Initially I was hesitant to write about the American Literature Seminar, which took place at Nagano, Japan, in August 1955, with William Faulkner participating. For one thing I am not in the habit of keeping a diary and saving old data books to make up for my diminishing memories. For another Robert A. Jelliffe compiled a detailed account of the Seminar; Joji Saito, Michio Yorifuji, Kenzaburo Ohashi, and Ikuko Fujihira, among others, wrote about the Seminar.1A breakthrough was made when I accessed the database of Nagano Municipal Library, knowing that the Library has established the Faulkner Corner in commemoration of the return in November 14, 1987 of the “Faulkner Scroll,” signed by the attendants and presented to Faulkner in appreciation of his participation in the Seminar. Fifty-five Faulkner items (as of July 24, 2006) in the Library included as many as four copies of Naoko Miyajima’s graduation thesis submitted to the faculty of the English Department, Tsuru University，Tsuru, Japan, in 1989. I had no hesitation in visiting Nagano again in view of the improved transportation.2
Before leaving for Nagano I wrote the following letter to the Faulkner Corner:
2. At Nagano
When I arrived at Nagano, I went directly to the Library. There I met Hitoshi Matsuki, Chief Librarian, who gave me a prepared copy of the thesis and put me in contact with its author. There was no pamphlet on the Corner available, but he promised to have Faulkner-related newspaper articles on display in the Corner copied for me. In the course of my stay, I used the Library and paid a visit to Joyama Park where the Nagano Japan-America Cultural Center, one of the Seminar venues, used to be located, and to the site of the Gomeikan inn, the other venue, where Faulkner and a sizable contingent of the Seminar attendants including myself stayed. The discovery of the Miyajima thesis, along with a talk with its author, was definitely the highlight of my trip.
One of the reasons I wanted to publicize the thesis was that no scholars referred to it, Saito, Yorifuji, Ohashi and Fujihira included. Not even Yoshio Takanashi, a Nagano resident teaching at Nagano Prefectural College, who contributed an essay, “Faulkner at Nagano—In Commemoration of the 100th Anniversary of His Birth,” to a local newspaper, made reference to the Miyajima thesis.4 My conceit that I should be the first to publicize it was blown to pieces, however, when Hidematsu Hashimoto, a Faulkner admirer, confided to me, “Miyajima’s thesis is a good choice for us nonprofessionals. It is intelligible and usable to us.” 5 I had to sublimate my initial frustration and take comfort in the thought that I found a sympathizer in him.
3. The Miyajima Thesis
Miyajima explained to me that the Library had requested her to donate the thesis. Apparently the Library made four copies out of it. It was written in Japanese, with the exception of quotes from English texts.
The table of contents is as follows:
In the introductory chapter the author described her motivation for choosing the theme. Triggered by the return to Nagano of the “Faulkner Scroll” in November 1987, Miyajima, native to Nagano, “felt an interest in Faulkner’s coming to Nagano—hopefully different from nonresident scholars’, and wanted to know his impressions of Japan in general and of Nagano in particular.”6
Faulkner came to Nagano before the author was born, but quite a few were still alive who knew the event when she wrote the thesis. Standard procedure in dealing with such an event would be to check back on contemporary records and to get in contact with those who knew the event, as she did in sections 1, 2 and 3 of chapter 2.
She reported on the press interview with Faulkner at Haneda International Airport (Narita was opened in 1978) upon his arrival in Tokyo on the morning of August 1, quoting from the August 1, 1955 issue of The Asahi Shimbun (the national evening edition), and on the press interview with him at the Gomeikan inn on the afternoon of August 5 after an early morning arrival on the same day at Nagano from Tokyo by night train, quoting from the August 6, 1955 issue of The Asahi Shimbun (the Nagano edition). Hashimoto attributed a scarcity of news coverage to “[t]he level of discussion at the Seminar [which] seemed to have been too high for reporters.”7
Miyajima interviewed those who knew the event at every opportunity. When she could not, she relied on published statements, as did Takahashi, Kajima, Ooka and Takami. 8 For reference those with whom Miyajima contacted are listed below along with their position at the time of Faulkner’s visit to Japan: Saito was an adviser to the American Embassy and served as an interpreter during the Seminar. Takahashi was affiliated with Chuo University and “one of the first representative Faulknereans”9 in Japan. Kajima was affiliated with Shinshu University and later participated in the ceremony at the return of the “Faulkner Scroll,” as one of the few surviving Seminar attendants. Ooka and Takami were well-known novelists. Sasaki was Deputy Chief of the Nagano Japan-America Cultural Center. Miyazawa was a Nagano Prefecture official sent to the Seminar as a liaison. Yanagisawa was a professor of English at Nagano Prefectural College and served as a moderator when Faulkner met with Nagano citizens, and as such was counted among the citizens. The landlady of the Gomeikan inn might have been Jun Nakazawa, as Hashimoto told me.10 Terashima was a room attendant working at the inn and “took care of Faulkner personally” (27). Takashima “was entrusted with the management of the Ginsenryo restaurant of the Gomeikan inn and was Faulkner’s favorite” (29).
Miyajima’s checkback went beyond news items. In section 4 of chapter 2 she took up “Impressions of Japan,” a video (originally an 8mm black-and-white short film 11) “recording Faulkner in Japan, Nagano’s landscape and things Japanese” (32). It is worthy of note that she made use of the video. Visual aids not only make up for a dearth of written materials but also work effectively in visualizing the characters of those whom we did not have a chance to meet in person.
In section 5 of chapter 2 the author described the ceremony at the return of the “Faulkner Scroll,” which prompted her to choose the theme.
In the concluding chapter Miyajima noted that those with whom she succeeded in contacting cherished Faulkner “in unforgettable memory,” “with a good impression,” and “in the greatest respect” (36), even after a lapse of thirty years. She gave thanks to those people, especially to Sasaki who “provided me with such valuable materials as tapes, videotapes and pictures, and introduced me to well-informed persons; to the staff of the Gomeikan inn; to Yorifuji who supervised my thesis and introduced me to Saito and Sasaki, old acquaintances of his” (37). Yorifuji’s introduction resulted in Miyajima’s interview with the two, and copies of her thesis being added to the collection of Nagano Municipal Library. Yorifuji remembers those days well.12
A detailed account of the thesis aside, I would like to point out two salient features. One is reference to vox populi, and the other a feminist consciousness present in the thesis. Indeed, these two constitute the substantial reason I want to publicize the thesis.
3.1. Reference to Vox Populi
I went through the campus disturbance, the revolt of students against the academic establishment, in the 60s, and so am fully aware of the follies of a mere scholar. This sentiment was reflected in what I had to say about the joint event of the citizen-centered Fifth Steinbeck Festival and the scholarly Second International Steinbeck Congress, which took place in Salinas, California in August 1984:
The same sentiment was again expressed when I took note of the progression of the International Steinbeck Congress from scholars only to collaboration with general readers, and warned against falling into stark professionalism, at the 6th Congress, which took place in Kyoto in June 2005.14
Significantly Miyajima made a point of treating Faulkner in the eyes of citizens distinct from Faulkner in the eyes of scholars. She thanked Sasaki by name and the staff of the Gameikan inn as a group, if not by name.
It was Faulkner himself who said, “No; to me the author is not important, it’s the work,” in answer to the question, “What do you mean by Japanese authors; whom do you mean? Could you mention?”(Nagano 87). And the strongest impression Yanagisawa got from Faulkner’s meeting with Nagano citizens was that “It made no difference whether he talked with scholars or citizens. He made no allowance for the status of the people he talked with” (24-25).
3.2. A Feminist Consciousness
A niece of mine living in Munich is writing a book on the city in commemoration of the 850th anniversary of its municipality. Asked by the publisher to write the book from a foreigner’s viewpoint, she decided to add a pinch of Japanese flavor to it, with Cathy N. Davidson’s 36 Views of Mount Fuji: Finding Myself in Japan (after Hiroshige’s print) as a model, and wanted to know my impression of the book. Realizing the author to be no other than the co-author of The Oxford Book of Women’s Writing in the United States (Oxford: Oxford UP, 1995) and The Oxford Companion to Women’s Writing in the United States (New York: Oxford UP, 1995), I had a hunch that the book was more than a mere travel book before reading it, and confirmed the hunch upon reading it. I was especially intrigued with E. M. Broner’s blurb which read, “Davidson is uniquely equipped for this journey, armed with intelligence, warmth, and a feminist consciousness that makes her seek out, in Japan, the hidden women as well as the more evident men” (Durham: Duke UP, 2006). I told my niece that I was in complete agreement with Broner.
Broner’s blurb applies to the Miyajima thesis as well with all the differences between the two authors (a foreign traveler vs. a resident Japanese; an established scholar vs. “a mere undergraduate” ). Miyajima sought out the hidden women such as the landlady and the staff of the Gomeikan inn, following unwittingly Davidson’s footsteps.
As the landlady recalled, some four couples were staying at the inn. One night a lady tripped on a bump in the dimly-lit corridor. It so happened that Faulkner was there, and he carried the lady on his back (26). The landlady spoke further about how Faulkner ended up staying at the inn. Mr. Korb, 2nd Director of the American Cultural Center Nagano (later the Nagano Japan-America Cultural Center), stayed at the inn during his term of office. Back in the States he suggested that an American Literature Seminar be held at Nagano with Faulkner as a guest, and that Faulkner stay at the inn, whose hospitality he had enjoyed so much (26). To my knowledge Miyajima is the only person to refer to the episode.
Terashima did not speak English, and so she spoke with Faulkner in gesture. His smile was the sign that he was pleased. He had coffee before he took a morning walk, and so she had to get up early to make coffee in good time (27-28). Miyajima read Faulkner’s feeling of gratitude toward Terashima from the following quotation, although she was not mentioned by name:
Faulkner gave Terashima his autographed picture. Miyajima grasped Faulkner’s expression of thanks from the pressure he put on the pen (28-29). The picture has since been donated to Nagano Municipal Library, and is hung in the Faulkner Corner.15
In passing, Terashima died a few years ago. She did not know what Faulkner had to say about her until Hashimoto translated the quotation above for her. She was pleased that it would be a good memory.16
According to Takashima, Faulkner would spend an hour or so at the Ginsenryo restaurant, always drinking beer and sometimes eating curry and rice. He sat with his legs crossed in a checked shirt with short sleeves. He did not look like a VIP who came to Japan as an American cultural ambassador (29).
Again in passing, rumor has it that Takashima was persuaded by the American Embassy to take Terashima’s place in the film “Impressions of Japan,” because of her good looks. The fact is that she is silent about Faulkner’s stay in Nagano. When Hashimoto tried to get in contact with her, “No interview” was her curt answer.17 I cannot help but think that Takashima’s story is a woman’s story handed down from woman to woman.
Takashima lives by herself near the Zenkoji temple. From time to time she visits the Gomeikan restaurant (the Ginsenryo restaurant was renamed the Gomeikan restaurant for the demolished inn), and chats with Teruko Nakazawa, daughter-in-law of the landladay Miyajima interviewed, over a bowl of her favorite noodles.18
It is not the first time that I take up a graduation thesis. When I tried to extenuate Cathy Ames in John Steinbeck’s East of Eden, I quoted from a thesis I supervised.19 I did this not because it was a graduation thesis, but because it was a good thesis. It is easy to point out flaws in Miyajima’s thesis, such as using formal titles in referring to men or women. But I am fully aware of the truth in the proverb, “The cure is worse than the disease.”
In writing this essay I consulted literature on Faulkner at Nagano, revisited Nagano, and was personally advised by Yorifuji and Hashimoto, with the result that I verified my distant memories (Faulkner’s aura of a samurai; his remarks like “I am a countryman” and “Coming from the South defeated in the Civil War, I can understand the feeling of the young people of the defeated Japan”), and remembered what those buried in complete oblivion (the film “Impressions of Japan”; signing my name on the “Faulkner Scroll”). Above and beyond verification and remembrance I was blessed with recognition of things the young man that I was could not possibly think of (vox populi; a feminist consciousness). This essay is homage paid to Miyajima’s “Faulkner and Nagano,” which was instrumental to that recognition..
1 Robert A. Jelliffe, ed., Faulkner at Nagano (Tokyo: Kenkyusha, 1956); Joji Saito, “Remembering Faulkner,” Bungei [Literature] 1.8 (1962): 159-65; Michio Yorifuji, The Making of Faulkner’s Literature (Tokyo: Seibido, 1997) 195-206; Kenzaburo Ohashi, “What Does the Chinese Character Meaning ‘Falconer’ [on the ‘Faulkner Scroll’] Stand for?,” Faulkner 4(2002): 173-83; Ikuko Fujihira, “Nagano,” A William Faulkner Encyclopedia, ed. Robert W. Hamblin and Charles A. Peek, and trans. Mizuho Terasawa (Tokyo: Yushodo, 2006) 305-06.
2 According to the reprint edition of the train schedule for August 1955 (Tokyo: Japan Travel Bureau, 2002), a trip to Nagano took me then a good 30 hours, changing from an express to a local express. When I revisited Nagano, it was a matter of 6 hours, changing from a bullet train to a limited express.
3 Yasuo Hashiguchi, letter to Nagano Municipal Library Faulkner Corner, 28 July 2006.
4 The Nagano Mainici Shimbun 25 and 26 Sept. 1997.
5 Hidematsu Hashimoto, letter to the author, 15 Oct. 2006.
6 Naoko Miyajima, “Faulkner and Nagano,” graduation thesis, Tsuru University, 1989, 2. Subsequent quotations from this work will be identified by page numbers in parentheses in the text.
7 Hashimoto, letter to the author, 15 Oct. 2006.
8 Masao Takahashi, “Faulkner Talks about His Own Works,” Gunzo [Group] 10.10 (1955): 141-45; Shozo Kajima, At Faulkner’s Hometown (Tokyo: Misuzu Shobo, 1984): 35-37, 186-87; Shohei Ooka, The Asahi Shimbun 4 Aug. 1955; Jun Takami, The Asahi Shimbun 1 Aug. 1955.
9 Ohashi, “Faulkner in Japan—A Chronological Essay,”Faulkner 7(2005): 138.
10 Hashimoto, letter to the author, 6 Nov. 2006.
11 Yorifuji 188.
12 Yorifuji, letter to the author, 12 Nov. 2006.
13 Hashiguchi, “Report of the Fifth Steinbeck Festival and the Second International Steinbeck Congress,” Steinbeck Quarterly 18.1-2 (1985): 10.
14 Hashiguchi, “Looking Back on Past International Steinbeck Congresses,” The 6th International Steinbeck Congress, Hotel Kyoto Garden Palace, Kyoto, 8 June 2005.
15 Hashimoto, letter to the author, 15 Oct. 2006.
16 Hashimoto, letter to the author, 15 Oct. 2006.
17 Hashimoto, letter to the author, 15 Oct. 2006.
18 Hashimoto, letters to the author, 15 Oct. and 6 Nov. 2006.
19 “What did prostitution mean to her [Cathy]? She killed her parents in search of ‘freedom.’ She abandoned her husband and children to be ‘free.’ The world of prostitution was the logical conclusion of her search for ‘freedom,’ so to speak. She may be blamed for her course of life. From a different viewpoint, however, she was simply true to her feelings. Prostitution was a means of ‘escape to freedom’ or ‘escape from human bondage’ to her. We attempt escape when we are discontent with the existing circumstance. She attempted escape from her parents, husband, children, and a stable home environment by throwing herself into ‘prostitution.’ The novel leaves it open whether she succeeded in the attempt.” (Megumi Takeoka, “A Study of East of Eden,” graduation thesis, Yasuda Women’s University, 1995, 14-15, qtd. in Hashiguchi, “I Could Have Killed Him [Adam Trask, Cathy’s husband], but I Didn’t,” Bulletin of Yasuda Women’s University Graduate School of Letters 1. Pt.2 : 43)
Yasuo Hashiguchi, a retired professor of English at Yasuda Women’s University, Hiroshima, Japan. His publication includes The Complete Works of John Steinbeck (Kyoto: Rinsen, 1985) and “Sanctuary,” Faulkner, ed. Masami Nishikawa (Tokyo: Kenkyusha, 1966).
Copyright (c) 2007 Yasuo Hashiguchi