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Science fiction in Japan is an important subgenre of modern Japanese literature that has strongly influenced aspects of contemporary Japanese pop culture, including anime, manga, video games and tokusatsu.




Both Japan's history of technology and mythology play a role in the development of its science fiction. However, science fiction in the standard sense did not begin until the Meiji Restoration and the importation of Western ideas.

The first science fiction of any influence to be translated into Japanese were the novels of Jules Verne. Shunrō Oshikawa's Kaitei Gunkan (Undersea warship), published in 1900, described submarines and predicted a coming Russo-Japanese war.

During the period between the world wars, Japanese science fiction was more influenced by American science fiction. A popular writer of the era was Jūza Unno, sometimes called "the father of Japanese science fiction." The literary standards of this era, and the previous, tended to be low. Prior to World War II, Japanese rarely if ever saw science fiction as worthwhile literature. Instead, it was considered a form of trivial literature for children.

After World War II

1968 December issue of Hayakawa's S-F Magazine

The era of modern Japanese science fiction began with the influence of paperbacks that the US occupation army brought to Japan after World War II. The first science fiction magazine in Japan, Seiun (星雲 ?), was created in 1954 but was discontinued after only one issue. Several short-lived magazines followed Seiun in the Japanese market, but none experienced great success.

Science fiction in Japan gained popularity in the early 1960s. Both the Hayakawa's S-F Magazine (S-Fマガジン ?) and the science fiction coterie magazine Uchujin (宇宙塵 ?, Cosmic dust) began publication in this decade. The first Nihon SF Taikai convention was held in 1962.

Notable authors like Sakyo Komatsu, Yasutaka Tsutsui, Ryo Hanmura, Ryu Mitsuse, Kazumasa Hirai and Aritsune Toyota debuted at the Hayakawa SF contest. Other authors, such as Taku Mayumura, Shinichi Hoshi and Aran Kyodomari, were also published. Though influenced by the West, their work was distinctively Japanese. For example, Kazumasa Hirai, Aritsune Toyota and Takumi Shibano wrote novels as well as plots for SF-anime and SF-manga, which are some of the most prominent examples of Japanese contributions to the genre of science fiction.

The contributions of excellent translators such as Tetsu Yano, Masahiro Noda, Hisashi Asakura and Norio Ito introduced English science fiction to readers in Japan, and greatly influenced public opinion of science fiction. SF Magazine's first editor, Masami Fukushima was also an excellent novelist and translator.

Infiltration and diffusion

Public interest in science fiction had risen notably in Japan by Expo '70. Komatsu's Nihon Chinbotsu (aka Japan Sinks, 1973) was a best-seller. Uchu Senkan Yamato (aka Space Battleship Yamato), a work of anime placed in a science fiction setting, was aired, and Star Wars was screened in Japan in the late 1970s. The change in the nature of the science fiction genre in Japan that resulted from these events is often called "Infiltration and Diffusion" (浸透と拡散 Shinto to Kakusan).

At this time, Hanmura's Denki-SF (伝奇SF, ?, literally "mythology-based SF") series and Hirai's Woulf Guy series became prototypes of later Japanese light novels through the works of Hideyuki Kikuchi, Baku Yumemakura, and Haruka Takachiho. In addition, new science fiction magazines such as Kisou-Tengai (奇想天外), SF Adventure (SFアドベンチャー) and SF Hoseki (SF宝石) were founded. A number of notable authors debuted in either SF Magazine or one of these new publications: Akira Hori, Junya Yokota, Koji Tanaka, Masaki Yamada, Musashi Kanbe, Azusa Noa, Chōhei Kanbayashi, Kōshū Tani, Mariko Ohara, Ko Hiura, Hitoshi Kusakami, Motoko Arai, Baku Yumemakura, Yoshiki Tanaka and Hiroe Suga.

In the 1980s, the audio-visual side of the Japanese science fiction genre continued to develop. Hayao Miyazaki's Kaze no Tani no Naushika (a.k.a. Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind) and Mamoru Oshi's Urusei Yatsura II: Beautiful Dreamer were first screened. On TV, real robot anime series, starting with Mobile Suit Gundam, were aired, and the science fiction artist group Studio Nue joined the staff of The Super Dimension Fortress Macross. Animators Hideaki Anno, Yoshiyuki Sadamoto, Takami Akai, and Shinji Higuchi, who had attracted attention by creating anime that had been exhibited at Daicon III and Daicon IV, established Studio Gainax.

Wintery age

Literary science fiction magazines started to disappear in the late 1980s when public attention increasingly switched to audio-visual media. The Hayakawa science fiction contest was also discontinued, removing a major outlet for the work of many writers. A number of science fiction and space opera writers, including Hosuke Nojiri, Hiroshi Yamamoto, Ryuji Kasamine, and Yuichi Sasamoto, began writing "light novel" genre paperback science fiction and fantasy novels, which are primarily marketed to teenagers. This period, during which literary science fiction declined, has been labeled "the Wintery Age" (冬の時代 Fuyu no Jidai). In the mainstream of science fiction, Yoshiki Tanaka published Ginga Eiyu Densetsu (a.k.a. Legend of the Galactic Heroes) series.

The boundary between science fiction novels and light novels was blurred in the 1990s. Although Hiroyuki Morioka's Seikai no Monshou series is considered to be in the vein of the light novel, the series was published by Hayakawa Shobo as part of the mainstream science fiction world. On the other hand, light novel writers like Sasamoto and Nojiri have also published hard SF novels.

As a continuation of infiltration and diffusion of science fiction into mainstream literature, Kenzaburō Ōe, who later received Nobel Prize in Literature, wrote two science fiction novels in 1990-1991. Haruki Murakami received World Fantasy Award for Kafka on the Shore in 2006, and his 2009 novel 1Q84 was a bestseller.

The Zeroes

'00s, the first decade of the 21st century, saw a recovery of the market of literary SF. Compared to the overall decline of publishing industry, science fictions were considered solid sales.[1] SFWJ and Tokuma Shoten began Japan SF Budding Writer Award in 1999, and Tokuma started a quarterly magazine SF Japan in 2000. Hayakawa started a new label J Collection in 2002. Kadokawa Haruki Corporation started Komatsu Sakyō Award for new authors in 2000. A new yearly anthology series, edited by Nozomi Ōmori and Sanzō Kusaka, started in 2008 by Tokyo Sogensha.

Of those who applied for Komatsu Sakyō Award (and failed) and debuted from J Collection, Tō Enjō, bordering mainstream literature, was shortlisted to Akutagawa Prize. Keikaku Itō left strong impression before dying of cancer in 2009.

65th World Science Fiction Convention was jointly held with the 46th Nihon SF Taikai in Yokohama, Japan, in 2007.

See also






  1. ^ Nozomi Ōmori, Yumi Toyozaki (2008). Bungakushō Mettagiri!. Chikuma Shobo. ISBN 978-4-480-42413-6.   (Originally published by PARCO in 2004)


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