Mushanokoji's Good Natured Man

Mushanokoji’s Good Natured Man 16 (Addendum 3)

Key to unlocking the piece is again the notion of individuals entangled at an unconscious level, with the result that their feelings irrationally affect each other at a distance, quantum-style (if decades in advance of the actual science). The characters are unaware of the deep nature of their connection. This is indeed an original innovation on the author’s part, as is the way he allows gaps in the narrative structure in order to leave that ‘spooky action’ as implicit.

At the same time, the shadow of Jibun’s solipsism—the unfolding of his obsessional love totally within his own mind—contaminates the objective perspective within which the characters are cast: is all this merely a projection, a narcissistic defence mechanism? There is a vacillation or ‘flickering‘ between subjective and objective poles—between moments of naive self-delusion and touching insight.

The images featured in this instalment are one by the Yokohama photographer Kusakabe Kimbei (1831-1934) showing an ornamental garden in bloom, and an ukiyoe print by Tsukioka Yoshitoshi (1829-1892), Dark: The Appearance of a Wife During the Meiji Era from the series “Thirty-two Aspects of Customs and Manners of Women”.


It may seem to Ichiro as if she does not love him, but it becomes ever more difficult for him to believe that she does not love him at all. Unmistakably, that look can only mean she certainly does love him, he sometimes thinks. If that is true, then he must tell her that he wants to join together with her. The reason he does not is that he does not want to be laughed at. But if she dislikes him, even if he declares his feelings and she simply dismisses him, that does not necessarily mean that he will have bothered her. The reason he does not speak out is that he is afraid of people whom he does not even know. It would be stupid to abandon their happiness for fear of being ridiculed by people who do not even know him. Sometimes he wishes she would ask him to unite with her. But this is something that cannot be hoped for, and when it crosses his mind, he reviles her for hardheartedness. Even Ichiro recognizes the unreasonableness of this.

He was a cultured young man, and would sometimes compose poetry when thinking of her. One day their paths happened to cross, and looking back when she had gone by, he scolded himself for lacking the courage to declare himself. He went home and wrote in his diary.

The figure of your back, oh my—
Watching as you move away
I transgress
O, I am an offender

An offender, O forgive me
If you know my heart
Weep with me.
She forgives, O my beloved!

However, thinking about it, he realized that he was not worthy of being her husband, that she would never be able to love him enough. Strange, how he had believed until now that being with her would be the only way to save her. Now he ended up with a lonely smile on his face, at the idea of having her to himself forever, but she not loving him enough.

One day, at his desk, feeling lonelier and sadder than ever before, he leaned back to catch his breath. His eyes began to well up, his tears flowed unceasingly, as a poignant nostalgia rose in his heart. He had often felt lonely and cried alone, but never as much as at this moment. He did not know why, but after a while his tears ceased. He rinsed his face and went to the place where he usually saw Shizu, but there was no sign of her. Desperate, he went back to his room and sat down at his desk again, feeling miserable. He went for a walk to distract himself, but still could not ease his loneliness. He tried to bear up, but was on the verge of tears. The thought of Shizu came to him, and he could not expel her from his mind. Despite himself, he felt such a deep affection.

In those days, Shizu would follow her parents’ advice, with the understanding that she should put aside her own desires for their sake, so she acknowledge that the time had come when she must sacrifice herself in order to please them, by complying with their wish that she take a husband. She could not help but think that the man who would become her husband would be a better person than she. Of course, this belief only arose in her conscious mind.

During the next few moments both of them were struck with agonizing pangs. To Shizu there seemed a reason for this to some extent, but Ichiro could not understand what was happening to him.

One morning he looked at the newspaper and was staggered by what he saw. It was the face of the one whom he held dear, juxtaposed with that of an unfamiliar man.

Over the few days, he wondered whether she did not love him, but nevertheless his anguish faded. Then he smiled a lonely smile. He wrote down in his diary.

She has married someone whom I do not know.
Blessed be she!
So be it
The happy couple.
So be it
My congratulations.
So be it, so be it.

As he wrote, he experienced a deep loneliness and broke down again.

At that same instant, Shizu showed her husband a smile, hiding the loneliness she felt.

English translation of Saneatsu Mushanokoji’s Omedetakihito (1910) by Michael Guest © 2022

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