“Features on a Quince” (original Japanese title: “Marumero ni me hana no tsuku hanashi,” 1920) remains something of a hidden gem among short stories by Izumi Kyōka (1873–1939), a writer known for his tales of fantasy and beauty and admired by many of the most famous names in modern Japanese literature, such as Akutagawa Ryūnosuke (1892–1927), Tanizaki Jun’ichirō (1886–1965), and Mishima Yukio (1925–1970). The story is set in the neighborhood of Kanazawa City where Kyōka grew up, and through depictions of real-life sites like the Kuboichi Ototsurugi Shrine, where Kyōka would play as a child, and the Kuragari-zaka or “Slope of Darkness,” a gloomy path down the hill behind the shrine leading into the pleasure quarters along the southwest bank of the Asano River, we sense Kyōka drawing on his own childhood memories as he shows us an adult realm of sexual desire through the eyes of the protagonist, the boy Kenzō. The story’s title refers to the fruit of a quince to which Kenzō has given eyes and a nose in the form of little bite marks; accordingly, the face on the quince takes on a striking resemblance to the features of the local beauty, Otowa, and seems to cast a spell on all the boys around. This quince, and the exquisite fragrance that envelops it, emits a seductive allure—a forbidden fruit threatening to put an end to Kenzō’s age of innocence as a boy yet to experience his sexual awakening.
Kyōka was an author who excelled at stirring up the reader’s imagination through various suggestive hints in his prose, thereby using a sort of alchemy to share with his reader the distinct experience of a world unseen. The fruits of such talents, however, are not limited to his so-called “fantastic” or supernatural fiction. Nakagawa Gaku, illustrator of Features...view more
Gold in Book Design 2020
Illustrated by Nakagawa Gaku / Research curator at the Izumi Kyoka Kinenkan Museum by Anakura Tamaki / Translated by Peter Bernard / Calligraphic e...