Question: Is it really the case that for a large part of the 20th century Japan enjoyed a golden age of literature? Or is this just misty-eyed nostalgia?
One of the hallmarks of a golden age is an atmosphere of competitive creativity in which a core of superlative talents are pushed to higher achievements by ever-present pressure from the attention of their peers. This was as true of the golden ages of Athenian and Elizabethan drama as it is of Japanese literature at the beginning of the 20th century.
For example, Natsume Soseki, the literary giant of his age, reacted explosively to the creative stimulus of his best friend, the poet Masaoka Shiki, and in turn Soseki entered into the competitive consciousness of the great contemporary novelist Mori Ogai. An entire array of Soseki's disciples — a collection of both major and minor talents known as "The Soseki Mountain Range" and including the short-story maestro Ryunosuke Akutagawa — would go on to swell the ranks of the literati for the next half-century.