Futabatei Shimei (二葉亭四迷)
FUTABATEI Shimei (April 4, 1864- May 10, 1909) was a Japanese novelist and translator. He is also called HASEGAWA Futabatei. His real name was Tatsunosuke HASEGAWA. There is an anecdote about his pseudonym: it originated from the words of his father who did not appreciate literature, 'Kutabatte shime' (Go to hell).
(It is said to be a popular, believed story, there was no corroboration, and some people also say that he was mocking himself)
He was born in Ichigaya, Edo. According to a curriculum vitae that was written in his own hand, he studied at Senshu School at the time (the present-day Senshu University) from February 1, 1883 to December 25, 1885, and graduated from there. He entered the Department of Russian language at Tokyo Gaikokugo Gakko (the Tokyo School of Foreign language under the old system, and the present-day Tokyo University of Foreign Studies) as well. Then, in January 1886, he left the Russian language school of the third department at Tokyo Shogyo Gakko (Tokyo Commercial College, present-day Hitotsubashi University), that was established by reorganization, before graduating from it.
He was on good terms with Shoyo TSUBOUCHI, and issued a critical essay "Shosetsu soron" (General theory of novel) by Shoyo's encouragement. His realistic novel "Ukigumo"(the drifting cloud), published from 1887 to 1891, was written in a style unifying written and spoken language, and became the forerunner of modern Japanese novels. He also translated many Russian literature works into Japanese, and his translations of Ivan Turgenev's 'Aibiki' (The Rendezvous) and 'Megurial' (Chance Meetings) are especially famous. His works had a great influence on men of naturalist literature.
Later he wrote "Sono Omokage" (An Adopted Husband) and "Heibon"(Mediocrity). He died in 1909, however, on a journey to return to Japan from Russia, where he had gone to start a new job, while he was still at sea in the Bay of Bengal.
He was born in the kamiyashiki (a main daimyo residence in Edo) of Owari Domain at Kappa-zaka in Ichigaya, Edo (there is another theory). His father Yoshikazu HASEGAWA, a samurai of the Owari Domain, had served as an attendant to his master when he went hawking. His mother was Shizu. He was named Tatsunosuke after Tatsuzo, his grandfather.
When he was four years old, he moved to Nagoya City where his mother's family, the Goto family, had been living. He learned the Chinese classics at Akitari NOMURA's private school. After entering the Nagoya domain school, he learned French from Seijuro HAYASHI and other people.
In 1872, he left the domain school and went back to Tokyo. However, he moved to Matsue City due to his father's personnel relocation, and studied the Chinese classics under Tomosuke UCHIMURA.
After Shimei graduated from a school of western studies (the present-day Aichi Prefectural Asahigaoka High School), the Treaty of Saint Petersburg, signed between Japan and Russia at the time, roused in him a feeling that Japan was in a crisis against Russia, and he applied to the Military Academy (Japan). However, due to being rejected, he gave up becoming an army officer and was determined to become a diplomat.
Seeking a diplomatic career, he went on to the Department of Russian language at Tokyo Gaikokugo Gakko (the Tokyo School of Foreign language under the old system, the present-day Tokyo University of Foreign Studies) in 1881. However, he gradually became an admirer of Russian literature. Meanwhile, Tokyo Gaikokugo Gakko was subsumed within Tokyo Shogyo Gakko (Tokyo Commercial College, the present-day Hitotsubashi University), and the Department of Russian language at Tokyo Gaikokugo Gakko, where Shimei had been studying, became the Russian language school in the third department at Tokyo Shogyo Gakko. But Shimei gradually harbored dislike against Jiro YANO, who took office as the principal of Tokyo Shogyo Gakko (Tokyo Commercial College) due to this merger. In the end, in January 1886, he submitted an application for withdrawal from school and left without graduating.
By the way, Jugoro OTAGURO (a businessman who was involved in business of hydropower and a former executive managing director of Toshiba) was a close friend of Shimei while they studied at Tokyo Gaikokugo Gakko and Tokyo Shogyo Gakko. Later, when Shimei wrote the novel "Ukigumo," a character modeled after OTAGURO appeared in it.
Also, according to a curriculum vitae that was written in Shimei's own hand, he studied at Senshu School (the present-day Senshu University) from February 1, 1883 to December 25, 1885.
That seems to have had a great effect on his aims afterwards.
He paid a visit to Shoyo TSUBOUCHI in February 1886, and since then, he went to see him every week. Through Shoyo's encouragement, Shimei, under the pseudonym of 冷々亭主人, published "Shosetsu soron" (General theory of the novel) in 'Chuo gakujutsu zasshi'. He had also been translating a part of "Fathers and Sons" written by Ivan Turgenev, but it ended up with not being published.
The next year (1887), he published part I of "Shinpen Ukigumo" in the name of Yuzo TSUBOUCHI (Shoyo's real name). In the 'preface' of this book, he called himself 'FUTABATEI Shimei' for the first time in his life. Some people introduced this first novel "Ukigumo" (the drifting cloud, Part I to III) as incomplete because of the draft of the novel after part III which he left. Nevertheless, it is true that both his realistic description and his writing style that unified colloquial and literature language made a great impact on men of literature in those days. It is said that he removed the influence of gesaku literature, which had still remained strong in Shoyo TSUBOUCHI's "Tosei shosei katagi" (The Character of Modern Students) written ahead of time, and told the beginning of modern Japanese novels. He was also excellent at Russian, and translated contemporary Russian literature into Japanese and introduced them to readers. The style in describing nature, especially in 'Aibiki', the Japanese translation of a part of Turgenev's "Ryojin Nikki" (A Sportsman's Sketches), affected many novelists.
In 1889, he started working as an official of the Cabinet Official Gazette Bureau, and gave up writing. Besides, being influenced by socialism, he considered how to give aid to poor, needy people. It was Tsune FUKUI, a prostitute he met while frequenting slums, who became his first wife. His interest in poverty relief resulted in both a friendship with Iwagoro MATSUBARA and Gennosuke YOKOYAMA and his influence over them, and they later became journalists dealing with labor problems and problems of the poor.
In 1895, he became a part-time lecturer in the Russian language department at Rikugun Daigakko (the Army War College), and then, in 1899, Tokyo Gaikokugo Gakko (the Tokyo School of Foreign language under the old system, the present-day Tokyo University of Foreign Studies) was established again. Upon the recommendation of Tsuneichiro FURUKAWA, his former teacher at the old School of Foreign language, Shimei became a professor in the Department of Russian language. Although teaching there only for a short period, he was revered by many students. In 1901, he served as a part-time lecturer of the Russian language department at Kaigun Daigakko (Naval Staff College).
He learned Esperanto while staying in Russia in 1902, and in 1906, he published a primer on it in Japan.
In March 1904, through the introduction of Konan NAITO, he started working at the Asahi Shimbun Company as a reporter covering news in Tokyo. However, that job did not suit him well, and through the good offices of Sanzan IKEBE, the chief editor of the Tokyo Asahi Shimbun Company, he transferred to the Tokyo Asahi Shimbun and published serial novels. He worked for a salary of one-hundred yen a month, which was a fairly high at the time. He published "Sono Omokage" and "Heibon," and they were welcomed and enjoyed a really good reputation among readers. Incidentally, Soseki NATSUME's "Gubijinso" (The Poppy) was serialized between these works.
In 1908, he started his new job as a special correspondent of the Asahi Shimbun in Russia, and headed to Saint Petersburg. While doing his work, he translated Ogai MORI's "Maihime" (The Dancing Girl) and Doppo KUNIKIDA's "Gyuniku to Bareisho" (Meat and Potatoes) into Russian, but suffered from insomnia due to nights during which the sun did not set. In addition, the next year he became feverish because of having been constantly standing in the snow during Vladimir Alexandrovich's funeral. Suffering from pneumonia and tuberculosis of the lungs and having the feeling that he was going to die, he wrote his will to his wife and grandmother.
(This will is said to have been left to the care of Shoyo TSUBOUCHI who had been friends with him.)
Then, he decided to return to Japan after his friends' persuasion. On the way to Japan via London, he died at sea in the Bay of Bengal on May 10. His body was cremated in Singapore on the night of May 13, and the ashes arrived in Shinbashi on May 30.
Chronological List of the Main Events
On February 28, he was born in Ichigaya, Edo (There is a different theory).
In November, he moved to Nagoya with his mother and grandmother.
In August, he entered the Nagoya domain school.
In May, he quitted the domain school. In October, he moved to Tokyo and lived in Kojimachi-Iidabashi-cho.
In May, he moved to Matsue due to his father's personnel relocation.
In March, he moved back to Tokyo again. He entered Morikawa private school in May, but he left it in October.
He attended Morikawa private school again from February to April. In addition, he tried to take the examination for the Military Academy (Japan) three times during these three years, but failed.
In May, He entered Tokyo Gaikokugo Gakko (the Tokyo School of Foreign language under the old system, the present-day Tokyo University of Foreign Studies).
On February 1, he started his studies at Senshu School (the present-day Senshu University).
He completed the requirements for the course at Senshu School in December, and on December 25, he finished the whole program and graduated.
In January, he quitted the Russian language school of the third department at Tokyo Shogyo Gakko (Tokyo Commercial College, the present-day Hitotsubashi University) halfway through. He visited Shoyo TSUBOUCHI. In April, he published 'Shosetsu soron' (General theory of the novel).
In June, he published part I of "Ukigumo" (the drifting cloud).
He translated Ivan Turgenev's 'Megurial' (Chance Meetings) and 'Aibiki' (The Rendezvous) into Japanese.
In August, he started to serve at the Cabinet Official Gazette Bureau. He translated English and Russian newspapers.
In January, he got married to Tsune FUKUI.
In December, his eldest daughter Setsu was born.
In February, he and Tsune got divorced. He published "Katakoi" (Unanswered Love).
In December, he resigned from the Cabinet Official Gazette Bureau.
In November, he became an editorial clerk for the Navy whose job was to collect documents and compile naval history.
In July, he quit being an editorial clerk for the Navy. In September, he became a professor of Tokyo Gaikokugo Gakko (the Tokyo School of Foreign languages).
In May, he resigned from being a professor at Tokyo Gaikokugo Gakko. He went to the Chinese Continent and became an advisor of Tokunaga Shokai in Harbin.
In September, he left Harbin, relied on his former classmate Naniwa KAWASHIMA and became an office manager of the Beijing Police Academy in Beijing.
In July, he resigned from the post and returned to Japan.
In March, he became an Asahi Shimbun Company reporter covering news in Tokyo. In August, he married for the second time to 志野りう.
In October, the serial 'Sono Omokage' first appeared.
In October, 'Heibon' started to be serialized.
In June, he was dispatched to Saint Petersburg, Russia.
In March, he was hospitalized due to pneumonia and tuberculosis of the lungs. In April, he left Russia. On May 10, he died while he was still at sea in the Bay of Bengal. He died at the age of forty-five.
His complete works were published by the Asahi Shimbun Company. Takuboku ISHIKAWA was involved in proofreading them.
List of His Works
Shosetsu soron (General theory of the novel, 1886)
Ukigumo (The Drifting Cloud, 1887-91, Kinkodo)
Sono Omokage (An Adopted Husband, 1907, Shunyodo)
Heibon (Mediocrity, 1908, Bunendo and 如才堂)
Katakoi (Unanswered Love, 1896, Shunyodo)
It includes three stories: 'Katakoi', 'Kigu' (or Megurial, Chance Meetings) and 'Aibiki' (The Rendezvous). The original texts were written by Turgenev.
Tsutsuo makura (Woodfelling, 1904, Kinkodo)
The original text was Tolstoy's work.
Karuko shu (1907, Shunyodo)
A collection of translated short stories.
Kesshoki (The Red Laugh, 1908, Ekifusha)
The original author was Andreev.
Ukikusa (Rudin, 1908, Kaneo Bunendo)
The original text was written by Turgenev.
Kojiki (literally, "Beggars," 1909, Saiunkaku)
A collection of Japanese translations of Gogol and Gorky's works.
Works Related to Esperanto
Sekai-go (a book about Esperanto, 1906, Saiunkaku)
Sekai-go tokuhon (an Esperanto primer, 1906, Saiunkaku)