|Born||16 November 1934|
Kawanishi, Yamagata, Japan
|Died||9 April 2010 (aged 75)|
Kamakura, Kanagawa, Japan
|Genre||Novels, stage plays|
Inoue was born in what is now part of Kawanishi in Yamagata Prefecture, where his father was a pharmacist. His father was involved in an agrarian reform movement and also managed a local drama troupe. A novel his father had written won a prize and he was offered a job as a scriptwriter in a film company. But when he was preparing to move to Tokyo, he became ill with spinal caries and, soon after, when Hisashi Inoue was 5 years old, he died at age 34. His father's sudden death influenced Hisashi to be a writer. After suffering from child abuse at the hands of his stepfather, he was subsequently sent off to a Lasallian orphanage in Sendai, where he received a Christian baptism. He graduated from Sophia University’s Facility of Letters, continuing on to graduate school in French literature, with a two-year hiatus in between to raise more money for his studies by working at a sanatorium in Kamaishi, Iwate.
Even before graduation, Inoue began his literary career by working as a stage manager and writing scripts for the Furansu-za striptease theater in Asakusa, Tokyo. It was common to have a one-hour vaudeville performance before and between strip acts, and many famous actors, including Kiyoshi Atsumi started their careers in such an environment. He wrote a semi-fictional account of his life during this period in Mokkinpotto Shi no Atoshimatsu ("The Fortunes of Father Mockinpott"). After graduation, he obtained a position as a script writer for a puppet drama Hyokkori Hyotanjima, which aired from April 1964 for a five-year period.
After an initial career in radio, he wrote his first stage play Nihonjin no Heso in 1969 for Theatre Echo. He first gained literary recognition for his satirical comic plays in the tradition of the Edo period gesaku genre. Inoue has won a very large number of literary awards in the course of his career, including the 67th Naoki Prize in 1972 for his novel Tegusari Shinju ("Handcuffed Double Suicide"). He followed on this success in 1981 with Kirikirijin ("The People of Kirikiri"), which was awarded both the Yomiuri Literary Prize and the 2nd Japan Science Fiction Award.
In 1983, Inoue established his own theatre troupe called "Komatsuza" to perform his own plays. Komatsuza gave its debut in 1984 with a play on writer Ichiyō Higuchi, Zutsuu katakori Higuchi Ichiyō. Another biographical work centered on Meiji period writer Ishikawa Takuboku, whom together with Higuchi Inoue had long admired. His 2002 play Taiko tataite, fue fuite, based on the late years of writer Fumiko Hayashi, received the Tsuruya Nanboku Drama Award.
In 1988, he completed a comic trilogy: Kirameku seiza, Yami ni saku hana, Yuki ya kon kon, depicting the lives of ordinary people in the Shōwa period. Despite his activity with the theatre, Inoue continued to write novels, winning the 1982 Seiun Award for Best Novel for Kirikirijin, the Yoshikawa Eiji Literary Prize for Treasury of Disloyal Retainers in 1986, the 27th Tanizaki Prize for Shanghai Moon in 1991, and the Kikuchi Kan Prize for Tokyo Seven Roses in 1999. In 1984, the Writer's Block Library was opened in Kawanishi, Yamagata, thanks to Inoue's donation of his 100,000 volume book collection. Inoue was awarded the Asahi Prize in the year 2000 and the Yomiuri Literary Prize again in 2010. In 2004, he was designated a Person of Cultural Merit by the Japanese government.
His career delves into the genre of science fiction. He started radio broadcasting with the play X-Man (1960). He also wrote for the daily children's television show Hyokkori Hōtanjima ["Madcap Island"] (1964), which was a puppet show in which a volcanic eruption destroyed a whole community adrift. There were hints of adult and dark humor in the children's show.
Inoue's career was long and distinguished. He didn't only work as a writer, he also produced and wrote anime as a writer and lyricist. He created the theme songs for Himitsu no Akko-chan, Hans Christian Andersen Stories and Moomin (1969). He is also known for writing the lyrics and screenplay for The Wonderful World of Puss 'n Boots (1969).
Chichi to kuraseba, has been translated into the English by Roger Pulvers under the title The Face of Jizo.
Inoue had shown a self-reflective attitude about the war. His perspectives came from his early life. When he was young, he thought that he would die due to the war. However, the war was ended with the use of the atomic bomb, and it offered him a new chance to see the world. His experience during the war also made him see himself as just one man who alone who didn't have the power to create change.
In reflecting on Japan's experience during the war, he has written, "When I bring up the subject of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, an increasing number of people say, ‘It is wrong to dwell on having being victimized, because the Japanese of those days also victimized Asia.’ The second part of this view is certainly accurate. The Japanese did victimize all of Asia. However, I will never accept this first statement because I believe that the two atomic bombs were not merely dropped on the Japanese; they were dropped on the entire human existence . …modern world who cannot escape from the existence of nuclear weapons."
When compared with other modern Japanese writers, he shows a stronger influence of Japanese culture, particularly popular culture. His writing is for Japanese people, and his plays were usually have strong influenced from Japanese culture. In turn, he has influenced Japanese broadcast systems and his influence could be easily found in the Japanese modern theatre culture, other drama, and Japanese shows. He is also famous for using high quality Japanese words in his writing. As a result, translators find it hard to translate his plays and other writing. However, because of his play was influenced by Japanese culture a lot, it would be hard to translate it into different cultures, but his writing is considered to be helpful to understand a Japanese perspective. Inoue's novel Kirikirijin (Kirikiri People, 1981) shows Inoue's sharp humor and word play.
Inoue became famous as comedy writer. In his early literary career, he worked as broadcast writer and comedy writer in strip show. These early literary career influence him to be comedy writer. His suffered young life from the death of his father and World War II also influenced him to have interest about the life of ordinary people.
Inoue had warm and kind perspectives about poor or weak people, and it is shown in his plays. His play tries to give hope and show the kind side of society. His writing was based on Humanism, and this likely accounts for his popularity with the public. He also usually focused on showing how ordinary people's lives were destroyed by war or calamity and how they cured themselves.
Inoue lived in Ichikawa, Chiba in the 1970s, and moved to Kamakura, Kanagawa from 1989, where he lived until his death. He had three daughters by his first wife, Yoshiko Nishidate, who was a stage actress and political activist. His second wife, Lily, was the sister of essayist and translator Mari Yonehara, and the daughter of Arika Yonehara, a senior member of the Japan Communist Party. Together they had a son.
Inoue hated air travel, but was fascinated by the city of Bologna in Italy, which he visited in 2004. He had previously visited Australia in 1976, and had also visited New York City in the 1980s for discussion about a possible Broadway version of a story of Miyamoto Musashi he was planning to write.
Inoue served as president of the Japan P.E.N. Club from 2003 to 2007. He was also director of the Japan Association of Playwrights, and director of the Institute of Japanese Literature. An outspoken pacifist, Inoue established a political group in support of the Constitution of Japan with Kenzaburō Ōe in 2004.