Portland State University. Department of World Languages and Literatures
Term of Graduation
Date of Publication
Master of Arts (M.A.) in Japanese
World Languages and Literatures
1 online resource (vi, 88 pages)
Miyazawa Kenji (1896-1933) is widely known in Japan as a children's story writer and poet, but he was also grounded in real life as a teacher, soil scientist, and farmer. Recognizing the harsh realities for farmers in his native Iwate, he nonetheless dreamed of an ideal world, as seen in his stories. To better understand the dark realities of life in Iwate, Japan, Miyazawa changed his occupation from teacher to farmer, focusing more on social activism that would better the lives of the people in his community. His late children's story, The Life of Gusukō Budori (Gusukō Budori no denki, 1932) focuses on the economic inequalities of rural farmers through the idea of science-driven community outreach, paralleling the life change the author himself made. His story, The Life of Gusukō Budori, a rare work that he managed to publish in a small magazine, took him ten years to finish. The story originated in a different precursor manuscript, The Life of Pennennennennen Nenemu (Pennennennennen Nenemu no denki, 1922). A comparison of the two stories will reveal how Miyazawa endeavored to include more community outreach in his writing. Whereas the manuscript work is set in a monster world and whose protagonist eventually obtains a successful position of "Chief Judge," the revised work is set in advanced, sci-fi Īhatōv, the hopeful, almost-utopian Iwate only imagined by the author. What ties together the precursor work and the published story is that both protagonists lose their families due to a cold-weather drought, which was a reality of early twentieth century Iwate. While both stories are rooted in farming challenges, Miyazawa more fully develops his enthusiasm towards social activism in his revised work.
My thesis will engage with the author's two texts largely as a comparative textual analysis, taking the precursor manuscript and understanding how the revised work greatly modifies the precursor's themes. In addition to my analysis of the structuring of the narratives, I examine the ways in which language in the two texts reveals the dark realities of farming life. I use the author's biography as well as the historical situation of twentieth century rural Japan as context to better understand how the two texts work. Doing so, I will explain that Miyazawa's revisions reveal how he employed a dark realist style. He underscores in his revision that it is only through activist work that both the rich and poor can realize a better world when they work and live for each other. The changes across the two texts will also reveal clues about the direction Miyazawa was taking with his oeuvre in what would ultimately become the final phase of his career.
© 2021 Elsiemae Ann Ito
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Ito, Elsiemae Ann, "The Dark Realism of Miyazawa Kenji: Social Activism in the Science-Fiction Children's Story, The Life of Gusukō Budori, and its Precursor Work" (2021). Dissertations and Theses. Paper 5854.