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NO I^ONOSR I^:XJM^N 



ALSO BY OSAMU DAZAI 

THE SETTING SUN 




NO LONGER HUMAN 

BY OSAMV DAZAI 

TRANSLATED BY DONALD KEENE 


A NEW DIRECTIONS BOOJt 


© 1918 by New Directions 

Library of Congress Catalog Card Number: 58-9509 


New Directions Books are published by James Laugblin 
at Norfolk, Connecticut. New York office — 

333 Sixth Avenue (14). Manufactured in the U.S.A. 
Designed by Stefan Salter. . 



This translation is dedicated with affection 
to Nancy and Edmundo Lassalle 




translator’s introduction 




I think that Osamu Dazai would have heen grati- 
fied hy the reviews his novel The Setting Sun received 
when the English translation was published in the 
United States, Even though some of the critics were 
distressed by the picture the book drew of contem- 
porary Japan, they one and all discussed it in the 
terms reserved for works of importance. There was 
no trace of the condescension often bestowed on writ- 
ings emanating from remote parts of the world, and 
for once nobody thought to use the damning adjective 
“exquisite” about an unquestionably Japanese prod- 
uct. It was judged among its peers, the moving and 
beautiful books of the present generation. 

3 



4 


One aspect of The Setting Sun puzzled many 
readers, however, and may puzzle others in Dazai’a 
second novel No Longer Human:^ the role of Western 
culture in Japanese life today. Like Yozo, the chief 
figure of No Longer Human, Dazai grew up in a small 
town in the remote north of Japan, and we might have 
expected his novels to he marked" by the simplicity, 
love of nature and purity of sentiments of the inhab- 
itants of such a place. However, Dazai^s family was 
rich and educated, and from his childhood days he 
was familiar with European literature, American 
movies, reproductions of modem paintings and sculp- 
ture and much else of our civilization. These became 
such important parts of his own experience that he 
could not help being influenced by them, and he 
mentioned them quite as freely as might any author 
in Europe or America. In reading his works, however, 
we are sometimes made aware that Dazai’s under- 
standing or use^of these elements of the West is not 
always the same as ours. It is easy to conclude from 
this that Dazai had only half digested them, or even 
that the Japanese as a whole have somehow misap- 
propriated our culture. 

I confess that I find this parochialism curious 
in the United States. Here where our suburbs are 

^The literal translation of the original title Ningen Shik- 
kaku is ‘‘Disqualified as a Human Being.” I have elsewhere 
referred to this same novel as “The Disqualified.” 



5 


jammed with a variety of architecture which bears 
no relation to the antecedents of either the builders 
or the dwellers; where white people sing Negro 
spirituals and a Negro soprano sings Lucia di Lam- 
mermoor at the Metropolitan Opera; where our cele- 
brated national dishes, the frankfurter, the hamburger 
and; chow mein betray by their very names non- 
American origins: can we with honesty rebuke the 
Japanese for a lack of purity in their modern culture? 
And can we criticize them for borrowing from us, 
when we are almost as conspicuously in their debt? 
We find i^ m rmal that we drink tea, their beverage, 
but curious that they should drink whiskey, ours. Our 
professional decorators, without thinking to impart 
to us an adequate background in Japanese aesthetics, 
decree that we should brighten our rooms with Bud- 
dhist statuary or with lamps in the shapes of paper- 
lanterns. Yet we are apt to find it incongruous if a 
Japanese ornaments his room with examples of Chris- 
tian religious art or a lamp of Venetian glass. Why 
does it seem so strange that another country should 
have a culture as conglomerate as our own? 

There are, it is true, works of recent Japanese 
literature which are relatively untouched by Western 
influence. Some of them are splendidly written, and 
convince us that we are getting from them what is 
most typically Japanese in modern fiction. If, how- 



6 


ever, we do not wish to resemble the Frenchman who 
finds the detective story the only worthwhile part of 
American literature, we must also be willing to read 
Japanese novels in which a modern (by modem I 
mean Western) intelligence is at work. 

A writer with such an intelligence — ^Dazai was one 
— ^may also be attracted to the Japanese traditional 
culture, but it will virtually be with the eyes of a 
foreigner who finds it appealing but remote. Dostoiev- 
ski and Proust are much closer to him than any Japa- 
nese writer of, say, the eighteenth century. Yet we 
should be unfair to consider such a writer a cultural 
deracine; he is not much farther removed from his 
eighteenth century, after all, than we are from ours. 
In his case, to be sure, a foreign culture has inter- 
vened, but that culture is now in its third generation 
in Japan. No Japanese thinks of his business suit as 
an outlandish or affected garb; it is not only what 
he normally wears, but was probably also the costume 
of his father and grandfather before him. To wear 
Japanese garments would actually be strange and un- 
comfortable for most men. The majority of Japanese 
of today wear modem Western culture also as they 
wear their clothes, and to keep reminding them that 
their ancestors originally attired themselves otherwise 
is at once bad manners and foolish. 

It may be wondered at the same time if the 



7 


Japanese knowledge of the West is more than a set 
of clothes, however long worn or well tailored. Only 
a psychologist could properly attempt to answer so 
complex a question, although innumerable casual 
visitors to Japan have readily opined that under the 
foreign exterior tjie Japanese remain entirely imlike 
ourselves. I find this view hard to accept. It is true 
that the Japanese of today differ from Americans — 
perhaps not more, however, than do Greeks or Portu- 
guese — but they are certainly much more like Ameri- 
cans than they are like their ancestors of one hundred 
years ago. As far as literature is concerned, the break 
with the Japanese past is almost complete. 

In Japanese universities today the Japanese litera- 
ture department is invariably one of the smallest and 
least supported. The bright young men generally de- 
vote themselves to a study of Western institutions or 
literature, and the academic journals are filled with 
learned articles on the symbolism of Leconte de Lisle 
or on the correspondencer of James Knox Polk. The 
fact that these articles will never be read abroad, not 
even by specialists in Leconte de Lisle or James Knox 
Polk, inevitably creates a sense of isolation and even 
loneliness among intellectuals. Some Japanese of late 
have taken to referring to themselves as “the orphans 
of Asia,” indicating (and perhaps lamenting) the fact 
that although Japan has become isolated from the 



8 


rest of Asia, the Western nations do not accept her 
literature or learning as part of their own. The Japa- 
nese writers of today are cut off from Asian literature 
as completely as the United States is from Latin Amer- 
ican literature, by the conviction that there is nothing 
to learn. This attitude may be mistaken, but I remem- 
ber how shocked a Japanese novelist, a friend of mine, 
was to see his own name included on a list of Leba- 
nese, Iraqi, Burmese and miscellaneous other Asian 
writers who had been sponsored by an American 
foundation. He would undoubtedly have preferred to 
figure at the tail end of a list of Western writers or 
of world writers in general than to be classed with 
such obscure exotics. 

We might like to reprimand the Japanese for the 
neglect of their own traditional culture, or to insist 
that Japanese writers should be proud to be associated 
with other Asians, but such advice comes too late: 
as the result of our repeated and forcible intrusions 
in the past. Western tastes* are coming to dominate 
letters everywhere. The most we have reason to expect 
in the future are world variants of a single literature, 
of the kind which already exist nationally in Europe. 

No Longer Human is almost symbolic of the 
predicament of the Japanese writers today. It is the 
story of a man who is orphaned from his fellows by 
their refusal to take him seriously. He is denied the 



9 


love of his father, taken advantage of by his friends, 
and finally in turn is cruel to the women who love 
him. He does not insist because of his experiences that 
the others are all wrong and he alone right. On the 
contrary, he records with devastating honesty his 
every transgrcssic^i of a code of human conduct which 
he^ cannot fathom. Yet, as Dazai realized (if the “I” 
of the novel did not), the cowardly acts and moments 
of abject collapse do not tell the whole story. In a 
superb epilogue the only objective witness testifies, 
‘‘He was an angel,” and we are suddenly made to 
realize the luf^oinpleteness of Yozo’s portrait of him- 
self. In the way that most men fail to see their own 
cruelty, Yozo had not noticed his gentleness and his 
capacity for love. 

Yozo’s experiences are certainly not typical of 
all Japanese intellectuals, but the sense of isolation 
which they feci between themselves and the rest of 
the world is perhaps akin to Yozo’s conviction that 
he alone is not “human.^ Again, his frustrations at 
the university, his unhappy involvement with the 
Communist Party, his disastrous love affairs, all 
belong to the past of many writers of today. At the 
same time, detail after detail clearly is derived from 
the individual experience of Osamu Dazai himself. 
The temptation is strong to consider the book as a 
barely fictionalized autobiography, but this would be 



10 


a mistake, 1 am sure. Dazai had the creative artistry 
of a great cameraman. His lens is often trained on 
moments of his own past, but thanks to his brilliant 
skill in composition and selection his photographs 
are not what we expect to find cluttering an album. 
There is nothing of the meandering, reminiscer about 
Dazai; with him all is sharp, brief and evocative. 
Even if each scene of No Longer Human were the 
exact reproduction of an incident from Dazai^s life — 
of course this is not the case — his technique would 
qualify the whole of the work as one of original 
fiction. 

No Longer Human is not a cheerful book, yet its 
effect is far from that of a painful wound gratuitously 
inflicted on the reader. As a reviewer (Richard Gil- 
man in Jubilee) wrote of Dazai^s earlier novel, ‘‘Such 
is the power of art to transfigure what is objectively 
ignoble or depraved that The Setting Sun is actually 
deeply moving and even inspiriting. . . . To know the 
nature of despair and to triumph over it in the ways 
that are possible to oneself — imagination was Dazai’s 
only weapon — is surely a sort of grace.” 


Donald Keene 



PROLOGUE 





I have seen three pictures of the man. 

The first, a childhood photograph you might 
call it, shows him about the age of ten, a small boy 
surrounded by a great many women (his sisters and 
cousins, no doubt). He stands in brightly checked 
trousers by the edge of a garden pond. His head is 
tilted at an angle thirty degrees to the left, and his 
teeth are bared in an ugly smirk. Ugly? You may 
well question the word, for insensitive people (that is 
to say, those indifferent to matters of beauty and 
ugliness) would mechanically comment with a bland, 

13 



14 


vacuous expression, ‘‘What an adorable little boy!” 
It is quite true that what commonly passes for 
“adorable” is sufficiently present in this child’s face 
to give a modicum of meaning to the compliment. But 
I think that anyone who had ever been subjected to 
the least exposure to what makes for beauty would 
most likely toss the photograph to one side with the 
gesture employed in brushing away a caterpillar, and 
mutter in profound revulsion, “What a dreadful 
child!” 

Indeed, the more carefully you examine the 
child’s smiling face the more you feel an indescribable, 
unspeakable horror creeping over you. You see that 
it is actually not a smiling face at all. The boy has 
not a suggestion of a smile. Look at his tightly 
clenched fists if you want proof. No human being can 
smile with his fists doubled like that. It is a monkey. 
A grinning monkey-face. The smile is nothing more 
than a puckering of ugly wrinkles. The photograph 
reproduces an expression so freakish, and at the same 
time so unclean and even nauseating, that your im- 
pulse is to say, “What a wizened, hideous little boy!” 
I have never seen a child with such an unaccountable 
expression. 

The face in the second snapshot is startlingly un- 
like the first. He is a student in this picture, although 
it is not clear whether it dates from high school or 



15 


college days. At any rate, lie is now extraordinarily 
handsome. But here again the face fails inexplicably 
to give the impression of belonging to a living human 
being. He wears a student's uniform and a white 
handkerchief peeps from his breast pocket. He sits 
in a wicker chair with his legs crossed. Again he is 
smijing, this time not the wizened monkey’s grin but 
a rather adroit little smile. And yet somehow it is not 
the smile of a human being: it utterly lacks substance, 
all of what we might call the ‘‘heaviness of blood” 
or perhaps the “solidity of human life” — it has not 
even a bird ’a ’»'"eight. It is merely a blank sheet of 
paper, light as a feather, and it is smiling. The picture 
produces, in short, a sensation of complete artificiality. 
Pretense, insincerity, f atuousness — none of these words 
quite covers it. And of course you couldn’t dismiss it 
simply as dandyism. In fact, if you look carefully 
you will begin to feel that there is something strangely 
unpleasant about this handsome young man. I have 
never seen a young man whose good looks were so 
baffling. 

The remaining photograph is the most monstrous 
of all. It is quite impossible in this one even to guess 
the age, though the hair seems to be streaked some- 
what with grey. It was taken in a comer of an extraor- 
dinarily dirty room (you can plainly see in the picture 
how the wall is crumbling in three places) . His small 



16 


hands are held in front of him. This time he is not 
smiling. There is no expression whatsoever. The pic- 
ture has a genuinely chilling, foreboding quality, as 
if it caught him in the act of dying as he sat before 
the camera, his hands held over a heater. That is not 
the only shocking thing about it. The head is shown 
quite large, and you can examine the features in de- 
tail: the forehead is average, the wrinkles on the fore- 
head average, the eyebrows also average, the eyes, the 
nose, the mouth, the chin . . . the face is not merely 
devoid of expression, it fails even to leave a memory. 
It has no individuality. I have only to shut my eyes 
after looking at it to forget the face. I can remember 
the wall of the room, the little heater, hut all im- 
pression of the face of the principal figure in the 
room is blotted out; I am unable to recall a single 
thing about it. This face could never be made the 
subject of a painting, not even of a cartoon. I open 
my eyes. There is not even the pleasure of recollect- 
ing: of course, that^s the kind of face it was! To state 
the matter in the most extreme terms: when I open 
my eyes and look at the photograph a second time I 
still cannot remember it. Besides, it rubs against me 
.the wrong way, and makes me feel so uncomfortable 
that in the end I want to avert my eyes. 

I think that even a death mask would hold more 
of an expression, leave more of a memory. That effigy 



17 


suggests nothing so much as a human body to which 
a horse’s head has been attached. Something ineffable 
makes the beholder shudder in distaste. I have never 
seen such an inscrutable face on a man. 




THE 


EIRST 1^0 1' EBOOK 





Mine has been a life of much shame. 

I can’t even guess myself what it must be to live 
the life of a human being.* I was bom in a village in 
the Northeast, and it wasn’t until I was quite big 
that I saw my first train. I climbed up and down the 
station bridge, quite unaware that its function was 
to permit people to cross from one track to another. 
I was convinced that the bridge had been provided 
to lend an exotic touch and to make the station prem- 
ises a place of pleasant diversity, like some foreign 
21 



22 


playground. I remained under this delusion for quite 
a long time, and it was for me a very refined amuse- 
ment indeed to climb up and down the bridge. I 
thought that it was one of the most elegant services 
provided by the railways. When later I discovered that 
the bridge was nothing more than a utilitarian device, 
1 lost all interest in it. 

Again, when as a child I saw photographs of 
subway trains in picture books, it never occurred to 
me that they had been invented out of practical neces- 
sity; I could only suppose that riding underground 
instead of on the surface must be a novel and delight- 
ful pastime. 

I have been sickly ever since I was a child and 
have frequently been confined to bed. How often 
as I lay there I used to think what uninspired decora- 
tions sheets and pillow cases make. It wasn’t until I 
was about twenty that I realized that they actually 
served a practical purpose, and this revelation of 
human dullness stirred dark depression in me. 

Again, I have never known what it means to be 
hungry. I don’t mean by this statement that I was 
raised in a well-to-do family — I have no such banal 
intent. I mean that I have had not the remotest idea 
of the nature of the sensation of ‘‘hunger.” It sounds 
peculiar to say it, but I have never been aware that 
my stomach was empty. When as a boy I returned 



23 


home from school the people at home would make a 
great fuss over me. “You must be hungry. We remem- 
ber what it’s like, how terribly hungry you feel by 
the time you get home from school. How about some 
jelly beans? There’s cake and biscuits too.” Seeking 
to please, as 1 invariably did, I would mumble that 1 
wasiiungry, and stuff a dozen jelly beans in my mouth, 
but what they meant by feeling hungry completely 
escaped me. 

Of course I do eat a great deal all the same, but 
I have almost no recollection of ever having done so 
out of hur^ei. Unusual or extravagant things tempt 
me, and when I go to the house of somebody else I 
eat almost everything put before me, even if it takes 
sobie effort. As a chil 1 the most painful part of the 
day was unquestionably mealtime, especially in my 
own home. 

At my house in the country the whole family 
— we were about ten in number — ate together, lined up 
in two facing rows at table- Being the youngest child 
I naturally sat at the end. The dining room was dark, 
and the sight of the ten or more members of the 
household eating their lunch, or whatever the meal 
was, in gloomy silence was enough to send chills 
through me. Besides, this was an old-fashioned country 
household wliere the food was more or less prescribed, 
and it was useless even to hope for unusual or extrava- 



24 


gant dishes. I dreaded mealtime more each day. I 
would sit there at the end of the table in the dimly 
lit room and, trembling all over as with the cold, I 
would lift a few morsels of food to my mouth and 
push them in. “Why must human beings eat three 
meals every single day? What extraordinarily solemn 
faces they all make as they eat! It seems to be some 
kind of ritual. Three times every day at the regulated 
hour the family gathers in this gloomy room. The 
places are all laid out in the proper order and, re- 
gardless of whether we’re hungry or not, we munch 
our food in silence, with lowered eyes. Who knows? 
It may be an act of prayer to propitiate whatever 
spirits may be lurking around the house. . . At 
times I went so far as to think in such terms. 

Eat or die, the saying goes, but to my ears it 
sounded like just one more unpleasant threat. Never- 
theless this superstition (I could only think of it as 
such) always aroused doubt and fear in me. Nothing 
was so hard for me to understand, so baffling, and at 
the same time so filled with menacing overtones as 
the commonplace remark, “Human beings work to 
earn their bread, for if they don’t eat, they die.” 

In other words, you might say that I still have no 
understanding of what makes human beings tick. My 
apprehension on discovering that my concept of hap- 
piness seemed to be completely at variance with that of 



25 


everyone else was so great as to make me toss sleep- 
lessly and groan night after night in my bed. It drove 
me indeed to the brink of lunacy. I wonder if I have 
actually been happy. People have told me, really more 
times than I can remember, ever since I was a small 
boy, how lucky I was, but I have always felt as if I 
were suffering in hell. It has seemed to me in fact that 
those who called me lucky were incomparably more 
fortunate than I. 

I have sometimes thought that I have been bur- 
dened with 9 pack of ten misfortunes, any one of 
which if home by my neighbor would be enough to 
make a murderer of him. 

I simply don’t understand. I have not the remotest 
clue what the nature or extent of my neighbor’s woes 
can be. Practical troubles, griefs that can be assuaged 
if only there is enough to eat — these may be the most 
intense of all burning hells, horrible enough to blast 
to smithereens my ten misfortunes, but that is precisely 
what I don’t imdcrstand: if my neighbors manage to 
survive without killing themselves, without going mad, 
maintaining an interest in political parties, not yield- 
ing to despair, resolutely pursuing the fight for exist- 
ence, can their griefs really be genuine? Am I wrong 
in thinking that these people have become such com- 
plete egoists and are so convinced of the normality 
of their way of life that they have never once doubted 



26 


themselves? If that is the case, their sufferings should 
be easy to bear: they are the common lot of human 
beings and perhaps the best one can hope for. I don^t 
know ... If you’ve slept soundly at night the morning 
is exhilarating, I suppose. What kind of dreams do 
they have? What do they think about when they walk 
along the street? Money? Hardly — it couldn’t only 
be that. I seem to have heard the theory advanced 
that human beings live in order to eat, hut I’ve never 
heard anyone say that they lived in order to make 
money. No. And yet, in some instances. . , . No, I 
don’t even know that. . . . The more I think of it, the 
less I understand. All I feel are the assaults of ap- 
prehension and terror at the thought that I am the 
only one who is entirely unlike the rest. It is almost 
impossible for me to converse with other people. 
What should I talk about, how should I say it? — I 
don’t know. 

This was how I happened to invent my clowning. 

It was the last quest For love I was to direct at hu- 
man beings. Although I had a mortal dread of human 
beings I seemed quite unable to renounce their society. 
I managed to maintain on the surface a smile which 
never deserted my lips; this was the accommodation 
I offered to others, a most precarious achievement 
performed by me only at the cost of excruciating 
efforts within. 



27 


As a child I had absolutely no notion of what 
others, even members of my own family, might be 
suiFcring or what they were thinking. I was aware 
only of my own unspeakable fears and embarrass- 
ments. Before anyone realized it, I had become an 
accomplished clown, a child who never spoke a single 
truthful word. 

I have noticed that in photographs of me taken 
about that time together with my family, the others 
all have serious faces; only mine is invariably con- 
torted into a peculiar smile. This was one more variety 
of my childish, pathetic antics. 

Again, I never once answered back anything said 
to me by my family. The least word of reproof struck 
me with the force of a thunderbolt and drove me 
almost out of my head. Answer back! Far from it, 
I felt convinced that their reprimands were without 
doubt voices of human truth speaking to me from 
eternities past; I was obsessed with the idea that since 
I lacked the strength to act in accordance with this 
truth, I might already have been disqualified from 
living among human beings. This belief made me 
incapable of arguments or self -justification. When- 
ever anyone criticized me I felt certain that I had been 
living under the most dreadful misapprehension. I 
always accepted the attack in silence, though inwardly 
so terrified as almost to be out of my mind. 



28 


It is true, I suppose, that nobody finds it exactly 
pleasant to be criticized or shouted at, but 1 see in 
the face of the human being raging at me a wild animal 
in its true colors, one more horrible than any lion, 
crocodile or dragon. People normally seem to be 
hiding this true nature, but an occasion will arise (as 
when an ox sedately ensconced in a grassy meadow 
suddenly lashes out with its tail to kill the horsefly 
on its flank) when anger makes them reveal in a 
flash human nature in all its horror. Seeing this hap- 
pen has always induced in me a fear great enough to 
make my hair stand on end, and at the thought that 
this nature might be one of the prerequisites for 
survival as a human being, 1 have come close to des- 
pairing of myself. 

I have always shook with fright before human 
beings. Unable as I was to feel the least particle of 
confidence in my ability to speak and act like a 
human being, I kept my solitary agonies locked in 
my breast. I kept my melancholy and my agitation 
hidden, careful lest any trace should be left exposed. 
I feigned an innocent optimism; I gradually perfected 
myself in the role of the farcical eccentric. 

I thought, ^^As long as I can make them laugh, 
it doesn^t matter how. I’ll be all right. If I succeed 
in that, the human beings probably won’t mind it 
too much if I remain outside their lives. The one thing 



29 


I must avoid is becoming offensive in their eyes: I 
shall be nothing, the wind, the sky.” My activities as 
jester, a role born of desperation, were extended even 
to the servants, whom I feared even more than my 
family because I found them incomprehensible. 

In the summer I made everybody laugh by saun- 
tering through the house wearing a red woolen sweater 
under my cotton kimono. Even my elder brother, who 
was rarely given to mirth, burst out laughing and 
commented in intolerably affectionate tones, ‘‘That 
doesn’t look so good on you, Yozo.” But for all my 
follies I was not *^0 insensitive to heal and cokl as to 
walk around in a woolen sweater at the height of 
summer. I had pulled my little sister’s leggings over 
my arms, letting just enough stick out at the opening 
of the sleeves to give the impression that I was wear- 
ing a sweater. 

My father frequently had business in Tokyo and 
maintained a town house for that reason. He spent 
two or three weeks of the month at a time in the city, 
always returning laden with a really staggering 
quantity of presents, not only for members of our 
immediate family, but even for our relatives. It was 
a kind of hobby on his part. Once, the night before 
he was to leave for Tokyo, he summoned all the chil- 
dren to the parlor and smilingly asked us what present 
we would like this time, carefully noting each child’s 



30 


reply in a little book. It was most unusual for Father 
to behave so affectionately with the children. 

“How about you, Yozo?” he asked, hut I could 
only stammer uncertainly. 

Whenever I was asked what I wanted my first im- 
pulse was to answer “Nothing.” The thought went 
through my mind that it didn’t make any difference, 
that nothing was going to make me happy. At the 
same time I was congenitally unahle to refuse anything 
offered to me by another person, no matter how little 
it might suit my tastes. When I hated something, I 
could not pronounce the words, “I don’t like it.” When 
I liked something I tasted it hesitantly, furtively, as 
though it were extremely bitter. In either case I was 
tom by unspeakable fear. In other words, I hadn’t the 
strength even to choose between two alternatives. In 
this fact, I believe, lay one of the characteristics which 
in later years' was to develop into a major cause of my 
“life of shame.” 

I remained silent, fidgeting. My father lost a little 
of his good humor. 

“Will it be a book for you? Or how about a mask 
for the New Year lion dance? They sell them now in 
children’s sizes. Wouldn’t you like one?” 

The fatal words “wouldn’t you like one?” made it 
quite impossible for me to answer. I couldn’t even 



31 


think of any suitably clownish response. The jester 
had completely failed. 

‘‘A book would be best, I suppose,” my brother 
said seriously. 

“Oh?” The pleasure drained from my father’s 
face. He snapped his notebook shut without writing 
anything. 

What a f ailure. Now I had angered my father and 
I could be sure that his revenge would be something 
fearful. That night as I lay shivering in bed I tried 
to think if there were still not some way of redressing 
the situation. I crept out of bed, tiptoed down to the 
parlor, and opened the drawer of the desk where my 
father had most likely put his notebook. I found the 
book and took it out. I riffled through the pages imtil 
I came to the place where he had jotted down our 
requests for presents. I licked the notebook pencil 
and wrote in big letters Lion Mask. This accomplished 
I returned to my bed. I had not the faintest wish for 
a lion mask. In fact, I would actually have preferred 
a book. But it was obvious that Father wanted to buy 
me a mask, and my frantic desire to cater to his wishes 
and restore his good humor had emboldened me to 
sneak into the parlor in the dead of night. 

This desperate expedient was rewarded by the 
great success I had hoped for. When, some days later, 
my father returned from Tokyo I overheard him say 



32 


to Mother in his loud voice — I was in the children’s 
room at the time — ‘‘What do you think I found when 
I opened my notebook in the toy shop ? See, somebody 
has written here ‘lion mask.’ It’s not my handwriting. 
For a minute I couldn’t figure it out, then it came to 
me. This was some of Yozo’s mischief. You know, I 
asked him what he wanted from Tokyo, but he just 
stood there grinning without saying a word. Later he 
must have got to wanting that lion mask so badly he 
couldn’t stand it. He’s certainly a funny kid. Pretends 
not to know what he wants and then goes and writes 
it. If he wanted the mask so much all he had to do 
was tell me. I burst out laughing in front of everybody 
in the toy shop. Ask him to come here at once.” 

On another occasion I assembled all our men and 
women servants in the foreign-style room. I got one 
of the menservants to bang at random on the keys of 
the piano (our house was well equipped with most 
amenities cveh though we were in the country), and 
I made everyone roar with laughter by cavorting in a 
wild Indian dance to his hit and miss tune. My brother 
took a fiashbulb photograph of me performing my 
dance. When the picture was developed you could 
see my peepee through the opening between the two 
handkerchiefs which served for a loincloth, and this 
too occasioned much merriment. It was perhaps to 
be accounted a triumph which surpassed my own ex- 
pectations. 



33 


I used to subscribe regularly to a dozen or more 
children’s magazines and for my private reading 
ordered books of all sorts from Tokyo. I became an 
adept in the exploits of Dr. Nonsentius and Dr. Know- 
itall, and was intimately acquainted with all manner 
of spooky stories, tales of adventure, collections of 
j6kes, songs and the like. I was never short of material 
for the absurd stories I solemnly related to make the 
members of my family laugh. 

But what of my schooling? 

I was well on the way to winning respect. But the 
idea of neiug respected used to intimidate me exces- 
sively. My definition of a ‘‘respected” man was one 
who had succeeded almost completely in hoodwinking 
people, but who was finally seen through by some 
omniscient, omnipotent person who ruined him and 
made him suffer a shame worse than death. Even sup- 
posing I could deceive most human beings into respect- 
ing me, one of them would know the truth, and sooner 
or later other human beings would learn from him. 
What would be the wrath and vengeance of those who 
realized how they had been tricked! That was a hair- 
raising thought. 

I acquired my reputation at school less because 
I was the son of a rich family than because, in the 
vulgar parlance, I had “brains.” Being a sickly child, 
I often missed school for a month or two or even a 
whole school year at a stretch. Nevertheless, when I 



34 


returned to school, still convalescent and in a rick- 
shaw, and took the examinations at the end of the 
year, 1 was always first in my class, thanks to my 
“brains.” I never studied, even when I was well. Dur- 
ing recitation time at school I would draw cartoons 
and in the recess periods I made the other children 
in the class laugh with the explanations to my draw- 
ings. In the composition class 1 wrote nothing but 
funny stories. My teacher admonished me, but that 
didn’t make me stop, for I knew that he secretly en- 
joyed my stories. One day I submitted a story written 
in a particularly doleful style recounting how when 
I was taken by my mother on the train to Tokyo, I 
had made water in a spittoon in the corridor. (But 
at the lime I had not been ignorant that it was a spit- 
toon; I deliberately made my blunder, pretending a 
childish innocence.) I was so sure that the teacher 
would laugh that I stealthily followed him to the 
staff room. As' soon as he left the classroom the teacher 
pulled out my composition from the stack written by 
my classmates. He began to read as he walked down 
the hall, and was soon snickering. He went into the 
staff room and a minute or so later — was it when he 
finished it? — he burst into loud guffaws, his face 
scarlet with laughter. I watched him press my paper 
on the other teachers. I felt very pleased with myself. 

A mischievous little imp. 



35 


1 had succeeded in appearing mischievous. I had 
succeeded in escaping from being respected. My report 
card was all A’s except for deportment, where it was 
never better than a C or a D. This too was a source 
of great amusement to my family. 

My true nature, however, was one diametrically 
6pposed to the role of a mischievous imp. Already by 
that time I had been taught a lamentable thing by the 
maids and menservants ; I was being corrupted. I now 
think that to perpetrate such a thing on a small child 
is the ugliest, vilest, crudest crime a human being can 
commit. But I endured it. I even felt as if it enabled 
me to see one more particular aspect of human beings. 
I smiled in my weakness. If I had formed the habit 
of telling the truth I might perhaps have been able to 
confide unabashedly to my father or mother about 
the crime, but I could not fully understand even my 
own parents. To appeal for help to any human being 
— I could expect nothing from that expedient. Sup- 
posing I complained to my father or my mother, or to 
the police, the government — wondered if in the end 
I would not be argued into silence by someone in 
good graces with the world, by the excuses of which 
the world approved. 

It is only too obvious that favoritism inevitably 
exists: it would have been useless to complain to 
human beings. So I said nothing of the truth. I felt 



36 


1 had no choice hut to endure whatever came my way 
and go on playing the clown. 

Some perhaps will deride me. “What do you 
mean by not having faith in human beings? When 
did you become a Christian anyway?” I fail to see, 
however, that a distrust for hmnan beings should 
necessarily lead directly to religion. Is it not true, 
rather, that human beings, including those who may 
now be deriding me, are living in mutual distrust, 
giving not a thought to God or anything else? 

There was something that happened when I was 
a small boy. A celebrated figure of the political party 
to which my father belonged had come to deliver a 
speech in our town, and I had been taken by the 
servants to the theatre to hear him. The house was 
packed. Everybody in town who was especially 
friendly to my father was present and enthusiastically 
applauding. When the speech was over the audience 
filtered out in threes and fives into the night. As they 
set out for home on the snow-covered roads they were 
scathingly commenting on the meeting. I could dis- 
tinguish among the voices those of my father’s closest 
friends complaining in tones almost of anger about 
how inept my father’s opening remarks had been, and 
how difficult it was to make head or tail out of the 
great man’s address. Then these men stopped by my 
house, went into our parlor, and told my father with 



37 


expressions of genuine delight on their faces what a 
great success the meeting had been. Even the servants, 
when asked by my mother about the meeting, an- 
swered as if it were their spontaneous thought, that 
it had been really interesting. These were the self- 
same servants who had been bitterly complaining on 
the way home that political meetings arc the most 
boring thing in the world. 

This, however, is only a minor example. I am 
convinced that human life is filled with many pure, 
happy, serene examples of insincerity, truly splendid 
of their kind — of people deceiving one another with- 
out (strangely enough) any wounds being inflicted, 
of people who seem unaware even that they arc de- 
ceiving one another. But I have no special interest in 
instances of mutual deception. I myself spent the 
whole day long deceiving human beings with mv 
clowning. I have not been able to work up much con- 
cern over the morality prescribed in textbooks of 
ethics under such names as “righteousness.” I find 
it difficult to understand the kind of human being 
who lives, or who is sure he can live, purely, happily, 
serenely while engaged in deceit. Human beings never 
did teach me that abstruse secret. If I had only known 
that one thing I should never have had to dread 
human beings so, nor should I have opposed myself 
to human life, nor tasted such torments of hell every 



38 


night. In short, I helieve that the reason why I did not 
teU anyone about that loathesome crime perpetrated 
on me by the servants was not because of distrust for 
human beings, nor of course because of Christian 
leanings, but because the human beings around me 
had rigorously sealed me off from the world of trust 
or distrust. Even my parents at times displayed at- 
titudes which were hard for me to understand. 

I also have the impression that many women have 
been able, instinctively, to sniff out this loneliness of 
mine, which I confided to no one, and this in later 
years was to become one of the causes of my being 
taken advantage of in so many ways. 

Women found in me a man who could keep a love 
secret. 



THE SECOISD IST O T E B O O K 






On the shore, at a point so close to the ocean 
one might imagine it was there that the waves broke, 
stood a row of over twenty fairly tall cherry trees 
with coal-black trunks. Every April when the new 
school year was about to begin these trees would dis- 
play their dazzling blossoms and their moist brown 
leaves against the blue of the sea. Soon a snowstorm 
of blossoms would scatter innumerable petals into 
the water, ilecking the surface with points of white 
which the waves carried back to the shore. This beach 


41 



42 


Strewn with cherry hlossoms served as the playground 
of the high school I attended. Stylized cherry blossoms 
flowered even on the badge of the regulation school 
cap and on the buttons of our uniforms. 

A distant relative of mine had a house nearby, 
which was one reason why my father had especially 
selected for me this school of cherry blossoms by the 
sea. I was left in the care of the family, whose house 
was so close to the school that even after the morning 
bell had rung I could still make it to my class in time 
if I ran. That was the kind of lazy student I was, but 
I nevertheless managed, thanks to my accustomed 
antics, to win popularity with my schoolmates. 

This was my first experience living in a strange 
town. I found it far more agreeable than my native 
place. One might attribute this, perhaps, to the fact 
that my clowning had by this time become so much a 
part of me that it was no longer such a strain to trick 
others. I wonder, though, if it was not due instead 
to the incontestable diffelrence in the problem in- 
volved in performing before one’s own family and 
strangers, or in one’s own town and elsewhere. This 
problem exists no matter how great a genius one may 
he. An actor dreads most the audience in his home 
town; I imagine the greatest actor in the world would 
be quite paralyzed in a room where all his family and 
relatives were gathered to watch him. But I had 



43 


learned to play my part. 1 had moreover been quite 
a success. It was inconceivable that so talented an 
actor would fail away from home. 

The fear of human beings continued to writhe 
in my breast — I am not sure whether more or less 
intensely than before — but my aeting talents had un- 
questionably matured. I could always convulse the 
classroom with laughter, and even as the teaeher pro- 
tested what a good class it would be if only T were 
not in it, ho would be laughing behind his hand. At 
a word from me even the military drill instructor, 
whose more usual idiom was a barbarous, thunderous 
roar, would burst into helpless laughter. 

Just when I had begun to relax my guard a bit, 
fairly confident that I had succeeded by now in con- 
cealing completely my true identity, I was stabbed in 
the back, quite unexpectedly. The assailant, like most 
people who stab in the back, bordered on being a 
simpleton — the puniest boy in the class, whose scrof- 
ulous face and floppy jacket with sleeves too long 
for him was complemented by a total lack of profi- 
ciency in his studies and by such clumsiness in military 
drill and physical training that he was perpetually 
designated as an ‘‘onlooker.” Not surprisingly, I failed 
to recognize the need to be on my guard against him. 

That day Takeichi (that was the boy’s name, as 
I recall) was as usual “onlooking” during the physical 



44 


training period while the rest of us drilled on the 
horizontal bar. Deliberately assuming as solemn a 
face as I could muster, I lunged overhead at the bar, 
shouting with the eflfort. I missed the bar and sailed 
on as if I were making a broad jump, landing with a 
thud in the sand on the seat of my pants. This failure 
was entirely premeditated, but everybody burst out 
laughing, exactly as 1 had planned. I got to my feet 
with a rueful smile and was brushing the sand from 
my pants when Takeichi, who had crept up from 
somewhere behind, poked me in the back. He mur- 
mured, “You did it on purpose.” 

I trembled all over. I might have guessed that 
someone would detect that I had deliberately missed 
the bar, but that Takeichi should have been the one 
came as a bolt from the blue. I felt as if I had seen 
the world before me burst in an instant into the rag- 
ing flames of hell. It was all I could do to suppress a 
wild shriek of terror. 

The ensuing days were imprinted with my anxiety 
and dread. I continued on the surface making every- 
body laugh with my miserable clowning, but now and 
then painful sighs escaped my lips. Whatever I did 
Takeichi would see through it, and I was sure he 
would soon start spreading the word to everyone be 
saw. At this thought my forehead broke out in a 
sweat; I stared around me vacantly with the wild 



45 


eyes of a madman. If it were possible, I felt, I would 
like to keep a twenty-four hours a day surveillance 
over Takeichi, never stirring from him, morning, noon 
or night, to make sure that he did not divulge the 
secret. 1 brooded over what I should do: I would de- 
vote the hours spent with him to persuading him 
that my antics were not ‘^on purpose” but the genuine 
article; if things went well I would like to become 
his inseparable friend; but if this proved utterly im- 
possible, 1 had no choice but to pray for his death. 
Typically enough, the one thing that never occurred 
to me was to kill him. During the course of my life I 
have wished innumerable times that I might meet 
with a violent death, but I have never once desired 
io kill anybody. I thought that in killing a dreaded 
adversary I might actually be bringing him happiness. 

In order to win over Takeichi I clothed my face 
in the gentle beguiling smile of the false Christian. 
I strolled everywhere with him, my arm lightly aroimd 
his scrawny shoulders, my head tilted affectionately 
towards him. I frequently would invite him in 
honeyed, cajoling tones to come and play in the house 
where 1 was lodging. But instead of an answer he al- 
ways gave me only blank stares in return. 

One day after school was let out — it must have 
been in the early summer — there was a sudden down- 
pour. The other students were making a great fuss 



46 


about getting back to their lodgings, but since I lived 
just around the corner, I decided to make a dash for 
it. Just as I was about to rush outside, I noticed 
Takeichi hovering dejectedly in the entrance way. 
I said, “Let’s go. I’ll lend you my umbrella.” I grabbed 
Takeichi’s hand as he hesitated, and ran out with 
him into the rain. When we arrived home I asked my 
aunt to diy our jackets. I had succeeded in luring 
Takeichi to my room. 

The household consisted of my aunt, a woman in 
her fifties, and my two cousins, the older of whom 
was a tall, frail, bespectacled girl of about thirty (she 
had been married at one time but was later separated) , 
and the younger a short, round-faced girl who looked 
fresh out of high school. The ground floor of the house 
was given over to a shop where small quantities of 
stationery supplies and sporting goods were offered 
for sale, hut the principal source of income was the 
rent from the five or six tenements built by my late 
uncle. 

Takeichi, standing haplessly in my room, said, 
“My ears hurt.” 

“They must’ve got wet in the rain.” I examined 
his ears and discovered they were both running hor- 
ribly. The lobes seemed filled to the bursting with 
pus. I simulated an exaggerated concern. “This looks 
terrible. It must hurt.” Then, in the gentle tones a 



47 


woman might use, I apologized, “I’m so sorry I 
dragged you out in all this rain.” 

I went downstairs to fetch some cotton wool and 
alcohol. Takeichi lay on the floor with his head on 
my lap, and I painstakingly swabbed his ears. Even 
Takeichi seemed not to be aware of the hypocrisy, 
the scheming, behind my actions. Far from it — his 
comment as he lay there with his head pillowed in 
my lap was, “I’ll bet lots of women will fall for you!” 
— It was his illiterate approximation of a compliment. 

This, I was to learn in later years, was a kind 
of demoniacal piophccy, more horrible than Takeichi 
could have realized. “To fall for,” “to be fallen for” 
— I feci in these words something unspeakably vulgar, 
farcical, and at the same time extraordinarily compla- 
cent. Once these expressions put in an appearance, 
no matter how solemn the place, the silent cathedrals 
of melancholy crumble, leaving nothing but an im- 
pression of fatuousness. It is curious, but the cathe- 
drals of melancholy are not necessarily demolished if 
one can replace the vulgar “What a messy business 
it is to be fallen for” by the more literary “What un- 
easiness lies in being loved.” 

Takeichi uttered that idiotic compliment, that 
women would fall for me, because I had been kind 
enough to clean the discharge from his ears. My re- 
action at the time was merely to blush and smile. 



48 


without saying a word in return but, to tell the truth, 
I already had a faint inkling of what his prophecy 
implied. No, to speak in those terms of the atmosphere 
engendered by so vulgar an expression as “to fall for” 
is to betray a precocity of sentiment not even worthy 
of the dialogue of the romantic lead in a musical 
comedy; I certainly was not moved by the farcical, 
self-satisfied emotions suggested by the phrase “to 
have a faint inkling.” 

I have always found the female of the human 
species many times more difficult to understand than 
the male. In my immediate family women outnum- 
bered the men, and many of my cousins were girls. 
There was also the maidservant of the “crime.” I 
think it would be no exaggeration to say that my only 
playmates while I was growing up were girls. Never- 
theless, it was with very much the sensation of tread- 
ing on thin ice that I associated with these girls. I 
could almost never guess their motives. I was in the 
dark; at times I made indiscreet mistakes which 
brought me painful wounds. These wounds, unlike 
the scars from the lashing a man might give, cut in- 
wards very deep, like an internal hemorrhage, bring- 
ing intense discomfort. Once inflicted it was extremely 
hard to recover from such wounds. 

Women led me on only to throw me aside; they 
mocked and tortured me when others were around. 



49 


only to embrace me with passion as soon as every- 
one had left. Women sleep so soundly they seem to 
be dead. Who knows? Women may live in order 
to sleep. These and various other, generalizations 
were products of an observation of women since 
boyhood days, but my conclusion was that though 
women appear to belong to the same species as man, 
they are actually quite different creatures, and these 
incomprehensible, insidious beings have, fantastic 
as it seems, always looked after me. In my case such 
an expres3i*m as “to be fallen for” or even “to be 
loved” is not in the least appropriate; perhaps it 
describes the situation more accurately to say that I 
was “looked after.” 

Women were also less demanding than men when 
it came to my clowning. When I played the jester men 
did not go on laughing indefinitely. I knew that if I 
got carried away by my success in entertaining a man 
and overdid the role, my comedy would fall flat, and 
I was always careful to quit at a suitable place. 
Women, on the other hand, have no sense of modera- 
tion. No matter how long I went on with my antics 
they would ask for more, and I would become ex- 
hausted responding to their insatiable demands for 
encores. They really laugh an amazing amount of the 
time. I suppose one can say that women stuff them- 
selves with far more pleasures than men. 



50 


The two cousins in whose house I was living while 
attending school used to visit my room whenever they 
had the time. Their knock on my door, no matter 
how often it came, never failed to startle me so that 
I almost jumped in fright. 

“Are you studying?” 

“No,” I would say with a smile, shutting my book. 
I would launch into some silly story, miles removed 
from what I was thinking. “Today at school the 
geography teacher, the one we call the Walrus . . .” 

One evening my cousins came to my room and 
after they had compelled me to clown at unmerciful 
lengths, one of them proposed, “Yozo, let’s see how 
you look with glasses on.” 

“Why?” 

“Don’t make such a fuss. Put them on. Here, take 
these glasses,” 

They invariably spoke in the same harsh, per- 
emptory tones. The clown meekly put on the older 
girl’s glasses. My cousins wfere convulsed with laughter. 

“You look exactly like him. Exactly like Harold 
Lloyd.” 

The American movie comedian was very popular 
at the time in Japan. 

I stood up. “Ladies and gentlemen,” I said, rais- 
ing one arm in greeting, “I should like on this occasion 
to thank all my Japanese fans — ” 



51 


I went through the motions of making a speech. 
They laughed all the harder. From then on whenever 
a Harold Lloyd movie came to town 1 went to see 
it and secretly studied his expressions. 

One autumn evening as I was lying in bed reading 
a book, the older of my cousins — I always called her 
Sister — suddenly darted into my room quick as a 
bird, and collapsed over my bed. She whispered 
through her tears, ‘‘Yozo, you’ll help me, I know. I 
know you will. Let’s run away from this terrible house 
together. Oh, help me, please.” 

She continued in this hysterical vein for a while 
only to hurst into tears again. This was not the first 
time that a woman had put on such a scene before 
me, and Sister’s excessively emotional words did not 
surprise me much. I felt instead a certain boredom 
at their banality and emptiness. I slipped out of bed, 
went to my desk and picked up a persimmon. I peeled 
it and offered Sister a section. She ate it, still sobbing, 
and said, “Have you any interesting books? Lend me 
something.” 

I chose Soseki’s / am a Cat from my bookshelf 
and handed it to her. 

“Thanks for the persimmon,” Sister said as she 
left the room, an embarrassed smile on her face. Sister 
was not the only one — I have often felt that I would 
find it more complicated, troublesome and unpleasant 



52 


to ascertain the feelings by which a woman lives than 
to plumb the innermost thoughts of an earthworm. 
Long personal experience had taught me that when 
a woman suddenly bursts into hysterics, the way to 
restore her spirits is to give her something sweet. 

Her younger sister, Setchan, would even bring 
friends to my room, and in my usual fashion I amused 
them all with perfect impartiality. As soon as a friend 
had left Setchan would tell me disagreeable things 
about her, inevitably concluding, ‘‘She’s a bad girl. 
You must be careful of her.” “If that’s the case,” I 
wanted to say, “you needn’t have gone to the trouble 
of bringing her here.” Thanks to Setchan almost all 
the visitors to my room were girls. 

This, however, by no means implies that Takei- 
chi’s compliment, “Women’ll fall for you” had as yet 
been realized. I was merely the Harold Lloyd of North- 
east Japan. Not for some years would Takeichi’s silly 
statement come palpitatingly alive, metamorphosed 
into a sinister prophecy. 

Takeichi made one other important gift to me. 

One day he came to my room to play. He was 
waving a brightly colored picture which he proudly 
displayed. “It’s a picture of a ghost,” he explained. 

I was startled. That instant, as I could not help 
feeling in later years, determined my path of escape. 
I knew what Takeichi was showing me. I knew that it 



53 


was only the familiar self-portrait of van Gogh. When 
we were children the French Impressionist School 
was very popular in Japan, and our first introduction 
to an appreciation of Western painting most often 
began with such works. The paintings of van Gogh, 
Gauguin, Cezanne and Renoir were familiar even to 
students at country schools, mainly through photo- 
graphic reproductions. I myself had seen quite a few 
colored photographs of van Gogh’s paintings. His 
brushwork and the vividness of his colors had in- 
trigued me, hut I had never imagined his pictures to 
be of ghosts. 

I took from my bookshelf a volume of Modigliani 
reproductions, and showed Takcichi the familiar 
nudes with skin the color of burnished copper. “How 
about these? Do you suppose they’re ghosts too?” 

“They’re terrific.” Takeichi widened his eyes in 
admiration. “This one looks like a horse out of hell.” 

“They really are ghosts then, aren’t they?” 

“I wish I could paint pictures of ghosts like that,” 
said Takeichi. 

There are some people whose dread of human 
beings is so morbid that they reach a point where they 
yearn to see with their own eyes monsters of ever 
more horrible shapes. And the more nervous they are 
— the quicker to take fright — the more violent they 
pray that every storm will be . . . Painters who have 



54 


had this mentality, after repeated wounds and in- 
timidations at the hands of the apparitions called 
human beings, have often come to believe in phan- 
tasms — they plainly saw monsters in broad daylight, 
in the midst of nature. And they did not fob people 
oflF with clowning; they did their best to depict these 
monsters just as they had appeared. Takeichi was 
right: they had dared to paint pictures of devils. 
These, I thought, would be my friends in the future. 
I was so excited I could have wept. 

‘T’m going to paint too. I’m going to paint pic- 
tures of ghosts and devils and horses out of hell.” My 
voice as I spoke these words to Takeichi was lowered 
to a barely audible whisper, why I don’t know. 

Ever since elementary school days I enjoyed draw- 
ing and looking at pictures. But my pictures failed 
to win the reputation among my fellow students that 
my comic stories did. I have never had the least trust 
in the opinions of human beings, and my stories 
represented to me nothing more than the clown’s 
gesture of greeting to his audience; they enraptured 
all of my teachers but for me they were devoid of the 
slightest interest. Only to my paintings, to the depic- 
tion of the object (my cartoons were something else 
again) did I devote any real efforts of my original 
though childish style. The copybooks for drawing 
we used at school were dreary; the teacher’s pictures 



55 


were incredibly inept; and I was obliged to experi- 
ment for myself entirely without direction, using 
every method of expression which came to me. I 
owned a set of oil paints and brushes from the time 
1 entered high school. I sought to model my techniques 
on those of the Impressionist School, but my pictures 
remained flat as paper cutouts, and seemed to offer 
no promise of ever developing into anything. But 
Takeichi’s words made me aware that my mental at- 
titude towards painting had been completely mistaken. 
What superficiality — and what stupidity — there is in 
trying to depict in a pretty manner things which one 
has thought pretty. The masters through their sub- 
jective perceptions created beauty out of trivialities. 
They did not hide their interest even in things which 
were nauseatingly ugly, but soaked themselves in the 
pleasure of depicting them. In other w’^ords, they 
seemed not to rely in the least on the misconceptions 
of others. Now that I had been initiated by Takeichi 
into these root secrets of the art of painting, I began 
to do a few self-portraits, taking care that they not be 
seen by my female visitors. 

The pictures I drew were so heart-rending as to 
stupefy even myself. Here was the true self I had so 
desperately hidden. I had smiled cheerfully; I had 
made others laugh; but this was the harrowing reality. 
I secretly affirmed this self, was sure that there was 



56 


no escape from it, but naturally I did not show my 
pictures to anyone except Takeichi. I disliked the 
thought that I might suddenly be subjected to their 
suspicious vigilance, when once the nightmarish 
reality under the clowning was delected. On the other 
hand, I was equally afraid that they might not recog- 
nize my true self when they saw it, but imagine that 
it was just some new twist to my clowning — occasion 
for additional snickers. This would have heen most 
painful of all. I therefore hid the pictures in the back 
of my cupboard. 

In school drawing classes I also kept secret my 
‘*ghost-8tyle” techniques and continued to paint as 
before in the conventional idiom of pretty things. 

To Takeichi (and to him alone) I could display 
my easily wounded sensibilities, and I did not hesitate 
now to show him my self-portraits. He was very en- 
thusiastic, and I painted two or three more, plus a 
picture of a ghost, earning from Takeichi the predic- 
tion, ‘"You’ll be a great painter some day.” 

Not long afterwards I went up to Tokyo. On my 
forehead were imprinted the two prophecies uttered 
by half-wit Takeichi: that I would be “fallen for,” 
and that I would become a great painter. 

I wanted to enter an art school, but my father 
put me into college, intending eventually to make 
a civil servant out of me. This was the sentence passed 



on me and I, who have never been able to answer 
back, dumbly obeyed. At my father’s suggestion I took 
the college entrance examinations a year early and 1 
passed. By this time I was really quite weary of my 
high school by the sea and the cherry blossoms. Once 
in Tokyo I immediately began life in a dormitory, but 
the squalor and violence appalled me. This time I 
was in no mood for clowning; I got the doctor to 
certify that my lungs were affected. I left the dormi- 
tory and went to live in my father’s town house in 
Ueno. Communal living had proved quite impossible 
for me. It gave me chills just to hear such words as 
“the ardor of youth” or “youthful pride”: I could 
not by any stretch of the imagination soak myself in 
“college spirit.” The classrooms and the dormitory 
seemed like the dumping grounds of distorted sexual 
desires, and even my virtually perfected antics were 
of no use there. 

When the Diet was not in session my father spent 
only a week or two of the month at the house. While 
he was away there would be just three of us in the 
rather imposing mansion — an elderly couple who 
looked after the premises and myself. I frequently 
cut classes, but not because I felt like sightseeing in 
Tokyo. (It looks as if I shall end my days without 
ever having seen the Meiji Shrine, the statue of 
Kusunoki Masashige or the tombs of the Forty- 



58 


Seven Ronin.) Instead I would spend whole days in 
the house reading and painting. When my father was 
in town I set out for school promptly every morning, 
although sometimes I actually went to an art class 
given by a painter in Kongo, and practiced sketching 
for three or four hours at a time with him. Having 
been able to escape from the college dormitory I 
felt rather cynically — this may have been my own 
bias — that I was now in a rather special position. 
Even if I attended lectures it was more like an auditor 
than a regular student. Attending classes became all 
the more tedious. I had gone through elementary and 
high schools and was now in college without ever 
having been able to understand what was meant by 
school spirit. I never even tried to learn the school 
songs. 

Before long a student at the art class was to 
initiate me into the mysteries of drink, cigarettes, 
prostitutes, pawnshops and left-wing thought. A 
strange combination, but it actually happened that 
way. 

This student’s name was Masao Horiki. He had 
been born in downtown Tokyo, was six years older 
than myself, and was a graduate of a private art school. 
Having no atelier at home, he used to attend the art 
class I frequented, where he was supposedly continu- 
ing his study of oil painting. 



59 


One day, when we still barely knew each other by 
sight — we hadn’t as yet exchanged a word — he sud- 
denly said to me, “Can you lend me five yen?” I was 
so taken aback that I ended up by giving him the 
money. 

“That’s fine!” he said. “Now for some liquor! 
You’re my guest!” 

I couldn’t very well refuse, and I was dragged 
off to a cafe near the school. This marked the be- 
ginning of our friendship. 

“I’ve been noticing you for quite a while. There! 
That bashful smile — that’s the special mark of the 
promising artist. Now, as a pledge of our friendship 
— ^bottoms up!” He called one of the waitresses to 
our table. “Isn’t he a handsome boy? You mustn’t fall 
for him, now. I’m sorry to say it, but ever since he 
appeared in our art class, I’ve only been the second 
handsomest.” 

Horiki was swarthy, but his features were regular 
and, most unusual for an art student, he always wore 
a neat suit and a conservative necktie. His hair was 
pomaded and parted in the middle. 

The surroundings were unfamiliar to me. I kept 
folding and unfolding my arms nervously, and my 
smiles now were really bashful. In the course of drink- 
ing two or three glasses of beer, however, I began to 
feel a strange lightness of liberation. 



60 


I started, “IVe been thinking I’d like to enter 
a real art school . . 

“Don’t be silly. They’re useless. Schools are all 
useless. The teachers who immerse themselves in 
Nature! The teachers who show profound sympathy 
for Nature!” 

I felt not the least respect for his opinions. 1 was 
thinking, “He’s a fool and his paintings are rubbish, 
but he might he a good person for me to go out with.” 
For the first time in my life I had met a genuine city 
good-for-nothing. No less than myself, though in a 
different way, he was entirely removed from the activi- 
ties of the human beings of the world. We were of 
one species if only in that we were both disoriented. 
At the same time there was a basic difference in us: 
he operated without being conscious of his farcicality 
or, for that matter, without giving any recognition to 
the misery of that farcicality. 

I despised him as one fit only for amusement, a 
man with whom I associated for that sole purpose. At 
times I even felt ashamed of our friendship. But in 
the end, as the result of going out with him, even 
Horiki proved too strong for me. 

At first, however, I was convinced that Horiki 
was a nice fellow, an unusually nice fellow, and despite 
my habitual dread of human beings I relaxed my 
guard to the extent of thinking that 1 had found a 



61 


fine guide to Tokyo. To tell the truth, when I first 
came to the city, I was afraid to board a streetcar 
because of the conductor; I was afraid to enter the 
Kabuki Theatre for fear of the usherettes standing 
along the sides of the red-carpeted staircase at the 
main entrance; I was afraid to go into a restaurant 
because I was intimidated by the waiters furtively 
hovering behind me waiting for my plate to be 
emptied. Most of all I dreaded paying a bill — ^my 
awkwardness when I handed over the money after 
buying something did not arise from any stinginess, 
but from excessive tension, excessive embarrassment, 
excessive uneasiness and apprehension. My eyes 
would swim in my head, and the whole world grow 
dark before me, so that I felt half out of my mind. 
There was no question of bargaining — not only did I 
often forget to pick up my change, but I quite fre- 
quently forgot to take home the things I had pur- 
chased. It was quite impossible for me to make my 
way around Tokyo by myself. I had no choice but to 
spend whole days at a time lolling about the house. 

So I turned my money over to Horiki and the 
two of us went out together. He was a great bargainer 
and — this perhaps earned him the ranking of expert 
in pleasure-seeking — he displayed unusual proficiency 
in spending minimal sums of money with maximmn 
effect. His talents extended to getting wherever he 



62 


wanted in the shortest possible time without ever hav- 
ing recourse to taxis: he used by turns, as seemed ap- 
propriate, the streetcar, the bus and even steam 
launches in the river. He gave me a practical educa- 
tion: thus, if we stopped in the morning at a certain 
restaurant on our way home from a prostitute’s and 
had a bath with our meal, it was a cheap way of 
experiencing the sensation of living luxuriously. He 
also explained that beef with rice or skewered chicken 
— the sort of dishes you can get at a roadside stand — 
are cheap but nourishing. He guaranteed that nothing 
got you drunker quicker than brandy. At any rate, 
as far as the bill was concerned he never caused me 
to feel the least anxiety or fear. 

Another thing which saved me when with Horiki 
was that he was completely uninterested in what his 
listener might he thinking, and could pour forth a 
continuous stream of nonsensical chatter twenty-four 
hours a day, in whichever direction the eruption of 
his “passions” led him. (It may have been that his 
passions consisted in ignoring the feelings of his lis- 
tener.) His loquacity ensured that there would be 
absolutely no danger of our falling into uncomfortable 
silences when our pleasures had fatigued us. In deal- 
ings with other people I had always been on my guard 
lest those frightful silences occur, but since I was 
naturally slow of speech, I could only stave them off 



63 


by a desperate recourse to clowning. Now, however, 
that stupid Horiki (quite without realizing it) was 
playing the part of the clown, and I was under no 
obligation to make appropriate answers. It sufficed if 
I merely let the stream of his words flow through my 
ears and, once in a while, commented with a smile, 
‘‘Not really!” 

1 soon came to understand that drink, tobacco 
and prostitutes were all excellent means of dissipating 
(even for a few moments) my dread of human beings. 
I came even to feel that if I had to sell every last 
possession to obtain these means of escape, it would 
be well worth it. 

I never could think of prostitutes as human be- 
ings or even as women. They seemed more like im- 
beciles or lunatics. But in their arms I felt absolute 
security. I could sleep soundly. It was pathetic how 
utterly devoid of greed they really were. And perhaps 
because they felt for me something like an aflinity 
for their kind, these prostitutes always showed me a 
natural friendliness which never became oppressive. 
Friendliness with no ulterior motive, friendliness 
stripped of high-pressure salesmanship, for someone 
who might never come again. Some nights I saw 
these imbecile, lunatic prostitutes with the halo of 
Mary. 

I went to them to escape from my dread of human 



64 


beings, to seek a mere night of repose, but in the proc- 
ess of diverting myself with these “kindred” prostitutes, 
I seem to have acquired before I was aware of it a 
certain offensive atmosphere which clung inseparably 
to me. This was a quite unexpected hy-product of my 
experience, but gradually it became more manifest, 
until Horiki pointed it out, to my amazement and 
consternation. I had, quite objectively speaking, 
passed through an apprenticeship in women at the 
hands of prostitutes, and I had of late become quite 
adept. The severest apprenticeship in women, they 
say, is with prostitutes, and that makes it the most 
effective. The odor of the “lady-killer” had come to 
permeate me, and women (not only prostitutes) in- 
stinctively detected it and flocked to me. This obscene 
and inglorious atmosphere was the “bonus” I re- 
ceived, and it was apparently far more noticeable than 
the recuperative effects of my apprenticeship. 

Horiki informed me of it half as a compliment, 
I suppose, but it struck a painful chord in me. I re- 
membered now clumsily written letters from bar 
girls; and the general’s daughter, a girl of twenty, 
whose house was next to mine, and who every morning 
when I went to school was always hovering around her 
gate, all dressed up for no apparent reason; and the 
waitress at the steak restaurant who, even when I 
didn’t say a word . . . ; and the girl at the tobacco 



65 


shop I patronized who always would put in the pack- 
age of cigarettes she handed me . . . ; and the woman 
in the seat next to mine at the Kabuki Theatre . . . ; 
and the time when I was drunk and fell asleep 
on the streetcar in the middle of the night; and 
that letter burning with passion that came unex- 
pectedly from a girl relative in the country; and the 
girl, whoever it was, who left a doll — one she had 
made herself — for me when I was away. With all of 
them I had been extremely negative and the stories 
had gone no further, remaining undeveloped frag- 
ments. Hut it was an undeniable fact, and not just 
some foolish delusion on my part, that there lingered 
about me an atmosphere which could send women into 
sentimental reveries. It caused me a bitterness akin 
to shame to have this pointed out by someone like 
Horiki; at the same time I suddenly lost all interest 
in prostitutes. 

To show off his ^‘modernity” (I can’t think of any 
other reason) Horiki also took me one day to a secret 
Communist meeting. (1 don’t remember exactly what 
it was called — a “Reading Society,” I think.) A 
secret Communist meeting may have been for Horiki 
just one more of the sights of Tokyo. I was introduced 
to the “comrades” and obliged to buy a pamphlet. I 
then heard a lecture on Marxian economics delivered 
by an extraordinarily ugly young man, the guest of 



66 


honor. Everything he said seemed exceedingly obvious, 
and undoubtedly true, but I felt sure that something 
more obscure, more frightening lurked in the hearts 
of human beings. Greed did not cover it, nor did 
vanity. Nor was it simply a combination of lust and 
greed. I wasn’t sure what it was, but I felt that there 
was something inexplicable at the bottom of human 
society which was not reducible to economics. Ter- 
rified as I was by this weird element, I assented to 
materialism as naturally as water finding its own level. 
But materialism could not free me from my dread of 
human beings; I could not feel the joy of hope a man 
experiences when he opens his eyes on young leaves. 

Nevertheless I regularly attended the meetings 
of the Reading Society. I found it uproariously amus- 
ing to see my “comrades,” their faces tense as though 
they were discussing matters of life and death, ab- 
sorbed in the study of theories so elementary they 
were on the order of “one and one makes two.” I 
tried to take some of the strain out of the meetings 
with my usual antics. That was why, I imagine, the 
oppressive atmosphere of the group gradually re- 
laxed. I came to be so popular that I was considered 
indispensable at the meetings. These simple people 
perhaps fancied that I was just as simple as they — an 
optimistic, laughter-loving comrade — but if such was 
their view, I was deceiving them completely. I was 



67 


not their comrade. Yet I attended every single meeting 
and performed for them my full repertory of farce. 

1 did it because I liked to, because those people 
pleased me — and not necessarily because we were 
linked by any common affection derived from Marx. 

Irrationality. I found the thought faintly pleasur- 
able. Or rather, I felt at ease with it. What frightened 
me was the logic of the world ; in it lay the foretaste of 
something incalculably powerful. Its mechanism was 
incomprehensible, and I could not possibly remain 
closeted in that windowless, bone-chilling room. 
Though outside lay the sea of irrationality, it was 
far more agreeable to swim in its waters until presently 
I drowned. 

People talk ot “social outcasts.” The words ap- 
parently denote the miserable losers of the world, the 
vicious ones, but I feel as though I have been a “social 
outcast” from the moment I was born. If ever I meet 
someone society has designated as an outcast, I in- 
variably feel affection for him, an emotion which 
carries me away in melting tenderness. 

People also talk of a “criminal consciousness.” All 
my life in this world of human beings I have been 
tortured by such a consciousness, but it has been my 
faithful companion, like a wife in poverty, and to- 
gether, just the two of us, we have indulged in our 
forlorn pleasures. This, perhaps, has been one of the 



68 


attitudes in which I have gone on living. People 
also commonly speak of the “wound of a guilty con- 
science.” In my case, the wound appeared of itself 
when 1 was an infant, and with the passage of time, 
far from healing it has grown only the deeper, until 
now it has reached the bone. The agonies I have 
suffered night after night have made for a hell com- 
posed of an infinite diversity of tortures, but — though 
this is a very strange way to put it — the wound has 
gradually become dearer to me than my own flesh 
and blood, and I have thought its pain to be the 
emotion of the wound as it lived or even its murmur 
of affection. 

For such a person as myself the atmosphere of an 
underground movement was curiously soothing and 
agreeable. What appealed to me, in other words, was 
not so much its basic aims as its personality. The 
movement served Horiki merely as a pretext for idi- 
otic banter. The only meeting he attended was the 
one where he introduced me. He gave as his reason 
for not coming again the stupid joke that Marxists 
should study not only the productive aspects of so- 
ciety but the consumptive ones. At any rate the con- 
sumptive aspects were the only ones we observed 
together. When I think back on it now, in those 
days there were Marxists of every variety. Some, like 
Horiki, called themselves such out of an empty 



69 


“modernily.” An attraction for its odor of irrationality 
led others, like myself, to participate in the move- 
ment. 

I am sure that if the true believers in Marxism 
had discovered what Horiki and I were really in- 
terested in, they would have been furious with us, 
and driven us out immediately as vile traitors. Strange 
to say, however, neither Horiki nor I ever came close 
to being expelled. On the contrary, I felt so much 
more relaxed in this irrational world than in the world 
of rational gentlemen that I was able to do what was 
expected of me in a ‘‘sound” manner. I was therefore 
considered a promising comrade and entruwstcd with 
various jobs fraught with a ludicrous degree of secrecy. 
As a matter of fact, I never once refused any of their 
jobs. Curiously docile, I performed whatever they 
asked of me with such unruffled assurance that the 
“dogs” (that was the name by which the comrades 
referred to the police) suspected nothing, and I was 
never so much as picked up for questioning. 

Smiling, making others smile, I punctiliously 
acquitted myself of all their “dangerous missions.” 
(The people in the movement observed such excessive 
precautions — they were perpetually prey to life-and- 
death tensions — as to suggest some clumsy imitation 
of a detective novel. The missions on which I was 
employed were really of a stupefying inconsequenti- 



70 


ality, but the comrades kept themselves worked up 
into a state of frantic excitement by incessantly re- 
minding themselves how dangerous these errands 
were.) I felt at the time that if I should become a 
party member and got caught, not even the prospect 
of spending the rest of my life in prison would bother 
me : it occurred to me that prison life might actually 
be pleasanter than groaning away my sleepless nights 
in a hellish dread of the ‘‘realities of life” as led by 
human beings. 

Even when my father and I were living in the 
same house, he was kept so busy receiving guests 
or going out that sometimes three or four days elapsed 
without our seeing each other. This, however, did 
not make his presence any the less oppressive and 
intimidating. I was just thinking (without as yet 
daring to propose it) how I would like to leave the 
house and find lodgings elsewhere, when 1 learned 
from our old caretaker that my father apparently 
intended to sell the house. 

Father’s term of office as a member of the Diet 
would soon expire and — doubtless for many reasons — 
he seemed to have no intention of standing for election 
again. Perhaps (I do not pretend to understand my 
father’s thoughts any better than those of a stranger) 
he had decided to build a retreat somewhere at home. 



71 


He never had felt much affection for Tokyo and he 
must have concluded that it was pointless to main- 
tain a house with servants just for the convenience of 
a mere college student like myself. At any rate, the 
house was sold before long and I moved to a gloomy 
room in an old lodging house in Kongo where I was 
immediately beset by financial worries. 

My father had been giving me a fixed allowance 
for spending money each month. It would disappear 
in two or three days’ time, but there had always been 
cigarettes, liquor and fruit in the house, and other 
things — books, stationery, and anything in the way 
of clothing — could be charged at shops in the neigh- 
borhood. As long as it was one of the shops my father 
patronized it made no difference even if I left the 
place without offering so much as a word of expla- 
nation. 

Then suddenly I was thrown on my own in 
lodgings, and had to make ends meet on the allowance 
doled out each month from home. I was quite at my 
wit’s end. The allowance disappeared in the customary 
two or three days, and I would be almost wild with 
fright and despair. I sent off barrages of telegrams 
begging for money of my father, my brothers and my 
sisters by turns. In the wake of the telegrams went 
letters giving details. (The facts as stated in the 
letters were absurd fabrications without exception. I 



72 


thought it a good strategy to make people laugh 
when asking favors of them.) Under Horiki’s tutelage 
I also began to frequent the pawnshops. Despite 
everything I was chronically short of money. 

And I was incapable of living all by myself in 
those lodgings where I didn^t know a soul. It terrified 
me to sit by myself quietly in my room. I felt 
frightened, as if I might be set upon or struck by 
someone at any moment. 1 would rush outside either 
to help in the activities of the movement or to make 
the round of the bars with Horiki, drinking cheap 
sake wherever we went. I almost completely neglected 
both my school work and my painting. Then in 
November of my second year in college I got involved 
in a love suicide with a married woman older than 
myself. This changed everything. 

I had stopped attending classes and no longer 
devoted a minute of study to my courses; amazingly 
enough I seemed nevertheless to be able to give 
sensible answers in the examinations, and I managed 
somehow to keep my family under the delusion that 
all was well. But my poor attendance finally caused 
the school to send my father a confidential report. My 
elder brother, acting on behalf of my father, there- 
upon addressed me a long, sternly phrased letter, 
warning me to change my ways. More pressing causes 
of grief to me were my lack of money and the jobs 



73 


required of me by the movement, which had become 
80 frequent and frenetic that 1 could no longer per- 
form them half in the spirit of fun. I had been chosen 
leader of all the Marxist student action groups in the 
schools of central Tokyo. 1 raced about here and 
there ^‘maintaining liaison.” In my raincoat pocket I 
carried a little knife I had bought for use in the 
event of an armed uprising. (I remember now that it 
had a delicate blade hardly strong enough to sharpen 
a pencil.) My fondest wish was to drink myself into 
a sound stupor, but I hadn’t the money. Requests for 
my services came from the party so frequently that 
I scarcely had time to catch my breath. A sickly body 
like mine wasn’t up to such frantic activity. My only 
reason all along for helping the group had been my 
fascination with its irrationality, and to become so 
horribly involved was a quite unforeseen consequence 
of my joke. I felt secretly like telling the group, “This 
isn’t my business. Why don’t you get a regular party 
man to do it?” Unable to suppress such reactions of 
annoyance, I escaped. I escaped, but it gave me no 
pleasure: I decided to kill myself. 

There were at that time three women who showed 
me special affection. One of them was the landlord’s 
daughter at my lodging house. When I would come 
back to my room so exhausted by my errands for 
the movement that I fell into bed without even 



74 


bothering to eat, she invariably would visit my room, 
carrying in her hand a writing pad and a pen. 

“Excuse me. It’s so noisy downstairs with my 
sister and my little brother that I can’t collect my 
thoughts enough to write a letter.” She would seat 
herself at my desk and write, sometimes for over an 
hour. 

It would have heen so much simpler if I just lay 
there and pretended not to be aware of her, but the 
girl’s looks betrayed only too plainly that she wanted 
me to talk, and though I had not the least desire to 
utter a word, I would display my usual spirit of 
passive service: I would turn over on my belly with 
a grunt and, pufGng on a cigarette, begin, “I’m told 
that some men heat their bath water by burning 
the love letters they get from women.” 

“How horrid ! It must be you.” 

“As a matter of fact, I have boiled milk that way 
— and drunk it too.” 

“What an honor for the girl! Use mine next 
time!” 

If only she would go, quickly. Letter, indeed! 
What a transparent pretext that was. I’m sure she 
was writing the alphabet or the days of the week and 
the months. 

“Show me what you’ve written,” I said, although 
I wanted desperately to avoid looking at it. 



75 


“No, I won’t,” she protested. “Oh, you’re dread- 
ful.” Her joy was indecent enough to chill all feeling 
for her. 

I thought up an errand for her to do. “Sorry to 
bother you, but would you mind going down to the 
drugstore and buying me some sleeping tablets? I’m 
over-exhausted. My face is burning so I can’t sleep. 
I’m sorry. And about the money . . .” 

“That’s all right. Don’t worry about the money.” 

She got up happily. I was well aware that it never 
offends ^ woman to be asked to do an errand; they 
are delighted if some man deigns to ask them a favor. 

The second girl interested in me was a “comrade,” 
a student in a teacher’s training college. My activities 
in the movement obliged me, distasteful as it was, 
to see her every day. Even after the arrangements for 
the day’s job had been completed, she doggedly 
tagged along after me. She bought me presents, seem- 
ingly at random, and offered them with the words, “I 
wish you would think of me as your real sister.” 

Wincing at the affectation I would answer, “I do,” 
and force a sad little smile. I was afraid of angering 
her, and my only thought was to temporize somehow 
and put her off. As a result, 1 spent more and more 
time dancing attendance on that ugly, disagreeable 
girl. I let her buy me presents (they were without 
exception in extraordinarily bad taste and I usually 



76 


disposed of them immediately to the postman or the 
grocery boy) . I tried to look happy when I was with 
her, and made her laugh with my jokes. One summer 
evening she simply wouldn’t leave me. In the hope of 
persuading her to go I kissed her when we came to 
a dark place along the street. She became micon- 
trollably, shamefully excited. She hailed a taxi and 
took me to the little room the movement secretly 
rented in an office building. There we spent the whole 
night in a wild tumult. “What an extraordinary sister 
I have,” I told myself with a wry smile. 

The circumstances were such that I had no way 
of avoiding the landlord’s daughter or this “comrade.” 
Every day we bumped into one another; I could not 
dodge them as I had various other women in the 
past. Before I knew what was happening, my chronic 
lack of assurance had driven me willy-nilly into 
desperate attempts to ingratiate myself with both of 
them. It was just as if I were bound to them by some 
ancient debt. 

It was at this same period that I became the 
unexpected beneficiary of the kindness of a waitress 
in one of those big cafes on the Ginza. After just one 
meeting I was so tied by gratitude to her that worry 
and empty fears paralyzed me. I had learned by this 
time to simulate sufficiently well the audacity re- 
quired to board a streetcar by myself or to go to the 



77 


Kabuki Theatre or even to a cafe without any guid- 
ance from Horiki. Inwardly I was no less suspicious 
than before of the assurance and the violence of 
human beings, but on the surface I had learned bit 
by bit the art of meeting people with a straight 
face — no, that’s not true: I have never been able to 
meet anyone without an accompaniment of painful 
smiles, the buffoonery of defeat. What I had ac- 
quired was the technique of stammering somehow, 
almost in a daze, the necessary small talk. Was this 
a product of my activities on behalf of the movement? 
Or of women? Or liquor? Perhaps it was chiefly 
being hard up for cash that perfected this skill. 

I felt afraid no matter where I was. I wondered 
if the best way to obtain some surcease from this 
relentless feeling might not be to lose myself in the 
world of some big cafe where I would be rubbed 
against by crowds of drunken guests, waitresses and 
porters. With this thought in my mind, I went one 
day alone to a cafe on the Ginza. I had only ten yen 
on me. I said with a smile to the hostess who sat be- 
side me, “All I’ve got is ten yen. Consider yourself 
warned.” 

“You needn’t worry.” She spoke with a trace of a 
Kansai accent. It was strange how she calmed my 
agitation with those few words. No, it was not simply 
because I was relieved of the necessity of worrying 



78 


about money. I felt, rather, as if being next to her in 
itself made it unnecessary to worry. 

1 drank the liquor. She did not intimidate me, 
and I felt no obligation to perform my clownish 
antics for her. I drank in silence, not bothering to 
hide the taciturnity and gloominess which were my 
true nature. 

She put various appetizers on the table in front 
of me. “Do you like them?” I shook my head. “Only 
liquor? I’ll have a drink too.” 

It was a cold autumn night. I was waiting at a 
sushi stall back of the Ginza for Tsuneko (that, as I 
recall, was her name, but the memory is too blurred 
for me to be sure: I am the sort of person who 
can forget even the name of the woman with whom 
he attempted suicide) to get off from work. The sushi 
I was eating had nothing to recommend it. Why, 
when I have forgotten her name, should I be able to 
remember so clearly how bad the sushi tasted? And I 
can recall with absolute clarity the close-cropped 
head of the old man — his face was like a snake’s — 
wagging from side to side as he made the sushi, trying 
to create the illusion that he was a real expert. It has 
happened to me two or three times since that I have 
seen on the streetcar what seemed to be a familiar 
face and wondered who it was, only to realize with a 



79 


start that the person opposite me looked like the 
old man from the sushi stall. Now, when her name 
and even her face are fading from my memory, for me 
to he able to remember that old man’s face so 
accurately I could draw it, is surely a proof of how 
bad the sushi was and how it chilled and distressed 
me. I should add that even when I have been taken 
to restaurants famous for sushi I have never enjoyed 
it much. 

Tsuneko was living in a room she rented on the 
second floor of a carpenter’s house. I lay on the floor 
sipping tea, propping my cheek with one hand as if I 
had a horrible toothache. I took no pains to hide my 
habitual gloom. Oddly enough, she seemed to like 
seeing me lie there that way. She gave me the 
impression of standing completely isolated; an icy 
storm whipped around her, leaving only dead leaves 
careening wildly down. 

As we lay there together, she told me that she 
was two years older than I, and that she came from 
Hiroshima. “I’ve got a husband, you know. He used 
to be a barber in Hiroshima, but we ran away to 
Tokyo together at the end of last year. My husband 
couldn’t find a decent job in Tokyo. The next thing I 
knew he was picked up for swindling someone, and 
now he’s in jail. I’ve been going to the prison every 
day, but beginning tomorrow I’m not going any more.” 



80 


She rambled on, but I have never been able to get 
interested when women talk about themselves. It may 
be because women are so inept at telling a story 
(that is, because they place the emphasis in the wrong 
places) , or for some other reason. In any case, I have 
always turned them a deaf ear. 

^‘I feel so unhappy.” 

I am sure that this one phrase whispered to me 
would arouse my sympathy more than the longest, 
most painstaking account of a woman^s life. It amazes 
and astonishes me that 1 have never once heard a 
woman make this simple statement. This woman did 
not say, ‘T feel so unhappy” in so many words, but 
something like a silent current of misery an inch 
wide flowed over the surface of her body. When I 
lay next to her my body was enveloped in her current, 
which mingled with my own harsher current of 
gloom like a “withered leaf settling to rest on the 
stones at the bottom of a pool.” I had freed myself 
from fear and uneasiness. 

It was entirely different from the feeling of being 
able to sleep soundly which I had experienced in the 
arms of those idiot-prostitutes (for one thing, the 
prostitutes were cheerful) ; the night I spent with 
that criminaTs wife was for me a night of liberation 
and happiness. (The use of so bold a word, affirma- 
tively, without hesitation, will not, I imagine, recur 
in these notebooks.) 



81 


But it lasted only one night. In the morning, 
when I woke and got out of hed, 1 was again the 
shallow poseur of a clown. The weak fear happiness 
itself. They can harm themselves on cotton wool. 
Sometimes they are wounded even by happiness. I 
was impatient to leave her while things still stood the 
same, before I got wounded, and I spread my usual 
smokescreen of farce. 

“They say that love flies out the window when 
poverty conies in the door, but people generally get 
the sense backwards. It doesn^t mean that when a 
man*s money runs out he’s shaken off by women. 
When he runs out of money, he naturally is in the 
dumps. He’s no good for anything. The strength goes 
out of his laugh, he becomes strangely soured. Finally, 
in desperation, he shakes off the woman. The proverb 
means that when a man becomes half-mad, he will 
shake and shake and shake until he’s free of a woman. 
You’ll find that explanation given in the Kanazawa 
Dictionary, more’s the pity. It isn’t too hard for me to 
understand that feeling myself!” 

I remember making Tsuneko laugh with just 
such stupid remarks. I was trying to get away quickly 
that morning, without so much as washing my face, 
for I was sure that to stay any longer would be 
useless and dangerous. Then I came out with that 
crazy pronouncement on “love flying out the window,” 
which was later to produce unexpected complications. 



82 


I didn’t meet my benefactor of that night again 
for a whole month. After leaving her my happiness 
grew fainter every day that went by. It frightened 
me even that I had accepted a moment’s kindness: I 
felt I had imposed horrible bonds on myself. Grad- 
ually even the mundane fact that Tsuneko had paid 
the hill at the cafe began to weigh on me, and I felt 
as though she was just another threatening woman, 
like the girl at my lodging house, or the girl from the 
teacher’s training college. Even at the distance which 
separated us, Tsuneko intimidated me constantly. 
Besides, I was intolerably afraid that if I met again 
a woman I had once slept with, I might suddenly 
burst into a flaming rage. It was my nature to be very 
timid about meeting people anyway, and so I finally 
chose the expedient of keeping a safe distance from 
the Ginza. This timidity of nature was no trickery 
on my part. Women do not bring to bear so much as a 
particle of connection between what they do after 
going to bed and what they do on rising in the 
morning; they go on living with their world success- 
fully divided in two, as if total oblivion had inter- 
vened. My trouble was that I could not yet successfully 
cope with this extraordinary phenomenon. 

At the end of November I went drinking with 
Horiki at a cheap bar in Kanda. We had no sooner 
staggered out of that bar than my evil companion 



83 


began to insist that we continue our drinking some- 
where else. We had already run out of money, but 
he kept badgering me. 

Finally — and this was because I was drunker and 
bolder than usual — I said, “All right. I’ll take you 
to the land of dreams. Don’t be surprised at what you 
see. Wine, women and song . . .” 

“You mean a cafe?” 

“I do.” 

“Let’s go!” It happened just as simply as that. 
The two of us got on a streetcar. Horiki said in high 
spirits, “I’m stai'ved for a woman tonight. Is it all 
right to kiss the hostess?” 

I was not particularly fond of Horiki when he 
played the drunk that way. Horiki knew it, and he 
deliberately labored the point. “All right? I’m going 
to kiss her. I’m going to kiss whichever hostess sits 
next to me. All right?” 

“It won’t make any difference, I suppose.” 

“Thanks! I’m starved for a woman.” 

We got off at the Ginza and walked into the cafe 
of “wine, women and song.” I was virtually without 
a penny, and my only hope was Tsuneko. Horiki and 
I sat down at a vacant booth facing each other. 
Tsuneko and another hostess immediately hurried 
over. The other girl sat next to me, and Tsuneko 
plopped herself down beside Horiki. I was taken 



84 


aback: Tsuneko was going to be kissed in another few 
minutes. 

It wasn’t that I regretted losing her. I have never 
had the faintest craving for possessions. Once in a 
while, it is true, I have experienced a vague sense of 
regret at losing something, but never strongly enough 
to affirm positively or to contest with others my rights 
of possession. This was so true of me that some years 
later I even watched in silence when my own wife was 
violated. 

1 have tried insofar as possible to avoid getting 
involved in the sordid complications of human beings. 
I have been afraid of being sucked down into their 
bottomless whirlpool. Tsuneko and I were lovers of 
just one night. She did not belong to me. It was un- 
likely that I would pretend to so imperious an emotion 
as “regret.” And yet I was shocked. 

It was because I felt sorry for Tsuneko, sorry that 
she should be obliged to accept Horiki’s savage kisses 
while I watched. Once she had been defiled by Horiki 
she would no doubt have to leave me. But my ardor 
was not positive enough for me to stop Tsuneko. I 
experienced an instant of shock at her unhappiness; 
I thought, “It’s all over now.” Then, the next moment, 
I meekly, helplessly resigned myself. I looked from 
Horiki to Tsuneko. I grinned. 



85 


But the situation took an unexpected turn, one 
very much for the worse. 

“I’ve had enough,” Horiki said with a scowl. 
“Not even a lecher like myself can kiss a woman who 
looks so poverty-stricken.” 

He folded his arms and stared, seemingly in 
utter disgust, at Tsuneko. He forced a smile. 

“Some liquor. I haven’t got any money.” I spoke 
under my breath to Tsuneko. I felt I wanted to drink 
till 1 drowned in it. Tsuneko was in the eyes of the 
world un^vorthy even of a drunkard’s kiss, a wretched 
woman who smelled of poverty. Astonishingly, in- 
credibly enough, this realization struck me with the 
force of a thunderbolt. I drank more that night than 
ever before in my life, more . . . more, my eyes swam 
with drink, and every time Tsuneko and I looked in 
each other’s face, we gave a pathetic little smile. Yes, 
just as Horiki had said, she really was a tired, 
poverty-stricken woman and nothing more. But this 
thought itself was accompanied by a welling-up of a 
feeling of comradeship for this fellow-sufferer from 
poverty. (The clash between rich and poor is a hack- 
neyed enough subject, but 1 am now convinced that it 
really is one of the eternal themes of drama.) I felt 
pity for Tsuneko; for the first time in my life I was 
conscious of a positive (if feeble) movement of love 
in my heart. I vomited. I passed out. This was also the 



86 


first time 1 had ever drunk so much as to lose con- 
sciousness. 

When I woke Tsuneko was sitting by my pillow. 
I had been sleeping in her room on the second floor 
of the carpenter’s house. “I thought you were joking 
when you told me that love flew out the window 
when poverty came in the door. Were you serious? 
You didn’t come any more. What a complicated busi- 
ness it is, love and poverty. Suppose I work for you? 
Wouldn’t that be all right?” 

“No, it wouldn’t.” 

She lay down beside me. Towards dawn she 
pronounced for the first time the word “death.” She 
too seemed to be weary beyond endurance of the task 
of being a human being; and when 1 reflected on my 
dread of the world and its bothersomeness, on money, 
the movement, women, my studies, it seemed im- 
possible that I could go on living. I consented easily 
to her proposal. 

Nevertheless I was still unable to persuade myself 
fully of the reality of this resolution to die. Somehow 
there lurked an element of make-believe. 

The two of us spent that morning wandering 
around Asakusa. We went into a lunch stand and 
drank a glass of milk. 

She said, “You pay this time.” 

I stood up, took out my wallet and opened it. 



87 


Three copper coins. It was less shame than horror 
that assaulted me at that moment. 1 suddenly saw 
before my eyes my room in the lodging house, abso- 
lutely empty save for my school uniform and the 
bedding — a bleak cell devoid of any object which 
jpight be pawned. My only other possessions were 
the kimono and coat I was wearing. These were the 
hard facts. I perceived with clarity that I could not go 
on living. 

As 1 stood there hesitating, she got up and looked 
inside my wallet. ‘‘Is that all you have?” 

Her voice was innocent, but it cut me to the quick. 
It was painful as only the voice of the first woman I 
had ever loved could be painful. “Is that all?” No, 
even that suggested more money than I had — three 
copper coins don’t count as money at all. This was 
a humiliation more strange than any I had tasted 
before, a humiliation I could not live with. I suppose 
I had still not managed to extricate myself from the 
part of the rich man’s son. It was then I myself de- 
termined, this time as a reality, to kill myself. 

We threw ourselves into the sea at Kamakura that 
night. She untied her sash, saying she had borrowed it 
from a friend at the cafe, and left it folded neatly on a 
rock. I removed my coat and put it in the same spot. 
We entered the water together. 

She died. I was saved. 



88 


The incident was treated rather prominently in 
the press, no doubt because 1 was a college student. 
My father's name also had some news value. 

I was confined in a hospital on the coast. A 
relative came from home to sec me and take care of 
necessary arrangements. Before he left he informed 
me that my father and all the rest of my family were 
so enraged that 1 might easily be disowned once and 
for all. Such matters did not concern me; I thought 
instead of the dead Tsuneko, and, longing for her, I 
wept. Of all the people I had ever known, that 
miserable Tsuneko really was the only one I loved. 

A long letter which consisted of a string of fifty 
stanzas came from the girl at my lodging house. Fifty 
stanzas, each one beginning with the incredible words, 
‘‘Please live on for me.” The nurses used to visit my 
sickroom, laughing gaily all the time, and some would 
squeeze my hand when they left. 

They discovered at the hospital that my left lung 
was affected. This was most fortunate for me: when, 
not long afterwards, I was taken from the hospital to 
the police station, charged with having been the 
accomplice to a suicide, I was treated as a sick man 
by the police, and quartered not with the criminals 
but in a special custody room. 

Late that night the old policeman standing night 
duty in the room next to mine softly opened the door. 



89 


‘‘Hey,” he called to me, “you must be cold. Come here, 
next to the fire.” 

I walked into his room, sat on a chair, and 
warmed myself by the fire. I feigned an air of utter 
dejection. 

“You miss her, donH you?” 

“Yes.” I answered in a particularly faint and far- 
away voice. 

“That*8 human nature, 1 guess.” His manner had 
become increasingly self-important. “Where was it 
you first took up with this woman?” The question 
was weighted with an authority almost indistinguish- 
able from that of a judge. My jailor, despising me as 
a mere child who wouldn’t know the difference, acted 
exactly as if he were charged with the investigation. 
No doubt he was secretly hoping to while away the 
long autumn evening by extracting from me a con- 
fession in the nature of a pornographic story. I guessed 
his intent at once, and it was all 1 could do to re- 
strain the impulse to burst out laughing in his face. 
I knew that I had the right to refuse to answer any 
queries put me by the policeman in an “informal 
interrogation” of this sort, but in order to lend some 
interest to the long night ahead, I cloaked myself in 
a kind of simple sincerity, as if I firmly, unquestion- 
ingly believed that this policeman was responsible 
for investigating me, and that the degree of severity 



90 


of my punishment depended solely on his decision. 
I made up a confession absurd enough to satisfy — 
more or less — his prurient curiosity. 

“Hmmm. I’ve got a pretty good idea now. We 
always take it into consideration when a prisoner 
answers everything honestly.” 

“Thank you very much. I hope you will do what 
you can to help me.” 

My performance was all but inspired — a great 
performance which brought me no benefit whatso- 
ever. 

In the morning I was called before the police 
chief. This time it was the real examination. 

As soon as I opened the door and entered his 
office, the police chief said, “There’s a handsome lad 
for you! It wasn’t your fault, I can see. Your mother’s 
to blame for having brought such a handsome boy into 
the world.” 

He was still young, a dark-complexioned man 
with something about him which suggested a uni- 
versity education. His words caught me off-guard, 
and made me as wretched as if I had been bom de- 
formed, with a red macula covering half my face. 

The examination conducted by this athletic- 
looking police chief was simple and to the point, a 
world removed from the furtive, tenaciously obscene 
“examination” the old policeman had given me the 



91 


night before. After he finished his questioning, he 
filled out a form to send to the district attorney’s 
office. He commented as he wrote, “You mustn’t 
neglect your health that way. You’ve been coughing 
blood, haven’t you?” 

That morning 1 had had an odd hawking cough, 
and every time I coughed I covered my mouth with 
my handkerchief. The handkerchief was spattered 
with blood, but it was not blood from my throat. The 
night before I had been picking at a pimple under 
my ear, and the blood was from that pimple. Realiz- 
ing at once that it would be to my advantage not to 
reveal the truth, I lowered my eyes and sanctimoni- 
ously murmured, “Yes.” 

The police chief finished writing the paper. “It’s 
up to the district attorney whether or not they bring 
action against you, but it would be a good idea to 
telephone or telegraph a guarantor to come to the 
district attorney’s office in Yokohama. There must be 
someone, isn’t there, who will guarantee you or offer 
bail?” 

1 remembered that a man from my home town, 
an antique dealer who was a frequent visitor at my 
father’s house in Tokyo, had served as my guarantor 
at school. He was a short-set man of forty, a bachelor 
and a henchman of my father’s. His face, particularly 
around the eyes, looked so much like a flatfish that my 



92 


father always called him hy that name. I had also 
always thought of him as ^^Flatfish.^’ 

I borrowed the telephone directory at the police 
station to look up Flatfish’s number. 1 found it and 
called him. 1 asked if he would mind coming to 
Yokohama. Flatfish’s tone when he answered was 
unrecognizably officious, but he agreed in the end 
to be my guarantor. 

I went back to the custody room. The police 
chief’s loud voice reached me as he barked out to 
the policeman, “Hey, somebody disinfect the tele- 
phone receiver. He’s been coughing blood, you know.” 

In the afternoon they tied me up with a thin 
hemp rope. I was allowed to hide the rope under my 
coat when we went outside, but the young policeman 
gripped the end of the rope firmly. We went to Yoko- 
hama on the streetcar. 

The experience hadn’t upset me in the least. I 
missed the custody room in the police station and 
even the old policeman. What, I wonder, makes me 
that way? When they tied me up as a criminal I 
actually felt relieved — a calm, relaxed feeling. Even 
now as I write down my recollections of those days 
I feel a really expansive, agreeable sensation. 

But among my otherwise nostalgic memories 
there is one harrowing disaster which I shall never 
be able to forget and which even now causes me to 
break out into a cold sweat. I was given a brief ex- 



93 


amination by the district attorney in his dimly lit 
office. He was a man of about forty, with an intelligent 
calm about him which I am tempted to call ‘^honest 
good looks^^ (in contrast to my own alleged good 
looks which, even if true, certainly are tainted with 
lewdness) . He seemed so simple and straightforward 
that I let down my guard completely. I was listlessly 
recounting my story when suddenly I was seized with 
another fit of coughing. I took out my handkerchief. 
The blood stains caught my eye, and with ignoble 
opportunlo'^r’ 1 thought that this cough might also 
prove useful. I added a couple of extra, exaggerated 
coughs for good measure and, my mouth still covered 
by the handkerchief, I glanced at the district at- 
torney’s face. 

The next instant he asked with his quiet smile, 
‘‘Was that real?” 

Even now the recollection makes me feel so em- 
barrassed I can’t sit still. It was worse, I am sure, 
even than when in high school 1 was plummeted into 
hell by that stupid Takeichi tapping me on the back 
and saying, “You did it on purpose.” Those were the 
two great disasters in a lifetime of acting. Some- 
times I have even thought that I should have pre- 
ferred to be sentenced to ten years imprisonment 
rather than meet with such gentle contempt from the 
district attorney. 

The charge against me was suspended, but this 



94 


brought no joy. 1 felt utterly wretched as I sat on a 
bench in the corridor outside the district attorney's 
office waiting for the arrival of my guarantor. Flat- 
fish. 

I could see through the tall windows behind my 
bench the evening sky glowing in the sunset. Seagulls 
were flying by in a line which somehow suggested 
the curve of a woman’s body. 



THE THIRD JV O T E B O O K 


PART ONE 






One of Takciehi’s predictions came true, the other 
went astray. The inglorious prophecy that women 
would fall for me turned out just as he said, but the 
happy one, that I should certainly become a great 
artist, failed to materialize. 

I never managed to become anything more im- 
pressive than an unknown, second-rate cartoonist 
employed by the cheapest magazines. 

I was expelled from college on account of the 


97 



98 - 


incident at Kamakura, and I went to live in a tiny 
room on the second floor of Flatfishes house. 1 gathered 
that minute sums of money were remitted from home 
every month for my support, never directly to me, 
but secretly, to Flatfish. (They apparently were sent 
by my brothers without my father’s knowledge.) 
That was all — every other connection with home 
was severed. Flatfish was invariably in a bad humor; 
even if I smiled to make myself agreeable, he would 
never return the smile. The change in him was so 
extraordinary as to inspire me with thoughts of 
how contemptible — or rather, how comic — ^human 
beings are who can metamorphize themselves as 
simply and effortlessly as they turn over their hands. 

Flatfish seemed to be keeping an eye on me, as if 
I were very likely to commit suicide — he must have 
thought there was some danger I might throw myself 
into the sea after the woman — and he sternly forbade 
me to leave the house. Unable to drink or to smoke, 
I spent my whole days from the moment I got up 
until I went to bed trapped in my cubicle of a room, 
with nothing but old magazines to read. I was lead- 
ing the life of a half-wit, and I had quite lost even 
the energy to think of suicide. 

Flatfish’s house was near the Okubo Medical 
School. The signboard of his shop, which proclaimed 
in bold letters “Garden of the Green Dragon, Art and 



99 


Antiques,” was the only impressive thing about the 
place. The shop itself was a long, narrow affair, the 
dusty interior of which contained nothing but shelf 
after shelf of useless junk. Needless to say, Flatfish did 
not depend for a living on the sale of this rubbish; 
he apparently made his money by performing such 
services as transferring possession of the secret 
property of one client to another — to avoid taxes. 
Flatfish almost never waited in the shop. Usually he 
set out early in the morning in a great hurry, his face 
set in a ‘>cowl, leaving a boy of seventeen to look after 
the shop in his absence. Whenever this boy had noth- 
ing better to do, he used to play catch in the street 
with the children of the neighborhood. He seemed to 
consider the parasite living on the second floor a 
simpleton if not an outright lunatic. He used even to 
address me lectures in the manner of an older and 
wiser head. Never having been able to argue with 
anybody, I submissively listened to his words, a 
weary though admiring expression on my face. I 
seemed to recall having heard long ago from the 
people at home gossip to the effect that this clerk was 
an illegitimate son of Flatfish, though the two of 
them never addressed each other as father and son. 
There must have been some reason for this and for 
Flatfish’s having r^^mained a bachelor, but I am 
congenitally unable to take much interest in other 



100 


people, and I don't know anything beyond what 1 
have stated. However, there was undoubtedly some- 
thing strangely fish-like about the boy^s eyes, leading 
me to wonder if the gossip might not be true. But if 
this were the case, this father and son led a re- 
markably cheerless existence. Sometimes, late at 
night, they would order noodles from a neighborhood 
shop — just for the two of them, without inviting me 
— and they ate in silence, not exchanging so much 
as a word. 

The boy almost always prepared the food in 
Flatfish's house, and three times a day he would carry 
on a separate tray meals for the parasite on the 
second floor. Flatfish and the boy ate their meals 
in the dank little room under the stairs, so hurriedly 
that I could hear the clatter of plates. 

One evening towards the end of March Flatfish — 
had he enjoyed some unexpected financial success? 
or did some other strategem move him? (even sup- 
posing both these hypotheses were correct, I imagine 
there were a number of other reasons besides of so 
obscure a nature that my conjectures could never 
fathom them) — invited me downstairs to a dinner 
graced by the rare presence of sake. The host him- 
self was impressed by the unwonted delicacy of sliced 
tuna, and in his admiring delight he expansively 
offered a little sake even to his listless hanger-on. 



101 


He asked, ‘‘What do you plan to do, in the future 
I mean?” 

I did not answer, but picked up some dried 
sardines with my chopsticks from a plate on the 
table and, while I examined the silvery eyes of the 
little fish, I felt the faint flush of intoxication rise 
in me. 1 suddenly became nostalgic for the days when 
I used to go from bar to bar drinking, and even for 
Horiki. I yearned with such desperation for “free- 
dom” that I became weak and tearful. 

Ever since coming to this house I had lacked all 
incentive even to play the clown; I had merely lain 
prostrate under the contemptuous glances of Flat- 
fish and the boy. Flatfish himself seemed disinclined 
to indulge in long, heart-to-heart talks, and for my 
part no desire stirred within me to run after him with 
complaints. 

Flatfish pursued his discourse. “As things stand 
it appears that the suspended sentence passed against 
you will not count as a criminal record or anything 
of that sort. So, you see, your rehabilitation depends 
entirely on yourself. If you mend your ways and bring 
me your problems — seriously, I mean — I will cer- 
tainly see what I can do to help you.” 

Flatfishes manner of speech — no, not only his, 
but the manner of speech of everybody in the world 
— held strange, elusive complexities, intricately pre- 



102 


sented with overtones of vagueness: I have always 
been baffled by these precautions so strict as to be 
useless, and by the intensely irritating little ma- 
neuvers surrounding them. In the end I have felt past 
caring ; I have laughed them away with my clowning, 
or surrendered to them abjectly with a silent nod of 
the head, in the attitude of defeat. 

In later years I came to realize that if Flatfish had 
at the time presented me with a simple statement 
of the facts, there would have been no untoward 
consequences. But as a result of his unnecessary pre- 
cautions, or rather, of the incomprehensible vanity 
and love of appearances of the people of the world, I 
was subjected to a most dismal set of experiences. 

How much better things would have been if only 
Flatfish had said something like this, ^^IM like you 
to enter a school beginning in the April term. Your 
family has, decided to send you a more adequate 
allowance once you have entered school.” 

Only later did I learn that this in fact was the 
situation. If I had been told that, 1 should probably 
have done what Flatfish asked. But thanks to his 
intolerably prudent, circumlocutions manner of 
speech, I only felt irritable, and this caused the whole 
course of my life to be altered. 

“If you do not feel like confiding your problems 
to me I’m afraid there’s nothing I can do for you.” 



103 


“What kind of problems?” I really had no idea 
what he was driving at. 

“Isn’t there something weighing on your heart?” 

“For example?” 

“Tor example’! What do you yourseK want to 
do now?” 

“Do you think I ought to get a job?” 

“No, don’t ask me. Tell me what you would 
really like.” 

“But even supposing I said 1 wanted to go back 
to scho^J . . 

“Yes, I know, it costs money. But the question 
is not the money. It’s what you feel.” 

Why, I wonder, couldn’t he have mentioned the 
simple fact that the money would be forthcoming 
from home? That one fact would probably have 
settled my feelings, but I was left in a fog. 

“How about it? Have you anything which might 
be described as aspirations for the future? I suppose 
one can’t expect people one helps to understand how 
difficult it is to help another person.” 

1 m sorry. 

“I’m really worried about you. I’m responsible 
for you now, and I don’t like you to have such half- 
hearted feelings. I wish you would show me that 
you’re resolved to make a real effort to turn over a 
new leaf. If, for example, you were to come to me to 



104 


discuss seriously your plans for the future, 1 would 
certainly do what I could. But of course you can’t 
expect to lead your former life of luxury on the help 
that poor old Flatfish can give — don’t give yourself 
any illusions on that score. No — ^but if you are resolute 
in your determination to begin again afresh, and you 
make definite plans for building your future, 1 think 
I might actually be willing to help you to rehabilitate 
yourself if you came to me for help, though Heaven 
knows I haven’t much to spare. Do you understand 
my feelings? What are your plans?” 

“If you won’t let me stay here in your house I’ll 
work . . 

“Are you serious? Do you realize that nowadays 
even graduates of Tokyo Imperial University . . .” 

“No, I wasn’t thinking of getting a job with a 
company.” 

“What then?” 

“I want to be a painter.” I said this with con- 
viction. 

“Wha-a-t?” 

I can never forget the indescribably crafty shadow 
that passed over Flatfish’s face as he laughed at me, 
his neck drawn in. It resembled contempt, yet it was 
different: if the world, like the sea, had depths of a 
thousand fathoms, this was the kind of weird shadow 
which might be found hovering here and there at the 



105 


bottom. It was a laugh which enabled me to catch 
a glimpse of the very nadir of adult life. 

He said, ‘‘There^s no point in discussing such a 
thing. Your feelings are still all up in the air. Think 
it over. Please devote this evening to thinking it over 
seriously.” 

I ran up to the second floor as though driven, but 
even when I lay in hed nothing of a particularly 
constructive nature occurred to me. The next morning 
at dawn I ran away from Flatfish’s house. 

T Jefp behind a note, scrawled in pencil in big 
letters on my writing pad. “I shall return tonight 
without fail. I am going to discuss my plans for the 
future with a friend who lives at the address below. 
Please don’t worry about me. I’m telling the truth.” 
I wrote Horiki’s name and address, and stole out of 
Flatfish’s house. 

I did not run away because I was mortified at 
having been lectured by Flatfish. I was, exactly as 
Flatfish described, a man whose feelings were up in 
the air, and I had absolutely no idea about future 
plans or anything else. Besides, I felt rather sorry 
for Flatfish that I should be a burden on him, and 1 
found it quite intolerably painful to think that if by 
some remote chance I felt like bestirring myself to 
achieve a worthy purpose, I should have to depend 



106 


on poor old Flatfish to dole out each month the capital 
needed for my rehabilitation. 

When I left Flatfishes house, however, I was 
certainly not seriously entertaining any idea of con- 
sulting the likes of Horiki about my future plans. 
I left the note hoping thereby to pacify Flatfish for a 
little while, if only for a split-second. (I didnet write 
the note so much out of a detective-story strategem 
to gain a little more time for my escape — though, I 
must admit that the desire was at least faintly present 
— as to avoid causing Flatfish a sudden shock which 
would send him into a state of wild alarm and con- 
fusion. 1 think that might be a somewhat more 
accurate presentation of my motives. I knew that the 
facts were certain to be discovered, but I was afraid 
to state them as they were. One of my tragic flaws 
is the compulsion to add some sort of embellishment 
to every situs^tion — a quality which has made people 
call me at times a liar — but I have almost never 
embellished in order to bring myself any advantage; 
it was rather that I had a strangulating fear of that 
cataclysmic change in the atmosphere the instant the 
flow of a conversation flagged, and even when I knew 
that it would later turn to my disadvantage, I fre- 
quently felt obliged to add, almost inadvertently, my 
word of embellishment, out of a desire to please born 
of my usual desperate mania for service. This may 



107 


have been a twisted form of my weakness, an idiocy, 
but the habit it engendered was taken full advantage 
of by the so-called honest citizens of the world.) 
That was how I happened to jot down Horiki’s name 
and address as they floated up from the distant 
recesses of my memory. 

After leaving Flatfish’s house I walked as far as 
Shinjuku, where I sold the books I had in my 
pockets. Then I stood there uncertainly, utterly at a 
loss what to do. Though I have always made it my 
practice be pleasant to everybody, I have not once 
actually experienced friendship. I have only the most 
painful recollections of my various acquaintances 
with the exception of such companions in pleasure 
as Horiki. I have frantically played the clown in 
order to disentangle myself from these painful re- 
lationships, only to wear myself out as a result. Even 
now it comes as a shock if by chance I notice in the 
street a face resembling someone I know however 
slightly, and I am at once seized by a shivering 
violent enough to make me dizzy. I know that I am 
liked by other people, but I seem to be deficient in 
the faculty to love others, fl should add that I have 
very strong doubts as to whether even human beings 
really possess this faculty.) It was hardly to be 
expected that someone like myself could ever develop 
any close friendships — besides, I lacked even the 



108 


ability to pay visits. The front door of another per- 
son’s house terrified me more than the gate of Inferno 
in the Divine Comedy^ and I am not exaggerating 
when I say that I really felt I could detect within 
the door the presence of a horrible dragon-like 
monster writhing there with a dank, raw smell. 

I had no friends. I had nowhere to go. 

Horiki. 

Here was a real case of a true word having been 
said in jest: I decided to visit Horiki, exactly as I 
had stated in my farewell note to Flatfish. I had never 
before gone myself to Horiki’s house. Usually I would 
invite him to my place by telegram when I wanted 
to see him. Now, however, I doubted whether I could 
manage the telegraph fee. I also wondered, with the 
jaundiced intelligence of a man in disgrace, whether 
Horiki might not refuse to come even if I telegraphed 
him. 1 decided on a visit, the most difficult thing in 
the world fof me. Giving vent to a sigh, I boarded 
the streetcar. The thought that the only hope left 
me in the world was Horiki filled me with a fore- 
boding dreadful enough to send chills up and down 
my spine. 

Horiki was at home. He lived in a two-storied 
house at the end of a dirty alley. Horiki occupied 
only one medium-sized room on the second floor; 
downstairs his parents and a young workman were 



109 


busily stitching and pounding strips of cloth to make 
thongs for sandals. 

Horiki showed me that day a new aspect of his 
city-dweller personality. This was his knowing nature, 
an egoism so icy, so crafty that a country boy like 
myself could only stare with eyes opened wide in 
^amazement. He was not a simple, endlessly passive 
type like myself. 

“You. What a surprise. You’ve been forgiven by 
your father, have you? Not yet?” 

I was unable to confess that I had run away. 

Ir 2uy usual way I evaded the issue, though I was 
certain that Horiki soon, if not immediately, would 
grasp what had happened. “Things will take care of 
themselves, in one way or another.” 

“Look here! It’s no laughing matter. Let me 
give you a word of advice — stop your foolishness here 
and now. I’ve got business today anyway. I’m awfully 
busy these days.” 

“Business? What kind of business?” 

“Hey! What are you doing there? Don’t tear the 
thread off the cushion!” 

While we were talking I had unconsciously been 
fiddling with and twisting around my finger one of 
the tassel-like threads which protruded from the 
corners of the cushion on which I sat — binding- 
threads, I think they arc called. Horiki had assumed 



110 


a jealous possessiveness about everything in his house 
down to the last cushion thread, and he glared at 
me, seemingly quite unembarrassed by this attitude. 
When I think of it, Horiki^s acquaintanceship with 
me had cost him nothing. 

Horiki's aged mother brought in a tray with two 
dishes of jelly. 

“What have we here?” Horiki asked his mother 
tenderly, in the tones of the truly dutiful son, con- 
tinuing in language so polite it sounded quite un- 
natural. “Oh, I’m sorry. Have you made jelly? That’s 
terrific. You shouldn’t have bothered. I was just going 
out on some business. But it would be wicked not to 
eat your wonderful jelly after you’ve gone to all the 
trouble. Thank you so much.” Then, turning in my 
direction, “How about one for you? Mother made it 
specially. Ahh . . . this is delicious. Really terrific.” 

He ate with a gusto, almost a rapture, which 
did not seem to be altogether play acting. I also 
spooned my bowl of jelly. It tasted watery, and 
when I came to the piece of fruit at the bottom, it was 
not fruit after all, but a substance I could not identify. 
I by no means despised their poverty. (At the time I 
didn’t think that the jelly tasted bad, and I was really 
grateful for the old woman’s kindness. It is true that 
I dread poverty, but I do not believe I ever have 
despised it.) The jelly and the way Horiki rejoiced 



Ill 


over it taught me a lesson in the parsimoniousness 
of the city-dweller, and in what it is really like in a 
Tokyo household where the members divide their 
lives BO sharply between what they do at home and 
what they do on the outside. I was filled with dismay 
at these signs that I, a fool rendered incapable by 
■uiy perpetual flight from human society from dis- 
tinguishing between “at home” and “on the outside,” 
was the only one completely left out, that I had been 
deserted even by Horiki. I should like to record that 
as I manipulated the peeling lacquer chopsticks to 
eat my jell}, T felt unbearably lonely. 

“Fm sorry, but I’ve got an appointment today,” 
Horiki said, standing and putting on his jacket. “I’m 
going now. Sorry.” 

At that moment a woman visitor arrived for 
Horiki. My fortunes thereby took a sudden turn. 

Horiki at once became quite animated. “Oh, I 
am sorry. I was just on my way to your place when this 
fellow dropped in without warning. No, you’re not 
in the way at all. Please come in.” 

He seemed rattled. I took the cushion from under 
me and turned it over before handing it to Horiki, 
but snatching it from my hands, he turned it over 
once more as he offered it to the woman. There was 
only that one cushion for guests, besides the cushion 
Horiki sat on. 



112 


The woman was a tall, thin person. She declined 
the cushion and sat demurely in a corner hy the door. 

1 listened absent-mindedly to their conversation. 
The woman, evidently an employee of a magazine 
publisher, had commissioned an illustration from 
Horiki, and had come now to collect it. 

“We’re in a terrible hurry,” she explained. 

“It’s ready. It’s been ready for some time. Here 
you are.” 

A messenger arrived with a telegram. 

As Horiki read it I could see the good spirits on 
his face turn ugly. “Damn it, what have you been up 
to?” 

The telegram was from Flatfish. 

“You go back at once. I ought to take you there 
myself, I suppose, hut I haven’t got the time now. 
Imagine — a runaway, and looking so smug!” 

The woman asked, “Where do you live?” 

“In Okubo,” I answered without thinking. 

“That’s quite near my office.” 

She was bom in Koshu and was twenty-eight. 
She lived in an apartment in Koenji with her five- 
year-old girl. She told me that her husband had died 
three years before. 

“You look like someone who’s had an unhappy 
childhood. You’re so sensitive — more’s the pity for 
you.” 



113 


I led for the first time the life of a kept man. 
After Shizuko (that was the name of the lady 
journalist) went out to work in the morning at the 
magazine publisher's, her daughter Shigeko and I 
obediently looked after the apartment. Shigeko had 
always been left to play in the superintendent’s room 
while her mother was away, and now she seemed de- 
lighted that an interesting “uncle” had turned up 
as a new playmate. 

For about a week I remained in a state of daze. 
Just outside the apartment window was a kite caught 
in the telegraph wires; blown about and ripped by 
the dusty spring wind, it nevertheless clung tenaciously 
to the wires, as if in affirmation of something. Every 
time I looked at the kite I had to smile with em- 
barrassment and blush. It haunted me even in dreams. 

“I want some money.” 

“How much?” she asked. 

“A lot . . . Love flies out the window when poverty 
comes in the door, they say, and it’s true.” 

“Don’t be silly. Such a trite expression.” 

“Is it? But you don’t understand. I may run away 
if things go on at this rate,” 

“Which of us is the poor one? And which will run 
away? What a silly thing to say!” 

“I want to buy my drinks and cigarettes with my 
own money. I’m a lot better artist than Horiki.” 

At such times the self-portraits I painted in high 



114 


Bchool — ^the ones Takeichi called “ghost pictures” 
— naturally came to mind. My lost masterpieces. 
These, my only really worthwhile pictures, had dis- 
appeared during one of my frequent changes of 
address. I afterwards painted pictures of every de- 
scription, but they all fell far, far short of those 
splendid works as I remembered them. I was plagued 
by a heavy sense of loss, as if my heart had become 
empty. 

The undrunk glass of absinthe. 

A sense of loss which was doomed to remain 
eternally unmitigated stealthily began to take shape. 
Whenever I spoke of painting, that undrunk glass 
of absinthe flickered before my eyes. I was agonized 
by the frustrating thought: if only I could show them 
those paintings they would believe in my artistic 
talents. 

“Do you really? You’re adorable when you joke 
that way with a serious face.” 

But it was no joke. It was true. I wished I could 
have shown her those pictures. I felt an empty 
chagrin which suddenly gave way to resignation. I 
added, “Cartoons, I mean. I’m sure I’m better than 
Horiki at cartoons if nothing else.” 

These clownish words of deceit were taken more 
seriously than the truth. 

“Yes, that’s so. I’ve really been struck by those 



115 


cartooDB you’re always drawing for Shigeko. I’ve 
burst out laughing over them myself. How would you 
like to draw for our magazine? I can easily ask the 
editor.” 

Her company published a monthly magazine, not 
an especially notable one, for children. 

“Most women have only to lay eyes on you to 
want to he doing something for you so badly they 
can’t stand it . . . You’re always so timid and yet 
you’re funny . . . Sometimes you get terribly lone- 
some and depressed, but that only makes a woman’s 
heart j^ch all the more for you.” 

Shizuko flattered me with these and other com- 
ments which, with the special repulsive quality of 
the kept man, I calmly accepted. Whenever I thought 
of my situation I sank all the deeper in my depression, 
and I lost all my energy. It kept preying on my mind 
that I needed money more than a woman, that any- 
way I wanted to escape from Shizuko and make my 
own living. I made plans of every sort, but my strug- 
gles only enmeshed me the more in my dependence 
on her. This strong-minded woman herself dealt with 
the complications which developed from my running 
away, and took care of almost everything else for me. 
As a result I became more timid than ever before 
her. 

At Shizuko’s suggestion a conference took place 



116 


attended by Flatfish, Horiki and herself at which it 
was concluded that all relations between me and 
my family were to be broken, and I was to live with 
Shizuko as man and wife. Thanks also to Shizuko^s 
efforts, my cartoons began to produce a surprising 
amount of money. 1 bought liquor and cigarettes, as 1 
had planned, with the proceeds, but my gloom and 
depression grew only the more intense. 1 had sunk 
to the bottom: sometimes when I was drawing ^^The 
Adventures of Kinta and Ota,” the monthly comic 
strip for Shizuko^s magazine, 1 would suddenly think 
of home, and this made me feel so miserable that my 
pen would stop moving, and I looked down, through 
brimming tears. 

At such times the one slight relief came from 
little Shigeko. By now she was calling me ‘‘Daddy” 
with no show of hesitation. 

“Daddy, is it true that God will grant you any- 
thing if you pray for it?” 

I thought that I for one would like to make such 
a prayer: 

Oh, vouchsafe unto me a will of ice. Acquaint 
me with the true natures of “human beings.” Is it not 
a sin for a man to push aside his fellow? Vouchsafe 
unto me a mask of anger. 

“Yes. I’m sure He’ll grant Shigeko anything she 
wants, but I don’t suppose Daddy has a chance.” 



117 


1 was frightened even by God. I could not believe 
in His love, only in His punishment. Faith. That, 1 
felt, was the act of facing the tribunal of justice with 
one’s head bowed to receive the scourge of God. I 
could believe in hell, but it was impossible for me to 
believe in the existence of heaven. 

“Why haven’t you a chance?” 

“Because I disobeyed what my father told me.” 

“Did you? But everybody says you’re so nice.” 

That’s because I deceived them. I was aware that 
everybody in the apartment house was friendly to me, 
but i^ w.;o extremely difficult for me to explain to 
Shigeko how much I feared them all, and how I was 
cursed by the unhappy peculiarity that the more I 
feared people the more I was liked, and the more I 
was liked the more I feared them — a process which 
eventually compelled me to run away from everybody. 

I casually changed the subject. “Shigeko, what 
would you like from God?” 

“I would like my real Daddy back.” 

I felt dizzy with the shock. An enemy. Was I 
Shigeko’s enemy, or was she mine? Here was another 
frightening grown-up who would intimidate me. A 
stranger, an incomprehensible stranger, a stranger 
full of secrets. Shigeko’s face suddenly began to look 
that way. 

I had been deluding myself with the belief that 



118 


Shigeko at least was safe, but she too was like the ox 
which suddenly lashes out with its tail to kill the 
horsefly on its flank. I knew that from then on I 
would have to be timid even before that little girl. 

“Is the lady-killer at home?” 

Horiki had taken to visiting me again at my place. 
I could not refuse him, even though this was the 
man who had made me so miserable the day 1 ran 
away. I welcomed him with a feeble smile. 

“Your comic strips are getting quite a reputa- 
tion, aren’t they? There’s no competing with ama- 
teurs — they’re so foolhardy they don’t know when to 
be afraid. But don’t get overconfident. Your composi- 
tion is still not worth a damn.” 

He dared to act the part of the master to me! I 
felt my usual empty tremor of anguish at the thought, 
“I can imagine the expression on his face if I showed 
him my ^ghost pictures’.” But I protested instead, 
“Don’t say such things. You’ll make me cry.” 

Horiki looked all the more elated with himself. 
“If all you’ve got is just enough talent to get along, 
sooner or later you’ll betray yourself.” 

Just enough talent to get along — I really had to 
smile at that. Imagine saying that I had enough talent 
to get along! It occurred to me that a man like myself 
who dreads human beings, shuns and deceives them. 



119 


might on the surface seem strikingly like another 
man who reveres the clever, wordly-wise rules for 
success embodied in the proverb ‘‘Let sleeping dogs 
lie/^ Is it not true that no two human beings under- 
stand anything whatsoever about each other, that 
those who consider themselves bosom friends may be 
utterly mistaken about their fellow and, failing to 
realize this sad truth throughout a lifetime, weep 
when they read in the newspapers about his death? 

Horiki, I had to admit, participated in the settle- 
ment after my running away, though reluctantly, 
under pre-^sure from Shizuko, and he was now be- 
having exactly like the great benefactor to whom I 
owed my rehabilitation or like the go-between of a 
romance. The look on his face as he lectured me was 
grave. Sometimes he would barge in late at night, 
dead-drunk, to sleep at my place, or stop by to borrow 
five yen (invariably five yen) . 

“You must stop your fooling around with women. 
You’ve gone far enough. Society won’t stand for 
more.” 

What, I wondered, did he mean by “society”? 
The plural of human beings? Where was the sub- 
stance of this thing called “society”? I had spent 
my whole life thinking that society must certainly 
be something powerful, harsh and severe, but to hear 
Horiki talk made the words “Don’t you mean your- 



120 


self?*’ come to the tip of my tongue. But 1 held the 
words hack, reluctant to anger him. 

Society woiCt stand for iu 

Ii*s not society. You* re the one who won*t stand 
for it — right? 

If you do such a thing society will make you 
suffer for it. 

It*s not society. It*s you, isn*t it? 

Before you know it, you*ll he ostracized by so^ 
ciety. 

It* s not society. You* re going to do the ostracizing, 
aren*t you? 

Words, words of every kind went flitting through 
my head. ^^Know thy particular fearsomeness, thy 
knavery, cunning and witchcraft!” What I said, how- 
ever, as I wiped the perspiration from my face with a 
handkerchief was merely, ‘‘You’ve put me in a cold 
sweat!” I smiled. 

From then on, however, I came to hold, almost 
as a philosophical conviction, the belief : What is 
society but an individual? 

From the moment I suspected that society might 
be an individual I was able to act more in accordance 
with my own inclinations. Shizuko found that 1 had 
become rather self-willed and not so timid as before. 
Horiki remarked that it was funny how stingy I had 



121 


become. Or, as Shigeko had it, I had stopped being so 
nice to Shigeko. 

Without a word, without a trace of a smile, I spent 
one day after the next looking after Shigeko and draw- 
ing comic strips, some of them so idiotic 1 couldnH 
understand them myself, for the various firms which 
commissioned them. (Orders had gradually started 
coming in from other publishers, all of an even lower 
class than Shizuko^s company^ — third-rate publishers, 
I suppose they’d be called.) I drew with extremely, 
excessively depressed emotions, deliberately penning 
each line, only to earn money for drink. When Shizuko 
came home from work I would dash out as if in relay 
with her, and head for the outdoor booths near the 
station to drink cheap, strong liquor. 

Somewhat buoyed after a bout, I would return to 
the apartment. I would say, ‘^The more I look at you 
the funnier your face seems. Do you know I get in- 
spiration for my cartoons from looking at your face 
when you’re asleep?” 

‘‘What about your face when you sleep? You 
look like an old man, a man of forty.” 

“It’s all your fault. You’ve drained me dry. ‘Man’s 
life is like a flowing river. What is there to fret over? 
On the river bank a willow tree . . ” 

“Hurry to bed and stop making such a racket. 



122 


Would you like something to eat?” She was quite 
calm. She did not take me seriously. 

“If there’s any liquor left. I’ll drink it. ‘Man’s 
life is like a flowing river. Man’s river . . .’ no, I mean 
‘the river flows, the flowing life’.” 

I would go on singing as Shizuko took off my 
clothes. I fell asleep with my forehead pressed against 
her breast. This was my daily routine. 

. . . et puis on recommence encore le lendemain 

avec seulement la meme regie que la veille 

et qui est dCeviter les grandes joies barbares 

de meme que les grandes douleurs 

comme un crapaud contorne une pierre sur son 

chemin. • • • 

When I first read in translation these verses by 
Guy-Charles Cros, I blushed until my face burned. 

The toad. 

(That is what I was — a toad. It was not a ques- 
tion of whether or not society tolerated me, whether 
or not it ostracized me. I was an animal lower than a 
dog, lower than a cat. A toad. I sluggishly moved — 
that’s all.) 

The quantities of liquor I consumed had grad- 
ually increased. I went drinking not only in the neigh- 
borhood of the Koenji station but as far as the Ginza. 



123 


Sometimes 1 spent the night out. At hars 1 acted the 
part of a ruffian, kissed women indiscriminately, did 
anything as long as it was not in accord with ^^ac- 
cepted usage,” drank as wildly — no more so — as be- 
fore my attempted suicide, was so hard pressed for 
money that I used to pawn Shizuko’s clothes. 

A year had passed since I first came to her apart- 
ment and smiled bitterly at the torn kite. One day, 
along when the cherry trees were going to leaf, I 
stole some of Shizuko’s underrobes and sashes, and 
took them to a pawnshop. I used the money they gave 
me to g^ di inking on the Ginza. I spent two nights 
in a row away from home. By the evening of the 
third day I began to feel some compunctions about 
my behavior, and 1 returned to Shizuko’s apartment. 
I unconsciously hushed my footsteps as I approached 
the door, and I could hear Shizuko talking with 
Shigeko. 

“Why does he drink?” 

“It’s not because he likes liquor. It’s because he’s 
too good, because . . .” 

“Do all good people drink?” 

“Not necessarily, but . . 

“I’m sure Daddy’ll be surprised.” 

“Maybe he won’t like it. Look! It’s jumped out 
of the box.” 

“Like the funny man in the comics he draws.” 



124 


“Yes, isn’t it?” Shizuko’s low laugh sounded 
genuinely happy. 

I opened the door a crack and looked in. I saw 
a smaU white rahbit hounding around the room. The 
two of them were chasing it. 

(They were happy, the two of them. I’d been a 
fool to come between them. 1 might destroy them 
both if I were not careful. A humble happiness. A good 
mother and child. God, I thought, if you listen to the 
prayers of people like myself, grant me happiness 
once, only once in my whole lifetime will be enough! 
Hear my prayer ! ) 

I felt like getting down on my knees to pray then 
and there. I shut the door softly, went to the Ginza, 
and did not return to the apartment. 

My next spell as a kept man was in an apartment 
over a bar close by the Kyobashi Station. 

Society. I felt as though even I were beginning 
at last to acquire some vague notion of what it meant. 
It is the struggle between one individual and another, 
a then-and-there struggle, in which the immediate 
triumph is everything. Human beings never submit 
to human beings. Even slaves practice their mean re- 
taliations. Human beings cannot conceive of any 
means of survival except in terms of a single then- 
and-there contest. They speak of duty to one’s country 



125 


and suchlike things, but the object of their eiforts is 
invariably the individual, and, even once the individ- 
uaFs needs have been met, again the individual comes 
in. The incomprehensibility of society is the incom- 
prehensibility of the individual. The ocean is not 
society; it is individuals. This was how I managed to 
gain a modicum of freedom from my terror at the 
illusion of the ocean called the world. 1 learned to 
behave rather aggressively, without the endless anx- 
ious worrying I knew before, responding as it were 
to the needs of the moment. 

When 1 left the apartment in Koenji I told the 
madam of the bar in Kyobashi, “I’ve left her and 
come to you.” That was all I said, and it was enough. 
In other words, my single then-and-there contest had 
been decided, and from that night I lodged myself 
without ceremony on the second floor of her place. 
“Society” which by all rights should have been im- 
placable, inflicted not a particle of harm on me, and 
I offered no explanations. As long as the madam was 
so inclined, everything was all right. 

At the bar I was treated like a customer, like the 
owner, like an errand boy, like a relative of the 
management; one might ha\e expected that I would 
be considered a very dubious character, but “society” 
was not in the least suspicious of me, and the regular 
customers of the bar treated me with almost painful 



126 


kindness. They called me by my first name and bought 
me drinks. 

I gradually came to relax my vigilance towards 
the world. I came to think that it was not such a 
dreadful place. My feelings of panic had been molded 
by the unholy fear aroused in me by such supersti- 
tions of science as the hundreds of thousands of 
whooping-cough germs home by the spring breezes, 
the hundreds of thousands of eye-destroying bacteria 
which infest the public baths, the hundreds of thou- 
sands of microbes in a barber shop which will cause 
baldness, the swarms of scabious parasites infecting 
the leather straps in the subway cars ; or the tapeworm, 
fluke and heaven knows what eggs that undoubtedly 
lurk in raw fish and in undercooked beef and pork; 
or the fact that if you walk barefoot a tiny sliver of 
glass may penetrate the sole of your foot and after 
circulating through your body reach the eye and 
cause blindness. There is no disputing the accurate, 
scientific fact that millions of germs are floating, 
swimming, wriggling everywhere. At the same time, 
however, if you ignore them completely they lose all 
possible connection with yourself, and at once become 
nothing more than vanishing ‘‘ghosts of science.” This 
too I came to understand. 1 had been so terrorized 
by scientific statistics (if ten million people each leave 
over three grains of rice from their lunch, how many 



127 


Backs of rice are wasted in one day; if ten million 
people each economize one paper handkerchief a 
day, how much pulp will be saved?) that whenever 
I left over a single grain of rice, whenever 1 blew my 
nose, 1 imagined that I was wasting mountains of 
rice, tons of paper, and 1 fell prey to a mood dark as if 
1 had committed some terrible crime. But these were 
the lies of science, the lies of statistics and mathe- 
matics: you can’t collect three grains of rice from 
everybody. Even as an exercise in multiplication or 
division, it ranks as one of the most elementary and 
feeble-minded problems, about on a par with the 
computation of the percentage of times that people 
slip in dark, unlighted bathrooms and fall into the 
toilet, or the percentage of passengers who get their 
feet caught in the space between the door of a subway 
train and the edge of the platform, or other such 
footling exercises in probability. These events seem 
entirely within the bounds of possibility, but I have 
never heard a single instance of anyone hurting him- 
self by falling into the toilet. I felt pity and contempt 
for the self which until yesterday had accepted such 
hypothetical situations as eminently factual scientific 
truths and was terrified by them. This shows the 
degree to which I had bit by bit arrived at a knowl- 
edge of the real nature of what is called the world. 

Having said that, I must now admit that I was 



128 


still afraid of human beings, and before I could meet 
even the customers in the bar I had to fortify myself 
by gulping down a glass of liquor. The desire to see 
frightening things — that was what drew me every 
night to the bar where, like the child who squeezes 
his pet all the harder when he actually fears it a 
little, I proclaimed to the customers standing at the 
bar my drunken, bungling theories of art. 

A comic strip artist, and at that an unknown one, 
knowing no great joys nor, for that matter, any great 
sorrows. I craved desperately some great savage joy, 
no matter how immense the suffering that might en- 
sue, but my only actual pleasure was to engage in 
meaningless chatter with the customers and to drink 
their liquor. 

Close to a year had gone by since I took up this 
debased life in the bar in Kyobashi. My cartoons were 
no longer confined to the children’s magazines, but 
now appeared also in the cheap, pornographic maga- 
zines that are sold in railway stations. Under a silly 
pseudonym I drew dirty pictures of naked women to 
which I usually appended appropriate verses from 
the Rubaiyat. 

Waste not your Hour^ nor in the vain pursuit 
Of This and That endeavour and dispute; 



129 


Better he merry with the fruitful Grape 
Than sadden after none, or hitter. Fruit. 

Some for the Glories of This World; and some 
Sigh for the Prophets Paradise to come; 

Ah, take the Cash, and let the Promise go. 

Nor heed the music of a distant Drum! 

And that inverted Bowl we call The Sky 
W hereunder crawling coop'd we live and die 
Lift not your hands to It for help — for It 
As impotently rolls as you or L 

There was at this period in my life a maiden who 
pleaded with mo to give up drink. “You can’t go on, 
drinking every day from morning to night that way.” 

She was a girl of seventeen or so who worked in 
a little tobacco shop across the way from the bar. 
Yoshiko — that was her name — was a pale girl with 
crooked teeth. Whenever I went to buy cigarettes she 
would smile and repeat her advice. 

“What’s wrong with drinking? Why is it bad? 
‘Better be merry with the fruitful Grape than sadden 
after none, or bitter. Fruit.’ Many years ago there was 
a Persian . . . no, let’s skip it. ‘Oh, plagued no more 
with Human or Divine, To-morrow’s tangle to itself 
resign: And lose your fingers in the tresses of The 



130 


Cypress-slender Minister of Wine/ Do you under- 
stand?” 

“No, I don’t.” 

“What a stupid little girl you are. I’m going to 
kiss you.” 

“Go ahead.” She pouted out her lower lip, not 
in the least abashed. 

“You silly fool. You and your ideas of chas- 
tity. . . .” 

There was something unmistakable in Yoshiko’s 
expression which marked her as a virgin who had 
never been defiled. 

Soon after New Year, one night in the dead of 
winter, I drunkenly staggered out in the cold to buy 
some cigarettes and fell into a manhole in front of 
her shop. I shouted for Yoshiko to come save me. 
She hauled me out and bandaged my bruised right 
arm. Yoshiko, earnest and unsmiling, said, “You drink 
too much.”' 

The thought of dying has never bothered me, but 
getting hurt, losing blood, becoming crippled and the 
like — no thanks. I thought as I watched Yoshiko 
bandage my hand that I might cut down on my drink- 
ing. 

“I’m giving it up. From tomorrow on I won’t 
touch a drop.” 

“Do you mean it?” 



131 


“There’s no doubt about it. I’ll give it up. If I 
give it up, will you marry me, Yoshiko?” 

Asking her to marry me was, however, intended 
only as a joke. 

“Natch.” 

(“Natch” for “naturally” was popular at the 
{time.) 

“Right. Let’s hook fingers on that. I promise I’ll 
give it up.” 

The next day, as might have been expected, I 
spent drinking. 

Towards evening I made my way to Yoshiko’s 
shop on shaking legs and called to her. “Yoshiko, I’m 
sorry. I got drunk.” 

“Oh, you’re awful. Trying to fool me by pretend- 
ing to be drunk.” 

I was startled. I felt suddenly quite sober. 

“No, it’s the truth. I really have been drinking. 
I’m not pretending.” 

“Don’t tease me. You’re mean.” She suspected 
nothing. 

“I should think you could tell by just looking 
at me. I’ve been drinking today since noon. Forgive 
me.” 

“You’re a good actor.” 

“I’m not acting, you little idiot. I’m going to kiss 
you.” 



132 


“Go ahead.” 

“No, I’m not qualified. I’m afraid I’ll have to give 
up the idea of marrying you. Look at my face. Red, 
isn’t it? I’ve been drinking.” 

“It’s just the sunset shining on it. Don’t try to 
fool me. You promised yesterday you wouldn’t drink. 
You wouldn’t break a promise, would you? We 
hooked fingers. Don’t tell me you’ve been drinking. 
It’s a lie — I know it is.” 

Yoshiko’s pale face was smiling as she sat there 
inside the dimly lit shop. What a holy thing uncor- 
rupted virginity is, I thought. I had never slept with 
a virgin, a girl younger than myself. I’d marry her. I 
wanted once in my lifetime to know that great savage 
joy, no matter how immense the suffering that might 
ensue. I had always imagined that the beauty of vir- 
ginity was nothing more than the sweet, sentimental 
illusion of stupid poets, but it really is alive and 
present in this world. We would get married. In the 
spring we’d go together on bicycles to see waterfalls 
framed in green leaves. 

I made up my mind on the spot: it was a then- 
and-there decision, and I did not hesitate to steal the 
flower. 

Not long afterwards we were married. The joy 
I obtained as a result of this action was not necessarily 
great or savage, but the suffering which ensued was 



133 


Staggering — so far surpassing what 1 had imagined 
that even describing it as ^^horrendous^’ would not 
quite cover it. The “world,” after all, was still a place 
of bottomless horror. It was hy no means a place of 
childlike simplicity where everything could be settled 
by a single then-and-there decision. 




THE THIRD NOTEBOOK 


PART TWO 






Horiki and myself. 

Despising each other as we did, we were con- 
stantly together, thereby degrading ourselves. If that 
is what the world calls friendship, the relations be- 
tween Horiki and myself were undoubtedly those of 
friendship. 

I threw myself on the chivalry of the madam of 
the bar in Kyobashi. (It is a strange use of the word 

137 



138 


to speak of a woman’s chivalry, but in my experience, 
at least in the cities, the women possessed a greater 
abundance of what might be termed chivalry than 
the men. Most men concerned themselves, all fear and 
trembling, only with appearances, and were stingy 
to boot.) She enabled me to marry Yoshiko and to 
rent a room on the ground floor of an apartment build- 
ing near the Sumida River which we made our home. 
I gave up drink and devoted my energies to drawing 
cartoons. After dinner we would go out together to 
see a movie, and on the way back we would stop at a 
milk bar or buy pots of flowers. But more than any 
of these things it gave me pleasure just to listen to 
the words or watch the movements of my little bride, 
who trusted in me with all her heart. Then, just 
when I had begun to entertain faintly in my breast 
the sweet notion that perhaps there was a chance 1 
might turn one of these days into a human being and 
be spared the necessity of a horrible death, Horiki 
showed up again. 

He hailed me, “How’s the great lover? Why, 
what’s this? Do I detect a note of caution in your 
face — you, of all people? I’ve come today as a mes- 
senger from the Lady of Koenji.” He lowered his 
voice and thrust his jaw in the direction of Yoshiko, 
who was preparing tea in the kitchen, as much as to 
ask whether it was all right to continue. 



139 


I answered nonchalantly, “It doesn't matter. You 
can say anything before her.” 

As a matter of fact, Yoshiko was what I should 
like to call a genius at trusting people. She suspected 
nothing of my relations with the madam of the bar in 
Kyobashi, and even after I told her all about the in- 
cident which occurred at Kamakura, she was equally 
unsuspicious of my relations with Tsuneko. It was 
not because I was an accomplished liar — at times I 
spoke quite bluntly, but Yoshiko seemed to take every- 
thing I said as a joke. 

“ /ou 3eem to be just as cocksure of yourself as 
ever. Anyway, it’s nothing important. She asked me 
to tell you to visit her once in a while.” 

Just when 1 was beginning to forget, that bird 
of ill-omen came flapping my way, to rip open with 
its beak tbe wounds of memory. All at once shame 
over the past and the recollection of sin unfolded 
themselves before my eyes and, seized by a terror so 
great it made me want to shriek, I could not sit still 
a moment longer. “How about a drink?” I asked. 

“Suits me,” said Horiki. 

Horiki and myself. Though outwardly he ap- 
peared to be a human being like the rest, I sometimes 
felt he was exactly like myself. Of course that was 
only after we had been making the round of the bars, 
drinking cheap liquor here and there. When the two 



140 


of US met face to face it was as if we immediately 
metamorphosed into dogs of the same shape and pelt, 
and we bounded out through the streets covered with 
fallen snow. 

That was how we happened to warm over, as it 
were, the embers of our old friendship. We went to- 
gether to the bar in Kyobashi and, eventually, we two 
soused dogs visited Shizuko^s apartment in Koenji, 
where I sometimes spent the night. 

I shall never forget. It was a sticky hot summer’s 
night. Horiki had come to my apartment about dusk 
wearing a tattered summer kimono. He told me that 
an emergency had come up and he had been obliged 
to pawn his summer suit. He asked me to lend him 
some money because he was anxious to redeem the suit 
before his aged mother found out. The matter appar- 
ently concerned him genuinely. As ill luck would have 
it, I hadn’t any money at my place. As usual I sent 
Yoshiko out to the pawnshop with some of her 
clothes. I lent Horiki what he needed from the money 
she received, but there was still a little left over, and 
I asked Yoshiko to buy some gin with it. We went up 
on the roof of the apartment house, where we cele- 
brated the evening cool with a dismal little party. 
Faint miasmic gusts of wind blew in from the river 
every now and then. 



141 


We began a guessing game of tragic and comic 
nouns. This game, which 1 myself had invented, was 
based on the proposition that just as nouns could be 
divided into masculine, feminine and neuter, so there 
was a distinction between tragic and comic nouns. 
For example, this system decreed that steamship and 
steam engine were both tragic nouns, while streetcar 
and bus were comic. Persons who failed to see why this 
was true were obviously unqualified to discuss art, 
and a playwright who included even a single tragic 
noun in a comedy showed himself a failure if for no 
othei reason. The same held equally true of comic 
nouns in tragedies. 

I began the questioning. ‘‘Are you ready? What 
is tobacco?” 

“Tragic,” Horiki answered promptly. 

“What about medicine?” 

“Powder or pills?” 

“Injection.” 

“Tragic.” 

“I wonder. Don’t forget, there are hormone in- 
jections too.” 

“No, there’s no question hut it’s tragic. First of 
all, there’s a needle — what could be more tragic than 
a needle?” 

“You win. But, you know, medicines and doctors 
are, surprisingly enough, comic. What about death?” 



142 


^^Comic. And that goes for Christian ministers 
and Buddhist priests, too/^ 

‘‘Bravo! Then life must he tragic?” 

“Wrong. It’s comic, too.” 

“In that case everything becomes comic. Here’s 
one more for you. What about cartoonist? You 
couldn’t possibly call it a comic noun, could you?” 

“Tragic. An extremely tragic noun.” 

“What do you mean? Extremely tragic is a good 
description of you.” 

Any game which can drop to the level of such 
abysmal jokes is despicable, but we were very proud 
of what we considered to be an extremely witty diver- 
sion, never before known in the salons of the world. 

I had invented one other game of a rather similar 
character, a guessing game of antonyms. The antonym 
of black is white. But the antonym of white is red. 
The antonym of red is black. 

I asked now, “What’s the antonym of flower?” 

Horiki frowned in thought. “Let me see. There 
used to be a restaurant called the ‘Flower Moon’. It 
must be moon.” 

“That’s not an antonym. It’s more of a synonym. 
Aren’t star and garter synonymous? It’s not an an- 
tonym.” 

“I’ve got it. It’s bee.” 

“Bee?” 



143 


“Aren’t there bees — or is it ants — in peonies?” 

“What are you trying to do? No bluffing now.” 

“I know ! Clustering clouds that cover the 
flowers . . .” 

“You must be thinking of clouds that cover the 
moon.” 

“That’s right. Wind that destroys the blossoms. 
It’s the wind. The antonym of flower is wind.” 

“Pretty poor. Sounds like a line out of a popular 
song. You betray your origins.” 

“Well, then, how about something more recondite, 
say a mandolin?” 

“Still no good. The antonym of flower . . . you’re 
supposed to name the thing in the world which is 
least like a flower.” 

“That’s what I’m trying to do. Wait! How about 
this — a woman?” 

“Then what’s a synonym for woman?” 

“Entrails.” 

“You’re not very poetic, arc you? Well, then, 
what’s the antonym for entrails?” 

“Milk.” 

“That’s pretty good. One more in that vein. 
Shame. What’s the antonym of shame?” 

“Shameless — a popular cartoonist I could name.” 

“What about Masao Horiki?” 

By the time we reached this point we had grad- 



144 


ually become incapable of laughter, and were be- 
ginning to experience the particular oppressiveness, 
as if one’s head were stuffed with broken glass, that 
comes from getting drunk on gin. 

“Don’t be cheeky now. I for one have never been 
tied up like a common criminal the way you have.” 

1 was taken aback. Horiki at heart did not treat 
me like a full human being. He could only consider 
me as the living corpse of a would-be suicide, a person 
dead to shame, an idiot ghost. His friendship had no 
other purpose but to utilize me in whichever way 
would most further his own pleasures. This thought 
naturally did not make me very happy, but I realized 
after a moment that it was entirely to be expected 
that Horiki should take this view of me; that from 
long ago, even as a child, I seemed to lack the qualifi- 
cations of a human being; and that, for all 1 knew, 
contempt, even from Horiki, might be entirely 
merited. 

I said, feigning tranquillity, “Crime. What’s the 
antonym of crime? This is a hard one.” 

“The law, of course,” Horiki answered flatly. I 
looked at his face again. Caught in the flashing red 
light of a neon sign on a nearby building, Horiki’s face 
had the somber dignity of the relentless prosecutor. 
I felt shaken to the core. 

“Crime belongs in a different category.” 



145 


Imagine saying that the law was the antonym of 
crime ! But perhaps everybody in “society” can go on 
living in self-satisfaction, thanks to just such simple 
concepts. They think that crime hatches where there 
arc no policemen. 

“Well, in that case what would it be? God? That 
would suit you — there’s something about you that 
smells a little of a Christian priest. 1 find it offensive.” 

“Let’s not dispose of the problem so lightly. Let’s 
think about it a bit more together. Isn’t it an interest- 
ing theme? I feel you can tell everything about a man 
just from hie answer to this one question.” 

“You can’t be serious. The antonym of crime is 
virtue. A virtuous citizen. In short, someone like 
myself.” 

“Let’s not joke. Virtue is the antonym of vice, 
not of crime.” 

“Are vice and crime different?” 

“They are, I think. Virtue and vice are concepts 
invented by human beings, words for a morality which 
human beings arbitrarily devised.” 

“What a nuisance. Well, I suppose it is God in 
that case. God. God. You can’t go wrong if you leave 
everything at God . . . I’m hungry.” 

“Yoshiko is cooking some beans downstairs now.” 

“Thanks. I like beans.” He lay down on the floor, 
his hands tucked under his head. 



146 


1 Baid, ^^You don’t seem to be very interested in 
crime,” 

^^That’s right. I’m not a criminal like you. 1 may 
indulge myself with a little dissipation, but 1 don’t 
cause women to die, and I don’t lift money from them 
either.” 

The voice of a resistance weak but desperate 
spoke from somewhere in my heart. It said that I had 
not caused anyone to die, that I had not lifted money 
from anyone — but once again the ingrained habit of 
considering myself evil took command. 

It is quite impossible for me to contradict any- 
one to his face. I struggled with all my might to con- 
trol the feelings which mounted more dangerously in 
me with each instant, the result of the depressing 
effects of the gin. Finally I muttered almost to myself, 
Actions punishable by jail sentences are not the only 
crimes. If we knew the antonym of crime, I think we 
would kno'w its true nature. God . . . salvation . . . 
love . . . light. But for Cod there is the antonym 
Satan, for salvation there is perdition, for love there 
is hate, for light there is darkness, for good, evil. 
Crime and prayer? Crime and repentance? Crime and 
confession? Crime and . . . no, they’re all synonymous. 
What is the opposite of crime?” 

“Well if you spell ‘crime’ backwards — no, that 
doesn’t make sense. But the word does contain the 



147 


letters r-i-c-e. Rice. I’m hungry. Bring me something 
to eat.” 

“Why don’t you go get it yourself?” My voice 
shook with a rage I had almost never before betrayed. 

“All right. I’ll go downstairs, then Yoshiko and 
I will commit a crime together. Personal demonstra- 
tion is better than empty debates. The antonym of 
crime is rice. No — it’s beans!” He was so drunk he 
could barely articulate the words. 

“Do as you please. Only get the hell out of here.” 

He got up mumbling incoherently. “Crime and 
an empty stomach. Empty stomach and beans. No. 
Those are synonyms.” 

Crime and punishment. Dostoievski. These words 
grazed over a corner of my mind, startling me. Just 
supposing Dostoievski ranged ‘crime’ and ‘punish- 
ment’ side by side not as synonyms but as antonyms. 
Crime and punishment — absolutely incompatible 
ideas, irreconcilable as oil and water. I felt I was 
beginning to understand what lay at the bottom of 
the scum-covered, turbid pond, that chaos of Dos- 
toievski’s mind — no, I still didn’t quite see . . . Such 
thoughts were flashing through my head like a re- 
volving lantern when I heard a voice. 

“Extraordinary beans you’ve got here. Come 
have a look.” 

Horiki’s voice and color had changed. Just a 



148 


minute before he had staggered off downstairs, and 
here he was back again, before I knew it. 

‘‘What is it?” 

A strange excitement ran through me. The two of 
us went down from the roof to the second floor and 
were half-way down the stairs to my room on the 
ground floor when Horiki stopped me and whispered, 
“Look!” He pointed. 

A small window opened over my room, through 
which I could sec the interior. The light was lit and 
two animals were visible. 

My eyes swam, but I murmured to myself tlirough 
my violent breathing, “This is just another aspect of 
the behavior of human beings. There’s nothing to be 
surprised at.” I stood petrified on the staircase, not 
even thinking to help Yoshiko. 

Horiki noisily cleared his throat. I ran back up 
to the roof to escape and collapsed there. The feelings 
which assailed me as 1 looked up at the summer night 
sky heavy with rain were not of fury or hatred, nor 
even of sadness. They were of overpowering fear, not 
the terror the sight of ghosts in a graveyard might 
arouse, but rather a fierce ancestral dread that could 
not be expressed in four or five words, something per- 
haps like encountering in the sacred grove of a Shinto 
shrine the white-clothed body of the god. My hair 
turned prematurely grey from that night. I had now 



149 


lost all confidence in myself, doubted all men im- 
measurably, and abandoned all hopes for the things 
of this world, all joy, all sympathy, eternally. This 
was truly the decisive incident of my life. I had been 
split through the forehead between the eyebrows, a 
wound that was to throb with pain whenever I came in 
contact with a human being. 

“I sympathize, but I hope it’s taught you a lesson. 
I won’t be coming back. This place is a perfect hell 
. . . But you should forgive Yoshiko. After all, you’re 
not much of a prize yourself. So long.” Horiki was 
not stupid enough to linger in an embarrassing situa- 
tion. 

I got up and poured myself a glass of gin. I wept 
bitterly, crying aloud. I could have wept on and on, 
interminably. 

Without my realizing it, Yoshiko was standing 
haplessly behind me bearing a platter with a moun- 
tain of beans on it. “He told me he wouldn’t do any- 
thing . . .” 

“It’s all right. Don’t say anything. You didn’t 
know enough to distrust others. Sit down. Let’s eat 
the beans.” 

We sat down side by side and ate the beans. Is 
trustfulness a sin, I wonder? The man was an illiterate 
shopkeeper, an undersized runt of about thirty, who 
used to ask me to draw cartoons for him, and then 



150 


would make a great ado over the trifling sums of 
money he paid for them. 

The shopkeeper, not surprisingly, did not come 
again. I felt less hatred for him than I did for Horiki. 
Why, when he first discovered them together had he 
not cleared his throat then, instead of returning to 
the roof to inform me? On nights when I could not 
sleep hatred and loathing for him gathered inside me 
until I groaned under the pressure. 

I neither forgave nor refused to forgive her. 
Yoshiko was a genius at trusting people. She didnH 
know how to suspect anyone. But the misery it caused. 

Cod, I ask you. Is trustfulness a sin? 

It was less the fact of Yoshiko’s defilement than 
the defilement of her trust in people which became so 
persistent a source of grief as almost to render my life 
insupportable. For someone like myself in whom the 
ability to trust others is so cracked and broken that 
I am wretchedly timid and am forever trying to read 
the expression on people’s faces, Yoshiko’s immacu- 
late trustfulness seemed clean and pure, like a water- 
fall among green leaves. One night sufficed to turn 
the waters of this pure cascade yellow and muddy. 
Yoshiko began from that night to fret over my every 
smile or frown. 

She would jump when I called her, and seemed 
at a loss which way to turn. She remained tense and 



151 


afraid, no matter how much I tried to make her smile, 
no matter how much I played the clown. She began 
to address me with an excessive profusion of honor- 
ifics. 

Is immaculate trustfulness after all a source of 

sin? 

I looked up various novels in which married 
women are violated. I tried reading them, but I could 
not find a single instance of a woman violated in so 
lamentable a manner as Yoshiko. Her story obviously 
could never be made into a novel. I might actually 
have felt better if anything in the least resembling 
love existed between that runt of a shopkeeper and 
Yoshiko, but one summer night Yoshiko was trusting, 
and that was all there was to it . . . And on account 
of that incident I was cleft between the eyebrows, my 
voice became hoarse, my hair turned prematurely 
grey, and Yoshiko was condemned to a life of anxiety. 
In most of the novels I read emphasis was placed on 
whether or not the husband forgave the wife’s “act.” 
It seemed to me, however, that any husband who still 
retains the right to forgive or not to forgive is a lucky 
man. If he thinks that he can’t possibly forgive his 
wife, he ought, instead of making such a great fuss, to 
get divorced as quickly as possible and find a new 
wife. If he can’t do that he should forgive and show 
forbearance. In either case the matter can be com- 



152 


pletely settled in whichever way the husband’s feel- 
ings dictate. In other words, even though such an 
incident certainly comes as a great shock to the hus- 
band, it is a shock and not an endless series of waves 
which lash back at him over and over again. It seemed 
to me a problem which could be disposed of by the 
wrath of any husband with authority. But in our case 
the husband was without authority, and when I 
thought things over, I came to feel that everything 
was my fault. Far from becoming enraged, I could 
not utter a word of complaint; it was on account of 
that rare virtue she possessed that my wife was vio- 
lated, a virtue I long had prized, the unbearably piti- 
ful one called immaculate trustfulness. 

Is immaculate trustfulness a sin? 

Now that I harbored doubts about the one virtue 
I had depended on, I lost all comprehension of every- 
thing ground me. My only resort was drink. My face 
coarsened markedly and my teeth fell out from the 
interminable drinking bouts to which I surrendered 
myself. The cartoons I drew now verged on the porno- 
graphic. No, I’ll come out with it plainly: I began 
about this time to copy pornographic pictures which 
I secretly peddled. I wanted money to buy gin. When 
I looked at Yoshiko always averting her glance and 
trembling, doubt gave birth to fresh doubt: it was 
unlikely, wasn’t it, that a woman with absolutely no 



153 


defences should have yielded only that once with the 
shopkeeper. Had she heen also with Horiki? Or with 
somebody I didn’t even know? I hadn’t the courage 
to question her; writhing in my usual doubts and 
fears, I drank gin. Sometimes when drunk I timidly 
attempted a few sneaking ventures at indirect ques- 
tioning. In my licart I bounded foolishly from joy to 
sorrow at her responses, but on the surface I never 
ceased my immoderate clowning. Afterwards I would 
inflict on Yoshiko an abominable, hellish caressing 
before 1 dropped into a dead sleep. 

Towards llie end of that year I came home late 
one night blind drunk. I felt like having a glass of 
sugar-water. Yoshiko seemed to be asleep, so I went 
myself to the kitchen to look for the sugar bowl. I 
took off the lid and peered inside. There was no sugar, 
only a thin black cardboard box. I took it absent- 
mindedly in my hand and read the label. I was 
startled: somebody had scratched off most of the 
writing, but the part in Western letters remained in- 
tact. The word Dial was legible. 

Dial. At the time I relied entirely on gin and 
never took sleeping pills. Insomnia, however, was a 
chronic complaint with me, and I was familiar with 
most sleeping pills. The contents of this one box of 
Dial was unquestionably more than sufficient to cause 
death. The seal of the box was unbroken. I must 



154 


have hidden it here at some time or other in the past 
when I felt I might need it, after first scratching off 
the label. The poor child could not read Western 
letters, and I must have thought it was enough if I 
just scratched off with my nails the part of the label 
in Japanese. (You have committed no sin.) 

I very quietly filled a glass with water, careful 
not to make the least noise, and deliberately broke 
the seal of the box. I poured the whole contents into 
my mouth. I calmly drained the glass of water in 
one gulp. I switched off the light and went to bed at 
once. 

For three days and nights I lay as one dead. The 
doctor considered it an accident, and was kind enough 
to postpone reporting to the police. I am told that 
the first words I murmured as I began to recover 
consciousness were, “Fm going home.” It’s not clear 
even to myself what place I meant by “borne,” but 
in any case these were the words I said, accompanied, 
I was told, by profuse weeping. 

Gradually the fog cleared, and when I regained 
consciousness there was Flatfish sitting at my pillow, a 
most unpleasant expression on his face. 

“The last time was also at the end of the year, 
wasn’t it? He always chooses the end of the year, just 
when everybody is frantically busy. He’ll prove the 
death of me if he keeps on doing such thing‘s.” 



155 


The madam of the bar in Kyobashi was the 
recipient of Flatfish’s discourse. 

I called, “Madam.” 

“What? Have you come to?” She held her smil- 
ing face directly over mine as she spoke. 

I burst into tears. “Take me away from Yoshiko.” 
The words came as a surprise even to myself. 

The madam rose to her feet and breathed a barely 
audible sigh. 

Then I made an utterly unpremeditated slip of 
the tongue, one so comic, so idiotic that it all but defies 
description. I said, “I’m going somewhere where there 
aren’t any women.” 

Flatfish was the first to respond, with loud guf- 
faws; the madam tittered; and in the midst of my 
tears I turned red and smiled despite myself. 

“An excellent idea,” said Flatfish still continuing 
his inane laughter. “You really ought to go to a place 
with no women. Everything goes wrong as soon as 
women are around you. Yes, a place without women 
is a fine suggestion.” 

A place without women. And the worst of it was 
that my delirious ravings were later to be realized in 
a most ghastly way. 

Yoshiko seemed to have got the idea that I had 
swallowed the overdose of sleeping pills by way of 
atonement for her sin, and this made her all the more 



156 


uncertain before me. She never smiled, and she looked 
as if she could hardly he persuaded to open her 
mouth. I found the apartment so oppressive that I 
would end by going out as usual to swill cheap 
liquor. After the Dial incident, however, I lost weight 
noticeably. My arms and legs felt heavy, and I often 
was too lazy to draw cartoons. Flatfish had left some 
money when he came to visit me. (He said, “It’s a 
little gift from me,” and offered it exactly as if it were 
his own money, though I gathered that it actually 
came from my brothers as usual. Tliis time, unlike 
when I ran away from Flatfish’s house, I was able to 
get a vague glimpse through his theatrical airs of 
importance; I too was clever and, pretending to be 
completely unaware of what was going on, humbly 
offered Flatfish my thanks for the money. It never- 
theless gave me a strange feeling, as if at the same 
time I could and could not understand why people 
like Flatfish resorted to such complicated tricks.) I 
did not hesitate to use the money to go by myself to 
the hot springs of southern Izu. However, I am not 
the kind to make a leisurely tour of hot springs, and 
at the thought of Yoshiko I became so infinitely for- 
lorn as to destroy completely the peaceful frame of 
mind which would have permitted me to gaze from 
my hotel window at the mountains. I did not change 
into sports clothes. I didn’t even take the waters. In- 



157 


Btead 1 would rush out into the filthy little bars that 
looked like souvenir stands, and drink gin until 1 
fairly swam in it. I returned to Tokyo only sicklier for 
the trip. 

The night I returned to Tokyo the snow was 
falling heavily. I drunkenly wandered along the rows 
of saloons behind the Ginza, singing to myself over 
and over again, so softly it was only a whisper, “From 
here it’s hundreds of miles to home . . . From here it’s 
hundreds of miles to home.” I walked along kicking 
with the point of my shoes the snow which was ac- 
cumulating. Suddenly I vomited. This was the first 
time I had brought up blood. It formed a big rising- 
sun flag in the snow. I squatted there for a while. 
Then with both hands I scooped up snow from places 
which were still clean, and washed my face. I wept. 

“Where does this little path go? 

Where does this little path go?” 

I could hear indistinctly from the distance, like 
an auditory hallucination, the voice of a little girl 
singing. Unhappiness. There are all kinds of unhappy 
people in this world. I suppose it would be no exag- 
geration to say that the world is composed entirely 
of unhappy people. But those people can fight their 
unhappiness with society fairly and squarely, and 
society for its part easily understands and sympathizes 
with such struggles. My unhappiness stemmed entirely 



158 


from my own vices, and I had no way of fighting 
anybody. If I had ever attempted to voice anything 
in the nature of a protest, even a single mumbled 
word, the whole of society — and not only Flatfish — 
would undoubtedly have cried out flabbergasted, 
“Imagine the audacity of him talking like that!” Am 
I what they call an egoist? Or am I the opposite, a 
man of excessively weak spirit? I really don’t know 
myself, but since I seem in either case to be a mass of 
vices, I drop steadily, inevitably, into unhappiness, 
and I have no specific plan to stave off my descent. 

I got up from the snowbank with the thought: I 
ought to get the proper kind of medicine without 
delay. I went into a pharmacy nearby. The proprie- 
tress and I exchanged looks as I entered; for that in- 
stant her eyes popped and she held her head lifted, 
as if caught in the light of a flash bulb. She stood 
ramrod atiff. But in her wide-open eyes there was 
no trace of alarm or dislike; her look spoke of long- 
ing, almost of the seeking for salvation. I thought, 
“She must be unhappy too. Unhappy people are sensi- 
tive to the unhappiness of others.” Not until then did 
I happen to notice that she stood with difficulty, sup- 
porting herself on crutches. I suppressed a desire to 
run up beside her, but I could not take my eyes from 
her face. I felt tears starting, and saw then the tears 
brimming from her big eyes. 



159 


That was all. Without saying a word I went out 
of the pharmacy and staggered back to my apartment. 
I asked Yoshiko to prepare a salt solution. I drank it. 
I went to sleep without telling her anything. The 
whole of the following day I spent in bed, giving as 
excuse a lie to the effect that I felt a cold coming on. 
At night my agitation over the blood I had secretly 
coughed became too much for me, and I got out of 
bed. I went to the pharmacy again. This time I con- 
fessed with a smile to the woman what my physical 
condition was. In humble tones I asked her advice. 

“You’ll have to give up drinking.” 

We were like blood relatives. 

“I may have alcoholic poisoning. I still want to 
drink.” 

“You niusn’t. My husband used to soak himself in 
liquor in spite of his T.B. He claimed that he killed 
the germs with liquor. That’s how he shortened his 
life.” 

“I feel so on edge I can’t stand it. I’m afraid. I’m 
no good for anything.” 

“I’ll give you some medicine. But please cut out 
the drinking at least.” 

She was a widow with an only son. The boy had 
been attending a medical school somewhere in the 
provinces, but was now on leave of absence from school 
with the same illness that killed his father. Her father- 



160 


in-law lay abed in the house with palsy. She herself 
had been unable to move one side of her body since 
she was five, when she had infantile paralysis. Hob- 
bling here and there in the shop on her crutches she 
selected various medicines from the different shelves, 
and explained what they were. 

This is a medicine to build your blood. 

This is a serum for vitamin injections. Here is 
the hypodermic needle. 

These are calcium pills. This is diastase to keep 
you from getting an upset stomach. 

Her voice was full of tenderness as she explained 
each of the half-dozen medicines. The affection of this 
unhappy woman was however to prove too intense. At 
the last she said, ‘‘This is a medicine to be used when 
you need a drink so badly you can’t stand it.” She 
quickly wrapped the little box. 

It wag morphine. 

She said that it was no more harmful than liquor, 
and I believed her. For one thing, I was just at the 
stage where I had come to feel the squalor of drunken- 
ness, and I was overjoyed to be able to escape after 
such long bondage to the devil called alcohol. Without 
a flicker of hesitation I injected the morphine into 
my arm. My insecurity, fretfulness and timidity were 
swept away completely; I turned into an expansively 
optimistic and fluent talker. The injections made me 



161 


forget how weak my body was, and I applied myself 
energetically to my cartoons. Sometimes I would burst 
out laughing even while I was drawing. 

I had intended to take one shot a day, but it be- 
came two, then three; when it reached four I could 
no longer work unless I had my shots. 

All I needed was the woman at the pharmacy to 
admonish me, saying how dreadful it would be if I 
became an addi<‘t, for me to feci that I had already 
become a fairly conrirnied addict. (I am very suscepti- 
ble to otlier peoplc’vS suggestions. When people say to 
me, ‘‘You really shouldn’t spend this money, but I 
suppose you will anyway ...” I have the strange il- 
lusion that I would be going against expectations and 
somehow doing wrong unless I spent it. I invariably 
spend all the money inmiediately.) My uneasiness 
over having become an addict actually made me seek 
more of the drug. 

“I beg you! One more box. I promise I’ll pay you 
at the end of the month.” 

“You can pay the bill any old time as far as I’m 
concerned, but the police are very troublesome, you 
know.” 

Something impure, dark, reeking of the shady 
character always hovers about me. 

“I beg you! Tell them something or other, put 
them off the track. I’ll give you a kiss.” 



162 


She blushed. 

I pursued the theme. canH do any work unless 
I have the medicine. It’s a kind of energy-builder 
for me.” 

“How about hormone injections?” 

“Don’t be silly. It’s liquor or that medicine, one 
or the other. If I haven’t got it I can’t work.” 

“You mustn’t drink.” 

“That’s right. I haven’t touched a drop of liquor 
since I began with that medicine. I’m in fine physical 
shape, thanks to you. I don’t intend to go on drawing 
stupid cartoons forever, you know. Now that I’ve 
stopped drinking and have straightened myself out, 
I’m going to study. I’m sure I can become a great 
painter. I’ll show you. If only I can get over this crit- 
ical period. So, please. How about a kiss?” 

She burst out laughing. “What a nuisance you 
are. You may already have become an addict, for all 
I know.” Her crutches clacked as she hobbled over 
to the shelf to take down some medi(!ine. “I can’t 
give you a whole box. You’d use it all up. Here’s 
half.” 

“How stingy you’ve become! Well, if that’s the 
best you can do.” 

I gave myself a shot as soon as I got back home. 

Yoshiko timidly asked, “Doesn’t it hurt?” 

“Of course it hurts. But I’ve got to do it, no 



163 


matter how painful it is. That’s the only way to in- 
crease the efficiency of my work. You’ve noticed how 
healthy I’ve been of late.” Then, playfully, “Well, to 
work. To work, to work.” 

Once, late at night, I knocked on the door of the 
pharmacy. As soon as I caught sight of the woman in 
her nightgown hobbling forward on her crutches, I 
threw my arms around her and kissed her. I pretended 
to weep. 

She handed me a box without a word. 

B\ the time I had come to realize acutely that 
drugs were as abominable, as foul — no, fouler — than 
gin, I had already become an out-and-out addict. 1 
had truly reached the extreme of shamelessness. Out 
of the desire to obtain the drug I began again to make 
copies of pornographic pictures. I also had what might 
literally be called a very ugly affair with the crippled 
woman from the pharmacy. 

I thought, “I want to die. I want to die more 
than ever before. There’s no chance now of a recovery. 
No matter what sort of thing I do, no matter what I 
do, it’s sure to be a failure, just a final coating applied 
to my shame. That dream of going on bicycles to see 
a waterfall framed in smnmer leaves — it was not for 
the likes of me. All that can happen now is that one 
foul, humiliating sin will be piled on another, and 
my sufferings will become only the more acute. I want 



164 


to die. I must die. Living itself is the source of sin.” 
I paced back and forth, half in a frenzy, between my 
apartment and the pharmacy. 

The more I worked the more morphine I con- 
sumed, and my debt at the pharmacy reached a fright- 
ening figure. Whenever the woman caught sight of 
my face, the tears came to her eyes. I also wept. 

Inferno. 

I decided as a last resort, my last hope of escaping 
the inferno, to write a long letter to my father in 
which I confessed my circumstances fully and ac- 
curately (with the exception, of course, of my rela- 
tions with women) . If it failed I had no choice but to 
hang myself, a resolve which was tantamount to a 
bet on the existence of God. 

The result was to make everything only the 
worse: the answer, for which I waited day and night, 
never came, and my anxiety and dread caused me 
to increase still further the dosage of the drug. 

I made up my mind one day to give myself ten 
shots that night and throw myself into the river. But 
on the afternoon of the very day I chose for the event, 
Flatfish appeared with Horiki in tow, seemingly hav- 
ing managed with his diabolical intuition to sniff out 
my plan. 

Horiki sat in front of me and said, with a gentle 
smile, the like of which I had never before seen on bis 



165 


face, “I hear you’ve coughed hlood.” I felt so grateful, 
so happy for that gentle smile that I averted my face 
and wept. 1 was completely shattered and smothered 
by that one gentle smile. 

I was bundled into an automobile. Flatfish in- 
formed me in a quiet tone (so calm indeed that it 
might almost have been characterized as compassion- 
ate) that I should have to go for the time being to a 
hospital, and that I should leave everything to them. 
Weeping helplessly, I obeyed whatever the two of 
them LiCAi.^ed, like a man bereft of all will, decision 
and everything else. The four of us (Yoshiko came 
along) were tossed in the car for quite a long time. 
About dusk we pulled up at the entrance to a large 
hospital in the woods. 

My only thought was, ‘‘This must be a sana- 
torium.” 

I was given a careful, almost unpleasantly con- 
siderate examination by a yoimg doctor. “You’ll need 
to rest and recuperate here for a while,” he said, 
pronouncing the words with a smile I could only 
describe as bashful. When Flatfish, Iloriki and Yo- 
shiko were about to go, leaving me there alone, 
Yoshiko handed me a bundle containing a change of 
clothes, then silently offered from her handbag tlie 
hypodermic needle and the remaining medicine. Is 



166 


it possible she actually believed after all that it was 
just an energy-building medicine? 

‘‘No,” I said, “I won’t need it any more.” 

This was a really rare event. I don’t think it is 
an exaggeration to say that it was the one and only 
time in my life that I refused something offered to 
me. My unhappiness was the unhappiness of a person 
who could not say no. I had heen intimidated by the 
fear that if I declined something offered me, a yawn- 
ing crevice would open between the other person’s 
heart and myself which could never be mended 
through all eternity. Yet I now refused in a perfectly 
natural manner the morphine which I had so desper- 
ately craved. Was it because I was struck by Yoshiko’s 
divine ignorance? I wonder if I had not already ceased 
at that instant to be an addict. 

The young doctor with the bashful smile im- 
mediately, ushered me to a ward. The key grated in 
the lock behind me. I was in a mental hospital. 

My delirious cry after I swallowed the sleeping 
pills — that I would go where there were no women — 
had now materialized in a truly uncanny way: my 
ward held only male lunatics, and the nurses also were 
men. There was not a single woman. 

I was no longer a criminal — I was a lunatic. But 
no, I was definitely not mad. I have never heen mad 
for even an instant. They say, I know, that most luna- 



167 


tics claim the same thing. What it amounts to is that 
people who get put into this asylum are crazy, and 
those who don’t are normal. 

God, I ask you, is non-resistance a sin? 

I had wept at that incredibly beautiful smile 
Horiki showed me, and forgetting both prudence and 
resistance, I had got into the car that took me here. 
And now I had become a madman. Even if released, 
I would be forever branded on the forehead with the 
word “matlman,” or perhaps, ‘‘reject.” 

D'ot; 'Vilified as a human being. 

I had now ceased utterly to be a human being. 

I came at fhe beginning of summer. Through 
the iron bars over the windows I could see water- 
lilies blossoming in the little pond of the hospital. 
Three months later, when the cosmos were beginning 
to bloom in the garden, my eldest brother and Flat- 
fish came, to my great surprise, to take me out. My 
brother informed me in his habitually serious, 
strained voice that my father had died of gastric ulcers 
at the end of the previous month. “We wonT ask any 
questions about your past and we’ll see to it that you 
have no worries as far as your living expenses are 
concerned. You won’t have to do anything. The only 
thing we ask is that you leave Tokyo immediately. I 
know you undoubtedly have all kinds of attachments 



168 


here, but we want you to begin your convalescence 
afresh in the country.” He added that I need not worry 
about my various commitments in Tokyo. Flatfish 
would take care of them. 

I felt as though I could see before my eyes the 
mountains and rivers back home. I nodded faintly. 

A reject, exactly. 

The news of my father’s death eviscerated me. 
He was dead, that familiar, frightening j>resence who 
had never left my heart for a split second. I felt as 
though the vessel of my suffering had become empty, 
as if nothing could interest me now. I had lost even 
the ability to suffer. 

My brother scrupulously carried out his promise. 
He bought a house for me at a hot spring on the coast, 
about four or live hours journey by rail south of the 
town where I grew up, an unusually warm spot for 
that part of Japan. The house, a thatch-covered rather 
ancient-looking structure, stood on the outskirts of 
the village. It had five rooms. The walls were peeled 
and the woodwork was so worm-eaten as to seem 
almost beyond all possibility of repair. My brother 
also sent to look after me an ugly woman close to sixty 
with horrible rusty hair. 

Some three years have gone by since then. Dur- 
ing this interval I have several times heen violated in 



169 


a curious manner by the old servant. Once in a while 
we quarrel like husband and wife. My chest ailment 
is sometimes better, sometimes worse; my weight 
fluctuates accordingly. Occasionally I cough blood. 
Yesterday 1 sent Tetsu (the old servant) off to the 
village drugstore to buy some sleeping pills. She came 
back with a box rather different in shape from the 
one I’m accustomed to, but I paid it no particular at- 
tention. I took ten pills before I went to bed but was 
surprised not to be able to sleep at all. Presently I 
was 8ei::ed with a cramp in my stomach. I rushed to 
the toilet thre, times in succession with terrible di- 
arrhoea. My suspicions were aroused. I examined the 
box of medicine carefully — it was a laxative. 

As 1 lay on my bed staring at the ceiling, a hot 
water bottle on my stomach, I wondered whether I 
ought to complain to Tetsu. 

I thought of saying, “These aren’t sleeping pills. 
They’re a laxative!” but I burst out laughing. I think 
“reject” must be a comic noim. I had taken a laxative 
in order to go to sleep. 

Now I have neither happiness nor unhappiness. 

Everything passes. 

That is the one and only thing I have thought 
resembled a truth in the society of human beings 
where I have dwelled up to now as in a burning hell. 

Everything passes. 



170 


This year I am twenty-seven. My hair has become 
much greyer. Most people would take me for over 
forty. 



EPILOGUE 





I never personally met the madman who wrote 
these notebooks. However, I have a bare acquaintance 
with the woman who, as far as I can judge, figures in 
these notebooks as the madam of a bar in Kyobashi. 
She is a slightly-built, rather sickly-looking woman, 
with narrow, tilted eyes and a prominent nose. Some- 
thing hard about her gives you the impression less of 
a beautiful woman than of a handsome young man. 
The events described in the notebooks seem to relate 
mainly to the Tokyo of 1910 or so, but it was not until 
about 1915, when the Japanese military clique was 

173 



174 


first beginning to rampage in the open, that friends 
took me to the bar. I drank highballs there two or 
three times. 1 was never able therefore to have the 
pleasure of meeting the man who wrote the notebooks. 

However, this February I visited a friend who 
was evacuated during the war to Funahashi in Chiba 
Prefecture. He is an acquaintance from university 
days, and now teaches at a woman’s college. My pur- 
pose in visiting him was to ask his help in arranging 
the marriage of one of my relatives, but I thought 
while I was at it, I might buy some fresh sea food to 
take home to the family. I set off for Funahashi with 
a rucksack on my back. 

Funahashi is a fairly large town facing a muddy 
bay. My friend had not lived there long, and even 
though I asked for his house by the street and number, 
nobody seemed able to tell me the way. It was cold, 
and the rucksack hurt my shoulders. Attracted by 
the sound of a record of violin music being played 
inside a coffee shop, I pushed open the door. 

I vaguely remembered having seen the madam. 
I asked her about herself, and discovered she was in 
fact the madam of the bar in Kyobashi I had visited 
ten years before. Wlien this was established, she pro- 
fessed to remember me also. We expressed exaggerated 
surprise and laughed a great deal. There were many 
things to discuss even without resorting, as people 



175 


always did in those days, to questions about each 
other’s experiences during the air raids. 

I said, “You haven’t changed a bit.” 

“No, I’m an old woman already. I creak at the 
joints. You’re the one who really looks young.” 

“Don’t be silly. I’ve got three children now. I’ve 
come today to buy them some sea food.” 

We exchanged these and other greetings appropri- 
ate to long-separated friends and asked for news of 
mutual aequaintanees. The madam suddenly broke off 
to ask, in a rather different tone, if by chance I had 
ever known Yozo. I answered that I never had, where- 
upon she went inside and brought out three notebooks 
and three photogiaphs which she handed to me. She 
said, “Maybe they’ll make good material for a novel.” 

I can never write anything when people force 
material on me, and I was about to return the lot to 
her without even examining it. The photographs, 
however, fascinated me, and I decided after all to 
accept the notebooks. I promised to stop by again on 
the way back, and asked her if she happened to know 
where my friend lived. As a fellow newcomer, she 
knew him. Sometimes, in fact, he even patronized her 
shop. Ilis house was just a few steps away. 

That night after drinking for a while with my 
friend I decided to spend the night. I became so im- 



176 


mersed in reading the notebooks that I didn’t sleep 
a wink till morning. 

The events described took place years ago, but I 
felt sure that people today would still be quite in- 
terested in them. I thought that it would make more 
sense if I asked some magazine to publish the whole 
thing as it was, rather than attempt any clumsy im- 
provements. 

The only souvenirs of the town I could get for 
my children were some dried fish. I left my friend’s 
house with my rucksack still half-empty, and stopped 
by the coflFee shop. 

I came to the point at once. ‘T wonder if I could 
borrow these notebooks for a while.” 

“Yes, of course.” 

“Is the man who wrote them still alive?” 

“I haven’t any idea. About ten years ago some- 
body sent me a parcel containing the notebooks and 
the photographs to my place in Kyobashi. I’m sure 
it was Yozo who sent it, but he didn’t write his address 
or even his name on the parcel. It got mixed up with 
other things during the air raids, but miraculously 
enough the notebooks were saved. Just the other day 
I read through them for the first time.” 

“Did you cry?” 

“No. I didn’t cry ... I just kept thinking that 
when human beings get that way, they’re no good for 
anything.” 



177 


“It’s been ten years. I suppose he may be dead 
already. He must have sent the notebooks to you by 
way of thanks. Some parts are rather exaggerated I 
ean tell, but you obviously suffered a hell of a lot 
at his hands. If everything written in these notebooks 
is true, I probably would have wanted to put him in 
an insane asylum myself if I were his friend.” 

“It’s his father’s fault,” she said unemotionally. 
“The Yozo we knew was so easy-going and amusing, 
and if only he hadn’t drunk — no, even though he did 
drink- hi. vvjis a good boy, an angel.”