Author Archives

Michael Guest

Writer and editor, blogger on books and ideas. Former university lecturer and professor.

Mushanokoji’s Good Natured Man 13

Herein ends the explicit narrative of the incorrigible Jibun’s hunger for a woman vis-à-vis the schoolgirl Tsuru. However, the book continues with several addenda, what Mushanokoji refers to as a ‘supplementary record, to be seen as something written by the protagonist of The Good Natured Man’. The supplementary […]

Mushanokoji’s Good Natured Man 11

What?! Tsuru has red hair? Like blonde hair, black hair has various shades, such as kite, rouge, purple, iron, and sandalwood. Jibun may discern such a fine detail, given the intensity of his focus upon her. However, his observation may be read primarily as a symbolistic gesture, standing […]

Mushanokoji’s Good Natured Man 10

A small group of foreign words in katakana (phonetic script) presented an initially worrying, but ultimately amusing and enlightening, knot to untie. Katakana is the means by which the Japanese writing system represents foreign words. It was first used to enable the pronunciation of imported Chinese texts (since […]

Mushanokoji’s Good Natured Man 9

Reflecting on his yearning for the beautiful young Tsuru—and reflecting on his reflections—Jibun invokes a classic Japanese love suicide, “a tragic tale of unrestrained desire” (Brownstein). The scandalous affair of Onatsu and Seijuro occurred in the mid-seventeenth century and inspired poetry, novels, plays for bunraku puppet theatre, and […]

Mushanokoji’s Good Natured Man 8

A Japanese character (kanji) compound, ‘mede’ (目出: “eye” + “go out”) is the basis for the expression, ‘good natured’ in Mushanokoji’s translated title Omedetaki-hito. The compound appears in the common congratulatory phrase, ‘omedetou gozaimasu’, as in, for example, ‘tanjoubi omedetou gozaimasu’ (Many happy returns of the day!) However, […]

Mushanokoji’s Good Natured Man 7

The restoration of the emperor in 1868 heralded a period of stupendous change, during which Japan was transformed from an isolated assemblage of feudal fiefdoms under threat of colonization by the West, into a powerful modern nation. The Meiji Restoration commenced with a coup executed by a group […]

Mushanokoji’s Good Natured Man 6

It is tongue-in-cheek, and with a measure of self-deprecation, that Jibun compares himself and Tsuru to Dante and Beatrice. At the same time, Mushanokoji subtly acknowledges Dante as a model. Like Jibun, Dante enjoyed only the most scant face-to-face encounters with his beloved Beatrice. In the Vita Nuova, […]

Mushanokoji’s Good Natured Man 5

The Meiji era (1868 – 1912) gave rise to a variety of sexual attitudes relating to the importation of Western ideas and mores. Some Japanese leaders who travelled to western countries found a model for expression in European dandies, emulating their lifestyles and manners. Others derided these foreign […]

Mushanokoji’s Good Natured Man 4

Jibun’s moralism, individualism and egocentrism are traits that Mushanokoji celebrates as ideal qualities. He drew his philosophy initially from Leo Tolstoy (1828 – 1910), whose humanism widely influenced young Japanese writers and intellectuals early in the twentieth century. For a time, Mushanokoji adopted the self-sacrificing Count Tolstoy as […]