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Mori Ōgai

mori ōgai
Lieutenant-General Mori Ōgai 森 鷗外 / 森 鴎外, February 17, 1862 – July 8, 1922 was a Japanese Army Surgeon general officer, translator, novelist, poet and father of famed author Mari Mori The Wild Geese 1911–13 is considered his major work


  • 1 Biography
    • 11 Early life
    • 12 Early career
    • 13 Later career
    • 14 Literary career
  • 2 Legacy
  • 3 Cultural references
  • 4 Selected works
  • 5 Film
  • 6 Translations
  • 7 Sources
  • 8 See also
  • 9 Further reading
  • 10 References
  • 11 External links


Early lifeedit

Mori was born as Mori Rintarō 森 林太郎 in Tsuwano, Iwami Province present-day Shimane Prefecture His family were hereditary physicians to the daimyō of the Tsuwano Domain As the eldest son, it was assumed that he would carry on the family tradition; therefore he was sent to attend classes in the Confucian classics at the domain academy, and took private lessons in rangaku and Dutch

Mori Ōgai's statue at his birthhouse in Tsuwano

In 1872, after the Meiji Restoration and the abolition of the domains, the Mori family relocated to Tokyo Mori stayed at the residence of Nishi Amane, in order to receive tutoring in German, which was the primary language for medical education at the time In 1874, he was admitted to the government medical school the predecessor for Tokyo Imperial University's Medical School, and graduated in 1881 at the age of 19, the youngest person ever to be awarded a medical license in Japan It was also during this time that he developed an interest in literature, reading extensively from the late-Edo period popular novels, and taking lessons in Chinese poetry and literature

Early careeredit

The cover of the first issue of Shigarami sōshi in October 1889

After graduation, Mori enlisted in the Imperial Japanese Army as a medical officer, hoping to specialize in military medicine and hygiene He was commissioned as a deputy surgeon lieutenant in 1882

Mori Ōgai in military uniform

Mori was sent by the Army to study in Germany Leipzig, Dresden, Munich, and Berlin from 1884–1888 During this time, he also developed an interest in European literature As a matter of trivia, Mori Ōgai is the first Japanese known to have ridden on the Orient Express

Upon his return to Japan, he was promoted to surgeon first class captain in May 1885; after graduating from the Army War College in 1888, he was promoted to senior surgeon, second class lieutenant colonel in October 1889 Now a high-ranking army doctor, he pushed for a more scientific approach to medical research, even publishing a medical journal out of his own funds

Meanwhile, he also attempted to revitalize modern Japanese literature and published his own literary journal Shigarami sōshi, 1889–1894 and his own book of poetry Omokage, 1889 In his writings, he was an "anti-realist", asserting that literature should reflect the emotional and spiritual domain The short story "The Dancing Girl" 舞姫, Maihime, 1890 described an affair between a Japanese man and a German woman

In May 1893, Mori was promoted to senior surgeon, first class colonel In 1899, he married Akamatsu Toshiko, daughter of Admiral Akamatsu Noriyoshi, a close friend of Nishi Amane He divorced her the following year under acrimonious circumstances that irreparably ended his friendship with Nishi

Later careeredit

At the start of the First Sino-Japanese War of 1894–1895, Mori was sent to Manchuria and, the following year, to Taiwan In February 1899, he was appointed head of the Army Medical Corps with the rank of surgeon major-general and was based in Kokura, Kyūshū In 1902, he was reassigned to Tokyo He was attached to a division in the Russo-Japanese War, based out of Hiroshima

In 1907, Mori was promoted to Surgeon General of the Army lieutenant general, the highest post within the Japanese Army Medical Corps On his retirement in 1916 he was appointed director of the Imperial Museum

Literary careeredit

Although Mori did little writing from 1892–1902, he continued to edit a literary journal Mezamashi gusa, 1892–1909 He also produced translations of the works of Goethe, Schiller, Ibsen, Hans Christian Andersen, and Hauptmann

It was during the Russo-Japanese War 1904–05 that Mori started keeping a poetic diary After the war, he began holding tanka writing parties that included several noted poets such as Yosano Akiko

His later works can be divided into three separate periods From 1909–1912, he wrote mostly fiction based on his own experiences This period includes Vita Sexualis, and his most popular novel, Gan 雁, The Wild Geese 1911–13, which is set in 1881 Tokyo and was filmed by Shirō Toyoda in 1953 as The Mistress

From 1912–1916, he wrote mostly historical stories Deeply affected by the seppuku of General Nogi Maresuke in 1912, he explored the impulses of self-destruction, self–sacrifice and patriotic sentiment This period includes Sanshō Dayū 山椒大夫, and Takasebune 高瀬舟

From 1916, he turned his attention to biographies of late Edo period doctors


As an author, Mori is considered one of the leading writers of the Meiji period In his literary journals, he instituted modern literary criticism in Japan, based on the aesthetic theories of Karl von Hartmann

Mori Ōgai's statue at his house in Kokurakita Ward, Kitakyūshū

A house which Mori lived in is preserved in Kokurakita Ward in Kitakyūshū, not far from Kokura Station Here he wrote Kokura Nikki "Kokura Diary" His birthhouse is also preserved in Tsuwano The two one-story houses are remarkably similar in size and in their traditional Japanese style

One of Mori's daughters, the author Mori Mari, who was nineteen years old at the time of his death, wrote extensively about her relationship with her father Starting with her 1961 novella, A Lovers' Forest, 恋人たちの森 koibito tachi no mori, she wrote tragic stories about love affairs between older men and boys in their late teens which influenced the creation of the Yaoi genre, stories about male-male relationships, written by women for women, that began to appear in the nineteen seventies in Japanese novels and comics1 Mori's sister, Kimiko, married Koganei Yoshikiyo Hoshi Shinichi was one of their grandsons

Cultural referencesedit

Ogai Mori, along with many other historical figures from the Meiji Restoration is a character in the historical fiction novel Saka no Ue no Kumo by Ryōtarō Shiba He also plays a significant part in the historical fantasy novel Teito Monogatari by Hiroshi Aramata

Mori is a character in the manga and anime adaptation of Bungo Stray Dogs Bungo Stray Dogs uses the names, stories and biographical details of authors to create its characters

Selected worksedit

  • Maihime 舞姫, The Dancing Girl 1890
  • Utakata no ki うたかたの記, Foam on the Waves 1890
  • Fumizukai 文づかひ, The Courier 1891
  • Wita sekusuarisu ヰタ・セクスアリス, Vita Sexualis 1909
  • Seinen 青年, Young Men 1910
  • Gan 雁, The Wild Geese 1911–13
  • Okitsu Yagoemon no isho 興津弥五右衛門の遺書, The Last Testament of Okitsu Yagoemon 1912
  • Sanshō Dayū 山椒大夫, Sanshō the Steward 1915
  • Takasebune 高瀬舟, The Boat on the Takase River 1916
  • Shibue Chūsai 渋江抽斎, Shibue Chusai 1916


  • Sansho the Bailiff, a milestone in Japanese movie history,2 is based on a short story by the author3


  • The Columbia Anthology of Modern Japanese Literature: From Restoration to Occupation, 1868-1945 Modern Asian Literature Series vol 1, ed J Thomas Rimer and Van C Gessel 2007 Contains "The Dancing Girl," and "Down the Takase River"
  • Modern Japanese Stories: An Anthology, ed Ivan Morris 1961 Rutland, Vt: Charles E Tuttle, 1966 Contains "Under Reconstruction"
  • The Historical Fiction of Mori Ôgai, ed David A Dilworth and J Thomas Rimer 1977 Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1991 A one-volume paperback edition of an earlier two-volume collection of stories
  • Modern Japanese Stories: An Anthology, ed Ivan Morris 1961 Rutland, Vt: Charles E Tuttle, 1966 Contains "Under Reconstruction"
  • Sansho-Dayu and Other Short Stories, trans Tsutomu Fukuda Tokyo: Hokuseido Press, 1970
  • Vita Sexualis, trans Kazuji Ninomiya and Sanford Goldstein 1972 Boston: Tuttle Publishing, 200
  • The Wild Geese, trans Ochiai Kingo and Sanford Goldstein Boston: Tuttle Publishing, 1959
  • The Wild Goose, trans Burton Watson 1995 Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Center for Japanese Studies, 1998
  • Youth and Other Stories collection of stories, ed J Thomas Rimer 1994 Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1995


  • Japanese Literature Home Page biography

See alsoedit

  • Kokura
  • Takasebune

Further readingedit

  • Salomon, Harald compiler Mori Ôgai: A Bibliography of Western-language Materials Volume 10 of Izumi Series Otto Harrassowitz Verlag, 2008 ISBN 3447058048, 9783447058049 See preview at Google Books


  1. ^ Vincent, Keith 2007 "A Japanese Electra and Her Queer Progeny" In Lunning, Frenchy Mechademia 2 University of Minnesota Press p 64 ISBN 9780816652662 
  2. ^ "Tales and Tragedies of Kenjo Mozoguchi" Retrieved 2015-03-02 
  3. ^ "Sansho the Bailiff" Retrieved 2015-03-12 

External linksedit

  • Mori, Ogai | Portraits of Modern Japanese Historical Figures National Diet Library
  • e-texts of Mori Ōgai 's works at Aozora bunko
  • Ogai Mori's grave
  • Works by or about Mori Ōgai at Internet Archive
  • Works by Mori Ōgai at LibriVox public domain audiobooks

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