The Farce (1937) by Hōjō Tamio

Kathryn M. Tanaka, University of Hyogo [About | Email]

Volume 22, Issue 1 (Translation 1 in 2022). First published in ejcjs on 17 April 2022.


The final novel of Hōjō Tamio (1914-1937), the "father" of Hansen's Disease Literature in Japan, and one of the young writers whom Kawabata Yasunari mentored and helped present to Japan's literary world. This piece focuses on Hansen's Disease, tenkō, or "political conversion," and the domestic and social tensions which political writers, primarily on the left, faced during the years leading up to Japan's Pacific War.

Keywords: Hōjō Tamio, Hansen's Disease, tenkō, literature, censorship

1. Translator's Introduction

Hōjō Tamio (real name Shichijō Teruji, 1914-1937) is best known as the “father” of a genre of writing by patients institutionalised for the treatment of Hansen’s disease, known during his lifetime as “leprosy literature” and today often referred to as “Hansen’s disease literature.” With the help of his mentor, Kawabata Yasunari (1899-1972) Hōjō published in major literary journals and popular magazines during the late 1930s, but today he is a marginal literary figure.

After he was diagnosed with Hansen’s disease at the age of nineteen, he spent the remainder of his short life in Zensei Hospital (today Zenshō-en), a hospital for the treatment of Hansen’s disease located in the suburbs of Tokyo. His writing career began in earnest in 1936 with the publication of the novella “Life’s First Night,” which won the Bungakkai literary prize.[1] Hōjō wrote essays, fiction, and children’s stories about his experience with Hansen’s disease and the quarantine he submitted to in order to treat his illness.

The translation presented here is Hōjō’s final novella, published posthumously in Chūō Kōron in April of 1938 and simultaneously printed as part of his two-volume Collected Works. This simultaneous publication is significant, because “The Farce” is the only example of work by Hōjō that contains fuseji, or censorship marks. This was because he passed away before he could complete revisions that would remove the marks of censorship from the text. The uncensored text no longer exists, but the version of the text that was published in Chūō Kōron made additional deletions that were not made in Hōjō’s Collected Works. Elsewhere, I have explored the fact that these two simultaneous publications have different censorship marks and traced the way the work connects Hansen’s disease to other marginal social groups, specifically, Koreans, prostitutes, and socialists.[2] In particular, “The Farce” is a sharp critique of tenkō, or the coercive renunciation of leftist beliefs by social activists. Indeed, this piece was written in part as a response to Shimaki Kensaku’s 1934 short story “Rai” (Leprosy), which tells the story of two communist activists in prison, one struggling with tuberculosis and a desire to recant his beliefs, and the other a sufferer from Hansen’s Disease who remains committed to his political ideals. Hōjō criticised Shimaki for the shallowness of this work, and “The Farce” is an attempt to complicate the question of social belonging, fit bodies, and political beliefs.

By bringing these marginal social groups and ideologies into a novella that is ostensibly about living with Hansen’s disease, the main character in “The Farce” questions what it means to be included and alienated within society, and how much of people’s lives and beliefs are performances. In this final work, Hōjō interrogates the ways in which minorities are othered and oppressed in Japanese society. In this translation, I underline phrases that were censored and replaced with black dots in Chūō Kōron but appeared unimpaired in Collected Works. In the cases where certain expressions were deleted from both editions, and I use similar, fuseji-style black dots in my translation. Finally, in a few instances, I have used a bold font in the following text to reflect passages that are censored in the Collected Works but appear in Chūō Kōron.

Texts Consulted for Translation

Hōjō, Tamio. Hōjō Tamio zenshū (HTZ) (Collected Works of Hōjō Tamio), volumes 1 and 2. Kawabata Yasunari, ed. Tokyo: Sōgen-sha, 1938.

__________. Hōjō Tamio zenshū (HTZ) (Collected Works of Hōjō Tamio), volumes 1 and 2. Kawabata Yasunari and Kawabata Kaori, eds. 2nd edition. Tokyo: Sōgen-sha, 2003.

__________. “Dōke shibai” (“The Farce”). In: Chūō Kōron. April, 1938: 48-103.

The Farce (1937) by Hōjō Tamio

It was a gray, cloudy evening.

Coming out of the train station, Mitsuko went immediately into the marketplace opposite and bought food for the evening. She carried this in her right hand, as she made her way down countless narrow alleys, with the towering factories towering over the road she hurried down. Today at the office, she’d had an unusually large amount of work to do, and as she was not yet used to typing, her fingers still stung with pain. Despite that she had a pleasant, cheerful feeling. How long has it been since I’ve felt like this? she asked herself with emotion, From now on, our lives can only get better, even it the progress is infinitesimally small increments. For the past two or three years our lives have just been too miserable. Yet, in the midst of this, the thought of her husband Yamada’s face struck her with a fleeting feeling of anxiety, although she had no reason to feel that way. A dark premonition arose in her mind, but surely life would never be that miserable again. She quickly extinguished those unbidden, ominous thoughts and instead mused to herself: By this summer should we move to a better apartment? No, rather than do that, we should be patient and when next year comes, we should get a house; until then we should scrimp as much as we can to save money.

She stopped walking. the words, a ruined person suddenly flashed across her mind. Her lips curled into a sardonic smile as she fiercely reiterated to herself: for me, my way of life is the most important thing. And she was surprised with the tenacity with which this resolve had filled her.

Coming out of the factory district, just beyond a fenced area with some trees and shrubbery sat their apartment. It was a cheap-looking wood building that had been constructed for the workers at the factories, so the area was dotted with two or three other buildings just like it. Acting automatically, she transferred the newspaper package she had bought at the market to her left hand, and began to go up the stairs. As she did so, from the lower story, she heard the voice of the landlady call out:

“Letters for you.”

She took them quickly, and while once again climbing the stairs she turned the envelopes over and looked at them. She saw at a glance that the handwriting on one of the letters was that of an old friend from her school days. Mitsuko had ceased corresponding with this friend four years ago, but just twenty days ago she had written to say that she wanted to revive the friendship, and sent her letter off. Perhaps it was a reply to that. At the same time she had written to this friend, she had written to two or three other old friends as well, but she hadn’t had a line in response before this. Since it had been twenty days since she had written her letters, she felt some dissatisfaction at the lateness of the reply, but there was some happiness intermixed with that feeling.

The other letter bore a completely unfamiliar name, and in addition to that oddity, the sender had not written anything beyond his name, not even his address.

“Tsuji Issaku.”

Rattling the key in the door, Mitsuko went into their apartment, and stood there turning the letter over, examining the back, then the front, muttering all the while. Who could it be from? Of course, it was for her husband, but she knew most of Yamada’s friends. She thought of her husband’s friends, first this one, then that the other—though now all of his friends had disappeared—but she couldn’t think of anyone with that proper name. For some reason, this made her feel uneasy.

She turned her eye to the clock above the desk. It was almost time for her husband to come home. She would give the letter to him later; she threw it on the desk, took off her jacket, and in just her dress she went into the kitchen. She lit the gas jet, started the charcoal, and then began to zealously chop the daikon [3] she had bought.

She had no reason to think so, but she was convinced that man who wrote the letter had to be from that time in her husband’s life, and she couldn’t shake the feeling that his reappearance now was a threat to her comfort. Long before this, she had been nervous about her husband’s former friends, and she’d been nigh unable to bear the worry of the problems they could potentially cause.

After finishing her preparations, she spread a white cloth on the table and looked at the clock again. It was six o’clock; Yamada always came home around ten to six. She listened carefully and peaked into the hallway, but there was no echo from her husband’s shoes. She had a foreboding thought: He can’t be drinking again tonight, can he?

As it was six o’clock, she decided to begin eating alone, and got out the letter she had received earlier. She’d had some anticipation of what it might contain, but when she opened it and looked at the letter her hopes were dashed. Her friend had written on a single piece of stationery: I was very happy to receive a letter from you after so long. I apologise for the fact that my reply is so late. I am glad to know you are well. We are living quietly. The writing was neat and fluid. Mitsuko’s friend used decidedly business-like phrasing, and there was no hint of emotion, no word from the heart. Mitsuko felt as if her friend had turned her back on her. The good handwriting and the overall effect of the letter seemed smug, and Mitsuko felt as if she’d been knocked to the ground. She was filled with a sudden, paranoid suspicion that her friend had intended to reply carelessly and thus sabotage the acquaintance.

Ruminating with bitter feelings on her time of suffering, as they’d called it—the three years Yamada had been in prison and the period of unemployment he’d had after—Mitsuko told herself that the difficulties she faced then had made her paranoid. Yet, as she continued to reflect, she concluded that in this case, her hunch wasn’t a paranoid suspicion but rather an appropriate judgement.

In fact, at that time, everyone had kept both Yamada and Mitsuko at a respectable distance. In particular, after Yamada had been branded as a tenkō-sha, a leftist who recanted, and after his release from prison, they had hidden from those around them how much they truly suffered from extreme contempt and cold glares. Of course, her friends from her school days and her teachers had distanced themselves from her, but even her father, a village mayor in the provinces, had refused to allow her to enter their home. When she went to call on her aunt in Yotsuya, her aunt had simply spurned her as if she were something dirty. With this treatment on all sides, they soon fell into further difficulties and hunger. Yamada went out as a temporary labourer, and for every ten days he worked he had to take twenty days off to recover. She’d worked in a celluloid factory for 30 sen a day. For one New Year’s holiday, Yamada worked delivering the New Year’s greeting cards. Even now, she couldn’t forget her husband’s appearance, as he stood on the dirt floor, wearing a great coat with his legs wrapped in gaiters and the mailbag hanging at his elbow.

Yamada had started working for his present company six months ago, when they were in such dire straits that he had finally begged his uncle to hire him. Yamada’s uncle was an executive in a certain wireless cable company, and thus the relationship between uncle and nephew was almost that of bitter enemies. When Yamada was arrested, he had been leading a labour dispute against that very company. Mitsuko hardly understood how great the humiliation Yamada had to suffer, for that very reason, when he went to ask his uncle to give him a job. And in the end, she’d been the one who had made Yamada go to his uncle; she’d spent a night crying, pleading with him to do so.

While her husband was in prison, society in general informed Mitsuko’s ideas, and these ideas became mental support for her. However, as society was swept up in change, her ideas were swept along with it. Indeed, reflecting now, she had had absolutely no ideas. She had come to realise that she was motivated only by the flow of society and her love for her husband. But reflections such as these hardly mattered. Her first priority now was to improve their life, by even the smallest bit. No matter what happened, they could not lose the way of life they had now established, and for that reason Mitsuko endured indignities that would otherwise have been difficult to tolerate.

She’d learned to type after Yamada got a job, with the reasoning that if she had her own job, even if Yamada lost his again at least they wouldn’t starve. And if Yamada kept his job, they could save the money she earned. This was a foundation for security in the future, and if things worked out, they could even begin to entertain more pleasant desires like having children. She had recently begun to feel worry that she hadn’t gotten pregnant before this. Or it would be better to say that she had repressed the desire within her for children? There was no mistaking that for her, this way of life was overwhelmingly lonely. Given the fact that over the course of their married life they had not yet had children, perhaps even if they tried now it would not be possible for her to get pregnant. But how pleasant it was that her life had come to a point that she ask herself if she wanted children: that in and of itself a sign of a peaceful life and a luxury.

She had graduated from typing school in April and joined a partnership firm in Marunouchi managed by a German. It wasn’t quite two months since she’d joined the company, but she felt as though many years of struggle had ended when she had gotten the job. At the same time, she could never overcome the impression she had made on her first day of work there. Even now, there were still indignities and humiliations to be borne, as, in all truth, she had failed in her employment.

Of course, when she first came out of school, she was an amateur typist, and she had graduated together with two or three other women who had worked hard for the jobs, and they all had the same goals for their careers. Yet, without any ceremony, one day she’d been fired by the company. But, in the room when she was given this decision—it was a Japanese person who told her—she’d burst into tears so violent it surprised even herself. At that time, of course Yamada had a job, so she needn’t have worried so much if she didn’t get this job. But when she was told she had lost the job, the memories of jobs she’d lost in the past again flashed before her, and her vision darkened into blackness. The anguish was was no different from physical pain. Her chest tightened and her throat caught.

“Zat’s too bad, zat’s too bad,” she heard a German voice say in accented Japanese.

That was how she got the job. To put it baldly, it hadn’t been her skills, but because she had used tears to buy the sympathy of a foreigner. And that incident had shaped the way people at this company viewed her and how they treated her. On top of the way they treated her, there was a European-language typist who had charge of her. But she bore with anything, with any insult or humiliation. There were times when she went into the toilet and sobbed, but she had resigned herself to it, telling herself that it was better than the life they’d lived before. And beyond that, when her high heels echoed and as she hurried on and off the train, it gave her an energy as though she had been revived.

After reading her friend’s cold letter, she was annoyed that the friend apparently still thought she was in the same miserable circumstances as she had been in before. And then she remembered the words she herself had written, and she was angry that she had believed that she and her friend still shared the same feelings they’d had in their girls’ higher school.

She picked up the second letter and hesitated, but driven by her feelings of anger, she tore open the envelope without further thought.

I have not seen you for a long time. How are you? I am doing well. For the first time in quite some time, I am coming up to Tokyo and I would like to ask to meet with you. If it would not be inconvenient, on the XXth, between six and six-thirty, I will be waiting at X Station. It has been a very long time, so I am hopeful we can meet at that time.

Saving the rest for the pleasure of our meeting—


Compared to the earlier epistle, this one was frighteningly simple, but something bothered her. Looking at the line, I have not seen you for a long time—there was no mistaking that the writer and her husband had been quite friendly before. The characters were simple and thin like a woman’s, and each line was clearly printed. The writing was beautiful, but she was unfamiliar with the hand that wrote these characters. Reading it more carefully, she felt there was something suspicious about this letter. If you wanted to see someone, it was usual for you to call on them, and you didn’t summon them to meet you like this unless you were incredibly busy. Yet, the characters looked carefully written out, and there was no trace of any hurry. It was certainly written quite simply, but with care. Mitsuko felt a creepy sensation, and she couldn’t help but think that this letter was the kind of thing that would find any cracks in the life they were rebuilding and destroy it even as they had just started to stabilise it.

Even long past six, Yamada hadn’t come home, so Mitsuko started to eat dinner alone. She had been so hungry that her stomach had been growling, and so the food was delicious. She got angry again, however, when she thought about the fact that Yamada was likely going to come home dead drunk. If he went on in this way, he would be opening a precipice they might fall into, no matter how hard she worked to preserve their security. And recently, she had been feeling irritated with her husband. It wasn’t that she couldn’t understand her husband’s personal sufferings. But it was as if they were hemmed in on all sides by thick walls; they were a part of society and there was no way out. This should have been obvious to her husband, and she couldn’t understand why he wouldn’t stop being difficult.

The other day, when her husband came home falling-down drunk, she’d complained to him, and Yamada had suddenly said to her, “Do you know what it means to be truthful?”

“Truthful! I don’t know. I know it’s the truth that you’re drunk all the time. It’s the truth that you make your wife suffer terribly. I don’t need truth like that. I…”

“Our standard of living is the most important thing for you, that’s what you want to say, isn’t it? Humph, I know what you’re going to say. You can deceive yourself so you don’t feel any pain. Ah, the things that make you happy!”

“And you’re not lying to yourself? Do you feel happiness in destroying our lives? That might be your happiness, drinking liquor. But I can’t stand it.”

“You’re talking shit.”

“I’ll keep it up!”

“Shut up!”

Then Yamada twisted his face into pained expression, and an unpleasant smile flickered across his lips.

“Every word you say is true. I have nothing to say. I’ll bow down before you. But you have no right to force your notions of truth on me. Understand this, that kind of idea of truth is more foolish than true. But I’m done. I’m tired.”

And then he gave a great yawn, and he lowered the arms he’d raised to make his point onto her shoulders and gave her an empty but violent kiss. After which he fell into silence and didn’t say another word.

She thought of her husband in times past. When he was younger, his actions and his words had been energetic, and his lithe, supple body moved like a whip. His eyes were sharp and bright, symbolic of his fierce spirit and deep passion. But in her husband now there was no trace of these traits. His eyes were always dull and clouded, and every word he said dripped with sarcasm, so whenever she said anything, his replies were like ridicule. Before, her husband had at times given her butterflies and made her bashful, blushing like a virgin. But when she thought of her husband now, she had only feelings of impatience and anger, of dissatisfaction and disgust.

When the grandfather clock in the hallway struck midnight, Mitsuko could no longer bear to stay in bed. She had laid out a pair of flannel pajamas. At ten o’clock, when Yamada still hadn’t returned, she had gotten into bed alone despite feeling so full of rage that she felt sleep was impossible. Nevertheless, she closed her eyes and tried to will herself to sleep. Her anger faded into loneliness.

It was always this way. Whenever Yamada was late, she first felt anger so strong she wanted to tear at him with her teeth, but as the night deepened, and she was still alone, her anger turned into anxiety that ate away at her, and she felt forsaken by everyone. This was that desolate feeling she’d had during that time of unemployment, the feeling of a stray cat abandoned in an alley with nowhere to go. No doubt about it, that time had scorched parts of her heart black. Even when she lay in bed next to Yamada, it was not unusual for her suddenly to start upright in the middle of the night, and sit clutching the bedding and crying, oppressed by nightmares that took her back to that time. At such times, Yamada would comfort her with a gentleness that was surprising. This must have been because Yamada understood all of her thoughts, from beginning to end. Yet, at such times, Yamada never said a single word. He only expressed his feelings in his arms that caressed her. The instant before she threw herself into his arms however, she would notice his grim expression and she would hesitate as to whether or not falling into his arms would be a comfort.

Sitting at Yamada’s desk, she hid her face in her folded arms and began to weep like a young girl. The day had been fine, a sunny day in the middle of April, with the sun so bright as to be almost oppressive, but toward the evening the sky had begun to cloud over and at some point during the night it had begun to rain. With her arms crossed and her body bent down over the desk, Mitsuko continued to cry. As she did so, the fatigue from the day was swept away, and she began to feel pleasantly drowsy. She drifted in and out of sleep, finally falling into a dream.

She dreamed of her company. It was closing time. Clutching her bag in one hand, she got on the elevator. She heard confused, loud voices emanating from outside the elevator. It was a mix of German and French. She’d kept it a secret from Yamada, but she was studying French on her own, so she strained to pick up and understand some of what was being said. The elevator remained stopped, unmoving. Even with the elevator girl shifting the lever, the elevator didn’t move. At that moment, a gigantic German with a terrifying expression on his face burst in, and began to attack her. She shrank back and fear choked her breath. Her body writhed as she tried with all her might to scream, and she realised that at some point during the dream she had woken up. She remembered vaguely that she had come down with a German in the elevator on her way home from work that evening, but she felt as if she were still in a dream as she raised her head. A man stood before her, and without thinking she screamed and jumped back, ready to flee. Her face turned pale and her heart pounded in her chest.

“Oh, it’s you,” she said with a tremor in her voice, but it seemed to her that something was different about her husband. Yamada stood in the middle of the room with a dazed and abstracted expression on his face. His face was the colour of gray clay, and his hair was soaking wet; he looked as if he was insane.

“It’s me,” Yamada said in a shaky, low voice, but he made no move to sit down. Mitsuko had no idea what to say, and so she stared, dazed, at her husband’s face.

Yamada crumpled into a sitting position. Mitsuko could see that he was completely exhausted, his body as limp as a piece of cloth. At long last she stood up, lit  the fire in the hibachi brazier, and asked, “What’s wrong?” He didn’t smell of alcohol at all. If he hadn’t been drinking, where had he been all this time? She moved her gaze from her husband’s face and looked first at his hands and then at his knees. His clothes and his pants were wet, as if they were heavy with dew. Instead of rebuking him for being so late getting home, she began to feel pity for him. Likely because he was cold, Yamada’s body began to shiver..

“I’m tired,” he said in a weak voice.

“What on earth happened?” she asked with concern, taking Yamada’s hand. It was as cold as a corpse’s.

“I was walking,” Yamada said simply, as if his mind were elsewhere.

“You were walking?”




“Here and there.”

“What’s the matter? Something’s wrong with you.”

“I’m tired. Let me have a cup of tea.”

“But it’s so late.”

As she spoke, anger flashed across Yamada’s face and suddenly a sharp slap against her cheek broke the silence. Without thinking, she put her hand up to her face, but she didn’t say a word. She had never once seen his face so frightfully contorted with anger before, as Yamada stared wordlessly at Mitsuko. The flesh of her cheek stung with pain. For an instant their eyes met and the two of them stared in silence at each other. Within moments, however, his pained expression faded from his face, and without a sound he stood up, took off his clothes, and put on his pajamas. Silently he crawled into the futon.

As Mitsuko looked at the pile of clothes her husband has discarded, the anger she had suppressed bubbled back up. Grabbing one of the socks he’d thrown on the floor, she struck his face with all her might. But the sock tangled about her fingers, so it only fell softly on his head. This further angered her, and she began to throw things at random at her husband. But Yamada didn’t move at all. She began to cry and pull at his hair. At this, Yamada’s hands grasped hers.

“Stop it,” he said sharply.

“You, you made me wait so long… you hit me!”

“I know.”

“You hit me and you say ‘you know!’”

But Mitsuko got into the futon without doing more. It was pointless to rage in the middle of the room. Filled with anger, her body her body was tense and stiff, and she made herself as small as possible. With her back to Yamada, she kept quiet.

Yamada sighed deeply, then said, “Let me be quiet and sleep. I was wrong.” It was a meek voice. And then he didn’t move at all. Mitsuko remained stiff, but as she began to calm down, she began to soften and focus some of her attention on Yamada.

“Do you know what I was doing tonight?” Yamada suddenly asked.

“How could I know?” Her anger from earlier still hadn’t cooled, so her reply was curt.

“Don’t you want to know what I was doing?”

“I don’t want to know.”

“Really?” He thought for a moment, and then continued, “Lately you’ve gotten really good at shutting me up. But you haven’t once really hurt me. The only thing I can’t get over is your stupidity. What kind of strange beast is a woman? Your stupidity charms me.”

“Will you quit saying stupidity this, stupidity that?”

“Have you ever read a novel called Madame Bovary?”

“It’s so late. Stop it.”

“I have the day off tomorrow. Next Sunday is the company cherry-blossom viewing party.”

“Cherry blossom viewing?”

“Yeah. The electrical division’s cherry blossom viewing.”

“Taking a day off, going to cherry blossom viewing… On Sunday, I’m doing the laundry. I’m miserable all the time.”

“Well, but I’m not going to the cherry blossom viewing.”

“It’s so late! I have to go to work tomorrow. Please don’t stop me from getting some rest.”

“I won’t stop you, tonight I’m talking to myself. I’m talking till tomorrow. There are times when I think that you might be able to understand my feelings, but I don’t care about that anymore. But if I’m silent tonight I’ll go mad. Tonight, I killed a man.”

“A man?”

“Yeah. A guy, he was about forty-four or forty-five, he was completely dead. In the middle of a big street. His heart split, he had an internal hemorrhage and he died with blood dribbling out of his mouth. From what I could see under the streetlights, the blood was running over the asphalt. I stared at him out of the corner of my eyes, but then I made my way home. It’ll probably be in the papers tomorrow…”

“You killed him?”

“Yeah, I killed him.”

Mitsuko turned herself around to face her husband. Then, driven by some change of heart, she flung herself onto his chest.

“Hahahaha, don’t worry, I won’t get caught. Because the gods make a path for people to get around their mistakes…”

Then, without real rhyme or reason, Yamada began to talk about the events of the evening. When a momentous event occurs, everyone, no matter who they are, needs to get the memory of intense suffering and the events that caused it out of their heads. They will inevitably speak out. Yamada talked as if he were mad. At times, he held his tongue for a moment, filled with violent self-hatred as he thought to himself, what am I doing, talking about shit like this? But his mouth seemed to move on its own. In the end, whenever a feeling like this came over him, he took off the brakes and let himself talk, knowing that if he couldn’t’t stop himself. talking about every thought he had just as they occurred to him. And then, like two mirrors endlessly reflecting off each other into the very depths of his heart, when he had reached the innermost point, he’d quietly smile and mutter that his ship was already adrift.

He had finished work at the usual time today, and with nothing particularly out of the ordinary, he started on his way home, but he was oppressed by a feeling of gloom. He began to feel nauseous, and a wave of uneasiness came over him. He’d had stomach trouble for some time now, to the point where he sometimes threw up on the side of the road. He was uncomfortable and frustrated. Despite this, he tried to assume as natural a demeanour as possible, and he stifled his feelings and started to walk. He felt as if he were trying to cap gunpowder smoking within him. As his footsteps echoed along the river’s banks, a stench from the wafted up from the water. As soon as he crossed that bridge, his apartment was right there and he’d be home.

He walked out to the middle of the bridge and then stopped for a moment, looking down into the frothy, muddied surface of the river. He hated going home. His wife, whose mood had been cheerful since he’d started working, coupled with the working-class apartment made him so unhappy that he felt nauseous. In particular the thought of Mitsuko’s body gave him pains in his chest. Women, when they were beautiful, were incredibly alluring and awoke in men a desire to devour them, but once a woman began to look dirty, she would come to look so filthy it made men ill. He recalled his wife’s smallest flaws with unhappy, angry feelings. Today, he felt only contempt for the ignorance that had more often appeared to him as innocence, a kind of charm that was reflected in her artless ways of thinking, words, and actions.

He had made his wife bear the brunt of his unhappiness many times before. Although she was his wife, she depressed him, and he became irresolute, unable to act, like a maggot. Driven by these feelings, he had even made the resolution to separate from her. But he’d gone no further than resolving. In that moment, by feeling he had made a decision, he comforted himself. To him, this worthless kind of self-comforting made him continually despise himself, but there was no other escape available to him. Of course, he was aware that this was also not an escape, but it was his way of dealing with things, by essentially psychologically deceiving himself. After all, he was self-indulgent. He avoided a conscious acknowledgement of this. That is, rather than a conscious avoidance, it was an instinctive kind of self-defense. He engaged in an instinctive act of self-deception to try and defend himself from an overbearing enemy standing before him in the form of society. Of course, he was aware that this was self-defense, but his instinct was to avoid a conscious acknowledgement of this. When he reached that point, the scalpel of his self-analysis dulled, and he didn’t try to write the results of his analysis on the blackboard of his consciousness. The feeling that came upon him at this point might be called hapless self-mocking, or capricious gesturing. Yet, this gesturing might be still be serious.

 For a while, he stared at the surface of the water, but at last he dragged himself way, his steps slow and indecisive. He got the idea of going somewhere to have a drink, and after crossing the bridge he headed for the main avenue in front of the train station in the direction opposite his apartment. Coming out in front of the station, and from there turning down a backstreet, he walked onto a street that was a confusion of bars, cafes, and tea houses crowded together. Having come this far, however, drinking suddenly became distasteful to him. He put his hands to his forehead for a moment as he doubted what he should do. As he ruminated on the unpleasant events at work that day, he realised that he felt rotten because he was bothered by those events. That one small thing, that single event was enough to make him this upset, and this made him angry.

It had happened at lunch. His department members had been talking about going cherry blossom viewing. At that moment, he had just finished the work on a rectifier that he had been busy with for some time. Since he had finished eating, he went to stand next to it. As it was his own work, and he was enjoying the pleasure of looking over his first rectifier he had completed in some time. Since he had not a single friend there to pleasantly chat with about it, he simply stood by in an absentminded way, thinking when the time was right, he would test it. Even at work, he was lonely. Everyone knew his past, and personnel had gone so far as to send around a caution, so that everyone kept him at a distance. He thought he would put his whole being into his work itself. But there, too, he could not lose himself; he had the feeling that he was followed by a persistent stench. Every day, he felt something around him that could not be seen; he felt emptiness as if he had lost something that had been important to him. There was a gap between his workmates and himself, a void hole, and the currents, electrical wires, and metals used in his job could not give it life. If he could lose himself, he would have been able to feel the breath pulsing in the tremors of the ampere meter needle’s fine movements, from both the metal and the currents.

As he stood, shouts rang up around him, and Yamada heard the swell of female workers clapping their hands and loudly talking. When they quieted down, he was called over, and the manager asked him if he’d like to go cherry blossom viewing. He answered with an acceptance, and had barely begun to ask, “Where…,” when a murmur arose from among the women, as if they were surprised by something.

“Even the leftist militant…”, he caught these muttered words at the end of the exchange. He turned around without thinking, and saw Sayama from the circuit department mixing with the women, laughing with a smirk. For a moment, the room fell silent.

Then the section chief solemnly spoke up, “Sayama, do the accounts the day of the cherry blossom party.” At this, everyone burst into laughter.

And so, the matter was settled, but Yamada’s feelings remained perturbed. He knew that even now Sayama made insinuations about him and whispered things to the factory girls. In any group, one person always uses gossip and tries to curry favour with others; a person who has an almost pathologically cunning talent of looking out for his own best interests, and Sayama was certainly that type of person. Of course, up to this point Yamada had remained silent, but at that time he couldn’t help but take notice. It was because not only did Sayama insult the weak points of his rivals, but that he treated them with contempt. Yamada suppressed his internal pain and suffering with one great effort: He deserved it! For Yamada, the most frustrating part was that he had to admit that such contemptuous treatment was not misplaced. No—but whether or not it was appropriate, he still had to overlook such contemptuous treatment. If he engaged, he only looked more and more foolish. No matter how angry he got, there was no other way he could deal with it other than with retreat into silence. Day after day, he worked under melancholy, unhappy feelings. Needless to say, he should have despised Sayama as an individual, but his words echoed with something he could not completely treat with disdain.

“Somebody told you you were stupid, and you had to agree with what they said. Heh heh heh.”

As he trudged along, he repeated those words to himself and a smile twisted his lips.

Dusk was falling over the city.

From the shops in front of the station, store girls and proprietresses flooded into the streets, fluttering their aprons. The people walking in the street moved like chips of wood caught up in a whirlpool, sucked into the train station. The trains came rushing in with a roar, and when they stopped people spilled out of them like froth capping the waves. He felt the city, with swarms of people everywhere, was terribly repugnant. He felt the weight of the city air heavy, weighing down both his shoulders. He imagined a world somewhere without humans, but filled with monkeys, dogs, wolves, bears, and foxes, and all kinds of animals like those. Of course, in that world there was verdant foliage, and clear water flowing. He was conscious of this as a juvenile fantasy, but adults sometimes recalled the days of their youth and relishing, revived, in those moments of feeling the same as they had in those younger days. And as he reflected on this, a face flashed before his eyes. He stopped suddenly and wondered, who was that? When he realised it was Ōbayashi Kiyosaku, for some reason this amused him, and he burst into laughter as he stood still in the middle of the bustle of the street. When he had been an elementary school student in the countryside, he’d once hit Ōbayashi Kiyosaku on the head with a hammer. The spot had begun to swell, and Ōbayashi had begun to cry, clutching his head as he rolled on the floor of the woodshop room. He hadn’t thought to make Ōbayashi cry when he hit him, he’d just thought to get his attention with a bump from the hammer rather than calling him. It was the kind of thing they did in woodshop. Ōbayashi Kiyosaku was now a farmer with three children.

Chortling to himself and thinking, I wonder how he is, he was a smart guy, Yamada began walking again, but a feeling of confusion hung over him. He had no idea where he was going. The thought of going into the countryside to see his rural hometown suddenly occurred to him. If he got on the train tonight, he would arrive in Osaka the next morning, and tomorrow evening he would arrive in Shikoku. As if he was surprised into action, his hand rose of its own volition, and he hailed a taxi.

“Tokyo Station,” he said. Mitsuko’s face floated before him, and he was conscious of the fact that this capriciousness was in the end exaggerated gestures of foolishness, but he still urged himself on: Indulge in this foolishness, indulge.

When he got to Tokyo Station, he merely wandered within its large passages. There were crowds of people here as well. He entered the second-class waiting room. Young women and fat, sour-faced old gentlemen lined up in uncomfortable postures. He sat down and lit a cigarette. But he immediately stood back up and went into the third-class waiting room. It was terribly dim and dirty there. A Korean woman [4], dressed in ill-fitted white clothes that billowed around her body, giving her the appearance of a wearing a paper bag, was standing with a malnourished child. The child was wearing a Japanese kimono, and she kept looking around at all the people as if she were afraid of something. In the eyes of this child, would all these people look like enemies? Or would they look like friends? Mulling this over, he stared fixedly at the child for a moment. The mother pulled the child’s hand and whispered something in Korean. In her other hand was a second child. Was the father in the bathroom? Shopping? He was probably around somewhere.

Yamada suddenly thought of Osaka Station. Whenever he had been there, it was infested with Koreans. He recalled, in quick succession, things like Korean women with packages piled in their arms, women with no place to sit, squatting on the ground, and children sucking on candy or a treat, with faces like paper and clothes like bags. Yellow gypsies—he mumbled as he went out of the waiting room, and walked toward the ticket counter.

Yet, a chill ran through him, and he felt that he himself had become a gypsy. I wonder if people with a psychology like mine are called gypsies, a man who is not out of place but rather fits into both the second- and third-class waiting room? But I’ll get in line here. I wonder if I really want to go all the way to Shikoku. If I go to Shikoku, what’s there for me? Isn’t this just absurdity? —But he had come up to the line for the ticket vendor. He heard the jingle of coins being counted and looking over at the window he heard a young woman carrying a spring coat over one arm request a ticket to Tadotsu. Five or six people crowded around waiting for their turns. Yamada stood at the end of the line. But he still didn’t feel like buying a ticket. At last, his turn came. He reluctantly took out his coin purse, as if he were being made to buy something that came at a great price. But then he thought of his father in the countryside, moody and silent with his pipe clenched between his teeth. His feeling shifted and he abruptly closed his purse and returned it to his pocket without buying a ticket. He was swept out of the station, as if unconscious of what he was doing, when he was struck with a desire to go to Ginza, so he began moving in the direction of Yurakucho.

But again, before he had gone too far, this also became distasteful to him, and he then turned and started to walk toward Hibiya Park. The sun had completely set, and he heard the noises from the elevated train lines and the streetcar lines, echoing around him as if they were evil spirits. He moved his feet at a sluggish pace, feeling like he was walking around in a cellar, but he could not bear to stand still. He looked up at the sky. It was painted completely black, and although he looked for a star, there was neither a star nor the moon, nor a single twinkle of light. It was an eerie night, heavy in its bottomless depths. He could see advertisements like fireworks sporadically lighting up the darkness. He suddenly yawned, his mouth gaping. Exhaustion had gradually begun to numb his body. This was a yawn of great emptiness and sadness.

There were no longer many pedestrians. When he came to the corner of the Marunouchi Street, he gazed at the Marunouchi Building as if he were looking into the depths of a deep valley, but he simply yawned again. In front of the Marunouchi Building, the car lights wove into each other, and he wondered whether their entwined beams would be similar to the spectacle of dozens of electric eels swimming about on the ocean floor.

He stood frozen, mumbling to himself: What is wrong with me? My feelings are odd; what the hell am I doing? And what the hell am I thinking? Why is my mind so funny today? There’s absolutely no point, walking like this now; it’s like I’m only walking to exhaust my body—. Yet although he spoke to himself under his breath, he wasn’t listening to his own words at all.

At that moment, as a car slowed beside him: Mister, where to? Upon which, he promptly replied, as if he were a man with business, “Ojima.”

He was surprised at the strength of the voice which had burst forth. The word had been spoken with violence. Ojima? Why? He started to question himself as the car began to move, but interrogating his own feelings was too troublesome. The car ran between streams of light like an arrow. Human thought was powerless before such movement.

Crossing the expansive river in the night, the car gradually began navigating between increasingly cramped rows of houses. A putrid odour assailed his nose. As they made their way down the streets of the slums, however, his feelings became calmer. Rather, he felt something that was not quite completely expressed in the word, calm. It was a calm beyond caring, as if he had violently thrust his very self away.

He got rid of the taxi behind a large ironworks factory.

From out of nowhere, the smell of something rotting wafted over him. Again directionless, he began walking from one narrow alley to the next. He crossed several bridges, walking in circles around the machine work factories and glassworks factories. He repeatedly asked himself why he was walking, but for some reason he was driven to continue. At some point he entered the Kameido area, and crossing the street car lines, he headed towards Azuma-cho. Houses were crowded all around him in tight rows. He recalled a time in his life, several years ago. Back then, he had visited these alleys many times. And with what feelings of excitement! His entire body had been ablaze, and the earth under his feet was firm. But how was it now—was it not as if the earth beneath his feet had crumbled away? In fact, in previous times this area had been the scene of his most memorable activities. He felt miserable, utterly defeated, and yet at the same time he also felt some of the passion from that time bubbling up in his body again. And he felt that he had rediscovered a part of himself that had been missing for too long, a part of who he was.

He walked along the top of the river embankment. There were two or three boats dotting the river, loaded with coal and shaking precariously as though they would sink. The breeze came in, heavy with a foul odour, and the surface of the water reflected the twinkle of lights far in the distance. The darkness around him was almost complete. He recalled events from his former life, one after another. It was as if he were watching the previews at the cinema; the figures of his old comrades flickered in rotation before him in one scene after another. The man whose whereabouts were as yet unknown, the man who was still in prison to this day, the man who was arrested at Oshiage Station, and again the woman who had been as reckless as a man. One after the other, they vividly paraded before him. He sat down on the bricks on the bank, watching the images unfold. He felt intense loneliness. What were his comrades doing now? Everyone had scattered, and he had lost track of the direction of life. But then, what about me? What about Mitsuko? If only he could cry like a young boy—he wanted to give in and bitterly sob. While sitting quietly against the pile of bricks, he ruminated on the suffering that came with being human in these times.

At that moment, the film that he had been watching in his mind abruptly came to a complete stop. He thought of a boy with cheeks like a apples from twenty years before. Tsuji Issaku, he had called himself, but his real name was Ōbayashi Issaku, Kiyosaku’s younger brother. He thought it odd that until this moment he had forgotten about this boy. This young man who had taught himself such intense things; I wonder how he is now? He would be around twenty-four or five now. He suddenly thought of a dark word, fate—and he felt anxiety, a foreboding of something dreadful that would attach itself to him. He hadn’t completely forgotten about this man. He just couldn’t bear to remember him.

He stood up suddenly and set off again at a frenzied pace. After he had covered a dozen metres, however, just as before his feet slowed and his step grew weary. Oh, what kind of fool have I become, he muttered. The thoughts he had entertained, like wanting to cry like a youth, made him want to spit on himself. Hmm, but what had happened to Tsuji Issaku? He began to talk to himself again. No matter what had happened toTsuji Issaku, I am me. He left the side of the black river and headed towards Gono Bridge Street. He managed to catch a passing taxi, and suddenly shouted the name of the red-light district where the prostitutes worked.

People were crowded shoulder-to-shoulder, toe to toe, in a narrow, tunneling alley, from one end of the street to the other. At the entrance of this street, he again got out of his cab, and slipped into the crowds, as if becoming a single leaf on a tree. He wove in between the people, peeking into the zoo-like cages while troubled by an idea that this was cruel. But he wasn’t satisfied even with this. His desire to •••••••••••••••••••••• had completely vanished.[5] He fell into a sullen silence, and while looking sideways into houses that glimmered with light, he walked on, turning mechanically at any number of corners. The voices of women[6] calling out made a terrible racket. He was simply swept up in the movement of the crowd, moving as those around him moved.

In one alleyway, someone suddenly grabbed the hem of his coat, and he was yanked backwards. Without thinking, he went in the direction he’d been pulled and was drawn under the eaves. At that moment, a woman’s arm reached out from a form half-hanging out of a Japanese-style zashiki room and yanked his hat off his head.

“Please c’mon up, hey, c’mon?” the woman said, her body writhing. He looked up with a melancholy face, and in a languid voice said simply, “Gimme my hat.”

“But, really, please come up. I’m free tonight. Hey, c’mon, please… please.”

Yamada was no longer interested in getting his hat back. It was too much trouble. He suddenly turned on heel and was reabsorbed into the crowd. He left his hat dangling in the woman’s hand. He headed for the train lines. He was tired of walking, of moving. He was physically exhausted, and the tendons in both legs felt pulled as taut as wires. He wanted to sit down on the ground right where he stood. But he couldn’t sit down. He couldn’t do anything but continue to walk along at a sluggish pace. In addition, he noticed that for some time now he had been completely famished. Despite this, he didn’t feel the shlightest desire to eat. Or rather, he had completely forgotten about eating. He felt as though his head, his brains, had completely dried up.

He looked up at the sky. Raindrops fell on his cheeks. The sky was of course pitch-black, but apparently it had begun to rain some time ago. It was just enough for him to feel the drops on his cheeks and the sinews of his neck.

“It’s raining, huh” he murmured. Then, he again hailed a taxi, and said, “To Yokohama.” He looked at his watch in the car; it was long past ten o’clock. He had thought it was still eight or nine o’clock. What was he going to do, going to Yokohama? It hardly mattered. He wanted to rest his body.

The rain soon began to come down harder. It poured down the windows of the car in torrents. He closed his eyes and leaned back, gazing out the window as if he had just awakened from a nap. The car swayed as it traced the sharp curves in the road. His mind was empty of thoughts. He couldn’t remember what happened earlier in the day, he couldn’t think of what lay before him. It was as if a large dose of sleeping medicine had begun to take effect; his nerves were dulled and a pleasant feeling of intoxication enveloped his entire body. He yawned again, gaping. But his face as reflected in the rear view mirror was bloodless. His hair was disheveled, and he was horrified to think that he was looking at a dead man, not thinking about the fact it was his own face. He was void of emotion, like a fool.

Eventually the car passed Kawasaki and continued to speed headlong along the highway. The houses lining both sides of the street, occupants deep in slumber, became fewer in number, and only the street lamps continued to appear at regular intervals. Giving himself over to the pleasant rocking of the vehicle, Yamada nodded off as he listened to the hum of the car over the asphalt. The driver’s posture was rigid, moving the steering wheel from left to right as he stared straight ahead into the round beams of light. The car seemed to be gliding over the pavement, and inside Yamada gradually nodded off into a dream, abstractedly thinking to himself that it would be nice if the car could keep going like this until the next morning. But when they were passing through Tsurumi, the car suddenly lurched, jerking for about four of five metres before it came to a halt. The driver’s face paled and he turned around and said under his breath, “I’ve done it now,” as he opened the door and jumped out.

“Done what?” Yamada lazily opened his eyes but the driver was already gone. He heard the downpouring of the rain, and peering out into the darkness he saw the street lamps reflecting white light off the drenched streets. There was no trace of anyone around them; there was only the rain beating relentlessly down on the concrete road. As he looked out, Yamada wondered what was wrong, but he couldn’t be bothered to look or think further than that.

“It looks like I’ve really done it. I’m sorry, but I’m going to have to ask you to please change to a different taxi.” Presently the driver returned, and in an excited voice he spoke hastily to Yamada before disappearing again into the rain. For the first time, Yamada realised the driver had hit and killed a person. However, he felt no emotion, and he was annoyed at being made to get out of the car at a place like this. He closed both his eyes again and tried to slip back into his previous dreams, settling back into the cushions. He killed somebody, what did that mean? He felt it to be somehow absurd. But at that point, he heard the confused sound of two or three loud voices shouting and the sound of leather shoes echoing across the pavement. He lumbered to his feet, and got out of the car, heedless of the rain. His hat had been taken by that woman, so his hair was quickly drenched with rain, and the water ran down the sinews of his neck.

Twenty or so metres behind the car, three or four people had gathered, all shouting in loud voices. Dimly lit in by the streetlamps, a black mass lay on the road, and next to it was a cart smashed to pieces. Yamada wandered over to it and looked. Surrounded by the crowd, the corpse lay on his back, his kimono and everything around him soaked. His head was twisted and lay bent to one side, with his cheek pressed against the asphalt, and a slow stream of blood trickling from his mouth. Although the rain coming down should have washed it away, strangely enough the blood appeared distinctly visible to Yamada. A policeman was trying to lift him up, but for some reason lowered him again. The crowd had not yet noticed Yamada. Yamada stood gazing absent-mindedly at the corpse for two or three minutes, and then as if he were being swept along by the wind, he began to trudge along in the direction of Kawasaki. He didn’t feel like thinking about anything—not being drenched in the rain, not his exhaustion, not the fact it was close to the middle of the night, not what would happen if he walked on.

When the mind is suffering, the scenes external to you are reflected in your eyes with a strange clarity . He walked on, despite the fact he still felt as if he could collapse onto the ground. The corpse he had just seen, like a nightmare, remained vivid before him, not fading behind his eyelids. In actuality, it was not the intense, sad event of death that was reflected before him, nor was it fear of the torpid flow of blood, nor yet was it the shock of the misery of the life he had seen ended with his own eyes. It was rather like a single photograph, only with vivid outlines coupled with colours and movements. He turned his face upward. He saw the red lamp of a police substation, and without knowing why he felt like he had been stabbed in the chest.

He walked unsteadily for another two or three streets. He stared off into the distance of the dark city streets, wondering if an empty cab would come along.

Yamada spent several minutes, restless, swaying with the movements of the train. He felt a strong aversion in going out like this, but he has a strong feeling that despite his repugnance, he had to see him. He wondered what that man had been doing since they had known each other, and he felt something that was not quite fear nor yet curiosity. He recalled the times long past, and the blank space of several years between the two of them, Tsuji Issaku and Yamada, what lay between them seemed like a dark valley. How had that young man spent the past several years, how had he been living? It was as if a dark precipice had opened before his eyes, a rending of what could be called life, or fate.

Yamada first met Tsuji when he had just graduated from higher technical school. Tsuji Issaku carried a single shabby hamper as luggage, and came from faraway Shikoku with a written request from his older brother Kiyosaku asking the care of his brother as a favour of Yamada. At that time, Yamada had been hit by the surging waves of socialist thought, and the fires of socialist ideals had just begun to burn inside him, and he inevitably found an outlet in this boy. He had loved this boy, who had something in him that made his eyes shine, somewhat arrogant, who had the determination of a small locomotive. He became Yamada’s first pupil. When Yamada came home from work every day, he lectured on the materialistic interpretations of history and the political doctrine of the proletariat. At that time, Tsuji was sixteen. Thinking back so many years later on Tsuji and himself at this time, he felt it strange that such a small child would be so caught up and became so passionate, but at that time there was something tenacious inside Tsuji that could withstand his influence. Without mistake, the boy had the seeds of intelligence.

The time Yamada spent living with Tsuji was short, not much more than a year, but to a youth with a brain like a blank slate, it was by no means a short time. Then one day, the boy suddenly expressed his determination, telling Yamada, “I’m going back to the countryside.”

Thus, the youthful daydreams and hopes of Tsuji manifested themselves in the completely different shape of the agrarian movement, and the two parted. It was as if Tsuji came to Tokyo merely to ignite the fire of socialist thought in Yamada. Yamada knew little about Tsuji’s subsequent activities. Of course, for the first year or two they exchanged letters, and Tsuji received documents he needed through Yamada, but after that, the correspondence between them abruptly ceased. In the interval Yamada married Mitsuko, was arrested, and was imprisoned.

Yamada sometimes thought of Tsuji during his dark, gloomy prison life, and he sometimes was overwhelmed by the uneasy premonition that Tsuji was spending his days in a place not unlike himself. And as he worked silently carrying out his manual labour, he would suddenly wonder how old Tsuji was that year, and he would count up on his fingers. Remembering him like a brother or a nephew, he felt nostalgia. And as a matter of fact, he had had a visit from Tsuji. It was after his first year in prison ended, in the fall of the second year.

Yamada shut his eyes on the train, and recalled the circumstances of that visit. It had been a strange and startling moment.

Above all, Yamada had been surprised by Tsuji’s changed appearance. He wore a serge, as if it were autumn, but it was bleached yellow from the sun, and it made him look small and very seedy; it was enough to make Yamada feel pity. The formerly red cheeks had disappeared, his hair was disheveled, and he was so pale and thin that Yamada suddenly wondered if he had tuberculosis. Despite the fact he was only twenty, Yamada was aghast to notice that his forehead was creased with two or three deep, horizontal wrinkles. Tsuji sat facing Yamada in gloomy silence, not opening his mouth.

“What’s wrong?” Yamada couldn’t help asking.

“Yeah…,” Tsuji answered, sounding as if he were angry.

“Have you been all right?”

“Yeah. How about you?”[7]

Yamada had never been spoken to so informally by Tsuji before, and he stared, his mouth open in surprise. Tsuji went completely silent, and it seemed as if he was mulling over something.

“Ah, I’m fine as you can see. But what’s wrong with you? You seem a little strange? How are things outside these days?”


And with melancholy in his gaze, Tsuji cast his eyes around at the surroundings, then suddenly looked into Yamada’s face and tried to smile, but his lips were still tightly pressed together. There’s something wrong, Yamada said to himself; Tsuji was in such a state you couldn’t tell who had come to visit who. He began to feel annoyed. The long silence continued, with the two opposite each other and both gazing into the other’s face, with their feet gently drumming the floor. Tsuji couldn’t settle down anywhere. He constantly glanced around, and when his eyes met Yamada’s he withdrew his gaze in surprise. Then Tsuji suddenly stood up, turned his back to Yamada he began to walk away.

“Hey, are you leaving?”

Tsuji stopped, his back still turned to Yamada.

“Ah…,” he said as he turned around, and coming up close to Yamada’s ear, he

said in a whisper, “I’m sick. I caught a dreadful illness.”


 For a moment, Tsuji closed his eyes as if in doubt and the blood suddenly rushed to his face.

In one restless breath he said: “It’s leprosy,” and opened the door and went out. Yamada felt as if someone had struck him hard in the head. For a moment he thought to call Tsuji back, but his voice stuck in his throat.

Time passed, and it had already been four years since then. He couldn’t picture Tsuji’s face in his mind. He felt some kind of vague fear, an anxiety, a feeling of oppression.

Going through the ticket gate at the appointed train station, Yamada glanced at the area around him. Wondering if he was early, he looked at the clock while he felt an odd excitement. He didn’t see anyone resembling Tsuji, and while he felt a little impatient, he couldn’t help feeling in the depths of his heart that it would be better like this, if Tsuji didn’t appear.

“How are you? I apologise for my long silence, and asking you to come here…”

Yamada suddenly heard a voice off to his side. However, Yamada didn’t realise he was being addressed, so he did not look in that direction, and still looked around in front of him.
“Um, it’s me, Tsuji.”

Yamada turned around, surprised.

“Ah, no, I’m Yamada,” he answered, and then became embarrassed.

“Your health, after we last met; how is your health? I was worried about you, but I didn’t know where you were, so I couldn’t do anything. Ah, I’m well.”

Yamada had not imagined a meeting like this. He was all the more confused, because Yamada had thought over this scene: no matter how much Tsuji had changed in illness, he would greet him frankly, patting him on the shoulder, asking, Hey, how have you been since then? But he hadn’t been thinking at all of the style of speech he would use, and so he felt surprised at his own words, and had spoken politely rather than familiarly.

They walked beside each other out of the station, and Yamada couldn’t help but look at Tsuji’s face, arms, and legs. Tsuji was conscious of this attention on himself, and he hastily looked away to avoid noticing Yamada’s gaze. However, in his heart, Yamada felt slightly relieved. Just as the time they had met in prison, Tsuji had a slight physique, with shaggy hair sticking out from under his trilby hat. From under the hair peeped a thin, bony face. It looked as though he had gotten much thinner since the last time they met, but he looked healthy. He was wearing a mouse-coloured suit and an overcoat.

“What are you doing now, huh?” Yamada asked as they turned into a narrow alley lined with tea shops. He wanted to return to their former intimacy as far as it was possible, and so the words he used were also casual.

“Yeah, I’m in a sanatorium.”

“Is your health good?”

“Well, lately, I’m doing okay…”

“Are you free to come out at any time?”

“No, not exactly free, not at any time. Once a year or so…”

Tsuji answered reluctantly, in a small, melancholy voice, and it seemed as if he would sink into silence again afterwards. Yamada felt strangely afraid of this silence, and he searched for something to say, but he couldn’t hit upon anything that would be appropriate to talk about in this situation. The years the exchange between them had been cut off, as if there were a deep gulf between the two of them. More than this, he had the idea that Tsuji was probably scarred by suffering from his illness, so Yamada was at a loss for words.

“Tokyo hasn’t changed at all,” Tsuji suddenly said, as he moved his head and looked around.

“Yeah, once they build it, you can’t really make changes. But, how long have you been there?”

“Three years. Almost four years now.”

“Well done, finding my address. We’ve really moved around, here and there.”

“I asked my older brother.”

“Oh, really? Your brother’s doing well?”


“Is the hospital large?”

“About five hundred people there.”

“Can you have visitors?”

“Yeah, we can. That’s allowed.”

“Is it all right if I come out to visit you?”

“Yeah. Come visit. It’s a place where there is nothing but leprosy.”

Yamada was momentarily lost for words. He was surprised that in an ordinary, everyday tone, without distress, Tsuji had named his illness, leprosy. He’s changed, Yamada strongly felt,, as he looked at Tsuji’s profile. Then, he recognised a nervous tension within himself, and he began to feel intense curiosity. What kind of ideas and beliefs did this man have now? Were they the same as before, or had he discovered a completely different path?

“But you don’t look sick at all. Can’t you be discharged from the hospital?”

“Discharge? I could if I wanted to, but even if I do… •••••• it’s pointless.”

“But your illness is probably a mild case?”

Yamada suddenly wondered if it was all right to ask things like this, but it had already come out of his mouth, and so he waited to see what kind of reply Tsuji would make. Tsuji didn’t answer at all. Then a faint smile appeared across his cheeks, and he remained silent. Yamada felt uneasy, and wondered if, even though nothing could be seen in Tsuji’s external appearance, his insides were already suffering from serious illness.

“The disease is the same, whether mild or serious.” Tsuji said simply, after a long silence. The word “incurable” struck in Yamada’s heart. With a feeling of oppression in his chest, Yamada didn’t have anything to say.

“But they’re probably treating you, aren’t they?” Yamada diffidently asked.

“They are, but…,” Tsuji trailed off, and again smiled faintly.

The two of them went into the tea house. Crowds of people were standing, mulling about, and a record spun on the player. It didn’t seem like a place where they could have a comfortable talk, and Yamada considered whether or not there was a better place. Tsuji sat down and looked around him, seemingly unable to relax. He cast his eyes around the room and then closed his eyes for a moment as he appeared to be listening to the music. But as he did so, Yamada felt there was something pitiful; in each of Tsuji’s small expressions he felt an unnatural stiffness. It wasn’t like someone from the countryside, but rather Yamada felt as if someone who had not appeared in public for a very long time was suddenly brought out in the open. Yamada could see that Tsuji’s expression revealed he was conscious of the fact he was unable to keep calm, and he was trying to force himself to be calm.

When the tea and the snacks came, as Yamada put sugar in Tsuji’s teacup, he asked, “Are you hungry?”

“No, I’m full.”

“Shall we go somewhere quieter?”

“Yes, I think so. But…,” Tsuji said, and looked at his watch before continuing, “Are you OK? Isn’t your wife waiting for you? I’m happy just to have met you for a bit.”

“There’s no problem like that. Hasn’t it been a long time? If you have the time, I’m all right.”

“Yeah, I’m fine but…,” Tsuji said as he moved his fork. It struck the plate, sending up a clatter, and Tsuji dropped it. He gave a faint cry of surprise, and his face turned red. Although he quickly started to pick it up, he suddenly withdrew his hand. He looked panicked to the point it was comical, so Yamada said in a whisper to Tsuji, “Don’t worry about it, let me take care of it.” He called the waitress. Yamada felt that people’s eyes were briefly upon them, so he smiled as if nothing were wrong and tried to distract from the situation by saying, “When you come out from now on, come see me, OK?”

“Yes, I’ll come. I’ll come. But, I… um… ah. I’ll come out next year too. I make it a point to try and get out once every year. But that would be unpleasant for you.”

“Not at all. You don’t need to worry about that.”

“Well. People on the outside don’t know enough about the illness, so, if it was that easy, I wouldn’t come out. No, I would come out. I’d come out. Society isn’t so grand that it can demand sacrifices from us. Society is even more idiotic than we are. But, no…”

And then Tsuji’s face, which had been lit up with passion, flushed and he suddenly shut his mouth and with his upper body straightened and rigid, he stared off in one direction before suddenly glancing over everyone around them with glittering eyes. In those eyes burned a sharp, defiant flame that had been absent before. Yamada watched the expression of Tsuji with deep interest, and as he did so he felt something that could not be articulated rising like a gruesome odour. He felt that in Tsuji’s eyes, and in his defiant, abrupt words was his oppression from his long-enduring suffering, humiliation, and unbearable fate.

When the two left the tea shop, they walked for a while through streets that were darkening before going up to a small, second-floor soba restaurant.

“How long are you in Tokyo?” Yamada asked when the sake was served, as he picked up the bottle.

“I’ve been here for about two weeks, but I go back in just three days.”

“I guess they set the days?”


“Is the hospital a terrible place?”

“Well,” Tsuji said, and then, as if his mind were elsewhere, he added to himself, “I can’t explain it. Anyway, it’s beyond human concepts held by normal people.”

“No, not in that way, I meant in a kind of political way; how should I phrase it? In your life in the hospital, the relationship of the hospital directors and the patients, things like that…”

“It’s peaceful.”

“Peaceful, huh? But sometimes problems occur; they’re reported in the newspapers, aren’t they?”[8]

At this, Tsuji laughed aloud as if he’d been amused, and took a gulp of sake.

“We’re bored, those kinds of problems happen,” he said simply, his head down and muttering as if he were talking to himself.

“People in society think of the hospitals as if they are horrible, as if it’s not a place where humans live. It’s a lie, that idea. Compared to society, the hospital is much better. At least, humans live with a human spirit there. What is society, on the other hand, but lies, deception, and ugliness? The hospital can also be foolish and ugly. But it’s still much better than society. When we meet people from society, they are always full of curiosity, their eyes bright as they want to ask us questions. What do they want to ask about the hospital for? Maybe it’s the same psychology as looking at something frightening. They anticipate that the hospital is terrible and want to know if it’s true, or rather, they want it to be true. What folly! If you want to see something truly horrifying, society should take a hard look at itself. At the very least, society should be ashamed of the leprosarium.”

“No, I didn’t mean it in that way.”

“Yeah, yeah, I understand what you mean.”

“What can I say…”

But Tsuji broke in as if subdue Yamada.

“The five hundred patients in my hospital, with what kind of shame, and in what humiliation do they live? It’s terrible shame, a humiliation! And yet they endure. When folks face leprosy silently, with their heads bowed, that is taken as evidence that the man is a fool. It’s a horrible humiliation. The humiliation of a prostitute is nothing to it! And even now, that humiliation continues. Probably until death, until death, really think about these words, until we die, we suffer that humiliation. But what I’m saying doesn’t get through to you. If you lived for three days among leprosy patients you might see; you’d probably understand what a frightening and chilling world it is. And they are enduring in silence! Humans living on the internal power of the human body itself, living off the dredges of the depths of human power. For humans, there is no other condition more pure, more beautiful than this! Lepers do this this unconsciously.”

While Yamada listened to Tsuji’s words, he felt something was off, as if something did not quite align. Even though Tsuji’s eyes lit with emotion and he spoke about these things with such fervour, Yamada felt his excitement was self-indulgent and had nothing to do with him. For Yamada, whether a leper’s soul was beautiful or ugly did not matter. For him, he only looked forward to guessing from his words what Tsuji was interested in and how his thoughts had transformed compared to what they had been before. This man has become a complete humanist, he thought, and he felt like laughing. But then, as he thought over his own feelings from earlier, he realised that he felt out of place sitting in front of this leper Tsuji Issaku, and he began to wonder what was the point.

Tsuji looked as if the sake had gone to his head; his eyes were bloodshot and he stared at Yamada with excitement in his eyes as he suddenly raised the cup to his lips again.

“Isn’t this getting late for you?” Yamada asked. Yamada was also fairly drunk.

“I’m fine.”

“But you’ve really changed,” Yamada said as he stared fixedly at Tsuji.

“Changed? Yeah, I’ve changed, I’ve changed. Maybe I’ve completely changed. But there are parts of me that haven’t changed.”

“Ah, that’s what I thought, it must be from that time. You were sixteen, right? There are parts of you that haven’t changed a bit from what you were then. What you were then, you still are, but your ideas…”

“My ideas. Ah, those have changed. I’ve rejected socialism.” Tsuji asserted bluntly, and quickly looked at Yamada with a defiant gaze. In a terribly excited state, he continued, “that is, I refuted it because I believed that I would be scorned by others for abandoning socialism.” He looked as though he had been the target of derision beyond what he could bear.

“I rejected socialism, I completely rejected it. Anyone who laughs at me can laugh if they like. Are there so many who can laugh? I had a good laugh myself at what I was like then. I laughed at myself a lot. But now, I don’t laugh. No, in my case, it wasn’t that I rejected my ideas. That isn’t what happened it all. The philosophy was what rejected me. The philosophy rejected me. When I first got sick, I tried hard to cling to its ideas and theories. I did, •••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••

, ••••••••••••••••••, ••••••••••••••••••••••. Simply, Yamada, in my •••••••••••••••••• just won’t mean anything at all. So, I don’t think of theories as completely meaningless! It’s just meaningless to me. They’re unnecessary. Isn’t it a social theory? The point is I’ve been rejected from society. And so, I was rejected by the theory. For me, what good is believing in my mind that these theories are valuable? ••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••, isn’t it completely meaningless? That’s like shoes, if you wear them and walk, they have value, but if you put them on top of your head, they serve no purpose at all.” (At this point, Tsuji stopped his impatient narration, turning something over in his mind, and then he continued to speak in a low voice, looking down as he did). “That’s why I’ve suffered. At night, I hardly slept. When I first entered the hospital, I still believed in it. But that was just because I didn’t really know the sickness, and I thought that when I went out into society again, I could just carry on like anyone else in society. You see, at that time I didn’t doubt myself as a member of society at all. So, it wasn’t strange for me to have socialist theory dormant in the back of my mind. Someday, it’ll be time to it wake up, someday I’ll wake it up, I believed that. But as the days passed, the discovery of the nature of my illness was forced upon me. I couldn’t help discovering it. I perceived that people like me were people almost completely worthless to society, nothing more than a single ••••••. I could only wait for the day I died, seeing my body rot, day in and day out. Actually, not just my own body, never that. I watched the rotting of the bodies of the people around me every day. Day after day, I had to live with and see people who had deformed noses, had fingers dropped off, lost both legs, had wounds all over their bodies, I had to watch their conditions worsen as their bodies were rotting. Someone who could see yesterday was blind today. A man who had two legs on this day will have one the next. I’ve been living, silently watching this. Today I’m a mild case, but soon I’ll be worse. I’ll be like that. I’ll lose my legs, my fingers will fall off, I’ll become blind. Can you understand, I wonder, what kind of life I have, when I have to think of things like this? And life is long! It’s still so long! But it serves no purpose for me to say these things. I can’t describe what my feelings have been. They’re beyond description. I am keenly aware of the fact that I'm completely meaningless myself, and I’m nothing more than a useless person as far society is concerned. But I’m living. And I have to go on living for years and years to come. If only you’d understand this feeling! But no one understands it, how could they? I’m all alone, I’m completely alone. Even people in society say amongst themselves, they talk about loneliness and man being alone. Can such people possibly understand what it is to be truly alone? Of course they can’t. It’s a fearful thing. It’s like being cut into pieces having your body chopped up. It’s like having the blood freeze in your body. But these descriptions don’t do it justice—I’ve seen what fate is! I’ve seen what reality is! How should I live in this solitude? I’ve lost my direction and the will to live. And the people around me are all leprous! Because I live in a leprous nest. Do you think it’s right to live like this? Do you think it’s right? C’mon, answer me!”

Tsuji abruptly stopped talking, and with intensity in his eyes stared at Yamada. He was gazing out from under his bangs, which hung down and covered half his face like a veil. While Yamada returned his stare and looked into Tsuji’s narrow, sharp eyes, Yamada knew Tsuji in fact did not want an answer. Yamada was struck by a sudden desire to yawn, and to hide that he shifted his position, changing the way he was sitting. Despite the passion in Tsuji’s narration, Yamada couldn’t feel the urgency of it. Upon this Tsuji became even more irritated, furrowed his eyebrows, and started to speak again.

“I don’t want to hear your answer. I don’t even care about hearing your answer. Simply, what I want to ask is, what is it to live? I should have said this new question has come before me. The people dying all around me, rotting while they are living—do you understand, they’re rotting as they live!—I look at them, I look at them every single day, at this reality, at this world, and the questions of how to understand it, how to explain it, became my new questions. No, that’s not right, it wasn’t my intention to say this in this way. What is it to interpret reality, to analyse reality? What will that do? No matter how you analyse it or interpret it doesn’t matter to reality. Reality doesn’t know what human intellect is, and reality only works for itself, and makes its own purpose. That’s fate. Humans can only tremble in fear, shudder, cry, scream, and weep in the face of this looming force. The criticism of reality and the interpretation of it are just a transformation of these cries. Humans just cry, they weep, and comfort themselves. You’re laughing, huh? From your point of view, these are the complaints of an afflicted person, the cry of the weak. And you probably want to say this thinking is old-fashioned. It might be old-fashioned. I don’t care if it is. Old-fashioned or new, it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter at all in my case. I’m talking about my world. I don’t give a damn about others. No, wait, what was I going to say? Ah, that’s right, I thought of dying. I thought of committing suicide. But I couldn’t die. I tried so many times. But it didn’t work. No, that’s not it; I realised that I can’t die. I can’t die. If you could understand what it means to not be able to die! But you won’t understand. It’s not that I didn’t have the courage to commit suicide, so I couldn’t die, but rather the fact that my dying wouldn’t change anything. If I died, it wouldn’t change anything, that’s right. But how can I explain it? Words are inconvenient things, aren’t they; as soon as you say them, they become ridiculous. I mean, when I say dying wouldn’t change anything, I mean that if I die, other people continue to live; if I die, leprosy in the end still exists. However, saying this now I feel as though it isn’t true—”

Tsuji shut his mouth and seemed to be searching for the right words in his head, as he dropped into deep thought, staring into space. Some time ago, however, Yamada had grown bored of this. While looking Tsuji’s eyes, burning with fire, and his hot forehead gleaming with sweat, Yamada couldn’t interrupt, but he had an unpleasant, strange feeling. Thoughts rose unbidden: right now, I’m drinking saké with a leprosy patient—and he felt something akin to fear. Then he couldn’t help being slightly annoyed with Tsuji saying things like he alone was bearing the burden of the suffering of mankind. Tsuji’s manner of speaking, the way he was constantly rephrasing, getting confused, and the fact he seemed to be trying to convince himself struck Yamada as nothing more than self-absorbed babble.

There was a break in the conversation, and the ensuing silence was drawn out. Tsuji was mumbling, trying to continue what he had been saying before, when he suddenly started to his feet as though he’d been struck. He surveyed the restaurant, looking around before sitting down again in silence. An expression of unutterable fear and confusion flashed across his face.

“What’s wrong?” Yamada couldn’t help asking. Upon which, Tsuji replied, nothing, it’s nothing, and faintly smiled; but it was a tense smile.

“For a moment, I had a feeling that this wasn’t Tokyo,” Tsuji explained.

“Not Tokyo?”

“Kind of. I had a strange feeling, like I was dreaming. I had the feeling that a crowd of patients was sitting behind me. Of course, it wouldn’t bother me if this were true. But it was somehow creepy. For about four years I haven’t set one foot outside the hospital, so I had an illusion.”

Saying this, Tsuji again tried to smile, but it quickly faded, and he sank into ominous silence, ruminating in his own mind. Should we leave, Yamada wanted to say, but looking at Tsuji’s figure, he couldn’t bring himself to say those words. Yamada in turn also fell deep into thought.

Yamada recalled of the events of two nights earlier. He clearly remembered the shock of the moment when the car jolted, and the shape of the dead man with his cheek pressed against the asphalt rose up before his eyes. What about that man’s family? What were they doing now? As he thought about this, he began to be consumed by grief and remorse. Of course, there was no question that it had been the driver’s fault, but I wasn’t any help, and more than that it was I who, driven by folly, had directed the car that way. Following this train of thought, Yamada began to feel partially responsible for the crime. Given everything, the driver would probably either have his driver’s license revoked, or be ordered to take a leave of absence from work.

“Hey, Tsuji, that’s probably very hard for you, but the rest of us haven’t had it easy either. I think it might be better for human beings to hit rock bottom like that.”

Yamada said this while running over the sequence of events of that night, and thinking, too, of his daily feelings that had no vent, and his own useless condition. As Yamada spoke, Tsuji suddenly looked up in Yamada’s direction, but without speaking he fell back into thought. Yamada realised Tsuji didn’t yet know about his ideological recantation[9], so he said in a confessional tone, “To tell you the truth, I recanted.” At this moment, suddenly the word ore came out.[10]

You recanted?” Tsuji echoed, quickly looking up. “I thought you might have,” he continued in a low voice, but the words didn’t sound sarcastic or sardonic. Then with a heavy gravity, Tsuji dropped back into thought.

“In fact, we don't know our lives direction, or our attitude to it.…•••••••••• it’s an enthusiasm that absolutely doesn’t last, but all I know is that it just keeps gradually getting more, ••••••••••••••••••••••••••. Just because I recanted, I don’t feel as though I want to let everything go to ruin, and if I can I want my life to be part of the progression of history. At the time I recanted and was let out of prison, I did have that feeling, and I also despaired. But in the end, there was nothing else I could do; it was inevitable. It’s hard to explain why it was that way, but you must have seen it in newspapers and magazines. Even novels are written about how it’s inevitable.”

Yamada paused in his talk and looked in Tsuji’s direction. Tsuji was looking down, listening in silence. But Yamada now felt further words would be unpleasant. Talking about these things in front of this man, what purpose did that serve? In fact, I want someone to understand the anguish that is in my heart, and then through that understanding I want them to feel sympathetic for me. How stupid—! Yamada thought to himself.
However, perhaps because he was intoxicated, naturally he opened his mouth and talked about his life and feelings after his release from prison. And nowadays, having •••••••••• is almost like self-torture, or rather, honesty of necessity transformed into self-torture and derision; for us, it makes us so desperate as to••••••••••••••••••••, and with this lengthy explanation to himself, Yamada again spoke.

“Really, I’m not in a situation that much different from someone in a leprosarium. That is, my flesh doesn’t rot, but my mind rots, no, my mind is made to rot. You act like you’re upset that I can’t understand the feelings people have in your hospital, but don’t you think that I also have feelings that you can’t quite understand? If you say I think this because my poor power of consciousness has corrupted my mind, then there’s nothing I can say. But at the very least, in a certain sense, my intention is to live with a certain sincerity. However, there’s ••••••, and therefore ••••••••••, and it’s peculiar circumstances where there’s nothing I can do about being in a rotting condition. And at times, this drives me to the condition of a fool, an idiot. This happened just two or three days ago. That was at night, but most of this time I don’t think I’m in a proper condition. On the contrary, I think that I have to get out of my current condition, and if I can’t, then I’m conscious of the fact that as a person I will have no meaning, driven to the extremes of folly. If you could just understand my feelings now! Having you understand won’t change anything, but just listen to me.”

He wanted to laugh at himself for his desire to talk about these things. They were like two old folks, mutually complaining about their suffering and then offering each other comfort. Ah me, you’ve seen a lot of hardship, but it’s been tough for too, ah me, life in this world is difficult, isn’t it, well, we shouldn’t really complain. Yamada actually imagined such a scene and laughed to himself.

Yamada went on at length, detailing the emotions he had gone through two nights ago. When he began, he was oppressed by strong aversion, and in the middle of his story he would suddenly shut his mouth. But each time, the thought arose: Why worry? Why worry? He continued to speak. Before he realised what was happening, he began to feel as if a second self, deeply interested in his story and listening, entranced, had taken a seat beside him. Of course, he continued to feel the utmost scorn for this second self, but in the end that didn’t affect his behavior, and finally he spoke in excited tones, and in his excess passion he went so far as to exaggerate some parts. Of course, his exaggerations were not too excessive.

“In truth, even thinking it over now, I don’t understand why I did such foolish things. I mean, I was tempted to cry on the bank of the river, of all things. Ah, I actually did think of you there. To tell the truth, I didn’t like to think about you. Ultimately, I think that’s because of your illness. Don’t take what I’m saying badly. It’s just that somehow, in some way I was afraid of your illness. Speaking honestly, remembering you made me feel sick, I felt like in thinking about you I was confronting some kind of dark fate. No, but not only that, it’s not only that, there’s another important thing, and that is when I remembered your appearance, excepting that scene at the prison, the only image of you I can recall is that time when we had that full year together, when you were sixteen and seventeen. Because our relationship at that time was without falsehood, the dealings of teacher and student. That’s why since •••••• whenever I think of you, I was overwhelmed with a sense of remorse. I’m aware that such remorse is merely sentimentalism on my part, and I also know the fact that I became your teacher was probably the inevitability of greater powers. Despite that, I couldn’t help but feel I had done something bad to you. I feel it still more since you got sick. Why, I wonder, there’s no difference in my •••••••••made to work. ••••••••••••••••••••• however I explain it, as a human it is an undoubted stain, so ••••••.”

“Wait, wa—, wait a minute. Why is that a stain? I don’t get it. Whether it’s a stain or not is a question for individual minds. Depending on ••••••••••••••••••, there can be cases where it is raised to even loftier heights. You’re making a measure first, and then deciding who is a human.”

“Yeah, yeah, you can probably think of it in that way. But for me, I have no other choice than to use the methods I believe in. So, listen to me for just a little longer. I wonder if you’ll understand my feelings when I describe them like this. I’m starting to think that I need you to understand my feelings this evening. You asked earlier if fellows in society [11] understand loneliness, but I’m lonely too. Of course, I have a wife, and I’m working for a company, but there isn’t a single person around me who understands my feelings, and there’s not a single person I can talk to. That’s why, when I meet you after so long, even though our feelings now may be leagues apart, I believe that after all there must be some commonalities in spirit remaining. But after all, this may just be an illusion I cling to, to try and go back to our former days. But even if it is just to you, I want to be completely open. I have acted so foolishly, going so far as to have to kill a person, and I think of all people you would understand my feelings.”

Having said so much, Yamada suddenly felt an unpleasant, irritating, nauseating disgust that surged within him. He did not want to speak another word. He quickly raised the now-cold saké cup to his lips and drank it in a single gulp before refilling his cup and drinking another two or three glasses. Why am I opening myself up like this to such a young kid? He couldn’t get this thought out of his head, and making a bitter face, he picked up the sake bottle and poured some into Tsuji’s cup. As he looked into Tsuji’s face, and Yamada suddenly revived, and wondered at his impulses. What had just happened? Ah, he felt strangely unfaithful, but with his spirit soothed, an unspeakable sense of shame began to spread over him. Shame for what? Shame for what?

Tsuji looked at Yamada with a cold expression. His face was almost bestial, with a derisive smile. An expression of contempt for his companion played clearly across his features. Tsuji didn’t say a word. When at last the smile faded from his face, he suddenly appeared to want to speak and he cleared his throat, but he stopped with that and abruptly stood up.

“Shall we go?”

“Yeah, it’s pretty late.”

“Wait, wait just a second.”

And then making Tsuji sit down, Yamada said with a smile, “It’s cowardly to suddenly pull out because you’ve won.”

For a moment Tsuji looked as if he couldn’t understand Yamada’s words, but then he began to sink into despairing, heavy meditation.

“I wanted to have you criticise me a little. See, didn’t you make that kind of a face a little while ago?” Yamada said, looking into Tsuji’s face. Of course, Tsuji was silent, brooding. Then he moved his chopsticks, picking at the small bit of a vinegar dish that was left over, but without even trying to eat it, he put his chopsticks back down. A rather long silence fell between the two. Then, suddenly Tsuji lifted his head, and looking squarely at Yamada, said, “I’ll say it, I’ll say it. I’ll say it all. That’s OK, right?” Without giving Yamada time for an answer, Tsuji suddenly went on.

“It’s lies, you’re telling lies. Aren’t you acting out a play?” Tsuji asserted in almost a shout, and then he sneered and looked at Yamada with a venomous expression.

“A play?” Yamada asked in return without thinking, but he was offended, and a surge of anger came over him. He felt as though he had been kicked by his student, whom he had carefully trained up until this point.

“That’s right. A play. You’re acting out a play. Didn’t you want to put on a play, and make yourself feel good? People perform in plays with very serious feelings. You get excited, you sob, and while the tears flow, you’re acting in a play. That’s not a lie, you yourself aren’t even aware of it; when you put on a play to hide your true feelings. When you can’t escape them, you purposefully wallow in performed feelings, and you end up believing that those feelings are your real feelings. A simple person will at that point get all mixed up in the play and their real feelings. But you, but you, aren’t you doing it, knowing exactly what you’re doing, in your own play? Because how can there be someone like you, a man with so much self-consciousness crammed into your head, who isn’t at least aware that it’s all his own theatrics? I was perfectly convinced of that from the way you talk. I understand why you have to put on such a play, see. Even I understand those things. Don’t you have social consciousness? You said before, the consciousness of participating in the progression of history. But suddenly it’s dangerous to participate directly. So, you find the words, it’s a situation that’s inevitable, nothing else that can be done about it, and with those words you sacrifice your precious consciousness. That way it’s more serious, for the play. But you use the words, it’s inevitable, nothing can be done to protect yourself. For example, there is no danger to you even if you run over somebody in a car and kill them. Will your throat be cut, or will someone else’s throat be cut? Everyone tries to get some else’s throat cut rather than their own. You don’t truly care if history doesn’t make progress at all, even a little bit. Just, just as long as you yourself are in left peace it doesn’t matter.”

“Do you mean to say that all philosophies are false? As you say, human instincts are base and egotistical; rather than protect someone else, in all likelihood, the self will protect itself first. But do you think it’s desirable that the baseness of humans, that evil, exists forever in on this earth? For me, at least I want the baseness inside of us to be acknowledged, and I want to make it right for us to struggle with that,” Yamada declared in an excited voice, working to quell the anger that was welling up inside him. Tsuji looked coldly at Yamada, with a calm that belied his former excited state. His expression was malicious, venomous.

“That’s just as you say. No, it may be just as you say. But, in short, that’s your self-defense. Isn’t that evidence that you are performing in a play? No, I won’t say it’s just a play, tonight I’ll say anything, I’ll tell you everything. I want to open the lid and clear the fetid odors. Look, before you began with this play, weren’t you already ••••••••••••, why ••••••••••••••••••? More than that •••••••••••••••••• while waiting for ••••••••••••••••••••••••. In my eyes, •••••••••••••••••••••••• is reflected. No matter what kind of ••••••••••, but, for example ••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••, there must be, there’s that argument as well. But it’s no more than an argument. It’s self-deception. What you saw while you were in prison was just that, truly fate. You were an individual in the hands of fate. Are you going to say that that isn’t  your own true feelings? No, I won’t let you say it. Didn’t you say it yourself earlier? You, yourself, at that time, until that point you had been a social being, you who stood on the ground we call society, you were cut off from society, and the ground shook and crumbled, and you became conscious that you were absolutely, completely alone. No, you didn’t become conscious of it, it’s deeper than that, more fundamental, it’s physical, you felt it through your entire body. You felt it, but at that instant you immediately turned your face outward. That’s because it’s terrifying. It’s because in actuality, it is terrifying to be conscious of loneliness. You turned outward. Your play began at that moment. So now when you say things like you’re alone, you’re suffering, it’s a lie. If you are suffering at all, it’s because you’re aware of your own play. Well, that’s a luxury. Because you had a place to look out onto. That is, a way out. In your case, you had a way out. But in my case, I don’t have a way out. Really, literally just as the characters read,[12] I don’t have a way out. Like a tunnel—it’s pitch-black, long, so long, so that no matter how far you go it’s never-ending. That’s the way it is. It’s worse than a tunnel. Until death, until you die there is no way out. In this pitch-blackness, all you can do is cry and scream.”

Tsuji suddenly broke off. His toxic expression had at some point vanished, and he looked at Yamada with sadness in his eyes. He had seemed bitter to Yamada when he began to speak, but his words had gradually became a monologue and he seemed to be at a loss—I’m talking about all these things, but where can I go from here? As Yamada was listening, he grew increasingly uncomfortable and he began to feel there was something unpleasant in Tsuji, so that he could hardly bring himself to look at him. Tsuji thinks of people as divided into two groups, the healthy and the ill. And now this man has an instinctive abhorrence of healthy people, Yamada thought, and he felt there was an unbreachable chasm between Tsuji and himself which could not be overcome by any means. He felt a pang of embarrassment in the way he had sat with this man and tried to make him understand his feelings, how he had chatted with self-assuredness, and he came to the realisation that he could no longer endure this. He wanted to leave as soon as possible. But Tsuji was again talking to himself, continuing to whisper in low tones without even the pretense of making Yamada hear.

“But I believe in humans. I believe in humanity. After entering the sanatorium, I first met humanity. No matter how oppressed humans are, no matter what kind of abasement they have heaped upon them, they never lose heart. No, it’s not that; it’s that when they are plunged into the abyss, humans first attain human nature. Those bastards in society, all of them are just in limbo. They are good for nothing because they’re allowed all kinds of freedoms and happiness. Only when we lose such things as happiness and freedom, all of it, then for the first time, then do we become human, and all the trivialities that cling to us are washed away. Those in society act as though they are suffering when in fact they have never suffered. And in spite of never having been alone, they try to pretend that they’ve been lonely. It’s folly. Everyone is self-satisfied. That’s why, when they come to the leprosarium, no matter how respectable they look, their pretenses are stripped away. I’ve seen it happen over and over again. It’s true. I got sick, but I’m not unhappy at all. It’s because I believe in humans that I can go on living. How could I live if I didn’t believe in humans? In the beginning, every night I dreamed of society. I yearned for society. But I don’t have those dreams anymore. I gave it all up, everything. But I don’t think that’s bad. Should I think so? I’ll live in that world for years to come. That’s fine. No matter how painful, no matter how lonely, it doesn’t bother me. I’ll endure it alone and in silence. But it’s probably going to be so hard…”

Tsuji glanced at Yamada’s face, and then looked down and fell into silence. He appeared to be thinking quietly over what he had just said. He looked as if he were trying his utmost to convince himself of what he had just said, even as he confronted the unbearable pain that stretched before his eyes.

“Hey, shall we go?” Yamada said, unable to bear it any longer.

“Huh?” Tsuji looked up at Yamada with a stupefied expression on his face. He’s probably forgotten about me with the ideas coming one after the other into his mind; but for a moment Tsuji’s face became expressionless, like a fool’s. But he suddenly sprang to his feet.

“Let’s go, let’s go! Ah, I’m sorry I’ve kept you so late. Really. What have I been talking about? Well. Something’s strange with me tonight. There’s something off, all right. I’ll take care of the bill.”

Tsuji spoke with consternation, and suddenly his face blushed bright red as he opened the shoji paper doors to the room as if he were in a trance and hurriedly called for the waitress.

The two began to walk along the main street toward the station. The night was already far along, so there were few pedestrians. Over the long period of time they had spent, they hadn’t in fact had that much sake, so neither of them was drunk. Tsuji was in sullen silence, and sunk into deep thought. Yamada also didn’t want to say anything more. He was too full of feelings of irritation, unpleasantness, and misery. He was thinking he had been completely taken in by this man tonight.

Before long, they arrived at the station, and together climbed up to the train platform. There were four or five men who looked like salaried employees scattered here and there, pacing up and down the platform, but there wasn’t a trace of other passengers.

“Hey, you take care of yourself. I’ll come visit you sometime,” Yamada reluctantly spoke some parting words. The words were painful to force out; the evening had been unpleasant. Tsuji unconsciously put out his hand and grabbed Yamada’s hand. Yamada was surprised, and hastily tried to pull back his hand, but he couldn’t avoid shaking Tsuji’s hand. As the thought of Tsuji’s illness came into his mind, Yamada felt terribly self-conscious.

“Tonight, I really talked crazy, didn’t I. Don’t be mad at me, OK, please don’t be mad at me,” Tsuji said, with a supplicant look in his eyes.

“Yeah, it’s fine, that stuff you said. You made me think of a lot of things. If you have a chance again, come out and visit.”

Liar, Yamada thought as he heard his own words, but hearing Tsuji’s despondent tones gave Yamada a strange feeling, akin to pity. Looking at Tsuji about to return to the leprosarium, Yamada felt touched by the wretchedness of life. Seeing Tsuji’s solitary figure at the top of the platform, in the quiet of the dark night, Yamada began to feel as if he were seeing him for the first time. Tsuji suddenly started to weep. Then, in a spasmodic voice, Tsuji brokenly said, “I don’t know anything, I don’t know. I don’t know anything anymore. Oh, I don’t know what to do?”

However, before he was finished talking, the train came. Yamada said good-bye, and got on. The door closed. Yamada stood by the glass facing Tsuji and waved his hand a little. Tsuji tried to smile faintly, but stopped suddenly, and Yamada saw him walk off in the other direction, almost staggering.

Just as Yamada’s train started to move, the train that Tsuji would board came into the station with a roar. Without thinking, Yamada gasped and put his hand on the window. Right before Yamada’s eyes, Tsuji’s body fell onto the opposite tracks, exactly like a wooden stake that had been standing suddenly drops to the earth.

When the train stopped at the next station, Yamada dashed onto the platform. He would change trains and go back. However, the moment he got off, he lost his desire to go back. Tsuji’s skull had been smashed, and his head and torso might have been severed in two by the train; Tsuji’s blood, and his flesh, and his brain had to be pulp. The thought disgusted Yamada to no end. And that flesh and that blood were infested with infectious bacteria. Yamada couldn’t help but picture a rotted corpse. There could be no mistake about it; Tsuji was dead, so even if Yamada went back there was nothing to be done. He didn’t want to be involved with the remains. The train Yamada had come on had shut its doors and departed. Stranded, Yamada stood absent-mindedly on the platform.

Despite being on the verge of tears, a sneering smile flickered across his face and he began to walk slowly towards the stairs. He was aware of his own theatrics. If Tsuji hadn’t taunted him earlier for his theatrics, he might have imprudently gone back to the site of the suicide. But of course, he had to pretend to be unaware of the theatrics—. But now, however, it had become uncomfortable for him to do so. He had no intention of turning around and going back from the moment he had leapt out of the train. When he was unable to bring himself to go back, however, he felt as if he were doing something wrong; surely any human would he shocked and rush back. The moment he realised this, he became upset and worked himself into a state of agitation. He rode that wave of emotion in his leap off the train, but the instant he got off the train, the image of Tsuji’s blood splattered corpse came to mind.

He might as well try drinking again somewhere, he thought, so he headed out of the station. But after not even half a block or so, he began to feel like he wanted to get home as quickly as possible and rest, so he returned to the station. There were only two or three other passengers. As he lowered himself onto a bench, he felt drained of energy, and he let out a breath of air, as if he were sighing. He felt as though he’d lost his place, and he felt lonely. In his mind, he saw his wife’s face and felt an affection that filled him with the desire to knock her down with a slap to the face. And strange though it was, by this time Yamada had completely forgotten about Tsuji, and he didn’t cross his mind at all. Occasionally, for brief moments, thoughts of Tsuji did intrude, but he quickly and instinctively put them out of mind.

At last, he heard the sound of the train in the distance. He rose and stood waiting on the edge of the platform. It’s a little too soon to jump now, he involuntarily thought. The train was moving slowly, but still came in a fairly fast speed. NOW! He shouted loudly to himself. At that moment, moving solemnly along the tracks, the carriages passed before him quietly and in due course came to a stop. While picturing to himself the image of his body being severed into two pieces under those black carriage cars, he entered the brightly lit train carriage. After a moment, the wheels started to move, and he felt relieved. While he enjoyed the feeling that it was finally all over, without reason he also wanted to gauge the speed. Nothing was more reliable and comfortable than the movement of matter at times like these.

When he got back to the apartment, Mitsuko was already asleep with the blankets pulled over her head. He wanted to call to her, hey, but it seemed like too much trouble, so without ceremony he sat with a thud in front of the brazier and lit a Bat brand cigarette. He was physically exhausted. He rolled onto his back, looking up, and propped his feet up on top of the brazier, exhaling smoke through his nostrils. I wonder if Tsuji had decided to die before we met? Or whether he suddenly decided to die after we got to that train platform? Questions of this sort flitted across his mind, as he recalled Tsuji’s gestures, the expressions and the words he had used. With eerie thoughts, Yamada dwelt on the instance when Tsuji leapt up, with that look of horror in his eyes, and said, I’ve got a feeling that this isn’t Tokyo. He had no idea what kind of place a leprosarium was, but he imagined it was completely dark, not even pierced by the sun’s rays, just gruesome. There’s no doubt that Tsuji was probably thinking of death before he met me, Yamada thought. And Yamada suddenly realised that when Tsuji had hit on his feeling of being in a play, in the end those words were about nothing more than Tsuji himself. Again, the words Tsuji had said about Yamada’s ••••••••, as well, that was definitely just •••••••• to reflect Tsuji’s own psychology. However, after ruminating on the evening so far, Yamada no longer wanted to be reminded of Tsuji. He couldn’t avoid the idea that he had discovered something distasteful.

“Hey.” Yamada called to Mitsuko. There was no answer. He couldn’t be bothered to call her again, so he inhaled the little that was left of his cigarette and threw it into the brazier, then lay looking up at the ceiling. As he did this, he again thought of Tsuji’s final form; he reflected that by now, certainly, the crowds on the line would have already dispersed, the blood was washed away, and the corpse had been carried off somewhere. He recalled the station at it had been that night, without a shadow of a person, and Tsuji’s body as it began to fall like a wooden stake. But after all, he was an ill-fated man, and if you’re in that state, it’s better to die.

“Hurry up and come to bed. What are you doing?” Mitsuko stuck her head out from the blankets and spoke in a peevish voice. Upon this, Yamada was nettled and became angry. Driven by this rage, he wanted to say, I killed another man, but tonight he stopped. He was himself aware that saying so would have the effect of adding fuel to her bad mood. He changed into his pajamas, sat in front of the brazier again, and spread out a newspaper. How nice it would be if he could sleep alone tonight, as he could not bear the thought of having another human being next to him.

“What on earth are you doing?” Mitsuko said in a voice that grew higher in pitch.

“I’m reading the newspaper, see.”

“Shouldn’t you go to sleep soon?”


“Ugh, what time do you think it is?”

“You’re a pain.”

“Go to bed. C’mon.”

“Be quiet.”

Then unexpectedly Mitsuko began to cry. Yamada suddenly remembered this morning. This morning she had been insistent in advising him to go to the cherry blossom viewing. Yamada had thought it didn’t matter whether he went or not, but she was so insistent that he got angry and declared that under no circumstances would he drink saké with those fellows. She of course thought that the relations between her husband and his work companions would worsen if he didn’t go, so she got extremely angry at him.

“Hey, using tears to get your way is an old trick, although it might work on Germans,” Yamada said with a laugh. But after he said it, he knew he shouldn’t have. He sometimes thought of those words when he argued with his wife, but they were the ones he had always refrained from spitting out. No matter what else he said, he knew those words were his wife’s most sensitive point, an open wound. No matter how stupid her current attitude toward life was, Yamada had thought that he had to try to empathize with her intense feelings. Yamada, however, always acted in opposition to her feelings, and at times wanted to tease her, but he had always sympathised with that particular wound.

Mitsuko suddenly sprang out of bed, and as she burst into a torrent of tears exclaimed, “Liar! When you got together with me what did you say? Remember what you said! Our premise was that marriage had to mean that we lifted ourselves up together, and then, our marriage would be based on fighting together, didn’t you say that? When did you ever help me raise us up? When did you ever help us fight together? Didn’t you only ever come to trample my feelings underfoot! While I’ve only thought of trying my utmost to restore our standard of living, don’t you just always come around to undermine my efforts? Why can’t you understand my feelings just a little bit?”

“What, when has anything like that ever happened?” Yamada said with a strained laugh.

“What are you saying, you’re putting on an act. Aren’t you mocking me again? That’s always your attitude!”

“Well, of course right now you’d believe those words. But, listen, don’t just get angry and try listening to me, got it? Have you ever tried just one time to understand my feelings?”

“Have you ever tried, even just once, to tell me what you were feeling?”

“All the time! Two nights ago, didn’t I do just that? Didn’t I put aside my embarrassment and talk in detail about my actions and my state of mind. And you just couldn’t understand it. Or else you just didn’t feel like trying to understand it.”

“Wasn’t that just you talking to yourself!”

“Oh really? If so, that’s fine then.”

“No, no! It might be fine to you, but it’s not fine to me. No matter what, tonight we resolve this issue.”

“Resolve it? Humph, well then, do you want to separate? Say it plainly,” Yamada said in a voice that naturally sharpened. Mitsuko began speak in a shriek.

“When, when did I say I wanted a separation? When did I say to give me a separation? You want to separate, so you’re saying those things! You’re saying those things, you’re saying those things! You’re… you’re mocking me!”

But as soon as she said this, Mitsuko’s voice caught, she let out a cry like a sob, and tears started pouring from her eyes. She was clutching the edge of the futon with both hands, giving herself over to her sobs. Of course, to Yamada, her feelings were obvious. Settle this, Mitsuko had screamed, but those were just words that were driven to slip out in the heat of the moment. In that instant, she probably really felt like she wanted to separate. But she also feared what she would do after they separated. And then for some reason she was fond of this man called Yamada. Before, she used to gaze at Yamada with a feeling of enchantment towards the man who used to be passionate, resolute; the Yamada who, no matter which direction you looked from, sported a silhouette that was smart and clear. Now, however, Yamada looked at her quizzically with a smirk.

“But I get the impression that rather than thinking about settling this, you don’t want to think about it.”

“Think what you want, if you want to separate that badly, I’ll give you a separation, I’ll give you a separation. Oh, causing me so much suffering, to come to this now, it’s a shame! If we separate, I’ll hang myself and die. How will I feel after you leave, what will I do, do you know?”

“Rather than hanging yourself, suicide on the train tracks is better,” Yamada said for no reason.

“Die on the train tracks? I’ll hang myself, no mistake. After you leave, what will I do?”

“If you want to do it that much, go ahead and hang yourself. Of course, I don’t know if it’s something you’ve tried before when I’ve been out of the house.”

“I’ve tried to kill myself.”

“Oh, really. But aren’t you still alive?”

“Don’t mock me. In all seriousness I intended to kill myself. Oh, it would have been better if I died then!” Mitsuko seemed in physical agony as she wiped the tears off with the back of her hand. Yamada was already annoyed, and a moment ago, Tsuji had come into his mind again, so he fell into silence. What foolishness, he muttered, with a feeling as though Tsuji were watching him fight with Mitsuko from off to the side. To drive thoughts of Tsuji out, Yamada caught both of Mitsuko’s hands in one of his, and forced her to the floor, covering her with the futon. Then he yawned, and said, “We’ll continue the fight tomorrow, now I’m sleepy,” and he closed his eyes. In fact, he did feel a heavy, sleepy feeling come over him.

“How am I supposed to be able to sleep? How can I sleep?” As she said this, she tried to push Yamada off of the futon. But when she pushed Yamada with all her strength, it did not budge him at all, and she was angered because her body was simply pushed further back. She then wrapped her arm around his neck and tried her utmost to choke him. Yamada sat silently with his eyes shut, but he was harassed by images of Tsuji flashing in his head. He recalled Tsuji collapsing in the dim, empty station, and he felt desolate. Tsuji died, but I am alive, I don’t know which is better. In my case, how many years do I have to continue this life of idiocy? He thought in imitation of Tsuji’s manner of speaking. But there was no other way than to go ahead and bear this; but to bear it quietly and ••••••••••••••••••; at any rate, to bear it quietly, so much as that was not ordinary; that is, simply just bear it quietly might be noble, and ••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••• was stupid, Tsuji had said before dying, but (of course Tsuji hadn’t managed to completely get out what he had been trying to say), but for now it was noble to simply believe it was quietly settled, it was his own ••••••••••••••••••••••••••••, as Tsuji had said, he had certainly seen the shape of his own personal fate, but even simply that •••••• was of course not all, but rather it was ••••••••••••••••• but to quietly go towards that ••••••••••••••••••••••, to bear one’s personal fate, was the most proper thing to do. If that ••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••• was nothing but that, then now more than ever •••••••••••• might be different; no, even if it was no different, at the very least that •••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••was certainly even greater. Depending on ••••••••••••••, in society that •••••••••••••••••• was definitely no longer done; however, this was all the past •••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••, and since then there was not even one—. At the moment he had reached this point in his thoughts, the words “no compromise” flashed through his mind, but he turned to Mitsuko and stormed, “Aren’t you bitching!”

“Wha… what do you mean, bitching?”

“You’re bitching, you fool!” Yamada was oppressed by a rising violent rage as he said, “Shut up and go to sleep.”

“How can I sleep? How can I sleep?” Mitsuko turned her body to the side and sat up.

“I’ll hit you,” Yamada said in a fury without thinking.

“Hit me, hit me! Oh, this is awful.”

At that moment Yamada suddenly remembered Tsuji’s cold smile, and from his chest a burning feeling shot through to his open hand. Mitsuko was holding onto him while she sobbed. Yamada suddenly stood up and, tightly wrapping his arms around her neck, pulled her up. Mitsuko kicked her legs and strained her body. Yamada, with a feeling of mingled anger and love, increased the pressure of his arms wrapped around her neck, while he continued to violently hold her. For a moment Mitsuko tried to look up into Yamada’s face, trying to move her lips into a faint smile, but her expression quickly turned to fear, and she strained against him, gasping for air. As a strange expression of hatred and love appeared on Yamada’s face, Mitsuko froze. Tears no longer fell from her eyes. Her expression stiffened with fear. Mitsuko went wild, and tried to wrench free from the man’s arms around her neck, but Yamada’s arms were like strong straw rope. Soon, she slackened as she started to lose power.

Yamada released his arms with a start, as if he had been shocked with electricity.

“Mitsuko, Mitsuko,” he shouted, shaking her shoulders. For an instant, Mitsuko stared lazily at Yamada with an abstracted expression on her face, but then, as if she’d been shot, she scrambled away from him across the room. Burying her face in the futon, and without making any noise, she began to cry. While looking at his wife, Yamada thought, I can’t explain to her how I feel now; to satisfy her now is impossible. He felt darkness within him, and he also wanted to try to cry. Without saying anything, he drew Mitsuko to him.

“Go to sleep,” he said in a whisper, pulling the futon over his head, as well. He felt as if he was going to cry. The thought floated into his mind, if I don’t cry now, I won’t be able to cry for the rest of my life, and he felt as though he were waiting for his sadness to crescendo.

1937 April 23


1. For more on Hōjō, his life, his work, and an English translation of “Life’s First Night,” see: Hōjō Tamio, translated and with an introduction by Kathryn M. Tanaka, “"Life's First Night" and the Treatment of Hansen's Disease in Japan,” The Asia-Pacific Journal, Vol. 13, Issue 3, No. 3, January 19, 2015.

2. For my critical article on “The Farce,” that explores more in depth the issues raised here, see: Kathryn M. Tanaka, “Metonymy and Social Margins: Censorship and the Meaning of Hansen’s Disease in “The Farce",” Annals of Dimitrie Cantemir Christian University Linguistics, Literature, and Methodology of Teaching, Volume XIX, No 1, 2020, 114-141. Available online:

3. A Japanese radish.

4. In this translation, I underline phrases that were replaced with black dots in Chūō Kōron, but appeared unimpaired in Collected Works. In the cases where certain expressions were deleted from both editions, I use similar black dots in my translation.

5. Again, the underlined words were censored from the Central Review text, but appeared unimpaired in the Collected Works. The dots given here are identical to fuseji that appear in both texts. No restored version of “The Farce” is known to exist. Thus, the dots here and in subsequent passages represent the censored portions of both the Central Review and the Collected Works.

6. The word women (onna no) is covered in fuseji in the Collected Works, but the text is restored in the Chūō Kōron version. I have used a bold font here to reflect passages that are censored in the Collected Works but appear in Chūō Kōron. See page 256 of Collected Works and page 68 in Chūō Kōron.

7. Tsuji here uses the informal second-person pronoun, kimi, rather than the more formal anata.

8. In the late 1930s, there were several incidents of unruly behaviour on the part of residents that were reported in the newspapers around this time. The most famous of these was the Nagashima Incident (Nagashima jiken) of 1936, wherein residents went on strike for better living conditions. Throughout the 1930s, however, newspapers featured occasional reports of violence in the institutions, or more often, escape attempts. For one example of newspaper coverage of riots in the institutions, on January 28, 1936, the Tokyo Nichinichi Shinbun ran an article entitled “Residents of Zensei Hospital Riot: Anger at the Closing of the Rice-Cleaning Mill” [Zensei byōin no shūyōsha abaru—seimaijo no heisa wo ikidōri] that detailed the way in which 150 residents stormed the offices with taiko drums and empty oil cans in protest of the closing of the rice mill and the loss of resident employment this would entail.

9. Tenkō, or the act of recanting socialist beliefs and activism, often in order to avoid persecution. Tenkō was seen as a return to the Japanese national community.

10. Ore is a pronoun for “I” used by men, primarily in spoken language when talking to social equals or subordinates. To this point, both men have used boku, a first-person pronoun used by males in casual contexts.

11. The word for society (shakai) is emphasised in the Japanese as 社会(、、) with marks over the characters. I have used italics to reflect that here, and to reflect subsequent similar word emphasis.

12. The Japanese word is “nukemichi;” nuke means “get out,” or “pull out,” and michi signifies a “road,” or a “way.”

About the Author and Translator

Hōjō Tamio contracted Hansen's Disease at an early age, and although resident at a sanitorium for the disease near Tokyo for the remaining few years of his life, attracted the attention of the Japanese literary world though the support of his mentor, Kawabata Yasunari. His writing centres around the disease and the political realities of Showa Japan.

Kathryn M. Tanaka, associate professor at the University of Hyogo, is a Japanese literary scholar who works on the intersections of medicine, literature, and culture. Her work focuses primarily on Hansen’s disease and modern Japanese literature. In addition to work on children and gender in public sanatoria, she also has several articles about Hōjō Tamio, and has done translations of his children's stories, "LIfe's First Night," and now "The Farce."

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