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An introduction to Izumi Kyoka

Izumi Kyoka lived and wrote in Tokyo during the Meiji, Taisho and Showa periods (the late 19th and early 20th centuries), when Japan was rapidly accommodating western influences. Highly respected by the big names in literary circles, he was a strong influence on Akutagawa, author of the well-known short story, "Rashomon", and friends with Soseki, perhaps Japan's most famous modern writer. Tanizaki later called his work "purely Japanese . . . native-born, borrowed neither from the West nor from China." Mishima likened him to "a peony garden sending forth blossoms in the desert of modern literature."

Kyoka wrote in the old style, using Kanji characters that a generation later were outdated, if not unreadable, to many Japanese. And his stories were often a kind of Gothic fantasy, filled with superstition and spirits and traditional ways -- hardly fashionable when machinery, mass advertising, and the Jazz Age hit Japan. Still, his works endured and his name survived, and eventually a few books were translated into English.

The Saint of Mt. Koya was originally published as Koya Hijiri, in 1900, some fifty years after Kyoka had died. The English translation was printed in 1990, by a private group in Kyoka's hometown. "Any writer whose work continues to be read nearly a century after it was written and a full fifty years after the author's death occupies a significant place in any country's literary tradition," wrote translator Stephen W. Kohl. Here, then, is a significant piece of Japan's literature, written by an author quintessentially Japanese. Begin Story

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