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date: 09 July 2020

Summary and Keywords

In the Meiji era, the modernization of Japan was achieved through the process of the westernization of political, military, and educational systems. Accordingly, the Japanese willingly acquired and learned Western thought by translating literary resources for Japanese readers: the works of writers such as Ralph Waldo Emerson, Edgar Allan Poe, and Nathaniel Hawthorne were frequently translated and introduced at this time. Concurrently, Japanese girls belonging to the urban middle class began to form their own institutionalized culture called shojo, through which they could communicate their interests in literature or art, and/or share aspects of their ordinary school lives. Shojo culture was supported by newly founded magazines targeting schoolgirls with names like Shojo Sekai, Shojo-kai, Shojo-no-tomo, and Jogaku Zasshi. In Japanese shojo, articles on American women and translated literary pieces written by American and European authors, including Frances Hodgson Burnett, were popular. The work of female American writers like Harriet Beecher Stowe, Louisa May Alcott, and Jean Webster was also translated as juvenile literature for Japanese children. Thus, American culture and literature significantly influenced the Japanese shojo culture. Nobuko Yoshiya, a well-known Japanese author of so-called girls’ novels, stated that she followed Western female writers such as Alcott, Burnett, and George Eliot. The Japanese translations of American literature decreased considerably during World War II. After the war, this literary corpus was rediscovered and was widely translated for Japanese audiences under the supervision of the General Headquarters (GHQ) or the Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers (SCAP). In addition to novels for girls, comics for young female readers (shojo manga) also aroused readers’ interest and became immensely popular. Some manga writers depicted Western settings in their narratives and innumerable “American girls” whose exotic and fashionable aura fascinated Japanese girls. These made-in-Japan “American girls” primarily represented the concept of liberty, autonomy, and abundance: qualities desired by Japanese schoolgirls. At the end of the 20th century, however, the representation of America in the genre of shojo manga gradually became more realistic and less enraptured.

Keywords: democratization of Japan after World War II, General Headquarters (GHQ), Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers (SCAP), girls’ culture, juvenile literature, manga (comics), modernization, shojo (girls), translation of western literature

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