| Gen to Fudô Myôô is a full-length story for children newly written by Miyaguchi Shizue (1907-94). This is her second book (her first being a collection of short stories), which was written at a time when postwar children’s literature was at a turning point from short and poetic stories to long and prosaic ones. This is one of the pioneering works of full-length children’s literature. At the same time, it possesses the traditional features of the Taisho period, such as an emphasis on minute description, image of the innocent child, and lyricism.|
Gen to Fudô Myôô is about Gen and his sister Izumi, children of the priest of Seikanji Temple situated deep in the mountains of the Kiso area, in the south-west part of Nagano Prefecture. After their mother has died of illness, they hold on to each other and try to live cheerfully. However, Gen is placed in the care of a priest of Kuonji Temple in a neighboring village. Shortly their father remarries and Isumi has a step-mother. Gen cannot become familiar with the mistress of Kuonji and feels lonely. A statue of Fudô Myôô (the God of Fire) displayed in an alcove is his only support. Having a fight with a friend, Gen runs away from Kuonji. He comes back to Seikanji, but he cannot take to his new step-mother. Meanwhile, Fudô Myôô of Kuonji appears in Gen’s dream. Encouraged by Fudô Myôô, Gen was able to call his step-mother “Mother” next morning.
How Gen and Izumi feel for each other is described movingly. Frequently mentioned songs and details of food make the story more vivid. The most distinctive characteristic of Gen to Fudô Myôô is its dialogue, filled with regional dialects which effectively give local color to the story. Published at the beginning of a high-growth period, it reminded readers of an older way of life. A feeling of reality in the story and its power to convey the significance of human relationships to children were valued in contemporary reviews. It received the Second Mimei Award for Literature in 1959.
Sequels, Yama no Shûbasu [The Last Bus] (1960) and Gen to Izumi [Gen and Izumi] (1964) were also published by Chikuma Shobo. The illustrator, Asakura Setsu, traveled the Kiso area to gather materials for illustration.
Gen to Fudô Myôô was made into a radio play and a television drama. In 1961, it was made into a movie directed by Inagaki Hiroshi, in which Mifune Toshiro acted the role of Fudô Myôô whose special effects were directed by Tsuburaya Eiji.