Public and academic interest in literature from Japan’s rural north culminated in consecutive Akutagawa Prizes awarded to Numata Shinsuke, Wakatake Chisako, and Takahashi Hiroki in 2017 and 2018. Despite mainstream success, however, the bulk of literature published by Tōhoku writers in minor or independent magazines remains unexplored. Because women writers in prefectures like Iwate seldom experience an induction into the literary elite that Wakatake experienced, research on women’s literary production can easily overlook fiction, poetry, and essays published in journals like Kita no bungaku or Minshu Morioka bungaku. For these writers, however, gender politics cannot be decoupled from local space. Local cultural production problematizes the scaling of women’s literature to national literary history.
The politics of local cultural production in the contemporary moment reverberates with Japan’s postwar period. A rapid proliferation of independently produced print media marks a decentralization of intellectual and cultural production. Regional literature flourished leaving behind a largely unexplored archive of local journals and magazines. The legacy of women’s writing today often passes over these materials in favor of mainstream figures connected with the central intellectual elite. Women writing in rural journals shifted the scales of literary representation away from the national imperial project to the gendered politics present in the local day-to-day. Reviewing rural literary production and the gendered politics of democratization uncovers legacies that connect the postwar moment to our conceptualization of regional space and literary production in Japan’s peripheries today.