This week Church Publishing has been reading about Ryōtarō Shiba, a Japanese author, between re-editing one of our favorite novels, Freedom Incorporated by Cosmo Starlight, in preparation for its fifth edition release. In this novel Freedom is a massive low security work camp with no borders, it is the world. Instead of describing the prison, what it looks like, the system people work within or how it feels, Cosmo Starlight writes the story of how one prisoner realizes the place he was born into is not the same place mapped in Freedom’s charter, a document every child is forced to learn, after being followed for trying to get away from things.
In Freedom Incorporated the protaganist refuses to call the prison freedom because groups with separate agendas and secret systems of government seek to exert control over free-thinking individuals. When he refused to call the system freedom one group of wardens poison him and an opposing group locks him in jail. To secure his release the latter group attempted to coerce him into testifying that this prison is called freedom and the guards he caught chasing him were just a figment of his imagination. He refused again and they condemned him to solitary confinement.
The character doesn’t mind living in prison. He actually likes concrete rooms and mattresses without sheets. And he found a way to keep sane, turning Freedom Inc. into Freedom Ink by writing his experience down in order to lead the prison system without bombs or bullets, powders, and with fewer police men.
Ryōtarō Shiba, whose namesake memorial museum is pictured below, was born in 1923 Osaka, Japan. He studied Mongolian, traveled, and similar to Ernest Hemingway began writing historical novels after an experience in journalism. “Fukuro no Shiro,” The Castle of Owls, perhaps his most well known and widely read inside Japan, is about Ninjas and won the Naoki Prize in 1960.
Another one of his novels, “Ryōma ga Yuku,” is about following the leader. This historical novel shows Samurai were instrumental in bringing about Japan’s restoration after two hundred years of isolation and details the civil war and assassinations that resulted from calls to renew a relationship with Western culture. After realizing innovation had propelled Western societies far ahead of Japan’s, sentiments at that time were Western technological advancement could benefit citizens of the island nation. Change didn’t come cheaply and many Japanese heroes sacrificed their lives in what was called the Meiji Restoration in 1868. It’s success, however, was responsible for the emergence of Japan as a modernized nation.
Ryōtarō Shiba was a prolific author who wrote at least 39 novels and a massive series of journals about his travels across East Asia to places like Korea. His work took on a critical look into modern life and gave the men and women of Japan moral support proceeding a devastating world war.
His namesake memorial museum pictured above, designed by Tadao Ando, was built next to the house the author lived in for future generations to enjoy. It’s filled with the books Ryōtarō Shiba collected .
According to Tado Ando the objective of the architecture was to create a visualization of the inner workings of an author’s mind. Curved and partly underground, a garden, natural light moving into darker interior spaces reveals an exhibition of literature three stories high.
One window that filters light into many patterns symbolizes how humanity breaks down into individuals of all shapes, sizes, and minds. That’s what the author saw, and what he tried to reveal to the world.
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