This short report which I am going to write is primarily to put in order some visions confusedly tangled in my heart and secondly to be somewhat useful for the superiors to decide my destination. Maybe this report will seem to those more experienced very idealistic or too ambitious. I realize this, but at the same time I know that it is a privilege of young men to cherish great hopes and it’s their painful duty to see their plan fade gradually and become more ordinary and modest. Anyhow I will write sincerely what I am thinking without any hesitation.
1) What do I want to do in future?
Naturally I want to be ordained to the Priesthood and to work for the salvation of my countrymen as a priest. From my noviciate I have been thinking what I should do for the salvation of my brothers. Maybe it is the best way to become a saint myself. But what KIND of saint? We can’t become St. Iganatius or St. Francisco Xavier. We must become a Ignatius or a Francisco Xavier of our days and of our country, Japan. We sometimes mistake the words “sibi mortuus”. We must be “crucifixus mundo”, but we should not kill the good part of our personality. We must bring up our talent which God has given us for the Glory of God and for the good of ourselves and our neighbours. We should not hide the talent in the ground like that slothful servant of Math.25.
Am I going to say that I have some talent which I should cultivate? I don’t know. But when I reflect on myself I can find some inclinations: a strong sympathy for the poor men, and a strong interest in literature. I said “poor men”, but this doesn’t mean immediately that I am interested in “social works”. I don’t have any talent of the line of business or enterprise. I just want to be an adviser and friend of poor men, specially of young workers. In line with this principle I wanted to work for them, writing and giving lectures. Last year I had a little experience in Christmas Village. The poor men want rather to talk with us than to be given milk and lard. It is necessary for us to work systematically and furnish equipment, but at the same time it is equally necessary for us to become their friends and advisers. For example the faithful of Soka Gakkai has a very strong influence on poor classes without any big building and material support. On the contrary sometimes they even demand their faithful contribution to Gakkai. When I talk about this problem almost everybody advises me to study sociology. Maybe my opinion is somewhat sentimental and “literary”.
But I can say I understand the mentality of the poor very well. Speaking more concretely, I liked to work as an assistant of the Fathers who work more directly in the field. But gradually I became to notice that there was not such a room for a writer in our province.
I wrote that I had a strong interest in literature. In another occasion I wrote about this more generally. So here I will write more personally. To tell the truth, when I realized that my hope or plan of working for the young workers writing articles and sometimes giving lectures on the problem of the life was not practical, I was at a loss what to do. It has been my opinion that for the rooting of the Catholicism it is necessary the help of literature. This fact can be confirmed in the histories of Catholicism in many countries. Theology can furnish a very nice theory but what makes it clear and concrete has been always the literature of that country. In my opinion our faith is not real one if it is not backed up by sentiment: intellectual faith is just as skeleton without flesh.
When I was thinking about working for the young workers, I thought it would be very effective to write the Christian message in a form of criticism of literature. On that time (last October) I met Toshio Shimao, a novelist who is a cousin of my mother. I talked with him about many things,specially of criticism of literature. Then he said that if some critics who were Catholic could criticize suitably the works of Japanese literature from the Christian viewpoint, it would benefit tremendously the novelists and also readers. Although the contemporary Japanese literature seems somewhat confused, it is seeking the solution of the existential problem of man. And he said if I would like to work in future in this field he would willingly help me and introduce me to his friends, novelists and critics and poets.
So, from that time I could meet many people and everybody treated me very friendly and advised me of something useful to write correctly. Among them there are also so called leftists but they are very sincere in seeking the truth and justice. I can say that we could be able to have cordial dialogue with them if we would approach them without any prejudice or pride. Anyway I could believe firmly that in this field of literature one could work very effectively and find APERTURA to a real dialogue with Japanese culture and people.
2) What kind of preparation be necessary?
First of all I would thought that it would be better to study in the department of Japanese literature. But afterwords when I saw the present situation and listen to some advice of critics, I felt that it wasn’t necessary to study in the university. The reasons are these: first, at present in universities the main current is the study of bibliography; second, the professors don’t teach how to write; third, mainly they treat ancient literature, and the study of contemporary literature is merely an appendix; fourth, generally speaking most of the literary critics are from the other fields; for example, from French literature, English literature, or even from scientific fields. This odd fact could be explained in that one could criticize objectively and freely only when he can see the subject from inside and outside, but in any case it is tremendously necessary to read deeply and have a quite clear-cut knowledge of Japanese literature.
But in my case what should I do if God wanted me to work in this field? Now it’s time to describe more concretely what I am thinking.
I think it is better to use my regency for improving myself in writing and to store up the necessary knowledge for criticism. More concretely I say that I’d like to work part-time in a publishing company taking part in editing of magazines or literary books. Doing this I could be able to know the real situation of publishing and this experience would be useful both in writing and helping in future when we publish some books. I think I could find a suitable publishing company (even now I know a head of a publishing company and some editors of literary publishing). At the same time I will study writing, looking to some novelists or critics for guidance. (※See the last page)
3) To be specialist or mere writer
I can’t say about this clearly now. I know that it is quite difficult to be a writer without any special job like that of a teacher. Indeed many literary men are professors of the universities. The reason has to do with the title of professor, which aids both the name value of the books and maintenance of one’s family. (I don’t mention here the sincere teachers who apply themselves honestly to the education of students).
I studied Spanish at Sophia University. From that time on I have used Spanish in reading and translating spiritual or philosophical books. So if it would be necessary for me to have a certain job (besides writing) I could be able to to use this knowledge of Spanish. But to teach Spanish literature I must study it more systematically and more academically. But where? Maybe it will be necessary to go to Spain to gain a degree in Spanish literature. But when? If I should go to Spain I’d like to go after finishing the study of theology and ordination.
The reasons are these: first, the land where I must work is Japan, so during my theologate I’d like to to see the present situation of Japan and think more deeply about the real problem of the evangelization of my country. Second, I haven’t yet practiced much writing and have not yet read books which are necessary for forming some visions of Japanese literature. Third, I think it’s better to have contact more with the writers of Japan and make a suitable atmosphere for the future work in this field.
If the department of Spanish doesn’t want a Japanese teacher, I could be able to teach some introduction to Catholicism. Or at that time (after my Tertianship) if the situation changes, there will be room for a writer in Christmas Village.
Nobody knows and even myself don’t know whether I have the ability for going this special road and whether I can do something useful for the Glory of Christ. But it’s the duty of man to endeavour to reach the goal and it’s also the duty of man to accept the result of his labor humbly.
But before concluding this report I must say something again why I’d like to be writer or critic. My big desire which I can’t ever extinguish is to know what is Japan, who are Japaneses; and these questions, I think, finally coincide with this question: who am I in the history of the Salvation. The main theme of my criticism will be to listen to the secrete Voice of God in Japan. Generally speaking the novelists are seeking the most important problem like “what is man?” but in confusion and in a worldly sense. In the contemporary literature even the symptoms of a metaphysical interrogation can be seen. It’s real duty of critics to guide them to the very root of the problems. For this reason the study of philosophy and theology will be extremely necessary and vital to me.
If I could write articles to magazines and could have many friends with whom I could talk freely and suggest the Christian viewpoint, it would be of some to the evangelization of Japan. My principal aim is to know more deeply and concretely the Japanese culture and our brothers and seek the possibility of real dialogue between Catholicism and the Japanese culture and people. Junichiro Sako is a Protestant critic and up to the date has written many books on literature and has many friends among literary men. He travels all over the country to give lectures at churches and schools when he doesn’t write. My hope in future is to write articles, poems and to translate good books, to give lectures at churches and schools about the religious problems of man in literature.
I don’t know whether I could express what I wanted to say neither it is useful to decide my destination. But anyway I must stop here because my SHORT report is getting more and more involved.
On the fiesta of St. Peter Canisius,
Francis T. Sasaki, s.j.
※ If this plan seemed to the superiors somewhat impractical I’d like to go to Nagatsuka to study Japanese classics and composition from the Prof. Inaga and contemporary Japanese literature from Prof. Isogai of Hiroshima University. (Prof. Isogai guided me kindly when I was a junior) In any case I’d like to know the possibility of mine in this field. Because sometimes we are like frogs in a well.