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Knowing Osamu Dazai

Tracing the roots of Osamu Dazai, the great writer

Literary awakening and school years of uncertainty

School years

From entering elementary school until his years at Tokyo Imperial University

From left to right: Osamu Dazai, his younger brother Reiji, Teijiro Nakamura
From left to right: Osamu Dazai, his younger
brother Reiji, Teijiro Nakamura

■1916: Entered Kanagi Lower Elementary School.
Shuji graduated from Kanagi Lower Elementary School with top grades in all his classes. Skeptical about those high grades, the Tsushima family sent Shuji to Meiji Higher Elementary School (established by the association of local authorities) in order to further develop his academic skills. Shuji attended this school for about a year.

■1922: Entered Meiji Higher Elementary School (established by the association of local authorities).
During his higher elementary school years, Shuji took private lessons after school under Masamori Sobajima, his relative and class teacher, in order to better learn Japanese, writing skills and arithmetic. In the meantime, his father Genemon died in Tokyo while being treated for influenza in a hospital. While funeral arrangements were being made, Masamori Sobajima accompanied Shuji to take the entrance examination for Aomori High School, which later accepted him.

■1925: Entered Aomori Prefectural High School.
Shuji stayed at the house of a distant relative, Tazaemon Toyoda, while attending high school. He was in the same class as Teijiro Nakamura and Gosei Abe. During his school years, he published his literary works in a number of local literary magazines, such as Shinkiro (Mirage), Seiza (Constellation) and Aonbo (Youth). He completed the five-year high school course in four years.

■1927: Entered Hirosaki Public Senior High School.
Shuji entered Hirosaki Public Senior High School and stayed at the house of another distant relative, Toyosaburo Fujita, while attending this school. During his senior high school years, he started a local literary magazine called Saibo Bungei (literally, “Cell Literature”), and published “Bottomless Abyss.” He also published a work entitled “A Hereditary Landlord” in a magazine entitled Zahyo (Coordinates), in which he criticized Japanese landlords.
During this period, he took an overdose of Calmotine and fell into a coma. Several days after regaining consciousness, he took a vacation accompanied by his mother in order to recuperate at the Yamani Senyu Inn in Owani Hot Springs.
He also learned gidayu—a traditional Japanese narrative art—during his one year of senior high school.

■1930: Entered the French Literature Course at Tokyo Imperial University.
Shuji again took an overdose of Calmotine at Koyurugisaki Cape in Kamakura with a girl named Atsumi Tanabe, a waitress at a bar called Hollywood, but was found the next morning suffering from the effects of the drug. While the girl died, Shuji survived and was hospitalized at Shichirigahama Keifuen Clinic.
At the Shibata Inn in Ikarigaseki Hot Springs where he was staying for treatment, he celebrated a private wedding with Hatsuyo Oyama.
Knowing that he could no longer graduate from university, Shuji took an examination to work for a newspaper (Miyako Shimbun) but failed the examination. He then unsuccessfully attempted to hang himself on Mt. Kamakura. Although a search request was filed with the local police, Shuji returned home on his own. He was soon expelled from Tokyo Imperial University for failure to pay the tuition.

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