Modern Japanese Diaries

Donald Keene, Shincho Professor Emeritus at Columbia University, is the author of dozens of books on the study of Japanese literature and culture. SEEDS IN THE HEART (1993) has been hailed by critics as the “exhaustive” critical study of Japanese writing that consummates Keene’s great work of scholarship. DAWN TO THE WEST (1984) is considered by many as the “authoritative” account of Japanese literature. In MODERN JAPANESE DIARIES, Keene again demonstrates his painstaking scholarship, keen observation, and astute analysis. The book invites the reader to tour a time when modern Japan opened its door to the world.

MODERN JAPANESE DIARIES includes journals written by Japanese who came into contact with Americans, Europeans, and Chinese. The journals are divided into seven groups: early missions to foreign countries, travels in Asia, Japanese writers abroad, journals by politicians, journals by women, journals by poets and novelists, and journals which chronicled Japanese lives in the early twentieth century. Most interesting among the journals were those describing Japanese’s experience abroad and those written by women. Muragaki was a diplomat. His diaries exhibited his admiration for the United States as well as his skepticism about American democracy. Kume Kunitake, a member of the first mission sent abroad by the Meiji government, discussed the cultural differences between the West and the East in his diaries. The diary of Kawai Koume provides an interesting contrast with those kept by men of her time revealing women’s longing for peace and their suspicion of foreign cultures.