A 70-year-old Wikipedian (5) “Labyrinth” by Yaeko Nogami

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This is an English translation of my book entitled “A 70-year-old Wikipedian talks about the charm of libraries.” Chapter 1, The Road to Wikipedia. Previously, click here.

“Labyrinth” by Yaeko Nogami (Chapter 1-5)

Yaeko Nogami, Japanese writer

I had only heard of Yaeko Nogami (1885-1985) through essays she wrote for magazines and newspapers, and had never read any of her novels. I was interested to read in a newspaper that Nogami visited China for the first time when she was over 70 years old and went to Yan’an, where Mao Zedong had his base of operations. My father had been to northern China during the war, but I had never heard anything about the battlefield, so I thought there might be some clues there. In 2014, I found a book titled “Critique of Yaeko Nogami: Through the Labyrinth to the Forest” (Shinchosha, 2011) and read it. 

The book told that Nogami came to Tokyo from Usuki, Oita Prefecture, and entered the Meiji Girl’s School; that her husband, Toyoichiro Nogami, was the president of Hosei University and a Noh scholar; that she went to Yan’an because it was the setting of “Labyrinth”; her relationship with Eiichi Shibusawa and his family; and so on. Nogami continued to write until the end of her life at the age of 99. 

Two years later, in 2016, I applied for the Library Exhibition Forum to be held in Oita in September and picked up Nogami’s “Labyrinth” to read a novel with a connection to Oita. It is a large work of nearly 1,300 pages in two volumes in the Iwanami Bunko collection, set in Tokyo, Karuizawa, her hometown Oita, and the battlefields of China, during the 1910s. I continued reading the book throughout my trip to Oita, I visited the memorial museum that had been renovated from Nogami’s birthplace to take a closer look. I finished reading the book after I returned to Tokyo. I was impressed by the power of the writing style of Soseki Natsume‘s disciple: the conception and development of the story on a large scale, the detailed coverage of the historical background, and the accurate portrayal of the characters.

I thought that an author of Nogami’s caliber would have an article on Wikipedia, but when I looked at it, I found a detailed article but only the titles of individual works. So, I decided to put “Labyrinth,” one of her best-known works, on Wikipedia. Based on the pages of famous works by other authors, I compiled a “synopsis,” “main characters,” “publication and release chronology,” and so on. If there was something I did not understand from the materials I had on hand, I went to the local library and researched this or that. In the process of researching, I came across many things that I had not noticed when reading the novel, and I enjoyed the process.

Once the manuscript was completed, it was time to edit the draft on Wikipedia. The title of the article was initially “Labyrinth,” but there was already an article titled “Labyrinth,” which described the labyrinth itself, as well as several songs with that title. Therefore, I decided to change the title of the article to “Labyrinth (Novel by Yaeko Nogami).” Thinking that I could prepare the content of the article later, I first wrote and published a definition, a synopsis, and the main characters. To my surprise, within an hour or so, I received corrections from many Wikipedians, not about the contents, but about various formatting mistakes. I was surprised that so many people had checked my first submission as a newcomer. I then enhanced the content of the article, and other Wikipedians made corrections as well. All of the edit history remains public, so you can see who made the changes, when, and how.

I managed to make my debut, but it took me two years to start working on the next article. I was able to read the novel in depth and writing the article was a fun experience, but I must have been too enthusiastic because it took a lot of energy to get it published, and I was exhausted. I didn’t have anyone I could easily ask small questions to, and the hurdles were still high.

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