@@Higo no Ishiku is the first full-length historical novel by Imanishi Sukeyuki (1923-2004). Situated in Higo, central Kyushu, the story describes peoplefs joys and sorrows related with bridge-building work in the Edo period. Formerly, a historical novel for children tended to deal with feats of famous heroes and great men. Focusing on ordinary working people, Higo no Ishiku introduced a new kind of historical novel to postwar Japanese childrenfs literature.
@@Head stone mason Iwanaga Sangorô, on his way back from Satsuma (southern Kyushu) where he had finished bridge-building, is followed by an assassin named Jin of Tokunoshima. There is a secret in the structure of the arch bridge Sangorô and other masons built, and the domain of Satsuma ordered to assassinate the masons to prevent its leakage. However, touched by Sangorôfs pleasant personality, Jin cannot kill him. A beggar is killed as a substitute for Sangorô. Sangorô brings the beggarfs children, Sato and Kichi, to Higo to live together. Other masons have already been killed. Sangorô leads a life of agony with a sense of guilt as the only survivor. Sato, who feels bitter about Sangorô who was the cause of her fatherfs death, runs away with Kichi. Five years later, Sangorô engages again in bridge-building in a neighboring village. Usuke, a son of an assassinated mason becomes the head. The construction site is watched by a spy of the Higo domain, and Sangorô is put in prison because of some misunderstandings. Released, Sangorô reunites with Sato and Kichi. The great stone bridge is completed under the leadership of Usuke whose ill feeling against Sangorô has been dispelled. Together with Usuke and Kichi, Sangorô engages in many bridge-building projects.
@@It first appeared in the magazine Biwa-no-mi Gakkô [School of Loquat Seed] from numbers two to seven. The story was widely revised when it was published in book form, and was highly valued as a very serious story for children. Not only Sangorôfs skill but also his personality is described carefully. Readers were attracted by the character of Sangorô who endured hardships, lived sincerely, and conveyed his technique to the next generation.
@@Higo no Ishiku received the Sixth Japanese Association of Writers for Childrenfs Prize, the Fourth NHK Award for Childrenfs Literature, and selected as a candidate for the Hans Christian Andersen Award from Japan. A Kodansha Pocket Book edition was published in 1975. It was adapted into a play by Zenshinza in 1969 and by Gekidan GMG in 1988.