chapter  1
6 Pages

The beginnings

Other than translated works and adventure stories of the type mentioned, Japanese literature in the 1880s was characterized by the political novel. Political changes were afoot and, spurred on by the examples of Disraeli and Bulwer-Lytton, Japanese authors with an interest in politics wrote political novels to set forth their ideas in the years leading up to the establishment of the new constitution and the National Diet. It was in this climate that the Japanese future novel was born in 1884. Ushiyama Ryosuke wrote Nihon no Mirai (The Future of Japan) in 1884,6 and in 1886 Suehiro Tetcho wrote Nijusannen Mirai Ki (A Future Record of the Year 1890).7 Looking even more distantly into the future, this same author also wrote Seijishosetsu: Setchubai (A Political Novel: Plum Blossom in the Snow) in 1886,8 and its sequel Seijishosetsu: Kakan'o (A Political Novel: A Nightingale Among the Flowers) 1888-9.9 Both of these novels presume the discovery of notebooks in the year 2040 dealing with events in the lives of a professor and his wife in the period just after the time in which they were written. The theme was political and related to the current political developments of Suehiro's own day. Nevertheless, the device of choosing a future setting for the discovery of the notebooks reveals an awareness of change over time and in this sense they reveal a consciousness that is basic to the spirit of science fiction.