Nagai Kafu – “Fukagawa no Uta”

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Nagai Kafu – “Fukagawa no Uta”

The publishing of Fukagawa no Uta had major impact on the Japanese literary through its significance. It was a new kind of literature which suddenly have appeared to challenge the dominant literary form of shizenshugi. It is believed that the impact it had came from the concept of “consciousness” expressed in the narrative voice which mainly involved in telling the emotions and thoughts of one seeing the city change before his eyes and trying to cope with the rapid transformation of his home. Within the essay, Kafu did not direcly mentions Tokyo as his “home” but he called upon the idea of “Edokko” to deliver the feelings of involvement in country’s growth and change. Kafu, himself, never labeled himself as a “true child of Edo” as he was growing up in the Yamanote. Whilst suffering in the dilemma of unable to speak French during his study, when he returned to Japan, he felt disgraced for not being Japanese enough. The narrator of Fukagawa no uta forms the social meaning in his journey, but yet addresses the overall changes through westernized cultural influences. Throughout the essay, Kafu reflects on the image of himself to the changing Fukagawa city and how they are both getting faded away from the past to see the future.

“Before I left Japan (for America), Fukagawa of the waters (sic, presumably meaning the Sumida) had long been the place that answered to my every taste, longing, sorrow, and joy. Even then, before the streetcar tracks were laid, the beauty of the city was being destroyed, and that sad, lonely vista beyond the river still let one taste of decline and decay and an indescribably pure and harmonious beauty.”

Sources:

Nagai Kafu’s Occidentalism: Defining the Japanese Self – by Rachael Hutchinson

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