August 27, 1896|
Hanamaki, Iwate, Japan
|Died||September 21, 1933
Hanamaki, Iwate, Japan
|Occupation||Writer, Poet, Teacher, Geologist|
|Period||Taishō and early Shōwa periods|
|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 from Hanamaki, Iwate in the early Shōwa period. He was also known as an agricultural science teacher, a vegetarian, and social activist. Some of his major works include Ame ni mo makezu, Night on the Galactic Railroad, Kaze no Matasaburo, Gauche the Cellist, and The Night of Taneyamagahara. Kenji converted to Nichiren Buddhism after reading the Lotus sutra, and joined the Kokuchūkai, a Nichiren Buddhist organization. His religious and social beliefs created a rift between him and his wealthy family, especially his father. Kenji founded the Rasu Farmers Association to improve the lives of peasants in Iwate Prefecture. He was also a speaker of Esperanto and translated some of his poems into that language.
He died of pneumonia in 1933. A museum dedicated to his works was opened in 1982 in his hometown. Many of his children's stories have been adapted as anime, most notably Night on the Galactic Railroad. Much of his Tanka and free verse poetry, translated into multiple languages, is still popular today.
Kenji 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 (see below), his becoming a member of the radical Nichiren sect Kokuchūkai, 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 Ashura") in 1924. Although neither were commercial successes, 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, Kenji 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.
Kenji was born into a family of Pure Land Buddhists, but in 1915 converted to Nichiren Buddhism upon reading the Lotus Sutra and being captivated by it. His conversion created a rift with his relatives, but he nevertheless became active in trying to spread the faith of the Lotus Sutra, walking the streets crying Namu Myōhō Renge Kyō.
From January to September 1921, he lived in Tokyo working as a street proselytizer for the Kokuchūkai, a Buddhist-nationalist organization that had initially turned down his service. The general consensus among modern Kenji scholars is that he became estranged from the group and rejected their nationalist agenda, but a few scholars such as Akira Ueda, Gerald Iguchi and Jon Holt argue otherwise. The Kokuchūkai's official website continues to claim him, also claiming that the influence of Nichirenism (the group's religio-political philosophy) can be seen in Kenji's later works such as Ame ni mo Makezu, while acknowledging that others have expressed the view that Kenji became estranged from the group after returning to Hanamaki.
Kenji remained a devotee of the Lotus Sutra until his death, and continued attempting to convert those around him. He made a deathbed request to his father to print one thousand copies of the sutra in Japanese translation and distribute them to friends and associates. His grave is located in the Nichiren temple Shinshōji (身照寺?) in Hanamaki.
While explicitly Buddhist themes are rare in his writings, he incorporated a relatively large amount of Buddhist vocabulary in his poems and children's stories, and has been noted as taking a far greater interest in Buddhism than other Japanese poets of the twentieth century.
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 Kenji's life that escaped the destruction of Hanamaki by American bombers in World War II.
In 1996, to mark the 100th anniversary of Kenji'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 Kenji'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, Kenji'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, Sero Hiki no Gōshu)
- The Night of Taneyamagahara (種山ヶ原の夜, Taneyamagahara no Yoru)
- Vegetarian Great Festival (ビジテリアン大祭, Bijiterian 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
- Keene 1999, pp. 284-285.
- Stone 2003 : 197-198.
- Holt, 2014 : 312-314.
- "Tanaka Chigaku-sensei no Eikyō o Uketa Hitobito: Miyazawa Kenji". Kokuchūkai official website. Kokuchūkai. Retrieved 1 March 2015.
- Keene 1999, p. 291.
- "Marugoto Jiten: Shinshōji". Ihatovo Hanamaki. Hanamaki Tourism & Convention Bureau. 2011. Retrieved 1 March 2015.
- "Minobu-betsuin Shinshōji". Tōhoku Jiin no Sōgō Jōhō Saito: E-Tera. Coyo Photo Office Corporation. 2010. Retrieved 1 March 2015.
- "Miyazawa Kenji: Yukari no Chi o Tazunete". Iwate Hanamaki Travel Agency. Retrieved 1 March 2015.
- Cimarelli, Massimo. Miyazawa Kenji - a short biography, Volume Edizioni (2013), ebook. ASIN B00E0TE83W.
- Hara Shirō. Miyazawa Kenji Goi Jiten = Glossarial Dictionary of Miyazawa Kenji. Tokyo: Tokyo Shoseki, 1989.
- Holt, Jon. 2014. "Ticket to Salvation: Nichiren Buddhism in Miyazawa Kenji's Ginga tetsudō no yoru", Japanese Journal of Religious Studies 41/2: 305–345.
- Keene, Donald (1999). Dawn to the West: Japanese Literature of the Modern Era -- Poetry, Drama, Criticism. New York: Columbia University Press. (First Edition 1984; 1999 Columbia University Press paperback reprint cited in text)
- 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
- Stone, Jacqueline. 2003. "By Imperial Edict and Shogunal Decree: politics and the issue of the ordination platform in modern lay Nichiren Buddhism". IN: Steven Heine; Charles S. Prebish (ed.) Buddhism in the Modern World. New York: Oxford University Press. 2003. ISBN 0195146972. pp 193–219.
- 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