In this paper I propose to discuss Hans Christian Andersen’s The Improvisator in Japan. I shall comment briefly on Mori Ōgai’s Japanese translation, its acceptance in Japan, and consider in detail the impact of The Improvisator upon the Japanese reading public and its influence upon a Japanese novel, Izumi Kyōka’s Teriha Kyōgen.
Although the first Western literary work to be translated into Japanese in modern times was Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe, 1857 (Aesop’s Fables had been translated from the Dutch by Fabian Fukan and published by Yaso Gakumonjo as early as 1593), H.C. Andersen’s story, The Emperor’s New Clothes appeared in Japan in 1888, making this, as far as can be determined, the first Scandinavian literary work to be translated into Japanese. The next rendering of a Scandinavian work into Japanese was Andersen’s The Improvisator. It was translated from German by Mori Ōgai (1862—1922). The Improvisator was thus the first Scandinavian novel to appear in Japan. The translator, Ōgai, a famous novelist and critic, studied medicine at Tokyo University and in Germany. His major works are Maihime (The Dance Girl), a novel, 1890, and Gan (The Wild Goose), a novelette, 1911-1913. The translation of The Improvisator appeared in magazines, Shigarami-Sōshi (from November 1892 to August 1894) and Mesamashigusa (from February 1897 to February 1901) under the title “Sokkyō-Shijin”.
Ōgai studied in Germany from October 1884 to July 1888, some years after H.C. Andersen’s death. Andersen’s fame had already spread to all the countries of Europe, and it was only natural that Ōgai became familiar with Andersen’s work. When he returned to Japan he had in his possession, besides The Improvisator, other German editions of Andersen’s works, e. g., Bilderbuch ohne Bilder and O.T. (Reclam ed.). He probably obtained these during his stay in Germany. He loved reading them all, as he noted in his diary of December 30, 1890: “As for Andersen’s novels, I like O. T. best but I always have The Improvisator at my side.” It is still unknown when he began reading Andersen, but it appears from the available facts that it might have been in early August 1886. The German text which Ōgai used for his translation of The Improvisator is in the Library of Tokyo University, but since the book gives no dates of publication, there is no basis to judge when Ōgai learned to know the German edition. The facts are these: Ōgai saw a carnival in Munich on March 8, 1886, and on July 15 of the same year he met his friend, Naganuma Moritaka, from Venice, and spoke with him of Ogata Korenao. The latter was a Japanese who had once lived in Italy and fallen in love with an Italian girl. He died and was buried at the same place in Italy where Annunciata, the heroine of The Improvisator, was buried. The first instance suggests the possibility that he read the work in late February or early March, and being moved by the carnival scene in The Improvisator, he decided to attend the carnival. Then, since Ōgai spoke to Naganuma of the fact that Annunciata and Ogata were buried in the same city, it seems that Ōgai must have read The Improvisator at least by July 1886.
Upon his return to Japan in 1888, Ōgai immediately began to translate works of Goethe, Lessing, Byron, Tolstoi and Turgenev into Japanese. At that time, he believed in Eduard Hartmann’s (1842-1906) literary aesthetics. Ōgai later translated Hartmann’s Aesthetik, 2 vols., 1886-87, and Johannes Volkelt’s Aesthetische Zeitfragen, München, 1895. They were published in Tokyo in 1899 and 1900, respectively, by Shunyōdō Publishing Company. With these translations, he sought to clarify his position to his Japanese colleagues that art is not an imitation of nature, but a creation of the imagination. He attached great importance to imaginative appearance or semblance. When a literary controversy began in September of 1891 between Tsubouchi Shōyō (1859-1935), a literary critic, playwright and professor of English Literature at Waseda University in Tōkyō, and Ōgai on “Ideal, truth and beauty” in relation to the definition of literature, Ōgai used his theory of art as a tool to oppose Shōyō. On the basis of Shakespeare’s works Shōyō attempted to explain what he meant by ideal, truth and beauty in literature. The controversy came to an end in June 1892. Ōgai vigorously attacked Shōyō view of litterature, which was based upon naturalism, whose principal exponent was Emile Zola (1840-1902). Zola’s principle, that human life is a natural phenomenon, led to the view that a writer should follow the practice of the natural scientists. Zola defended this literary principle in his experimental novels: human life is decided by three conditions, age, circumstance and race, and therefore the novelist should demonstrate empirically the hypothesis and not rely on imagination. European literature at the time had already began to move toward naturalism and away from the Sturm und Drang. After Ōgai won the controversy, he wished to consolidate the position of his literary theory by his translation of The Improvisator.
Ōgai was occupied with his translation of The Improvisator for ten years, from 1892 to 1901. He used for his translation the German text: Der Improvisator, Roman, von H.C. Andersen, Frei aus dem Dänischen übersetzt, von H. Denhardt, Leipzig, Druck und Verlag Philipp Reclam Jun (n. d.). It appeared in part in the Shigarami-Sōshi, as I mentioned already. This was the first authentic critical literary journal of the period. Andersen’s novel was later published in book form by Shunyōdō Publishing Company, Tōkyō, September 1902, and became one of the best sellers during the year. The translation was immediately commented on by the leading papers and magazines. Teikoku Bungaku, a literary magazine wrote: “The excellent style of the translation was largely accomplished by a careful choise of words“; Kokumin, a major newspaper in Tōkyō, admired, “Its flowery language, which was used consistently throughout the work”; Yomiuri, a newspaper, noted, “It is desirable that foreign litterature be introduced in this manner”.
There are several reasons why the translation of The Improvisator was so enthusiatically received by the public. Several translations of western classics, e. g., the works of Homer, Dante, Shakespeare and Goethe, appeared in Japan, but the translations were not good enough to win the popularity of the public. Moreover, Japan had lived for almost three centuries in seculusion, a policy which had been decreed by the Tokugawa Shogunate and followed until the Meiji Era (1868-1912). Since 1868, the numbers of intellectuals had been increasing rapidly, but Japan was yet in the process of transition from feudalism to modernism. The intellectuals, however, were eager to introduce Western culture into Japan to hasten Japan’s modernization. It is needless to mention that they were also eager to satisfy their curiosity by reading new Werstern romantic literary works. Professor Takahashi Yoshitaka, Department of Germanic Literature at Kyushu University, explained the reason for the readers’ acceptance of Ōgai’s translation of The Improvisator in his article, Sokkyō-Shijin, Kokubungaku, September 1951, as follows: “Intellectuals were still lacking a knowledge of foreign litterature, so that his work was overestimated in a sense and became popular among them.” In further attempting to assay the universal acceptance by Japanese intellectuals of Ōgai’s translation of The Improvisator, Takahashi seems to have been guilty of an exaggeration. He stated in effect that only Ōgai could have achieved so excellent a result, because he knew “the magic of translation,” and succeeded therefore in improving upon the original.
With its appearance, the intellectuals particularly were overjoyed, since they first were able to experience the essence of Western romanticism and exoticism through this novel: It came to be regarded as the best novel in Japan at the time. It is still so widely read by the present generation that any high school student in Japan knows it, despite the fact that it is already forgotten by readers in Western Europe and America.
The publication date of The Improvisator in Japan (1892-94; 1897— 1901; 1902) may be considered to be comparatively early when all factors are taken into account. European and American translations were earlier (Swedish in 1838-39, Russian 1844, English and American 1845, Dutch 1846, French 1847, and Czech and Polish in 1857) but the Japanese translation was the first in any Oriental language.
Ōgai’s translation of The Improvisator was exceptionally good. He commanded a “grand” style. He is sometimes difficult to understand because he rendered Victorian, romantic description in elevated classical characters in his translation. But the readers were enchanted by the atmosphere of this romantic novel which his language created. Professor Yoshitake said of his style: “The archaic style used by Mori Ōgai in his translation of The Improvisator fascinated his readers.” He believed this style to be the best medium to convey romantic feeling, such as is exemplified in The Improvisator. Ōgai attached great importance to image, and the archaic classical characters he employed impressed upon his readers the quality and tone of the original. For instance, he used a word, “Shokai” which was originally derived from Chinese (in fact, this compound-word does not usually occur in a Japanese dictionary) in the chapter: Santa – The Eruption – Old Connexions. This word means to „tear open.” He translated: “Ware wa mizukara omote no yakugagotoku me no chibashiritaru o oboete, kire o shimizu ni hitashite ueni kuwae mata mizuo watarikuru shiokazeno sukoshi mo usinawajito, koromono botan o shōkai seri.” (The blood seemed to force itself to my eyes, I cooled my brow with the salt water; tore open my coat, that every breath of air might cool me.)
Hearing the word “shōkai” one cannot so easily understand what it means. But if we consider that the purpose of Japanese prose is primarily to communicate and only secondarily to please the ear, we can understand Ōgai’s attempt. It should be noted that, particularly in Japanese, a character produces a certain visual image of its own, and so does a passage. From this one example one can see what Ōgai sought to achieve by his free use of this style, which he believed to be “perfection of language.” He stated in the Introduction to The Improvisator: “I should like to make a fusion of elegant words and ordinary speech, using our traditional language style and Chinese-Japanese style harmoniously together.”
Japanese critics have long commented on the crucial role Ōgai’s individual style played in rendering the precise effect (sometimes a far better one than the original) of elegance and beauty of The Improvisator. In a sense, Ōgai presented his readers with a more vivid impression of Italy than the original work did. Indeed, Ōgai’s translation made it possible for the people of the time in Japan to live in two worlds simultaneously: one a world of reality and the other a world af fantasy.
Nevertheless, even he, like many other translators, could not avoid making errors, although they were mostly minor. Some of them are amusing: In chapter III, vol. 1, The Flower – Feast At Genzano, Ōgai translated the German “ein Gericht Monzano al pomidoro,” as “Montsuano Are Pomidoro.“  Thus he repeated the error which Denhardt had made in his German translation, i. e., using z instead of g in Mongano. In chapter I, vol. 2, The Pontine Marshes, this passage occurs: “Brodetto, Cipollete. Facioli, – Er weiss, dass ich keine Suppe haben will; – nein, nein, mein Embonpoint soll nicht wie das castello dell’ovo werden.” Ōgai translated “castello dell’ovo” as “Tamago mote seishitaru kashi” (which means „Candy, made of egg”) instead of translating it as the name of a famous castle in Naples. In chapter VII, vol. 2, The Adventure In Amalfi, there is a passage:“ Wir sahen Minuri und Majuri” which Ōgai translated as “Warera Ōshima Koshima o Nozomite”  (which means “We see a huge island and a little island). But, the words, “Minuri” and “Majuri” indicate the names of villages in Italy.
These and the other similar mistakes that Ōgai made were probably due to the fact that he had no knowledge of Italian and an insufficient acquaintance with Italian culture and geography. He had had no opportunity to visit Italy, although during his stay in Germany he had become interested in the life and nature of the country. These errors seem to indicate that Ōgai had read neither the Danish or the English version of The Improvisator at the time that he translated the work into Japanese.
The most important influence of The Improvisator on Japanese literature is the direct impact it exerted on some of the leading novelists and poets of Japan.
Many writers read the translation and thought that they should begin to treat Japanese material in the manner of Andersen. Among them, was Izumi Kyōka (1873-1939). Born in Kanazawa, Kyōka at the age of nineteen went to Tōkyō to study literature and became a disciple of Ozaki Kōyō (1867-1903), a well-known novelist at the time. His principal works are: Teriha Kyōgen, a romantic novel, 1896; Kōya Hijiri, a mystic-romantic novel, 1900; Romanticism and Naturalism, a critical essay, in which he expressed his attitude of opposition toward naturalism, 1908.
In my view there are many similarities between The Improvisator and Teriha Kyōgen, which reveal Andersen’s influence on Kyōka.
The Improvisator begins with this passage: “Whoever has been in Rome is well acquainted with the Piazza Barberina, in the great square, with the beautiful fountain, where the Tritons empty the spouting couch-shell, from which the water springs upwards many feet.“  Antonio, who later lost his mother when a carriage of the Borghese family accidentally ran over her, spent his childhood in the square. After he became an orphan, he spent some time at Campagna Field, and later, by grace of the Borghese family, he entered school in Rome. Here he was reunited with his friend Bernardo, and had an opportunity to read Dante’s Divine Comedy. Upon graduation, Antonio fell in love with Annunciata and was given a chance to recite his improvised poem. But Bernardo became his rival for Annun-ciata’s hand, as a result of which Antonio shot Bernardo and ran away from Rome. He then went to Naples where he planned to live the free life of an improviser. To escape from Santa’s love, he left Naples and returned to Rome, where he spent six years. At the age of twenty-six he fell ill, went to Venice and wrote his own poem, which caught the fancy of Marie, the mayor’s beautiful daughter, and they became engaged. Unexpectedly, he encountered Annunciata at a small playhouse in the town. But, when he went to visit her, he found that she had already departed for an unknown land. In due time, he received Annunciata’s suicide note from Marie. She confessed her love for him, but she wished him happiness with Marie. Antonio then spent two months of aimless travel to heal his broken heart. When he returned he finally decided to marry Marie.
The points of similarity with Teriha Kyōgen, also written in the first person, is as follows. Mitsugi, who early lost his parents, grew up at his uncle’s home in Kanazawa. In a neighboring house, there lived a pretty girl, a daughter of the Hirooka family, who played a Japanese koto (harp), named Oyuki. She also had lost her mother and had been brought up by her stepmother. Since both of them were orphans, Mitsugi sympathized with her difficulty in getting along with her stepmother, and soon he fell in love with her. She in turn fell in love with him. One day in the nearby square a play, Teriha Kyōgen, was performed and Mitsugi attended every night. The head of the Noh troupe, Kochika, found Mitsugi a young and handsome boy, and she invited him to dinner after the play was over. When she was at his home Mitsugi’s uncle was taken by the police because he had been found gambling. Being orphaned by his uncle’s arrest, Kochika asked Mitsugi to join her troupe. After eight years of travelling throughout the country, the Kochika group visited Mitsugi’s hometown, Kanazawa, to give a performance. Mitsugi now remembered that Oyuki was still ill-treated by her stepmother. He realized that he was still in love with her, but he also knew that Kochika was in love with him. Being unable to endure this situation, he skipped over the mountains one midnight for an unknown land, without leaving a note.
This plot, which is almost identical in The Improvisator and Teriha Kyōgen, establishes beyond a doubt Kyōka’s almost slavish copying of Andersen.
The background of The Improvisator is centered in several cities: Rome, Naples and Venice, all of which Andersen visited. He drew freely upon his experiences in the Italian cities for the stuff of his novel, and embellished them with his imagination. As Andersen stated in his Mit Livs Eventyr, travel was to him a spring of rejuvenation of spirit and the source of his poetic inspiration. Although Andersen visited Italy four times, his The Improvisator appears to have been written on the basis of his first visit. As Ole Jacobsen pointed out: “Improvisatoren er en blanding af en roman og en rejsebog. Skuepladsen er som i Corinna Italien, først og fremmest Rom og Neapel.” 
The background for Teriha Kyōgen is Kanazawa, the author’s home town, and most of the incidents in the novel take place in this city. Unlike Andersen, Kyōka did not use the cities to which he travelled for the development of the crucial incidents of the plot (he did not travel much), but selected the city where he grew up. And yet, there is a similarity between the two novels insofar as Andersen had most of the incidents of The Improvisator transpire in Rome while Kyōka let them occur in Kanazawa. It is also significant that both writers described in great detail city squares, one in Rome and the other Kanazawa. Kanazawa must thus be thought of as Kyōka’s Rome. Moreover, Kyōka seems to have attributed many of Andersen’s characteristics of Rome to Kanazawa, thus creating a kind of Rome in Japan. In fact, Shimada Kinji, professor of comparative literature at Tokyo University, states: „Kyōka applied skillfully the description of local color in The Improvisator, which was centered in Rome, to Kanazawa.” 
There are also some similarities between the heroes and their respective creators. Antonio is a handsome young boy, ambitious to be a successful poet, a nature loving orphan like Andersen. He was born, like Andersen, in or about 1805, and at the age of twenty, he met Annunciata at a carnival in Rome. Mitsugi is a handsome boy, who lost his father at age four and his mother at age eleven, like Kyōka. Mitsugi is thoughtful, sincere, but timid and weak-willed, just like Andersen and Antonio. Antonio and Mitsugi have a common nature, both of them measure the value of human being by emotional factors, such as kindness, naivety and thoughtfulness. The heroes pay no heed to the individual’s social position or education, but only to love, in evaluating his worth. At the end of the Teriha Kyōgen Mitsugi leaves Kochika in order to be true to his love and Oyuki. This is the attitude of a modern man, who insists on individual freedom. Antonio is also an artist, who does not compromise with anyone who resists his will, be he nobleman or friend. Antonio insists on the right of the individual to his own relation to art and to love. These matters thus reveal that the two heroes are not to be regarded as men of reason. It can therefore be said that both works are not “literature of wisdom,” but “literature of love.”
It seems to me that there is another common element between Annunciata and Kochika. Andersen described his heroine, Annunciata, in his Mit Livs Eventyr as follows: “I Neapel hørte jeg første Gang Malibran; hendes Stemme og Spil stod over Alt, hvad jeg før havde hørt, og dog huskede jeg i det samme paa min stakkels Sangerinde i Odense Hospital; begge Skikkelser smeltede sammen til Annunziata i Romanen jeg skrev; Italien var Baggrunden for det Oplevede og det Digtede.”  Annunciata’s character is a composite of two persons, one a little, elegant German actress Andersen met at a theater in Odense in his childhood and the other, Marie Malibran (1808-36), a French opera singer he knew in Naples. Kochika, in Teriha Kyōgen, is also an actress Mitsugi met in the theater at Kanazawa where her Noh troupe gave a performance. Both of the heroines are depicted as characters of great beauty and deep affectionate: they are both ravishingly beautiful and they love Antonio and Mitsugi respectively, almost singlemindedly. Kyōka did not explain why he chose a character of this kind as the heroine of Teriha Kyōgen. He may of course have drawn upon his own experiences, for he had been disappointed in love. This cannot now be documented. It is my contention that he borrowed the love situation from The Improvisator. These heroines also display pronounced maternal affection. This may of course be attributed to the fact that Andersen and Kyōka early lost their parents, and the death of their mothers resulted in a yearning for motherly love, which was realized unconsciously in their works.
Although rake out there is a striking similarity between the plots of the two works, Kyōka’s Teriha Kyōgen ends in tragedy while The Improvisator has a happy ending. Whereas Mitsugi leaves Kochika in Kanazawa, praying for Oyuki’s happiness and goes to an unknown land, Annunciata leaves Antonio in Rome, praying for his happiness with Marie.
The weakness of the plot in The Improvisator might be attributed to the fact that Antonio was an improviser. He was first of all a poet, as he himself wrote in Mit Livs Eventyr: “Alt i Rom var skrevet de første Capitler og senere i München havde jeg fortsat disse, det var min Roman Improvisatoren. I et Brev jeg modtog i Rom, blev sagt mig en Yttring af J. L. Heiberg, han betragtede mig som en Slags Improvisator, de Ord var den Gnist, der gav mit nye Digt Navn og Person.”  Furthermore, Andersen wished to depict the beautiful life in Italy which he had observed, as the sub-title of the work, Life In Italy, suggests. It was his aspiration to write a vivid story based upon his travel in Italy. The weakness of the plot in both novels is also due to the fact that both of the writers attached little importance to plot; their emphasis was on creation of new atmosphere by using romantic description.
Finally, it is interesting to note that we see a common point of view in the two authors. Kyōka and Andersen were both romantic writers, extremely emotional and sensitive. Also, Andersen and Kyōka were brave, courageous men, but they could also be timid. Both had an element of mysticism. They were excessively solicitous about reputation and apprehensive of criticism, and both were extremely self-conscious in their daily behaviour. They sympathized with people of the lower class and depicted them with extraordinary intimacy.
Considering these common factors between Teriha Kyōgen and The Improvisator and their authors, it seems safe to draw the conclusion that Kyōka had read a part of the translation of The Improvisator before he started and while he was in the process of writing Teriha Kyōgen, which appeared serially in the newspaper, Yomiuri from October 14 to December 23, 1896, and later it was published in book form by Shunyōdō, Tokyo in 1900. Before Kyōka started writing his work, a nearly half of the Japanese Improvisator was available, since it had appeared in Shiga-rami-Sōshi, from November 1892 to August 1894. So Kyōka could have read that part of The Improvisator in Japanese, and borrowed the plot for his Teriha Kyōgen. There is also a possibility that he read an English translation of The Improvisator. He studied English at a middle school called Hokuriku Eiwa Gakkō, and it is quite likely that he learned English with a considerable degree of fluency there. So far his diary is not available, and it is difficult to draw a definite conclusion from the internal evidence that has been presented, namely, that he wrote Teriha Kyōgen under the influence of The Improvisator. But in addition to the internal evidence that I have discussed, there is a consensus of opinion among Japanese critics that Kyōka was indebted to Andersen. (1) Professor Shimada Kinji states: Kyōka, in his Teriha Kyōgen, created a handsome boy, Mitsugi from Antonio, transplanting the world of Annunciata into the world af Noh Kyōgen of Kochika”; (2) Professor Yoshida Seiichi points out: “Teriha Kyōgen was composed by the inspiration of Ōgai’s translation of The Improvisator. He transferred the love between Antonio and Annunciata into a love between a youth and an actress in Teriha Kyōgen in Japanese fashion“; (3) Mizukami and Hiramatsu (first names not given), the contributors to A Cyclopedia of Japanese Literature, state: “According to Kyōka’s own words, it has been established that Teriha Kyōgen was written under the influence of The Improvisator, translated by Mori Ōgai. It was said that the boy’s helpless and naive love, and the artiste’s duty and love, were good materials to treat in any novel, partic-ulary for a poet of the romantic school.“  Professor Okazaki Yoshie remarks: “Teriha Kyōgen was written under inspiration of Ōgai’s famous translation Sokkyō-Shijin. It deals with the pure and innocent world of love, and overflows with romantic and poetic sentiment.” 
The essay was read at the One Hundred and Seventy-Second Meeting of the American Oriental Society at Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts, on April 3, 1962.
The following is a list of seven Japanese translations of H.C. Andersen’s The Improvisator published in Tōkyō in book form (some in several editions) from September 1902 to the present from English and German unless specified:
|Ōgai Zenshū Kankōkai
|1960 (from Danish)
Other principal works of H.C. Andersen translated into Japanese are: his Autobiography, translated by Ōhata Suekichi and published by Iwanami-Shoten in Tōkyō in 1937; The Picture Book Without Pictures, translated by Ōhata Suekichi and published by Kawade-Shobō, Tōkyō in 1950. Since the apperance of The Emperor’s New Clothes (1888), referred to above, forty publications of Andersen’s selected tales have appeared.