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When Kenji Miyazawa was writing his stories and poems nearly a century ago, Japan was a country with a two-pronged mission: To become the first non-white, non-Christian nation to create a modern prosperous state — and to be the leader of an Asian revival.

The Japanese people were obsessed with their cultural identity and their place, as an imperial power, among the first rank of nations in the world. It was an obsession that would lead them to prosecute an aggressive and brutal war in Asia and the Pacific.

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