| Chiisai Kokoro no Tabi is an autobiographical story written by Seki Hideo (1912-96) which describes not only the agony and growth of a boy but also social surroundings. It first appeared in a coterie magazine Hata [Flag]. Sixteen years later, Seki made an overall revision and published it in book form in 1971. The part which relied too much on private experience was changed to a more universal tone.|
The story traces the growth of Kuratani Masao from age nine to fifteen (1920-26). His father is dead and he lives with his mother. After graduating from elementary school, he gives up going to junior high school and begins to work as an office boy at a government agency while taking evening classes. He reads the children’s literature magazine Akai Tori [Red Bird] and Dowa [Stories for Children] and, inspired by Ogawa Mimei’s stories, he contributes to those magazines. Meanwhile, he gets tired of being an office boy and begins to work at a bookshop where he quits after three days. He changes his job again and again. Finally he settles down to write stories for children while working as an office boy at an electric products manufacturing company where his grandfather also works and he starts studying at evening classes again. Presently he becomes aware of unfair labor conditions.
In the story, Masao has to undergo many hardships: the great earthquake which ruined his house, a spiteful aunt in whose care he is left, bureaucratic superior-inferior relationships; and the apprentice system of the bookshop. While he does not like being an office boy or a shop boy, he does not have the ambition to rise in the world. He repeats his negative resistance by escaping from his jobs to write stories for children. Anti-heroic Masao’s quiet criticism against society is characteristic of the work.
Chiisai Kokoro no Tabi received the Sankei Award for Children’s Books and Publications, the Japanese Association of Writers for Children Prize, and the Akai Tori Literature Award. Although there are arguments both for and against the image of a timid and passive protagonist, the powerful descriptions of people and society were highly valued. A Kodansha Pocket Book edition was published in 1979.