Handwritten manuscripts, letters from literary giants discovered in Japan


TOKYO >> A cache of manuscripts and correspondence from giants of Japanese literature such as Ogai Mori (1862-1922) and Soseki Natsume (1867-1916) was discovered at the Shinchosha Publishing House in Tokyo.

The collection was found glued to the pages of an album discovered during a major clean-up of the president’s office last year.

In total, the collection includes 21 articles written by 18 scholars, including Futabatei Shimei, Toson Shimazaki and Takeo Arishima. The author of an item is unknown.

The album was reportedly compiled by Giryo Sato, who founded Shinchosha in 1896.

Measuring nearly a foot tall and around 15-1 / 2 inches wide, the album was likely a personal collection of the writers Sato had rubbed shoulders with as the director of one of the country’s most prominent publishers.

The documents could provide researchers with valuable first-hand information about the literary world of the time.

Of particular interest are Natsume’s original manuscript offering readers editorial advice in response to a magazine quiz, and a manuscript page of a comic vignette by Mori titled “Minouebanashi” (“A Personal Story”).

First published in 1910 in the literary magazine Shincho, “Minouebanashi” tells the story of a young man staying in a seaside inn and a woman who works there. It was inspired by a true story from a friend.

The manuscript is an excellent example of the well-regulated handwriting of the author and army surgeon, written in ink pen on unlined paper of foreign manufacture.

“The use of foreign paper and a pen (instead of a calligraphy brush) is characteristic of (Mori) at the time,” said Kunihiko Nakajima, professor emeritus at Waseda University who made manuscript research.

“The lack of additions or corrections to the page of the manuscript suggests that he quickly copied the text from another draft in hand. “Minouebanashi” is a minor work, but its discovery is very precious, because most of its manuscripts of the time have not been found.