Yoshikawa Eiji was born into an ex-samurai family in Kanagawa and spent his youth in Yokohama. He has written vividly about those days in Fragments of a Past: the environment of the foreign settlement, his father's wild business adventures and even wilder drinking, and the eventual ruin of the family which forced him to stop day school at the age of eleven and start working.
He continued his education in night school and started writing senryu poetry; in 1914 the first novel, a historical romance, followed. Although he worked for a short while for a newspaper, in the early twenties Yoshikawa decided to become a full-time writer. His early novels were mainly about handsome swordsmen, their love affairs and bitter feuds.
[Yoshikawa Eiji Museum. Photo © Ad Blankestijn]
Yoshikawa rose above the level of this romantic fiction with Miyamoto Musashi (1935-39), a novel about the 17th century swordsman, who while learning the Way of the Sword also learned to conquer his unruly self.
Much of the 1950s were dedicated to the production of the Shin Heike Monogatari, or New Tales of the Heike, a modern retelling of the feud between the Heike and the Genji in the 12th c.
Yoshikawa's novels do embody basic conservative moral values. He was enormously popular in the years after WWII and in 1960 he became the first writer of popular fiction to receive the Order of Culture. Even today, his major works (though extremely voluminous - his books were serialized in newspaper and as much Japanese literature still bear the traces of that custom) are readily available in bookstores around Japan.
Yoshikawa Eiji lived in the beautiful pastoral countryside of Ome for the last eight years of his life, and his house and study have been preserved exactly as they were during his lifetime as the Yoshikawa Eiji House & Museum. There is also a small museum, mainly exhibiting books, manuscripts and other materials relating to Yoshikawa Eiji. This museum was designed by Taniguchi Yoshiro and overlooks the garden with its huge chinquapin tree.
The traditional house (built by a silkworm farmer in 1847) is beautiful, but can not be entered. You can, however, cast a glimpse into the author's study. That leaves the garden as the domain of visitors and it is indeed well worth to stroll around.
Admission: 10:00-17:00 (Nov-Feb: 16:30); CL Mon, next day when NH, NY
Access: 15-min on foot from Futamatao Station on the JR Ome Line.