enpaku 早稲田大学演劇博物館

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Making of Minoru Betsuyaku: From His Unpublished First Play to the Soyosoyo Tribe

Meeting Friends and an Interest in Painting

After enrolling in Nagano City Yanagimachi Junior High School in 1951, Betsuyaku began painting when he met the teacher Shozo Uehara during an art class. Together with his classmate Masao Ogasawara, who would become his closest friend, they went painting all over Nagano City, as if competing. As he received comments from Uehara every time he finished a piece, becoming a painter soon became his aspiration. In his diary around this time, we can read that he visited his teacher’s house with Ogasawara and discussed painting. The words ‘It’s not the apple that is beautiful. What’s beautiful is that it’s there’, which Uehara used as something of a pet saying, were something Betsuyaku cherished all his life.
Upon enrolling in Nagano Prefecture Nagano Kita High School (present-day Nagano Prefecture Nagano High School) in 1954, Betsuyaku joined the art group, but according to Ogasawara, he also started writing novels in parallel. He and Ogasawara issued an amateur poetry magazine called Kappa in their second year of high school. To maintain the format of the magazine, they apparently struggled with having to use multiple pen names between themselves, but about 200 copies of the first issue were printed and sold to classmates and literature clubs at other schools, where it was well received. Betsuyaku’s pen names were Yoko Komura, Mizuhiko Mizuhara, Shinji Kureha, and Yoshio Mori. Although Kappa was discontinued after the second issue, Betsuyaku continued writing. ‘Tabi’ (socks), which appeared in the literature group’s magazine Izumi, was a short work that vividly depicts the lush feelings of ‘a boy’ who has taken a liking to a certain girl, mixed with excessive self-consciousness.
After graduating from high school, Betsuyaku left Nagano and moved to Tokyo, but he kept in touch with Ogasawara. We can gauge the depth of their friendship from letters that Betsuyaku wrote to Ogasawara back then. During this time, Ogasawara fell ill and was recuperating, and Betsuyaku sent a number of letters with jokes to encourage his friend. He would sometimes include poems and ask for Ogasawara’s comments or confide his worries about whether he should stop his activities in the Free Stage and devote himself to writing. These letters reveal that Ogasawara was one of Betsuyaku’s most trusted friends.

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