May the spirit of Kenji live on

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MIYAZAWA Kenji (1896-1933) was a solitary figure in Japan’s modernist literature. Based in the poor northeast of Japan, far from the capital, he developed his own cosmic vision built on his version of buddhist inspiration. He wrote poems and stories that even today stands out in world literature and well comparable to some of his contemporary French surrealist works. One of his most read stories is the posthumously published novella The Night on the Milky Way Train (1934) that deals with the death of a boy named Campanella drowned to save his schoolmate seen through his friend Giovanni’s eyes.

     March 11, 2021 will be the tenth anniversary of the Great East Japan earthquake. After the earthquake, the Fukushima-born novelist Hideo Furukawa produced a reading play of The Night on the Milky Way Train and has been performing it more than twenty times, each time with a new scenario modified to fit the location and venue of the performance. His fellow performers are the poet SUGA Keijiro, the musician KOJIMA Keitaneylove, and the translator SHIBATA Motoyuki. Here is a short documentary in 2013 that traces the earlier stages of our reading play.

     This year, for the tenth anniversary of the triple disaster (the earthquake, tsunami, and the nuclear catastrophe) of 2011, the team performed the play in a defunct school in the mountainous area of Tokyo and made the performance into a video work that will be released at 14:26, March 11.  May the spirit of Kenji live on.

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