Ph.D. candidate, Department of East Asian Studies, University of Toronto
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Colonial Spaces in Natsume Sōseki’s Travels in Manchuria and Korea
In many of Natsume Sōseki’s works, such as Kusamakura, Sanshirō, and Mon, there are always characters who leave for Manchuria or Korea, which implies Japan’s expanding colonial project after its victory over Russia in the Russo-Japanese War (1904-1905). Among others, Sōseki’s 1909 account of his journey through Manchuria and Korea on the South Manchurian Railway is a perfect arena to explore the connections between the historical background and colonial discourses in Sōseki’s writing. Sōseki took his trip to Manchuria and Korea on the invitation of his school friend Nakamura Yoshikoto, who was at the time the Chairman of the South Manchurian Railway Company. His account of this trip was serialized by Asahi Newspaper as Travels in Manchuria and Korea (Mankan tokorodokoro). Though the title speaks of both Manchuria and Korea, the narration ends before the writer reached the soon-to-be-occupied peninsula, which is probably due to Ito Hirobumi being assassinated by a Korean nationalist during this season. By reading this travelogue, I will examine how railways in Manchuria serve as a means of exploitation of colony’s sources, which deeply changed Japan’s urban landscape. I will in particular discuss Manchurian soy, Japan’s soap industry and its relation with the development of the concept of modern hygiene in the metropole. Meanwhile, the large-scale development of railway networks also helped forge Japanese national identity by encouraging train travels to colonies and to produce colonial discourses. In this way, Japanese colonial ruling is not only facilitated by its high officials, but also made possible by individuals from all strata of society.