Voyage to Innumerable Star Worlds: A Forgotten 19th-century Japanese Political Scientific Novel with a Radical Message

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Abstract

In 1882 Nukina Shunichi, a heretofore unknown ex-samurai from Hikone-fief, published his debut novel Voyage to Innumerable Star Worlds. The novel fits within the theoretical narrative according to which, following exposure to Western literature, early science fiction budded within political novels in Meiji-era Japan. Like other political works with science fiction elements from that era, this novel demonstrates negotiations between traditional literary tools and imported styles, content and themes. It is, however, remarkable from a thematic point of view. Nukina presents a critical futuristic vision of industrial progress, which is intertwined with his broader political message that describes the loss of social equality and liberty during the civilising process and ends with a utopian vision of anarchy. It is one of the earliest, if not the earliest, pro-anarchism declarations written in Japan. By combining biographical research and textual analysis that are contextualised within literary and historical settings, this novel is a case study of the nuanced local reworking of cross-cultural flows during a period characterised by the influx of new tools and ideas. Moreover, it enables a glimpse into the active political lives of the anonymous Meiji ex-samurai, and into the wide range of their political deliberations.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)491-509
Number of pages19
JournalAsian Studies Review
Volume46
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - 2022

Keywords

  • Jean Jacques Rousseau
  • Liberty and Civil Rights Movement (jiyū minken undō)
  • Meiji period
  • Nukina Shunichi
  • Science fiction
  • Voyage to Innumerable Star Worlds, or A Store House of Worlds (senman muryō hoshi sekai, ichi mei, sekaizō)
  • anarchism
  • cross cultural flows
  • cultural hybridity
  • political novel (seiji shōsetsu)

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Cultural Studies
  • History
  • Sociology and Political Science

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