Nami-Ko, also called The Cuckoo (不如帰, Hototogisu), is a tragic story of love and devotion, through sickness, war, oppression, and vengeance. Eighteen-year-old Nami Kataoka hoped her marriage to Baron Takeo Kawashima would bring freedom from her overbearing stepmother. But the couple’s happiness is spoiled by her illness, her mother-in-law’s jealousy, and the schemes of Chijiwa, her husband’s cousin and her own disappointed suitor. Takeo’s naval career takes him away for long periods, and when war breaks out between Japan and China (in 1894), his mother takes advantage of his absence to break up the marriage, sending Nami back to her father, the General Kataoka. Despite his love for Nami, Takeo— who is fearless and resolute in facing Chinese naval bombardment—is hesitant and seemingly helpless in the face of his mother’s interference. More than a love story, the novel is a reflection on the systemic oppression of women—even among the wealthy classes—as well as the contrast between traditional samurai values and the emergent commercial interests, and, moreover, the awakening of Japanese nationalism as expressed through military expansion.
Translated by Sakae Shioya and E. F. Edgett.
Meiji literature, women in Japan, Sino-Japanese War, navy, Battle off the Yalu River
Chinese Studies | Comparative Literature | East Asian Languages and Societies | Japanese Studies | Korean Studies | Translation Studies
Tokutomi, Kenjiro, "Nami-Ko: A Realistic Novel" (2022). Zea E-Books Collection. 125.