Born in 1896, Kenji Miyazawa was one of the Japanese poets and authors of childrens literature in the late Taisho era as well as the early Showa period (Naotaro, 1991). Apart from writing, Miyazawa was a teacher of agricultural science and a devoted Buddhist. The strict vegetarian was also an advocate of an ideal society (Holt, 2010). Miyazawa wished to see a society that considered each person as a dignified human being who needed to be treated with respect and consideration. In his endeavors, he even founded the Rasu Farmers Association with the sole aim of improving the Iwate Prefecture peasants lives (Naotaro, 1991). In his life, it is unfortunate that Miyazawas poetry was not as popular as in his death. It is interesting to note that he seemed to become alive in his death.
One of the most prolific poems by Kenji Miyazawa is the one entitled Ame ni mo makezu.' It is probably one of the main poems by the cellist that threw his artistic skills to the limelight. Miyazawa scripted this poem in 1931, a time when his heath was deteriorating, having been diagnosed with pneumonia in 1928 (Holt, 2010). The handwritten poem was found in his notebook after his death in 1933. Considering that the overriding theme of this poem is the aspect of strength in the midst of calamity, Miyazawa must have written it in an effort to encourage himself that despite his difficult situation, there existed a silver lining within him.
Summary of the Poem
The poem is about the potential found in every human being. The speaker states what they would wish to become (Yasuda, 1975). Assuming that the persona is Miyazawa himself, he explains that he wishes to be strong in the rain and wind. This means that despite challenges, he is not willing to bow. Instead of being angry, he wants to smile quietly as he enjoys his daily meal of brown rice, some vegetables, and miso.
Despite living in a little-thatched hut, the speaker is keen on what is happening around him since according to him, every day offers a learning experience. He has learned that no human being should be ignored. In his endeavor for an ideal society, Miyazawa wishes to be that person who goes to the east to nurse a sick child, to the west to assist a weary mother, to the south to encourage a dying man, and to the north to reconcile adversaries. All these sacrifices, he hopes, would help in making the world a better place. The speaker concludes by intimating that he does not mind the disapproval he would get from critics. All he wishes to be is a strong and worthwhile human being.
Relevance of the Poem
The relevance of this poem to me and the current world cannot be underestimated. To succeed in this life, people set goals and try to work towards achieving them (Fried and Slowik, 2004). The speaker in the poem Ame ni mo makezu sets goals that he would wish to accomplish so as to become the kind of person he desires. He begins by expressing the need to be strong despite the forces of nature which are symbolized by wind and rain. In my case, I have had a lot of challenges in life. I have had to juggle between my studies and work. Nevertheless, I have always endeavored to remain strong to achieve my goal of completing my studies in time. Many people in the contemporary world have had to undergo difficult situations as a result of hard economic times and natural calamities. This poem is quite relevant in encouraging people to set goals and remain strong, despite the challenges, so as to achieve them.
Nobody in this world can either defeat or defy nature. Life is not about escapism and inventing technology in an effort to make one immune to nature; but appreciating this nature and learning to deal with it as appropriate (Gilbert, 2016). Sometimes nature can be harsh: the winter season, for instance, can be too cold and the summer too hot. However, it is the manner of dealing with these situations that matter. Often, I have had to work fulltime during winter seasons despite the challenging weather. Many people do too. The poem encourages people to take each day as a learning experience and appreciate nature for what it is instead of getting angry with it and living a miserable life.
Another important aspect tackled in the poem is the issue of humility and lending a helping hand. This is a very relevant aspect. Human beings are social beings (Cooley, 1992). Each person needs the other in one way or another. Before one can help others, they need to be satisfied with who they are to cultivate the culture of confidence (McKibben, 1995). In the poem, the speaker is not bothered by the fact that he lives in a grass-thatched hut, or that he survives on brown rice, miso, and vegetables. No. All he cares about is the help he can offer to those who are suffering: the sick child, the weary mother, the dying man, and the adversaries. This is an aspect of humility and service to humanity which is more than relevant in the contemporary world that is riddled with wars and destitution. I remember a time I had to rely on a friend's help when I was seriously ill a few years ago. This poem reminds me of the humility that that friend displayed as she took care of me as if I were her child.
Finally, the poem emphasizes another critical aspect of life: recognition. In the contemporary world, people seek favors and praises from others because to them; it is what others think of them other than whom they are (Gilbert, 2016). This is not the right living as it is likely to create a culture of hypocrisy. As he ends the poem, the speaker says that he does not wish to be praised. He stresses that even if everybody thinks he is useless and nobody recognizes his effort in making humanity better that should not bother him. He wishes to live by the standards that make life better, not by praises and recognition. This prompts me to think of how relevant this piece of writing is. Many people in the contemporary world are likely to desire recognition. It, therefore, beats sense to assist others if all one is looking for is recognition.
In the poem, Kenji Miyazawa has expressed his desire of whom he wants to be. The best thing about it is that he does not force his readers to be like him. It is for them to decide. Nonetheless, I believe people should be strong, appreciative and sincere so as to make the world a better place.
Cooley, C.H., 1992. Human nature and the social order. Transaction Publishers.
Fried, Y. and Slowik, L.H., 2004. Enriching goal-setting theory with time: An integrated approach. Academy of management Review, 29(3), pp.404-422.
Gilbert, P., 2016. Human nature and suffering. Routledge.
Holt, J.P., 2010. The fractured voice: the works of Miyazawa Kenji. University of Washington.
McKibben, B., 1995. Hope, human and wild: True stories of living lightly on the earth. Milkweed Editions.
Naotaro, K., 1991. On the Poet Miyazawa Kenji. Japan Quarterly, 38(3), p.332.
Yasuda, K.K., 1975. Spring and Asura: Poems of Kenji Miyazawa. Translated by SatoHiroaki with an introduction by WatsonBurton. Chicago: Chicago Review Press, 1973. xiii, 104 pp. $6.50 (cloth), $3.50. The Journal of Asian Studies, 34(2), pp.535-538.
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