Hayashi Fumiko: The Life of a Female Author

Hayashi Fumiko Biography

She was a famous novelist and poet born on 31st of December 1903 in the city of Shimonoseki. She was born out of wedlock by her mother, Hayashi Kiku, and father, Miyata Asataro. She had a rather difficult childhood due to having a broken family. Her mother's family run a drugstore and later a hot spring inn. While her father came from a middle-class family who are farmers and own a silver-smith shop. Then, his father started a career as an itinerant peddler. They lived together as a family for seven years. Until eventually, her father left them for his mistress who was a geisha. Fumiko was later adopted by a friend of her father, Sawai Kisaburo, who was also a business associate.

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The bad memories of her parent's unhappy marriage had made an impact in her life and later on became an inspiration for her literary works. Kisaburo's work requires traveling as part of his job, so Fumiko regularly changes school and residence. While she was in her fifth grade, she met her teacher Kobayashi Masao, who recognized her talent for writing; he enthusiastically encouraged her to study painting, music, and literature. Even at a young age, she already started writing a lyrical poem. She was an average student, never the top of the class and she had difficulty with subjects like Mathematics and Science. Due to the encouragement of her mentor, Kobayashi, and her fondness for reading, she became a well-known author and writer. As an adult, she had a number of failed relationships with men until she met her husband, Rokubin Tezuka, who was a painter.

Hayashi Fumiko and her life in Tokyo

In the year 1922, after graduating from high school, she finally decided to move to Tokyo after much encouragement for her first love, Gun'ichi. She realized that the city of Tokyo is promising due to two reasons – first, she will be able to live a happy marriage with her childhood sweetheart and second, she will be able to advance herself in the world of literature. The couple had planned to get married after Gun'ichi's graduation, but it did not turn out as how they planned.

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While in Tokyo, Fumiko has gone through different jobs from bath attendant, office worker, housemaid to a factory worker just to support herself.  After her first love, she had gone through a number of failed relationship. In addition to this, one among her relationships was made as an inspiration for the theme of her works; Nomura Yoshiya was a young man whom she met at Toyo University, they became intimate and had a relationship. However, it was not a walk in the park. She described in her book Diary of a Vagabond how Nomura would beat her and leave her with all responsibilities of supporting their needs. Eventually, Nomura left her for another woman. After Nomura left her in 1926, she tried to support herself by selling manuscripts and working as a café attendant. Eventually, she decided to move back to her home in Onomichi to live again with her parents, where she started writing his famous work, The Accordion and the Fish town, which describes her childhood in Onomichi. Then, she finally met her husband Rokubin.

Rokubin is a son from a farming family in the town of Nagano prefecture. He was a quiet and friendly man, and they had a happy marriage even though Fumiko spent most of her time traveling alone. Rokubin managed the family's finances when they were married that led to creating a rather large estate. He abandoned his career as a painter and decided to fully support the writing career of his wife, Fumiko. For the rest of Fumiko's life, she continued writing poetries and traveling. In addition to this, she also wrote travelogue during her travels abroad. She had traveled mostly to China and Europe; her experiences through her trips make a rich material or inspiration for her literary works.

It was also in Tokyo where she had the chance to be a part of a group of anarchist poets, she met them on the second floor of a French restaurant in Hongo. For a while, she had believed in one thing they have in common and that is anti-establishmentarian. But eventually, Fumiko realized that their ideas and beliefs were too much for her, thus, she decided to leave the group.

In 1928, she started writing and publish the 20 installments of autobiographical novel known as Horoki or translated as The Diary of a Vagabond. Then, on the 28th of June 1951, she passed away due to a heart attack at the age of 47. It has been said that this was due to extreme stress and being overworked. She died in the city of Tokyo.

The Travel Writer

Between the years 1930 to 1943, Fumiko has been in a number of countries where she would gain experiences as materials for her travelogues and fictions. She was then invited in a lecture tour by the Government-General of Taiwan; her published travelogues in Taiwan are said to be the first editions of her published travelogues. Then, she was able to travel to mainland China and its cities like Shanghai, Qingdao, Nanjing, and Manchuria.

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In the year 1931, she was able to travel to the beautiful city of Paris, where she spent most of her time as a tourist and exploring its culture. In Paris, she was able to visit art museums, theaters, see concerts, and attend film showing. In the year 1932, she returned to Japan after being away for quite some time. She enjoys traveling alone, which is quite unusual for a woman during those periods in Japan. Due to her increasing popularity, she was able to travel locally as well for lecture tours as well as recreation.

Late Chrysanthemum – A Story by Hayashi Fumiko

This is a film by Mikio Naruse that was released the year 1954; this was based on Hayashi Fumiko's three short stories published in 1948 that they put together. The three stories on which it was based are Bangiku or late chrysanthemum, Suisen or Daffodils, and Shirasagi or Egret. The story focuses on the lives of four aging ex-geisha who fights over money and struggles to make ends meet.

One of the main characters is Kin, who is the money lender and is very much keen to wealth and being a businesswoman, she is also the landlady of the other geishas. Her love interest is Tabe, who is a patron leader and previous lover. Another character of the movie is Tamae, who is living with another ex-geisha. She has a complicated relationship with his delinquent son, Kiyoshi, who has an old mistress lover. Kiyoshi is about to leave to Hokkaido for a job. The third main character is Tomi who has money problems due to gambling. She is against her daughter's marriage to an older man and keeps her from repeating the same mistake with men. Lastly, Nobu who is also an ex-geisha; she owns a restaurant where women frequently assemble. This film dramatically portrays the camaraderie between the four women and their unique relationship with one another. 

Floating Clouds (Ukigumo), a famous novel by Hayashi Fumiko

This book was first published in 1951 then later adapted into a film by a known director, Mikio Naruse. In the world of Japanese cinema, this is considered to be a masterpiece. The story revolves around the tormented relationship between the two protagonists, Yukiko and Tomioka. The setting is the time before and after World War II. The main female character, Yukiko, works as a typist in Indochina for the Japanese Ministry, who fled to Japan to escape her landlord who regularly rapes her. While, the main male character, Tomioka, is a designated minor official for the Department of Agriculture and Forestry who always cheats on his wife.

Towards the end of the war, the two main characters started their affair.  Though the two characters are different from one another, they seem to be a perfect fit; she is clingy and lonely while he is cold and thoughtless. During the course of events, Yukiko always dreamed that they would be together even though Tomioka is married. Yukiko was always faithful towards Tomioka while he finds comfort and love in different women. As the story evolves, Tomioka has several affairs with different women; a Vietnamese maid, and a juvenile delinquent. But, despite all these, he always finds his way back to Yukiko. This novel also portrays the life and the struggles after the war in Japan, and how life is through the eyes of a woman. As the movie concluded, the heroine dies in Yakushima because of despair for her unfortunate love.

Hayashi Fumiko's Downtown

This is a famous novel that was published in 1948 with English translation in Modern Japanese Stories: An Anthology. This was later adapted into a film directed by a talented director named Yasuki Chiba. It follows the story of a widow, Ryo, who is the main protagonist; his husband was a soldier who was sent to Siberia and whom she had not heard from in six years. It is during the year 1949, four years after the war. Japan is still in ruins. This story shows the struggle of a single mother to raise her son and make ends meet, the difficulty of maintaining the household without the income of a husband. A line from the books says that she always wakes up with emptiness. She makes a living by selling tea on the street. One unfruitful day while selling, she met a man named Tsuruishi, to whom she finds comfort and father figure for her son. She finally found hope in the middle of all her despair. But, another tragedy has sent her hope to the ground. In an unfortunate event, Tsuruishi suddenly passed away. The story concluded as Ryo realized that her experiences is a turning point in her life and they, Ryo and her son, deserve a better life.

Hayashi Fumiko Memorial Hall

This is the 198 sq. meter dream house of the famous female author that turned into a memorial hall after her death. The house was designed as a traditional home, styled like a Sukiya style Kyoto tearoom, during the Edo period and it was opened to the public in the year 1992. This place is indeed a favorite destination for book lovers, and this home is where some of her famous literary works were written. It is located in 2-20-1 Nakai, Shinjuku and opens from 10 in the morning to 4 in the afternoon. It is a 7-minute walk from Seibu Shinjuku line and Toei Oedo line. The admission fee is 150 Japanese Yen for adults and 50 Japanese Yen for elementary and junior high school students.

It was originally designed by Fumiko, she read more than 200 books and traveled to Kyoto to be able to study traditional houses and create her ideal home. She wanted to focus more on the kitchen, the bathroom and living room. The kitchen is very spacious and constructed with a wooden cupboard and a huge sink made out of polished stones that are artificial. Next is the living room that faces a beautiful garden, this is where the family used to gather and bond. The garden consists of more than 17 kinds of plants and trees; it also has beautiful species of flowers such as cherry blossoms, Violets, and Japanese Maples.

Popular poems by Hayashi Fumiko

During the year 1929, Fumiko published probably one of her most famous anthology of the poem with the title Ao uma o mitari or translated as - I Saw a Pale Horse. Towards the year 1939, she would have finished eights anthologies for her poetries, and I Saw a Pale Horse is the first and the most well-known. At a young age, she already started writing her poetries and this ignited her talent in writing. According to sources, this anthology is ten years in the making.

By UnknownUnknown author [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons