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Inoue Hisashi

Entry updated 12 September 2022. Tagged: Author.

(1934-2010) Japanese playwright and author with an oddly wide-ranging resumé that touched, briefly and powerfully, on the sf genre. Sent to a Catholic boarding school after his father's death, Inoue was baptised as a Christian and switched majors at Sophia University from German to French.

Already writing and producing his own plays at the time of his graduation, he paid the bills with scripts, beginning with the Radio play X-Man (1960 NHK). His daily children's television show Hyokkori Hōtanjima ["Madcap Island"] (1964 NHK), was a puppet Robinsonade in which a volcanic eruption sets an entire community adrift. Running for five years and over 1200 episodes, now largely lost, the series became notorious for smuggling adult Satire into the childish humour. The many satirical nations visited included Bulldogia, a land where canines had "thrown off their chains" and enslaved humans (see Uplift), Karakoropin island, which has been swallowed by a whale, and the desert kingdom of Al Khazil. A story arc set in Postoria, a nation entirely populated by idiotic postmen, was taken off air after complaints to the network.

Similar Brechtian elements can be discerned in Inoue's adult Radio play, Kirikiri Dokuritsusu ["Independent Kirikiri"] (1964 NHK), originally conceived as a polemic against government spending on the Tokyo Olympics, suggesting that life might be easier in the provinces if they seceded from Japan. Refined over the next decade into the Near Future novel Kirikirijin ["The People of Kirikiri"] (1973-1974 Shūmatsu Kara, incomplete; 1978-1980 Shōsetsu Shinchō; fixup 1981), it became a broader attack on Tokyo-centric government and attitudes, with the titular village making a bid for self-sufficiency by repealing several unpopular Japanese laws (such as lifting the contemporary ban on organ transplants), and offering itself as a tax haven. The locals even rebel with words, replacing the received pronunciation of the Tokyo dialect with their own local patois, Kirikirigo (see Linguistics). Although Inoue's satirical target by the 1980s was supposedly apartheid South Africa, his book also contained significant resonances for home audiences, particularly with his choice of title, a term in the language of Japan's aboriginal inhabitants, the Ainu. The word kirikiri is onomatopoeic for the sound of sand on a beach, but is written by Inoue with characters that double the words "happy home".

The book eventually found recognition both inside and outside the sf genre, winning mainstream accolades in addition to its Seiun Award. Its value as a parable of invasion and oppression has endured beyond its original inspirations, and it continues to be cited in discussions of demarcation, authority and Politics.

Aside from Inoue's long and distinguished career as a novelist and playwright in non-sf matters, he also contributed to several Anime serials as a writer and lyricist. He wrote the theme songs for the animated versions of Himitsu no Akko-chan ["Secret Akko-chan"] (1969), The Moomins (1969), the film Andersen Monogatari ["The Tales of Hans Christian Andersen"] (1968). In 1984 he established a library in his hometown, with a seed donation of 100,000 books. With typical Inoue wordplay, he insisted on calling it the Writer's Block. He founded his own drama troupe, the Komatsu-za, was president of the Japanese PEN Club from 2003-2007, and is regarded as one of the giants of postwar Japanese Theatre. [JonC]

Hisashi Inoue

born Komatsu (now Kawanishi), Japan: 17 November 1934

died Kamakura, Japan: 9 April 2010

works (selected)

  • Kirikirijin ["The People of Kirikiri"] (Tokyo: Shinchōsha, 1981) [hb/]

about the author


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