Musashino in Tuscany

Japanese Overseas Travel Literature, 1860-1912

Susanna Fessler

Monograph No. 50, 2004, xii + 297 pp., ISBN 978-1-929280-29-2. Cloth only. $65.00. 29 illustrations.
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  • By the late Meiji period Japanese were venturing abroad in great numbers, and some of those who traveled kept diaries and wrote formal travelogues. These travelogues reflected a changing view of the West and changing artistic sensibilities in regard to the long-standing Japanese literary tradition of travel writing (kikobungaku). This book shows that overseas Meiji-period travel writers struck out to create a dynamic new type of travel literature, one that had a solid foundation in traditional Japanese kikobungaku yet also displayed influence from the West.

    Musashino in Tuscany specifically examines the poetic imagery and allusion in these travelogues and reveals that when Japanese traveled to the West in the mid-nineteenth century, the images they wrote about tended to be associated not with places initially discovered by the Japanese traveler but with places that already existed in Western fame and lore. And unlike imagery from Japanese traveling in Japan, which was predominately nature based, Japanese overseas travel imagery was often associated with the man-made world.
  • “Susanna Fessler’s new book . . . makes an important contribution. She brings great sensitivity to the readings of texts and a wonderful ability to read those texts as documents of poetry and prose in a long history of Japanese literature. She thus reads with a deep appreciation for convention in Japanese travel writing that goes back over a millennium.”
    —Joshua A. Fogel in the Journal of Japanese Studies

    “An intriguing and interesting book. . . . Susanna Fessler succeeds admirably in defining a major genre and in tracing the ebb and flow of the native Japanese travel-writing tradition as it moved onto the world stage in the Meiji era.”
    --Martin Collcutt in Monumenta Nipponica

    “The whole spectrum of attitude shown by these early Japanese travelers, both conservative and exploratory, is here carefully laid out in this scholarly but very readable account.”
    --Donald Richie in The Japan Times
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