Takiji Kobayashi

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Takiji Kobayashi
Takiji Kobayashi.JPG
Takiji Kobayashi
Native name 小林 多喜二
Born (1903-12-01)December 1, 1903[citation needed][1]
Odate, Akita, Japan
Died February 20, 1933(1933-02-20) (aged 29)
Tokyo, Japan
Occupation Writer
Genre novels
Literary movement proletarian literature

Takiji Kobayashi (小林 多喜二 Kobayashi Takiji?, December 1, 1903 – February 20, 1933) was a Japanese author of proletarian literature. He is best known for his short novel Kanikōsen. The young writer apparently died due to violent torture after arrest by the Tokkō police two years later, at the age of 29.[2]


Kobayashi was born in Odate, Akita, Japan, and was brought up in Otaru, Hokkaido. After graduating from the Otaru School of Higher Learning, which is the current Otaru University of Commerce, he worked at the Otaru branch of Hokkaido Takushoku Bank. His most famous work is Kanikōsen, or Crab Cannery Ship, a short novel published in 1929. It tells the story of several different people and the beginning of organization into unions of fishing workers. He joined the Japanese Communist Party in 1931.[3]


At the age of four, his family moved to Otaru, Hokkaido. The family was not wealthy, but Kobayashi's uncle paid his schooling expenses and he was able to attend Hokkaido Otaru Commercial High School and Otaru Commercial School of Higher Learning. While studying, he became interested in writing, and submitted essays to literary magazines, served in the editorial committee for his school's alumni association magazine, and also had his own writing published. One of his teachers at school was economist, critic, and poet Nobuyuki Okuma. Around this time, due to financial hardship and the current economic recession of the time, he joined the labour movement.[4]

After graduating from school, he worked in the Otaru branch of the Hokkaido Takushoku Bank. In the 1928 general election, Kobayashi helped with election candidate Kenzo Yamamoto's campaign, and went to Yamamoto's campaign speech in a village at the base of Mount Yōtei. This experience was later incorporated into his book Higashikutchankō (東倶知安行?). In the same year, his story March 15, 1928 (based on the March 15 incident) was published in the literary magazine Senki ("Standard of Battle" in Japanese). The story depicted torture by the Tokkō special higher police, which in turn infuriated government officials, and would become the trigger for Kobayashi's eventual murder.[citation needed]

In 1929, Kobayashi's novel Kanikōsen about a crab-canning ship's crew determined to stand up to a cruel manager under harsh conditions was published in Senki. It quickly gained attention and notoriety, and became a standard-bearer of Marxist proletarian literature. In July of that year, it was adapted into a theatrical performance and was performed at the Imperial Garden Theater under the title North of latitude 50 degrees north (北緯五十度以北?). The full text of Kanikōsen, now the length of a short novel, was not available in Japan until 1948. Kanikōsen was subsequently published three times translated into English as The Cannery Boat (1933), The Factory Ship (1973), and The Crab Cannery Ship (2013).

The police (in particular the Tokkō) marked Kobayashi for surveillance. In the same year, his essay "Absentee Landlord" (不在地主 Fuzaijinushi?) published in Chūōkōron magazine became grounds for his dismissal from his job at the bank.[5]

In the spring of 1930, Kobayashi moved to Tokyo and became the secretary general of the Proletarian Writer's Guild of Japan. On May 23 he was arrested on suspicion of giving financial support to the Japan Communist Party, and was temporarily released on June 7. After returning to Tokyo on June 24, he was again arrested and in July, due to Kanikōsen he was further indicted on charges of Lèse majesté. In August, he was prosecuted under the Public Order and Police Law of 1900 and was imprisoned in Toyotama Penitentiary. On January 22, 1931, he was released on bail. He then secluded himself at the Nanasawa Hot Spring in Kanagawa Prefecture. In October 1931, Kobayashi officially became a member of the outlawed Japan Communist Party. In November, he visited the house of Naoya Shiga in Nara Prefecture, and in the spring of 1932, he went underground.[2]

On February 20, 1933, Kobayashi went to a meeting spot in Akasaka to meet with a fellow Communist Party member, who turned out to be a Tokkō spy who had infiltrated the party. The Tokkō were lying in wait for him, and although he tried to escape, he was captured and arrested.[3] Kobayashi was taken to Tsukiji Police Station, where he was tortured.[2] Police authorities announced the following day that Kobayashi had died of a heart attack.[6] No hospital would perform an autopsy for fear of the Tokkō.[3]

2008 bestseller[edit]

In 2008, Kanikōsen became a surprise bestseller thanks to an advertising campaign linking the novel to the working poor.[7][8]



Kobayashi's principal works have been translated into numerous languages, including Russian, Chinese, English, Korean, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, German, French, Polish, and Norwegian.

In 1933, The Cannery Boat and other Japanese short stories was published by the International Publishers in New York. The anonymous translator was William Maxwell "Max" Bickerton. Because of censorship, the translation of the title text (Kanikōsen) is incomplete, comprising slightly more than half of the original. The full text of the novel did not become available in Japan until 1948.

In 1973, an English translation of Kobayashi's two novels by Frank Motofuji under the titles The Factory Ship (Kanikōsen) and The Absentee Landlord (Fuzai jinushi) was published by the University of Tokyo Press under sponsorship from UNESCO.[9]

In 2013, The Crab Cannery Ship and Other Novels of Struggle was published by the University of Hawaii Press. In addition to a new translation of the title text (Kanikōsen), the book includes Yasuko and Life of a Party Member (Tōseikatsusha). The introduction is by Yōichi Komori, professor of Japanese literature at Tokyo University. The translator was Željko Cipriš.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Based on the koseki, his birth date was once generally known as October 13.[citation needed]
  2. ^ a b c [1] Prominent people of Minato City
  3. ^ a b c Mitchell, Robert H (1992). Janus-Faced Justice: Political Criminals in Imperial Japan. ISBN 082481410X: University of Hawaii Press. page 83
  4. ^ Ness, Immanuel (2009). Historical The International Encyclopedia of Revolution and Protest. ISBN 9781405184649: Blackwell. 
  5. ^ Keene 1998 : 621
  6. ^ The Japan Press 2003 Feb 9 issue
  7. ^ Japan economy angst boosts sales of Marxist novel, Reuters, Aug. 11, 2008
  8. ^ KOBAYASHI, T. (1933). The cannery boat. New York, International publishers.
  9. ^ "The Factory Ship (Kani kosen. The Absentee Landlord Fuzai jinushi)". 


  • Keene, Donald (1998). Dawn to the West:Japanese Literature of the Modern Era - Fiction. ISBN 9780231114349: Columbia University Press. 

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