Kenji Miyazawa was born on August 27, 1896, in the town of Hanamaki in the northern prefecture of Iwate. Iwate has a cool climate, and the farmers of the region led a precarious existence. Miyazawa’s father ran a pawnshop, a business that prospered in part because of the poverty of the local farmers.
As the oldest son, Miyazawa would normally have succeeded his father as head of the family business. Uneasy at the thought of living off the poverty of others, however, Miyazawa neglected the task of preparing himself to succeed his father in the family business. Instead, he immersed himself in the study of philosophy and religion. An exemplary student in grade school, Miyazawa’s record became worse from year to year in middle school as he pursued his own intellectual interests. Some of this independence is also discernible in occasional escapades during his youth, one of which led to his expulsion from the school dormitory.
By 1915, Miyazawa had decided to find work outside the family business. In this year, he entered the Morioka College of Agriculture and Forestry. Along with his studies in such areas as chemistry and soils, Miyazawa formulated various plans for his future, plans whereby he could utilize his knowledge to contribute to the amelioration of the harsh conditions of rural life. For a time, he even hoped to turn the resources of the family business to some new venture that might be of general economic benefit—producing industrial chemicals from the soil of the area, for example.
A new dimension was added to Miyazawa’s differences with his father during these...
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