Yano Ryūkei’s novel Hōchi’s Strange Rumors: Tales of the Floating Castle (hōchi ibun: ukishiro monogatari) was published in 1890 and remained popular until 1945. Japanese and western scholarship often refer to it as the first Japanese novel with hard science fiction characteristics and, sometimes, as a novel expressing the doctrine of territorial expansion to the south (nanshinron). However, the novel is only mentioned in passing, perhaps because it does not belong with those science fiction works that have challenged scientific paradigms in an original way and perhaps also because it is problematic from today’s postcolonial perspective. And yet, this nearly forgotten novel is a landmark of cultural history. This article uses literary, political, and sociocultural contextualization in a close reading of Tales of the Floating Castle to explore the origins of Japanese science fiction, its relationship with western and local literature, and its early stages of development. Through this inquiry into how a member of Meiji elite wrote about his world, we get an intimate glimpse into early modern intellectual salons in Japan and on the complex process of Japan’s modernization, while also learning about the inherently political nature of science fiction.
Bibliographical notePublisher Copyright:
© 2019, © 2019 Japanese Studies Association of Australia.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cultural Studies
- Sociology and Political Science
- Political Science and International Relations