In the literary fiction of the West, new impetus was given to interiority with modernism, in Marcel Proust's close identification of the reader with the narrator, in Virginia Woolf's depictions of inner life and its streams of consciousness, in Hermann Hesse's themes derived from Jungian psychoanalysis. In Japan, a different kind of movement towards the interior took place in the theatre. It occurred by making the exterior deliberately non-realistic in the drama forms of Noh, Bunraku and Kabuki. In Noh the principal actor wears a mask. In Bunraku characters are played by puppets that are two-thirds life-size, each activated by three pupetteers who wear black cloaks—a strangely effective way to depict the imperfectly known forces that act upon us—while a man on one side of the stage reads the script, and on the other side of the stage musicians accompany the piece. In Kabuki, characters are played by actors who move infrequently and scarcely change their facial expressions. The effect of these drama forms, so far as I can see, is to invite a kind of reflection from the events on the stage into the interior of the minds of the audience.
What of novels? A famous Japanese novel, The Makioka sisters, concentrates on relationships and how to conduct them. Here a sense of inwardness is achieved from a metaphorical connection between the outer forms of nature and inner feelings. Sachiko (the second-oldest of four sisters, who is married, with a child, and who has living in her house her two younger sisters, Yukiko and Taeko) makes her annual pilgrimage to Kyoto to see the cherry blossoms at the Heian Shrine. She sees with relief that this year the cherries are in full bloom, but she sees them also as passing with the end of spring, and has "the thought that even if she herself stood here next year, Yukiko might be married and far away" (p. 89). The outward sense of the blossoms, soon to fall from the trees, prompts an inward sadness that perhaps next year Yukiko may be not be with her, but by this point in the novel we readers know she is deeply anxious that the time for the thirty-year-old Yukiko to make a successful marriage may be past.
Junichiro Tanizaki (1943-1948). The Makioka sisters (E. Seidensticker, Trans.). New York: Vintage (currrent edition 1957).