The Invention of Landscape: Keats’s Influence on Modern Japanese Poetry

This paper offers a historical and aesthetic discussion of the influence that Keats’s poetry had on Japanese modern poetry. The enthusiastic reception of Keats in the period roughly ranging from 1880 to 1910 coincided with Meiji Japan’s obsessive appropriation of Western culture. The coincidence between the acceptance of Keats and Japan’s Westernization articulates a situation not solely attributable to the incorporation of Western poetic diction and imagery into Japanese poetry. Rather, Keats’s influence on Japanese poetry was an extension of the contemporary changes in perception that had been cultivated through the reading of Chinese literature. The transformation in the mode of perception illuminates how English Romantic poetry initiated a turning point in the cognition of Meiji literati to reinvent landscape in a new language; the acceptance of Keats in Japan advanced a process that enabled modern Japanese poets to defamiliarize conventional topoi and invent a new, more “real” landscape.