Tariq Sheikh deposited This Side of the Long Tunnel: The Emergence of the Idea of Japan’s ‘Snow Country’ in the Nineteenth Century in the group 2021 MLA Convention on MLA Commons 2 weeks, 5 days ago
In Nobel laureate Kawabata Yasunari’s novel Snow Country, the protagonist Shimamura refers to an “old book” which gave him in-depth knowledge about the region known in Japan as the “Snow Country”. The name of the book is not disclosed by Kawabata, but it is now known that the “old book” is Hokuetsu Seppu (first published in 1837), written by Suzuki Bokushi (1770-1842). Suzuki Bokushi (1770-1842) was a peasant-entrepreneur, essayist and amateur haikai poet who lived in the Echigo province of Tokugawa period Japan, a region now designated as a “severe snowfall region”. With increasing commercial activity in the late Tokugawa period, local products gained demand in markets throughout the country, which in turn made residents of the provinces aware of their regional identity. This resulted in a visible shift from “literary” representations of the periphery to more objective and information-based writings. This presentation will look at how Hokuetsu Seppu, for the first time, established the idea of the “snow country”, not as a romanticized place beyond the tunnel which is visited occasionally, but as a region where people live their daily lives while coping with extreme weather.