Faculty Scholarly Dissemination Grants


Re-imagining the Idealized Past in Ashikari


Modern Languages & Literatures


College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

Date Range



For his 1932 novella, Ashikari, Tanizaki Jun’ichirô borrowed the title of a 15th century nô play by Zeami. Zeami’s play was itself based on a story included in several earlier collections of poem-tales (utamonogatari), in which a man and woman who had separated in an attempt to change their fortune meet again years later and exchange poems which recall bitterly the hope they had once held for the future. But aside from the title and the poem that opens his novella, Tanizaki seems to have borrowed little from the earlier texts. Rather, Tanizaki’s use of the title evokes the themes of loss and regret which were central to the original story, as well as the conventions of the nô form, in which the dead are unable to gain release from the mortal world due to their continued attachment to worldly desires. With this context, Tanizaki’s novella can be read as a modern nô play, in which the characters are unable to live in the present due to their longing for an idealized past. And in this, it informs a major theme found throughout Tanizaki’s oeuvre: the search for identity through an idealized traditional “Japan” despite the simultaneous recognition of its artificiality.

Conference Name

Association for Asian Studies Annual Meeting

Conference Location

Toronto, Canada

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