Sokendai Review of Cultural and Social Studies


A Reappraisal of Basho on the Reception
of the Symbolist Movement

Madoka, HORI

(The Graduate University for Advanced Studies, School of Cultural and Social Studies,
Department of Japanese Studies

Key words;

Yone NOGUCHI, The Spirit of Japanese Poetry(1914), Nihon-Shiikaron(1915), the Symbolist movement, Haiku, Matsuo BASHO, Ariake KANBARA, Bin UEDA, Rofu MIKI, international cross-fertilization

On The Spirit of Japanese Poetry(1914) and its Japanese version(1915), Yone NOGUCHI(1874-1947) referred to Haiku as the essential spirit of Japanese poetry and introduced BASHO as the greatest poet in the world. These books were highly regarded as the distinguished poetic thinking of Noguchi during the same period in Japan. He was treated as belonging to the same French Symbolist tradition as that of Paul VERLAINE. He qualified as a luminary for the quaint reason that he was both a “symbolist” and a eulogist of Haiku and Basho.

Why is this juxtaposition of “Symbolism” and “Haiku”/Basho regarded as a matter of course? Until now, the adoption process of French Symbolism has drawn most attention, while the evaluation of Basho by modern Japanese writers has been well known. These two lines of thought, however, have not been considered together. Nonetheless, the establishment of modern Japanese literature along with the adoption of western thought and the reappraisal of pre-modern Japanese literature proceeded as a consequence, with mutual interaction. In particular, it was through the thinking of Noguchi, that a framework can be found for the growing understanding of the reappraisal of Basho and his influence on the period of the adoption process of Symbolism.

This paper aims to clarify what was brought to the Japanese literary arena by Yone Noguchi who had commenced an active role in the US from 1896, then flourished further in the UK from 1903, before he returned to Japan in 1904.

First will be mention of what Noguchi discussed concerning Haiku and Basho in these two books. Noguchi referred to Stéhane MALLARMÉ and Walter PATER by way of comparison to Basho, and showed his awareness of and recognition toward contemporary English thought. In the western literary world, Haiku as a style of short poetry had started to attract some interest but the evaluation of Basho was not high. Noguchi tried to introduce the philosophical thinking of Basho, and to argue the aesthetics of symbolic metaphor and its suggestiveness as the essential spirit of Japanese poetry.

The second part considers when Noguchi came to possess this kind of recognition toward Japanese poetry. When did he start to have an interest in Haiku, and how did he succeed as an international poet? As for Noguchi’s childhood in Japan, his reading experience of English literature is well known, but not so well known is the fact that he had a strong respect for Haiku, Zen, and Buddhism. In his adolescent years on the west coast of the US, he absorbed the works of such American poets as Edgar Allan POE, Henry David THOREAU, and Walt WHITMAN, while he introduced Basho and Haiku to local American poets. More importantly, Noguchi, while reconsidering Basho and the Japanese poetic characteristics in the US, had some communication with the contemporary Japanese literary world.

The next part discusses to what extent Noguchi played an important role in the period of the reception of the Symbolist movement upon the modern Japanese literary world. In the adoption process of “Symbolism”, Ariake KANBARA played a key role. Kanbara declared that “Basho is the very Symbolist” at the first launch of the Symbolist movement in Japan. Noguchi was a very close friend of Kanbara and tried to bring about an international cross-fertilization among the poets of the UK, the US and Japan. This proves that the existence of Noguchi was not at all small in the history of modern Japanese literature.

Japanese “Symbolism” contains both the ideas of diversity and complication, because, from the first moment, “Symbolism” was seen as “Yu-gen” of the Japanese philosophical and traditional context. In other words, the idea of “Symbolism” became stretched, interpenetrating Japanese cultural society in the succeeding generation. Through the reception of Symbolist theory can be seen the historical stream of ideas such as mysticism and protopathic-naturalism, and the evolutionary process of the next generation is understandable. In this paper, the significant part played by Noguchi at this time and how his presence was felt in the period of the reception of the Symbolist movement will be presented.