Mori, Ougai

Mori, Ougai

Given name: 鴎外
Family name:
Birthday: Feb 17, 1862
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Mori Ougai (February 17, 1862 - July 8, 1922) was a Japanese physician, translator, novelist and poet. Gan (雁, The Wild Geese, (1911-13)) is considered his major work.

Mori was born as Mori Rintarou in Tsuwano, Iwami province (present-day Shimane prefecture). His family were hereditary physicians to the daimyou of the Tsuwano Domain. As the eldest son, it was assumed that he would carry on the family tradition; therefore he was sent to attend classes in the Confucian classics at the domain academy, and took private lessons in rangaku, and in the Dutch language.

In 1872, after the Meiji Restoration and the abolition of the domains, the Mori family relocated to Tokyo. Mori stayed at the residence of Nishi Amane, in order to receive tutoring in the German language, which was the primary language for medical education at the time. In 1874, he was admitted to the government medical school (the predecessor for Tokyo Imperial University's Medical School), and graduated in 1881 at the age of 19, the youngest person ever to be awarded a medical license in Japan. It was also during this time that he developed an interest in literature, reading extensively from the late-Edo period popular novels, and taking lessons in Chinese poetry and literature.

After graduation, Mori enlisted in the Imperial Japanese Army as a medical officer, hoping to specialize in military medicine and hygiene.

Mori was sent by the Army to study in Germany (Leipzig, Dresden, Munich, and Berlin) from 1884-1888. During this time, he also developed an interest in European literature. As a matter of trivia, Mori Ougai is the first Japanese known to have ridden on the Orient Express.

Upon his return to Japan, he assumed a high rank as a medical doctor in the Japanese army and pushed for a more scientific approach to medical research, even publishing a medical journal out of his own funds.

Meanwhile, he also attempted to revitalize modern Japanese literature and published his own literary journal (Shigarami Soushi, 1889-1894) and his own book of poetry (Omokage, 1889). In his writings, he was an "anti-realist", asserting that literature should reflect the emotional and spiritual domain. Maihime (舞姫, The Dancing Girl (1890)), described an affair between a Japanese man and a German woman.

In 1899, Mori married Akamatsu Toshiko, daughter of Admiral Akamatsu Noriyoshi, a close friend of Nishi Amane. He divorced her the following year under acrimonious circumstances that irreparably ended his friendship with Nishi.

Although Mori did little writing from 1892-1902, he continued to edit a literary journal (Mezamashi gusa, 1892-1909). He also produced translations of the works of Goethe, Schiller, Ibsen, Hans Christian Andersen, and Hauptmann.

It was during the Russo-Japanese War (1904-1905) that Mori started keeping a poetic diary. After the war, he began holding tanka writing parties that included several noted poets such as Yosano Akiko.

His later works can be divided into three separate periods. From 1909-1912, he wrote mostly fiction based on his own experiences. This period includes Vita Sexualis, and his most popular novel, Gan (雁, The Wild Geese(1911-13)), which is set in 1881 Tokyo and was filmed by Shiro Toyoda in 1953 as The Mistress.

From 1912-1916, he wrote mostly historical stories. Deeply affected by the seppuku of General Nogi Maresuke in 1912, he explored the impulses of self-destruction, self-sacrifice and patriotic sentiment. This period includes Sanshou Dayuu (山椒大夫), and Takasebune (高瀬舟).

From 1916, he turned his attention to biographies of late Edo period doctors.

As an author, Mori is considered one of the leading writers of the Meiji period. In his literary journals, he instituted modern literary criticism in Japan, based on the aesthetic theories of Karl von Hartmann.

A house which Mori lived in is preserved in Kokura Kita ward in Kitakyushu, not far from Kokura station. Here he wrote Kokura Nikki ("Kokura Diary"). His birthhouse is also preserved in Tsuwano. The two one-story houses are remarkably similar in size and in their traditional Japanese style.

One of Mori's daughters, Mori Mari, influenced the Yaoi movement in contemporary Japanese literature.

(Source: AniDB)
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