How do you live? or Kimitachi wa dou ikiru ka? (君たちはどう⽣きるか) in Japanese, is a story written by children literature author Yoshino Genzaburou (吉野 源三郎・よしの げんざぶろう). It depicts the story of a second year middle school student as he is confronted with questions of growing up and becoming part of society. In other words, what it means to be human and how to live as one in our world.
After Your Name (君の名は。), will ‘Kimitachi wa dou ikiru ka?’ be the next Japanese novel to receive an anime adaption?
Classic literature at the right time
The novel was published in the years prior Japan to engage into World War II and at a time, when the Empire of Japan stood in direct conflict with China during the Second Sino-Japanese War in 1937. Experiencing oppression and imprisonment first hand, when little was tolerated for views besides militarism and nationalism, writer Yoshino set about his literary work with the wish to educate the youth of tomorrow on ethics and morals for an independent, freethinking society.
After several re-issues over the years, the book has seen something like a boom in the last some year, also thanks to a manga adaption of the same name that has attracted a young audience. It might also have to do with Miyazaki Hayao’s announcement to produce his next animation project around the novel. The book must have much influenced himself and Kimi-tachi wa dou ikiru ka? has indeed important messages to convey for all of us.
Written towards a juvenile readership, the book with roots in humanism, is by far not limited to age and for an important piece of literature it has been in Japan, it has captured and breached the generations all the many decades after its creation. It will now be up to Miyazaki-Sensei to pull all the master in him to bring out the beauty of this novel to the next generation and the world, neatly penned and prepared for him by Yoshino-Sensei.
Maybe the timing for the re-print of the book and upcoming anime could not be more opportune, the soil not more fertile to receive the important messages this classic has to sow. As personal freedom is desirable for our own evolution, the present tendency of a sole me-first attitude, missing etiquette in interactions with others, intolerance with nationalism in trend (similar to that before WW II) and widening wealth gap between the social shifts, perhaps a timely reminder for consideration and respect of others, no matter their social standing, origin, multitude of views and backgrounds. These are some of the strong morals between these book covers. Maybe also a reason for Miyazaki Sensei’s ambitious aim to finish production before Japan to hosting the Olympic Summer Games 2020 in Tokyo, when the whole world will be to visit.
A bits about the book
What it means to be human and how to lead a meaningful existence are universal questions, which will engage us even more in the future as consciousness and awareness of humanity as a whole is growing. With people gaining more freedom, they seek for personal development and meaning in life, but also their place in humanity which follows unceasingly in its meant direction in accordance with the laws of the world, like ebb and flow. Each one of us being a single molecule – not more not less – swayed by the tides of something much bigger. If you are to stand on a high-rising building in Tokyo or any big city for the sake, you will realize this perhaps (just like protagonist did) as you look down into the endless stream of bug-like 🐜🦗 activity and bustle of your fellow humans. This observation may result in a strange, enlightening experience 。。。へんな経験になるかもしれ ませんね。。。that of feeling humility, lowering the significance of self and connecting us with others. It puts us into our places. This makes us to become more reasonable, opens up the process of thoughts and lets us to imagine the bigger picture of that everything in the universe is inevitably related to each other.
The main character of the story is 15 year old Junichi Honda. He is a clever fellow with excellent grades at school, but also a bit a mischievous kid – in a innocent way. Playful a nature he is, he likes nothing more than a good tag-of-war with rhinoceros beetles. Because he can’t let from it even during classes, it has yet prevented him to become head of class 😋
After his father’s death, he and his mom, together with a maiden and the old housekeeper, move out of the city mansion into the suburbs. In the person of his caring uncle, who lives close by and who frequents the home often or vice versa, Junichi stops by in return for talks, he has something like a father figure he receives advise from. His uncle is his confidant and also the person, who gave him the nickname Coper-Kun (コペル君), allusion to Nicolaus Copernicus (ニコラウス・コペルニクス), the well known mathematician and astronomer 🧐 of the 15th and 16th century, who rebutted the common misconception of the earthen ball being at the center of the universe.
Not earth was the center around which things turn, but it turned itself along with other celestial bodies around the sun – since time immemorial. We surely had long enough been self-centered with apples 🍎 on our eyes until we noticed how they fall from trees 🌳 Thanks Isaac Newton! A theory we might want to take for our own a bit as well. People always think that all things turn around themselves all the time, but we ought not take us quite that important. Let’s take a step away and put ourselves into the shoes of others once in a while 😉
The book is 318 pages long and so quite a read. The reader follows in 10 chapters the experiences of Junichi and his best pals Kitami-Kun, Mizutani-kun and his elder sister Katsuko-chan, Urakawa-kun, exploring also scientific and world historic events with his literate uncle or receives a simple, yet important hint from his mom’s memory:
「思っただけで、とうとう果たさないでしまった。⼼に 思った、そのことをする機会は、⼆度とこないのでしょ う。」コペル君のお⺟さん
”By just thinking of it, finally I achieved nothing. What I had in my mind, the opportunity to do it – I guess, it will not come around a second time.”
Any reader must have experienced this at least once in a lifetime. Don’t put it off or you will have regrets! And regrets knowingly hamper life. It can be such simple thing as carrying a granny’s bag up the stairs or so 。。。⽯段の思い出。Every moment, every chance is unique and should be lived to the fullest. We ought put our thoughts into action and therewith have no regrets, even if we fail in our attempts whatever it might be.
Also a few snippets from the manga can be found and while there is normal narration of Coper-kun’s (or Koper-kun as written in the Romaji syllable) daily life at home and in school with the people around him, there are always sections in between when readers receive a glimpse into the uncle’s notebook 📓. Parts I like the most. An idea of the writer I fondly like, for it puts one right into the spot of the main character, the receiver of the Oji-san notes 📝 (おじさんのノート; Oncle’s notes), so as if they speak to one directly, giving the lines even more weight.
“Always try to think it over deeply, what the feeling was that you perceived.” Coper’s uncle
There is first that strange experience on the roof top with the ‘distant view of things’, then the valiant act of standing up for the weak, the bonds of friends through an imaginary baseball live broadcast, Newton’s apple incident, the reason one should always think 💭 why? and to what this very question can lead to, if you only spin it ever further until reaching the true essence – live enriching it can be, so much said! Ponder it over and when you have to go in circles like in a mortar to mill it over in your thoughts:
“You never had that, when you wondered to yourself, why something is?”
The kids also don’t halt from the rise and fall of Napoleon (ナポレオン・ボナパルト) and Junichi has to painfully experience what it means to break a friends promise. But there can always be a triumphant return back on the right track, when one realizes own faults and makes wholeheartedly amendments for the better 。。。凱旋 (がいせん). Honestly admitting one’s wrong-doing in front of others is one of a fine quality 😌
Like peas in a pot: Urakawa, Kitami and Mizutani! – At one point, Coper-kun thought them lost, but true friends they are, they stay firmly by his side. That is what best friends are for, right?!
I personally liked the episode near the end with the wandering Buddha image most. The Indo-Greek Buddhist art born in Gandhara (ガンダーラ), ancient India, through Alexander the Great’s conquests, which travels from far off South Asian civilizations all the way down to Japan to emerge in the form of the great Daibutsu (⼤仏; large statues of Buddha) at Kamakura and Nara. A somewhat striking tale:
「仏像が、実は、⻄洋の⽂明と東洋の⽂明との間に⽣ま れた⼦供だ。。。いろいろな形を取りながら、結局失わ ずに伝わっていったのだ・・・」
I’m not sure if this was the underlining thought from Yoshino Genzaburou, but as Japan sometimes fears for the potential loss of its own culture with more and more a mingle of people in the country, the inevitable fusion of humans and cultures can bring about amazing new, unprecedented creations. Greatness is recognized when due and so cultures can continue anywhere in the world to become a part of a big global culture everyone is part of. It’s true for Japan, my country, any country, for we all carry culture within us and therewith can pass it on to others – the grand treasures of the human species. A comforting thought, I like to hold on to.
Taking life into one’s own hands!
And so, it might be in the early hours of a crisp spring morning 。。。春の 朝。。。 or any morning, it comes to our mind that we can all choose to go with the flow or go against it, but to face it straight, the world will move on with or without our individual doings. Doing nothing is also a choice, but the outlook is according to this. However, as we become aware of it, we may as well want to contribute something to the way of humanity, which can together achieve superhuman, or if you want god-like. We have it all buried hiddenly within us, the gift to create, but is strongest when bundled in all of humanity. Imagine, even if just naively, what humanity could accomplish together. Limits could only be in our own minds!
Be a creator and not a consumer! You can’t but to be grateful to your fellow humans each day. Or have you for instance ever thought how and from where your breakfast milk powder 🥛🥫 comes onto your table every morning?! – Even if it means one has to dig oneself up from the dark to emerge on the bright surface, like a narcissus flower (⽔仙・すいせ ん) plantling in deep down soil. The impoverished, tofu making Urakawa-kun comes to mind 。。。貧しき友。Despite his lot of being the son of a poor tofu shop owner, he works his way through the difficulties at school and actively contributes to the family household. This is most admirable! There is always need for the hardworking among us. If rooted in patience and diligence, good things will come one’s way!
“That’s it! Even from so deep down a place, that thing had no choice but to stretch and work itself out from there!” Coper-kun on the narcissus plantlet 🌱, he discovered in the garden …
… you have to first fight yourself through the dirts before you can bloom on the sunny side of life. Our surroundings, nature is full of wonders to learn from, if time is taken to observe 😊
Take responsibility, do something meaningful and make the people proud, who always wanted just your best! Even if they might no longer be by our side! Beware there are plenty enough of us people that burden others with their timidity, weakness and passiveness. We must be awake and keep our eyes open, rather than to kowtow and follow blindly! The one who stands by silently and leaves decisions to others is just as guilty. That can also mean when your friends get a beating in a snow flurry 。。。あの雪の⽇の 出来事を覚えたまえね。Decisions will always be made for one, if we don’t act or decide. Braveness and speaking up when the necessity arises that is what counts. Dad, mom, an uncle, a teacher or trusted friends might be your role model, like it was the case for Coper with Mizutani-kun’s spirited sister or roughneck, but genuine Kitami-kun 。。。勇ましき 友。。。
。。。「誰がなんて⾔ったって、僕はいやだ。」 ガッチャンの北⾒ 君
These are also notions pacifist Yoshino Sensei must have had in mind for the youth, when having imminent war times in front of his eyes. I share these sentiments, for I believe they make us better, independent human beings. Humility, honesty, respect, virtue, compassion, diligence, industry, integrity, justice, curiosity for learning, courage, passion, forgiveness, righteousness, if we exhibit these qualities, this moral code, we can live nobly among each other, without imposing us on others. We could live more peacefully. We could focus on the evolution of mankind and the resolution of problems we face as it as a whole, so I like to think. Humans, a kind of equals, yet each beautiful and unique – we can’t but to cherish it. What a wonderful world 😌
The elixir of life-long self-improvement!
Everyone of us is a unique source that can stand and create on its own, if we only let it and don’t live in shallowness of a passive existence. If we want to move heaven and earth, we got to put it into actions. We might not be able to achieve this in 20 years to the extend like this little man Napoleon Bonaparte did, but perhaps in our whole of lifetime that is granted to us, we can achieve astounding.
I’m in my mid 30’s now, far from being teenager, but the book positively tuned me. Who is in search of self-development and a meaningful life, to all those I can warmly recommend this piece of Japanese literature. Figuring out what shall come next in life, the novel can perhaps give that much needed wink. Maybe this is why I have great affinity for this book 📖, am I on a constant quest my own to become a better human being. It’s personal development that I seek.
If we work hard on ourselves, try to be a new, better self each day through personal evolution, it seems that we can be closest to be fulfilled, excited for every moment in our life, I think. This is something this book rekindled for me in my consciousness.
Now that I have read Kimi-tachi wa dou ikiru ka?, I thought to share some thoughts of mine on the impressions the book had on me while reading through. Bugs 🐞, apples 🍏, Copernicus & Newton, science, Napoleon, heroism, history, Buddha, studying, interrelation of things, society, friendship, much to explore with this charming book for people in their adolescence and beyond 🤗
Many things surged up in the reading process and I just went ahead to write down what came to mind. It occurs to me now, I have unconsciously taken plenty of notes myself, just like Oji-san did. And I must admit a little like Coper-kun, I’m in admiration of his uncle, so skilled in writing, so knowledgeable in the ways of the world. Something truly inspirational!
I don’t know how close Miyazaki’s animation is going to be to this original storyline and I haven’t taken a look at the manga either, but I thoroughly enjoyed the contemporary print version of the novel. The power of book 📖 is indisputable, which becomes strikingly evident with such evergreen literature. Lush, refreshing, inspiringly educational, in which ever times we reside! このお⼩説は本 当に⼀読の価値があるもので、親⼦にあつくオススメいたしま～す！
For every exercise I can complete in this way, I feel enriched and thankful at the same, because it is what I really like to do. Like any of the books in recent years, I’m happy that ‘How do you live?’ found me. It has been a spark for new ideas and has encouraged me not at last to ‘create’, write yet again a new article for my blog. Thanks for reading my latest book introduction and leave me a comment 💬, if you like to exchange on the topic.
Now, how do you guys live?
English Title: How do you live?
Publisher: 株式会社Magazine House
Publication: August 2017
Price Tag: 1404 JPY
Interested? Pick up your own copy at amazon.co.jp (English language supported):
You might also be interested in the following article(s)/page(s)💡:
- 日本のことは、マンガとゲームで学びました。by Benjamin Boas – The Power of (Pop-)Culture, Benjamin’s COOL JAPAN!
- 北欧女子オーサが見つけた日本の不思議 by Åsa Ekström – Re-discovering Japan with a Nordic Girl!
- 北欧女子オーサが見つけた日本の不思議 2 by Åsa Ekström – A delightful Journey to continue!
- Words in orange color link🔗 to other articles/pages on MyLittle Dejima
- Words in royal blue color link🔗 to external references/pages
- Words in simple bold, titles and article relevant information without external reference
For Japanese related words Hiragana (ひらがな), Katakana (カタカナ) and Kanji (漢字) are added for those interested in Japanese terminology
- First published: September 4th, 2018
- Posted on Google+ & Twitter: September 4th, 2018
- Minor revisions: September 6th, 2018
- Posted on Facebook: September 6th, 2018
- Minor revisions + additions: September 11th, 2018
- Minor revisions + additions: December 14th, 2018
- Minor revisions + additions: May 19th + 25th, 2020
- Minor revisions + additions: January 31st, 2021
- Minor revisions + additions of URLs: February 15th, 2021
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- Minor revisions: October 28th, 2021
- Minor additions & revisions: February 3rd, 2022