Motojirō Kajii

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Motojirō Kajii
梶井 基次郎
KAJII, Motojiro (1901-1932) Japanese short-story writer.jpg
Motojirō Kajii ( Kyodo News)
Born (1901-02-17)February 17, 1901
Nishi-ku, Osaka, Japan
Died March 24, 1932(1932-03-24) (aged 31)
Oji-cho, Sumiyoshi-ku (now:Abeno-ku), Osaka
Resting place Minami-ku (now:Chūō-ku), Osaka
Occupation Writer
Language Japanese
Nationality  Japan
Ethnicity Japanese
Alma mater University of Tokyo (Left halfway)
Period 1925 – 1932
Genres Short story, Prose poetry
Literary movement (I-Novel[1])
Notable work(s) Lemon (1925),
In a Castle Town (1925),
Winter Flies (1928),
Under the Cherry Trees (1928),
Scroll of Darkness (1930),
The Carefree Patient (1932)
Spouse(s) none
Children none
In this Japanese name, the family name is "Kajii".

Motojirō Kajii (梶井 基次郎 Kajii Motojirō?, sometimes written Motojirou Kajii, February 17, 1901 – March 24, 1932) was a Japanese author in the early Shōwa period of Japan. He left masterpieces of poetic short stories such as "The Lemon", "Winter Days", and "Under the Cherry Trees". An obscure writer all his short life, his stories were praised by Yasunari Kawabata and Yukio Mishima in several articles,[2] and today his works are appreciated for their finely tuned self-observation and descriptive power. One of his works, "Under the Cherry Trees", was adapted into a short comic by renowned manga artist Kano Miyamoto, and serialized in the magazine, Da Vinci by Media Factory.

As short his lifetime and body of work were, Kajii left a modest footprint on Japan's culture. His story "Lemon" being a staple of textbooks,[3] many a high schooler emulated its protagonist's act of leaving a lemon in a department store.[3][4] And his opening sentence " Dead bodies are buried under the cherry trees! " (桜の樹の下には屍体が埋まっている! Sakura no ki no shita ni wa shitai ga umatte iru!?) is often quoted by Japanese people[5] about the cherry-blossoms-watching custom of hanami.


(1901–1924) Early life and education[edit]

Motojirō Kajii was born in Osaka in 1901. He attended grade 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 famous Third Higher School (Kyoto-Sanko, a junior college); while a student there, he was diagnosed with pulmonary tuberculosis in 1920.

(1924–1928) Launching his literary career[edit]

In 1924, Kajii entered the Tokyo Imperial University (where he majored in English literature); there, he helped his old high school friends found a literary coterie magazine, Aozora (青空; "Blue Skies").

In 1925, he published the short story "The Lemon" in Aozora.

From 1927 to 1928, Kajii spent several times in Yugashima on the Izu Peninsula for his health. At this time, he visited the famous writer Yasunari Kawabata and they became friends, playing go together[6] several times a week.

After Aozora stopped publishing in 1927, he wrote in Bungei Toshi (文芸都市; "The Literary City"), another literary coterie magazine.

(1928–1932) Late career and death[edit]

In September 1928, Kajii returned to Osaka and rested at home.

In 1931, his friends the famous poet Tatsuji Miyoshi and Ryūzō Yodono, sensing his death near, decided to publish his first book Lemon (檸檬 Remon?), a collection of his short stories.

In 1932, he wrote his first novella "The Carefree Patient" (のんきな患者 Nonki na kanja?) for Chūōkōron (中央公論), his first appearance in the commercial magazine, which had commissioned it.

But on March 24, 1932, tuberculosis took his life at age 31.



Stories in magazines
  1. "Keikichi" (奎吉 Keikichi?) - May 1923
  2. "The Truth like a Contradiction" (矛盾の様な真実 Mujun no yōna shinjitsu?) - July 1923
  3. "The Lemon" (檸檬 Remon?) – January 1925
  4. "In a Castle Town" (城のある町にて Shiro no aru machi nite?) - February 1925
  5. "Mire" (泥濘 Deinei?) – July 1925
  6. "On the Road" (路上 Rojō?) - October 1925
  7. "Flower of Aesculus" (橡の花 Tochi no hana?) - November 1925
  8. "The Past" (過古 Kako?) - January 1926
  9. "After a Snowfall" (雪後 Setsugo?) - June 1926
  10. "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
  11. "An Inner Landscape" (ある心の風景 Aru kokoro no fūkei?) - August 1926
  12. "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
  13. "Winter Days" (冬の日 Fuyu no hi?) - February, April 1927
  14. "Azure" (蒼穹 Sōkyū?) - March 1928
  15. "Story of the Bamboo Water Pipe" (筧の話 Kakei no hanashi?) – April 1928
  16. "Instrumental Hallucinations" (器樂的幻覺 Kigakuteki-genkaku?) – May 1928
  17. "Winter Flies" / "A Fly in Winter" (冬の蠅 Fuyu no hae?) – May 1928
  18. "The Feeling on the Bluff" (ある崖上の感情 Aru gake-ue no kanjō?) – July 1928
  19. "Under the Cherry Trees" (櫻の樹の下には Sakura no ki no shita ni wa?) – December 1928
  20. "Caress" (愛撫 Aibu?) – June 1930
  21. "Scroll of Darkness" (闇の繪巻 Yami no emaki?) – September 1930
  22. "Mating" (交尾 Kōbi?) – January 1931
  23. "The Carefree Patient" (のんきな患者 Nonki na kanja?) – January 1932, novella

(Not listed are unpublished or unfinished stories, printed later in Complete Works.)

  • 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


English translations as of 2007

No dedicated book, but some short stories scattered:

  • In scholar papers, such as:
    • 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)
  • In magazines, such as:
    • "Translating Kajii Motojiro – includes translation of two stories 'The Ascension/drowning of K' and 'The lemon'" in The Literary Review (1996)
  • In anthologies, such as:
    • "Mating" in The Shōwa Anthology (1984)
    • "Lemon" in The Oxford book of Japanese short stories (1997)
    • "Mire" in Tokyo stories: a literary stroll (2002)
    • "Lemon" in The Columbia Anthology of Modern Japanese Literature, Vol. 1 (2005)
  • In web pages, amateur translations on Internet (see external links below).
Non-English translations as of 2007
  • 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)


  • " 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 of "Under the Cherry Trees" (a popular[5] Japanese quote, especially the first sentence)

See also[edit]


Sources consulted
  • KAJII, Motojiro (stories); KODAMA 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); KODAMA 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).
  1. ^ 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.
  2. ^ 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. 
  3. ^ a b " 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)
  4. ^ " 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"
  5. ^ a b "Why is the Cherry Blossom (Sakura) cherished?"
  6. ^ (op. cit.) Kajii & Kodama de Larroche, Le citron, p. 13

External links[edit]

Amateur translations (original texts are public domain)