The Prose and Poetry of Tatsuo Hori

The Life of Tatsuo Hori: Tatsuo Hori’s Biography

The Youth of Hori Tatsuo

Born in the turn of the century, Hori Tatsuo was born in Tokyo on December 28, 1904. Even at a very young age, Hori Tatsuo has been known to suffer a number of lung-related illnesses up to his adult life. He was a frail boy with an impressive brain on top of his shoulders – an indication of sublime creativity and imagination. He is one of the most popular novelists of his time and is also known for his activism supporting modernism and proletarian literature.

By UnknownUnknown author (Historical People Files) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Hori Tatsuo is not only known as a popular novelist, he is also quite famous for his poetry. His first works included translated French poetry when he was still a student. He has a collection of his earlier poetry and prose as well. On the other hand, most of these are not translated into English. Only his major works are translated into English and are made available for the international market.

His Education and Career

During the early stages of his career, he was an active supporter of modernism and proletarian literature. Modernism focused on the widespread transformation of literary works, and other forms of art. Supporters of this movement believe that traditional forms of literature and art are outdated and cannot be at par with the rapid changes in society. It was reflective of how rapid society changes since the onset of the First World War. What is interesting about works on modernism is the fact that it focuses more on existentialism and many artists almost reject the ideologies of some religion.

Proletarian literature, on the other hand, is the type of literature written by working-class writers. Often, these works are very class-conscious and often reflect the lives of people of this status in life. Many people use these works as propaganda for revolutions, as a way to encourage other people to join in their cause. However, Hori Tatsuo’s work is not that reflective of the class divide. Instead, it focuses on the weakness of man against nature.

One of the key turning points in his career was when he translated French poetry as a student. He worked for Roba, a literary journal featuring comics and other literary works from both local and international artists.

Tatsuo Hori’s Wife and Children

Hori Tatsuo was married to a beautiful woman named Ayako Yano, a woman who was of frail health from the time they met. What is interesting about their love story is the fact that Ayako Yano died a year into their marriage due to pulmonary tuberculosis. It is said that the death Hori Tatsuo’s first wife is the inspiration behind all of the writer’s melancholic vibe. It is also believed that Ayako Yano was the primary inspiration for many of the female protagonists in Tatsuo Hori’s pieces. Sadly, Hori did not have any children with his first wife.

By UnknownUnknown author (Historical People Files) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Later on, Tatsuo Hori was married to a woman named Taeko Hori. This woman was born in 1913 and died in 2010. Although she is not as famous as her late husband, Taeko Hori is known in history as a famous essayist. Her works include Koshikata no Ki; Tatsuo no omoide and Hori Tatsuo no Shuhen. These were her later works focusing on the life and works of her late husband, Hori Tatsuo.

Sickness and death

Tatsuo Hori’s later works focus on sentimental pieces about historic sites in Nara, Japan. Particularly the town of Karuizawa where he frequented when he was sick. The setting in most of his works focuses on mountainsides because that was his sanctuary before his first wife died. He, himself, was a resident of the sanatorium in Nagano Prefecture when he was being treated for the chronic illness.

Other than the fact that Tatsuo Hori’s first wife died from pulmonary tuberculosis, the writer himself succumbed to the disease at the young age of 48. Many of his later works, particularly those historical pieces he wrote about Nara, Japan, are reflective of his personal struggles with the illness. He later died in the year 1953.

The Works of Tatsuo Hori (earliest to latest)

The Holy Family (1932)

One of his earlier works would be the Holy Family or Sei Kazoku in Japanese. This particular novel was written in 1932 and is considered as one of Tatsuo Hori’s early major works. One of the most disappointing aspects of this particular work is that there are no English translations and editions are only written in Japanese. This has lessened its popularity internationally because it cannot be studied and reviewed by those who cannot understand the language it was written with.

The Beautiful Village (1933)

Known as Utsukushii Mura in Japanese, this novel was written by Tatsuo Hori in 1933. It is considered as one of his earlier works which gained wide recognition all over the country. This particular book is part of the Kaze Tachinu (the Wind has Risen) series of novels. Set in Karuizawa (the place where the writer stayed up until his death), the novel acts as a prologue and introduces the main characters of the romantic serial novel. The story revolves around a musically inclined young boy and his journey towards meeting a girl who would eventually become his wife.

Originally a short story or a novella which is only 46 pages long, this particular work from Hori was originally a part of the general interest magazine known as Kaizo. This particular publication is known for releasing works of fiction, short stories, and other novelettes that subtly glosses over issues on labor and other general social concerns.

Hori Tatsuo’s The Wind Has Risen (1936) (aka Miyazaki’s the Wind Rises 2013)

The story revolves around the day-to-day life of the narrator who takes care of his wife whose health continuously deteriorates throughout the story. Along with the worsening of the main female character’s condition is the ever-growing threat of death and the narrator’s bargaining between pain and acceptance. The main concept of the story is how a person can still keep living after the death of a loved one, and that the bond of love is strong even after death.

This particular work is strongly linked to the poem “Le Cimetiere Marin” by a poet known as Paul Valery. The famous poem quotes that man should not exhaust one’s life searching for immortality. Instead, they must “use the practical means” to their advantage. The entire theme of the novel revolves around a person’s acceptance and knowledge of the death that is to come, how to deal with it, and eventually move on from it.

What is impressive about this particular work, also probably why it is one of the most popular, is the fact that it centers on the impact of loss and death to someone who has loved another sincerely and whole-heartedly. It is a common feeling for many people who have suffered the impact of death, but it is not widely talked about. For a culture where feelings are overpowered by principles and rationality, this particular novel may reflect the emotions and experiences of many people. This makes it relatable in a sense, where the main characters reflect a person’s suffering from loss.

Unlike Hori Tatsuo’s other pieces, this particular book is the most translated and it is also the most relatable. It was famously translated by Francis Tenny from the Columbia University. It is a part of the ‘Anthology of Modern Japanese Literature’ which was recently published in late 2010.

Hori Tatsuo’s Naoko (1941)

This particular book is believed to be reflective of the life of Tatsuo Hori’s first wife. This particular novel is also one of Hori Tatsuo’s major works which have been translated into English, making it available to a wider set of readers. Although it was written in 1941, it took roughly three decades before it was officially translated by the Bucknell University in 1975. Regardless, the melancholic theme of the novel has made it a timeless hit for hopeless romantics.

Childhood (1942)

This was considered as one of his last works and is known as his last major work before his retirement. It is said that the Second World War has significantly affected his career and hindered many of his later works to be published. He died only about a decade after this book was published, making Childhood (or Younan Jidai in Japanese) his last known major novel.

Film Adaptations of Tatsuo’s Work

One of the most famous adaptations of Tatsuo Hori’s work is Miyazaki’s 2013 historical drama entitled the Wind Rises. It is loosely reminiscent of the novel the Wind Has Risen. The feature film was highly acclaimed and known to be Miyazaki’s last work before retirement. It is the highest-grossing film in Japan with over 11.6 Billion Yen in the box office.

Natasha Baucas [CC BY 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

There are major differences between the movie and the novel, on the other hand. The first is that it is based on the life story of the famous aviator Jiro Horikoshi. The movie also has reflections of actual events during the Second World War, while the novel was written in 1936. 

Although the story is not exactly the same, the sentiments of the movie are highly reminiscent of the novel. The main similarity is the love story between the main cast and the main female protagonist, named Naoko (obtained from Tatsuo Hori’s other novel of the same name). Naoko has a terminal illness that Jiro had to deal with along with the struggles of training as an aviator for the war. The threat of death and the acceptance of its reality are among the main themes of the movie.

Hayao Miyazaki is one of Japan’s best directors and is often comparable to Steven Spielberg of Hollywood. His animations often explore ideas and themes that (may be a bit dark) are reflective of current issues. His animations are all creative and masterful and are brought to life by impressive voice acting. Many articles show that this particular movie may be one of Miyazaki’s best works and is a critic favorite. It encompasses many themes and even though it is a historic piece it is still highly relatable for the audiences.

The Important Influences of Tatsuo Hori’s Work to the Modern Age

Literature is considered to be one of the most valuable pieces of art in Japan. Tatsuo Hori’s work is considered as one of the pioneers for change and development. He was a strong supporter of modernism and used it to let people understand how tradition must change with the times. He also helped his readers, through his poetry and novels, that change may be necessary for development. He was also an avid supporter of Proletarian literature.

663highland [GFDL (, CC-BY-SA-3.0 ( or CC BY 2.5 (], from Wikimedia Commons

Based on Psychiatric studies, the images of death and loss in literature is often seen as their way of bereavement, longing, or suffering. Many writers are known to use this as a means anticipating their impending death. It is also believed that many writers use this as a means of representing society and culture, how it deteriorates and such. There are also some studies that show that this is a man’s search for the meaning of life and in finding the truth behind the acceptance of loss.

There are many works from local artists which reflect melancholy and sadness. However, the works of Tatsuo Hori are among the very few which were created during the Showa period (the early 1930s). Reminiscent of his work is the modern writings of Haruki Murakami and Kawabata Yasunari. The only difference is that most of Murakami’s work is translated to more than 50 languages, including English, Chinese, and more. Interestingly (and coincidentally), the main character from Murakami’s most popular work (Norwegian Wood) is also named Naoko who also goes to a secluded sanatorium in the mountains, just like the main character from The Wind has Risen. Both works explore pain, nostalgia, longing, and sadness caused by an unbearable, unpredictable, and irreversible loss.  Both novels have melancholic and nostalgic vibes.