Chapter 4. New-Style Poetry & the Romaji Movement

One of the first ambitious efforts Yatabe undertook as a new-age intellectual outside of his regular duties at the university was a movement to reform the Japanese language and writing system via the publication of shintaishi (“new-style poetry”) and the use of romaji, or romanization (writing the Japanese language with Latin script).

Shintaishi-sho (“A Selection of New-Style Poetry”), which he published along with Masakazu Toyama and Tetsujiro Inoue, aimed to establish a new form of verse distinct from traditional Chinese and Japanese styles by translating and imitating Western poetry. The inspiration for this new style is said to have been Yatabe’s translation of a passage of Hamlet. Yatabe also served as secretary for the Romaji-kai (Romaji Association), an organization advocating for the romaji movement, which called for the kanji and kana writing systems to be abolished and for the Roman alphabet to be adopted in their place. He was also involved in editing Romaji Zasshi, a bulletin issued by the association.

「ハムレット中の一段」/“An act from Hamlet”


A trial translation of one act from Hamlet. Yatabe used “Shokon Koji” as a pen name to show his stance, as it was also possible to read the characters in the name “Shokon” as words meaning, “Live in the present.”

Owning Repository : 人間文化研究機構国立国語研究所/National Institute for Japanese Language and Linguistics

『新体詩抄 初編』/Shintaishi-sho. First Part (A Selection of New Style Poetry)


Among the 19 volumes of poetry, nine are by Yatabe—six translated from English, and three original works.

Owning Repository : 国立国会図書館/National Diet Library

『羅馬字雑誌』第1冊/Rōmaji Zassi. Vol. 1


The bulletin produced by the “Romaji-kai” association, in which Yatabe served as secretary. Everything is written in the Roman alphabet.

Owning Repository : 国立科学博物館/National Museum of Nature and Science

「モルチャントオブベニスの二の舞」/“The Same Error as That of the Merchant of Venice”

明治23年か/ca. 1890

An example of the essays printed in the Romaji Zasshi. While everything was printed using the Roman alphabet, the manuscripts were written using katakana mixed with kanji.

Owning Repository : 国立科学博物館/National Museum of Nature and Science