Six Lives, Six Deaths: Portraits from Modern Japan

By Robert Jay Lifton; Michael R. Reich et al. | Go to book overview

PREFACE

It may be that authors always lead double lives in connection with their books—one of careful planning and preparations as they take hold of their project, the other of surprise, excitement, and precariousness as their project takes hold of them. That certainly was our experience with this book.

Our collaboration developed from personal friendships. Katō and Lifton met originally in Japan at a conference on Japanese modernization in 1960, and although much stimulated by each other's ideas met only a few times over the next fourteen years. Katō and Reich met in Japan while Reich was doing research there between 1971 and 1974, and in the fall of 1974 they came to Yale as visiting professor and graduate student with the hope of working together. Aware of Lifton's work on East Asia and on issues around death, they approached him with the suggestion of giving a course together on modern Japanese attitudes toward death, with the possibility of then collaborating on a book. Lifton, attracted by the possibility of renewing and deepening a personal and intellectual relationship with Kato, agreed to the project. Our collaboration began to take shape.

The beginning materials for the project were developed during the fall semester of 1974, when Katō taught a small advanced seminar, in which Reich was both teaching assistant and student. Under Katō's supervision, the students translated a series of brief statements made by a number of prominent modern Japanese about their impending deaths, including last testaments, diaries, stories, and descriptions of how they felt about dying and about death itself. Then in the spring, Katō and Lifton began their joint course, with Reich as coordinator. We announced the course as an experiment. Yet those who joined us—medical students, graduate students in East Asian Studies or psychology, and various undergraduates—shared our sense of excitement in exploring modern Japan through individual lives and deaths and contributed to the vitality of the enterprise in ways that searching students always do.

For this book, Reich first worked with Katō in preparing a detailed outline on each individual, portraying experiences in each life that had bearing on death attitudes. Lifton then made interpretative suggestions, at first mainly focusing on additional information required for informed psychological (or psychohistorical) statements. Katō and

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