in the 1960s—how writers took on questions about what it meant to be Japanese in the post-war era and what was the continuing role of Japanese tradition.We’re looking especially at Yukio Mishima and Kenzaburo Oe.Content warning: This episode addresses fascism and suicide.Notes and sources at the podcast episode website.
Banana and the Bubble

Banana and the Bubble

2022-08-2345:001

In this episode, we’re talking about Japan’s bubble economy of the 1980s and the work of Banana Yoshimoto.Runaway consumer spending.Everything kawaii.A Nobel laureate’s contempt.And a young author whose career challenged the publishings powers that be.Content warning: This episode addresses transphobia as well as hate crimes against Asian Americans and trans women.Notes and sources at the podcast episode website.
In all our episodes so far, we’ve talked almost exclusively about what Japanese literature looks like in Japan.But we’re English-speakers and English-readers on an English-language podcast about Japanese literature in English.In honor of Women in Translation Month, we’re talking about why there is such a wealth of contemporary books by Japanese women available in English.Notes and sources at the podcast episode website.Donate to RJL's Patreon.
In this episode…Post-bubble Japan.The history of socially-conscious Japanese literature.And Yu Miri’s Tokyo Ueno Station, a powerful examination of Tokyo by one of the most invisible people imaginable—the ghost of a homeless day laborer.Notes and sources at the podcast episode website.Donate to RJL's Patreon.
In this episode…Is she a man-eating crone?Is she a lonely wanderer?Or is she a sensual matriarch?However you define her, she’s the yama-uba—Japan’s legendary mountain witch.Notes and sources at the podcast episode website.Donate to RJL's Patreon.
Today, we’re going to look at cats in Japanese literature.We’ll start with the history of cats in Japan.We’ll move on to cats in Japanese folklore and fiction, including the work of Haruki Murakami.And finally we’ll end with a discussion of our readers' choice, “The Town of Cats” by Sakutaro Hagiwara.Notes and sources at the podcast episode website.Become an RJL supporter for seven minutes of bonus content.Support this podcast by buying from Bookshop.org
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