Sokendai Review of Cultural and Social Studies


vol.15 (2019)

Bunson Emigration to Manchuria Depicted by Wada Tsutō:

Focusing on Wada’s Novel Ōhinata-mura

GAO Yanwen

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

Key words:

Wada Tsutō, Ōhinata-mura, bunson emigration, Manchuria, literary appearance, national policy, peasant literature

After the establishment of Japanese writers’ societies such as the Peasant Literature Conference Party (founded in November 1938) and the Continental Pioneering Literature Conference Party (founded in February 1939), many members of these groups started visiting Japanese peasants’ villages in Manchuria. They reflected various aspects of Japanese emigration to Manchuria in their works. While promoting the emigration campaign and recording the historical circumstances of the era, they contributed to the popularization of the literary genre known as Tairiku kaitaku bungaku.

One such representative work is Ōhinata-mura (1939), the best-selling documentary novel by Wada Tsutō, a prominent writer of peasant literature. This novel concerns the village-division (bunson) of Ōhinata village in Nagano prefecture, which came to be regarded as a showcase as well as a role model for the bunson emigration campaign. The author considers the novel to be a significant work for studying issues such as representations of emigration to Manchuria in Japanese literature during the war. Previous studies, however, focused on the aspect of the novel as propaganda for national policy and lack analysis in terms of personal profiles of the characters, the story plots related to propaganda and promotion of the bunson emigration campaign, and the representation of Manchuria. This paper attempts to investigate various aspects of bunson emigration represented in Ōhinata-mura while referring and adopting sociological and historical research results on agricultural emigration to Manchuria.

The first section reviews the influence of the novel on society, points out aspects which have not been covered in previous studies, raises research questions, and states the objectives of this study. The following section examines the background when the novel was written. The author traces how the novel was created while considering Wada’s interests in villages during the Great Depression, a request from his friend who worked at the Asahi Shimbun, his close relationship with the Ministry of Agriculture, his involvement in the Peasant Literature Conference Party, and his visits to the two Ōhinata villages in Nagano and Manchuria. The third section analyzes the text in further detail to discuss the real-life and fiction of bunson emigration to Manchuria through examination of the four aspects: the ideology of the bunson emigration campaign promoted in the novel, characters from different backgrounds and social status, the representation of Manchuria, and a comparison of the literary representation and historical facts.In the last section, the two characteristics of the novel as propaganda of national policy and as a record of national policy, are discussed based on the analysis stated above. The author argues that this novel should be evaluated not only as a work of Tairiku kaitaku bungaku to promote national policy, but also as a representative work of peasant literature.