Japanese Characters And Chinese Setting

1680 Words7 Pages
On 1 September 1923, the day that the Great Kanto earthquake struck the regions of Tokyo and Yokohama, Junichiro Tanizaki was staying in at Hakone, a hot springs resort west of Tokyo. Years later he would admit that, almost before he thought to feel concern for those dear to him, a perverse surge of excitement arose in him: Tokyo, too long held in the shadows of its Edo past would be reborn, “Tokyo will be better for this!…I imagined the grandeur of the new metropolis, and all the changes that would come in customs and manners as well.” Now had come the great blow to usher in modernity, a magnificent city parallel to those found in the West would Tokyo become. Such a vision was understandably attractive to a young Tanizaki, whose…show more content…
Unlike much of his earlier writing which deals with the ‘allure of the West’ in unquestioning terms, ‘Naomi’, whilst continuing to locate exotic space in the West, does so from a critical perspective. This is no more evident than in the confessional tone of the novel’s opening paragraphs:
“…As Japan grows increasingly cosmopolitan, Japanese and foreigners are eagerly mingling with one another; all sorts of new doctrines and philosophies are being introduced; and both men and women are adopting [emphasis mine] up-to-date western fashions. No doubt, the times being what they are, the sort of marital relationship that we 've had, unheard of until now, will begin to turn up on all sides.”
Kawai Joji, the first-person narrator of ‘Naomi’ begins his tale in this fashion, offering the reader a relevant historical framework in which to place the story of his life. However, the central motifs of the tale soon take form in the early relationship of Joji and the object of his affection, Naomi, a “budding” hostess at a cafe. The protagonist declares unabashedly that what first drew him to his young wife was neither her appearance nor character, but her distinctly western-sounding name, a “sophisticated name” when romanised. Once he learns of her Western name, the girl takes on the appearance of a Westerner in his mind, her image is likened throughout the text to the motion-picture actress Mary Pickford. Naomi becomes a fleshly “signifier” of the West and thus he must
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