| Tempô no Hitobito is a historical story for children by Katsuo Kinya (1927- ) and his first full-length novel. The main characters are farmers of the Kaga domain (southern Ishikawa Prefecture). Although it is a story of a local district, Katsuo brings to light one phase of Japanese history. In that sense, it is a significant work in the genre.|
In 1838 (year nine of the Tempo era), the headmen of 28 villages of Ishikawa County of Kaga who have been suffering from bad harvests submit a request of inspection for reduction of land tax. Twelve-year-old Matsukichi’s father was one of them. The magistrate visits their village and two other villages but inspects only the rice fields with a good harvest. He beats the headmen of the three villages and shuts them up in prison as an example to others. Matsukichi and other children of the village manage to send medicine to the prison and sing songs to encourage the prisoners. Meanwhile the prisoners hear that the Kaga domain has been allotted a considerable amount of money for the repairs of Edo Castle. The domain took advantage of their request of inspection to levy the tax even more strictly. Village people decided to pay only half of the tax and sell off the rest of the crop except seed rice. More than 100 people of headmen and their families are banished to Gokayama, a snowy remote ravine.
Tempô no Hitobito is told in the first person by Matsukichi. The history of the village is seen from a boy’s point of view, which is a distinguishing feature of the book. Katsuo learned of the existence of a village monument when he was a teacher at a junior high school in Kanazawa, and he studied about it with his students. As a result of his investigation, which took more than ten years, he created the story. According to Katsuo, a work which described the feelings of the characters concerned is most effective in conveying the true spirit of an incident, which is why he chose the method of fiction.
Tempô no Hitobito received the sixteenth Sankei Award for Children’s Books and Publications. The Maki Shoten version contained an epilogue concerning what has become of the people since, which was omitted in the Kaiseisha version illustrated by Saitô Hiroyuki and published in 1982. The epilogue developed into two sequels: Gokayama Gurasi [Life in Gokayama] in 1975 and Yuki no Hitokuidani [Valley of Avalanche] in 1982 to form a trilogy.