Mori Ogai Thinks about What Happy Life is
Takasebune, The Boat on the Takase River, is a Japanese short story written by a Japanese popular author; Mori Ogai. It shows us two questions.
First of all, I am giving you the plot.
In Kansei era, a male criminal was going to be exiled along Takase River in Kyoto. He was Kisuke. And a policeman; Haneda was in charge of sending Kisuke under escort. Kisuke looked kind of happy and Haneda wondered. Then, the police escort asked Kisuke why he was feeling so easy and what led him to a crime.
Kisuke lost his parents long ago, and had lived poor life with his young brother. One day, the brother tried to kill himself because he thought Kisuke could live easily without him. That was finally an attempted suicide. Kisuke found him and tried to call a doctor. “No. Please kill me and let me free from this pain” said the brother who was on the verge of death. A neighbor saw the situation and Kisuke got accused of murder.
Kisuke’s talk made Haneda wonder if Kisuke becomes a murderer. Moreover, Kisuke said “I am going to be exiled to an island. But it is so much better than the poor life I had spent, because they guarantee my living.” Haneda said…
“Takasebune” gives you two questions as mentioned above. The first is “what is happy life?” Are the brothers truly unhappy? Is death really what helps nothing? Your ways of life are demanded by this short story.
One more question is “can’t bureaucracy help looking down upon the people?” Mori Ogai was an army surgeon with conservative views, who actually acted in the Russo-Japanese War. The short story also shows how haughty he was. Since Heian era, officialdom has held the people in contempt for a long time. The big problem is brought to light by “Takasebune.”
・Written by Mori Ogai
・Published by CHUOKORON-SHINSHA, INC. (1916)
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