Expedient conversion?

Tenk? in transwar Japanese literature

Authored by: Mark Williams

Routledge Handbook of Modern Japanese Literature

Print publication date:  June  2016
Online publication date:  June  2016

Print ISBN: 9781138792296
eBook ISBN: 9781315762210
Adobe ISBN: 9781317647720


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The Japanese term tenk? has been widely used over the years to refer to various acts of ‘conversion’, whether political or ideological, ranging from the converts to Jesuit Christianity in the late sixteenth to early seventeenth century to any situation where a catalytic event prompts a discernible mood of disillusionment. In the early twentieth century, however, the term came to be identified more specifically with the approximately 57,000 people arrested for contravention of the Peace Preservation Law of 1925, who secured their release from detention by following the example of tenk? established by Sano Manabu and Nabeyama Sadachika, two senior and influential members of the Communist Party. In 1933 Sano and Nabeyama issued a public statement, a so-called tenk?sho, from their prison cells repudiating the Comintern, branding the Japan Communist Party (JCP) as a ‘petty bourgeois organ moving fast in the wrong direction’ and eschewing all political activity in the future (Beckmann 1971: 165). More recently, as the critic Patricia Steinhoff points out, the term has been variously used to describe the shift towards nationalism of the 1930s, the move from student radicalism to conformity with company values in the postwar drive for economic resurgence, or, more generally, to any rejection of ideological conviction in order to more fully integrate into Japanese society (1991: 5ff).

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