Shiba-Ryotaro

Shiba Ryotaro Memorial Museum, Osaka by Tadao Ando

Shiba Ryotaro was an important figure in Japanese literature after the World War II. Characterized by a critical look at modern life, his popular historical novels and travel writings provided moral support for Japanese people after the war. His sudden death in 1996 was widely mourned and his works are still seen by many Japanese as a sort of guide to life.

The museum built in memory of Shiba Ryotaro, designed by the Japanese Tadao Ando, has the aim of transmitting his message to future generations. Built on a site in Higashiosaka, next to the house where the author lived for many years, the project for the two buildings was conceived as a single integrated whole.

Set within the heart of the museum this space is simply called “another studio”. The walls of this vast space are three storeys high and covered in shelves containing the seemingly countless books collected by Shiba over the course of his lifetime.

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Shiba Ryotaro Memorial Museum, Osaka, Japan. The Shiba Ryotaro Museum is the former house of the Japanese author Shiba Ryotaro. Inside, one sees the huge bookshelf which is 11 meters high with 20,000 books in it. With these books the author wrote about 500 historical novels, essays, critical essays and many other works. The museum was designed by Ando Tadao, a famous Japanese architect, to show the creative world of Shiba Ryotaro. (Photo by Alex Roman)

Academic Paper on the Appeal of the Shinsengumi

Romanticizing the Shinsengumi in Contemporary Japan -
by Rosa Lee, University of Sydney 

[The author compares the influence of Moeyo Ken by Shiba Ryotaro to the appeal of the Shinsengumi in Gintama.] 

“Their contribution to history is rather limited that at most, less than a page is allocated for them in history dictionaries such as the Great Dictionary of Japanese History…. However the group’s popularity is the inverse of their historical relevance…. 

Universality of their appeal is also suggested from their warm reception in other countries such as Taiwan and South Korea….

These factors suggest fascination with Shinsengumi is neither a trendy fad nor a manifestation of Japanese people’s cultural penchant for tragic samurai.

Since historical accomplishments do not explain why Shinsengumi is romanticised and idolised, this article will discover why this particular group of young men continue to appeal to the Japanese public by looking at popular imaginations.”  

 * For those of you who don’t know Shiba Ryotaro, he is one of Japan’s most celebrated writers, both for his historical books as well as his travel writing. ’Moeyo Ken’ is seen as the definitive fictional story of Hijikata Toshizo and the Shinsengumi. Yes, I’m a fan, but I actually prefer his ‘Shinsengumi Keppuroku’. 

Xiang Yu and Liu Bang (Novel, vol 1, 2/2)

Okay, this novel is so far…. not as good as Sekigahara, although probably much more educational (to me personally, as I know more about Sengoku era Japan than the founding of the Han Dynasty in China.). 

In the second half of the first volume, we learn of Xiang Liang's personal eccentricities, and then he's killed by Zhang Han (who is much more awesome and highly praised than he was in the manga, although it’s not that he wasn’t in the manga either). Again, the author emphasizes the importance of supply routes in battle, and the tendency of armies to rebel if not fed. The Xiangs junior and senior are also displeased about how their puppet emperor is acting as if he’s a real ruler; though by birth among the high nobles of the State of Chu, they actually prefer, in a way, the meritocracy of periods of disorder, or perhaps even the meritocratic ideals of the Qin empire, which blasted down existing noble power structures in favor of rule by officials sent by the capital.

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Xiang Yu and Liu Bang (Novel this time)

I was really excited to read Shiba Ryoutarou’s novel on Xiang Yu and Liu Bang, especially well, because I’m really curious about what his take on Han Xin is. Xiang Yu is probably psychologically the best developed character in the Yokoyama manga (and I suspect, in the original historical texts itself), because the extremes to which he is forced reveal him, so I’m less curious, though. I should note that the Yokoyama manga and the novel are not really based on each other IIRC. The novel is much more politically realistic, of course.

Am halfway through volume 1. Nothing much has really happened; although the First Emperor obligingly died within the first thirty pages, much time is spent detailing the early lives of Xiang Yu and Liu Bang.

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