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Kanoko Okamoto (1889–1939)

Author of A Riot of Goldfish

Includes the names: 岡本 かの子

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Kanoko Okamoto (1889–1939) was a Japanese poet, novelist, and scholar of Buddhism whose prose works examine the relationships between the classes and sexes in her contemporary Japan. Born to an extremely weathly family and taught by a governess.Kanoko was influenced greatly by her older brother, Shosen, and his classmate Jun'ichirō Tanizaki who studied at the First Higher School and Tokyo Imperial University. While still a student at the Atami Gakuen girls' high school, Kanoko called on the renowned poet, Yosano Akiko, and this encounter prompted her to start contributing tanka to the poetry magazine Myōjō ("Bright Star"). Later, she played an active part as a key contributor to another journal, Subaru ("Pleiades"). She published Karoki-netami, the first of her five tanka anthologies, in 1912.

In 1908, she met cartoonist Okamoto Ippei while on a holiday in Karuizawa, Nagano together with her father. However, her family was extremely opposed to the relationship, and she created a scandal by moving in together with him in 1910 without marriage. Their eldest son, the famous avant-garde painter Okamoto Tarō, was born the next year. However, Kanoko's family life was filled with tragedy. Soon after she moved in with Okamoto Ippei, her brother, then her mother died. Her eldest daughter was born with mental health problems, and soon died. Her common-law husband was opposed to her independence, jealous of her artistic successes and was unfaithful. Her younger son was also born with weak health, and died in infancy.

These problems led Kanoko to turn to religion. She was first interested in Protestant Christianity, but did not find it to her liking. She then turned to the Jodo Shinshu sect of Buddhism, as espoused by Shinran, which was the start of her work as a researcher of Buddhism, about which she wrote numerous essays.Her life was ended prematurely in 1939 when she died of a brain hemorrhage. She was 49 years old.

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