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Tanizaki Jun’ichirō’s Modern Girls: Reversing the Role of Moga in Japanese Literature

Author: Aslı İdil Kaynar

Source: Global Perspectives on Japan (GPJ), No.3 (2020), pp.43-63
Publisher: Forum Tauri Press
Keywords: Japanese modern literature, the modern girl, representations of women in literature, gender, literature and media, objectification.


This research explores moga’s (Japanese modern girl) representations in Tanizaki Jun’ichirō’s (1886-1965) literary texts. Examining moga’s position within Tanizaki’s writings, the study supports the idea that although moga was portrayed negatively by the Japanese media Tanizaki’s descriptions of moga can be approached differently. In the 1920s and 1930s moga drew attention due to her Westernized looks and the way she took an active part in the public space. For these reasons, she became an inspiration for many authors. This paper presents an overview of Tanizaki’s portrayal of modern girls. It looks into modes of objectification and types of women in Tanizaki’s earlier novels and short stories. This study surveys the following works: The Tattooer (Shisei, 1910), Kirin (1910), Professor Rado (1928) and Naomi (Chijin no ai, 1925). Through context-based analysis of Tanizaki Jun’ichirō’s selected literary works this study reveals the common patterns in the protagonists’ relationships with the modern girl analyzed within the theoretical framework of objectification, drawing on Martha Nussbaum’s idea of positive objectification and Sandra Lee Bartky’s concept of narcissism and the male gaze. Tanizaki introduces various types of the modern girl in his early novels and short stories, thus this research argues that moga in real life was a complex figure that cannot be simply categorized as a product of mass culture.