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Campus Now

Autumn Issue (Nov. 2013)


Waseda Literature

From the founding of the School of Humanities and Social Sciences by Shoyo Tsubouchi, the start of the literary magazine “Waseda Bungaku” to the production of countless literary award-winners, editors and researchers, Waseda has placed its mark on the world’s “literature.”
This article examines the tradition of “Waseda literature” which has been created by such cultural intellectuals.
Join us as we investigate the appeal of “Waseda literature” which is the pride of everyone associated with our university.

Words from current authors

Waseda literature and me

This article examines the appeal of Waseda literature through the worlds of authors who are currently active in the literary world.
Kiyoshi Shigematsu and Mitsuyo Kakuta discussed their memories of student life at Waseda.
Also introduced are essays from current students Chisato Abe, Yumi Fuzuki and Hayato Yoshida.

Seeking one’s own way of living

Kiyoshi Shigematsu
1985 graduate from the Department of Japanese Language and Literature, School of Education

Born in Okayama Prefecture in 1963. After employment at a publishing company, began working as a writer. His debut novel “Before Run” was published in 1991. Won the Yamamoto Shugoro Prize for his work “Eiji,” the Naoki Prize for “Vitamin F,” and the Yoshikawa Eiji Literary Prize for “The Cross.” Has written a number of popular works based on the portrayal of modern families. Also highly recognized for his reportage, commentary on current events, critical reviews and other writings other than novels.

I did not get along well with my father when I was in high school. I wanted to get as far away from home as possible, to go somewhere unknown by my father. Since I could not rely on my parents to pay tuition or send money, my first choice was national universities, followed by the Waseda University School of Humanities and Social Sciences, which offered a scholarship that waived tuition fees. Although my father did not comment on my decision, he did say one thing just before I submitted my written application—“I want you to also apply for the School of Education.” The only entrance examination I passed was the one for the School of Education. As a result, I was able to get away from my father thanks to him!

I enrolled in a seminar with only a few other students. Around the time when Professor Katsumi Togo would come to the classroom, I was always working hard at my part-time job at a nearby public bath. I did more jobs than I could count—from physical labor to wearing animal costumes at amusement parks. I always entered the classroom just before class would end. My only interest was going drinking after class. I was not a good student who could proclaim myself as a “disciple,” rather I was a bad student who could not remember what had been taught or the subject of class. I did not even know my teacher’s area of expertise or record of work. I chose Professor Togo simply because of his tolerance and understanding. Professor Togo was always very kind and accepted my behavior with a smile.

One day, I saw a bulletin board recruiting a student editor for the magazine “Waseda Bungaku.” I was not interested in literature and the phrase “unsalaried” completely wiped out my motivation. Still, for some reason, I decided to apply. It was like the desire to throw a single punch at a heavy bag. To apply, I had to submit my resume and an essay by 1pm that afternoon. I turned on my heel and ran to the co-op store. A few days later, I visited the laboratory of Professor Tokuyoshi Hiraoka for a final interview. That night, I was stuffing my face with a bowl of rice and pork cutlet in the editing office of Waseda Bungaku. Although the job was unsalaried, I could eat dinner for free. Intent on eating enough to compensate for my labor, I went to the office to learn the basics of editing.

The only book which I had read in high school was “How to be Big” by Eikichi Yazawa. Determined not to lose to classmates working with me at the editing office, I began to read books with a passion. I read solely because I did not want to be inferior to other students around me. By the time I graduated, I must have read several hundred books in two years. Even since the day that I saw the bulletin board ad, I changed from a poor student who never gave my full effort to a motivated student who made full use of every moment in the day.

Professor Hiraoka has passed away, but Professor Togo stills acts as my father figure in Tokyo—at least, from my perspective. When I see Professor Togo’s clumsy motions as he makes shochu liquor mixed with water, I remember my real father and sometimes hope for a scolding!

Nothing starts without effort

©Hisaaki Mihara
Mitsuyo Kakuta
1989 graduate from the School of Letters, Arts and Sciences I with a major in literature

Born in Kanagawa Prefecture in 1967. Her debut work “Blissful Play” won the 1990 Kaien Literary Prize for New Writers. After winning the Noma Literary Prize for New Writers for her work “UFO in a Drowsy Night,” won the Naoki Prize for “Woman on the Other Shore,” the Kawabata Yasunari Prize for “Rock Haha,” and the Chuokoron Literary Prize for “Cicadas on the Eighth Day.” One of the top writers in modern Japanese literature, writes in a broad range of fields from short stories to full-length novels and pure literature to entertainment.

I chose Waseda University because I wanted to enter the Department of Literature at the School of Letters, Arts and Sciences. Upon entering university, I found that while few of my classmates were interested in writing novels, they were all very intelligent and much more knowledgeable than me. I felt the need to read more books and read with a voracious passion. Looking back, it was at that time that I discovered my “favorite authors” Midori Osaki and Hyakken Uchida, as well as “authors who now support” my current literary activities.

Although I had expected classes to emphasize “thorough learning before writing,” we were asked to “write immediately.” It felt like a vocational training school! I still remember how I used to write. Young writers use difficult words in an attempt to appear intelligent. However, Professor Kohei Hata told me that using difficult words to explain simple concepts made the writer appear stupid. “When writing about something difficult, it is essential to use simple language. Just use the vocabulary which you already possess.”—Even today, I still follow this advice from Professor Hata.

During my 3rd and 4th years at university, I had already written a novel for young girls. At the same time, I was a member of a theatre club named “Teatro 50.” Recently, the club had a 40th anniversary reunion. It was an interesting gathering of diverse people, including professional thespians that appear in productions of “Caramel Box” and “Gekidan Rappaya,” presidents of talent agencies, the director of the film “Space Brothers,” and the producer from the drama “Amachan.”

I had a very busy student life. From writing to theatre, romance, drinking, and more drinking—about the only thing I did not do was study! Besides writing novels, I did not spend much time studying. Looking back, I wish I had taken advantage of the opportunity and studied more. However, in a positive sense, my naivety and lack of knowledge compared to other students gave me an inferior complex. In no way did I feel like “I had been blessed with talent” or “could succeed relying only on my natural ability.” Instead, my time at Waseda taught me that “I had to make every effort just to reach the same level as others.”

I had to work hard just to reach a level “slightly below normal people.” Accordingly, the most important lesson that I learned at university, is that “nothing starts without effort.” Even today, I recognize the “need to work hard” every day.

Summoned to Waseda

Chisato Abe
3rd-year student at the School of Culture, Media and Society

“I’m going to write a novel in the motif of Japanese mythology.”—I set this goal after I had finished writing a full-length novel in the motif of myths from Japan’s “Kojiki” (Record of Ancient Matters) and “Nihon-Shoki” (Oldest Chronicles of Japan) in high school. Although the novel which I wrote in high school did not win any awards, I felt an unprecedented positive response towards my premonition of creating a “Japanese-style fantasy.” It is no overstatement to say that I entered university for the purpose of studying “Kojiki” and “Nihon-Shoki” myth. When I first entered Waseda, I was completely preoccupied with the Japanese myths.

However, once I began studying, I recognized the need to expand my interest beyond Japanese myths. Waseda views Japan not as an “independent country” but as “part of global society.” I realized that, in order to truly understand Japanese myths, I had to study about China and the Korean Peninsula. Furthermore, this study was not limited to the myths of other countries; instead, I had to focus on the history, culture and lifestyle of people living there.

I now feel that I was summoned to Waseda for this purpose. In the past, my world consisted solely of Japanese myths. Today, that narrow world is expanding with astounding speed.

Her debut work “Kimono Doesn’t Match the Bird” was published in 2012 and won the 19th Seicho Matsumoto Prize, making her the youngest prize-winner in history. Her most recent work is “Birds Don’t Choose Their Master” (Bungeishunju Ltd., July 2013).

Encounters at Waseda University

Yumi Fuzuki
4th-year student at the School of Education

When I was in the 6th grade of elementary school, I read a transcription of lectures by Masahiro Mita. “There’s an interesting school in Tokyo that teaches about writing novels,” I thought at the time. I entered the School of Education based on my adoration for Waseda, a school which has produced numerous authors, and my belief (thinking back, a rather unfounded belief!) that I could get something at the school.

Until graduating from high school in Sapporo, I could not find anyone around me who was interested in literature. I was quite unsure whether my poems would resonate with people. However, through classes at Waseda and exchanges with other students, I feel that “my relationship with literature” naturally solidified. I was particularly stimulated by classes taught by Professor Chiaki Ishihara and Professor Toshiyuki Horie, whose classes I snuck into secretly. I also grew by joining the Tanka Society and composing tanka poetry. Being used to the form of free verse, I had great difficulty handling the fixed form of tanka poetry. Accordingly, I felt great happiness when I was able to refine my expressions. At the School of Education, I was surrounded by friends who wanted to become teachers, which actually made it possible for me to continue my activities as a poet. Now that I have entered my final year of university, I feel great affection for buildings at the School of Education and for all of Waseda University.

Poet. In 2008, won the Gendai Shi Techo Prize for her debut work. During her 3rd year of high school, won the Nakahara Chuya Prize for her first poetry collection “Becoming Inappropriate Me for an Appropriate World,” becoming the youngest prize-winner in history. In August 2013, published her second poetry collection “Deeper than the Roof.” In charge of writing lyrics for the theme song of the 2013 NHK All-Japan School Music Competition.

Time spent in the library

Hayato Yoshida
2011 graduate from the School of Culture, Media and Society; currently enrolled at the Graduate School of Letters, Arts and Sciences

I like the basement archives in the library because there is no reception for cellular phones. Rather than an archive, it seems like an underground fortress composed of bookshelves, bookshelves and more bookshelves…

Going down into the archives, turning over English or French literature which I could never afford to purchase myself, flipping the pages, taking in the scent of old ink and paper—it makes me feel like I am reputable literary scholar. Sometimes, I am unsure whether I enrolled at university or enrolled at the library. I study at the library, write reports at the library, write manuscripts at the library, and work on my thesis at the library. While spending my time that way, I graduated before I even noticed. Instead of saying that I graduated from Waseda University, it seems more real to say that I graduated from the Waseda University Library. Even when I watch the ekiden road relay race during the New Year’s holidays, I cannot believe that athletes from my alma mater are running in the race. By the way, if you see me at the library, please don’t call out to me. Remember…we have to be quiet in the library!

Began writing poems as a junior high school student. In 2013, won the 59th Kadokawa Tanka Poetry Prize for “Essays for Oblivion,” a collection of 50 tanka poems.