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Modern Japanese woman leaving for Europe to find a way in life

Modern Japanese woman leaving for Europe to find a way in life

Posted March. 11, 2017 07:03,   

Updated March. 11, 2017 07:09

“What should a woman do if she wants to continue to study without compromising her femininity and dignity or to survive in society without aiming only at marriage? You cannot do anything unless you make a road.”

In the 1960s when an overseas trip was unusual, there was a brave woman who left war-torn Japan to study abroad. She is Atsuko Suga, a Japanese scholar, translator and essayist. She published three books “Friends of the Corsia bookstore scene” and “The Sound of the Bell in Venice” as well as “Milan, the scenery of fogs,” her first essay and the 30th female literary award winner.

It was taken for granted that women made a family after graduating from a girls’ school back then. Despite her parents’ opposition, she was the first to enter Japan’s first women’s university. With an aspiration for the broader world and academic curiosity, she left for Europe. Her essay shows her long journey where she left for a foreign country for an independent life and returned to Japan in a decade.

“Milan, the scenery of fogs,” her first essay that she wrote at the age of 60, was inspired by famous Italian writers including Umberto Saba, and Giovanni Pascoli. Her inspiration was combined with friends she made in Milan for 13 years and the scene of the city where she used to walk, describing the live in a foreign country vividly.

Though she had a taste of a girl, there were more concerns as a young person who thought about an independent life as a human, not as a woman. The Friends of the Corsica Bookstore” is based on her experience as a foreigner in a Catholic student movement that swept the European continent after the Second World War. “The Sound of the Bell in Venice” is about a long story from her early years, studying abroad in the beginning and her story as of today at the age of over 60. Reading the books make one feel peek the secret of a woman who moved back and forth between Japan and Europe.

Sun-Hee Jang sun10@donga.com