The Journal of Japanese Studies
Ōe Kenzaburō’s status as the left-wing conscience of postwar Japan was consolidated long before his Nobel prize of 1994. Several works dating from the late 1950s, however, give the lie to this radicalism and suggest instead a tendency toward the reactionary. In particular, Ōe’s politico-sexual series on occupied Japan—five narratives that center on a love triangle between a Japanese youth, his prostitute mistress, and her Euro-American patron—veer noticeably toward misogyny in their representation of Japan under Pax Americana. Although this series of texts purports to be a call to arms to Japanese male youth during the intense debates over the U.S.-Japan Security Treaty, a closer inspection reveals that Ōe’s hidden preoccupation is with his female characters, who become scapegoats for “crimes” of complicity with Japan’s conquerors that were, in fact, extremely widespread.
33, Number 2 (Summer