| Kotan no Kuchibue is a long novel that consists of two parts: Part One "Arashi no Uta" [Song of Storm], and Part Two "Hikari no Uta" [Song of Light]. |
The author Ishimori Nobuo (1897 - 1987) was born in Sapporo. After teaching at an elementary school, he went to Manchuria, and edited a textbook to teach Japanese to Japanese children in Manchuria. "Monkûfuon" [(Mongolian) Gale in March] in 1938 (published under the title Sakidasu Shônengun [Blooming Children] in 1939 after he came back to Japan) established his reputation as an author for children. Kotan no Kuchibue is Ishimori's laborious work in the post-war era and was highly praised when it appeared.
The story deals with the life of a girl and her younger brother living in an Ainu village (kotan). They grew up confronting the discrimination and prejudice of the Japanese people. With the help of some people who sympathize with them, they finally reconcile with the Japanese and make friends with them. The magnificent nature of Hokkaido and the traditions and legends of the Ainu people are also well described in this story.
Ishimori Nobuo himself had an experience of going to school with Ainu children. He chose to go to a higher elementary school, not to a high school, so as to be with his Ainu friends. That might be the root of this book as well as his other works filled with humanity.
This book is an epoch-making piece which was a forerunner of post-war novels for children. It received the Mimei Award for Literature and the Sankei Award for Children's Books and Publications in 1958. It was also adapted for television and radio, and was made into a movie. However, after 1970, some critics questioned Ishimori's way of dealing with the problem of discrimination or the "kindness" to Ainu people. A general study of Ishimori's works is anticipated.