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Bashoの表紙画像

SHIKOKU

Basho

[Places]

By Setouchi Jakuchō

Shinchōsha (Shinchō Bunko), 2004. 341 pp. ¥514. ISBN 978-4-10-114436-8.

Also published in: n/a

There are many successful female writers from the island of Shikoku. Setouchi Jakuchō, born in Tokushima Prefecture, in her youth thought that “the tinkling of pilgrims’ bells heralded spring” as they walked the route around the island’s 88 pilgrimage sites. She also “learned about the gratuitous act of love” from watching her mother offer hospitality to pilgrims at the front door. She grew up in a climate where she caught a glimpse of many human dramas, which surely shaped her.

    The author was born Setouchi Harumi. She spent a happy adolescence in Tokushima before moving to Tokyo to attend a women’s university. While in school, she married a young scholar and they moved to Beijing during World War II. After the war, she returned to her hometown with her child. However, she fell in love with her husband’s student and ran away with him. She then became a popular writer, repeatedly changing lovers and addresses in various places in Kyoto and Tokyo. Her works are important for thinking about the lives of Japanese women, who were liberated from feudalistic conventions following the war’s end.

    At the age of 51, Setouchi suddenly decided to take Buddhist vows and later became a nun in the Tendai sect, changing her name to Jakuchō. At her hermitage in the Sagano district of Kyoto, she has pursued the way of literature for 40 years, occasionally going on volunteer missions to deliver medicine to war zones in the Middle East and continuing her outdoor sermons at the temple of Tendaiji in Iwate Prefecture.

    In this masterpiece of autobiographical fiction, the author goes on a personal pilgrimage in her late seventies to the places where she spent the intense first half of her life before taking Buddhist vows. The opening section, “Nanzan” [Mt. Nanzan], in which she recalls her earliest memories in Tokushima, is particularly lovely. The section “Bizan” [Mt. Bizan], which conveys the “stinging pain” of her innocent rendezvouses with the young man she eloped with, is also full of memories of her native place. (OM)
Bashoの表紙画像

By Setouchi Jakuchō

Setouchi Jakuchō

Born Setouchi Harumi in Tokushima Prefecture in 1922. In 1973, took the tonsure at Chūsonji Temple in Hiraizumi, Iwate Prefecture. In 1998, completed a 10-volume modern Japanese translation of Genji monogatari [trans. The Tale of Genji]. Won the Noma Prize for Literature for Basho in 2001. Setouchi Jakuchō zenshū [The Collected Works of Setouchi Jakuchō], completed in 2002, spans 20 volumes. In 2006, received the Order of Culture. Has also worked on librettos for kabuki, noh, kyōgen, and opera.

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