This morning I visited Daikan’yama i-Studio to see the exhibition commemorating the 100th anniversary of the birth of Takashi Inukai, a leading scholar in the field of Man’yoshu. For those of you who don’t know it, Man’yoshu is Japan’s oldest collection of tanka poems created more than 1,300 years ago by emperors down to aristocrats and unknown common people nationwide. Inukai was an authority on the studies of the ancient poetry for over 50 years, teaching at many schools including Osaka University and Konan Women’s University as a professor.
According to the biography displayed in the exhibition room, he was born on April 1, 1907, in Tokyo. His first encounter with Man’yoshu was in the classroom of the high school in Kumamoto. Through the teachers of the high school he was greatly attracted by the beautiful words, melodious rhythms, and expressive images of the 4,516 verses.
After graduating from Tokyo University in 1932, he got a teaching job at Kanagawa Prefectural Yokohama Dai-ichi Junior High School, or Jinchu, where he taught for ten years. In 1942, he moved to Taiwan and became a professor of Taipei High School, teaching many students including Lee Teng-hui, who became a Taiwanese president 45 years later.
When the WWII came to an end in 1945, the Island of Taiwan belonged no longer to Japan, and accordingly he lost his teaching job. He returned to the mainland and landed at Wakayama. After that, he started living within the Kansai district. It was very convenient for him, because the area had plenty of places where the Man’yoshu verses were created and it could help his profound research of it. When he got a job at Osaka University in 1950, he made up his mind to walk around the places where each poem was sung to help him understand it more deeply. His idea impressed the students very much. They proposed him to make a trip to those places to understand the feelings of the ancient people. He agreed. He and his students went for more than 250 trips all over the country for almost 50 years, until he died in 1998. The total number of participants of those trips reached more than 40,000 (including me).
His contribution to the studies of Man’yoshu affected many people very much. In addition to writing papers and books as a specialist, he made his best efforts to spread it to the general public who aren’t familiar with pedantic literatures. He put his own melodies to each poem and sang it to the people to make it suit the popular taste. His “propagation” of Man’yoshu had influenced many artists, including Peggy Hayama, a singer, and Machiko Satonaka, a cartoonist who wrote Tenjo no Niji, a comic describing the life of Empress Jito.
His achievements was the object of public admiration in all directions. In 1978, he received the Order of the Riging Sun, Gold Rays with Neck Ribbon. The following year he was invited to the Imperial Palace and showed a tanka in front of Emperor Hirohito. Also, he gave a lecture on Man’yoshu to Hirohito on the top of a hill in Asuka, Nara, on December 4 that year. He was qualified as a person of cultural merit in 1987. The Order of the Sacred Treasure, Gold and Silver Star, was posthumously conferred on him on October 3, 1998, the very day that he passed away.
I have ever met him on our way of the trips by Osaka University students. He was very frank, friendly and humorous. Although the term that I was in touch with him for is much shorter than that of his life, I feel that I am sharing very many memories with him.
I uploaded the pictures of the exhibition to Flickr.