#5. “Opposition” by Kaneko Mitsuharu


Mitsuharu Kaneko (1895–1975)


In my youth
I was opposed to school.
And now, again,
I’m opposed to work.

Above all it is health
And righteousness that I hate the most.
Theres nothing so cruel to man
As health and honesty.

Of course I’m opposed to the Japanese spirit
And duty and human feeling make me vomit.
I’m against any government anywhere
And show my bum to authors and artists circles.

When I’m asked for what I was born,
Without scruple, I’ll reply, To oppose.
When I’m in the east
I want to go to the west.

I fasten my coat at the left, my shoes right and left.
My hakama I wear back to front and I ride a horse facing its buttocks.
What everyone else hates I like
And my greatest hate of all is people feeling the same.

This I believe: to oppose
Is the only fine thing in life.
To oppose is to live.
To oppose is to get a grip on the very self.

Kaneko Mitsuharu


Mitsuharu Kaneko’s poem, “Opposition”, is about rebellion from the norm. The poet, Mitsuharu Kaneko, had a reputation for his anti-establishmentarianism, and the poem reflects his ideal outlook on life. Each stanza in the poem introduces different situations that have been customary and natural to mainstream human society; the poet, however, states his disdain for aspects of society such as school and work. His opinion is summarised by the lines, “When I’m in the east, I want to go to the west”. These lines suggest his constant longing for what he isn’t already exposed to.

I believe that the key to understanding this poem is in the line, “to oppose is to live”. By opposing against the default lifestyles that have been defined by society as “normal”, a person is able to see the world and live life from a different perspective. The poet does have a point with the presence of this particular line. Over the years society has established what is considered as the “normal” way of life. Society established school, ethics, and what is known to modern man as “right” or “wrong”. The way the world works as it is now has to do mostly with what has been created by people of the past. To follow life’s “rules” can have someone’s mind easily bound in a box with thoughts limited to what is deemed as “normal”. However, these should not be considered as “normal”, rather, these should simply be thought of as common and “mainstream”.

“To oppose”, as suggested in this poem, would be to look at the “mainstream” aspects of life and to defy them. In this way a person would be able to explore different aspects of life in ways that are alternative and independent from the norm and possibly even open windows of opportunity that would have otherwise been impossible if a person chooses to remain constrained to limited thinking (take note that the poet grew up in early 20th century Japan, a rather conservative society). Therefore, a person is able “to live” at a higher level.

The final line of the poem poignantly ends with some introspective food for thought: “To oppose is to get a grip on the very self.” This extends the message of the poem to the reader, asking him or her not only to act independently but also to think independently. Overall, I believe that the poem asks the reader to live for independence and individualism on his or her own terms, rather than by the rules that external authorities have imposed upon them.

I like this poem because it’s fairly easy to understand and fairly easy to relate to. I understand what the poet is trying to convey because his ideals are very forward-thinking while down to earth at the same time. It’s highly comprehensible, which shows that a poem does not have to be overdosed on flowery language for it to be considered as a “good poem”. That’s probably another deviation that Mitsuharu applied to his poem. It’s straightforward in its free verse nature and I love that. This poem reminds me of Robert Frost’s poem, “The Road Not Taken” in a sense that it makes me think back on certain decisions that I have made and wondered about the “what ifs” had I chosen another direction.

This poem reminds me how great the world really is.

1 Comment

Filed under Poetry

One response to “#5. “Opposition” by Kaneko Mitsuharu

  1. Susan A Porterfield

    I like what you say here, but could it be that Kaneko is also being a bit mischevious? Taken to extremes, in other words, rebellion becomes ridiculous. Just a thought.

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