In the Japanese empire in 1938, an imperial-language theatrical adaptation of a folktale from colonial Korea, The Tale of Spring Fragrance (Ch'unhyang chŏn) opened to rave reviews in major metropolitan cities throughout Japan. The performance's popularity ignited an encore run later the same year throughout colonial Korea. The play was commissioned by Murayama Tomoyoshi and his Shinkyō Theater Troupe in Japan. The script was penned in Japanese by Chang Hyǒkchu, a bilingual writer from the colony. This article examines a forgotten moment of colonial “collaboration” between Korea and Japan when the two countries’ literary histories converged in a widely publicized performance across the empire. By reading the tensions between parallel yet unbridgeable nostalgic desires between Japan and Korea, and measuring the gap between the consumption of the tale as trendy “colonial kitsch” and timeless “national tradition,” the performance can be read not as the embodiment of harmonious imperial assimilation as touted at the time, but as performing its anxieties and breakdown. This article further considers the significance of the failed collaboration and translation across colonial divides for postcolonial relations.

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