Shinchōsha (Shinchō Bunko), 2004. 341 pp. ¥514. ISBN 978-4-10-114436-8.
Also published in: n/a
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)
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