Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Jiro Osaragi - a writer who loved cats

Two curiosities about Jiro Osaragi.

I mentioned yesterday that Osaragi was a sort of a French Japanese writer. His museum contains his enormous archive of French historical documents, with a particularly rich store of material about the Dreyfus affair.

It turns out that during the 1930s Osaragi wrote a historical novel set during the French Third Republic, about the Dreyfus affair. He wrote a novel about France as a way to criticize the Japanese military government while evading the censorship. After the war, Osaragi wrote two more novels set around the same time, one about the corruption scandal surrounding France’s attempt to build a Panama canal, the other about the 1870 Siege of Paris and the Paris Commune. I think that's it on the left.

I would love to read one of these novels.

Second curious fact about Jiro Osaragi: the man loved cats. At one point, when he moved to a larger house, he did not sell the old one, but gave it over to his eighteen cats. So he kept two households, one for himself, one for his cats.

The Jiro Osaragi Memorial Museum is full of, aside from his books and papers, his collection of cat-related stuff. Statues of cats, for example, including the waving cat figurines one sees at Chinese restaurants.

Also, paintings of cats. And books about cats. One of these is called Cats for Pleasure and Profit. The architectural details of the building, such as window frames, sometimes incorporate cat designs, although I could not get a good picture of any of them. No living cats, though.

Any cat lover visiting Yokohama would be a fool not to plunk down their 200 yen and see this museum.


  1. Has any of his work been translated?

  2. Two novels ("The Journey" and "The Homecoming"), both about the American Occupation, have made it into English. Both are pretty easy to find.

    But poking around French Amazon, there's a lot more available in French.

  3. When Edward Lear was forced to move house in San Remo he had a new home built to the exact specification of the old one, so as not to confuse his beloved cat Foss.

  4. I forgot to say, Foss was blind by this time.

  5. Thank you, Neil, for that beautiful, crackpot story. No, Hodge shall not be shot. Speaking of Lear, i expect to see some Nonsense on WE in the near future.

  6. That makes three. Interesting post. The Hemingway cats in Key West also come to mind.