Modern Japan Section 4 Literature and the Arts

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Modern Japan

Important People

  • Matsuo Basho – one of Japan’s greatest poets

  • One of his Haikus ( 5-7-5 syllables)

  • On high narrow road old traveler clears wide swath, tiny scythe glinting.

  • (scythe - An implement consisting of a long, curved single-edged blade with a long bent handle, used for mowing or reaping. )

Kawabata Yasunari

  • The first Japanese to receive the

  • Nobel prize for literature

  • Won the Nobel Prize in 1968

  • Among his works in English translation are the novels Thousand Cranes (tr. 1959), The Sound of the Mountain (tr. 1970), and The Lake (tr. 1974), and volumes of short stories, The House of the Sleeping Beauties and Other Stories (tr. 1969) and First Snow on Fuji (tr. 1999).

  • Four years later, in declining health and probably depressed by the suicide of his friend Yukio Mishima , he committed suicide.

Kurosawa Akira


  • Haiku – short poem of only 17 syllables (5-7-5)

  • Kabuki – exciting and colorful dramas that dealt with themes such as love and revenge

Values of Zen

  • Simplicity, self-discipline, and closeness to nature

  • The idea that beauty can be found in ordinary objects and in daily tasks.

Art Today

  • Japanese people as do their American counterparts enjoy television and movies.

  • However, some like No plays and Kabuki theater as well.

  • Most modern Japanese art reflects middle- class interests and tastes.

A Comparison of No plays and Kabuki theater

  • Both plays use a chorus to chant the story along with musical accompaniment.

  • No plays have basically no plot and unfold without much action.

  • Kabuki consists of exciting drama and has elaborate stage settings.

Influence on the World

  • Japanese film writers have influenced American movies.

  • Zen rock gardening has impacted floral arrangements in the US and Europe

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