Summaries of My Novels (2)

Putting Out the Light: A Profile of a Scholar, in Ko Takimura (Shinya Murase), Nagareboshi wo Machinagara, Toshindo Publishing Co., Tokyo, 2005, pp. 185-314, in Japanese.

Main Characters

Yuji Kiyama: born in 1943, a history professor
Mariko Sano: born in 1955, a silk-dying-printing artist
Jiro Muramatsu: Kiyama’s friend, a history professor, involved in UNESCO activities
Mwila Mwale: Kiyama’s friend from Zambia, Africa

Summary of the Story

Lights Out

“Kiyama-san, put out the lights!”

Shouted by the chief of the neighbors’ group, these were the first words that Yuji Kiyama heard immediately after his birth in 1943. The war had already been fought for one year and a half in the Pacific. It was only for a short period of time after the surprise attack on the Pearl Harbor that the Japanese military was advancing with victories. Now, Japan was losing the war, which became more apparent by the death in action of Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto in the New Guinea. There was a lights-out drill every week, like the one which had been going on that night in Kobe, in order to prepare for the air-raids by the American fighter planes. While the lights were put out everywhere, some light sneaked out from the Kiyamas because of the birth of a new baby boy.

It was heard outside the house that Yuji’s father was saying to the chief, “I am sorry, but a boy has just arrived!” He was apologetic but was very proud, particularly at this militaristic time, as he was eager to have a son because he had already had two daughters.

Yuji’s father was a history teacher at a high school. There were many history books at home, and Yuji became naturally interested in history. He was always a top student from elementary school through senior high school. During the senior year in high school, he was an exchange student at a school in England. He entered the University of Tokyo after coming back from England.

He became deeply involved in the student movement as soon as he started his college life in the early 1960s. He was eloquent and very effective in agitating speeches, and soon became a New Left leader in anti-Vietnam war movements. However, it did not last long. After a few years, he came to have doubts about the movement, and came to be detached. It was a betrayal to his comrades. Feeling deceitful to his friends and to himself, he did not know what he should do in the future. He was already twenty-one.

That summer, his father died, and after the funeral, he decided to visit Professor Narasaki of Kyoto University by whose writings he had been deeply impressed. Professor Narasaki gave him an important piece of advice: “It has been meaningful, I think, that you directed your condemnations and criticisms at the society and the State, but what I would hope for you is to proceed to academia and deepen your criticisms in your scholarly achievements.” His advice determined Yuji’s life. He decided to go to the graduate school of the University of Tokyo to study history.

Two years later, he wrote a masters thesis on the Causes of Russo-Japanese War of 1905 As Seen from Russia, which he published and which was highly evaluated in academic circles. He translated part of the book into English which was published in the prestigious “History Journal” in England. Now, when Yuji was in the doctoral course, everybody expected that he would succeed Professor Hayashida after his retirement from the University of Tokyo. Hayashida always asked Yuji to accompany him as his assistant at the Council meetings of the Japanese Association of Modern History for which he served as President. Thus, Yuji was able to be acquainted with a number of distinguished historians. However, he became disappointed in these old men because most of them were no longer doing any creative research, but were interested merely in holding their status as Council members.

One day, a graduate student from Zambia, named Mwila Mwale, came to see Yuji. He said he had studied at Oxford, and was now in Japan on a Ministry of Education scholarship to do research on Japan’s modernization process, which might, in his view, give certain lessons for the nation-building efforts in Africa. Having read Yuji’s article in English, he said he had wanted to see him. The two became life-long friends. Mwale went back to Zambia to work for the Foreign Ministry of his country two years later.

Yuji got married to Yoko who was two years younger. When she graduated from a women’s university, she started working for a publisher to support Yuji who was working on his doctoral dissertation. Yuji had a good scholarship, and their combined income was more than enough for their married life.

The bright hopes for Yuji’s future faded away as soon as the 1968-69 student revolts began at the University of Tokyo, like many other places of the world. Many of his former colleagues in the earlier political movements were leaders of the revolt. His friends said to Yuji, “You will of course join us, won’t you?” He could not say “no”. Yuji was made the chairman of the Anti-University Struggle Committee of the Humanities Faculty. He soon became the rising star in the movement especially among the undergraduate students. At first, most of the graduate students were also on his side, as the University administration’s handling of the students protess was so inadequate. However, as the movement turned gradually to be violent, the leadership of the revolt came to be isolated. Finally, the student movement was totally suppressed by the police and the university was finally “normalized”.

Now, with end of his third year in the doctor’s course, Yuji had no more scholarship. Yoko had to quit her job at the publisher because she was expecting a baby. Naturally, there was no possibility for a graduate student like Yuji to get a teaching position at a university. Thus, three difficult years passed when he worked as a part-time teacher of English for junior-high students. Finally, he got a position of assistant professor at a third-rank private university where he has been teaching for the past twelve years. Now, he is 42 years old.

An Encounter

“After the daylight is gone, towns and villages look sad, don’t they?”

This was what was said by a young lady sitting next to Yuji in a Shinkansen train for Sendai, where he was heading to attend the annual meeting of the History Association. Yuji explained the theme of his research, that is, the causes of war from a historical perspective. The lady talked about the art of dyeing (printing) silk cloths that she had been practicing since her college days. Yuji asked the lady whether she knew a good traditional-style restaurant in Sendai where Yuji and his three other friends could dine later that evening. She gives the name and address of an inn owned by her girl friend. Saying that “if there is any problem, please give me a ring”, she gave Yuji her name-card. Her name was Mariko Sano, her maiden name that she used for her art work.

The three professors who joined at the inn that night were Yuji’s best friends, and actually they were the ones who were kind enough to find a teaching position for Yuji some twelve years ago. They were all former students of Professor Hayashida, all teaching at universities in Tokyo, and now they are the leading figures of the Association: Jiro Muramatsu who is also active in UNESCO, Takashi Hasegawa who is most respected among the younger generation of scholars, and Toshio Yazaki who writes easy-reading historical novels and appears on TV quite often (incidentally, these four characters are supposed to be typical Japanese professors). The lady owner of the inn showed Yuji some art work recently done by Mariko, a print of lilies. Yuji was deeply moved by the print, and he felt very strongly that he must see her again.

After coming back to Tokyo, Yuji wrote a letter to Mariko thanking her for the information about the inn which was indeed marvelous. He also wrote how much he was impressed by Mariko’s art work. After a few exchanges of letters, they meet again in Tokyo. Yuji realized after he had kissed her that evening that Mariko would be very important in his life. It seemed the same to Mariko, who wrote that she wanted to be different from what she was, asking him to see her again.

Snow Light

“Would you please put out the light?”

So she begged when Yuji tried to take off her sweater… Yuji and Mariko met earlier this afternoon at Koriyama Station, the middle point between Tokyo and Sendai, and then taking a local train, they finally came to a small hotel here at Lake Inawashiro. In the train coming here, Mariko explained how desperate her marriage had been for the past ten years. She had married very young at her parents’ advice. She had to run away from her husband who was rich but was lacking in human feelings. Mariko said to Yuji that she wanted to be re-born by her becoming his.

A few hours later, Yuji had a dream: The calendar of the wall shows that it is the year 1969 now. The place is Yuji’s house which he was renting at Koganei, a suburban town of Tokyo. It is just before five o’clock in the morning. Yuji’s wife and the new-born baby are asleep in the next room.

A young man, who was looking outside from a small window, shouts: “Yuji, Put out the light!, Quick!!” Yuji, asking what happened, looks out. He says, “Oh, that boy is all right. He is our neighbor and I teach him English. He is preparing for the entrance exam for the third time, so he looks rather old.” “I see”, his friend nodded with relief. There was another young man in the room, who was the chairman of the Zenkyoto (Joint Struggle Conference of the University of Tokyo Students as well as those of all the Japanese universities). The police had been after him for several months, and Yuji had offered him and another student who was his driver a hideout for the past week. Yuji’s wife Yoko did not agree, but took care of them for that long week. It is time to shift the hideout, because it is dangerous to stay in the same place for a long time. Yoko was up and gave two lunch boxes to the guests. She said to them, bowing, “please take care, I pray for your safe journey,” as they go out quietly by the backdoor. Yuji was thankful to Yoko for her patience.

At that very moment, there was a loud banging on the entrance door, and several policemen rushed into the room. The chairman and his driver are both arrested by another group of plain-clothes men at the back door. Yuji’s supposed student was giving orders to other policemen. He took out a document and read it out: “Yuji Kiyama, you are under arrest for having assisted the fugitive criminal!” The baby in the next room started screaming, upon which Yuji woke up from the dream.

Mariko was looking into him, apparently concerned. “Are you all right? Was it a bad dream?” Yuji said, “Yes, it was,” and started explaining of his dark days.


“Put out the light, if you are sleeping. Think of the high electricity bill.”

Coming into Yuji’s study, Yoko speaks bitterly, despite the fact that they have been married for three years only. Yuji had fallen asleep at his desk after the day’s hard work. Yuji was working days and nights teaching junior high students at a small preparatory school, but he was never able to get sufficient money for the family.

When they got married three years ago, the future looked all bright. Everything changed when the student revolt began shortly afterwards. One day Yuji was asked to come to Professor Hayashida’s office. Yuji expected that the professor would say something to the effect of ordering him to stop the “crazy revolution-play”. But, the professor did not say anything on the subject. He never criticized Yuji. He merely said, “I just wanted to give you this tea-cup for the tea ceremony. This was made by Sakusuke Kato, the 16th, a famous pottery artist, and I have treasured it for a long time. Due to the earthquake a few years ago, the cup developed a small crack, which I have had repaired with gold.” Yuji said “thank you”, and the professor said “take a good care of yourself, all right?” Yuji felt all this to be an expression of the professor’s profound love for him. These were the last words exchanged between them, as the professor died of heart attack shortly afterwards. The filling of the tea-cup looked like a nail piercing Yuji’s heart.

On the wall of the University Hall which had been under the occupation of the militant students, somebody wrote: “Seeking Solidarity, (but) Never Be Afraid of Isolation!”. The leaders including Yuji became gradually isolated. Kazuki Sawamura was Yuji’s classmate (who pretended to be a Zenkyoto sympathizer). It turned out that he had been informing the people of the University administration about the details of student’s plans and actions. The Zenkyoto students decided to hold the University Hall against the police force. Yuji was asked by one of his old friends whether he would join the siege. Yuji replied, “I don’t know what I should do…Our baby is about to arrive.” He thought he would be condemned for his betrayal. But, on the contrary, his friend said, “Oh, congratulations! Then, you should not be here. Go back to your wife, and make the baby a good, future Zenkyoto fighter!” Yuji felt ashamed for his betrayal on the excuse of the arriving baby. He offered a hideout for the Zenkyoto chairman at his home as compensation.

The battle of the University Hall lasted for two days in the form of the 16th century warlords’ battles, and finally, the revolting students were all arrested. The university was soon normalized, and Kazuki Sawamura succeeded to Professor Hayashida’s chair as associate professor.

A few sad stories about the Zenkyoto activists after the defeat in the siege are referred to here, such as, some members who hijacked an airplane ending up in North Korea, those who committed suicides in despair, and those who were involved in the internal struggles, torturing and killing of members of the opposing factions. Others who were “smart” enough became members of the Diet, diplomats, professors, journalists, critics and businessmen, etc.

For Yuji, life was difficult during those three years. Nonetheless, he continued to write papers without any expectation that they could be published. Yuji was finally able to find a position at a third-rank private university near Tokyo thanks to the help of his friends. He was happy because he did not have to teach English to junior high students any more. He can at least teach History to college students. He started publishing successive articles in the university’s journal, and soon he was considered one of the top historians of his generation. He worked on his papers day and night, and he seldom came out of his study. His wife, Yoko, had expected that if he had got a job, they would have a normal family life, but the situation had only gotten worse. She was so much in despair, and she went back to her parents with her daughter. Yuji asked her to come back, only to be refused by her and her parents.

Visiting the Star

Yuji liked the stories of Saint-Exupéry’s “Little Prince” (to him, this was an anti-war fairy tale), especially the one on the geometry scholar. Asked by the Prince where he should go, the scholar advises him: “Go to the Earth. It has a good reputation.” Thus the scholar plays an important role to guide the Prince to the main stage of the story. It reminds Yuji of the late Professor Narasaki of Kyoto University who advised him to enter academia.

Here, Yuji develops his ideas on the study of war (omitted), and also his life as a history teacher including debates with his seminar students (omitted).

Ten years have passed since Yuji started teaching at university. Mwila Mwale came back to Japan, this time as Ambassador, together with Chanti, his wife. Yuji asked him to give a talk to his students, which Mwale agreed. “I was born in a small town near the Tanzanian border as the last of six children of my parents, both of whom died when I was very small. So, I was raised mainly by my third sister. It took me five hours to go to the elementary school. So, I carried a week’s provisions to school on Sundays, and stayed there till the next Saturday. I continued this for three years until the third grade. At that time, I had only one pair of old, torn shoes. I am proud to tell you that I now have a dozen pairs of shining shoes! When my third sister got married to a man who lived in N’dora, I followed her and continued my education there. This is thanks to the extended family system in Zambia, by which we help each other. I now support seven families, more than fifty people back home. I went to the University of Zambia at Lusaka, and then to Oxford, before coming to Tokyo. Zambia is not a rich country as is yours, and there is just one university in the country. It is only 0.5 per cent of the young generation who can study at a university. If you look at the average figures of those who receive university-level education in the whole world, it is no more than 1 per cent. You are one of those privileged one per cent. I hope that each of you will think about it seriously.” Every one of the students was deeply impressed.

Mwila, Chanti, Yuji and Mariko meet every month for dinner or brief travel together. Mariko gives Chanti the dresses she dyed, Chanti gives Chitenge (Zambian traditional lady costume) to Mariko.

Love between Mariko and Yuji deepens (This part, rated PG, mostly omitted). Mariko finally gets divorced from her former husband.

Yuji commutes to Sendai twice a month on weekends. He always goes to her house with a handful of flowers. He put all the flowers around her as she lies down on the futon.

Time passes too quickly for them. Yuji has to go back to Tokyo on Monday morning. He fully understands Mariko’s loneliness.

Mariko: “Don’t leave me for ever!”
Yuji: “No, I won’t, until the death departs us.”
Mariko: “Don’t die before me.”
Yuji: “Well, I am not sure, I am much older than you.”
Mariko: “No, please, I cannot live without you.”
Yuji: “Don’t worry. I will watch for you even after I die.”
Mariko: “How are you going to watch me?”
Yuji: “Well, … I will be a bird after I die.”
Mariko: “I will be a flower then. If you see a flower near you, that’s me.”
Yuji: “If you find a bird flying around you, that’s me.”
Mariko: “What bird are you going to be?”
Yuji: “Well, I mostly work at night. So, maybe, I will be an owl.”
Mariko: “Will you carry me flowers even if you be come an owl?”
Yuji: “I think I will”.
Mariko: “I am so happy…”

After two years or so, the Mwales leave Japan. He is offered a post of the Foreign Minister of Zambia. At the farewell dinner, Mwila urges Yuji and Mariko to visit Zambia: “Zambia has a big sky and beautiful nature. The land is on a high plateau of 1500 meters, and the climate is mild. There are many lakes, rivers and forests. If you see the Victoria Falls (Mosi-O-Tunya, Smoke that Thunders), your view of life should change.”


In commemoration of his book being published by Oxford University Press, Yuji was invited to speak to the Royal History Society. The topic he chose for his speech was “In Search for Restoring the Honor of Dr. Thomas Clyde”. Dr. Clyde was professor at Oxford, and then he came to Japan to teach in Tokyo before the war. Due to his anti-English remarks before and during the war, his request for a British passport was denied, and he was not allowed to come back to England, before he died in Japan in 1954. The speech was well received, and it was now foreseeable that Dr. Clyde’s honor would be restored.

On the plane coming back to Tokyo, Yuji was full of joy. Publishing a book in English with Oxford UP, and giving a speech at the Royal Society! He thought he was now far ahead of his friends. He never thought at that time that he would have a similar experience as Dr. Clyde, albeit in a much smaller scale.

Internal struggles begin in the spring of 1991 within the Japanese Society of Modern History. It was first concerned with the problem of filling a vacancy of the chair of the Editorial Committee. The Ministry of Education which has traditionally had a strong influence on the Society did not want Yuji, a former radical student activist, to take the position, and instead, they wanted Professor Kazuki Sawamura of Tokyo University to assume it. Yuji’s friends had been saying that they would protest the Education Ministry’s undue interference, but when the Council Meeting was actually held, nobody spoke up except his friend Matsumura who said something in a weak voice. So, reluctantly, Yuji takes the floor, and ended up in a fierce fight with Sawamura’s group, although Sawamura himself did not say a word, … very clever!. Yuji was totally isolated. He came out of the Council room in anger, and others pretended that they did not notice. It is sad to cast doubt to one’s best friends, because it means losing something very precious. It did not take much time for him to realize that he had been virtually “expelled” from the Society. Yuji said to himself: “Oh, I have done it again! Seeking solidarity, I have ended up in isolation”.

It took Yuji more than six months to overcome this defeat. Mariko was always on his side. He thought of Dr. Clyde who was expelled from all the academic societies in England, but who continued writing until his death at 85. His last book, The Western Civilization in Twilight, is still widely read all over the world. “Yes, I should do the same!,” he shouted. That night, he drew up his ten-year research plan, which stressed the importance of studying civil wars. Zambia was the only nation in Africa that had not experienced any civil wars, but it is the nation that made tremendous efforts to mediate internal disputes in its neighboring countries. Yuji thought, “I should do research on this topic in Zambia!” He was excited like a young man who just started his academic career.

In late summer, Yuji and Mariko spent several days at a seaside spa, Tojinbo, Fukui. Yuji told his plan of going to Zambia, and said that he wanted Mariko to go with him. He also tells Mariko that he has been invited to take a position at a university in Sendai. Mariko was overjoyed to hear the news. “We can finally live together in Sendai!”. The inn they stayed at Tojinbo was surrounded by Morning Glory flowers. She sketched them every morning when the flowers were in bright colors and spirits.


In autumn 1992, Mariko received a letter from the secretariat of the Nitten (Japan Art Exhibition) which said that her print titled “Morning Glories” had won the special prize. She knew that Yuji was very busy at the moment, but she could not wait to tell him about the special prize. So, she called, but no answer. She kept calling, sent faxes and express mail, but no answer. Then, one morning she learned of the sudden death of Yuji, whose aneurysm had “exploded”.

He died at the university hospital located some 30 kilometers from Tokyo. Surrounded by forests, there are many birds flying outside the hospital. Just before Yuji died, he said to the nurse, “please put out the lights”, and when his heart stopped, an owl flew out from the branch of a tall tree outside his room.

Learning of Yuji’s death, Mariko was now determined to follow him. “There is no meaning in life without Yuji. We will see each other in Heaven.” So, she disposed of all her art works because they were intended to show to Yuji. They were now useless. Then, she sold the house which she had inherited from her parents. She had no relatives. She decided to send all the money to the Zambian Embassy in Tokyo. Dr. Mwale should know how best to spend the money for his country. “I am sure you will approve of what I am doing, Yuji. I will be with you again soon….” The “Morning Glories” is now the only piece of art work of Mariko Sano left behind, because she failed to pick it up at the Nitten secretariat after the exhibition.

An Owl

In 2002, ten years after the death of Yuji Kiyama, his old friend, Muramatsu, was traveling in Zambia on a UNESCO mission. He was to interview several old men and women in Zambia’s old capital, Mongu, a few hundreds kilometers north of the Victoria Falls. (Some descriptions of the magnificent Kuonboka festival, omitted). A local interpreter told Muramatsu about a Japanese lady who had been living at a farm and teaching local people how to make table cloths, handbags, etc. So, Muramatsu decided to pay a visit. The farm was called “Kiyama Farm.” When Muramatsu introduced himself to the lady, she said, to his astonishment, “Oh, I heard so much about you from Yuji Kiyama!”.

Mariko explains what has happened since the death of Kiyama. She received a cable from Dr. Mwale requesting her to come to Zambia as soon as possible. He mentioned that there was something which he had been asked by Yuji to give to her. The air-ticket was delivered to her from the Zambian Embassy in Tokyo. Mariko was thinking only of suicide at that time, but she realized that she would have to go to Zambia to get it before she died.

As soon as she arrived at Lusaka, she was taken to the red-roofed Foreign Ministry building, where Dr. Mwale and his wife Chanti were waiting. Chanti held Mariko tight; she was weeping all the time. After an exchange of greetings, Mariko asked, “Well…what is the “something” that Yuji had asked you to give me?”. Dr. Mwale looked troubled, as there was actually no such thing. He said, “Well, if I may dare to say, … it is Zambia! You see, Yuji was going to do research in this country, and I was going to give him every assistance possible. I believe that Yuji’s spirit resides in this country.”

Muramatsu said to Mariko, “You must have felt deceived.” Mariko replied, “No, on the contrary. When the airplane landed at the Lusaka airport, I took out a small picture of Yuji, saying that ‘we have finally made it!’. From that time on, I have felt that Yuji has always been by my side. Jacaranda trees were in full bloom in Lusaka, and I felt that this was the country most close to Heaven. I felt that Yuji was saying that I should live here a little more time. So, I have been staying here for ten years now! The Mwales have helped me a lot, setting up this farm partly with the fund that I had donated. I teach dyeing techniques to the local ladies, many of whom suffer serious diseases. I am glad that the table cloths, cloth-handbags and Chitenges produced here are selling very well at stores in Mongu”.

Mariko showed him a monument which Dr. Mwale had insisted on erecting. It said both in English and Japanese, “This monument was erected to the memory of Dr. Yuji Kiyama, 1943-1992, a historian who dedicated his life to learning and love. The Kiyama Farm was established by Mariko Sano and her Zambian friends”. But, the monument is stained with the droppings of birds. Mariko explains: “This seems to be perfect spot for birds to rest. There is an owl that comes here every evening. I think he drops his dirt on purpose, as if he was saying that this monument was too embarrassing! One morning, when I came here, the owl was still on the monument. So, I spoke to him, ‘Today, we are going to dry the cloths that we have dyed. Please take a look, if you are interested. You know, … of course, you don’t know, but, my print once won a Nitten special prize.’ The owl flew out, and then, a few moments later, he came back with a flower of a morning glory in his mouth, and dropped it by my side. He flew out and came back several times, and he surrounded me with so many flowers!”.

When Muramatsu left the Farm, he saw some thirty pieces of long cloths flying over the Farm against the big, blue sky.

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