Thursday, January 01, 2009

Study Abroad Japan: Book Review - 100 Sacks of Rice by Yuzo Yamamoto translated by Donald Keene

Photo: Cooked Rice with seven spices

Title: One Hundred Sacks of Rice
Author: Yuzo Yamamoto Translated by Donald Keene
Publisher: Nagaoka City Kome Hyappyo Foundation
Printed by: Kenkyusha Printing, Saitama, Japan
Details: 142 pages, 1998, Hardcover

A historic story with modern implications - People first

Playwright and novelist Yuzo Yamamoto retells a story from the Meiji period (1870's) in Japan of a forward thinking educationalist named Kobayashi Torasaburo who when faced with adversity focused on putting people first.

The story is set as a play with nine characters in the city of Nagaoka in Echigo Providence (modern day Niigata Prefecture). Donald Keene, Professor Emeritus of Columbia University translated the play and provides a preface to how he became in the project, reveals the two scenes of the play, gives details of the story behind the play, details the stories history and finally delves into the life of Kobayashi Torasaburo and his school.

The timing of the launch of the play, first published in Japan in 1943, was far from ideal yet the play has survived the test of time.

The story depicts the despair of the people of the period who have been dealt hardship through an internal war, the Boshin War (1868 -1869) between the East (Tokugawa forces and allies) and the West (Satsuma and Choshu armies).

Readers will gain important insights into Japanese culture particularly history, hierarchy, money, loyalty, trust, hardship, the futility of war, dealing with adversity, side effects of greed and samurai ethics.

100 Sacks of Rice or as it is known in Japanese, kome hyappyo has an important tale to tell modern readers.

Review by, 2009.

Copyright, .All rights reserved

Rating: 4/5 ****

Buy the book at Amazon