Spring semester saw the publication of two new books by Michael Cronin, Associate Professor of Japanese Studies. Osaka Modern, published in February by Harvard East Asian, is a monograph on the city of Osaka as imagined in literature, film, and popular culture of the transwar period, from the 1920s to the 1960s. Japan’s “merchant capital” in the late sixteenth century, Osaka remained an industrial center—the “Manchester of the East”—into the 1930s, developing a distinct urban culture to rival Tokyo’s. It therefore represents a critical site of East Asian modernity. Cronin explores Osaka’s spaces, its dialect, its food, humor, and more, using the city as a lens to examine issues of everyday life, coloniality, masculinity, and more.
The Maids, published in April by New Directions, is a translation of the final novel written by Tanizaki Jun’ichirō, a giant of Japanese and world literature. Originally published in 1963 and set partly in Osaka, the novel depicts the pampered and elegant household of a famous author, Chikura Raikichi, and his wife, Sanko, between the years 1936 to 1963—viewed through the eyes of the maids who serve the family. The figure of Raikichi offers an ironic, nostalgic self-portrait of the aging sensualist Tanizaki.