Kenji Miyazawa

(1896 - 1933)

Biography of Kenji Miyazawa

Kenji Miyazawa (27 August 1896 – 21 September 1933) was a Japanese poet and author of children's literature from Hanamaki, Iwate in the early Shōwa period. He was also known as an agronomist, vegetarian, cellist, devout Buddhist, and utopian social activist.

Some of his major works include Ame ni mo makezu, Night on the Galactic Railroad, Kaze no Matasaburo, Gauche the Cellist, and The Night of Taneyamagahara. Kenji converted to Nichiren Buddhism after reading the Lotus sutra, and for a brief period proselytized for the Kokuchūkai, a Nichiren Buddhist organization. His religious and social beliefs created a rift between him and his wealthy family, especially his father. Kenji founded the Rasu Farmers Association to improve the lives of peasants in Iwate Prefecture. He was also a student of Esperanto and planned to gain a wider, global audience by translating some of his works into that language.

He died of pneumonia in 1933. Almost totally unknown as a poet in his lifetime, Kenji's work gained its reputation posthumously, and enjoyed a boom by the mid-1990s on his centenary. A museum dedicated to his works was opened in 1982 in his hometown. Many of his children's stories have been adapted to anime, most notably Night on the Galactic Railroad. Much of his tanka and free verse poetry, translated into multiple languages, is still popular today.

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Flood

Under the malicious glints of the clouds
the Kitakami, grown twice in width, perhaps ten times in volume,
bears yellow waves.
All the iron barges are being tugged to the army camp.
A motorboat sputters.
The water flowing back from downstream
has already turned into marshes
the paddies on the dried riverbed,
hidden the bean fields,

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