Japan novelist and Doppo Kunikida (1871-1908)

Japan novelist and Doppo Kunikida (1871-1908)

Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times

The Japanese novelist and writer of poetry, Doppo Kunikida, was a thoughtful individual throughout his life. He also had a determined individual streak and gradually moved from romantic themes to the ideas of naturalism. Therefore, despite his short life, you can feel the world he belonged to concerning the impact of his natural environment and his early ideas. 

Kunikida moved to the prefecture of Yamaguchi when only a young boy. However, the impact of the countryside is witnessed by the solace it gave him and through his later writings before dying at a relatively young age. 

He relocated to Tokyo to further his studies in 1889. This period witnessed his independent streak because he refused to bow down to the administration of Tōkyō Senmon Gakkō (modern-day Waseda University). Hence, he was finally expelled in 1891.

At the age of 21, Kunikida converted to Christianity. The poetry of William Wordsworth and his interest in Western democracy were part of this conversion – alongside the religious angle – for all fused in the same direction.

In 1895, Kunikida married Nobuko Sasaki. Yet, this period brought great sadness to Kunikida. Instead of starting his next stage in life, he would soon be divorced by his pregnant wife after only five months. This concerned the hatred of his mother-in-law, who told her daughter to kill herself rather than marry Kunikida – and his increasing poverty – combined to influence Nobuko to divorce him.

In his writings, titled Azamukazaru no Ki, Kunikida expresses his deep anguish about this period in his life. He missed Nobuko and was pained by many angles. Therefore, Kunikida suffered mental anguish and periods of depression in this period of his life. 

Kunikida wrote several short romantic novels between 1898 and 1901. These include Wasure enu hitobito (Unforgettable People) and Musashino. In 1901, Kunikida became widely respected for his freestyle literature. This concerns the acclaimed novel Gyuniku to bareisho (Beef and Potatoes), which won him many admirers. 

It is noticeable that this heightened period of acclaim coincides with his marriage to Haruko Enomoto in 1898. Before parting from this world, Kunikida moves away from his earlier romanticism to ideas concerning naturalism. Hence, in his works titled Kyushi (A Poor Man’s Death) and Take no Kido (The Bamboo Gate), it is clear that Kunikida is moving toward the ideas of naturalism. Therefore, he is a forerunner related to new ideas entering Japan. 

In 1907, Kunikida contracted tuberculosis and by the following year – aged only 36 – this shining star would part from this world. 

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