Agawa Hiroyuki: Citadel in Spring


Citadel in Spring
—A Novel of Youth Spent at War—

by AGAWA Hiroyuki
Translated by Lawrence ROGERS

Published in Japanese in 1949, Citadel in Spring is, at its heart, an autobiographical novel of the author's life from university through induction into the Imperial Japan Navy, assignment to intelligence service in China, and Japan's final defeat. In addition to details of actual code-breaking activities, it also paints grimly honest pictures of some of the fiercest naval battles of the war, and the horrors of the Hiroshima atomic bombing. As a witness to World War II and its effects on the people and culture of Japan, this document—although cast as fiction—is a crucial reminder of the real costs of war to a generation who have never experienced it.


  • "Agawa's choice of a narrator as unemotional as Kōji is the making of his autobiographical account of 'youth spent at war.' There might be a certain satisfaction in joining a more volatile character on an emotional roller coaster, or in sharing such a character's outrage at actions we also find outrageous, but there is a pleasure both subtler and more substantial in the quiet observations of Kōji, and of the author who created him."
    David Cozy, Japan Times

The review of the first English edition, published in the April 8, 1991 issue of The New Yorker, reads in part:

  • The scenes cumulatively show that, despite an official veneer of propaganda extolling vigor and resolve, life in a culture based on total war inflicts on its youth a corrupting boredom, stifles and twists idealism, and nourishes private obsessions. Among its other merits, the novel serves as an engrossing corrective to many of our dim and caricatured images of the Japanese experience in the Second World War.


  • Pages: vi + 241
  • Trade paperback 5" x 8" (127mm x 203mm)
  • ISBN:
    Softcover 978-4-902075-45-8
    Ebook 978-4-902075-65-6
  • Cover: Yukutake Rika

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About the author

AGAWA Hiroyuki (阿川 弘之), born in 1920, studied Japanese literature at university, and after graduation was drafted into the Imperial Japanese Navy, serving as an intelligence officer breaking Chinese military codes. He returned to his family home in Hiroshima, site of the atomic bomb, in March 1946.
He published his first short story, "Nennen Saisai" (Years upon Years) that year; it was an autobiographical novel of his reunion with his parents. Citadel in Spring was published in 1949, winning critical acclaim and the Yomiuri Prize. His experiences as a student soldier were also the basis of Kurai hato (Dark Waves, 1974). Numerous other wartime and biographical works followed, including the outstanding biography of Yamamoto Isoroku, published in 1965.

About the translator

Lawrence Rogers is emeritus professor of Japanese at the Hilo campus of the University of Hawai'i, and editor of the anthology Tokyo Stories: A Literary Stroll, recipient of the 2004 translation award from the Donald Keene Center of Japanese Culture, Columbia University. He has previously translated Fair Dalliance: Fifteen Stories by Yoshiyuki Junnosuke for Kurodahan Press.