• Books & Literature

Delving into records thought to have inspired writer Kenji Miyazawa

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Takao Sasaki holds a copy of his book in Sendai in April.

Sendai music producer Takao Sasaki has published a book about poet and children’s author Kenji Miyazawa (1896-1933), introducing 250 records that are thought to have inspired him.

Published at Sasaki’s own expense, the book is titled “Miyazawa Kenji, 78 Kaiten Karano Hirameki” (Ideas Kenji Miyazawa gained from 78 rpm). Sasaki believes that Miyazawa encountered the records through his hobby of collecting them.

“The period in which Kenji enthusiastically collected records overlaps with a time when he wrote high-quality tales. I want readers to imagine how music helped Kenji’s literary world grow,” he said. The title refers to the standard revolutions per minute of records that were produced in large numbers in the first half of the 20th century.

When Miyazawa worked as a schoolteacher, he is believed to have spent most of his salary on records, and music titles often appear in his works.

Sasaki’s B5-size book is 226 pages long and introduces records that Miyazawa is thought to have listened to or owned. For example, Miyazawa’s tale “Gauche the Cellist” refers to “Traumerei” by Robert Schumann.

An image of a record of “Traumerei” released by the Victor label in 1916 from Sasaki’s book

For this piece of music, Sasaki’s book features such records as one released by the Victor label in 1916. There is a photo of the record cover and a list of the performers.

In addition to works by Miyazawa in which music titles appear, the book also quotes research publications that form the basis of Sasaki’s suppositions, and writings by Miyazawa’s relatives and acquaintances. Descriptions of related incidents and analyses are also contained in the book, as are descriptions of Miyazawa’s encounters with jazz, and efforts to identify phonograph models that Miyazawa loved.

Sasaki is a collector himself — since around 2016, he has amassed records from about 100 years ago that have links to Miyazawa. Sasaki has also worked to re-release this music on CDs, categorized in genres such as classical and jazz.

Last year, Sasaki was given an award by the Miyazawa Kenji Association: Ihatov Center in Hanamaki, Iwate Prefecture.

Sasaki spent three years writing the book as a culmination of his collecting and work to re-release the music.

Miyazawa “listened to records one after another, and gave them away to others after he absorbed the feeling of the music, as if it became part of his body,” Sasaki said. “He was an unusual collector who didn’t cling to physical things.”

He hopes the book will help people relive the music from which Miyazawa gained inspiration.

“Miyazawa Kenji, 78 Kaiten Karano Hirameki” is priced at ¥5,400 plus tax and comes with a DVD containing 113 pieces of music that Miyazawa is thought to have listened to. It can be purchased from the Ihatov Center, or directly from Sasaki via email at jmb@kih.biglobe.ne.jp