Writing on the Walls

This week Church Publishing has been reading about Ryōtarō Shiba, a Japanese author, between editing one of our favorite novels, Freedom Incorporated by Cosmo Starlight, in preparation for its 5th Edition release. In it Freedom is a massive low-security work camp without borders. Instead of describing the prison, what it looks like, how the system works, or the way it feels to live in Freedom Inc., Cosmo Starlight writes how after being followed one prisoner realizes where he was born is not the place chartered.

The protagonist refuses to call the prison Freedom since groups with separate agendas and secret systems exert control over free-thought. But when he refused one group of wardens poison him and their opposing wardens lock him in jail. Then the latter group coerce him to testify the prison is called Freedom and guards caught tracking him were a figment of his imagination. When he refuses they isolated him in solitary confinement.

The character doesn’t mind living in prison. He likes concrete rooms and mattresses without sheets. And he found a way to keep sane by turning Freedom Inc. into Freedom Ink by writing his story to lead the system without bombs, bullets, powders, or secret policemen.

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, his most well known and widely read book inside Japan perhaps, is about ninjas and won the Naoki Prize in 1960.

Design by the Japanese Tadao Ando
Shiba Ryotaro Memorial Museum

Another of his novels, “Ryōma ga Yuku,” is about following the leader. This historical novel details a civil war after two hundred years of isolation that resulted from calls to renew a relationship with Western Civilization. It portrays Samurai as instrumental in bringing about Japan’s restoration after realizing innovation propelled Western societies ahead of Japan’s and that advancement could benefit its citizens. Change didn’t come cheaply, many Japanese heroes sacrificed their lives in what was called the Meiji Restoration in 1868. But its success was responsible for the emergence of Japan as a modern nation state.

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 a critical look into modern life and gave the men and women of Japan moral support after a devastating world war.

His namesake memorial museum, pictured above, was built next to the house the author lived for future generations to enjoy. Its walls contain the books Ryōtarō Shiba collected.

According to its designer Tadao 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 and natural light moving into darker interior spaces reveals an exhibition of literature on the wall three stories high. And 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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Sources: Wikipedia, Flickr, Architectuul