Shimazaki Toson (1872-1943), famous for revolutionizing Japanese poetry and for his autobiographical novels, is also notorious for two incidents, Moderu Jiken (1907) and Shinsei Jiken (1919), both of which revolve around the topic of literature versus morality. On the other hand, the poem Futatsu no koe from his Wakanashu collection (1897) was first included in a Japanese language textbook as early as 1902, and his works continue to be staple teaching materials to this day.
Moreover, Toson was asked to contribute stories to the Akai Tori magazine for children’s literature, and Kikuchi Kan talked about including him in the editorial committee of an elementary school textbook. He published regularly in magazines for youngsters, and served as judge in their reader-contribution contests. Last but not least, he also compiled several collections of children’s stories, as well as the reader Toson Tokuhon (1925). All this goes to show that Toson’s work was considered to have a great educational value, and that he himself took his role as an educator very seriously, too.
In my presentation, I will follow the development of the study of Japanese language as a school subject in connection with the movement for the unification of the written and spoken language. I will also consider the educational doctrines that brought about the discovery of the modern Japanese literature as a resource of teaching materials. My main focus will be the Taisho period, when school education and textbooks became a place for free and direct communication between school children and contemporary writers. I will analyze this new type of relationship by looking at Toson’s case, taking into consideration both the role of his self-compiled collections, and that of the textbooks of the time, in shaping his image as an educator.
Irina Holca is an assistant professor for Osaka University, teaching English at the School of Engineering Science, while working towards her PhD in modern Japanese literature, especially the autobiographical prose of Shimazaki Toson, at the School of Letters within the same university.