Dazai Osamu

Dazai Osamu

Osamu Dazai was born on June 6, 1909, in Iyo-machi (now part of Ehime Prefecture), and grew up in Matsuyama City, Ehime, on Shikoku Island. He was the second son of five children and the first son after three daughters, with an older brother named Junpei and two younger brothers named Hisao and Daizō. Dazai Osamu’s mother died when he was young, so his maternal grandmother raised him.

Early Life:

Osamu Dazai’s early life is not well known. His birth name is Tachibana Ujichika, and his family had served under Nabeshima Naoshige, a feudal lord who ruled over what would eventually become Saga Prefecture. Both of Dazai Osamu parents died when he was young, and he and his younger brother were left in their grandfather’s care. He attended middle school in Himeji and later enrolled at Waseda University in Tokyo.

A restless spirit, he dropped out of Waseda University during his first year and joined a theatre troupe. He also traveled around Japan during these years, writing and publishing poetry. Although Dazai Osamu intended to travel overseas, his plans were delayed by tuberculosis in both knees. During his convalescence in hospital, he began writing semi-autobiographical short stories (similar to those of RyunosukeAkutagawa). By 1930, however, he had recovered sufficiently to begin traveling again – beginning with a visit to Singapore.

Writing Career:


Dazai Osamu
                                                            Dazai Osamu

Before becoming a full-time writer, Japanese author Osamu Dazai worked as a civil servant, failed twice to pass entrance exams for Tokyo Imperial University, and spent six months in jail. Afterward, he turned to writing and became one of Japan’s most celebrated authors.

In Dazai Osamu’s lifetime, he penned 15 novels, 13 volumes of short, stories, and five dramas. He is also well known for being part of what is referred to as The Unhappy Generation, which refers to Japanese writers who were disillusioned by World War II. According to The New York Times, while alive Dazai Osamu told his biographer I live on my nerves. Shortly after that statement was published an accident caused him serious head injuries resulting in suicide.

The first major work published by Japanese author Osamu Dazai was No Longer Human, in which he fictionalized his troubled life as a youth. In an interview with The New York Times, translator Donald Keene said that people couldn’t believe it when he looked so young because his writing had such maturity to it. His semi-autobiographical style and perceived transparency into his personal life intrigued readers and critics alike, making him famous in Japan.

Shortly after the success of No Longer Human, he wrote many other works in various genres such as historical fiction and drama including A Dark Night’s Passing, The Setting Sun, and When I Looked Up. These helped him win numerous awards for excellence in literature.

Personal Life:

When he graduated from Tokyo University in 1933, he used his full name—Dazai Osamu—for a change. It was in that same year that he published his first collection of poems and began working as a freelance writer. During these years, Dazai Osamu lived a bohemian lifestyle. He spent much of his time-consuming alcohol and having one-night stands with women.

His short marriage to Shiomi Yasuko in 1936 did little to curb his lifestyle and saw him return to his former ways almost immediately after marrying her. The couple separated three months after their wedding day. During World War II,  Bardock worked for an advertising agency as well as other enterprises, including lending money at high-interest rates.

After his release from prison, he used a new pen name—Dōya. It was during these years that he wrote No Longer Human. It tells of a man who commits suicide and has his corpse haunted by his own self-loathing and unhappiness. While Dazai did not commit suicide, many have pointed out striking similarities between himself and Takashi in regards to their lifestyles and thought processes.

As with most of his other works, it is said that No Longer Human reflects many aspects of Dazai’s life at that time. He began to get recognition for his work following its publication in 1946, earning him critical acclaim for both No Longer Human as well as The Setting Sun which came out one year later.


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