I know books which criticize the military were censored in Japan during the interwar period.

I'm wondering if this specific story was censored, and if so, roughly when/for how long? Also, what did the censorship look like (since it's a short story that shows up, usually, in collections - were the collections censored too?)?

  • 1
    This seems the digitized first edition dl.ndl.go.jp/pid/936266/1/7 To my knowledge, the (uncensored) original is not known today. So exactly how can't be known.
    – sundowner
    Commented Apr 21 at 14:05

1 Answer 1


I have a clearish answer to the main question: It wasn't overtly banned, but it was indeed altered, as James Dorsey explains in Critical Aesthetics: Kobayashi Hideo, Modernity, and Wartime Japan.

Akutagawa’s satire of the beloved general, a national icon, was so sharp that in spite of the fact that he refrained from mentioning the general by name, the authorities insisted on inserting fuseji, meaningless characters, in an act of censorship of various “objectionable” sections of the story.

The other details, though, I'm not sure of. Notably, this PhD thesis from 2019 says that the story was "heavily censored," but doesn't offer any details beyond the fuseji already discussed beyond the specification that they were in the shapes of "crosses or circles."

There's a bit of mystery regarding the exact provenance and significance of the fuseji in Akutagawa's work; per Redacted: The Archives of Censorship in Transwar Japan, there are a a few things to be noted.

  1. Generally, audiences were capable of deciphering the censored words.
  2. It's not always clear whether authors themselves added the fuseji (as a literary device) or whether the censors insisted upon it; the fuseji sometimes fulfilled "the haphazard demands of censors," yes, but it also occasionally "served the aesthetic demands of fiction." In another one of his works, "Kappa," Akutagawa himself added the fuseji in his manuscripts.
  3. The author distinguishes between three kinds of fuseji: There was proper-name fuseji (changing names to please the government or to achieve literary effects), taboo-fuseji (replacing risqué or questionable words), and blackout-fuseji (redacting large amounts of text). Fuseji peaked from 1927 to 1936, but each variety had its own time of petering out. Proper-name and taboo- fuseji continued well into Occupation, though blackout-fuseji more or less ended in 1937. Even if we classify the excision in "Shōgun" as being of the first type, or perhaps a mix of the first and second, we'd be no closer to understanding the time at which the censorship ended.

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