HAN Ling Ling
(The Graduate University for Advanced Studies, School of Cultural and Social Studies,
Kitamura Kenjirō, Manchukuo, colonial literature, Manshū Rōman, Manchurian literature
Kitamura Kenjirō was one of the representative writers in Manchukuo. He founded the literary journal Manshū Rōman and advocated a concept of literature he called “Manshū romance.” The concept points to the essence of the literature pursued by Kitamura and is an important key to understanding his writing. This study takes up the contents of Manshū Rōman to examine the concept of the “Manchurian romance.”
Manshū Rōman was started in 1938. At that time there were few opportunities for continental Japanese writers to publish their works, nor was there a literary journal that published on behalf of Manchukuo. Kitamura Kenjirō recognized this condition and decided to create a magazine. Thus, Manshū Rōman was born. Manshū Rōman consists of six issues, five of which were edited by Kitamura Kenjirō himself. Most of the Japanese writers who were living in Manchukuo published their works in the magazine. Included among them are Yoshino Haruo, Midorikawa Mitsugu, Yokota Fumiko, Dan Kazuo, Kizaki Ryū, Henmi Yukichi, Hasegawa Shun, and Ōuchi Takao. The magazine primarily published short stories, novels, poetry, essays, and criticism, but also included writing about music, film, and theater to show its cultural comprehensiveness.
For Kitamura Kenjirō, literature was self-expression and the evidentiary record of his life. He carried out his concept of literature in this magazine. He emphasized literary purity and denied literary utility fundamentally.
On this basis, Kitamura Kenjirō proposed “the romance as a norm of a continental Japanese’s way of life,” calling it “Manchurian romance” (“continental romance”). He cast aside the sense of superiority of Japanese culture, and emphasized experiencing the climate of Manchuria through one’s own skin, so that when one died one would be assimilated into that climate. In this way, he tried to promote the unification of Manchukuo with the other races.
However, the magazine did not last more than three years, as change came about in the cultural situation of Manchukuo. The “great romance” which Kitamura Kenjirō asked for was ended by “cultural control” and his dream of the “Manchurian romance” was likewise frustrated.