Pawnshops in the service of literature

So far as we know, no desperately poor but brilliant novelists are customers at our Maui pawn shop. But you never can tell.


yenIn Tokyo, an old pawnshop has been opened as a museum because of its links to Ichiyo Higuchi, regarded as the first important woman writer in Meiji Japan. The building itself is also regarded as an important surviving example of a merchant building of the earlier Edo period (which ended 1867)..

Not many wooden buildings in Tokyo survived the great fires of 1923 and 1945.

Wikipedia says of Ichiyo:

She wrote relatively little as a result of living a brief life—she died at 24—but her stories had a large impact on Japanese literature and she is still appreciated by the Japanese public today.

Higuchi was unique among her peers in that her writing was based on Japanese rather than Western models. Her work is highly regarded for her use of language, and for that reason people are reluctant to update or translate it into contemporary Japanese, leaving it difficult for the majority of Japanese people to read.

Well, that’s a bummer. But still. She’s famous and some of that rubbed off on the pawnshop. Her diary records many times when she “rushed to Iseya” pawnshop, because she and her family were very poor.

Although her stories have not been translated into modern Japanese, they have been translated into English. And she’s got her picture on Japanese money, which is more than any famous American women have ever achieved.