I have been working on my Japanese with the goal of passing the JLPT test this year, and the book To You Who Will Live in the 21st Century by Shiba Ryotaro has proven to be very helpful. He was arguably one of the most famous Japanese authors of his time, and his works are still highly influential and well-known across the country. He soon became famous for his essays and short stories chronicling the history of Japan and the countrys relationship to the rest of the world. His pen name is particularly interesting, although perhaps difficult to explain to those who do not speak Japanese (and I am not sure I do it justice here): The surname, Shiba () is taken from Sima Qian (), a historian of the early Han dynasty, who wrote very influential historical works despite facing many hardships in life. To You Who Will Live in the 21st Century is a collection of three essays that the author wrote that were published together in 1999, three years after his death. The author explains that although human beings are connected to one another by necessity, young people still feel fulfilled by experiences that they perceive as unconnected to anyone else in the world. This, Shiba says, is the magnificence of humanity and also the reason why he chose to write the essay that follows this one, To You Who Will Live in the 21st Century, which serves as a letter to future generations all over the world. Shiba explains that there is one thing he is sad about, and that is the fact that he will not live to see the 21st century. However, he goes on to say that the reader will, and so because of this he would like to share to them the basic way for humans to live that he has learned from studying history. In the final essay, titled The Torch of Koan, Shiba presents to us the life of Koan Ogata, a doctor in the late Edo period who heavily influenced Japanese society. To better understand Shibas mindset while writing these essays, and also the mindset of those reading them, here is some information on Japan in the 1990s, taken from a report by the Prime Ministers Commission on Japans Goals in the 21st Century and an empirical investigation of the Japanese economy by Warwick J. This, along with the disastrous Great Hanshin Awaji earthquake of 1995, and the devastating Aum Shinrikyo subway attack in the same year, led many Japanese to feel like their sense of family solidarity, their quality of education, social stability and safety were at risk. The science and technology of the twenty-first century must be used not to conquer nature but to support lives that are spiritually as well as materially affluent, accompanied by a sense that human beings themselves are part of nature. While the economic situation in the early 1990s was certainly bleak, McKibbin points to signs of a sustained recovery in the early part of 1996, and states that the prospects for the Japanese economy over the next decade are not as bleak as commonly believed. To You Who Will Live in the 21st Century is a book that is addressed first and foremost to children, and yet I believe that it can be enjoyed by people of all ages. In my opinion, he focuses too little on the positive aspects that developments in science and technology can bring forth, instead going the route that I feel many adults do when they are cautious of something: simply warning people with no mention of possible benefits. This shows how important social contact is to us humans, and how right Shiba is in accentuating this point. Because of this, I believe Shibas statement is vital for the youth in Japan, especially in the globalised world of today. I dont feel that the way of life presented by Shiba is inspiring or admirable, and in my opinion its a shame that the author seems to believe it is. I believe, just as he wrote, that compassion and trustworthiness are two very important human characteristics that shape our personalities from the very foundation.
Rytar Shiba ( )born Teiichi Fukuda ( Fukuda Teiichi?, August 7, 1923 February 12, 1996) in Osaka, Japan, was a Japanese author best known for his novels about historical events in Japan and on the Northeast Asian sub-continent, as well as his historical and cultural essays pertaining to Japan and its relationship to the rest of the world. After World War II Shiba began writing historical novels.