Hakai (Novel) (破戒 (小説))

"Hakai" (The Broken Commandment) is a full-length novel by Toson SHIMAZAKI. He began this work in 1905, at the end of his stay in Komoro. In March 1906, he published it at his own expense as the first work issued by Ryokuin sosho.

It describes the life of an elementary school teacher from a buraku (the outcaste communities), who struggles and suffers because of his origin, until he finally confesses his background. It was Toson's first work after he turned to writing novels, and stood at the vanguard of Japanese naturalist literature. Soseki NATSUME praised "Hakai" (in a letter addressed to Sohei MORITA) as "it is a masterpiece among those novels written in Meiji Period, which should be passed on to future generations."


In the late Meiji period, the main character Ushimatsu SEGAWA, born into a buraku community, grew up under his father's commandment to keep his birth and social status concealed all his life. Ushimatsu grew up as an adult staying faithful to his father's commandment, and became a teacher at an elementary school. However, he secretly revered Rentaro INOKO, a liberation activist who was also born into a buraku community. Ushimatsu felt that he would be able to disclose his background only to Inoko; although he almost speak it out in some occasions, his feeling always wavered, and the days passed by. After a while, a rumor spread out in school that Ushimatsu was from a buraku community, shortly followed by the brave death of Inoko.

Either from the harshness of the shock, or the suspicions of his colleagues and others, Ushimatsu felt he was driven into a corner. Finally, he broke his father's commandment and disclosed his background. In the end, Ushimatsu left home and set out for Texas in the United States of America.

Influence on Other Literary Works
This novel (especially the scene of Ushimatsu revealing his background to his students) appeared in Sue SUMII's "Hashi no nai kawa" (The River with No Bridge), and became the topic of conversation among Seitaro and other characters. In that scene, Seitaro took a critical view toward the way how Ushimatsu begged for his students' forgiveness, putting on his knees on the classroom podium when he reveal his background. Similar to "Hakai", "Hashi no nai kawa" is also a literary work dealing with the subject of discrimination against the buraku communities. However, with respect to their views or stances on discrimination, they are different to the point of being almost opposite.

In fact, the perspectives regarding those recognition, opinion, liberation movements toward this particular discrimination issue varry so much that it is extremely difficult to go beyond the basic grasp of the matter. It risks the danger of reopening old wounds by the very nature of the issue. This can also be said to pose an obstacle for a deeper understanding of the issue.

History of Publication
This novel, first published at the author's own expense, was purchased in April 1913 by Shincho-sha Company for a very high price, (two thousand yen in the value of that time) and it was published by the company. In February 1922, this novel was published second time, included in the third volume of the "Toson zenshu" (the collected works of Toson SHIMAZAKI, Toson zenshu kankokai). Although Toson wrote at the end of the book that he had "quite intensively revised for details", all he did was actually to change a few expressions.

In 1929, 'Hakai' appeared in the 'Shimazaki Toson hen' (the Toson SHIMAZAKI volume), which was the sixth volume of the "Gendai chohen shosetsu zenshu" (A Collection of Modern Long Fiction, Shinchosha). At that time, Toson regarded this novel as a 'story of the past'. This indicates that he was conscious of a campaign led by Zenkoku Suiheisha (the National Levelers' Association) to develop Buraku Liberation Movement for abolishing discriminatory language and behavior. It seems that this edition soon became out of print due to the pressure from certain organizations. Later, Suiheisha criticized this suppression of free speech, and even praised "Hakai" as having 'contributed to progressive enlightenment'. Then, in 1938, they decided to 'support the reprinting of "Hakai"'.

Thus, in the following year, 'Hakai' appeared in the tenth volume of the "Teihon Toson bunko". However, Toson replaced or deleted some discriminatory language on this occasion. The Buraku Kaiho Zenkoku Iinkai (the National Committee for Buraku Liberation) criticized this behavior by Toson, stating that the alterlation of how to call the name of being discriminated would not help change the discrimination itself. In 1953, 'Hakai', with a text based on the first edition, appeared in the 'Shimazaki Toson shu' (the Toson SHIMAZAKI collection), which was the eighth volume of the "Gendai Nihon bungaku zenshu" (Collection of Current Japanese literature, Chikuma Shobo). The committee issued a written statement pointing out that the publisher, Chikuma Shobo, had not taken into account of the people who were suffering from the Buraku problem. The "Hakai" of the Shincho Bunko edition that had been published since 1954 also changed its text to that of the first edition, starting from its 59th printing in 1971.

[Original Japanese]