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About the Author: Ryōtarō Shiba

司馬 遼太郎)born Teiichi Fukuda (福田 定一 Fukuda Teiichi?, August 7, 1923 – February 12, 1996) in Osaka, Japan, was a Japanese author best known for his novels about historical events in Japan and on the Northeast Asian sub continent, as well as his historical and cultural essays pertaining to Japan and its relationship to the rest of the world.Shiba studied Mongolian at the Osaka School of Foreign Languages (now the School of Foreign Studies at Osaka University) and began his career as a journalist with the Sankei Shimbun, one of Japan's major newspapers After World War II Shiba began writing historical novels The magazine Shukan Asahi printed Shiba's articles about his travels within Japan in a series that ran for 1,146 installments Shiba received the Naoki Prize for the 1959 novel Fukuro no Shiro (The Castle of an Owl) In 1993 Shiba received the Government's Order of Cultural Merit Shiba was a prolific author who frequently wrote about the dramatic change Japan went through during the late Edo and early Meiji periods His most monumental works include Kunitori Monogatari (国盗り物語), Ryoma ga Yuku (竜馬がゆく; see below), Moeyo Ken, and Saka no ue no kumo (坂の上の雲), all of which have spawned dramatizations, most notably Taiga dramas aired in hour long segments over a full year on NHK television He also wrote numerous essays that were published in collections, one of which—Kaidō wo Yuku—is a multi volume journal like work covering his travels across Japan and around the world Shiba is widely appreciated for the originality of his analyses of historical events, and many people in Japan have read at least one of his works.Several of Shiba's works have been translated into English, including his fictionalized biographies of Kukai (Kukai the Universal: Scenes from His Life, 2003) and Tokugawa Yoshinobu (The Last Shogun: The Life of Tokugawa Yoshinobu, 2004), as well as The Tatar Whirlwind: A Novel of Seventeenth Century East Asia (2007).(from Wikipedia)Alternative Names:Fukuda, Teiichi Ryotaro, Shiba Shiba, Ryoutarou Ryoutarou, Shiba Sima, Liaotailang 司馬遼太郎司马辽太郎 Shiba, Rëotaro Шиба, Рёотаро 司马辽太郎司馬, 遼太郎司馬遼太郎司場遼太郎



6 thoughts on “対訳 21世紀に生きる君たちへ

  1. Little Miss Nowhere Little Miss Nowhere says:

    Originally posted on the Little Miss Nowhere blog.

    I have been working on my Japanese with the goal of passing the JLPT test this year, and the book “To You Who Will Live in the 21st Century” by Shiba Ryotaro has proven to be very helpful. It has the original Japanese text on the left-hand side, and an English translation by Donald Keene and Robert Mintzer on the other. And, since I’ve been meaning to try and delve more deeply into the books I read in general, I figured this was the perfect opportunity to write a blog post.

    In Japan, Shiba Ryotaro (司馬 遼太郎) is a household name. He was arguably one of the most famous Japanese authors of his time, and his works are still highly influential and well-known across the country.

    He was born as Fukuda Teiichi (福田 定一) in Osaka in the year 1923 and started out as a journalist. He soon became famous for his essays and short stories chronicling the history of Japan and the country’s relationship to the rest of the world.

    His pen name is particularly interesting, although perhaps difficult to explain to those who do not speak Japanese (and I am not sure I do it justice here):


    「司馬遷に遼(はるか)に及ばざる日本の者(故に太郎)」

    The surname, Shiba (司馬) is taken from Sima Qian (司馬遷), a historian of the early Han dynasty, who wrote very influential historical works despite facing many hardships in life. The author believes he is far from achieving the greatness of Sima Qian (≈ 遼に及ばざる). Finally, in Japan, Tarou (太郎) is a name that is often used in old folktales and the author uses it here as a sort of placeholder for a “Japanese man” (referring to himself).

    So, in short:

    “A Japanese man who is far from achieving the greatness of the historian Sima Qian.”

    “To You Who Will Live in the 21st Century” is a collection of three essays that the author wrote that were published together in 1999, three years after his death. They were first published in several primary school textbooks and can still be seen in them today, showing how influential his works remain to this day.

    The first essay, titled “The Magnificence of Humanity” is meant as an introduction of sorts to the essay following it. The author explains that although human beings are connected to one another by necessity, young people still feel fulfilled by experiences that they perceive as unconnected to anyone else in the world. This, Shiba says, is the magnificence of humanity and also the reason why he chose to write the essay that follows this one, “To You Who Will Live in the 21st Century”, which serves as a letter to future generations all over the world.

    At the beginning of the second essay, Shiba begins by proclaiming his love for history, which he defines as a big world in which he has many friends. It is due to these friends that he feels as if he has lived longer than he actually has, a sentiment which he wishes to share with the reader.

    Shiba explains that there is one thing he is sad about, and that is the fact that he will not live to see the 21st century. However, he goes on to say that the reader will, and so because of this he would like to share to them the basic way for humans to live that he has learned from studying history.

    He highlights three important aspects:

    The importance of respecting nature, and passing this respect for nature on to others.
    The importance of controlling science and technology, and moving it into the right direction.
    The importance of compassion for others, through which one can develop trustworthiness in the eyes of others.
    Finally, he explains that these aspects hold true regardless of time and place.

    In the final essay, titled “The Torch of Koan”, Shiba presents to us the life of Koan Ogata, a doctor in the late Edo period who heavily influenced Japanese society. The essay follows Koan’s life from medical school to the founding of his own private school, Tekijuku, in which everyone was treated as equals. He lived by strict principles for the benefit of others. After his death, his greatness was passed on like a torch, culminating in the arrival of Japan’s modern era.

    To better understand Shiba’s mindset while writing these essays, and also the mindset of those reading them, here is some information on Japan in the 1990s, taken from a report by the Prime Minister’s Commission on Japan’s Goals in the 21st Century and an empirical investigation of the Japanese economy by Warwick J. McKibbin.

    The economic bubble of the 80s burst in the early 1990s, leading to the sentiment among many Japanese that the economy, political order and the ethical norms that they were so used to had been undermined. This, along with the disastrous Great Hanshin Awaji earthquake of 1995, and the devastating Aum Shinrikyo subway attack in the same year, led many Japanese to feel like their sense of family solidarity, their quality of education, social stability and safety were at risk.

    An additional problem was the rapid aging of Japan’s population, which Japan as a country would be one of the first to have to face.

    At the time, the power of individuality was growing due to new phenomena such as the rising popularity of the Internet. This led to an empowerment of the people, which in turn revitalised both government and society.

    Thus, there was much importance placed on promoting individuality within society. This was said to lead to free, self-reliant and responsible individuals who possessed the ability to empathise with others.

    “The science and technology of the twenty-first century must be used not to conquer nature but to support lives that are spiritually as well as materially affluent, accompanied by a sense that human beings themselves are part of nature.”

    Here we can see one of Shiba’s sentiments strongly mirrored in the report by the Prime Minister’s Commission. While Shiba is more on the cautious side, they both mention the need to create new rules in order to maintain a balance and the necessity of questioning ethics and values while doing so.

    While the economic situation in the early 1990s was certainly bleak, McKibbin points to signs of a sustained recovery in the early part of 1996, and states that “the prospects for the Japanese economy over the next decade are not as bleak as commonly believed”.

    Both papers show themselves as tentatively optimistic in regards to the next decade, a feeling that Shiba seems to share, though perhaps with more vigour. In conclusion, it can be said that the 21st century was approached hopefully after many tumultuous events had shaken Japan in the last decade of the 20th century.

    Finally, after having delved into the historical context, I’d like to discuss my own opinion on Shiba’s work. I believe the action of leaving a letter to future generations is, in itself, a beautiful thing to do. Shiba’s words of wisdom have no doubt inspired many children in Japan, and his enduring popularity shows this to be true.

    “To You Who Will Live in the 21st Century” is a book that is addressed first and foremost to children, and yet I believe that it can be enjoyed by people of all ages. That is part of the beauty of it. Shiba does not write condescendingly; he does not look down at his intended audience. Instead, he writes to them almost as equals. Not only that, but I believe that this book deals with topics that are often deemed “too complicated” or “too serious” for children to be reading about. Shiba throws this idea out of the window, and that adds authenticity to his work.

    “Each human being is a link in a chain — a chain that extends from the distant past into the future. Human greatness lies in not regarding one’s existence pessimistically as merely a link in the chain.”

    This is how Shiba begins his first text. In my opinion, this is just absolutely beautifully written and is something that I would know intrinsically, but not necessarily think about much without it being pointed out to me in such a way. And once it has been pointed out, the sheer magnificence of the statement is almost overwhelming.

    Shiba describes the importance of establishing a self, and explains that this self must be kind to others, but strict toward yourself. While I agree that kindness toward others is very important, I cannot help but feel that kindness toward yourself is paramount. Perhaps it was different in his time, or perhaps it is a cultural difference, but I feel that nowadays, more importance is being placed firstly on being kind to yourself, and then to others. Indeed, it is often said that it is this self-kindness, this self-acceptance, that can even lead to kindness toward others in the first place.

    There is another point that I find myself disagreeing with. Shiba warns of the dangers of science and technology. He warns that “[s]cience and technology cannot be allowed to swallow up human beings like a flood.” In my opinion, he focuses too little on the positive aspects that developments in science and technology can bring forth, instead going the route that I feel many adults do when they are cautious of something: simply warning people with no mention of possible benefits. Of course I don’t think that we should not regulate new technologies, but the total good that can result from scientifical advancements should not be ignored.

    Later on, Shiba describes human beings’ need to live among other human beings, and not in isolation. Reading this made me remember an experiment that we once discussed at school in our pedagogy class, in which children were raised with only the basic necessities, but were not spoken to or given affection. “But he [Frederick II of Germany] laboured in vain, for the children could not live without clappings of the hands, and gestures, and gladness of countenance, and blandishments”. This shows how important social contact is to us humans, and how right Shiba is in accentuating this point.

    “When a person has part of him which is out of the ordinary, this is a wonderful thing.”

    I cannot deny that I was positively surprised in reading this sentence. Japan is a country known for its homogeneity and for ostracising people who are seen as “outlandish” or “strange”. Because of this, I believe Shiba’s statement is vital for the youth in Japan, especially in the globalised world of today.

    Another important message is relayed when Shiba goes into the topic of national seclusion, or sakoku. He compares it to “a situation in which all Japanese people are inside a totally dark box”. Nagasaki, which was the only port open to foreign countries, “was like a small hole pricked open by a needle. Through that small hole, the light of the world shined in faintly.” This is not merely a beautiful metaphor, but it is also very easy to understand. While the imagery used is quite positive, Shiba still manages to convey the negatives of national seclusion in a simple manner.

    While describing the everyday life of the students at Ogata Koan’s private school, one of the past students, Yukichi Fukuzawa, who went on to found Keio University, describes days and nights of studying and reading books at every possible moment. The author wishes to present this in an idealistic manner, as if this were a life to strive for, but I cannot agree with his portrayal. Recent studies have proven that sleep is absolutely necessary in order to facilitate productivity. I don’t feel that the way of life presented by Shiba is inspiring or admirable, and in my opinion it’s a shame that the author seems to believe it is.

    “The fire of his students’ torches later shined brightly in their respective realms. In the end, their fires became the great light that illuminated Japan’s modern era. We, the generations that followed, must be thankful to Koan.”

    This is how Shiba ends his retelling of the life of Koan. He manages to show the amazing influence that a single man can have upon the fate of an entire country. I particularly loved the torch imagery he used to represent the greatness of Koan and his students. It is a shame that there are so few people who know of Koan, considering how much he has shaped Japan as we know it today.

    Shiba Ryotaro’s essays are thought-provoking and beautifully written. I agree with the vast majority of the statements he makes, and aim to follow the advice he outlines. I believe, just as he wrote, that compassion and trustworthiness are two very important human characteristics that shape our personalities from the very foundation.

    I must admit that I was initially slightly confused reading this collection of essays, because I believed the book to be one single, cohesive narrative. So when the story of Koan suddenly appeared, I was confused by the sudden change in focus. But once I realised my mistake and reread the essays, it all made much more sense.

    Although many of the issues he brings up are still problematic in today’s Japanese society, I believe his concept of learning from the past and bringing up similarities between the events of today and yesterday is ingenious. He shows the importance of past, present and future in terms of acknowledging our humanity and the universality of these truths.


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