On War and Female Writers

On War and Female Writers

戦争と婦人作家
(Sensou to fujin sakka)

MIYAMOTO Yuriko (宮本 百合子)
May 1948 

 

Until this point, Japan has always been engaged in a world war. Under the feudal, absolute education of the Imperial system, the people have uncritically been resigned to war as an “inevitable disaster.”

And this has brought us to the present collapse. Was there no opposition to war in Japan? As readers of Odagiri Hideo’s “Study of Anti-war Literature” will know, there has always been a humanitarian spirit of opposition to war. The political power of the Imperial system has in recent years quelled such literature under the Peace Preservation Act, branding it the work of unpatriotic people. People from other countries are surprised that Japanese women did not create a systematic opposition to such a brutal war. They misunderstand and think that Japanese people are even that cruel. However, these people must understand that the tragedy of Japan is that in our feudal society, expressions of love or of hatred were not permitted to be socialized. At the time of the Russo-Japanese War, the poet Ōtsuka Kasuoko wrote “One Hundred Prayers” and Yosano Akiko wrote the poem “Thou Shalt Not Die“, both becoming famous for their opposition to the brutality of war. But anti-war works like those by these two representative women have been suppressed from the histories of Japanese literature—not even one paragraph published. When Yosano Akiko’s poem was published, Ōmachi Keigetsu declared her an unpatriotic person and greatly criticized the issue of Myōjō (明星, Bright Star) in which it appeared.

In the past decades, what kind of opposition have Japanese women writers been involved in? Looking back at works which have motifs opposing aggressive wars, there are exceptionally few—other than Yoshiya Nobuko and Hayashi Fumiko, the sad truth we find is that the majority of women writers actually lent their support to the war. But it would be a mistake to say that all of them glorified aggressive wars from the bottom of their hearts. When the controls over journalism became stricter and publication was not being allowed for those who were not military-approved writers, relying on the income from the publications of the bourgeois publishers each person who made her existence as a “famous female writer,” in order to preserve her existence outside of journalism and so that her name would not be forgotten by readers, inserted glorious scenes into her works. In short, in order to continue to protect their economic independence as women who had a complete lack of stability, though they must have felt doubts, they succumbed to a fascist way of survival.

From the way that the abilities of the women in this serious culture were put into use—and when one thinks about the feeble basis for women’s economic independence—the interests of the female writers’ and all of the working women of Japan can be understood as part of the same circumstances. Just as I have come to see that there was no real difference as Japanese people between the circumstances of these female writers and the girls working in cotton mills, female writers surely understand what fascism is, what an aggressive war is, and how when one country’s happiness is crushed underfoot for the sake of another country’s interests, there is blood all over every single thing that has been crushed.

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