Much has been written about the development of mutlticulturalism in the contexts of Euro-American societies and in relation to their overseas colonies, though often to the neglect of East Asian counterparts. In the pages ahead, I propose to look at a case of interlingual discovery and cultural critique from within as exempliﬁed by a Japanese writer and colonizer’s travel narratives in early-twentieth-century Asia. The texts considered here are by Sato-Haruo (1892-1964), a distinguished writer in post-Meiji Japan, who visited Taiwan in 1920 on the invitation of a high-school classmate for three months. Over a span of 20 years that followed, Sato-produced a series of stories and reissued them in a collection titled Musha, in which he gave expression to exotic and critical stances in relation to Taiwan.1 He provided nuanced and revealing narrative accounts of what he witnessed in Taiwan as a traveler and a “comprador” who enjoyed all sorts of privilege on the one hand, while entertaining a split, discrepant cosmopolitanism on the other. He compared the customs and discursive practices between the Japanese and the Taiwanese, in addition to being fascinated by the aborigine’s tall tales. To better comprehend his psycho-social structure of ambivalent identiﬁcation, I shall examine Sato-
Haruo’s travelogue and place it in the context of comparative culture and ethnic studies as these disciplines were introduced in the 1920s to help shape the relatively unique national character of Japan and to justify the legitimacy of Japan’s South Advance project in Paciﬁc Asia. In many ways, Sato-’s travelogue is not unlike other accounts of colonial
encounter in which motifs of exotic memory, imperial eye, racial discrimination, and even castration, gender prejudices, exhaustive inventory, tropical neurasthenia, sense of dislocation, cultural criticism from within, anti-conquest, etc. abound. Even though Sato-visited Taiwan as a civilian, he was quite happy that the colonial government in Taiwan provided him with generous support, enabling him to live in luxurious hotels and putting him in contact with those local intellectuals normally unavailable to visitors. Sato-appeared to have been pleasantly surprised when the landlady gave him a more comfortable room upon realizing that he was the governor’s guest of honor. As recounted in Travels in the Colony, Sato-at ﬁrst was poorly treated by the hotel receptionist in Taichung, who stared at him “with suspicion” and then
put him “in a shabby room not even supplied with window curtains to block the scorching sun” (2002: 273). He had to ring the bell a few times, to urge the waitress to bring him cold drinks. When he complained about the unbearable heat and wished to move to another room, the waitress sarcastically commented: “all the rooms would be equally warm to one like you who just came down from the high mountains” (ibid.: 274). The situation changed after Sato-notiﬁed the local district magistrate of his presence in town. Not only did he get a special tour guide and got himself invited to an oﬃcial banquet, but he was upgraded to a huge suite with a porch, tea table, cigarette, and wine set. In celebrating the favorable conditions and utilizing the colonial network to his own advantage, so as to obtain ﬁrst-hand information, Sato-
might well appear to be not any better than his Japanese colleagues.