Student Question

Do the cultural elements in Spring Snow accurately reflect Japan in 1912?

Quick answer:

Yes, elements of culture that are represented in Spring Snow are true to the time period of the story. Elements of Japanese culture that are realistically depicted include the importance of imperial authority and strong respect for the traditional hierarchy, both of which are conveyed by Satoko’s arranged marriage. The influence of Western, modern ideas and capitalist expansion is also shown through Kiyoaki’s newly wealthy family.

Expert Answers

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The early twentieth century in Japan was a period of social transformation under Emperors Meiji and Taisho. The country’s opening to foreign influence that began in the 1860s had paved the way for the expansion of trade, business, and technological change. These developments were accompanied by cultural and social changes. In the novel, Yukio Mishima locates the shifting relationships between tradition and modernity in the families of Satoko and Kiyoaki. Because of their elite status, her family is committed to arranging a marriage that befits their position. His family, although based in a noble regional family, has risen in social status because of business-derived wealth.

Although Kiyoaki and Satoko fall in love and manage to steal some time together, he was not considered a suitable husband for her. Class divisions that were embedded in the traditional social hierarchy were much more important than individual emotional attachments. Satoko is betrothed to a fiancé based on his appropriate position within the family of Prince Toin.

Mishima includes actual persons, events, and locations to establish a realistic setting. These include the Emperor Meiji, commemorative rituals associated with the Russo-Japanese War, and New Year’s festivities at the Imperial Palace. In Tokyo, Kiyoaki and Satoko attend events such as performances at the Imperial Theater and pass by the parade ground.

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