Review of “Memories of Lost Landscapes: On Genzaburō Yoshino’s Kimitachi wa Dō Ikiruka” (2006)

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Miyazaki Hayao (writer).

Read in 2021.

Read in Turning Point.

Nominally, the novel How Do You Live? (1937).

This essay seems to have come before Miyazaki’s decision to adapt the novel into a film. Instead, he veers off track into a charming synthesis of 20th-century Japanese history and his own finite life. In the process, he makes the later decision seem completely justified.

In many of his writings, Miyazaki goes into his interest in military hardware. Here, it is placed in its proper etiological context: His early childhood spent in WW2 without the preceding cohort’s—specifically Takahata Isao’s—knowledge of peace. He thus returns to the topic of “Nostalgia for a Lost World” (1979) and makes it personal. Even the architecture plays a role, shining a light on “What Takei Sanseidō Means to Me” (1995).

The writer is perfectly aware of the poison of Japanese fascism and aggression, and concedes nothing to it. He writes about the horrors of dictatorship, the Manchurian Incident and its conceptual connection to Auschwitz, more openly here than anywhere else. However, Miyazaki does bring nuance to his own dark portrait of his father in “My Old Man’s Back” (1995), by a comparison to the Ozu film Where Now Are the Dreams of Youth (1932). He also draws a line through the “American style of life” that followed the war, to modern estrangement from nature. To cook with propane is to go “too far again”, apparently.

References here: Turning Point: 1997–2008 (2008/2014).

Japanese production non-fiction text