August 27, 1896|
Hanamaki, Iwate, Japan
|Died||September 21, 1933
Hanamaki, Iwate, Japan
|Occupation||Writer, Poet, Teacher, Geologist|
|Period||early Shōwa period|
|Genre||Children’s literature, poetry|
Kenji Miyazawa (宮沢 賢治 Miyazawa Kenji?, 27 August 1896 – 21 September 1933) was a Japanese poet and author of children's literature in the early Shōwa period. He was also known as a devout Buddhist, vegetarian, and social activist.
Miyazawa was born in what is now the city of Hanamaki, Iwate Prefecture as the eldest son of a wealthy pawnbroker. From an early age, he was disturbed by what he perceived to be the social inequity between his well-to-do family and the impoverished farmers in the area from whom his family profited by lending them money. Compared to his contemporaries, he demonstrated little interest in romantic love or sex, both in his private life and in his literary work.
In 1918, he graduated from Morioka Agriculture and Forestry College (modern Iwate University). He was a bright student, so his academic advisor wanted him as an assistant professor. However, differences with his father over religion (he converted to the modern incarnation of Nichiren Buddhism termed Nichirenism or Nichirenshugi (日蓮主義), becoming a follower of the radical nationalist leader of the Nichirenshugi movement, Tanaka Chigaku, and joining Tanaka's Kokuchūkai organization in 1920), and his repugnance for the family pawnshop business (he yielded his inheritance to his younger brother), created much unhappiness in his early life, and in 1921, he departed Hanamaki for Tokyo.
In Tokyo, while staying with a friend, he was introduced to the works of poet Sakutarō Hagiwara, and was encouraged to start writing. After eight months in Tokyo, when he began to write children's stories, he returned to Hanamaki due to the illness and subsequent death of his beloved younger sister.
He found employment as a teacher in agricultural science at Hanamaki Agricultural High School (花巻農学校). Saving his meagre salary, he was able to finance the publication of his first collection of children's stories and fairy tales, Chūmon no Ōi Ryōriten (注文の多い料理店, The Restaurant of Many Orders) and a portion of a collection of free-verse poems, Haru to Shura (春と修羅, Spring and Asura) in 1924. Although neither was a commercial success, his work came to the attention of poets Kōtarō Takamura and Shimpei Kusano, who admired his writing greatly and introduced it to the literary world.
As a teacher, his students viewed him as passionate but rather eccentric, as he insisted that learning came through actual, firsthand experience of things. He often took his students out of the classroom, not only for training, but just for enjoyable walks in the hills and fields. He also had them put on plays they wrote themselves.
From 1926 until his death in 1933, Miyazawa struggled to improve the material and spiritual life of the impoverished peasants of his native Iwate. He introduced new agricultural techniques and new varieties of seeds. He left his position as instructor at Hanamaki Agriculture School in 1926 to establish the Rasu Farmers Association. At the detached house of his family, where he was staying at the time, he gathered a group of youths from nearby farming families and lectured on agronomy. The association also engaged in plays, music, and other cultural activities.
In 1926 he learned Esperanto and tried to translate some of his Japanese poems into the Esperanto language; the translated pieces were published in 1953, long after his death.
His writings from this period show sensitivity for the land and for the people who work in it. A prolific writer of children's stories, many that appear superficially to be light or humorous, all contain stories intended for moral education of the reader. He wrote some works in prose and some stage plays for his students and left behind a large amount of tanka and free verse, most of which was discovered and published posthumously. His poetry, which has been translated into numerous languages, has a considerable following to this day. A number of his children’s works have been made into animated movies (anime) in Japan.
In February 1934, some time after his memorial service, his literary friends held an event where they organized his unpublished manuscripts. These were slowly published over the following decade, and his fame increased rapidly in the postwar period.
The Miyazawa Kenji Museum was opened in 1982 in his native Hanamaki city, in commemoration of the 50th anniversary of his death. It displays the few manuscripts and artifacts from Miyazawa's life that escaped the destruction of Hanamaki by American bombers in World War II.
In 1996, to mark the 100th anniversary of Miyazawa's birth, the anime Ihatov Gensou: Kenji no Haru (Ihatov Fantasy: Kenji's Spring; North American title: Spring and Chaos) was released as a depiction of Miyazawa's life. As in the Night on the Galactic Railroad anime, the main characters are depicted as cats.
He loved his native province, and Ihatov (or Ihatovo), the name of the fictional location that appeared in his works, was constructed from the name Iwate (Ihate in the older spelling). Among the variation of names, there is Ihatovo, and the addition of final o is supposed to be the noun ending of Esperanto, whose idea of common international language interested him. This interest is paid tribute to in the 1985 anime adaptation of Ginga tetsudō no yoru (Night on the Galactic Railroad), in which all signs in Giovanni and Campanella's world are written in Esperanto, as well as the written language of the "cats".
In addition to the works mentioned above, Miyazawa's major works also include:
- Night on the Galactic Railroad (銀河鉄道の夜, Gingatetsudō no Yoru)
- The Life of Guskō Budori (グスコーブドリの伝記, Guskō Budori no Denki)
- Matasaburo of the Wind (風の又三郎, Kaze no Matasaburō)
- Gauche the Cellist (セロ弾きのゴーシュ, Cello Hiki no Goshu)
- The Night of Taneyamagahara (種山ヶ原の夜, Taneyamagahara no Yoru)
- Vegetarian Great Festival (ビジテリアン大祭, Vegetarian Taisai)
- The dragon and the poet (龍と詩人, Ryū to shijin)
and the poem defining his personal ideal:
- Ame ni mo Makezu ("Not defeated by the rain")
- World Vegetarian Congress - Edinburgh, Scotland, Summer 2002 - Souvenirs
- Pulvers, Roger (2007). "Introduction". In Miyazawa, Kenji. Strong in the Rain: Selected Poems. Trans. Roger Pulvers. Bloodaxe Books. pp. 9–28. ISBN 978-1-85224-781-2. "Kenji, it must be remembered, was a man who displayed no particular interest in romantic love or sex."
- On Uneven Ground, Miyazawa Kenji and the Making of Place in Modern Japan, Stanford University Press, Note 69, ISBN 978-0-8047-7686-8
- Hara Shirō. Miyazawa Kenji Goi Jiten = Glossarial Dictionary of Miyazawa Kenji. Tokyo: Tokyo Shoseki, 1989.
- Massimo Cimarelli. Miyazawa Kenji - a short biography, Volume Edizioni (2013), ebook. ASIN B00E0TE83W.
- Miyazawa, Kenji. The Milky Way Railroad. translated by Joseph Sigrist and D. M. Stroud. Stone Bridge Press (1996). ISBN 1-880656-26-4
- Miyazawa Kenji. Night of the Milky Way Railroad. M.E. Sharpe (1991). ISBN 0-87332-820-5
- Miyazawa Kenji. The Restaurant of Many Orders. RIC Publications (2006). ISBN 1-74126-019-1
- Miyazawa Kenji. Miyazawa Kenji Selections. University of California Press (2007). ISBN 0-520-24779-5
- Miyazawa Kenji. Winds from Afar. Kodansha (1992).ISBN 087011171X
- Miyazawa Kenji. The dragon and the poet. translated by Massimo Cimarelli, Volume Edizioni (2013), ebook. ISBN 9788897747161
- Miyazawa Kenji. The dragon and the poet - illustrated version. translated by Massimo Cimarelli, illustrated by Francesca Eleuteri, Volume Edizioni (2013), ebook. ISBN 9788897747185
- Miyazawa Kenji. Once and Forever: The Tales of Kenji Miyazawa. translated by John Bester Kodansha International (1994). ISBN 4-7700-1780-4
- Ryumonji Bunzō. "Ame ni mo makezu" no konpon shisō: Miyazawa Kenji no Hokekyō Nichirenshugi (The foundational thought of "Ame ni mo makezu": Miyazawa Kenji's Lotus Sutra Nichirenism). Tokyo: Daizō Shuppan, 1991. ISBN 4-8043-2510-7
- Strong, Sarah. “The Reader’s Guide” In Miyazawa Kenji, The Night of the Milky Way Railway. Translated by Sarah Strong. New York: 1991.
- Strong, Sarah. “The Poetry of Miyazawa Kenji.” Thesis (Ph.D.), The University of Chicago, 1984.
- e-texts of Kenji Miyazawa's works at Aozora bunko
- Night on the Galactic Railroad (1986) at the Internet Movie Database
- Spring and Chaos (2001) at the Internet Movie Database: an animated version of Kenji Miyazawa's life
- The Miyazawa Kenji Museum in Hanamaki
- Kenji Miyazawa's grave
- J'Lit | Authors : Kenji Miyazawa | Books from Japan (English)
- On Uneven Ground, Miyazawa Kenji and the Making of Place in Modern Japan by Hoyt Long, Stanford University Press
- Public Domain Audiobooks of Kenji Miyazawa's works at Japanese Classical Literature at Bedtime