The Literature of Travel in the Japanese Rediscovery of China, 1862-1945

By Joshua A. Fogel | Go to book overview

SIX

Professional Travel Writers

When Okakura Tenshin first ventured to China in the early 1890s, he relied almost entirely on Chinese local gazetteers for information about the places he hoped to visit. Gazetteers did provide considerable information of the sort a traveler might wish to have in advance, but there were several good reasons why they would no longer suffice for Japanese in the Taishō and Shōwa years. First, they provided data on local customs, local families of importance, local produce, and the like, but they did not contain information that covered the entire nation nor were they organized with the contemporary traveler's agenda in mind. Also, the, local men of prominence and their families featured in gazetteers were not the persons with whom Japanese ordinarily wished to make contacts: intellectuals, military men, modern politicians, and so forth. Celebrated Chinese scholars were still sought out by Japanese, but, unless a gazetteer was extremely current, it would not contain much information on contemporary personalities. Finally, with the decline in Kanbun training in post-Meiji Japan, the ability to read Chinese I gazetteers with ease was no longer widespread, except among Japanese Sinologists.

As opportunities for travel began to filter down to the larger populace, a demand grew for more popular works based on more familiar subject matter and written in less difficult prose about what one could expect to find on the mainland. Increased access to the mainland for Japanese travelers and enhanced opportunities for comfort during one's voyage led to greater numbers of Japanese visitors and to the emergence of a fascinating and new kind of author, the professional travel writer.

By around 1915, and especially from the 1920s, a new breed of professional authors--writing specifically about travel to and in China--began to

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