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Open Access Creatures of Myth and Modernity&58; Representations of Shōjō in the Meiji Era

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This study investigates the multiple representations of shōjō in the translated literature and print media of Japan’s Meiji era. It explores the origins of the shōjō as a yōkai, or mythical being of traditional folklore and Noh theatre, through to its unveiling as a real-life creature of the modern world, as an orangutan, initially at misemono sideshows, before its introduction to the Tokyo public at the Ueno Zoo, in 1898. The zoo, as a new framework for ordering the relationship between people and the natural world, is one of the cultural systems through which knowledge of the shōjō was constructed, circulated and experienced in this period. Examining such materials, the paper reveals contesting knowledge systems that contributed to modern experience. Translation also plays an important role in this process, and the translated literature of this era is explored and foregrounded here as an active contributor to the creation and transition of knowledge of exotic animals like the shōjō in late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century Japan.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Kyushu University

Publication date: January 1, 2017

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