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Biographical sketches of alumni - Waseda and Sanjugo Naoki

There isn't any person in Japan who doesn't know the literary award, the "Naoki Prize." Its official name is "Naoki Sanjugo Prize", and winning titles are announced semi-annually along with the Akutagawa Prize. Sanjugo Naoki is relatively unknown compared to the name of the literary prize, but he was a big writer in the genre of historical novels and popular novels in the Meiji and Showa eras. Although he had an income, he outspent what he earned, and while piling up a lifetime of debt, in addition to editing a magazine and running a publishing company, he also displayed his many talents in producing films and writing scripts etc. Because of unpaid fees due to hardships of life, his school record states he dropped out of the English Department at Waseda University Higher Normal School, but for some reason his "graduation photo" remains.
【From the Waseda University Public Relations Magazine "Northwest Wind Vol.12" (issued in September 2012)】

Waseda student・Shuichi Uemura

Sanjugo Naoki's real name was Shuichi Uemura. He split the Chinese character in his name "植(ue)" into "直(nao)" and "木(ki)", and at the age of 31 started calling himself "Sanjuichi (31) Naoki", and then changed his name every year to "Sanjuni (32)" and "Sanjusan(33)", before skipping "Sanjuyon(34)", an unlucky number, and stopping at "Sanjugo (35) Naoki". He penned over 660 novels, reviews and essays during his lifetime. Born in Osaka in 1891, Naoki entered the English Literature Department of Waseda University at the age of 20 in September 1911. One year later he started living with his future wife Suma Busshi, but because he couldn't live on the allowance sent by his poor family which ran a second-hand clothing business, Naoki transferred to the higher normal school where monthly fees were 50 sen (1 sen =1/100 yen) cheaper than the English Literature Department. But even that saving wasn't enough, and in the end he couldn't pay his fees, so he decided not to pay. About his state of mind at that time, Naoki says this in his uncompleted autobiography Shi Made o Kataru (Speaking Until Death).

"That was the time I was found out and told to show my student identification"

Naoki continued to go to university, and while his teachers and classmates knew he had no record of enrollment, they tacitly approved his attending of lectures. At this time, Naoki was living near the former Waseda University ground, where the Center for Scholarly Information stands today.

The phantom "graduation photo"

There had been no biography written on Naoki's whole life, and Naoki Sanjugo Den (Biography of Sanjugo Naoki) (2005, Bungeishunjusha) by Tomone Uemura, 1962 graduate of Waseda University's School of Letters, Arts and Sciences I, and eldest son of Naoki's younger brother, the later Seiji Uemura (former professor at Niigata University, Oriental history scholar), is the first.

"A biography is an array of interesting episodes. Luckily, many letters and materials have remained. From following Naoki's whole life from birth to death, and what I heard from my father, I have included every episode I know," says Uemura.

A single Waseda University graduation photograph was left with Uemura. Somehow, Naoki, who should not have graduated, is shown to one side. "July 1915" is written on the back. According to Naoki Sanjugo Den, Naoki was afraid his allowance would be stopped, so he didn't tell his family that he dropped out of school. In order to reassure his parents, who were looking forward to his graduating, he appeared in the graduation photo and sent it to them as proof. In a reply to his younger brother Seiji, who sent a letter congratulating him on his graduation, Naoki wrote, "The graduation photo will be ready in two to three days. I'll send it to you when it's done. I'm in the second row from the top on the right. I'm going to do a translation with the man in front of me with the moustache. His name's Hiroshi Washio and he translated Francesca." Hiroshi Washio was a classmate in the English Literature Department. He ran a publishing company with Naoki , which was later to fail, and he went on to win the second Naoki Prize for Yoshinocho Taiheiki (Chronicles of the Yoshino Era of Peace) under the pen-name Uko Washio.

The "graduation" photo taken in July 1915. Naoki is standing on the right of the back row.

Art is short, poverty is long

Sanjugo Naoki around the time he became a popular writer

In 1960, near Naoki's house in Kanazawa Ward, Yokohama, a literature monument inscribed with the words "Art is Short Poverty is Long", was erected. This was erected at the request of Naoki's friend Jiro Osaragi, and Uemura, a university student at the time, attended the unveiling ceremony. Here, Uemura met Naoki's ex-wife Suma and his lover for the first time. This meeting became the catalyst to take notes about Naoki. He didn't have the chance to write for a long time, but after retiring as a businessperson, he published Naoki Sanjugo Den. Uemura relates, "While I was writing, I linked the points in the episodes I had heard about Naoki. I found out why close friend Kan Kikuchi was so captivated with Naoki, and I began to like my uncle even more."

Through the full-length historical novel, Nangoku Taiheiki (Chronicles of the Great Peace in the South), which began being serialized in a newspaper when he was 39, four years before his death, Naoki jumped to fame and also contributed to the development of popular literature. Bungeishunjusha president Kan Kikuchi expressed great admiration when saying, "This is a magnificent historical novel. It could be said that this is the first historical novel to exist in Japan." In February 1934, Naoki succumbed to tuberculous meningitis at the age of 43. In January the following year, Kikuchi, in commemoration of Naoki, who largely developed Bungeishunjusha through his ideas and writings, established the "Naoki Sanjugo Prize", to be awarded to the most excellent work of popular fiction.

【Contributor/Tomone Uemura】
Tomone Uemura. Born in Matsuyama , Ehime Prefecture in 1938. Nephew of Sanjugo Naoki. After graduating from the School of Letters, Arts and Sciences I, Waseda University, and working for Toei Co. Ltd., he entered Tokyo Channel 12 Productions (now TV Tokyo Corporation). Became managing director in 1994 and president and representative director of TV Tokyo Productions in 1999. He is currently a professional writer. One of his recent works is Kikotsu no Hito Shiroyama Saburo (Man of Determination Saburo Shiroyama) (Fusosha). His latest title is a collection of conversations, Terebi Wa Nani o Tsutaetekita Ka (What Has Television Conveyed to Us?) (Chikuma Bunko).