Mark Twain in Japan: The Cultural Reception of an American Icon

Mark Twain in Japan: The Cultural Reception of an American Icon

Mark Twain in Japan: The Cultural Reception of an American Icon

Mark Twain in Japan: The Cultural Reception of an American Icon

Synopsis

Best known for his sharp wit and his portrayals of life along the banks of the Mississippi River, Mark Twain is indeed an American icon, and many scholars have examined how he and his work are perceived in the United States. In Mark Twain in Japan, however, Tsuyoshi Ishihara explores how Twain's uniquely American work is viewed in a completely different culture. Mark Twain in Japan addresses three principal areas. First, the author considers Japanese translations of Twain's books, which have been overlooked by scholars but which have had a significant impact on the formation of the public image of Twain and his works in Japan. Second, he discusses the ways in which traditiona and contemporary Japanese culture have transformed Twain's originals and shaped Japanese adaptations. Finally, he uses the example of Twain in Japan as a vehicle to delve into the complexity of American cultural influences on other countries, challenging the simplistic one-way model of "cultural imperialism." Ishihara builds on the recent work of other researchers who have examined such models of American cultural imperialism and found them wanting. The reality is that other countries sometimes show their autonomy by transforming, distorting, and rejecting aspects of American culture, and Ishihara explains how this is no less true in the case of Twain. Featuring a wealth of information on how the Japanese have regarded Twain over time, this book offers both a history lesson on Japanese-American relations and a thorough analysis of the "Japanization" of Mark Twain, as Ishihara adds his voice to the growing international chorus of scholars who emphasize the global localization of American culture. While the book will naturally be of interest to Twain scholars, it also will appeal to other groups, particularly those interested in popular culture, Japanese culture, juvenile literature, film, animation, and globalization of American culture.

Excerpt

This project evolved more than ten years ago when I was an undergraduate student in Japan. Although I had not yet read many American books, it was almost impossible to live in Tokyo without having contact with American culture. America was everywhere. If you walked in the streets of downtown Tokyo, you could find advertisements for American movies everywhere and hear American pop songs as background music in a variety of places. You could watch American news programs on satellite television. You could even go to Disneyland by way of an easy 40-minute train ride from downtown Tokyo. At that time, I was one of many young Japanese who were [uncritically] fascinated with almost everything about America. in my eyes, America was the country that was free from many negative aspects of Japanese culture as I saw it, such as age hierarchy, sexism, conservatism, traditionalism, snobbism, homogeneity, and so forth.

I was an English major, and even in literary works I was looking for something [distinctively American,] different from my own country.

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