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Lost Leaves

Lost Leaves: Women Writers of Meiji Japan

Rebecca L. Copeland
Copyright Date: 2000
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  • Book Info
    Lost Leaves
    Book Description:

    Most Japanese literary historians have suggested that the Meiji Period (1868-1912) was devoid of women writers but for the brilliant exception of Higuchi Ichiyo (1872-1896). Rebecca Copeland challenges this claim by examining in detail the lives and literary careers of three of Ichiyo's peers, each representative of the diversity and ingenuity of the period: Miyake Kaho (1868-1944), Wakamatsu Shizuko (1864-1896), and Shimizu Shikin (1868-1933). In a carefully researched introduction, Copeland establishes the context for the development of female literary expression. She follows this with chapters on each of the women under consideration. Miyake Kaho, often regarded as the first woman writer of modern Japan, offers readers a vision of the female vitality that is often overlooked when discussing the Meiji era. Wakamatsu Shizuko, the most prominent female translator of her time, had a direct impact on the development of a modern written language for Japanese prose fiction. Shimizu Shikin reminds readers of the struggle women endured in their efforts to balance their creative interests with their social roles. Interspersed throughout are excerpts from works under discussion, most never before translated, offering an invaluable window into this forgotten world of women's writing.

    eISBN: 978-0-8248-6339-5
    Subjects: Language & Literature, History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Illustrations
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Preface
    (pp. xi-xii)
  5. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
  6. Introduction Recovering Lost Leaves
    (pp. 1-6)

    Mention women writers of the Meiji period (1868–1912), and most enthusiasts of Japanese literature immediately call to mind Higuchi Ichiyō (1872–1896), the promising young author who died at the age of twenty-four.¹ Although most studies seek to establish alliances between Ichiyō and her Heian-era (794–1185) foremothers, Murasaki Shikibu and Sei Shōnagon,² few acknowledge her association with her female contemporaries. Rather, Ichiyō is presented, much as her pen name implies, as a “single leaf” among male authors.³ Literary historians, both inside and outside Japan, dutifully describe her exchanges with her male counterparts, her association with the male literary...

  7. Chapter One Educating the Modern Murasaki Jogaku Zasshi and the Woman Writer
    (pp. 7-51)

    Miyake Kaho’s literary debut in 1888 was the catalyst that roused aspiring women authors from their “centuries of silence.”¹ After Kaho opened the gates, works by women trickled out yearly: eleven in 1889; thirteen in 1891; and finally, in a relative deluge of activity, twenty-four in 1895.² Most notable among these early writers were, in addition to Kaho, Wakamatsu Shizuko, Nakajima Shōen, Shimizu Shikin, Koganei Kimiko, Kitada Usurai, and, of course, Higuchi Ichiyō. As diverse as these women were—hailing from different classes, regions, and economic situations—almost all, with the exception of Usurai and Ichiyō, shared one thing in...

  8. Chapter Two Through Thickets of Imitation Miyake Kaho and the First Song of Spring
    (pp. 52-98)

    To suggest that women are discouraged from writing is too simple. Thus Joanna Russ argues in her humorous though revealing look at the role literary criticism has played in silencing, obscuring, and ignoring female authors. They are not discouraged—not directly. But by holding them to gender-determined criteria that set them apart from the mainstream, women are subtly shelved or silenced.¹

    In many respects, Miyake Kaho has received such treatment. Some contemporary critics believed her debut pieceWarbler in the Grovewas covertly written by Tsubouchi Shōyō. More recent critics have charged that Shōyō, though not actually authoring the work, heavily...

  9. Chapter Three Behind the Veil Wakamatsu Shizuko and the Freedom of Translation
    (pp. 99-158)

    Wakamatsu Shizuko, perhaps more than any of her peers, embodies the early Meiji ideal of the woman writer. Born of the tumult that attended the Meiji Restoration, she was left at a very young age to fend for herself. By a stroke of fortune she received a Western-style education. Intellectually gifted, she learned English alongside the Japanese classics and devoted herself assiduously to the improvement of the female condition in Japan—all the while serving faithfully as wife and mother. Weakened by her early years of poverty, successive childbirths, and constant overwork, she died a few weeks shy of her...

  10. Chapter Four Shimizu Shikin From Broken Rings to Brokered Silence
    (pp. 159-214)

    Wakamatsu Shizuko may embody the ideal Meiji woman writer, but Shimizu Shikin represents the conflicting challenges and expectations that attended the woman writer’s career. Shikin herself is something of an enigma. Raised in the sheltered comfort of a Kyoto bureaucrat’s home, she became an outspoken defender of human rights who traveled with the Freedom and Popular Rights Movement. One of the first Meiji women writers to experiment withgenbun itchi, she nevertheless abandoned the style in favor of the conventional five–seven–five metrical flourish ofgesaku. The first professional female journalist in Japan, she advocated vociferously in her essays...

  11. Conclusion In the Shade of the Single Leaf
    (pp. 215-230)

    The December 10, 1895, special issue of the newly established literary journalBungei kurabu(Literary Arts Club) opened, as had all its previous issues, with a sumptuously colored print. This one, by Watanabe Seitei (1851–1918), depicted a woman in a languid position reading a little book, her tiny mouth parted seductively as she stares intently at the volume in her hand. Illustrations of women were not unusual in theBungei kurabufrontispiece, not even of women reading.¹ But the contents of this particular issue were surprising. Instead of the standard fare by Koda Rohan, Yamada Bimyō, and Izumi Kyōka,...

  12. Notes
    (pp. 231-264)
  13. Bibliography
    (pp. 265-274)
  14. Index
    (pp. 275-286)
  15. Back Matter
    (pp. 287-290)