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The Journal of Japanese Language Literature Studies > Volume 12(1); 2021 > Article
Border Crossings: The Journal of Japanese-Language Literature Studies 2021;12(1): 4-7.
doi: https://doi.org/10.22628/bcjjl.2021.12.1.4
“Inexpressible” Conceptions about Disasters
Associate professor, University of Tokyo/Japan
東京大学大学院人文社会系研究科准教授。専門は日本 中世文学、和歌文学。
Correspondence  Hanako KINOSHITA ,Email: hanako-k@l.u-tokyo.ac.jp
Published online: 30 June 2021.
Copyright ©2021 The Global Institute for Japanese Studies, Korea University
This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial License ( http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
In Japanese classical literature, there is almost no work which pays significant attention to disasters. However, the 13th century text Hojoki by Kamo no Chomei depicts five serious disasters which occurred in the last stage of the Heian period, and is therefore a form of disaster literature that was a departure in the Japanese tradition. Pre-modern people understood disaster as the result of an entity that exceeds human intelligence becoming angry and inflicting suffering on a mass scale. They engaged in fortune-telling in order to discover the cause of such disasters. They attempted to calm the superhuman entity, thereby ameliorating the effects of a given disaster. These are the core elements of the conception of disaster in Japanese classical literature. Hojoki however is different, as it does not understand disaster in terms of supernatural causality. Kamo no Chomei said that a disaster is “a Fushigi”, which is a mysterious phenomenon. People cannot explain “Fushigi” by means of language, but he made this attempt. Through his efforts, Hojoki became an iconic classical text, and the prototype of the more modern Japanese conception of disaster.
Keywords: Disaster, Hojoki, The Law of Causality, Fortune Telling, Inexpressible

キ―ワ―ド: 災害, 『方丈記』, 因果律, 御卜, 不思議
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