[From March Issue 2013]
Hidamari no Ki (Tree in the Sun)
TEZUKA Osamu, the author of this work, is hailed as “the God of comics” in Japan and is also credited with being the founder of modern manga. A doctor of medicine himself, Tezuka made own great-grandfather, Doctor TEZUKA Ryoan (later named Ryosen), the hero of this story. The story is set in the Bakumatsu era, during the closing days of the Tokugawa shogunate.
Born the son of a “ranpoui,” or doctor of western medicine, Ryoan is quite fond of women and enjoys going to the “yuukaku” red light district. Born into a samurai family, IBUYA Manjiro on the other hand is a serious man, who detests womanizing and flattery. At first, the two men do not get along, occasionally even coming to blows, but gradually become friends. The title “Hidamari no Ki” (Tree in the Sun) is how FUJITA Toko, the feudal retainer of Mito, describes the structure of the Tokugawa shogunate to Ibuya, “It appears to be a splendid tree but, its insides, eaten up by insects, are rotten.”
When told by Fujita to “prop up the huge tree of the Tokugawa Shogunate,” Ibuya feels he has found his purpose in life. In recognition of his role in helping people evacuate during a major earthquake, Ibuya was appointed as bodyguard to Townsend HARRIS, the USA’s first consul general in Japan. Through this relationship, a friendship developed between Ibuya and Harris’ assistant, Henry HEUSKEN. However problems arise because this young American can’t control his sexual desires, causing embarrassment to Ibuya and Harris.
Meanwhile, Ryoan leaves Edo for Osaka in order to study western medicine at “Tekijuku” a school run by OGATA Koan. However, unable to resist the urge to check out to Osaka’s red light district, he goes there before going to Tekijuku. There he sees a prostitute suffering from stomach pains and has the idea to carry out abdominal surgery, which he has never attempted before. However, in the end, he cannot save the prostitute. Ryoan decides to dissect the body of the prostitute determined to see the internal organs for himself.
Ryoan seeks permission to dissect the corpse from an Osaka government official. But the official refuses saying, “What foolishness!” However, in actual fact, he has been secretly granting exclusive permission for dissections, to the pupils of Tekijuku. When Ryoan is allowed to watch, he realizes the extent of his ignorance about the human body. Meanwhile, in Edo, Ryoan’s father and his colleagues are attempting to get permission from the shogunate to construct a western medical facility that will carry out vaccinations. However, their lives are in danger due to political pressure from doctors of Chinese medicine, who hold a grudge against them.
Though Ryoan doesn’t break his habit of going to the red light district, he is also a diligent student. When he hears that Ibuya is a bodyguard to the USA’s consul general, he coerces Ibuya into introducing him to Heusken, so he can ask Heusken to translate English medical books into Japanese.
This work has many different themes, including: friendship between men regardless of character, social standing or nationality; Japanese passionately fighting against prejudice against western medicine; the state of the Tokugawa shogunate at that time; duels to the death between swordsmen; love affairs between men and women; and the behaviour of prostitutes and customers in red light districts.
Text: MATSUMOTO Seiya