The Drifting Cloud

The Drifting Cloud

The Drifting Cloud, known as Ukigumo (浮雲) in Japanese, was a novel written in 1887 by Futabatei Shimei, often called the first modern Japanese novel. The novel was published in two sections in 1887 and 1888. The novel only contains four characters, prioritising the development of characters over plot. The novel contains criticism of growing materialism in the Japanese society.

The story centers around a young man named Utsumi Bunzo, the son of a direct vassal of the Tokugawa shogun. The novel has no ending because apparently, Shimei did not want it to end with a happy ending. Additionally, he also did not finish the book because somehow he didn't really know if a career as a writer was worthwhile. He gave up writing altogether despite his obvious talent and the novel was never completed. He made a comeback as a writer later, however, twenty years later, but the novel was never completed. This book, while it was never finished, strongly influenced fellow authors in his day with its realist style.


  • Ryan, Marleigh Grayer, trans. (1965) Japan's First Modern Novel: Ukigumo of Futabatei Shimei. New York: Columbia University Press.

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