International Symposium on Japanese Studies in Global Contexts

Open Japan Closed Japan: Towards Interdisciplinary Studies in Human Mobility

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A Study of Sekibetsu by Osamu Dazai: Lu Xun and Studying Abroad

Masao Saito, Osaka University

In the early 20th century, Lu Xun visited Japan as one of many overseas students from China. Osamu Dazai portrays the late Lu Xun in his novel “Sekibetsu (Regrettable Parting)” (1945). It is a kind of biographical novel with subtitle "Lu Xun during medical student days". The story starts by mentioning that it is a memoire of an old doctor named Suguru Tanaka. And the initial portions of the story talks about Dr. Tanaka’s friendship with Lu Xun at Sendai Medical School.

This story has been discussed with a focus on two main points: 1) whether the story was written to express the idea of Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere and 2) if it exactly reflects the real Lu Xun. But in this presentation, I will be considering the story as a piece of work that portrays a person who leaves his home with the purpose of learning. In the novel, Lu Xun does not simply talk about his immigration from China to Japan. Rather he minutely explains how he has changed the place of learning from his hometown to Nanjing, Nanjing to Tokyo, and then from Tokyo to Sendai. His close friend, Tanaka, is described as a person who has come to Sendai from a rural area of northeastern Japan and he worries about his speech because of his dialect. He became friendly with Lu Xun because there was no need to worry about his inferiority complex towards his accent. Further, another character in the story named Mr. Fujino is portrayed as using the Kansai dialect and Lu Xun remembers him as a teacher in his novel “Mr. Fujino” or “Fujino Sensei”. The narrator refers to these characters as “a Japanese language disabled group” and implies that this may have been the factor to bind them together. Moreover the Tokyo-born classmates showing off their urban-born-pride become involved in the story.

In this presentation, the complication of the movement of these characters will be analyzed, with special attention paid to the language. This reading aims to provide ample keys in reconsidering Dazai’s writings as well as rethinking the “national border” for modern authors.

Short Biography

Masao Saito (Ph.D. Literature) is an associate professor of Japanese literature in the Graduate School of Letters, Osaka University, Japan. He studied at the School of Letters, Graduate School of Letters, Osaka University (M.A. 2000 and Ph.D. 2004). He taught as a lecturer in Department of Education, Gunma University from 2006 and became an associate professor in 2008. He joined Osaka University in 2014. His research is centered around the modern Japanese literature of the Showa Period.