Motojirō Kajii ( Kyodo News)
February 17, 1901|
Nishi-ku, Osaka, Japan
|Died||March 24, 1932
Oji-cho, Sumiyoshi-ku (now:Abeno-ku), Osaka
|Resting place||Minami-ku (now:Chūō-ku), Osaka|
|Alma mater||University of Tokyo (withdrew)|
|Period||1925 – 1932|
|Genre||Short story, Prose poetry|
|Notable works||Lemon (1925),
In a Castle Town (1925),
Winter Flies (1928),
Under the Cherry Trees (1928),
Scroll of Darkness (1930),
The Carefree Patient (1932)
Motojirō Kajii (梶井 基次郎 Kajii Motojirō?, also Motojirou Kajii, February 17, 1901 – March 24, 1932) was a Japanese author in the early Shōwa period known for his poetic short stories. Kajii left behind masterpieces such as "The Lemon," "Winter Days," and "Under the Cherry Trees." His stories were praised by fellow writers including Yasunari Kawabata and Yukio Mishima. Today his works are admired for their finely tuned self-observation and descriptive power. Renowned manga artist Kano Miyamoto adapted "Under the Cherry Trees" into a short comic that was serialized in Media Factory's Da Vinci magazine.
Despite the limited body of work he created during his short lifetime, Kajii has managed to leave a lasting footprint on Japanese culture. "Lemon" is a staple of literature textbooks. According to a report in major daily newspaper Asahi Shimbun, many high school students have emulated the protagonist's defiant act of leaving a lemon in the book section of Maruzen, a department store chain. The opening line of "Under the Cherry Trees" (Dead bodies are buried under the cherry trees!) is popularly quoted  in reference to hanami, the Japanese custom of cherry blossom viewing.
Childhood and education (1901–1924)
Kajii was born in Osaka in 1901. He attended primary school in Tokyo from 1910 to 1911, middle school in Toba from 1911 to 1914, and Osaka Prefectural Kitano High School from 1914 to 1919. In September 1919, Kajii entered Kyoto's Third Higher School (Kyoto-Sanko, a junior college. While a student there in 1920, he was diagnosed with pulmonary tuberculosis.
Early literary career (1924–1928)
In 1924, Kajii entered Tokyo Imperial University, where he studied English literature but later withdrew. There he helped his old friends from high school found the literary coterie magazine "Blue Skies" (Aozora).
In 1925, "Lemon" was published in Aozora.
Between 1927 and 1928, Kajii made several trips to Yugashima on the Izu Peninsula, hoping to recuperate. During that time, he visited the writer Yasunari Kawabata, whom he befriended. The two writers would play go together several times a week.
After Aozora ceased publication in 1927, Kajii's works appeared in "The Literary City" (Bungei Toshi), another literary coterie magazine.
Late career and death (1928–1932)
In September 1928, Kajii returned to Osaka, where he spent a period of convalescence at home.
Sensing his impending death, friends including the poet Tatsuji Miyoshi and Ryūzō Yodono decided to publish his first book, a collection of his short stories titled Lemon in 1931.
In 1932, he wrote his first novella, titled "The Carefree Patient." Its publication in Chūōkōron, which had commissioned the work, was Kajji's first in the commercial magazine.
On March 24, 1932, Kajii died of tuberculosis at age 31.
- " Dead bodies are buried under the cherry trees! You have to believe it. Otherwise, you couldn't possibly explain the beauty of the cherry blossoms. I was restless, lately, because I couldn't believe in this beauty. But I have now finally understood: dead bodies are buried under the cherry trees! You have to believe it. "
- – Motojirō Kajii, opening line of "Under the Cherry Trees"
Works available in English translation
- The Youth of Things: Life and Death in the Age of Kajii Motojiro (2014) - ed. Stephen Dodd (ISBN 978-0824838409)
- Lemon (2009) - trans. Chinatsu Komori and Kenneth Traynor (ISBN 978-0982438411)
- "Mating" in The Shōwa Anthology (1984) - eds. Van C. Gessel and Tomone Matsumoto (ISBN 978-4770017086)
- "Lemon" in The Oxford Book of Japanese Short Stories (1997) - ed. Theodore W. Goossen (ISBN 978-0199583195)
- "Mire" in Tokyo Stories: A Literary Stroll (2002) - ed. Lawrence Rogers (ISBN 978-0520217881)
- "Lemon" in The Columbia Anthology of Modern Japanese Literature, Vol. 1 (2005) - eds. J. Thomas Rimer and Van C. Gessel (ISBN 978-0231118613)
- "The Lemon," "The Ascension of K, or His Death by Drowning," and "Feelings Atop a Cliff" in Modanizumu; Modernist Fiction from Japan, 1913-1938 - ed. William Jefferson Tyler (ISBN 978-0824832421)
- "Scenes of the Mind" in Three-Dimensional Reading: Stories of Time and Space in Japanese Modernist Fiction, 1911-1932 - ed. Angela Yiu (ISBN 978-0824838010)
- Literary magazines
- "Beneath the Cherry Trees" tr. John Bester in The Japan P.E.N. News (1964)
- "A Musical Derangement" tr. Stephen Wechselblatt in New Orleans Review (1983)
- "The Ascension/Drowning of K" and "Lemon" with introduction "Translating Kajii Motojiro" tr. Alfred Birnbaum in The Literary Review (1996)
- "Under the Cherry Blossoms" tr. Bonnie Huie in The Brooklyn Rail (2014)
- Scholarly works
- Kajii Motojiro: An Anthology of Short Stories Translated into English (1977)
- Three Stories of Kajii Motojiro: A Study and Translation (1978)
- The Private World of Kajii Motojiro (1982)
- The Translator as Reader and Writer: English Versions of Japanese Short Fiction by Kajii Motojiro (1982)
- Miscellaneous amateur translations on Internet (see external links below).
- Translations into other languages as of 2007[update]
- French: Le citron (1987, 1996) – partial translation of Remon (stories #1,8,9,10,11,13,16,18)
- Russian: Limon (2004) – full translation of Remon (stories #1–18)
List of works in original Japanese
- Stories in magazines
- "Keikichi" (奎吉 Keikichi?) - May 1923
- "The Truth like a Contradiction" (矛盾の様な真実 Mujun no yōna shinjitsu?) - July 1923
- "The Lemon" (檸檬 Remon?) – January 1925
- "In a Castle Town" (城のある町にて Shiro no aru machi nite?) - February 1925
- "Mire" (泥濘 Deinei?) – July 1925
- "On the Road" (路上 Rojō?) - October 1925
- "Flower of Aesculus" (橡の花 Tochi no hana?) - November 1925
- "The Past" (過古 Kako?) - January 1926
- "After a Snowfall" (雪後 Setsugo?) - June 1926
- "Variation of Motif to Shinjū, 4th Collection of Yasunari Kawabata's Short stories" (川端康成第四短篇集「心中」を主題とせるヴァリエイシヨン Kawabata Yasunari Dai-yon tanpen-shu Shinjū o shudai to seru barieishon?) - July 1926
- "An Inner Landscape" (ある心の風景 Aru kokoro no fūkei?) - August 1926
- "The Ascension of K, or K's Drowning" (Kの昇天 – 或はKの溺死 K no shōten, aruiwa K no dekishi?) - October 1926
- "Winter Days" (冬の日 Fuyu no hi?) - February, April 1927
- "Azure" (蒼穹 Sōkyū?) - March 1928
- "Story of the Bamboo Water Pipe" (筧の話 Kakei no hanashi?) – April 1928
- "Instrumental Hallucinations" (器樂的幻覺 Kigakuteki-genkaku?) – May 1928
- "Winter Flies" / "A Fly in Winter" (冬の蠅 Fuyu no hae?) – May 1928
- "The Feeling on the Bluff" (ある崖上の感情 Aru gake-ue no kanjō?) – July 1928
- "Under the Cherry Trees" (櫻の樹の下には Sakura no ki no shita ni wa?) – December 1928
- "Caress" (愛撫 Aibu?) – June 1930
- "Scroll of Darkness" (闇の繪巻 Yami no emaki?) – September 1930
- "Mating" (交尾 Kōbi?) – January 1931
- "The Carefree Patient" (のんきな患者 Nonki na kanja?) – January 1932, novella
(Unpublished or unfinished works included in Complete Works are not listed above.)
- Lemon (檸檬 Remon?) – May 1931, collection (stories #1–18)
- -- posthumously --
- Kajii Motojirō Complete Works, Vol. 1 (梶井基次郎全集. 第1卷 Kajii Motojirō zenshū. Dai 1-kan?) – 1947 (ed. Takao Nakatani) Kyoto: Kōtō Shoin
- Kajii Motojirō Complete Works, Vol. 2 (梶井基次郎全集. 第2卷 Kajii Motojirō zenshū. Dai 2-kan?) – 1948 (ed. Takao Nakatani) Kyoto: Kōtō Shoin
- "Letters of a Young Poet" (若き詩人の手紙 Wakaki shijin no tegami?) – 1955, selected correspondence (ed. Takao Nakatani)
- Kajii Motojirō Complete Works, Vol. 3 (梶井基次郎全集. 第3卷 Kajii Motojirō zenshū. Dai 3-kan?) – 1959 (ed. Takao Nakatani) Tokyo: Chikuma Shobō
- Kajii Motojirō Complete Works, Vol. 4 (梶井基次郎全集. 第4卷 Kajii Motojirō zenshū. Dai 4-kan?) – 2000 (ed. Sadami Suzuki) Tokyo: Chikuma Shobō
- Sources consulted
- Kajii, Motojiro (stories); Kodoma de Larroche, Christine (translation, introduction). 1996. Le citron : nouvelles (second partial French translation of Remon). Picquier poche. Arles, France: P. Picquier. ISBN 978-2-87730-277-7: pp. 7–22 (short biography). [First printed as: Kajii, Motojiro (stories); Kodoma de Larroche, Christine (translation, introduction). 1987. Les cercles d'un regard : le monde de Kajii Motojirô (first partial French translation of Remon). Bibliothèque de l'Institut des hautes études japonaises. Paris, France: Maisonneuve et Larose. ISBN 978-2-7068-0932-3.]
- Matsuoka, Tatsuya. 2005. "An Encounter with Kajii Motojiro" (English version of his Japanese notice). JLLP (Japanese Literature Publishing Project). Tokyo, Japan: Japanese Literature Publishing and Promotion Center (Agency for Cultural Affairs of Japan). Internet page (snapshot at WebCite).
- I-Novel wasn't an active literary movement per se but an emerging new genre in Japan, informally grouping the first authors who decided to use it.
- 新潮日本文学アルバム27 梶井基次郎 [Shincho Japanese literature Album 27 Motojirō Kajii] (in Japanese). Shinchosha. 1985.
- " I read an article about Maruzen closing its business in yesterday's Asahi Journal Evening Edition. It claims that many people are leaving lemons in the department store, just like the main character in Motojiro Kajii's short story titled LEMON. Coincidentally, I learned that many people are buying LEMON from the bookstore inside Maruzen. LEMON is featured in school textbooks; there aren't many Japanese who don't know the story. I am fond of the story myself. I learned the name Maruzen for the first time through LEMON. To be perfectly honest... I left a lemon in Maruzen when I was a high school student. My friend did the same. It must have been a nuisance for the people who worked there. " – Hideo Kojima (creator of the Metal Gear Solid video games for Konami), in the Sunday, 2 October 2005 entry of his English blog at the Wayback Machine (archived February 13, 2007)
- " On October 10 Maruzen will close their Kyoto shop which is associated with this novel Lemon. After they announced their closure, store staff found lemons on the books. They had lemons before a few times in a year, but this year they have found 11 lemons already. " – Mari Kanazawa (notable Tokyo blogger), in the Monday, October 03, 2005 entry "A lemon on books" of her English blog "Watashi to Tokyo – Me and Tokyo"
- "Why is the Cherry Blossom (Sakura) cherished?"
- (op. cit.) Kajii & Kodama de Larroche, Le citron, p. 13
- General reference
- A complete list of stories by Kajii (with literal English and Romaji titles) at Griffe – World's Literature
- J'Lit | Authors : Motojiro Kajii | Books from Japan
- Matsusaka Castle Ruins, "The scenery which Kajii Motojiro loved" – the basis for "In a Castle Town"
- Audiobook in Japanese (mp3)
- Motojiro Kajii's grave
- Translations available online (includes amateur translations)
- "An Inner Landscape" (tr. Tony Gonzalez)
- "Beneath the Cherry Trees" (tr. John Bester) at The Japan P.E.N. Club Digital Library
- "Beneath the Cherry Trees" (tr. Morgan Giles)
- "Blue Sky" (tr. Morgan Giles)
- "Caress" (tr. Ursula Owen)
- "The Feeling on the Bluff" text and annotated Word format (tr. Ursula Owen)
- "Lemon" plus a comment (tr. C Seu)
- "A Musical Derangement" (tr. Stephen Wechselblatt) in New Orleans Review (Summer/Fall 1983 Issue)
- "Under the Cherry Blossoms" (tr. Bonnie Huie) at The Brooklyn Rail
- A short English review of the French partial edition of Remon in Bohème Magazine (July 2004)