Yosano Akiko

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Yosano Akiko

Yosano Akiko ( Japanese 与 謝 野 晶 子 , Kyūjitai 與 謝 野 晶 子 ; * December 7, 1878 in Sakai ; † May 29, 1942 ) was a Japanese poet, known for romantic Tanka verses and also as a feminist , critic and thinker who during was active in the Meiji period , Taishō period and in the early Shōwa period . The real name is Yosano Shō ( 与 謝 野 志 よ う ).


Born in Osaka Prefecture as the daughter of a wealthy trader in the trading city of Sakai . Her father Hō Sōshichi (1847-1903) owned a bakery and was a supplier for the imperial court, but was interested in art and science. The young Shō acquired a high level of education and was enthusiastic about classical Japanese literature. Her first short poems, Tanka, were published in the magazine Myōjō ( 明星 , "the bright star"), whose editor was Yosano Tekkan - an influential poet. He became the hero of Shō's poetry: the two had an affair while Tekkan was still married. Yosano Akiko's first collection of poems - Midaregami was published in 1901 and caught the attention of the audience. That same year, Akiko left her parents' home and came to Tokyo to live with Tekkan, who was divorcing at the time. The two married and Akiko gave birth to a total of 13 children, two of whom died. She wrote more poems, published two more collections, wrote for Myōjō and, in a romantic edition, Subaru ; the critics recognize Yosano Akiko's poems, written between 1901 and 1910, as the best on their list of works. Yosano Akiko was at the top of her career; she wrote essays, met literary critics and translated classical works of medieval Japan into the modern language ( Genji Monogatari , Shin'yaku Eiga Monogatari). After Myōjō was no longer published in 1908, Yosano had financially supported the whole family through her works. In 1921 she founded the Bunka gakuin ( 文化 学院 ) - a coeducational school , at which she also taught for some time. She also fought for women's rights. Yosano Tekkan died in 1935.

Youth and Influence

When the poet lived in her parents' house, her gift for intellectual work was underestimated. In the Saikai School for Girls, too, she often felt misunderstood by the teachers, but Akiko, then still called Shō, was very gentle and patient. Because her parents felt it wouldn't be good for them to read so much, Akiko often had to hide her passion for literary works from everyone. After graduating from high school in 1894, the parents found it unnecessary to continue Akiko's education, even though their two brothers had studied at different universities in Tokyo.

During school she also studied the Nihon Buyo , koto , shamisen , Japanese tea ceremony and Chinese classics. Akiko started reading very early and by the time she turned 15 she had already read a large part of Japanese classical literature. Most of all, she was enthusiastic about the literature of the Heian period . Having a very good memory as a child, Yosano Akiko was later able to say with pride in her 40s that she remembers the plot of many works. As for poetry, Akiko found most Japanese poetry too boring except for the works of Yosa Buson . The first Japanese poetry Yosano Akiko admired was the 8th century Man'yōshū . She also found great interest in the Chinese poets Du Fu and Li Bai .

The first works

Akiko made her first attempts at the age of 11 to 12 when she found the tanka by Ono no Komachi very bad. She wanted to prove that women can write good poems too. Her first poems were published in the literary magazine Bungei Kurabu ( 文 芸 ク ラ ブ ) in 1895. The first four poems, published in 1896, were nothing more than descriptions of the weather without specifying a specific location. There weren't any strong emotions in her poems.

Yosano Akiko found these earlier poems irrelevant. She said it was because she was "in a woman's body" ( onna no kara ni komotte iru ). She chose to write like she was a man. Her poetry had changed with it too. In 1899 she had published Shintaishi (the new style of poetry) instead of Tanka for the first time .


The Midaregami envelope August 15, 1901

In her poems, Yosano Akiko fights against the traditional way of thinking, advocates free love and the liberation of the personality from principles and moran; it ties the symbols of classical poetry (the blossoming sakura , zither , firefly) to images adopted from the West.

She has faced harsh criticism several times for the explicit eroticism in her poems. The main theme of her poetry is love, the majority of the poems were dedicated to Yosano Tekkan. Poems by women like Izumi Shikibu and Ono no Komachi had a great influence on her works . Akiko was known for her poetry in the Japanese traditional form - tanka . Akiko personalized her tanka based on the familiar topics and language as well as personal experiences. Her first and best-known poetry collection Midaregami ( み だ れ 髪 , "tangled hair"), in medieval poems, loose hair symbolized passion, such as: B. Izumi Shikibu, extolled sensual love and contained symbolism and language that were considered extraordinarily erotic at the time.

Although her later collections, such as Hi no tori ( 火 の 鳥 , "firebird"), were not as popular as Midaregami , the structure was nevertheless rated as outstanding by some critics.

Of the works that are written in the shintaishi form, the Kimi shinitamō koto nakare ( 君 死 に た も う こ と 勿 れ , “You shall not die”) - the best known. It is a forty line poem that Akiko wrote for her brother Sōshichi. She asks him not to leave his life in the Russo-Japanese War . This poem received harsh criticism because she took her personal feelings more than patriotism and duty to the country. Akiko defended herself in the edition of Myōjō (November 1904), arguing that in her opinion everyone should "show their true personality in their own works", otherwise she had no opinion. Akiko himself never saw Kimi shinitamō koto nakare as a protest or criticism of the rule. In her essays, which she wrote in the late 30s, it can be clearly seen that Akiko was not a pacifist. It was more her own feelings and the fear of losing her younger brother that led to this poem.


In her later career, Akiko was highly regarded for her essays. The content was devoted to a wide range of topics, such as education, politics, society, and personal experiences. For example, she told about the difficult process of the birth rate and how important it is for the country. She said that many male writers extol the war and its soldiers, ignoring women who have children. In another essay “I and Religion”, published shortly after the death of Yosano Tekkan (1935), Akiko tells what she thinks of zazen . Back then, her friends were afraid that because of her great love for the deceased man, she might commit suicide. They said meditation will calm the poet. Whereupon Akiko comments in a rather ironic tone: “A man needs to train his mind. However, a woman her age has seen and gone through so much that she doesn't need it. Even if she has not received any education. ”In such statements one can clearly see the feminist idea of ​​Akiko.


Bronze statue of Yosano in front of the train station in Sakai , Osaka

Many of Yosano Akiko's essays dealt with the role of modern women in Japanese society. She spoke of the two concepts of woman: tada no onna ("common woman") - the traditional woman. This is how Yosano Akiko's parents wanted to raise her. The “common woman” could manifest herself in three areas: household, daily running of family business and giving birth to children, especially boys. Personal ambition, curiosity, and passion are bad for such a woman. Akiko despised this image and called the "common woman" also "headless woman". At the same time Akiko presented atarashii onna , the "new woman", of the Taishō period as an ideal.

In the essay Otoko to onna ("Men and Women"), Akiko claims that Japan's greatest hope lies in the growing number of people (or men and women) who act with respect for one another. She also cites several arguments in favor of equal rights for women:

  1. The literary works of women in the Heian period confirm that women too are capable of admirable achievements.
  2. In the age of mechanical engineering, physical strength is no longer so important.
  3. Because housekeeping doesn’t take that much time anymore, it can only be seen as one aspect of a woman’s life, not the most important.
  4. Nobody can live locked up at home all the time. It is work outside the home that brings joy into someone's life.

She tried to get women to "think freely". Propagated independence, restriction of material things, criticized Japanese men and the society that subordinated women.

Journey to the continent

When Myōjō was no longer issued, a very depressing and inactive period began for Yosano Tekkan. In 1910, she decided that the best cure for her husband would be a trip to France . She worked a lot to collect the money she needed and in November 1911 Tekkan left for Europe . In 1912 Akiko published another collection of tanka , a modernized version of Genji Monogatari ( Shinyaku Genji Monogatari新 訳 源氏物語) and later a collection of short stories called "Kumo no iroiro" (Clouds). During this time Akiko missed her husband so much that she decided to travel to Europe herself. On May 5, 1912, Akiko left Japan for Paris on the Trans-Siberia Railway from Vladivostok . She was the first woman to go on a 14-day trip alone. Akiko drove through Russia and Germany and later she also traveled to the Netherlands .

Yosano Akiko's account of the journey and observations are summarized in 16 essays and named "Pari yori" (From Paris).


  • Janine Beichman: Embracing the firebird: Yosano Akiko and the birth of the female voice in modern Japanese poetry . University of Hawaií Press, Honolulu 2002.
  • Phyllis Hyland Larson: Yosano Akiko: the early years . Univ. Microfilms Internat., Ann Arbor, Mich. 1988.

Web links

Commons : Yosano Akiko  - Collection of pictures, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Ulrich Pauly: Yosano Akiko poet and social critic. (PDF; 933 kB) (No longer available online.) OAG , May 2010, archived from the original on April 19, 2012 ; Retrieved June 6, 2012 . Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot / www.oag.jp