On September 27, 2016, Professor Michele Mason, Department of East Asian Languages and Cultures at the University of Maryland, brought students from her class, Readings in Modern Japanese Literature(JAPN 401), to the Prange Collection. The primary course objective is to enhance reading skills in Japanese and to develop an understanding and appreciation for Japanese literature and culture. The students read works by Akutagawa Ryunosuke, Natsume Soseki, and Miyazawa Kenji.
On a tour of the collection, the Curator showed the students a variety of materials, including manga, books of literature, and books in braille. Two censored books were on display — “Kusamakura” by Natsume Soseki and “Miyazawa Kenji” by Mori Soichi. The Prange Coordinator explained the nature of censorship under GHQ/SCAP, especially as it was applied to these two books.
The students were asked to reflect on their visit by writing a “kansobun (感想文).” Here are a few excerpts from their essays:
- …A staff member then proceeded to show us examples of original and censored copies of works, one including the Japanese classic The Three-Cornered World by Natsume Soseki. Red markings symbolized the cover of the censored novel and when flipped to the specific page, a handwritten large X marked where the prohibited section was to be deleted. Because of a specific farewell scene in the book, the author’s work was altered to fit the views of the Occupation period.
- …The introduction was essential for me because I can quickly get a sense of which kinds of things we need to take a look at, and how difficult to keep those valuables.”