| Before publishing Usagi no Me, Haitani Kenjirô (1934- ) had been teaching at an elementary school in Kobe. Shocked by his brother’s suicide and despaired with the system of school education, he quit his job and wandered about Okinawa, and wrote this book.|
Usagi no Me received exceptionally wide range of readership as children’s literature and won Haitani distinction. In 1978 a literary version for the general reader was published, which became a million seller. Shincho Pocket Book edition was published in 1984. In 1998 Haitani changed the publisher of the pocket book edition to Kadokawa Shoten as a protest against Shinchosha whose magazine carried the picture of a juvenile murderer. Together with his subsequent work Taiyo no Ko [Child of the Sun] (1978), Usagi no Me produced a Haitani boom among adult readers and attracted public attention to children’s literature.
Usagi no Me received the Japanese Association of Writers for Children Newcomer’s Prize in 1975. Haitani received the Robô no Ishi Literature Award in 1979. Usagi no Me was made into a serial television drama by NHK. It was made into a movie in 1979, and was translated into Korean in 1988. An English translation was published by Vertical in 2004.
The story is set in an elementary school in an industrial area. Relationships between a newly-appointed teacher, Miss Kotani, and her pupils living in terraced houses adjoining a waste treatment plant where their parents work are described. Tetsuzô who keeps flies as pets and knows lots about them is one of the pupils. He does not speak a word in class. One day, he happens to injure a classmate. Learning why he did it, Miss Kotani begins to study about flies with him. Facing a discriminatory society and school, she becomes wise and Tetsuzô opens his heart to her. Meanwhile, a plan is made to move the plant. Miss Kotani objects to the plan so that children do not have to change to another school.
Images of individual children, the teacher who takes them seriously, and adults who cannot be free from fixed ideas are vividly described in the story. Attitudes of always standing by the weak and resisting authority are characteristics of Haitani’s literature. On the other hand, it has been pointed out that the question remains whether conscience can really liberate people.