Friday, November 27, 2015

Kenji Miyazawa - the Japanese 'Farmer-Poet'

This follows from the last article that talks about Kenji Miyazawa

Although in his later life he lived as a poor farmer, he was actually born into a wealthy family, and was educated at a school that is now called the Iwate University Agricultural Department.  He was smart, humorous, and was honored by his classmates.  But what appealed to most people about him was his genuine kindness and compassion towards people.

Iwate is located in the northern part of Japan, which has a severe cold winter.  This was the area that was affected recently by the Earthquake and Tsunami in 2011.  In his time, farmers suffered when there was a cold summer and crops didn't grow.  His family ran a pawnshop and he saw the farmers coming to sell their kimonos and furniture when they had a bad harvest.  Seeing these farmers deeply affected to his life.  He came to have sense of shame of his wealthy environment and resisted taking over his family business.

After graduating from school, he left home to follow his dream of becoming a writer in Tokyo.  During this time, he wrote many of his famous stories, including the collection novels later published as 'The restaurant of many orders' with the help of his friend from school, Shiro Oikawa.  This was his only collection of novels published while he was alive - it became hugely popular after he passed away.

However, after 6 months living in Tokyo, he moved back to Iwate because of his sister's illness and became a teacher at a farming school.  He was still writing children's literature and poems, including the poems expressing his deep grief when his sister passed away at the age of 24.

Kenji - on the back right
He had a lot of curiosity about art - he learnt Esperanto, played the cello and organ, painted, and composed music.  Although he encouraged his students to farm, he saw it as a paradox that he was teaching farming while never actually cultivating the soil himself, so he left his career and started farming the waste land in the remote area from his home.  There, he gathered the local youth and started teaching the rice cultivating method, soil science, and botany.  He visited other villages as well to teach how to evolve the quality of soil for better farming.  At the same time, he taught the importance of art to these farmers, and held art events such as western music listening and literature reading at his home.

Epitaph to Kenji in Hiei Temple
He wrote a paper, named 'Introduction to Art for Farmers'.  He says, 'Once, our ancestors lived happily in their poverty.  There were art and belief.  But now, we exist only to labor. ..... Today, we have to open up the new path and create beauty from our life.'

After his death, a lot of his works were published by the poets and the writers who were deeply moved by and noticed his incredible talent.  Now, he is known as one of the most prominent poets in Japan.

No comments:

Post a Comment