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51 writers' handwritten manuscripts for Sunday Mainichi magazine found

Handwritten manuscripts written for the Sunday Mainichi magazine by popular writers in the years preceding World War II are pictured here at the Mainichi Shimbun Newspapers Tokyo head office. (Mainichi)

Massive volumes of handwritten drafts of fiction and essays written by dozens of popular authors from 1933 to 1934 for Japan's oldest weekly news magazine, Sunday Mainichi, have been found.

    The drafts are expected to become prized primary sources in literary research, as they show how famous writers added expressions or switched around word order in their writing process.

    There is a possibility that a staff member in the magazine's editorial department took the documents out of the office to protect them from fires caused by bombings during World War II. A figure who was entrusted with the documents after the staff member's death donated them to the magazine in June of this year.

    The handwritten drafts include writings by 51 writers, such as Kan Kikuchi, Sanjugo Naoki, Koji Uno and Masuji Ibuse. For one of his short stories, Naoki wrote his small, rounded characters centered on the right half of each box on manuscript paper, with hardly any revisions, showing that the writer likely wrote the text in one unwavering go. Meanwhile, Koji Uno, known as "a literature devil" wrote about his impressions of Osaka in an essay titled "Urayamashii Osaka" (Envious of Osaka), "It is a city of mountains and water, not of smoke and soot." His manuscript papers were black, with his writing filling up each square to the brim. Kido Okamoto's manuscript for his short story "Yume no Oshichi" (Oshichi in dreams), had numerous seals bearing the words "urgent" and "rush" stamped on it, hinting at the busy typesetting process before the deadline.

    The comedic actor Roppa Furukawa wrote about his job, "There's nothing better than this," in handwriting that looks as if it were dancing. Also among the manuscripts was a memoir by Eleonora Ragusa, or Ragusa Tama, a painter who returned to Japan after spending half a century in Italy.

    "There is a wide range of writers represented among the manuscripts, because the magazine was such a major one," says Shunji Chiba, a Waseda University professor of modern Japanese literature. "It's very rare for such a large volume of handwritten manuscripts to be found at once."

    The Sunday Mainichi magazine was launched in 1922 as a project commemorating the building of a new company building of the Osaka Mainichi Shimbun, one of the predecessors to the Mainichi Shimbun, along with the Eibun Mainichi English edition and the Tenji Mainichi Braille edition.

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