Not finding the book I was looking for on the library shelf, I picked up and then read Yosano Akiko’s (1878-1942) account of a 1928 visit to Manchuria and Inner Mongolia as guests of the (Japanese owned and operated) South Manchurian Railway Company. Political unrest made it unsafe to go to Beijing, and a warlord (Zhang Zuolin) whose wife had entertained her was blown up with another official a few miles from where they had gone. The encounter with the warlord’s wife is practically the only encounter with anyone Chinese. She did note that Mongolians were being pushed out by Chinese. And opined that the Chinese merchants worked harder thta the Japanese.
(with her husband)
Akiko deplored the generally low opinion Japanese of her time had for the Chinese and the Chinese language (even as her husband, Yosano Tekkan Hiroshi) wrote some Chinese verse) and after touring a Russian cemetery in Harbin asked “Why was is that in Japan and China where we practice ancestor worship, we generally show so little attention to graves?” (102). That surprised me, because as in Taiwan and the cemeteries I saw (in Hokkaido) seemed well-tended.
The narrative gives no clue that the author was a feminist, and not much that she was a poet (though occasionally she writes one, her husband’s are quoted more often).
She was very precise about city walls and appreciative of sunsets, mostly taking for granted hospitality, and mostly associating with Japanese working in China before the annexation of Manchuria by Japan.
I’m not sure the book even provides much insight into the feminist poet author, or Yosano Tekkan, or Japanese pre-colonialism (pre Great Asian Prosperity Sphere). It has to be one of the most minor translations from Japanese (in this case by Joshua Fogel of UCSB, author of The Literature of Travel in the Rediscovery of China, 1862-1945).
©2018, Stephen O. Murray