THE COUNTERFEITER

 

The Counterfeiter is from The Counterfeiter and Other Stories published in 2000 by Tuttle Publishing, an imprint of Periplus Edition (HK) Limited.

 

 

 

 

THE COUNTERFEITER

 

 

                            I

 

Almost ten years have elapsed since I was commissioned by the family of the Japanese artist Keigaku Onuki to undertake the job of compiling Keigaku's

biography, but I still have not fulfilled the contract. This spring I received from his family in Kyoto one of those printed announcements, with reply-postcard attached, inviting me to attend memorial services at a certain Zen temple commemorating the thirteenth anniversary of Keigaku's death. Frankly, I found it a bit difficult to face Onuki's people at that time. Unfortunately, or fortunately, I couldn’t attend the services because of my work. But, the fact of the matter is that I was rather relieved that l actually could not attend.

When the contract for compiling Keigaku's biography was first negotiated by Onuki's heir, Takuhiko―I think that was around 1942―the original

understanding was that there was no particular hurry about completing it. On the other hand, he had implied that he would like to distribute copies, as an offering to the spirit of the departed, to those who attended the seventh memorial services, so he wanted to have the work completed in time for publication prior to that occasion. The seventh anniversary was to be commemorated in April 1945, the year the war ended, and the feverish pace of life toward the end of the war was confused enough for both the Onuki family and me, even without Keigaku's

biography. Consequently, my work on the biography reached a state of temporary suspension while I was still in the process of collecting material, and although I hadn't actually abandoned the project, my contract came to a natural dissolution. As it happened, the contract was renegotiated by the Onuki family after the war. They said that now that normalcy was returning, they couldn't wait and wanted me to complete the biography as soon as possible. So ever since then I have been getting postcards from Takuhiko, roughly once a year, asking about the status of my progress on the biography and hinting pointedly at the desirability of speed. At such times, in desperation, I have been forced to fabricate excuses in order to placate him.

Originally, I had been selected for the onerous task of doing Keigaku's biography for a variety of reasons. At that time I was a fine-arts reporter for one of the Osaka newspapers, and in the course of my work I had met with the late artist on many occasions. It seems also that the late Keigaku had held me in higher esteem than he held the reporters of other papers. There were all sorts of factors like that. Additionally, I was selected by the Onuki family and by Keigaku's disciples

because they felt that since I was the most competent person to undertake the biography, it would be relatively easy for me to collect material. Also, as a fine-arts reporter with somewhat of a store of knowledge of the artistic world, my point of view was likely to be bought.

When I was first approached, I had jumped at the opportunity of taking on this arduous task. I was very fond not only of Keigaku's work but also of Keigaku as an individual. Besides, compiling a biography of Keigaku would be more than just writing a history of Kyoto's art circles with him at the core; it would be like writing a history of Japan’s art world. I thought it would not be a bad idea at all to seize this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for me, a reporter, to do a study of the

transition and change in Japan's art world from the Meiji period (*1868-1912: the period of the reign of Emperor Meiji) on.

On taking a second hard look at the job, however, I found that it was not going to be as simple as I had thought. In the first place, one had to start from the

beginning by drawing up a chronology. Before constructing the magnificent Kyoto mansion in which he lived in his declining years, Keigaku had changed his residence in and around Kyoto more than ten times―as his mood suited him. And, also as his mood suited him, for half of each year he was in a state of constant travel. Thus it was difficult to ascertain when, where, and at which ateliers his works, so publicized throughout the world, had been produced. Moreover, as I started to trace the course of his actions during a career of more than sixty years and tried to reconcile the contradictory stories of him told by all sorts of artists, disciples, art dealers, and exhibitors, the job turned out to be not so simple as it had appeared from the outside.

Another thing:

When Keigaku was fifty years old, he buried the wife who had been with him

through thick and thin over the years. Thereafter, he lived with an aged

housemaid who survived him by two years. He also always had one or another student staying with him, but these students were constantly shifting, unable to tolerate Keigaku very long because of his volatile personality. The one person who should have known the late artist's movements and actions best, his heir, Takuhiko, had lived in France for a long time and had only returned to Japan five years before Keigaku died. But he kept a separate house in Tokyo, and since he was a sort of eccentric egotist, as might be expected, he had almost no contact with Keigaku's way of life. Thus, it might be said that there was practically no one who possessed a detailed knowledge of Keigaku's private life. To all this, one more thing must be added―and this follows from the nature of Keigaku's independent, extravagant, and rustic character―he always frowned upon what we call The Art Circles and lived consistently isolated from the artistic world. Because of this, I encountered tremendous difficulties and obstacles when I reached the point of collecting the materials for his biography.

For all of these reasons, I was unable to proceed with any expedition even as far as a draft of the chronology, which I consider basic to any biography. After visiting

town after town on the Inland Sea coast near his birthplace, where his earliest work was done, and after going to see the small cottage-industry villages of Hokuriku, where, curiously, Keigaku enthusiasts were concentrated and had assembled those masterpieces of his later years that he had produced for sale, I was scarcely able to fill two or three notebooks with notes. Then, as the war increased in intensity, I had to drop my work on the biography while I was still in the midst of the basic research.

After the war, this backbreaking but delicate and tantalizing job again stared me in the face. Whenever I began to feel that I really had to get started on what I had committed myself to, the mere knowledge of the peculiar delicacy of this job kept me from feeling that I would now be able to apply myself to the task with ease. Besides―and this was a matter of some fundamental importance to me personally―unexpectedly quit the newspaper after the war, went up to Tokyo, and turned my attention to literature. Completely immersed in this new kind of work, and with the chronology incomplete and full of gaps, I kept procrastinating, with the inevitable result that my work on Keigaku's biography simply remained in the form of those two or three tablets of notes.

That's the way things went. Even so, when it turned out that the biography wouldn't even be ready by the thirteenth anniversary, and considering the fact that I had delayed so long after having undertaken the job, I couldn't face the Onuki family. With the announcement of this memorial service staring at me, I resolved that this year I would really have to do something. I would try to assemble my work on the biography and put it into some presentable even if unpolished form and finally get this thing off my back.

So, because my own work efficiency is habitually not very great in the heat of July and August anyhow, I determined that I would spend these two summer months working on the compilation of the Keigaku biography. To that end, I took as a working place a small retreat in a mountain village at the foot of Mount Amagi in my native lzu Peninsula. There I decided to devote every morning to this job, and if I ran across some obscure points or situations, I would go to Kyoto in the fall to clear them up. At any rate, I proposed to complete a tentative draft and by some manner or means get the job done.

I must say that work progressed rather smoothly during July. By scanning almost ten volumes of his essays and travel accounts, I was able to complete my notes on his travels and the principal works he produced at each of these locales and when he did them. Thus, I was able to finish the draft chronology, albeit only in rough outline. As a result, upon entering the month of August, I was ready to adopt a writing approach by which I could pull together those facts and data that could be confirmed and discard everything that appeared conjectural. Referring to my old notes, I completed the writing of the sections of the biography: from his infancy to his youth; how he studied successively in Kyoto under Isso Katakura, Gaho Yoshimizu, and others; how he received honorable mention for presenting his debut-work, "Lost Happiness," at the 1897 Artists' Exhibition; how, availing himself of this opportunity, he had started to build his reputation as an incomparably brilliant artistic genius; and how he successively presented the works that have been praised as the masterpieces of his early period, "White Night," "The Old Fox," "Light Snow," etc. But here, my pen suddenly came to a dead halt. In narrating the period when the young Keigaku was blossoming forth as a colorful artist, I had been interspersing here and there the unedited contents of an unpublished contemporary diary, something in his own handwriting which could be considered unique Keigaku memorabilia. That diary had been turned over to me when I first visited the Onuki family after the war. It had been discovered together with various and sundry scraps in a Chinese bag which was in the Onuki family's godown when they were evacuating during the war. It was given to me by Takuhiko, who had said, "We've found something rather rare. I wonder if you don't need it for reference." On Japanese paper, in small characters, daily events from the end of 1897 to the summer of 1899 had been chronicled in fragmentary handwritten personal memoranda. For understanding Keigaku at that time, this was material that could be termed unique, unequaled and priceless.

What interested me most keenly in this diary was the discovery that this proud and arrogant genius of a painter, who was believed to have been without a single friend throughout his life, actually did have a friend called Shinozaki during this period. The name of this Shinozaki appears in three places, but Shinozaki is the only person except for members of the family who appears in this diary.

"With the silver trophy in hand, visit Shinozahi at Kitano; drink sake and chat with him till the wee hours," is one passage.

There is evidence, practically substantiated in earlier and later texts, that this refers to the time when he carried off the Special Award at the Kyoto Artists' Association Exhibition for painting "The Peacock." It would seem that in all likelihood he had taken the silver trophy with him and had gone to spend the night drinking and rejoicing with an intimate friend. Now, it is not difficult to imagine that this night was young Keigaku's most triumphant hour, and when you think about the fact that he was without restraint sharing that moment of glory with someone, you must look upon this Shinozaki person as someone who was decidedly intimate with Keigaku.

Next, there was :

"Am presented with a sea-bream by Shinozaki in the way of congratulations. Immediately go to visit Shinozahi at Shimotachiuri( *A section of Kyoto), but he is out. Leave something in large characters on the door and return home. "

This, too, can in all probability be interpreted as meaning that after having captured the prize at some sort of exhibition and on being given a sea-bream as a congratulatory gift by this Shinozaki fellow, he had been touched by this token of friendship and had gone to call on Shinozaki at his home or boarding-house. The expression "Leave something in large characters at the door and return home" does not clearly specify what was written. But, it would seem that either in order to explain the purpose of his visit or to express his thanks, he had, as he did so often in later years, written a Chinese poem or some impromptu verse because he had been presented with something as a congratulatory gift. It may possibly seem an extremely rash thing for me to say, but that action left a deep impression on me as being one of the most truly graphic descriptions of the artistic genius Keigaku in his youth. The date is not recorded.

Finally, the one other passage in which Shinozaki's name appears is, "Shinozahi left Shoyama this morning and came to Kyoto." This passage is in the last section of the diary and is dated August 3, Summer 1899. This statement standing by itself can only be interpolated. This one line cannot be regarded as related to anything before or after or as having any special significance. However, at that moment when I first saw the placename Shoyama, the very fact that a certain Shinozaki appeared to have been Keigaku's most intimate friend suddenly caused an image of the counterfeiter Hosen Hara to flash across my mind.

I had a certain amount of knowledge of this man Hosen Hara, who had spent his gloomy and miserable life painting forgeries of Keigaku's works. But when I realized that this person, who had remained dormant in my mind until that instant, was identifiable with this Shinozaki and that he could be considered Keigaku's only intimate friend during his youth, I was struck with an

indescribably weird feeling.

Of course, this is something that had not occurred to me until then, but I did recall hearing at one time that Hosen Hara, if he can be called that, was adopted. In Hosen Hara's small native hamlet, situated on the Hino River which runs through the Chugoku mountain range, there are many people who bear the surname Shinozaki. Although I had never inquired about Hara's original surname, by putting two and two together I was able very early to arrive at the indisputable fact that this Shinozaki person and Hosen Hara were one and the same. For two days I laid aside my pen and postponed the task of chronicling Keigaku Onuki's biography. I passed the time idly, sitting in a wicker chair on the veranda, facing south and gazing at the late-summer Amagi mountainside as the sunbeams were rapidly fading. My thoughts turned away from the image of the brilliant early days of the artistic genius Keigaku, and Hosen Hara's hapless career captured my thoughts. Then, for the first time, all my fragmentary bits of knowledge of him fell into place, and it was a composite picture of his life that now flashed into my mind. Filled with a strong impulse to think further about Hosen Hara, I turned my face toward the mountain. There was something compelling in Hosen Hara's life that forced me to think about him.

 

                        Ⅱ

 

In the fall of 1943, I had set out with Takuhiko Onuki to take a look at some of Keigaku's representative early works which had been produced and still remained scattered in various villages near the artist's birthplace around the Inland Sea in Hyogo and Okayama Prefectures. This was the first time that I encountered the name of Hosen Hara.

We had set a period of five days to visit the homes of the collectors of Keigaku's works and had scheduled our trip in this order: Akashi, Kakogawa, Takasago, Himeji, Shikama, Aioi, Wake, and Saidaiji. Since Takuhiko had generally announced in advance that we were going to make these visits, we were hospitably received at most of the houses, and we were able to inspect many works of

Keigaku's second decade, hitherto known to us only by name.

While we were quite busily getting on and off trains, the autumn sunbeams were scattered like fallen petals over the whitish sand characteristic of these places. As we got off at the small stations in the Harima-Bizen area, we had the feeling of being somewhere near the sea. We wandered about from house to house visiting the old homes and rich mansions of those who had been, in a sense, patrons of the late Keigaku, men who were written up in my notes. Because of our tight schedule, we had just one or two hours at some places. But even when we could have been more relaxed, I had to go half-galloping after the impetuous Takuhiko along the long pinewooded roads and through the mud-walled residential areas. The late fall temperature was ideal, neither too hot nor too cold, but traveling at such a pace, our bodies were covered with a light perspiration. It had been my main purpose on this trip to see these works, and it was Takuhiko's intention to pay his respects at the homes of his late father's powerful supporters. But at each of those homes, we had to listen to one or two anecdotes about

Keigaku's early days, and occasionally, if there were scrolls in unauthenticated boxes, Takuhiko was asked to autograph them.

Takuhiko, whose resemblance to his father was manifest in the high-strung temperament that showed in his face, thick eyebrows, and crewcut hair, would say, "Fine, let’s do it!"

And he would roll up his sleeves to his big-boned shoulders, not at all like "a fellow who did as he pleased in Paris and whose charm and polish were renowned throughout the world," as he often boasted, and he would show that he could write characters surprisingly like his father's.

From the time of our first encounter, I had taken a curiously great interest in this contemporary of mine, this Keigaku the Second, and in a short time we had built up a frank, candid, and friendly relationship. Although he had been

something of a profligate abroad, playing around did not interest him after he returned to Japan. As if his personality had suddenly changed, he did not care about either his reputation or his appearance. He gave the impression of staring wide-eyed at war-ravaged Japan, like a foreigner. Coupled with his defiant nature as a second-generation genius, he had the good-natured attitude generally attributed to young men from good homes. Rumors that had reached my ears before I actually met him were incredibly far from the truth. It seemed as though he was being stereotyped through misunderstandings of the nature of a son of a

well-known painter.

He had inherited a prodigious artistic talent from his father, but gossip had it that he was lazy, shiftless, and incompetent, that he was slovenly and undignified, and he was rumored to be an offensive, despicable playboy. While it could be said that he had a profession―he was an engraver―he actually didn't do much of

anything. There was nothing compelling him to do anything, because he had inherited an enormous fortune, a magnificent town house, and a villa, all

bequeathed by his father. Before the war ended in defeat, producing his father's biography and collecting his father's most magnificent works had been the most compelling jobs for him.

In the course of my five-day journey with this Takuhiko Onuki, we stumbled upon one fact of completely unanticipated interest. As if by prearrangement, one

forgery of Keigaku's work had been collected at almost every house.

The first forgery of Keigaku's work that we encountered was in Kakogawa, at the home of a Mr. M──, one of the artist's patrons, where the head of the house-

hold had passed away some time ago. In the inner drawing room, which looked out over a well-kept garden, we were shown any number of Keigaku's works, among which there was one miniature, a scroll in the Chagake  style which usually

adorns tea-ceremony rooms. The scroll was labeled "North Kyoto Autumn

Scenery." The instant that this one was displayed, I could tell beyond question what it was. Even Takuhiko, who had been peering at it from a vantage point off on the side, immediately turned his eyes toward me. Our glances instinctively met and intertwined.

"What do you think?" his eyes were saying.

For my part, I knew the original of this same work, which was held by a collector in Kyoto. Although Takuhiko had never seen it before, he knew instinctively from its lack of dignity and grace that this was not Keigaku's. He explained this to me later. At any rate, by checking with photographs in exhibition catalogues and other reference works, we could tell definitely that this painting had been drawn in imitation of Keigaku's work. As an extra precaution, right then and there, we opened a book of impressions of Keigaku's seals and checked. It seemed quite clear that in place of the stone seal always used with Keigaku's professional name, Tekishintei, a counterfeit wooden seal had been substituted. At first glance, the seal impression was a perfect facsimile, but on comparison with the two together, there were distinct discrepancies. Besides, the vermillion inking-pad that was used was different from the pads used in originals. Also, while the painting was furnished with an autographed case, this too was, of course, a counterfeit. When asked, the widow of the deceased owner said that she was acquainted with the man from whom her husband had acquired it; that he was a Japanese painter who carried old curios around with him; that she didn't know what he was doing now, but at that time he had briefly been living in Kakogawa; that he was a friend of Keigaku's called Hosen Hara.

When Takuhiko heard this, he exclaimed, "Did you say Hosen Hara! I know him too. Let's see. . . when was that? At any rate, I vaguely remember meeting him two or three times when I was small. He certainly was a friend of my father's, and he used to come around to our house, but I once heard that he later became a counterfeiter of my father's works and my father forbade him to come again. So, that really was true!"

From then on, following upon the case of Mr. M── of Kakogawa, wherever we went, day after day, we found "Keigaku's "―painted by Hosen Hara.

"This is another Hara-Keigaku, isn't it?"

"Beautifully done. Better than the original."

We continually engaged in exchanges of conversation like this, and though it was rather painful to the collectors, whenever we found forgeries, we exposed them as such. Some of them revealed themselves as forgeries at just a cursory glance, but at times there were works that were counterfeited in astoundingly exquisite and accurate detail. There were ways of identifying the forgeries because Keigaku originals had an air of artistic splendor and worth, but even beyond that, when we subjected some of the forgeries to close scrutiny, we found that they contained really gross errors here and there.

For example :

From his middle period on, Keigaku never used any whitish green in daubing his portrayals of moss and grass or rocks and crags, so forgeries which overlooked this fact or contained errors like this could be spotted at a glance. Further, a

clumsiness was detectable in the forgeries when it came to the special way of using ultramarine at the bottom part of the white snow on Mount Fuji in summer, which Keigaku loved to portray. In all cases, evidence like this was available, and so the forgeries exposed themselves as forgeries.

All of the forgeries we saw had been acquired by the very same means and were by the brush of Hosen Hara. Apparently this Hara was a very ingenious man. There were instances in which the art work, the artist's signature, the seal, and everything up to the autographed case could, as a matter of course, be ascribed to Hosen himself. Among the ten or so forgeries which we saw during this trip, only two could be considered to have been done in association with a bogus country art dealer.

Hosen had been able to gain people's confidence by claiming a close personal relationship with Keigaku―and this was a trump card he always used with buyers. On top of that, there were many cases in which he would tell the buyer whether he had gotten a particular item from Keigaku or had bought it cheaply, and then proceeded to palm off a forgery. There were also cases of his saying, among other things, that he would request Keigaku to do a picture on order, and after settling on an appropriate time for delivery, he would deliver.

The fact that he used as a middleman a dishonest art dealer whose character no one knew―and there were two definite cases of this―shows that Hosen associated with crafty art dealers, and this seemed worse than his just engaging in this kind of illicit work.

On this trip we half-jokingly began to bestow upon Hosen Hara names like

"Keigaku-Hara" and "Uncle Hosen." We had uncovered some ten forgeries that he

had produced, and from the collectors' stories we had obtained some fragmentary bits of knowledge about Hosen, but all of these stories concerned Hosen at the age of forty or fifty. That was a period when he changed his residence from place to place, wandering about as an obscure local painter. But, beyond what could be conjectured from Takuhiko's faint recollections, there was no way of knowing to what extent he had really had a close friendship with Keigaku. When we tried to synthesize the stories of all the victims on whom Hosen had foisted forgeries, we gathered that he had lived for varying periods of time in the small cities that we had visited along the Inland Sea, but he had not settled down in any one place for as long as five years. Since he was the kind of fellow who went around selling forgeries at will, inevitably, after two or three years had passed, there would be some sort of incident so that he could not earn a living or remain in any one town and had to move on to another place. However, he always moved to other small cities that were very close by, because he would have had a hard time earning a living if he had left the places where the Keigaku enthusiasts were concentrated.

Hosen did not introduce his wife to anyone except one person, a Mr. S ──, the proprietor of a saké-manufacturing company in Wake. The story goes that several times Hosen took his small but beautiful wife for visits at this person's house and that he had, to a surprising degree, commanded the trust of Mr. S ──'s father.

"I think Hosen was much more an art dealer than a man who painted pictures himself. I don't remember him very well because I was just a child, but it seems to me that when my father ordered paintings from Tokyo, he ordered them through Hosen. I'd guess that most of the things in this house were acquired with his help." These were the words of the current master of the house, a forty-year-old former university rugby star who didn't have much interest in the paintings. "I think that whatever he did he did well. That's because he was an engraver. Undoubtedly we must have something in the house that Hosen engraved."

Then he searched for it, but it was nowhere to be found.

We were shown some of the works by famous Tokyo artists that the former owner had acquired with Hosen's help. They were all genuine originals, and

among them there were some small but rather interesting masterpieces that are very rarely found in country places like that. Considered in this light, there apparently was another side to Hosen that brought him respectability and trust among the Tokyo artists.

"In the final analysis," Takuhiko said, "Hosen is a Keigaku specialist. But even more, he manoeuvers with discretion and doesn't palm off more than one forgery per house." Actually, he was just like that. He could be regarded as a very clever and careful man.

It would appear from our investigations that for some reason Hosen lived in Kakogawa twice. The second time was when he was past his mid-fifties. At the end of that second period of residence in Kakogawa, in 1927 or 1928, he seems to have vanished from this area.

On the fifth and finial day of this trip, returning from Saidaiji, we stopped near the Himeji coast and took up lodging at a small inn whose name I don't remember. It was our intention to settle down to recover from the fatigue of the five-day journey and eat some fresh fish. As we entered the room to which we were assigned, to our surprise we discovered in the tokonoma * a landscape painting done by Hosen.

 

* The tokonoma has no Western counterpart. It is a long, narrow alcove or recess in a room (usually the main room of a house, but sometimes also the tea-room or master bedroom) used decoratively for displaying a prized hanging scroll. Generally, it is very simply and tastefully arranged with just the scroll and a flower arrangement or statuette. Every guest room at a Japanese inn has a tokonoma.

 

It was a weird discovery. The artist's name, "Hosen," was written

calligraphically in nearly square, easily legible characters, and the scroll was autographed with two seal impressions, “Kankotei" and "Hosen." Perhaps it was because we were so tired from our trip that this strange, fortuitous encounter with a work by Hosen made us feel so odd.

Takuhiko said, "We seem to be having rather close relations with Master

Painter Hosen."

"This time he's revealed himself. I'd be surprised if this weren't a forgery of Hosen's work."

Both of us just stood engaging in that sort of idle chatter and staring at the scroll in the tokonoma. Actually, we had seen some ten Keigaku forgeries

counterfeited by Hosen, but this was the first time for us to see his own work properly ascribed to him in his own name.

"It's not bad at all, huh?"

With an expression on his face that revealed his surprise Takuhiko said, "It could get Academy recognition."

To tell the truth, it was different, not in the least the sort of absurd art of dubious authorship that one usually finds in the tokonoma of these lodging houses. The subject, the corner of a high mountain enveloped in mist, drawn in the style of the southern painters, was quite commonplace, but it was drawn with minute precision and bore Hosen's own signature ; and as we looked at it, it strangely permeated our minds.

"It has a peculiar spirit," Takuhiko said then. There certainly was something in the picture that had a peculiar spirit. For eyes that had just witnessed so many Keigaku masterpieces, this painting of course could not compete, but yet there was a spirit of destitution and solitude which had disciplined the work.

“Kankotei, indeed ! " Takuhiko burst out a little later, as though he had been deeply impressed by something. He stared at the scene again and then walked over to the rattan chair on the porch. The sight of the Chinese character for "cold"─Kan─in that name and even the sound of that expression in my mind as I heard it sent chills through me, matching the eerie sensation that was inherent in the work.

That evening, we spent the last night of our trip opening saké bottles. And under these circumstances, stories about Hosen were apt to prevail over the stories about the masterpieces of Keigaku's early period which we had been

investigating all week long.

By some manner or means, the conclusion that we reached between us was that having painted such a picture as we saw there, Hosen could not be called

completely devoid of talent.

"How foolish! Instead of the monotonous drudgery of forging my father's works, wouldn't he have done better painting pictures of his own?" Takuhiko, glancing wideeyed at the scroll in the tokonoma, rolled up the sleeves of his yukata, and lifted his saké cup to his mouth.

"The forgeries probably sold better."

"I suppose so. The name Tekishintei would certainly sell better than the name Kankotei."

"On the whole, what kind of man was he? Do you remember him?" As I was beginning to feel more or less curious about this counterfeiter, I also wanted to know about his personal appearance.

"I really don't remember anything about that. It was when I was very little. Besides, you see, I only caught glimpses of him in the hallway or places like that. One time though, oh yes, it happened about the time my father was around forty and I guess I was seven or eight . . ." and from out of the recesses of his memory Takuhiko related what was left of his deepest impressions of that time.

He did not clearly or wholly recollect where the place was, but apparently it was at some exhibition. Hosen was on his knees on the floor, with his head lowered, and Keigaku was standing in front of him, saying: "Lift your head up and look at me."

As Takuhiko vaguely recalled, there had been some shouting about something. Keigaku had gotten violently excited and kept on shouting, repeating the same thing over and over, while Hosen at that time merely kept his eyes lowered without saying a word. Takuhiko was left with absolutely no impression about the personal appearance of Hosen at that time, but, he said, in his childish heart he had had a tremendous feeling of compassion for the man.

"It was because my father had that kind of temperament, I think. On discovering that there were forgeries, he shouted abuses in front of people without compunction, you know what I mean? We weren't at home, so I guess that he was caught by my father at one of my father's exhibitions, at a department store, museum, temple, or someplace like that. Even so, I think my father may have given him some money after that. So, this has gotten to be a kind of apocryphal story."

Takuhiko smiled. Actually, however, it appears that Keigaku was quite charitable toward Hosen and gave him money more than once or twice. Takuhiko also had recollections of hearing things like that from his mother or from Keigaku. He had vague memories of two other occasions when he had met a man who resembled Hosen. There was something about Hosen's being summoned and rebuked or coming to borrow money. In any case, he always got the same feeling he had had on that occasion when he had caught a flashing glimpse of the man who would not lift his head up.

"In all likelihood, that time when he sat on the floor and couldn't lift his eyes may have been the last time that he appeared before my father. After getting to be of junior high school age, I never heard of Hosen's coming to visit my father. But my father used to say in retrospect that he had a good-for-nothing rascal for a friend."

That night we sat in front of Hosen Hara's painting, drinking saké until very late and made up our beds in front of that picture.

 

                        Ⅲ

 

The second time I ran into the name of Hosen Hara was a year and a half after I had traveled to the towns and villages of the Inland Sea coast with Takuhiko Onuki. I know that because it was the year the war ended, the spring of 1945. During that year and a half, the course of the war had taken a drastic turn for the worse. At home, the people's lives and spirits―and even Nature―were rough and ruined beyond recognition. With the help of an acquaintance of mine, a colleague at the newspaper where I worked, I was having my mother, my frail wife, and my two infant children evacuated to a mountain village, a place near the summit of the Chugoku mountain range. It was a spot near the juncture of three prefectures, Okayama, Tottori, and Hiroshima. It was a tiny place, literally a mountain nook near the border of Tottori Prefecture. It was a place where one had the feeling that here, and here alone, night and day would peacefully follow each other with no change from the old days, no matter what the result of the war.

It was the end of March when I first set out to preview the place where my family would be evacuated. I knew of only one man to whom I could turn in that village. His name was Senzo Onoe, and he was an acquaintance of my colleague at the newspaper. The five-mile road leading from the mountain-top station on the Harima-Bizen line to this place is, as might be expected, a steep mountain path which one person can barely traverse. Along the way, it is necessary to go over two small but sharp ridges, but on entering the hamlet, one finds a remarkably flat area, a tableland, and the prospect opens and extends easily from here in all four directions. The rays of the sun and the fragrance in the wind are different from what they are anywhere else in the world. There are some fifty houses scattered over that broad tableland, and the whole village is filled with a shadeless

brilliance, even though this sometimes only imparts a feeling of emptiness. I first experienced the real sensation of "sunbeams descending" when I came to this highland. A shallow river only thirty feet wide, whose upstream and downstream are indistinguishable, turns and flows north at that place.

Escorted by Senzo Onoe, who was wearing the kind of farmer's field smock that we Japanese call noragi. I was shown a place in the hamlet that might be leased―the Youth Assembly Hall. Although it was called that, it was a structure in a style that was hardly different from that of the ordinary village houses. I immediately decided to rent it for evacuating my family. Then, that night I stayed at Onoe's house. The villagers were the kind of relatively large-scale farmers that are not seen in other places. At every house, two or three oxen were kept, and even in the construction of their homes, the villagers retained a rough, old-fashioned

atmosphere. Onoe's family was the oldest in the community, and compared with the other houses, his was a size larger. I was invited to sleep in the guest room, which was separated from the storeroom by a partition of one large panel of cypress.

In the curiously small, half-sized tokonoma of this guest room, I saw something that excited me. It was Keigaku Onuki's picture of a fox under a peony bush with his head turned facing outward. I uttered an exclamation of surprise. It was not appropriate for a mountaineer farmer to have a masterpiece like this in his

tokonoma, no matter how prosperous he might be.

Gesturing toward the picture, I said to the fifty-year-old owner of the house, who could not possibly be interested in such art, "That's a superb thing, isn't it?"

"It wasn't an easy thing to come by for people like us, I understand," said Onoe. For some unknown reason, he showed a shyness in his sun-blackened, rough, but honest-looking face. "Really," he went on, "a man who said he was a bosom friend of this Keigaku who painted it was in this village, and . . ."

"What was the man called?" I asked.

"His name was Hosen Hara. He was a painter, too. Some years back―when was it? 1940. I think―he died. He originally came from these parts and came back here

in his later years."

Even without asking for an explanation, I understood the rest. It was a surprise to me that Hosen Hara came from this place. But as soon as I heard that he had died, even though he was a complete stranger to me, I felt a certain deep emotion for a while. Two years after Keigaku had passed away, his counterfeiter. Hosen Hara, had followed him to the next world!

That night I informed Takuhiko Onuki in Kyoto that the counterfeiter Hosen Hara had died and that I was evacuating my family to Hara's birthplace. In my letter to Takuhiko, who probably was himself feverishly engaged in evacuating the massive art works that Keigaku had bequeathed, I wrote about the incredible thing that had happened.

Evacuating my family to this village took a month, and the purple akebia flowers were already blooming in the thicket behind the Youth Assembly Hall where the four helpless members of my family were to live from then on. It was the end of April, but the temperature was still low, and when you put your hand into the small river in front of the house, the water was as cold as mid winter.

After the five days it took me to get my family fairly well settled, I went back to Osaka. Before that, I went to call at the home of the village headman, whose family standing was second only to Onoe's. And there I was disturbed to find in his guest room a second Keigaku forgery painted by Hosen Hara. It was a counterfeit of the painting "Flowers and Birds," over a foot and three-quarters wide, an imposing thing to look at.

To Onoe and the village headman I of course said nothing about the secret of these works. At a time when, throughout Japan, life and death themselves were so uncertain, I didn't have the heart to impose any needless worries upon the people who thought that these were Keigaku's work. The counterfeited Keigakus painted by Hosen Hara undoubtedly would not in all eternity go out of this hamlet on the mountain summit. For hundreds and thousands of years, I reflected, they would be passed on to people who didn't even know the name of Keigaku Onuki. In all likelihood, no matter what happened to Japan, this fact would not change. As these thoughts flashed through my mind, I felt that I was witnessing Eternity. It also seems to me that during this period my anxiety about entrusting my family to the customs and manners of an unknown and unfamiliar place was overriding the concern for forgeries I had about a year and a half earlier.

From then until August when the war ended, I went to that village three times to see my family. I believe it was on that third occasion that I went on behalf of another colleague of mine to look at still another vacant house in this hamlet, escorted this time by an old bent-over farmer-woman who was acting as the agent. The house was on the slope of a short hill which rose lazily south of the hamlet, and it could be said to be the highest house in the village. There it stood removed from the center of the population. There, as I learned from the prattle of the old woman who was guiding me, was the house in which Hosen Hara had lived. Although it was almost five years since Hosen had died, that house was still vacant and just as he had left it.

The house was in complete disorder. It was not originally Hosen's house, but he had returned to this village the year that the Manchurian Incident broke out and

had "bought it for a song." She went on to say things to the effect that Hosen had left his own small hamlet, which was actually about two miles away, because he did not get along with his older brother and that because of their relationship, when he returned to his native place, he had taken this house instead of going back to the hamlet where he had been raised.

"How about his family?" I asked the old woman, thinking it strange that the house had been left empty after his death.

"You mean his wife? She ran away." The old woman said this as though it were nothing at all.

"Ran away?"

"She probably got mad at him. She lived with Uncle Hosen in this house for three years. Then, at the time of a festival, she went home to her family in Shoyama and stayed there and never came back."

Hosen had even gone to beg her to come back. And also a man in the neighborhood, worried about them, had acted as a go-between, but in the end she had not come back. Hosen, for some reason unknown to the old woman, had been adopted into his wife's family and had taken their name, Hara, so unless he chose to withdraw that name from the registry, there could be no divorce. Her family was indifferent to all this, but in any case, the two had separated.

"When the old man died, I guess his wife did come.

At least she may have come at the time of the funeral, but until then she didn't come back even once."

"About how old a person is she?"

"When he died, the old man was sixty-seven or eight. She was about ten years younger, so she must be past sixty now. I hear that she's being supported by her

relatives in Shoyama," said the old woman.

So, in his declining years, Hosen had returned to his native village a wrecked counterfeiter and had died in the village where he was born, but even those last years, as related by the old woman, were punctuated with shadows of misfortune.

Still wearing my zori. I entered the dilapidated vacant house. For no particular reason, I opened a cupboard near the hearth and looked in. The interior was

packed full of all kinds of trash covered with dust and cobwebs. Poking her head in beside mine and removing some plates from inside the cupboard, the old woman said something to the effect that they could still be used.

Then, she shook the dust off them and put them on the threshold, intending to take them back with her later.

"These are things Uncle Hosen used when he was making fireworks."

"Fireworks?"

"He used to make fireworks here."

Then, muttering that all of these things were paraphernalia for making fireworks, she raked the rubbish out of the cupboard with her cane, and it came tumbling down on the worn-out tatami. A black powdery substance, mixed with dust, whirled around over the floor, blown by the breeze.

"He said it was gunpowder, so everybody's been afraid to sweep it away." As she said this, the old woman without a speck of concern raked the stuff all over the tatami. Three or four round things, like halves of India rubber balls, came bouncing out. Since of course these things too had formerly contained gunpowder, a little bit of yellow-colored powder still adhered to the bottom of them. Things that looked like they might have been round papier-mâché cases for fireworks, paper sacks with their sides split and black powder oozing out of their insides, some pellet-shaped articles of unknown character, solidifiers that might be for refining the black powder, dishes for mixing paint, writing brushes, spatulas, painting brushes, a sheaf of Japanese paper, Mortars―all sorts of things like that were scattered around in there.

I was somewhat surprised to hear that Hosen Hara had been making fireworks. We stepped down into the doma. *

 

* In pre-modern Japanese architecture, the doma was an unfloored multi-purpose area, set lower than the rest of the house and used as a storage area, as a pantry, and as the kitchen. Separate kitchens have only recently begun to replace the doma in urban areas; in rural areas, the doma persists.

 

The doma had all kinds of trash and chaff scattered over it, just like the

cupboard, but to such an extent that there was hardly room to set one's foot down. The chaff, the old woman explained, was something Hosen used inside of sky rockets.

"The old man used to sit over there and make the fireworks . "

I looked at the place she was indicating. It was a shaded place just beyond the doma which might have been a little barn at any other farmhouse. She pointed

out what was undoubtedly his former workshop. A wooden bench and a tree stump on which he used to sit amidst the disorderly trash confirmed this. Set on the sill of a small window, which was the only place through which the sunlight entered, were a half-broken measuring device and a number of chemical bottles. Slips of paper with prayers invoking protection from fire were pasted on the lintels between the doors and ceiling. Cleaning this house and putting it into the kind of shape that would enable a person to live in it was going to be far from easy. The moment I set foot in this house, I rejected it as a home to which my friend could evacuate.

Standing in the middle of this doma, where disorder was really carried to extremes, I surveyed this dingy corner that she had called a fireworks factory. I couldn't imagine what sort of appearance or mien the strange dead Hosen Hara had possessed, but the image that first drifted into my mind at that moment was one of some sort of shriveling, sluggish animal crouching in that dark spot. Could it have been because he used to sit on that tree stump in front of that wooden bench, fingering black or red or yellow powders in that measuring device? The sunbeams would be floating in, creating bands of light behind him, but the atmosphere surrounding those sun-rays would be stagnant, dark, and cold. Certainly, that was the picture I had of Hosen Hara in this dark and wretched house, forever beyond redemption―a much more miserable picture than I ever had of Hosen Hara, the counterfeiter.

"There's something about this I don't like," I thought. And the moment I thought this, I recalled the marvelous spirit that had pervaded the sumie painting by Hosen that Takuhiko Onuki and I had chanced upon at the inn in Himeji. I had the feeling that something closely resembling what was latent in that sumie painting filled this eerie, deserted house, but this time in a much more foul and filthy form.

As we were leaving, we went around to the back of the house. It was then that the old woman showed me Hara's grave. Behind the house was a small vacant lot which ended in a six-foot drop. Near the edge of the drop, a nondescript, ordinary stone―Hosen's tombstone―was set half-buried in the weeds. Out beyond that small tombstone loomed the prospect. In the distance you could see the numerous ridges of the mountain range, one upon the other, rolling in gentle slopes, and closer, as you dropped your eyes, the separate village houses studded the flats, looking in their smallness like toys, luxuriant with the many surrounding trees. It was April, but this was not a spring landscape. The whole landscape seemed submerged as though it were an underwater scene ―and cold.

That night, I heard from the usually extremely poor conversationalist, Senzo Onoe, a somewhat detailed story about Hosen Hara's declining years in this

hamlet.

According to that story, Hosen Hara and his wife Asa came back to this hamlet the year the Manchurian Incident broke out, in a condition that could almost literally be called "with only the clothes they had on their backs." They hadn't brought a single piece of baggage that could really be called baggage, but on the other hand, they apparently had a certain amount of money. They had bought the House on the Heights, as it was called in the village, which had become vacant when the preceding occupants had all died of consumption one after another. They had gotten the house for a song―but that was the asking price―had immediately paid cash for it, and moved in.

It was soon after moving to this village that Hosen began to palm off those works that the village headman, Onoe, and one or two other families in the village claimed were Keigaku scrolls. Before he was twenty, when he had left the village, Hosen had said he would become an artist, but since he had really only returned once or twice until his later years, there was almost no one in the village who knew anything in detail about his character. At one point, a long time ago, there had been rumors in circulation in the village that Hosen had become a successful painter in the Kyoto-Osaka area. Because of this, whenever the villagers

mentioned him in their conversations, there was something in their stories that indicated that they casually regarded Hosen as a person who had left the village and succeeded in the city. Accordingly, the villagers were a bit surprised at the wretched condition he was in when he came back home in his later years. Hosen told them then that he had come back to the country because in recent years his right shoulder had been so wracked with pain from rheumatism that he could not wield his paintbrushes and delicate work was impossible and that, in addition, his savings had run out.

When he had settled down in the village, he didn't do any kind of work in particular, but from time to time he could be seen taking his scrolls and curios to Yonago, Okayama, Tottori, and other places and bringing different things back. At any rate, he seemed to be eking out a living carrying on some sort of art business in the countryside .

Hosen had left a fairly good impression on the villagers, and there wasn't any particular single instance of his doing anything to cause trouble for other people. People would call him "Hosen-san, Hosen-san," with more or less mixed feelings of respect and affection. But after a while, as time went on, he started to go to other places less and less frequently; rumors began to circulate to the effect that he was tinkering with gunpowder―actually he was making firecrackers and fireworks and selling them to the toy stores in Yonago―and at some point he gradually came to be called simply "Uncle Hosen" by the villagers.

Of course, even though he was engaged in making fireworks, it was illegal. It would seem that even when he first moved into the village he had already been working with gunpowder. Once, late at night, Onoe said, balls of fire were flying directly over Uncle Hosen's house, and the villagers became greatly agitated. Later, when they learned that these things were sky rockets that he had shot off, they were very shocked.

In the third year after Hosen moved to this village, he exploded some gunpowder and lost three fingers from his right hand. After that accident occurred, a resentment developed among the villagers toward the repugnant things that he had been tinkering with, and Hosen rather abruptly lost his popularity with them. Curiously though, after he had had the accident, Hosen turned cocky, and from then on he produced half-publicly the fireworks that he had been turning out furtively until then.

The villagers did not go near Hosen's house very often, but on the rare occasions when they did try poking around his house, they would find him in the workshop

he had converted from a barn or see him sitting there constantly making all sorts of toy fireworks, apparently on order for Yonago.

It was just half a year after Hosen lost his fingers that he and his wife Asa separated. At that time, even though she had deserted him, Senzo Onoe acted as a go-between and went to Asa's family home at Shoyama to appeal to her to come back to Hosen. But Asa simply and persistently just kept saying, "I won't do it!" Neighbors one after another also went up to Shoyama two or three times, but it was useless. At length, Hosen said that if he was such a despicable person, he, for his part, would abandon the idea of reconciliation with Asa―and that would be that. The villagers furthermore did not particularly condemn Asa for leaving the husband to whom she had been married for such a long time. Minus the three fingers, Hosen's right hand was quite unsightly, and as he tinkered with

gunpowder in his dismal workshop, he had a gloominess that would cause anyone to despise him, even a wife.

He could not produce the fireworks publicly because it was of course against the law. He nevertheless continued to turn them out and apparently became fairly well off. It seems that he regularly donated money for the construction of the town roads and made sizeable monetary contributions to the neighborhood functions with donations that appreciably exceeded what was expected. Once―Onoe didn't know when it was―a policeman came around and hauled Hosen off to the police station in a neighboring town, but somehow he was acquitted and did not have to pay a fine. Even after that, Hosen continued to make his living the same way as before, still in his dark and gloomy workshop.

At any rate, the fact is that before he died in 1940, Hosen spent almost ten years of his lonely life in this hamlet. For about the last three years, however, because he had made a small fortune, the villagers rarely saw him produce fireworks. Usually, he was just on the porch, sometimes just sitting there, sometimes

sleeping, mostly just doing nothing but gazing abstractedly ahead. Still, in the summer, when he was asked to do so by the neighborhood youths, he would make a few fireworks and accept the small gratuities they offered him. Moreover, if he was badgered into it, he would wrap up some of the fireworks he had made and go himself to shoot them off in the neighboring villages at the summer festivals. As a result, it appears that he was regarded more affectionately as "Uncle Hosen" by the people in other villages than by those in this one.

Hosen's death came suddenly. Early one morning when the autumn rain had been pouring down continuously, his next door neighbor, who actually lived a full block away, became curious about the fact that "Uncle Hosen" had not shown up for two or three days, so he went over to visit him. Hosen was lying on his face in the doma, dead. When the neighbor tried touching him, it was obvious from the rigidity and coldness of the dead body that many hours had passed since his death. The cause of Hosen Hara's death was apoplexy.

An interesting thing in connection with Hosen's passing away was that just prior to his death he apparently had been intending to work with his paintbrushes. This could be deduced from the fact that in the storeroom there was a blanket, folded in two, on top of which a number of dishes for mixing paint had bcen arranged in order. Beside them, five paintbrushes had been placed with their necks neatly lined up on the cover of an inkstone case. Right in the middle of the blanket, a sheet of brand new white paper on which nothing had been painted was spread out just as neatly. It was thought that he had been just intending to take up his brush when he remembered something he had to attend to, had stepped down into the doma, and had passed away there just like that.

"Was Hosen-san painting pictures in his later years?" I asked Senzo Onoe.

"I don't think he was painting any more. But he was a painter at heart, so I guess it must have been on his mind, even when he had a hunch that he was going to die. Some people might say that he was going to paint, but he was missing three fingers, so it wouldn't have been easy to paint anything worth mentioning," he

replied.

That was the last of the counterfeiter, but there was something in that story that struck me. Onoe had said that drawing paper without a single brush stroke on it had been spread out and ready, but I had the feeling that he really had no intention of painting a picture at that time. I felt rather that he only wanted to surround himself with his painting gear.

I listened to this tale of Hosen Hara to the end, and when I got up to leave, Senzo Onoe said, as though he had suddenly remembered something, "By the way, inside a cabinet in the storeroom of your house there are some things Uncle Hosen wrote. I think there's something he wrote about fireworks. Those things were found at the time of his funeral, and some of the young boys must have thought they might be of use some day and stored them in the Assembly Hall."

There was one cabinet in the storeroom of the house I had rented which we had not touched and had left alone as promised when I had leased the house. I didn't know what was in it but had guessed that it must contain things that were owned jointly by the young people of the village.

On returning home, I opened that cabinet. An account book of festival receipts, minutes of a youth conference, drafts of speeches―trash of that sort was crammed into it. In among these things, I discovered a notebook of bound Japanese rice-paper with the words Outline of Procedures Governing the Manufacture of Pyrotechnics skillfully written, by brush of course, on the cover. The title was pretentious, but these things appeared to be something like memoranda which Hosen Hara had written himself on the making of fireworks. When I opened up the notebook and looked at a page, there was a heading, "Fog Blooms; Red Fog; Snowfall," with this formula underneath :

"In order to make stars, prepare a saffron core and set it aside to dry; then add

clay to chrysanthemum powder, * mix with water, add 1% magnesium, and

stir in a mortar; wrap the resulting paste around the core in layers; after the

core is well covered with the paste, sprinkle with a mixture made from 15 oz.

of chrysanthemum and 1 oz. of seed.** Roll the ball well and repeat this

process several times. When it gets to be four or five inches, add a booster. Be

sure to dry the ball in the sun after each application. Cores of 5inches and

7 inches can be used."

 

* I am informed by makers of Japanese fireworks that "chrysanthemum powder" is a technical term for a mixture. of charcoal, sulphur, and potassium nitrate in

proportions that will produce a chrysanthemum-shaped flare when exploded in the air.

 

* * Seeds and chaff were used as retarding catalysts until sawdust replaced them due to regulations in some countries against the import of agricultural products.  

     

Very unclear passages like this covered three pages. Then followed paragraphs on combinations of saffron and combinations of chrysanthemum. Proportions for each kind of explosive were written by brush in red. Then followed sections on the manufacture of "Roman Candles," "Floral Cores," "Firetails," etc. Of course these were Hosen's memoranda to himself, but to me, who had absolutely no knowledge of fireworks, they were completely incomprehensible. There was a sheet of

Japanese rice-paper stuffed between one set of interleaves. I opened it and looked at it. It was Hosen's own curriculum vitae, a personal statement of interest to me for very special reasons.

"Born: October 3, 1874; Senjiro (pen-name: Hosen) Hara," was written at the beginning, so there was no question that this was Hosen's own curriculum vitae. However, his record of employment, which can only be regarded as fictitious, was listed simply in this sketchy fashion:

"1916. Arareya Fireworks Store, Tokyo

1918, Suzuki Fireworks Store, Yokosuka

1921, In Charge of the Oriental Pyrotechnical Factory

1922, Sakai Fireworks Display Store, Osaka

1924, In Charge of the Marudama Pyrotechnics Factory, Osaka"

At the end, there was an ostentatious subscript: "The foregoing is certified as factual."

It is not clear where, when, or to whom he intended to submit this. This much, however, is clear: the period from 1912 to 1926 was precisely the time he was dispensing Keigaku forgeries as he moved around in the small cities and towns of Hyogo and Okayama Prefectures. It is therefore also clear that this was a wholly fabricated statement of his personal history. The possibility exists that when Hosen reached an impasse trying to earn a living as a counterfeiter or as a village artist, he might have been a technician in charge of a fireworks factory at one or another country town―on the side. If you want to stretch your imagination even further, you could even say that when he was ordered to appear at the police station, he was possibly able to settle the matter very quickly by just producing this false document and wrapping the police up in smoke. In any case, there is no doubt that this document clearly reveals a characteristic part of the nature of the person that was Hosen Hara.

 

IV

 

"I don’t know whether you know it or not, but making fireworks in the winter can be very unpleasant. Chilean nitrate can be awfully cold when it's cold." As she said this, Hosen Hara's widow looked at the palm of her right hand as if she were

recalling the chapped hands she had in those days. Then she dropped her gaze.

My talk with her took place at the end of November, the year the war ended.

Although the war had ended, life in the city was still shrouded in great post-war confusion and anxiety, and almost every day newspaper articles were reporting on the gangs of robbers, so I kept my family at their evacuation site where they were. I had intended in any case to have them spend the rest of the year there. The seasons changed in that mountain village as much as a month earlier than in other places, and toward the end of September, piercing blasts from the bleak and dismal autumn winds came whistling incessantly up the slopes of the mountain range, producing terrific drafts which blew all the way from Mimasaku to Hoki. At the beginning of October, the continual late-autumnal rains that are characteristic of the highlands arrived as the first harbingers of winter.

As that time approached, my wife seemed to develop a feeling of panic over spending the winter snowbound in an unfamiliar place. When I went to visit her there at the beginning of October, she suddenly broke the news to me that she wanted to move out of this place of' refuge, and the sooner the better. After I returned to Osaka, my wife urged me persistently in letter after letter to move them out of their evacuation place. She lacked the self-confidence, she wrote, to spend the winter here . . . surrounded by an old woman and two infants . . . and without heating equipment . . . and if the children caught pneumonia, there wasn't a doctor, and . . . !

About the middle of November, I took a fairly long leave of absence from my company and left for that hamlet in the highlands of Tottori Prefecture in order to move my family. There I encountered a whole series of various and sundry impediments to getting things like transportation and shipment of effects taken care of. By the time I had taken the last step and managed to arrange some means for shipping our effects and transporting the family, November was almost over.

On the last afternoon, in order to arrange for the shipment of our baggage via the San-in Line, I set out for the station at Shoyama, a place whose name I had so often heard but which I had never visited. If I could have sent our things from the neighboring mountain-top station, which I always used and where I knew the station master, I would have had no problem. But those two steep ridges on the mountain road leading to our house were a formidable obstacle.

Negotiations over the baggage at Shoyama station were settled much more simply than I had expected. According to the conversation I had with the station personnel, if I waited until evening, a truck could be sent from there to the hamlet where I lived. So, since I thought that I might just as well save myself the trouble of walking that five-mile mountain road again, I decided to go back with the truck when they sent it.

As I was wondering how I might best kill the two hours until the truck left, I suddenly remembered hearing that Hosen Hara's widow was living here supported by her elder brother. I tried to think of some particular reason why I had to visit Hosen Hara's widow, but I couldn't come up with one. I did eventually come up with an idea. Rather than approach her to talk about Hosen or anything connected with him, I would ask her instead about anecdotes or anything else I might not yet have heard concerning Keigaku Onuki, whose biography I had to write. With this excuse in mind, I got up the courage to go and visit her.

I asked about Hosen Hara's wife at the general store in front of the station and got an immediate answer. I was told that until two or three years ago Asa had run a little store selling cheap sweets in front of the station, but as the intensity of the war increased and the things she sold became so scarce, she had to close the store. They didn't know what she was doing now, but she was being supported by her elder brother who had a lumber yard or something. I met Asa at the porch of this house, which, while it could not be considered luxurious, was a well-built and excellent house.

I was unable to tell, of course, whether she was happy or unhappy living with her elder brother. She had a trim figure, and as the late afternoon sun fell on her there on the narrow porch, she was peeling persimmons with a kitchen knife getting them ready to dry. The young proprietor of the saké distillery in Wake had told us that she was of small stature and beautiful. And indeed she must have been beautiful when she was young. Even as a woman of sixty, there was still left in her that chicness in both appearance and expression that is usually met in entertainment people. But when she showed her profile, her earlobes were shallow, and here and there, there were traces of tragedy and an air of extreme poverty. I had thought that she would have an aversion to talking about Hosen because he had spent his life dishonestly as a painter, but she showed no such tendency whatso-ever .

"It might look as if he had some close association with Keigaku-sensei when he was young, and after I married him he may have gone up to Kyoto on occasion and

visited the sensei's home at Hyakumamben. But he did not have any connection that could really be called a close association. Anyhow, the fact is that he counterfeited the sensei's works inordinately, and so he couldn't show himself in front of Keigaku-sensei."

It was surprising, the degree to which this woman had disassociated herself from Hosen. She gave me the impression that as far as she was concerned all the bad acts of this man to whom she had been married for so long were already past, gone, and forgotten, and she had no connection with them.

"I separated from that man in 1935. From then until the time he died, he only came to visit me once. That was on the day the newspapers announced Keigaku-

sensei's death."

Asa told me that on that day when Hosen came to visit her he had said something like, "Why won't you substitute for me and go and burn some incense at Keigaku's altar instead of me, because I can't hold my head up even at his funeral." Asa told me that she had wondered at the time why, instead of feeling the need to go and apologize for the great trouble he had caused Keigaku, he had acted as though a sadness over the death of an old friend was gripping him.

"No matter what anyone else says, I believe that his spirit was broken after coming to these mountains. Even though he had no reason for it, he held a grudge against Keigaku-sensei until then. When he used to drink, he would say that if he wanted to paint, he could paint pictures as well as the other fellow; when he was young, he was the more skillful of the two; he also had talent. But, after coming to these mountains, when mentioning Keigaku, he would sometimes say, " It's such a great thing that he's so famous."'

That was Asa's story. And the image that then drifted into my mind of Hosen who after reading the news of Keigaku's death had come up to this hamlet to visit the wife who had deserted him, the image of him moving along the winding, hilly road which I myself had just that very day walked, that image curiously

crystallized as one of a little person together with the late autumn winds crossing the marvelous bamboo thickets that filled the slopes of the mountain range. However, thinking about it later, I recalled that the anniversary date of Keigaku's death was March third. So, it would have been a time when one side of these mountains was still covered with snow, and Hosen might have been wearing straw snowshoes and trudging stolidly across the snow packed mountain road to get to Shoyama. And even then, apparently, Asa had not gone to Keigaku's funeral in Kyoto, and that's the way the matter stood.

In any event, the fact that there was a day such as that in Hosen's declining years suddenly struck me like a ray of sunlight amidst the generally dark and dismal colorless monotone of this person called Hosen who was inexplicably commanding my attention.

Asa's talk about Keigaku ended, I asked her obliquely, though I myself thought it was rude, why she had decided to separate from Hosen. Soon after Hosen came to the mountains and started to manufacture fireworks, she began to want to leave him for doing that kind of work. She herself sometimes had to assist him―"Oh, well, it was making a living, if you can call it a living, so what could I do?"―But apparently she hated Hosen for engaging in that work even more she hated the job

itself.

"Even when that man began to counterfeit Keigaku-sensei's work, he sneakingly kept it a secret from me. It finally came out in the open, but at first, as you might expect, just my knowing it seemed an embarrassment to him. He carried on these activities as secretly as he could so that I wouldn't know about them. And when he started making fireworks, it was just the same. This time it was not that he was doing anything particularly bad, although there are laws about amateurs handling explosives. It was just that he hid things from me, no matter what he did. If he had only been open about it, everything might have been all right. But when I wasn't there or after I'd gone to bed, he used to sneak over to the edge of the porch and stealthily grind things in his mortar. It was because he did that sort of thing that I got to dislike fireworks."

What apparently first motivated Hosen to tinker with explosives was that there was someone he liked, the owner of a curio store, who made fireworks, and during the time he was associated with that person, he himself developed an interest in making fireworks. When Asa first became aware of it, Hosen was furtively

wrapping all sorts of chemicals in paper in roughly equal quantities of about an ounce-and-a-half each and igniting them to see what color their flames would be.

"Why in the world did he find fireworks so interesting? "

 "Well," replied Asa a bit pensively, "he was a funny man. I don't know where he ever got the idea, but once he was trying to produce a certain deep blue-violet color and he acted as though he was obsessed. He generally could get that color by mixing Paris green with chlorate of potash and pine resin, but he seemed to be trying to find some means for producing a chrysanthemum of this deep bluish violet―it was supposed to be the color of bell-flowers―but it always ended up a little pale and different from the original bell-flower color."

Hosen lost three of his fingers when he was making shooting stars. He had incorrectly inserted a fuse in the side of an explosive he had been devising, and it accidentally ignited, the explosives nearby catching fire in the process. It was quite a serious thing. Although Asa was quite upset by the incident itself, it additionally provided her with an excuse for leaving him―and she made up her mind to do so. Ever since he had begun working secretly with explosives, she said, she had developed a strong dislike for Hosen, and her dislike had continued. When the explosion accident occurred, it was the last straw, and she really wanted to leave him for good.

"Did he ever achieve that blue-violet?" I asked.

"Mm-m, I wonder. He apparently was not very satisfied with it while I was still with him," she replied but acted as though she really had little interest in that subject. While she was relating stories about Hosen, some of the earlier love and affection she had felt toward him, even though he was such a strange person, had more or less been revived, and even though she now displayed an attitude of cold indifference and detachment, she certainly did not say anything bad about him intentionally.

"In the final analysis, he was an unfortunate man, that man, don't you think? I really think so. It may look as though I wasted my whole life on account of him, but I sometimes wonder if he wasn't even more unhappy than I was. It was his curse to care more about painting pictures than about his three meals a day; in the long run, he got started on the wrong track and ended up without painting a single worthwhile picture ; when he made fireworks, he lost three fingers ; he was almost driven to distraction over 'deep purple, deep purple'―but he couldn't even produce that: He wasn't a particularly bad man, but I guess he was just born unlucky."

For over an hour I listened to Asa's tales. While listening to her stories, I was captivated by the way she talked about this person Hosen as she stared fixedly into the distance and by the way she was in certain respects still bound up with him.

It was my observation that during the course of almost thirty years that she had lived with him during their marriage, she had been an individual unto herself and had developed a special kind of mentality not generally found in women.

"Do you know the proprietor of the big saké distillery in Wake?" I asked,

recalling the owner's statement that Hosen and she had frequently visited his home.

"No, I don't," she answered promptly, as if the distillery was something

completely unknown to her. Perhaps my reference to something in her younger days had displeased her. The thought also suddenly occurred to me that the

person who used to frequent that house with him might have been some other woman, so I dropped the subject.

At that point, without even having a cup of tea, I cut short my curious visit with this stranger from whom I had heard things that really infringed on her privacy, and I left so as not to be late for my five-o'clock truck.

Of all the things I had heard from Hosen's widow that day, the story about Hosen trying to shoot off the blue-violet chrysanthemum interested me most. At the time that I heard it, it didn't even seem particularly important, but it curiously remained in my mind, cropping up unexpectedly from time to time. After we moved out of our evacuation site and were living in an Osaka suburb, I casually disclosed to my wife the desire―or, to overstate the case, the dream―that Hosen had cherished in his declining years. As soon as she heard it, she winced and spontaneously exclaimed, "Awful ! "

"Why 'awful!'?"

"Because, I can't really explain it, but for some reason it gave me an unpleasant feeling―ghastly! A deep-violet flare opening against the black sky! That was probably what made me feel so queasy."

Then, I too was struck by the thought that I was dabbling in something I should not touch. With that, I hurriedly dropped the story of Hosen I had intended to tell. That is all there was to it and it had no particular significance, but my wife's attitude of that moment has remained fixedly in my mind as a totally unexpected and revealing discovery. I believe I generally understand my wife's feelings, but even when I probed this thing in depth, there was something incomprehensible, or at least I couldn't understand it. I could believe that there was something discernible in Hosen that could have caused my wife to feel something intolerably unpleasant just as it caused his wife to leave him. Although she had managed to go tagging along after him through a life of several decades of counterfeiting, there must have been somethingsomething incomprehensible to people like me―something deep-rooted in the physical revulsion she felt, so that she as a woman could not trail after the Hosen who produced explosives.

Hosen's production of fireworks, the gunpowder, and the chemicals he used, these cold and dismal things somehow engendered the same feelings even in me. I could not, however, feel this in the same way my wife and Hosen's widow might have felt it. I could catch at least a fleeting glimpse of the piteous beauty which a multi-petaled bell-flower color bursting open for an instant in the night sky might have meant to this one counterfeiter whose life had been wrecked and who possessed nothing. However, I still wondered if this dream of Hosen Hara had really ever opened up in the sky at night. There was no way of asking the deceased man and confirming that it had. But certainly, had it on the other hand not been the color of petals opening, wouldn't the two women have winced anyhow and wouldn't they have reacted just as tempestuously?

That was the line of my thought.

 

                      Ⅴ

After that, the case of Hosen Hara gradually disappeared from my mind without my realizing it. As time went by, the not-too-cheerful story of this dead counterfeiter whom I had learned about accidentally and through hearsay from people at our evacuation site would, in the course of events, rather naturally become dim in my memory. Two years after the war, however, Hosen was once again brought before my mind's eye as though it were a finale to the stories I had heard about him.

It was summer. At that time, I was all involved and wrapped up in problems of provincial culture. For the first time in a year and several months, I took a train on the Harima-Bizen Line which crosses over to Yonago from Okayama Prefecture. I was on my way to cover a general art exhibition at one of the San-In Prefectures

around the Japan Sea in order to do an article for the Sunday supplements.

As the train pulled up to the platforms at the small mountain-top stations where I had gotten on and off so often loaded down with supplies on my back, I gazed out at the stalks of the tall growing weeds swaying in the highland winds and at the red-soil banks on the west side of the station; and always there was the sound of pebbles rolling down the banks to the road below. Suddenly it occurred to me that it would be no great loss if I arrived at my destination one train later. I vacillated for a while over whether to get off or not, but just as the train was on the verge of departing, I grabbed my valise from the string-net shelf and hopped off the train.

This place was filled with a thousand and one bittersweet memories of things not experienced elsewhere due to the times. Even though I did not go to the hamlet which had been my family's refuge, I still thought it would not be a bad idea to spend up to two hours in the station square looking up at the familiar landscape and the rows of houses in the hamlet. If I did not seize this opportunity to get off and wander around this station, I might not get a second chance. Possibly I naight meet some of the villagers I knew, even if I only knew them by sight. Thinking these thoughts, I went through the gate and headed for the only restaurant there was in the square, intending to relax there. As I proceeded to walk toward the restaurant, I was brought to a halt on hearing from somewhere behind me in the characteristic local dialect: "Aren't you the fellow from the Assembly Hall?"

I turned around. It was the second son of the farmer who lived next door to the elementary school, a family affectionately and jokingly called the

"People-Out-Back." He was the young man who always helped us with the firewood.

I stood there and chatted with him. The boy talked about the difficult times the farmers were having, in terms that indicated a rather pinkish political attitude. He didn't ask for news about my family, nor did he even mention any of the residents of the hamlet. Anger over our difficult times, for reasons he didn't understand, was building a fire in the head of this young highlander.

"You going into the village?" he asked.

I explained that I did not have the time so I couldn't go today, but I asked him to take my best wishes and greetings to everyone. The youth then informed me that starting at sundown, for the first time since the war, there was to be a fireworks display in which five towns were jointly participating; that in just two hours crowds of people would be assembling for this spectacle; that among them would be people from our hamlet; that it would not take long―so why didn't I wait around for it? I had intended to be one train late anyhow, so I decided to make it two. I reasoned that if I met some of the villagers here, I could fulfill some of my obligations by thanking all these people for their many courtesies during the time of our evacuation.

It was now three o'clock. I spent the next two hours in the station waiting room and at the restaurant. On the telephone poles in the station square exceedingly crude and clumsy handbills had been posted. They were written with smudged red ink, probably by the young people of this area, and announced a "Gala Fireworks Display." Although it was still a little early, at about five o'clock I set out toward one edge of the unnecessarily extensive area a half mile or so northeast of the station where the young man had told me the fireworks would be shot off. A small river about twelve feet wide flowed there, and it had been decided that the

embankment of this river would be the most suitable area for setting off the fireworks. Indeed, it was considered the place where there would be no danger at all.

The area was covered with summer grass. Some fifteen or twenty tubes, which looked like three-foot clay pipes, had been arranged for the fireworks. The nature of the place and the effect created by the heads of those many tubes jutting up in the grass aroused in me hallucinations of standing in a graveyard. Five or six youths were seated nearby, surrounding the boisterous children. There I encountered a man from the hamlet of our refuge whom I only knew by sight. He told me that a pyrotechnic device which was to be the main attraction tonight was being set up about one hundred yards from where we were standing but still on the embankment; that in order to see this the spectators would be assembling under a steel bridge still another one hundred yards away; and that the people from our hamlet would soon be arriving there.

But possibly because it was still too early, not a single person had yet appeared in the area under the steel bridge which was scheduled as the place for the

spectators to assemble. And the sun was still poised over the steel bridge.

"We call this a five-village cooperative project, but only my hamlet shoots the fireworks. That's because we had an old man named Hara who made fireworks, and so our young people learned how to do it," the man said. That was the first I knew of it, but all the young people who were here were from our hamlet.

"You mean Hosen Hara, don't you?" I asked.

"I'm surprised that you know him!" The fellow had a look of amazement as he said this.

"Do you suppose there's anyone who knows him well?"

"Well, I don't know. I guess I knew him, but over there's a man called Tassan who seems to have been Uncle Hosen's disciple in fireworks."

Then he escorted me to the forty-year-old man who was called Tassan, no one I remembered ever seeing before. When I inquired, he told me that he had been drafted early in the war and had only late last year returned from the Soviet Union. When he spoke, he used language that seemed resentful and unsociable, but he didn't seem a particularly bad man. He spoke awkwardly but liked to speak. Apparently he had a position of over-all responsibility for shooting off today's fireworks, and the young men there snapped to at his every command.

"If you're talking about Uncle Hosen's fireworks, I'd say he got started because he liked them. He was an amateur of course, but he got to be a pro at the rapid-fire. I don't know much about the work done by fireworks makers in town, but . . ." Tassan broke off his sentence in the middle and routed a gang of children who were hanging around. "Well, let's get started," he said to the young men. "Fire two or three more shots to liven things up!"

This was the first time I had ever seen fireworks being shot off. First, one youth dumped into the tube a small amount of gunpowder that had been wrapped in paper. Next, the balls of fireworks were inserted. Then, with a fuse he ignited some solidified gunpowder he held in his hand and tossed it into the tube.Instantly, a white smoke went rushing and swirling up into the heavens, followed by a

piercingly loud explosion. I was astonished at this primitive operation.

"I've heard that Uncle Hosen was struggling to produce the color of the

bell-flower. Did you know that?" I inquired of Tassan when the noise of the third blast of fireworks had subsided.

"No, I don't know anything about that. To tell you the truth, I have a feeling that I once heard something of that sort, but I don't even have a clear recollection of what I heard either," he replied. “There's one thing I won't forget about that old man though. It was the last time that he ever shot any off . . ."

It was the evening of the last time that Hosen Hara shot any fireworks. Tassan said that on his return home that night he had found that his draft call had come, and for the full six years or more from the time he was drafted until he returned at the end of last year, he had been overseas. Since that was a special occasion, Hosen's fireworks demonstration that night left a marked impression on him, one that he could still remember. In less than one month after that, he was sent to northern China to his first post in Feng-t'ai where his first letters from home had been held for him. Among these letters there was one which came from a friend informing him of Hosen Hara's death.

"When I learned that Uncle Hosen was dead, I had a weird feeling. 'Poor old Hara!' I thought. I had never felt that way about the old man until then, but yet I

suddenly realized then that I had known the old man was going to die. And when I thought of the old man shooting off the fireworks, there was something

extraordinary about it."

"What do you mean by 'extraordinary'?"

"I guess it's a funny thing to say, but anyhow, even now I can't forget the way the old man looked that night," said Tassan.

The last time he shot off fireworks was at a fireworks festival in 1940,

commemorating the 2600th anniversary of the Accession of the Emperor Jimmu, as Tassan remembered it. Something was being inaugurated at that time under the joint sponsorship of several villages, just like today, in the schoolyard to the elementary school of a hamlet two train stops toward Yonago from here. At that time, there was no one else at that place who manufactured fireworks, so Hosen had undertaken the job himself at their request. For two months he had the youths of our hamlet helping him to turn out the fireworks, and he had himself gone to the schoolyard to shoot them off.

"Anyhow, they were amateurish fireworks, so they weren't very interesting. But his rapid-fire was superb," Tassan said, proud of their rapid-fire technique of those

days.

On that occasion he had gone ahead and prepared sixty four-inch

chrysanthemum balls. Tassan was in charge of passing the balls of fireworks, with Hosen receiving and thrusting them into the tubes at the rate of about twenty shots a minute.

"Generally, in rapid-fire there is hardly any interval between the time the first one going up bursts open and the time you can see the one below going up. Nevertheless, you have to get the next ball into the tube in a steady rhythm without stretching that interval. That's a very tough job."

He said that Hosen was able to do this brilliantly and get away in time, even though he had a hand with three fingers missing. The arena they had used on that occasion was not so extensive as the one we now had. In front of the City Hall right next to the school, traffic was heavy and the roads were filled with thousands of spectators. The whole area was unusually crowded. A place for setting off the fireworks had been erected beside the high-bar in the schoolyard, and Hosen, Tassan, and an additional three or four young men were there. Since these fireworks were the rapid-fire type and they had to thrust the balls into the tubes in rapid succession, the tubes became red-hot and burned out almost instantly and had to be changed. Hosen was so active and agile that you wouldn't have thought he was an old man. When Hosen had finished shooting off the sixty chrysanthemums without any apparent difficulty, he suddenly seemed unable to straighten his back because he had repeated the same action over and over again with his back bent.

With his back still cramped, he had asked Tassan, "How was it? Was it pretty?"

This was because during the time he was shooting off the fireworks himself he had not had time to look up and see them. And when Tassan had answered that they were brilliant, Hosen had lowered himself to the ground, still bent over, panting and short of breath, his head drooped motionlessly, unable to say anything. Apparently this work was too strenuous for a man of his sixty-eight years.

Then a little later, "The spectators . . . they seemed . . . very noisy . . . shouting, weren't they?" he said to Tassan without looking up in his direction.

At these words from Hosen, Tassan at first could hardly recall the din of the crowds, even though he had been there passing the balls to Hosen. Everything that had happened just an instant earlier had seemed to Tassan like the events in a dream. Probably Hosen also had placed himself out of this world―between dream and reality―and after he had finished shooting the fireworks, the noise had vaguely come to life in his mind.

Tassan had told me that he had been left with a strong impression of Hosen that night, and listening to his story l also developed an image of Hosen on that occasion which has somehow persisted in my mind. Taking out a cigarette, I offered one to Tassan. He thanked me and took one, but put it in his shirt pocket.

"We can't smoke here," he said. I had mechanically taken one myself, so I quickly put my cigarette back in the pack.

Then I said that it was seven years since Hosen passed away.

"Yes, that's right, I was thirty-four when I was drafted, and I'm now forty," said Tassan, and then, for no reason at all, he laughed.

"Even the old man . . ." he started to say, but he suddenly shut his mouth and then, instead, said that it looked like the village association was assembling. I looked toward the steel bridge. Sure enough, headed toward the bridge, several small groups in threes and fives were crossing the elevated ridges of the rice fields

or walking along the railroad track and assembling. I looked attentively. The people were approaching slowly, carrying small plain or figured mats or scarves. Only the children were running.

"Even the old man . . ." he had started to say and then had turned silent. That was the way I left Tassan. I walked across the embankment toward the steel bridge so that I could spend as much time as possible with anyone at all I might meet from the hamlet to which we had evacuated. At the western edge of the plain, the sun was now sinking, accentuating the red-soil in the buttes on the sides of the low hills. Already at water level, the red evening sun was shooting arrows of light over the cultivated land in the direction of my destination.

I had the feeling later that even without asking I knew what Tassan had

intended to say. Hosen's widow and my wife had a common way of reasoning; both had felt a repugnance toward something about Hosen. So also, Tassan and I both shared in common the opposite view. Even while we did not fully understand the true character of Hosen or find him particularly captivating, we were both

attracted to him the way he was on the night he shot off fireworks for the last time.

Thinking these things, I walked off.

 

                        Ⅵ

 

The foregoing is what I know of the counterfeiter Hosen Hara. All of it is only fragmentary hearsay that I picked up from people. Somewhere along the line, when all these fragments were pieced together, however, my image of the sixty-eight-year life and career of this counterfeiter emerged as a single cold and dismal stream. And that single stream had a dark and muddled evolution, completely without rhythm and entirely without essence. It was unbearable to think that this person called Hosen Hara was fated by birth to assume that way of life. Unbearable, but also because it was unbearable, it had inherent in it the eerie melancholy of predestination in the fullest sense of karma. Whenever I thought about human pathos, I was perforce reminded of a human being―(and at times I thought of Hosen in this light)―a human being who unbeknownst to his wife stealthily wielded the counterfeiter's brush; a human being who furtively, so that his wife wouldn't discover it, twisted gunpowder in paper and ignited it; a human being with a wizened, grayish, shadowy, and lethargic appearance.

However, when I learned of the entry of this person in the unique, hand-written Keigaku diary, I was struck with an entirely different sort of emotion. How strange that the Keigaku who conquered the world and the Hosen who had continued to turn his back to that crowd of spectators without even looking at the fireworks display which he himself had set off―how strange that both of these men had started life from the same position and the same point of departure! Knowing this, I felt for the first time that what I had witnessed in Hosen was not the evolution of a life that was fated to be dismal and muddled, but rather the tragedy of a mediocre man who on contact with a genius had been battered about and crushed by the weight of his best friend. The dismal fatalistic feeling which I had sensed until now in this one counterfeiter's career was extinguished, and the person that was Hosen Hara loomed before me tinged rather with the hue of human tragedy.

If Hosen Hara had not been a friend of Keigaku Onuki, if he had not had an intimate association with him, Hosen's career might have been entirely different, I thought. At some stage Hosen Hara might have gone out into the world of art and might have made his name memorable, perhaps to the point of recognition by the Academy. For some reason I could not help feeling that Keigaku Onuki had played a very decisive role in the hapless career of Hosen Hara; nor do I think that this is just my own arbitrary way of looking at this life. If you consider the Keigaku of the period around 1897, when he wrote that diary, a hidden genius, a dragon lying dormant waiting for the opportunity to soar to ethereal heights, then wasn't Hosen Hara a helpless and hopeless grub-beetle with no other course than to cower before the impact of Keigaku's glorious brilliance? What possible stance could this Hosen in his twenties take in front of the Keigaku who had come to drink with him bearing the silver trophy? And what kind of expression could there have been on the young Hosen's face when, on returning home, he saw the elaborate characters of the poem Keigaku had written on the door?

The tragedy of this person―discouraged, but with his small eyes still

manifesting the vigor of his competitive spirit, his slender jaw and mouth alive with nervousness and jealousy, his skin speckled with the black spots that followed him to his old age, his hairline destined to recede (1 had now revised my concept of Hosen's appearance in this way, but anyhow . . .) ―the tragedy in that long and dismal career was gradually but in a deep-rooted form already getting underway during the period from 1897 to the summer of 1899.

With this, I conclude my investigation of Hosen Hara for the present. This is because I must proceed with Keigaku's biography to the time when his

masterpiece "The Happy Mountain Peak( *A euphemism for Mount Fuji) ", his first work of that period, appeared and to an account of the vigorous activities of his middle period which fixed his position in the art world.

During those two days that I gazed fixedly at the summit of Mount Amagi without touching my pen to Keigaku's biography, the red buds of the crape myrtle

at the edge of the garden had suddenly diminished and its white blossoms were in bloom. Perhaps I only imagined it, but the rising cumulus summer clouds constantly rolling upward had changed to wispy autumn clouds drifting unnoticeably away. I looked at the calendar; it was the First Day of Autumn.

Even then I remembered the Hosen Hara forgeries of Keigaku's "Flowers and Birds" and "The Fox" which had hung in the tokonoma of the two farmhouses in the mountain-ridge hamlet in the Chugoku range where the atmosphere of autumn had similarly begun to fill the air. And at that moment those same thoughts of the Eternal seized me once again. Eternity was something related to Keigaku and Hosen, and yet, ironically, Life held one small reality which was irrelevant to both Keigaku and Hosen: in that mountain hamlet originals and forgeries had no meaning. When fall came I would go to Kyoto and drink saké with Takuhiko Onuki and tell him about the aspects of Hosen which he didn't know, I thought. And at that moment, I became submerged in my thoughts which sparkled with a cold light.

 

 

Translated by Leon Picon

 

 

 

 

INOUE Yasushi
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INOUE Yasushi

Novelist. May 6, 1907~January 29, 1991. Born in Hokkaido, but spent his childhood in the Izu Peninsula. Inoue cherished Izu, by calling it his hometown and refers to it in some of his literary works including The Counterfeiter(Aru Gisakka no Shogai) or Obasute. He was graduated from Kyoto Imperial University in 1936. His fascination with China and its history could be due to his military experience in 1937. He is one of the greatest modern writers. He is the recipient of numerous prominent literary awards such as the Akutagawa Prize for The Bullfight(Togyu) and later the Mainichi Press Prize and Japan Art Academy Award. He was awarded Order of Culture in 1976. A member of Japan Art Academy. He served as the 9th President of The Japan P.E.N. Club from 1981 to 1985, the Chairperson of the 47th International PEN Congress Tokyo/Kyoto 1984 and the Vice-President of the International PEN in 1985. He received Professor Emeritus from Beijing University in 1986.

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