Did you finish all of Bungo Stray Dogs yet? Although they’re thrilling, season finales often leave you craving more, but with a painfully long time to go until the next new episode. While you wait for more Bungo Stray Dogs, take some time to get familiar with the real life Japanese authors that inspired many of the members of the Armed Detective Agency and Port Mafia. These famous writers are not very well known outside of Japan, but are a fundamental part of a Japanese education. Their fascinating lives were often marred by tragedy, but in writing about the darker and hidden sides of society, they provided fascinating insight into the changes in Japanese society in the 20th century.
Atsushi Nakajima (中島敦)
Born May 5, 1909 in Tokyo
Died December 4, 1942 (Age 33)
Major works: The Moon Over the Mountains
The real Atsushi Nakajima is best-remembered for his popular and artful retellings of traditional Chinese stories. Coming from a family with a strong tradition of Chinese learning, he also studied Latin and Greek but rejected the modern West in favor at looking back to the exceptionally rich tradition of Chinese and Japanese storytelling. His most famous story is Moon over the Mountain, also known as The Tiger Poet, about a frustrated poet transformed into a tiger by unknown forces.
Osamu Dazai (太宰治)
Born June 19, 1909 in Aomori
Died June 13, 1948 (Age 38)
Major works: No Longer Human, The Setting Sun
The real Osamu Dazai is one of the most famous and tragic figures of modern Japanese literature, producing captivating masterpieces while suffering from a pervasive sense of foreboding and estrangement. This darkness directly influences a lot of his work, especially his most famous novel, No Longer Human. The semi-autobiographical main character tries to outwardly project different identities – to crack jokes and play the class clown, to act the part of bohemian artist – but never finds a sense of belonging or his own humanity. Shortly after this book was published, Dazai committed suicide – successful after a long string of attempts.
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Osamu Dazai – Bungo Stray Dogs goods
Are you or someone you know a Dazai fan already? Check out this gorgeous collection of stationery and other items from Bungakudo, featuring bold prints inspired by many of his famous works. Notebooks come in two sizes and are bound by hand.
Doppo Kunikida (国木田 独歩)
Born July 15, 1871 in Chiba
Died June 23, 1908 (Age 36)
Major works: Musashino
The real Doppo Kunikida is considered one of the fathers of Japanese Naturalism, being especially preoccupied with nature itself. He was deeply inspired by Wordsworth and his regard for the natural world. Kunikida wrote both poetry and stories, characterized by his interest in the ordinary – ordinary people, places and sights rather than the lords and ladies, palaces and gardens, or cherry blossom and maple leaves described so many times by writers of the past.
Junichiro Tanizaki (谷崎 潤一郎)
Born July 1, 1886 in Tokyo
Died July 30, 1965 (Age 79)
Major works: The Makioka Sisters (Light Snow), Some Prefer Nettles, Naomi
The real Junichiro Tanizaki started his literary career writing stories that shocked contemporaries with risque and deviant content, but nonetheless earned him a reputation as a writer of note. Later in his career, his main concern became Japanese tradition and culture, leading to his most famous novel The Makioka Sisters (Lit. Light Snow) which depicts the shifting fortunes of the daughters of an Osaka merchant family. Many of his peers in the literary world died young from tragic illness or suicide, but Tanizaki lived, and kept writing into old age.
Edogawa Ranpo (江戸川 乱歩)
Born October 21, 1894 in Mie
Died July 28, 1965 (Age 70)
Major works: The Two-Sen Copper Coin, The Case of the Murder on D. Hill
The real Edogawa Ranpo was a prolific writer and the pioneer of mystery fiction in Japan. His pen name is a clever nod to his main source of inspiration, Edgar Allan Poe. As might be deduced from his literary hero, Edogawa had a fascination with the morbid and grotesque, which is reflected in the majority of his early work. He later threw himself into promoting detective and mystery fiction in Japan, founding the Detective Authors’ Club and publishing articles on the history of mystery fiction at home and abroad.
Kenji Miyazawa (宮沢 賢治)
Born August 27, 1896 in Iwate
Died September 21, 1933 (Age 37)
Major works: Night on the Galactic Railroad, Be not Defeated by the Rain
The real Kenji Miyazawa is notable as one of the famous writers who spent very little time travelling in literary circles in Tokyo. Instead, he stayed in his native Northern Japan, getting a degree in agricultural science and devoting his life to helping local farmers improve their crops. Beside this work, he wrote – both poetry and children’s stories. His children’s stories are some of the best beloved in Japan, many of them taking place in his imagined world of Ihatov, based closely on the Iwate region.
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Kenji Miyazawa – Bungo Stray Dogs goods
Both Miyazawa’s poems and children’s stories inspire the striking prints in this Bungakudo collection, which includes hand-bound notebooks, pencil cases, erasers and socks.
Akiko Yosano (与謝野 晶子)
Born December 7, 1878 in Osaka
Died May 29, 1942 (Age 63)
Major works: Tangled Hair, Thou Shalt Not Die
The real Akiko Yosano by turns shocked and delighted Japanese literary society with the 1901 release of Tangled Hair, a collection of poems in the traditional tanka form. This collection is still famous for its lyrical virtuosity and frank references to ardent lust and romantic love. Another of her poems, Thou Shalt Not Die, was addressed to her soldier brother and became a popular anti-war protest song.
Ryunosuke Akutagawa (芥川 龍之介)
Born March 1, 1892 in Tokyo
Died July 24, 1927 (Age 35)
Major works: Rashomon, In a Grove
The real Ryunosuke Akutagawa is one of the most famous Japanese writers of his era. He is most famous for psychologically complex stories set in past and mythical Japan, but his contemporary and autobiographical work is equally accomplished. He was plagued his whole life by a sense of unease and alienation, as well as an unshakeable paranoia that he was destined for insanity and mental breakdown, the cause of his mother’s death. This darkness and menace suffuses much of his work. Japan’s leading literary award is the Akutagawa Prize, established in his memory by close friend Kan Kikuchi.
Chuya Nakahara (中原 中也)
Born April 29, 1907 in Yamaguchi
Died October 22, 1937 (Age 30)
Major works: Poems
The real Chuya Nakahara is known for poems filled with fierce emotions, strong rhythms and biting irony, employing a contrasting combination of formal archaism and modern slang. His use of language could be slap-dash and even arrogant – he often misused traditional words and conventions. He is also renowned for his outsider status and “bohemian” lifestyle – he took a mistress at age 17, and spent time in jail for drunkenly smashing street lamps.
Ichiyo Higuchi (樋口 一葉)
Born May 2, 1872 in Tokyo
Died November 23, 1896 (Age 24)
Major works: Growing Up (Takekurabe)
Although her life was all too brief, the real Ichiyo Higuchi is among the most famous early modern Japanese writers and the only woman of the period to receive widespread admiration. She combined a purely Japanese literary background with a finely honed sense of observation to produce sensitive and realistic stories that are still admired today. She is also famous as a diarist; even what she wrote for her own eyes only is considered a remarkable work of literature. Does she look familiar to you? You may have seen her before – she graces the 5,000 yen note.
Motojiro Kajii (梶井 基次郎)
Born February 17, 1901 in Osaka
Died March 24, 1932 (Age 31)
Major works: Lemon
The real Motojiro Kajii was a true stylist, writing autobiographical stories so lyrical and well-crafted an editor once mistakenly published one as a poem. His most famous story today is Lemon, which depicts him wandering Kyoto in abject poverty and melancholy, only to be jolted out of his depressed state by the bright flash of a lemon. He purchases it, and on a strange impulse leaves it perched on a stack of books in the Maruzen bookstore. As he leaves, he imagines it as a ticking bomb, set to explode any second…
Ogai Mori (森鴎外)
Born February 17, 1862 in Shimane
Died July 8, 1922 (Age 60)
Major works: Wild Swans, The Dancing Girl
The real Ogai Mori was one of the first modern writers to rise to prominence in Japan. He was a medical officer in the Japanese army, and spent for years in Germany studying European medical techniques. During this time, he also developed an interest in European literature. He brought this back with him to Japan, starting a literary journal and publishing his first story – The Dancing Girl. While not considered as strictly autobiographical as his later work, the story drawn inspiration from Mori’s German experience in its tale of a Japanese exchange student starting a relationship with and then abandoning the titular dancing girl, Elise.