@@Biruma no Tategoto is set at the close of World War II in Burma. The author, Takeyama Michio (1903-84), believed in the power of music and religion. His criticism on modern civilization, and his ideal image of eastern and western culture are fervently narrated in this book. Biruma no Tategoto is an important work not only as a war-time story for children, but also as a story tracing the Japanese postwar period.
@@Just before the end of the war, a company of Japanese troops in Burma was led by a captain who graduated from a music school. The company often enjoyed singing to Corporal Mizushimafs harp accompaniment. After fleeing from mountain to mountain they thought they were sure to be killed. Then they heard their enemy singing gHome, Sweet Homeh (gHanyû no Yadoh in Japanese). The company sang together and heard that Japan had surrendered.
@@Mizushima set out to persuade some soldiers to surrender, and then disappeared. The company, now prisoners of war, met a Burmese monk with a parakeet on his shoulder, and suspected that he might be Mizushima. Several incidents held out hope that Mizushima might be alive. When the company was singing together for the last time before going back to Japan, the monk with parakeets on his shoulders appeared and accompanied them on the harp. He played gAogeba Toutoshi,h a Japanese graduation song, and vanished. On his way home, the captain received a letter which described Mizushimafs feeling that he could not leave Burma abandoning the remains of Japanese soldiers. He had been burying the bleached bones.
@@Biruma no Tategoto is filled with suspense of the challenges the company faces and the mystery of whether the mysterious monk is actually Mizushima or not. Colors such as the monkfs yellow robe, blue parakeets, red ruby, whitened bones lying in heaps are effectively used. The image of the harp echoing in the rainforest is also impressive. With these as the background, the acceptance of the war and defeat is told from a mature viewpoint. The story appeals to both grown-ups and children, which \ together with its depth of thought \ is the distinguishing feature of the book.
@@A true story about a commander who was fond of music, and an article on corpses of Japanese soldiers left in Burma, compelled Takeyama to write Biruma no Tategoto. Takeyama wrote the story hoping that it might be a requiem for those who lost their lives in fulfillment of their duties. It first appeared in the childrenfs monthly magazine Akatombo [Red Dragonfly] in March 1947 and then serially from July 1947 to February 1948. It managed to pass occupation censorship. After some revision, it was published in book form in 1948. Beautiful watercolor illustrations by Inokuma Genfichirô in the magazine version were also adopted in the book.
@@Biruma no Tategoto received the Mainichi Award for Books and Publication in 1948 on the grounds that it was an unconventional story of love for humanity filled with interesting Burmese customs, which improved the quality and value of childrenfs literature. It also received the Minister of Education Award for Arts in 1951. Although it was generally valued as a masterpiece, some pointed out that human contempt and decadence were lurking underneath the story.
Biruma no Tategoto was made into a movie twice in 1955 and 1985 by Ichikawa Kon as The Burmese Harp. A Shincho Pocket Book edition was published in 1959. Biruma no Tategoto was translated into English by Howard Hibbett and published by Tuttle as Harp of Burma in 1966.