How a Medieval Monk-Poet (Saigyô) and Japan Became Identified with ‘Nature’

Mike Sugimoto


Japan and, more specifically, the celebrated early medieval monk-poet Saigyô have long been associated with properties of ‘nature’. From Ruth Benedict’s postwar work of anthropology The Chrysanthemum and the Sword, to earlier appropriations by nineteenth-century artists of Japonisme, to greenways lined with cherry trees, Japan as nature has been a powerful cultural cliché. This paper traces the misidentification of a key poet, Saigyô, with the qualities of nature, and argues that this rendering of Japanese culture is an ideologically invested part of Orientalism.


Japan, Saigyo, Japanese Poetry, Asian Literature, Orientalism

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Copyright (c) 2017 Mike Sugimoto

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