• Okamoto Kidō’s “Sea Turtles”: An Example of the Japanese Littoral Weird Tale and the EcoGothic

    Samantha Landau (see profile)
    Item Type:
    Weird Fiction, Gothic, Nature Writing, Japan, Folklore, Twentieth-Century Japanese Literature, Japanese literature, EcoGothic, Ecohorror, translation
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    Okamoto Kidō (1872-1939), inspired by both domestic and foreign trends of writing uncanny and weird fiction based on various legends, wrote a series of about fifty stories during the 1920s and 1930s. Kidō’s weird tales have a strong focus on the monstrous, on uncanny humans, and on nature’s revenge against those who break taboos. These stories also feature realistic treatments of the urban/rural and educational divides from various periods of Japan’s history. They draw deeply on both Japanese folkloric belief and ritual, and on folkloric beliefs and rituals from outside of Japan. The story translated here, “Sea Turtles” (1934), is overtly EcoGothic in its themes and folkloric in its motifs — nature takes revenge on a couple that breaks the taboo on going out to sea on the night of Obon, the summer festival of the dead. The story is told as a tale within a tale, which destabilizes the narrative and throws doubt on its veracity. Moreover, it ends in an ambiguous way that leaves the strange tragedy at its core unexplained. But instead of casting doubt on superstitions, the main characters’ stubborn adherence to modern logical thought lends credibility both to the characters themselves and to the notion that some events truly have supernatural origins. Herein, a short explanation of the author’s background and the story’s location in Japanese literature is first offered, followed by a translation of the story with explanatory notes.
    Published as:
    Journal article    
    Last Updated:
    2 years ago
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