A small high ground sits adjacent to the Old University Library on Mita Campus, home to several monuments that honor the literary figures of Keio University. Called "Bungaku no Oka," or the "Hill of Literature," this mound has a storied history, each memorial with a tale to tell. The monuments range from busts to stone engravings and are dedicated to four artists of song, poetry, and prose who left an indelible mark on the modern world of Japanese literature.
Three literary monuments and one bust adorn Mita's Hill of Literature.
The oldest literary monument is that of the poet Hideo Yoshino, built on July 1, 1972, by his classmates just five years after his death. In October of the same year, the Class of 1925 Mita-kai donated more than 50 daphne seedlings planted in his honor. The monument is inscribed with a poem that Yoshino wrote as a student:
"The pangs of romance and exams are worst when daphnes bloom in front of the library."
Originally from Takasaki in Gunma Prefecture, Yoshino was so moved by The Autobiography of Yukichi Fukuzawa (Fukuo Jiden) that he decided to attend Keio University's Economics Preparatory Course. While he went on to study at the Faculty of Economics, a weak constitution and persistent illness forced him to drop out before graduation. Yoshino taught himself Japanese literature on his sickbed and was strongly influenced by author Shiki Masaoka and others who contributed to the Japanese literary magazine Araragi. Although he continued to suffer from illness throughout his life, he left behind numerous songs in his particular style and is held in high regard as a calligrapher.
A monument to Keio graduate, writer, and haiku poet Mantaro Kubota was unveiled during a ceremony on May 9, 1973, 10 years after the author's death. Keio graduate Koichi Koga was in charge of designing the monument, a white marble slab inscribed with black granite. The engraving reads:
"Raindrops fall on the Grand Lecture Hall's red brick wall. I think of Osanai-sensei."
Kubota wrote this poem in memory of the late Kaoru Osanai, who taught at Keio University and gave popular lectures at the Grand Lecture Hall. The author associates the grief of loss with a depiction of the rain-speckled red bricks of the Grand Lecture Hall.
Kubota, a graduate of Keio University's Department of Literature, was a lecturer in composition at the Faculty of Letters and a prolific author, penning numerous novels, theatrical works, screenplays, and haiku. In his later years, he transferred his copyrights to Keio University. Per his wishes, Keio University established the Kubota Mantaro Memorial Course at the Faculty of Letters, which invites lecturers from both Japan and abroad as experts in contemporary art and poetics.
In 1974, a monument was built in honor of Haruo Sato, known as the "Poet of Mita," commissioned by his apprentices on the tenth anniversary of his death. Architect Yoshiro Taniguchi, a close friend of Sato, headed the monument's design. The granite is engraved with a quatrain from his poetry collection Junjo Shishu (lit. "collection of pure poems"):
Often dubbed the "father of shingeki," a leading form of theater in Japan in the early 20th century, Kaoru Osanai is also found on the monument to Mantaro Kubota. His bust was carved in 1958 by sculptor Fumio Asakura and initially graced the front of the Kabukiza Theatre Annex gift shop.
Osanai taught lectures on drama at Keio University's Department of Literature from 1910 to 1922. He had a significant influence on literary magazines like Mita Bungaku, which was first published the year he arrived at Keio, where he inspired many aspiring poets and writers. When he died suddenly at the young age of 47 in 1928, people throughout Keio University set up an education trust fund to collect donations for his bereaved wife and three children.
Due to his Keio connection, Osanai's bust at Kabukiza was relocated from the Kabukiza Theatre to Mita Campus between the West School Building and Third Faculty Research Building in August 1964. The reason behind its placement was its proximity to the former location of the Grand Lecture Hall, where Osanai held the lecture that sparked the construction of the Tsukiji Shōgekijō theater. At the time of relocation, the bust sat on a pedestal designed by Yoshiro Taniguchi.
With the construction of the Graduate School Building, the bust was relocated once again in 1984, when Osanai finally became a fellow resident on the Hill of Literature. The Mita Media Center also houses Osanai Bunko, Osanai's private collection of around 6,000 books related to modern theater.
*This article appeared in Stained Glass in the 2020 spring edition (No. 306) of Juku.