Abstract Existentialismus als Lebenshaltung

Existentialist thought had a profound impact on the intellectual and literary fields in twentieth-century Japan, particularly in the post-war era when the influence of French – notably Sartrean – existentialism on Japanese intellectual thought became very prominent. This was largely due to the economic and structural environment which was conducive to a positive reception of existentialism. Existential philosophy is not only evident in the works of post-war writers, but sometimes also shows in certain authors’ approaches to life. Some Japanese intellectuals consciously referred to existential philosophy when confronted with critical experiences in their own lives, such as dilemmas that forced them to make unavoidable personal decisions.

The aim of this paper is to show how the artistic oeuvre of certain authors bears evidence of actions that were consciously based on existentialist thought. I have selected the renowned authors Shiina Rinzō (1911–1973) and Ōe Kenzaburō (*1935) to illustrate this point in their works. Whereas Shiina leaned towards the existential philosophies of Kierkegaard and Nietzsche, Ōe shows a strong adherence to Sartrean existentialism. Taking these two post-war writers as examples, I will attempt to elucidate the relationship between existential philosophy and individual approaches to life and to demonstrate how these authors incorporated such experiences in their literary works.