Mayama, Seika (1878–1948) By Zheng, Guohe
Mayama Seika was a novelist, historian, and one of the most prominent playwrights in Japan’s modernist theater movement.
Born Mayama Akira in Sendai, he studied medicine at high school and worked as a lay doctor in 1902. While in middle school, he became interested in literature. Inspired by Tokutomi Rokka (1868–1927) to become a novelist, he moved to Tokyo in 1903. Mayama’s first story was published when his mentor, Satō Kōroku (1874–1949), submitted it to meet his own deadline signed with Seika, a name subsequently adopted by Mayama as his own. Also under Satō, he helped to adapt Konjiki Yasha [The Golden Demon] by Ozaki Kōyō for the stage. In 1907 he published Minami Koizumi-mura [The South Koizumi Village], thereby winning recognition as a major naturalist novelist. However, in 1910 his career as a novelist ended in disgrace, however, for double-publishing his manuscripts. Ostracized from the bundan, he turned to scholarly research on Edo history, an abiding passion that engaged him for most of his life, and which not only produced authoritative studies on Ihara Saikaku, but later lent his drama depth and historical authenticity.
Following an invitation from actor Kitamura Rokurō, he joined Shōchiku in 1913 as a playwright, gaining life-long patronage from ōtani Takejirō and Noma Seiji, the founders of Shōchiku and the Kōdansha publishing house, respectively. In 1915–1917, he wrote pieces of mostly contemporary social drama for shinpa, including Mihana Adahana [A Flower Is Useless if it Blossoms without Bearing Fruit]. A turning point came in 1918 when he wrote two historical plays which were produced by kabuki, a much more prestigious genre.