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Campus Now

New Year Issue (Jan.)

Messages to Their Second Century

Mr. Masashi Hisaka
Photograph: Satoru Kaneko

Time spent at university is a period of development as a human being in order to become a capable leader

Mr. Masashi Hisaka / Author

The NHK Taiga Drama "Tenchijin" depicts the life of Naoe Kanetsugu, a warlord during the Warring States Period of Japanese history. Kanetsugu, who served the warlord Uesugi Kenshin, is known for writing the Chinese character for "love" on his armor.
The drama was created by Mr. Masashi Hisaka, an author who has written numerous authentic historical novels. We held a discussion with Mr. Hisaka regarding how he found his dream in life during his time as a university student, as well as regarding the appeal of historical novels.

Finding his dream in life in the "Historical Literature Roman Club"

-- How did you spend your life as a student?

When I was a student, the area surrounding Waseda was full of mah-jong parlors. I spent my days drinking in the evening and playing mah-jong. Most students spent this kind of lifestyle in those days. However, I had a shocking encounter which put a period on that phase of my life-my encounter with the "Historical Literature Roman Club". One day, I noticed a poster that contained the catch-phrase "Would you like to discuss Ryuma and Nobunaga?" History has always been a subject that is close to my heart, to the extent that I found a mistake in my world history text during high school. So, it was only natural that I entered the club. During a book reading meeting, I encountered Mr. Ryotaru Shiba's "Moeyo-Ken", a work that led to my conviction for become an author of historical novels. I am very grateful to members of the club. Afterwards, the "Historical Literature Roman Club" fell into decline and the club no longer exists today, but I would love to see it resurrected.

Also, I frequented used bookstores during my time as a student. I combed every inch of used bookstores not only in the Waseda area, but also throughout Japan. Eventually, I developed a sort of sixth-sense that enabled me to know if a bookstore contained a book that I wanted simply by standing in front of the store. I made the decision to purchase books after examining them for only a few seconds, and I was sometime even mistaken as being involved in the business of used books. Now, reflecting back, I realize that the time I spent frequenting the library and used bookstores is the source of who I am today.

-- Do you have any messages for students today?

It is important for students to have dreams. Life as a student is the only time that a person can thoroughly consider their dreams. Dreams will always come true if a person continues to make an effort. Dreams fail to come true because they are abandoned. Also, people don't pay attention to what happens after a dream has been achieved. Compared to achieving a dream, it is more difficult to stay motivated and continue working after a dream has been achieved.

In my case, I had difficulty selling books after I achieved my goal of becoming an author of historical novels. Even after writing more than 60 books over a period of 20 years, I was unable to produce a hit. However, that experience actually helped me to maintain my motivation. In order to continue writing the historical novels that I enjoy, I have moved forward one step at a time, always considering how to write novels which will attract the attention of readers. Warlord Takeda Harunobu once said that "winning 60% to 70% percent of the time is a sufficient victory". At first, if you are conceited enough to believe that you will succeed 90% or 100% of the time, you will inevitably encounter regret. Succeeding 60% or 70% of the time is perfect. That's the meaning of this proverb. It really is the honest truth. I keep this saying as my personal motto.

Providing children with the opportunity for free thinking

Holding a piece of autographed colored paper in hand.

-- What is the appeal of historical novels?

Until a short time ago, written historical works asserted themselves as business books for the study of history in order for businesspeople to succeed. However, there have been recent changes in the special issues of historical magazines. As a general trend, value is now placed not in gaining promotion or making money, but on living as an individual and staying true to ones beliefs. Attention has come to be placed on historical figures from the same perspective. Recently, there has been a rapid increase in the number of young women who are interested in history. The most popular historical figure among such young women is Sanada Yukimura. Ultimately, Yukimura was a loser in war and cannot be considered successful. However, he is loved for his spirit of living life according to his personal ideals. I get the feeling that women consider history from a more straightforward viewpoint than men, and I find it interesting how women read history.

-- Hanko (public schools in the Edo Period) have played an important role in history. Today, what role do you think should be fulfilled by Waseda as an institution of higher learning?

Since I am not involved in education, I cannot speak with authority, but I think that the university should develop sensitive human beings. In modern society, there is a need for people to hear "benevolence", or the helping of weak individuals. I think that benevolence has been the most important qualities for leaders since long ago. Time spent at a university should not be just for studying; it should be for forming the blossom of a human being.

-- Mr. Hisaka, you are the same age as the parents of university students. Do you have a message for parents?

When I remember my parents, I realize that they created an environment where I could freely engage in pursuits of my own choosing. Children spend a surprising amount of time thinking about their parents, and children tend to wither when parents are too strict. A withered condition is the toughest thing for a child to bear. Of course, the same thing is true for adults. In my opinion, parents should create an environment in which children can exercise their abilities and engage in free thinking.

Mr. Masashi Hisaka / Author

Born in Niigata Prefecture in 1956. After graduating from the Waseda University School of Commerce and working as a publishing company, he made his debut as an author in 1988 with the novel "Kagetsu-Hikenkko". In 2006, he authored the serial novel "Tenchijin", a story which depicted the life of Naoe Kanetsugu, a warlord who inherited the noble heart of his master, Uesugi Kenshin. The novel was published through installments in 13 newspapers throughout the country, including the Niigata Nippo. In 2007, the same novel was awarded the Nakayama Gishu Literary Prize. In 2009, Tenchijin was broadcast as NHK's Taiga Drama. Mr. Hisaka has been recognized for his spirited writing activities based on new historical materials. His written works include titles such as "Zenso", "Hassho-no-Mon", "Kokui-no-Saisho", "Tora-no-Shiro", "Takugen", "Garyu-no-Ten", "Bishoku-Tante", "Gunshi-no-Mon", and "Sumizome-no-Yoroi".