Shiga Naoya was born on February 20, 1883, in the town of Ishimaki on Honshu, Japan’s largest island. Although his family belonged to the prestigious samurai class, his father became a successful businessman and moved the family to Tokyo when Shiga was three. In Tokyo, they lived with Shiga’s grandparents, who were largely responsible for raising the young writer. Shiga’s mother died when he was thirteen, and his father remarried not long after. Fortunately, Shiga had a good relationship with his new stepmother, which he wrote about in the story ‘‘Haha no hi to atarashii haha’’ (‘‘My Mother’s Death and the Coming of My New Mother’’). Shiga’s relationship with his father, however, was often strained. In 1900, at the age of seventeen, Shiga began to study Christianity under the evangelist Uchimura Kanzo and subsequently became aware of social causes. In 1901, he became estranged from his father when his father forbade him from participating in a protest against the Ashio Copper Mine, which was polluting a local river and poisoning the townspeople. Unbeknownst to Shiga, his grandfather had once been an investor in the mine, and Shiga’s father wanted to spare the family embarrassment. Relations with his father continued to be strained when Shiga had an affair with a family servant and declared his intention to live with her. In addition, he was a mediocre student who graduated from high school with much difficulty; once enrolled at Tokyo...
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