Tuesday, May 11, 2021

Hyakunin Isshu (One Hundred Poets, One Poem Each): Poem 47 (Priest Egyo)

Hyakunin Isshu, Poem 47

shigereru yado no
sabishiki ni
hito koso miene
aki wa kinikeri


to the cottage overgrown
with vines, layer on layer,
in its loneliness
no one visits
but only autumn comes

Priest Egyo (2nd half 10th c.)

[Shoseien (Kikokutei) in Kyoto]

This poem has a head-note which reads: "Written wen people were composing poems on the subject of 'Autumn comes to the dilapidated house at Kawarain.'" The Kawarain was the once splendid estate on the west bank of the Kamo river of statesman Minamoto Toru (poem no 14), which now, a century after his demise, is covered in weeds. After Toru's death it had become a sort of pilgrimage site for poets, who would come there to write poetry together, often in  a melancholic mood. In the present poem, the change of seasons at Kawarain makes the poet feel the passing of time all the more acutely, and makes him aware of the transience of human affairs.

Shoseien garden (also called Kikokutei) in Kyoto, under the management of Higashi Honganji temple, has according to tradition been laid out on the very location where once the Kawarain stood. It was given to the temple in 1631 by the Shogun Tokugawa Iemitsu, at which time it was reputedly partly redesigned by Ishikawa Jozan (of Shisendo fame) and Kobori Enshu. It has been landscaped in the go-round style, with various buildings arranged around a central pond. What is left of former greatness is by no means a first-class garden, but it is a pleasant park that deserves to be visited when in the neighborhood.

yaemugura: a general term for creeping vines and weeds that have overgrown an abandoned garden; "yae" means "layer upon layer."
shigeruru: the final -ru indicates completion.
yado: here not an inn, but a poetic term for a private house.
sabishiki ni: some commentators combine this with the previous "yado" to "sabishiki yado," a lonely dwelling," but others connect it with the following into "yado wa sabishii kara, hito wa konai," because the dwelling is lonely, people don't visit (but only autumn comes by).
koso: intensifier; "ne" in "miene" is a negative: "it is people we don't see."
aki wa kinikeri: it is a nice conceit that, while people have stopped coming, autumn (an unwelcome guest) never fails to visit.

The poet
Egyo (sometimes read Ekei; dates unknown, but he flourished in the mid-980s) was a representative poet of the Shuishu period. His associates were Shigeyuki (Poem 48), Yoshinobu (Poem 49) and Morosuke (Poem 42). They frequently met each other at the Kawarain estate of the priest Anpo, who was a descendant of the above mentioned Minamoto no Toru. Fifty-six of Egyo's poems were included in imperial anthologies and he was counted among the Late Classical Thirty-Six Poetic Geniuses.

References: Pictures of the Heart, The Hyakunin Isshu in Word and Image by Joshua S. Mostow (University of Hawai'i Press, 1996); One Hundred Poets, One Poem Each, by Peter MacMIllan (Penguin Classics); Traditional Japanese Poetry, An Anthology, by Steven D. Carter (Stanford University Press, 1991); Hyakunin Isshu by Inoue Muneo, etc. (Shinchosha, 1990); Genshoku Hyakunin Isshu by Suzuki Hideo, etc. (Buneido, 1997); Chishiki Zero kara no Hyakunin Isshu, by Ariyoshi Tamotsu (Gentosha); Hyakunin Isshu Kaibo Zukan, by Tani Tomoko (X-Knowledge);  Ogura Hyakunin Isshu at Japanese Text Initiative (University of Virginia Library Etext Center); Hyakunin Isshu wo aruku by Shimaoka Shin (Kofusha Shuppan); Hyakunin Isshu, Ocho waka kara chusei waka e by Inoue Muneo (Chikuma Shoin, 2004); Basho's Haiku (2 vols) by Toshiharu Oseko (Maruzen, 1990); The Ise Stories by Joshua S. Mostow and Royall Tyler (University of Hawai'i Press, 2010); Kokin Wakashu, The First Imperial Anthology of Japanese Poetry by Helen Craig McCullough (Stanford University Press, 1985); Kokinshu, A Collection of Poems Ancient and Modern by Laurel Rasplica Rodd and Mary Catherine Henkenius (University of Tokyo Press, 1984); Kokin Wakashu (Shogakkan, 1994); Shinkokin Wakashu (Shogakkan, 1995); Taketori Monogatari-Ise Monogatari-Yamato Monogatari-Heichu Monogatari (Shogakkan, 1994).

Photo of Shoseien: Ad Blankestijn

Hyakunin Isshu Index

Monday, May 10, 2021

Lyric Poetry Around the World: Jan Jacob Slauerhoff, Landscape (The Netherlands, 1928)


J. Slauerhof

translation Ad Blankestijn

Bridges, thin as reeds, dart over
Broadly smiling rivers.
Slender females cross with timid tread,
Keeping supple garments tight, lest
gusting breezes blow them open.
They whirled up from the hold like butterflies,
Helplessly carried along, and far from home.
With erect spears the
fishermen wait
For trout shining in the deep.
Junks follow the winding stream,
High on the water, hefty hollow blisters.
The mountain swells up from all sides
Towards the profit of a lofty peak.
Perfect clouds create a wreath,
Visible thoughts of the good mountain god.
Before the red evening sun dangles the earth,
A large round lantern, painted
With yellow deserts, gloomy valleys,
Gray paddies and verdant lakes,
Softly rocking in the blue sky's chamber.

Sprietbruggen, dun als riethalmen, schichten
Over breedglimlachende rivieren .
Ranke vrouwtjes beschrijden ze beschroomd,
't Zacht gewaad angstvallig langs de zijden
Strakhoudend, dat geen windvlaag 't doet uitslaan
Als vlinders dwarrelden ze op door 't ruim,
Ontredderd meegevoerd, ver van huis .
Visschers wachten met loodrechte spies,
Of forellen zich blinkend verrieden in 't diep .
Jonken volgen den kronklenden stroom,
Hoog op den spiegel, groote holle blaren .
De berg zwelt omhoog uit alle verten
Naar de opbrengst van een slanken steilen top .
Volmaakte wolken vormen een krans
Zichtbare gedachten van den goeden berggod .
Voor roode avondzon hangt de aarde,
Een groote ronde lampion, beschilderd
Met gele woestijnen, donkre valleien,
Grijze rijstvelden en groene meren,
Zacht schommlend in de blauwe hemelzaal .

[J. Slauerhoff in Chinese dress]

Jan Jacob Slauerhoff (1898–1936) was a Dutch poet and novelist. He is considered one of the greatest Dutch poets of the twentieth century. Slauerhoff wrote poetry which is Modernist in style (in the tradition of for example Pound and Pessoa), but at the same time is imbued with a strong romantic feeling, like of the French "poètes maudits" (Rimbaud, Verlaine). Another influence was Chinese poetry in translation, especially the works of Li Bai and Bai Juyi (Slauerhoff also made Dutch translation of these Chinese poems). His themes are the yearning to be elsewhere (or somewhere in the past), the desire for the sea, disenchantment with modern life, loneliness, and the awareness of degeneration. Slauerhoff made his debut in 1923 with the collection Archipelago, in which almost all the elements present in his later work can already be found.

Born and raised in Leeuwarden, capital of the province of Friesland, Slauerhoff studied medicine in Amsterdam. He became a ship's doctor and in that capacity traveled widely, to China, Hong Kong, Macau and Japan, as well as Latin-America. His poor health was repeatedly the cause of broken employment contracts. Accordingly, he led an itinerant life. ‘Nowhere but in my poems can I dwell,/ Nowhere else could I a shelter find’ are the first lines of one of his most renowned poems (‘Homeless’), which can be regarded as characteristic of his life and work:

Only in my poems can I dwell,
I never found shelter elsewhere;
I never longed for my own hearth,
A tent was blown away by the storm.
Only in my poems can I dwell,
and I don't care where I am -
the wilds, the steppes, city or forest -
As long as I know I can find that shelter.
It may take long, but the time will come
That I lack the old strength for the night
And beg in vain for soft words,
With which I could build in the past, and the earth
must hide me and I bow down to the
Place where my grave breaks open in the dark.

Besides poems, J. Slauerhoff (1898-1936) also wrote stories, novels, and a play. In addition, he published travelogues and reviews. Ten collections of his work were published during his comparatively short life. The last, Een eerlijk zeemansgraf (An Honorable Seaman’s Grave) appeared shortly before his death after a long illness, in a private clinic in The Netherlands. Despite his ‘violations’ of verse technique, Slauerhoff was regarded by his contemporaries as a genuine poet with a very distinctive voice. Nowadays he is one of the few poets from the previous century whose work is still widely read.

The poem quoted above depicts a beautiful East Asian landscape. It could be fictional, but I think the setting is in China (rather than Japan). Slauerhoff's ship has transported passengers (the women "butterfly-like" whirling up from the hold of the ship) and

Texts, translations and studies:
Texts and secondary literature at DBNL. Slauerhof's work is in the public domain in the Netherlands. The above poem comes from the poetry collection Oost-Azië ("East Asia"), published in 1928.
Slauerhoff, Jacob (2012). The Forbidden Kingdom. London: Pushkin Press. (see my review of this novel)
Fenoulhet, Jane (2001). "Time Travel in the Forbidden Realm: J. J. Slauerhoff's Het verboden rijk Viewed as a Modernist Novel". Modern Language Review. 96 (2): 116–29.

Photos: Unknown photographer, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Lyric Poetry Around the World Index

Sunday, May 9, 2021

Modern Japanese Fiction by Year (7): The Years of the Quiet Generation (1951-1955)

Modern Japanese Fiction by Year (7): The Years of the Quiet Generation (1951-1955)

Within a decade of the defeat, an astonishing array of new literary talent starts producing memorable works of art: Mishima Yukio, Abe Kobo, Oe Kenzaburo, Enchi Fumiko, Endo Shusaku, Oka Shohei, Inoue Yasushi, etc., while several older writers with established reputations, such as Tanizaki and Kawabata, entered new productive phases of their career.

"The Third Generation of Postwar Writers" (Daisan no shinjin) is a classification used to group writers who appeared on the postwar literary scene between 1953 and 1955. They include Endo Shusaku, Yoshioka Shotaro, Yoshiyuki Junnosuke, Shono Junzo, Miura Shumon, Sono Ayako, Agawa Hiroyuki and Kojima Nobuo. Where writers of the first and second postwar generation turned towards Europe and wrote long novels, the third generation authors returned to the
Shishosetsu and to the short story form which had been dominant in Japan before the war. Qua content, in contrast to the (anti-)war fiction of the first and second generations (and although they all had military experience), the third generation writers often concentrate on "the ordinariness of daily life." The early writings of these authors can be characterized as dark, sometimes humorous, sometimes surrealistic, but always expressing a sense of disempowerment and degradation - it is sometimes known as the "literature of humiliation." Kojima Nobuo and Yasuoka Shotaro explicitly address the psychological stress of life under foreign occupation, particularly the loss of masculine authority (father, emperor). Their stories are exaggerated, absurdistic and surrealistic.

San Francisco Peace Treaty and the first of the United States-Japan Security Treaties signed. 

Death of Hayashi Fumiko (1903-1951). 

(1) Japan's greatest antiwar novel, Nobi ("Fires on the Plain") by Ooka Shohei, appears. 
Considered one of the most important novels of the postwar period and based loosely on the author's own wartime experiences in the Philippines, Nobi explores the meaning of human existence through the struggle for survival of men who are driven by starvation to cannibalism. The novel is set in Leyte, where the Japanese army is disintegrating under the blows of the American landings. Military organization has crumbled and the soldiers are left to their individual fate. Within this larger disintegration, there is another: the disintegration of a single man, Private Tamura. One by one, each of his ties to human society is destroyed (especially after he kills an innocent woman in a village), until he, a sensitive and intelligent man, becomes an outcast on the verge of cannibalism. Mad with hunger, the Japanese abandoned soldiers have started killing and eating each other. Subsequently made into a great prize-winning film by Ichikawa Kon in 1959. Also filmed as a sort of zombie-film by Tsukamoto Shinya in 2014.
[tr. by Ivan Morris]

(2) Short stories by Abe Kobo. 
- S. Karuma-shi no hanzai ("The Crime of Mr. S. Karma," 1951) 
Only part of "The Crime of Mr. S. Karma" (1951) has been translated - which is a pity as it is quite interesting: the "crime" is that Mr S. Karma lets his name cards (meishi) get away from him and take over his personality! Without cards he has no name or identity, no self, he is hollow inside - a predicament that shows how much Japanese businessmen rely on their business cards.
[Juliet Winters Carpenter, Beyond the Curve]

- "Dendorokakariya" ("Dendrocacalia," 1949) 
A bewildered man called "Common" discovers he is turning into a rare plant; he eventually ends up in a botanical garden. The director of the Botanical Garden is called K. so it is clear we are in Kafkaen territory here!
[Juliet Winters Carpenter, Beyond the Curve]

- "Akai mayu" ("The Red Cocoon," 1950)
"Red Cocoon" is one of Abe's earliest stories which already contains the idea of alienated man that we find in his later fiction. A homeless man is wondering why he has no home. Or does he have a home and has he forgotten it? He happens to pull on a bit of silk thread hanging from his shoe and ends up unraveling his leg, then his whole body. The thread forms a cocoon around him, until his body has completely been unraveled. "I have a house now," says the man, "but there is no one left to come home to it." Alienated man seeking for a place in society has lost himself in the process. This can also be linked to Abe's own rootlessness. He was born in Tokyo, but grew up in Manchuria, while his family came originally from Hokkaido. Abe always felt he had no real place of origin. That could also be the reason his fiction has such an international quality: it is mostly devoid of typical Japaneseness, and not linked to any specific cultural location. In that respect Abe Kobo resembles Murakami Haruki.
[Tr. Lane Dunlop, A Late Chrysanthemum]

- "Maho no choku" ("The Magic Chalk," 1950) 
About a penniless artist whose crayon drawings come to life. When he draws a meal on his bedroom wall with a newly found piece of red chalk, the food really comes into being - but falls off the wall until he draws a table beneath it. Also sunlight interferes with the magic, so he boards up his windows. For a few weeks, the painter eats every delicacy he can draw...but in the end, he will be swallowed himself by the wall in his room.
[Tr. Alison Kibrick, in The Showa Anthology I]

- "Yuwakusha" ("Beguiled," 1957) 
A very clever story. Two men confront each other in the waiting room of a small station, one the pursuer, the other the pursued... but which is which? In the end, one of them is led back to the lunatic asylum from which he escaped.
[Juliet Winters Carpenter, Beyond the Curve]

- "Mukankei na shi" ("An Irrelevant Death," 1961) 
A man returns home from work to find a murdered man he doesn't know in his apartment. He contemplates ways how to get rid of the unexplained and unpleasant body without incurring suspicion, but everything he does seems to implicate him more and more in the crime.
[Juliet Winters Carpenter, Beyond the Curve]

- "Kabu no muko" ("Beyond the Curve," 1966) 
A man with amnesia tries to remember his past, which exists just beyond the curve of his mind - and is symbolized by the fact that he can't remember what is beyond the curve of the road he is walking on. He has no identity, he even has no business cards in his wallet. When a woman working in a coffee restaurant recognizes him, he still fails to remember who he is and he can only try to cover up his ignorance while waiting for his memory to come back.
[Juliet Winters Carpenter, Beyond the Curve]

Abe Kobo (1924-1993) was born in Tokyo but grew up in Manchuria, where his father worked as a physician. As a young man, he was interested in mathematics and insect collecting as well as in the works of Poe, Kafka, Dostoevsky, Nietzsche, Heidegger and Jaspers. He received a medical degree from Tokyo University in 1948, the same year he published his first novel. He never practiced medicine. He has been called the first truly international writer of Japan, whose experimental works have no specific cultural location (like those by Murakami Haruki). In 1951 he received the Akutagawa Prize for The Crime of S. Karma and in 1962 his novel The Woman in the Dunes was awarded the Yomiuri Prize for Literature. A year later the film version by Teshigahara received the Jury prize at the Cannes Film festival. Abe's work goes completely against the dominant realistic mode of 20th c. Japanese fiction. He is in fact a literary surrealist, Kafka being his major detectable influence. In his best work, strange, evocative images give his stories depth and resonance. 

(3) Short stories about failing "heroes" by Yasuoka Shotaro. 
- "Garasu no kutsu" ("The Glass Slipper," 1951)
The narrator, a clerk at a shop selling hunting rifles, is sent to the home of a U.S. military doctor to deliver a purchase. The doctor and his wife are out, and in their place a teenage maid, Etsuko, answers the door and welcomes the narrator in with great warmth. The narrator develops fervent feelings for the naive Etsuko whose strange, playful ways move him and torment him. He visits her every day, but when the doctor and his wife return home, things come to an end. Etsuko is like Cinderella's glass slipper that disappears at the stroke of midnight. A story which has earned high praise from Murakami Haruki.
[tr. Royall Tyler, Dalkey Archive Press]

- "Aigan" ("Prized Possessions," 1952) 
In the meager years after the war, a family (father, mother and son) decides to start breeding rabbits to supplement their income, but that is not so easy as it seems. A grotesque story, in which the indignities of living in the immediate postwar years are covered in a cloak of self-mockery. But the comic weakness of the protagonists is also very human. Arguably Yasuoka's best story.
[tr. Edwin McClellan in The Columbia Anthology of Modern Japanese Literature, Volume 2]

- "Warui nakama" ("Bad Company," 1953) 
Won, together with another story by Yasuoka, "Gloomy Pleasures," the 29th Akutagawa prize in 1953. Another funny story about characters who are a complete disaster as human beings. A new boy in the class teaches the protagonist to steal and visit a prostitute, and together they corrupt a third friend.
[tr. Karen Wigen Lewis in The Showa Anthology I; also in A View by the Sea]

 - “Hausu gado” (“The House Guard,” 1953) 
The narrator has the leisurely job of guarding houses requisitioned by the Occupation. He spoils a nascent love affair with the maid from next door through sheer ineffectuality.
[tr. Royall Tyler, Dalkey Archive Press]

- "Inki no tanoshimi" ("Gloomy Pleasures," 1953) 
The other Akutagawa Prize winning story. Failure is second nature to the narrator of this story. Wounded in the war, he feels guilty about receiving the veteran's unemployment compensation for which he qualifies, but travels unnecessarily every month in person to Yokohama to cash it, where unpleasantness awaits him on all fronts. This humiliating experience has become one of his "gloomy pleasures."
[tr. Karen Wigen in A View by the Sea]

[Yasuoka Shotaro]

Yasuoka Shotaro (1920–2013) was born in Kochi Prefecture as the son of an army veterinary surgeon. He experienced an early life of frequent moves from one military post to the next, and developed a dislike for schooling. Still, he did manage to get accepted into Keio University's preliminary course, but was immediately drafted and sent to Manchuria. He was discharged when he fell ill with what appeared to be Pott disease, an illness which would haunt him for ten years. As his father had lost his livelihood, Yasuoka was obliged to do odd jobs to earn money for his own treatment (one of those jobs is described in "The House Guard"). It was while he was bedridden with this disease that he began his writing career. Besides for humorous stories and essays, Yasuoka is also known for the novella Umibe no kokei (“A View by the Sea,” 1959) about his mother’s death in an insane asylum. Yasuoka’s characters are all clumsy persons who masochistically persist in challenging themselves even when realizing there is not the slightest chance of success. Failure has been called a constant trademark for Yasuoka, whose work with its self-depreciating tone has also been seen as a cross between Dazai Osamu and Shiga Naoya. 

(4) The greatest novel by Hayashi Fumiko appears: Ukigumo ("Drifting Clouds"). 
About the tortured relationship between Koda Yukiko, the novel's heroine, and a minor official, Tomioka. During the war they begin their affair in lush Indo-China. After the war, Tomioka returns to his wife and family; when Yukiko follows him, he appears a completely changed man (of course, circumstances are completely different). The novel is set in the poverty and degradation of bombed-out Tokyo, where everybody suffers the pangs of hunger. Still, Tomioka hesitates to break off their relationship and they unsuccessfully attempt a double suicide. Finally, Yukiko - who has to find a new life in the desolation and chaos of postwar Japan – desperately follows him all the way to the remote southern island of Yakushima, where he is transferred for his job. A masterwork with a nihilistic perspective on human nature. Filmed in 1955 by Naruse Mikio, with Takamine Hideko. After finishing this novel, Hayashi started on Meshi, about a housewife who feels trapped in a marriage that only consists of daily drudgery, but before she could complete this novel, she died from a heart attack on June 28, 1951. Since her first book, Horoki in 1930, she had published 270 books and written some 30,000 pages, working always at a frantic pace, as if she wanted to ward off the poverty that had haunted her in her youth.
[tr. Lane Dunlop]

(5) Kawabata Yasunari writes his novel about an aging Go-master, Meijin ("The Master of Go," lit. "The Master," 1951-54). 
A semi-fictional account of the lengthy 1938 "retirement game" of Go by the respected real-life master Honinbo Shusai, against the up-and-coming Westernized and modern player Kitani Minoru (although the latter's name is changed to Otake in the book). It was the last game of the master Shusai's career, a lengthy struggle which took almost six months to complete (at that time, each player was given forty hours against today's ten to make his moves); he narrowly lost to his younger challenger, to die a little over a year thereafter. Kawabata at the time followed the game for a newspaper. The novel contrasts tradition and the new pragmatism, old Japan and the new, and life and death. The novel has also been interpreted as a lament about Japan’s loss in the war. The game is described in detail in the novel and illustrated with diagrams. Interestingly, when Mishima Yukio met Kawabata for the first time, he received an indelible impression from Kawabata's eyes, which he called "the eyes of a go player." (Inose & Sato, Persona, p. 150)
[tr. Edward Seidensticker]

(6) Mishima Yukio delves into the world of Tokyo's homosexuals in Kinjiki ("Forbidden Colors").

A story about rather complex sexual vengeance. A cynical aging author, Hinoki Shunsuke, has suffered three unhappy marriages and had many bad experiences with women. His third wife, for example, who was prone to adultery, committed double suicide with a young lover. Now Yasuko, his tenth love affair, wants to marry a beautiful boy, Minami Yuichi. Shunsuke decides that will be his perfect opportunity for an exquisitely artistic creation. Yuichi shall be his work of art, and through him Shunsuke will achieve vengeance against the women who have humiliated him. His plot begins with the marriage of his characters, Yuichi and Yasuko. Yasuko is a conventional young woman from a well-to-do family; while Yuichi needs the marriage for financial reasons, he has confided to the older man that he feels no physical desire for his bride, or for any woman. The crafty Shunsuke advises him to go through with the marriage and gain financial security, but he also plans the involvement of Yuichi with the women who have rejected him... and with the boys for whom Yuichi has until now merely yearned. Of course, things don't go as smoothly as planned, for life is messier than the plot of a novel, and Yuichi has a will of his own. In the end, Shunsuke commits suicide, bequeathing his fortune to Yuichi to provide him with a "nameless freedom."
[tr. Alfred H. Marks]

The Allied Occupation of Japan ends as the San Francisco Peace Treaty goes into effect. 

(1) Short stories by Mishima Yukio written in the mid-1950s.

- "Manatsu no shi" ("Death in Midsummer," 1952)
A woman loses two of her three children and her sister-in-law to an accident, all at once (the children drown and the aunt has a heart attack), while at a beach resort at the Izu Peninsula. The mother then has to face her husband who is at work in Tokyo. For the reader, the businesslike attitude of the bereaved father comes as a surprise.
[Edward Seidensticker in Death in Midsummer and Other Stories]

- "Shigadera Shonin no koi" ("The Priest of Shiga Temple and His Love," 1954). 
A venerable priest of Pure Land Buddhism falls in love with the Imperial Concubine after a single glance and loses his grip on Enlightenment. The story gives a catalog of the joys of the Pure Land, which the priest confuses with the Imperial Concubine, while she is convinced that the priest, by giving up the Pure Land for her, has made a larger sacrifice than all her previous lovers...
[Ivan Morris in Death in Midsummer and Other Stories]  

- "Umi to yuyake" ("Sea and Sunset," 1955)
The thoughts of Anri (Henri), in the year 1272 on a hill at the back of Kenchoji in Kamakura. As a French boy Henri was leader of the legendary "children's crusade" to the Holy Land in 1212. Through a series of portents and miracles he gathered 30,000 children at the Mediterranean Sea, in the belief that the sea would part so that they could walk to Jerusalem. But the sea did not split and many children were tricked by hypocritical ship owners to board their vessels and sold into slavery. Henri ended up in India, where he met the Chinese monk Daolong (Doryu) who eventually took him to Japan. Now, an old priest, he still thinks about that critical turning point in his life: why didn't the sea split but instead spread out silently as if burned in the evening glow?
[John Bester in Acts of Worship]

- "Hashizukushi" ("The seven Bridges," lit. "Crossing All Bridges," 1956)
On the night of the September full moon, three geisha, Koyumi, Masako, and Kanako, and their maid, set out to pray in silence under the moon, observing a ritual of "double seven," praying at either end of each bridge in the hope that their wishes will be granted. But their project is doomed in the modern world: Kanako drops out because of stomach ache, Koyumi is accosted by an old friend and does not preserve her silence, Masako is pounced on by a policeman who thinks she is contemplating suicide. Only Mina, the unthinking maid sent along as their chaperone, plods on and completes the round, but for her this aesthetic tradition has no meaning.
[Donald Keene in Death in Midsummer and Other Stories]

- "Onnagata" ("Onnagata," 1957)
Masuyama, a young graduate in classical Japanese literature, enters the esoteric backstage world of Kabuki. He sees in the onnagata Mangiku a rare figure of "aloof beauty," who substitutes art for life by living offstage as the woman he portrays in the theater. But then Mangiku falls in love with a newly imported "modern play" director...  
[Donald Keene in Death in Midsummer and Other Stories]

(2) The first novel by Kita Morio, Yurei ("Ghosts"), is a quest for a lost childhood. 
A brilliant novel about the quest for a lost childhood, of which only fragments remain. Inspired by Kita's reading of the novels of Thomas Mann. Kita himself had to finance publication of this novel.
[tr. Dennis Keene]

Kita Morio (1927-2011) was the second son of Saito Mokichi, the famous traditional poet. He graduated as a neurologist from Tohoku University. His great example was Thomas Mann. Ghosts, originally conceived as a short story, was his first novel. In 1953 Kita passed the state's qualifying medical exam and in 1958 he made a 6-month voyage to Europe as a ship's doctor. This trip became the basis for his comic bestselling novel Doctor Manbo at Sea (1960). His greatest novel was The House of Nire (1961-63), inspired by Mann's Buddenbrooks, which won the Mainichi Prize in 1964.

(3) Haru no shiro (“Citadel in Spring”) by Agawa Hiroyuki is an autobiographical novel which won the Yomiuri Prize in 1952. Hiroshima-born college student Obata Koji becomes a naval cryptographer out of a sense of patriotic duty. Most of his time is spent in Tokyo and China as a code-breaker. It is through a newspaper that he first learns about the destruction of Hiroshima. He later returns to look for a relative in the ruined city. The highlights of this lyrical novel are the battle scenes, showing how quickly even someone not interested in the military becomes desensitized to slaughter, and the nightmarish account of the annihilation of Hiroshima.
[tr. Lawrence Rogers]

Agawa Hiroyuki (1920-2015) served as information officer in the Japanese navy during WWII. He had studied literature at university (he was a fan of Shiga Naoya) and began writing soon after his repatriation. In 1946 he wrote his first story "Nennen saisai" (From age to age) about the demolishment of his hometown Hiroshima by the atomic bomb. Most of Agawa’s work, from his autobiographical stories and novels (such as Grave Marker in the Clouds, 1955, about a kamikaze pilot), to his interpretative biographies of three admirals who had argued against the war with the U.S., the foremost of whom was Yamamoto Isoroku, has WWII as its theme. As a witness to WWII, Agawa reminds his readers of the real costs of war.

(4) Shinku chitai ("Zone of Emptiness") by Noma Hiroshi 

One of the best anti-war novels produced after World War II, about the cruel drills in a military barracks in Osaka during the Pacific War. Filmed by Yamamoto Satsuo.
[tr. Bernard Frechtman from the French version, no longer available]

Television broadcasting begins in Japan. 

Death of Hori Tatsuo (1904-1953) leads to renewed popularity of his stories (see previous post).

(1) Taka ("The Raptor") by Ishikawa Jun A surreal and grim vision containing typically dystopian elements as an underground revolutionary movement. A young man, Kunisuke, becomes involved in the clandestine distribution of a new contraband cigarette called "Peace." The cigarettes endow their smokers with the mysterious power to read “futurese” (ashita-go), "the language of tomorrow." The authorities eventually apprehend Kunisuke and his fellow visionaries, but he is saved by a giant raptor which transports him to freedom.
[tr. William J. Tyler in The Legend of Gold and Other Stories by Ishikawa Jun, Hawaii U.P.]

(2) Furin Kazan ("The Samurai banner of Furin Kazan") by Inoue Yasushi. 
Serialized in 1953 just after the end of the occupation, when there was a big surge of samurai films and novels which had been forbidden as "feudal" by the Occupation during previous years. The title refers to the war banner of Takeda Shingen (1521-1573), one of the most famous generals of Japan's Warring Sates period. It contained four Chinese characters that signified: “Silent as a forest. Swift as the wind. Rapacious as fire. Immovable as a mountain.” These qualities summarized the art of war in the ancient Chinese strategy handbook, the Sunzi, and were deemed necessary for military success during the civil wars that ravaged Japan in the 16th c. Takeda Shingen's noble failure is among the most popular Japanese historical chronicles. There have been numerous film and television adaptations of his story, such as Kurosawa’s Kagemusha (1980) or Inagaki’s Furin Kazan (1969) with Toshiro Mifune as the hero. In Inoue's version not Takeda Shingen, but Yamamoto Kansuke, his wily advisor and master plotter is the main hero, but interestingly, Kansuke meets his equal in the shrewd Princess Yuu. Inoue's novel formed the basis for the 2007 NHK taiga drama of the same title.
[Tr. Yoko Riley]

A typhoon in the Tsugaru Strait sinks the ferry Toya Maru, killing over 1,100 passengers and crew.

Akutagawa prizes this year go to Yoshiyuki Junnosuke, Kojima Nobuo and Shono Junzo, three excellent new writers. 

(1) Short stories about the postwar Tokyo "water-trade" by Yoshiyuki Junnosuke.  

- "Shuu" ("A Rain Shower"), winner of the 31st Akutagawa Prize. 
A young salaryman thinks love is a bother and prefers to visit the red light district. But then he falls in love with a prostitute and is annoyed at his jealousy over her. A sensitive, bittersweet story.
[tr. Geoffrey Bownas, now unavailable]

- "Shofu no heya" ("Akiko's Room," lit. "A Prostitute's Room," 1958) 
The narrator is reporter for a small scandal magazine and often feels like a beaten dog, but the room of the prostitute Akiko has become his refuge, where he can recover his mental equilibrium. But when Akiko gets a new sponsor, she disappears from the quarter...
[tr. Howard Hibbett in Contemporary Japanese Literature]

- "Kigi wa midori ka" ("Are the Trees Green?," 1958) 
A teacher at a night school is in love with the much younger Asako, one of his pupils. He even gets a boyish hair-cut to look younger. But Akiko works in a bar and it takes the persuasion of a friend before the teacher dares visit her in that environment. He is surprised at the change in her personality as well as her thick make-up... but decides to come more often.
[tr. Adam Kabat in The Showa Anthology, Volume I]

Okayama-born Yoshiyuki Junnosuke (1924-1994) is the most famous writer about Tokyo’s postwar water trade. Yoshiyuki entered Tokyo University in 1945 to major in English literature. He had been exempted from military service because of his asthma. After the war, he worked six years for a small scandal magazine, and despite his weak health, he led a life of both hard work and hard play. His novel Genshoku no Machi, about prostitutes and their clients, and set in the garish neon-lit night world of postwar Tokyo, was nominated for the Akutagawa Prize in 1952. Other work includes "Shuu" (“Sudden rain,” which actually won the Akutagawa Prize) and "Shofu no heya" (“Akiko’s Room”). Anshitsu (“The Dark Room,” 1970) was a claustrophobic novel about a man’s attempt to escape depression through sex; it received the prestigious Tanizaki Prize. Noma Prize winning Yugure made (“Until Dusk”) was a novella about a middle-aged man who seeks obsessively for an emotional rather than physical virginity in his young mistress. Like Kafu and Tanizaki (and the tradition of Edo-period Gesaku fiction), Yoshiyuki writes of the world of outcast women both as a refuge from the hypocrisies of ordinary society and as an alluring setting for romantic self-degradation. Although sometimes classified as a Shishosetsu writer, Yoshiyuki’s aim is different: not sincerity, but clarity. Yoshiyuki writes in a cool and polished style, without any overt emotion, but instead infused by sparkling wit.

The 32nd Akutagawa Prize is shared by "Amerikan sukuru" ("American School") by Kojima Nobuo and "Purusaido shokei" ("A Poolside Scene") by Shono Junzo. 

(2) Ironical stories by Kojima Nobuo. 

- "Amerikan sukuru" ("American School") 
Satirical depiction of the visit of a group of Japanese English-language teachers to an international school for the children of Americans in Occupied Japan. The reactions of the educators as they walk eight miles to the school and come into contact with transplanted American culture for the first time are both touching and comical. There are several interesting types: one English teacher, Isa, is unable (or basically unwilling) to speak any English – in fact, he loathes the English language because he thinks it undermines his identity as a Japanese; another one, Yamada, a former army commander, likes to show off his ability but he also brags about the killings he made during the war; and a third one, Michiko, a woman teacher, is planning to make an unexplained “mysterious request” of Isa, while they walk the long route to the school... until it appears she just wants to borrow his chopsticks to eat her bento.
[tr. Lawrence Rogers in Long Belts and Thin Men, the Postwar Stories of Kojima Nobuo, Kurodahan Press]

- "Shoju” ("The Rifle,” 1952) 
The debut story of Kojima, a tale about a young soldier fighting in China, whose almost erotic passion for his rifle gives rise to a bewildering sequence of associations. Shin, a soldier, becomes so disillusioned by the war that he looses his grip on reality. Before leaving for the front he had fallen in love with a married woman who, pregnant by her husband, did not allow Shin to make love to her. As if in compensation, Shin transfers his affections to his army rifle, treating it with all the care one would normally lavish an a valued mistress. Later, during the war, Shin is ordered to shoot a Chinese woman who reminds him of his love – using the same rifle.
[tr. Lawrence Rogers in Long Belts and Thin Men, the Postwar Stories of Kojima Nobuo, Kurodahan Press; also in The Oxford Book of Japanese Short Stories]

- “Bisho” (“The Smile,” 1954) 
A portrayal of the psychological burdens of a war veteran. A father returns home after four years at war to discover that his infant son is handicapped. Unable to accept it, he turns his anger against the boy, only to be ashamed when a photographer asks him to smile and a falsely cheerful picture of father and son appears next morning in the newspaper.
[tr. Lawrence Rogers in Long Belts and Thin Men, the Postwar Stories of Kojima Nobuo, Kurodahan Press]

Kojima Nobuo (1915-2006) was born in Gifu Prefecture as the son of a maker of Buddhist altars. He graduated in English literature from Tokyo University, after which he was drafted and sent to China. After the war, he began a career in teaching (eventually becoming Professor of English at Meiji University) while also writing short stories and novels. Kojima won the Akutagawa Prize for "Amerikan sukuru" ("American School") in 1955, and in 1957 he received a fellowship from the Rockefeller Foundation to travel to the United States for study. Besides employing hard-edged, satirical humor, he usually expresses his sympathy for the everyday heroics of little people. His major work is Hoyo kazoku (“Embracing Family,” 1965), for which he won the Tanizaki Prize.

(3) Quiet domestic stories by Shono Junzo. 

- "Purusaido shokei" ("A Poolside Scene") 
The best of Shono's short stories about crises in newly married lives. Aoki's existence seems all happiness: every evening he has his sons practice swimming in the school pool, after which his wife with the dog comes to fetch them and they return home for the happy family dinner. But in reality the family is in danger: Mr Aoki has embezzled company funds and been summarily discharged. Mrs Aoki knew her husband was somewhat fun and drink loving, but she now manages to pull the true story out of him: he has spent the stolen money on another woman, a bar hostess. For Mrs Aoki, after fifteen years of marriage, everything around her seems to collapse... Winner of the 32nd Akutagawa Prize.
[tr. Wayne P. Lammers in Still Life and Other Stories; also in The Columbia Anthology of Modern Japanese Literature, Vol. 2]

- “Seibutsu” (“Still Life”) 
A quiet tale about the normal, daily happenings in a family of five, one of a series that focuses on the small events and non-events of domestic life. Shono's artful layering of commonplace happenings, images, and conversations can be compared to an Ozu film. Seibutsu is almost more a picture than a story.
[tr. Wayne P. Lammers in Still Life and Other Stories; also in The Showa Anthology Vol. 1]

Shono Junzo (1921-2009) was born in Osaka and studied English at the Osaka School of Foreign languages and Kyushu University. After the war, while working as a teacher in Osaka, Shono started writing. In his first stories he probed the psychological turmoil of young married couples who are faced with a variety of marital and financial crises. One of these was Akutagawa Prize winning “A Poolside Scene.” Shono now became a full-time writer. Later stories concentrate on the common, everyday happenings in a family of five, a family very much like Shono's own. Shono's work is rooted firmly in the Shishosetsu tradition and the activities and conversations described are closely modeled on real-life occurrences. Rather than on the disintegration of the family, Shono's focus is on the little things that form a bond within a family. The same family of five figures in his major novel from 1964, Yube no kumo ("Evening Clouds"), which won the Yomiuri Literary Prize.

(4) Kusa no hana ("Flowers of Grass") by Fukunaga Takehiko 
A novel of lost youth, as the author himself called it, with some autobiographical elements. The novel is set in a tuberculosis sanatorium just outside Tokyo. The narrator becomes acquainted with another patient, a student of linguistics and budding writer named Shiomi. After Shiomi insists on undergoing a dangerous surgical procedure and dies in the process, the narrator discovers two notebooks written by him. Flowers of Grass unfolds as the narrator reads them, wondering whether Shiomi's death was perhaps a sort of suicide, as he learns the details of his late friend’'s two great loves for a brother and sister, both of whom reject him.
[tr. Royall Tyler, Dalkey Archive Press]

Fukunaga Takehiko (1918-1979), who belonged to the so-called "first generation of postwar writers," was born in Fukuoka and studied French literature at Tokyo University. Because of ill health (tuberculosis), he was excused from military service and after the war he spent six years in a sanatorium in Kiyose. Fukunaga was active as novelist and poet, as well as translator of Sartre and Baudelaire. Besides Flowers of Grass, his best-known work, a strong novel is Shi no shima ("The Island of Death," 1971), evoking the last 24 hours of a man's life before the atomic bombing of Hiroshima. Fukunaga was married to the poetess Harajo Akiko and they were the parents of the well-known author Ikezawa Natsuki.   

(5) Mizuumi ("The Lake") by Kawabata Yasunari.
A dark and tortured story, which has even been called "a sordid tale" - probably by a disappointed admirer of Kawabata's perceived "Japanese beauty." But the point is that Kawabata is not the haiku-like writer about the Japanese seasons he is often mistakenly made out to be - Kawabata is a modernist author who finds beauty in ugly places, or even sees beauty in ugliness. The main character of The Lake, Gimpei, is a disgusting and twisted figure, a teacher who has been fired for seducing a female student, and who compulsively stalks women and girls on the street. In his past lie several disturbing events. He suffers from self-loathing epitomized by a curious hatred of his misshapen feet. I don't consider this novel as minor Kawabata, but rather as an important book that helps us get a better and more realistic view of the author. By providing a reasonably sympathetic study of a psychopathic mind, Kawabata probes the negative aspects of his own sexual psychology. An instance of unexpected beauty in this book consists of a cage with fireflies the protagonist secretly attaches to the back of a girl he was stalking.
[tr. Reiko Tsukimura]

[Kami Island in the Bay of Ise where Mishima's novel is set]

(6) Shiosai ("The Sound of Waves") by Mishima Yukio. 
Written after Mishima's world tour which also included a visit to Greece and inspired him to base a novel on the ancient Greek romantic tale of Daphnis and Chloe. Mishima used a small island in the Bay of Ise as setting. A poor young fisherman, Shinji, is in love with Hatsue, the beautiful daughter of the wealthiest man on the island, ship owner Terukichi. They face many obstacles: a young man with a higher status than Shinji tries to rape Hatsue (she is saved by a hornet) and Hatsue's father is an irascible bully. Despite the usual youthful temptations - even when they are together naked in a cave, drying their clothes - they remain chaste. After Shinji proves his mettle on a stormy night by saving the ship of Terukichi, Hatsue's father agrees to the marriage of the two lovers. With seventy printings in just three months, Shiosai became a solid bestseller and was immediately adapted for film. In fact, it helped initiate the deluge of youth films that would roll over Japan in the second half of the decade. Despite all that, Shiosai is too simple and cute to be called great literature and one can only imagine Mishima wrote it tongue-in-cheek (or with one eye at his bank account).
[tr. Meredith Weatherby]

First transistor radios go on sale. Liberal Democratic Party formed. 

Death of Sakaguchi Ango (1906-1955). 

(1) The 33th Akutagawa prize is won by Shiroi hito (“White Man”) by Endo Shusaku. 
This novella was published as a set with Kiiroi hito (“Yellow Man”). The first story is set in France during the German occupation. It is a story of faith, guilt and betrayal within the French Resistance, told through the diary of a young man who collaborates with the Nazi’s by acting as an interpreter for the Gestapo. Yellow Man was written in the form of a student’s letter to his pastor, a disgraced French missionary. The Japanese student is exhausted by the war and dying from tuberculosis. He realizes the superficiality of his faith in a “white” god. In these stories, Endo already addressed one of his major themes: the difference between European and Japanese religious sensibilities. Endo had a unique inter-cultural perspective thanks to his first-hand acquaintance with Christian thought in France.
[tr. Teruyo Shimizu, Paulist Press]

Endo Shusaku (1923-1996) was a rara avis in Japanese letters: a Roman Catholic author who addressed such issues as guilt, betrayal and the anguish of faith. Most of his characters struggle with complex moral dilemmas, and their choices often produce mixed or tragic results. As John Lewell states, “His insights into the unique Japanese interpretation of Christianity would alone ensure his reputation in the West.” (Modern Japanese Novelists, p. 80). Endo spent his childhood years in Manchuria, after which he grew up in Kobe where he was baptized as a Catholic at the age of 12. Endo began studying French literature at Keio University in 1943, but his studies were interrupted by the war. An interest in French Catholic authors encouraged him to study for two-and-a-half years at the University of Lyon beginning in 1950. Throughout his life Endo suffered from ill health and he experienced many long periods of hospitalization, amongst others with tuberculosis. Endo’s writing career took off after he won the coveted Akutagawa prize in 1955; his national breakthrough came in 1958 with The Sea and Poison, about a notorious war crime, vivisection on captive American soldiers. Endo also wrote historical novels and his most famous work is Silence (1966) about the martyrdom of Christians in Japan in the late 16th c. - a novel today all the more famous thanks to the film version of Martin Scorcese (2016). Endo was not part of any literary avant-garde, but wrote in a straightforward style. The most interesting aspect of his work is the inter-cultural perspective.

(2) The 34th Akutagawa Prize is won by Taiyo no kisetsu (“Season Of Violence,” lit. "The Season of the Sun") by Ishihara Shintaro, a controversial choice.
Ishihara (1932) later became known as a populist politician and governor of Tokyo. This novel is rather crude and direct, although that quality fits its subject. Ishihara’s protagonists are pampered rich boys who are bored, cynical and highly misogynistic. They hang out at the beaches south of Tokyo and race around in expensive motor boats. Their casual acts of violence and sexual promiscuity are not in any way a rebellion against society, but  expressions of their inner emptiness. In Season of Violence, the protagonist doesn't mind his girlfriend's loose behavior, but is on the contrary distressed when he realizes that she might really love him. So he abuses her in increasingly cruel ways, which perversely only serves to enhance her love. In the end, the girlfriend dies of complications after an abortion. Mishima Yukio was an influence on Ishihara and his characters make just such exhibitionistic speeches in defense of their nihilism as those in Mishima's novels. Season of Violence was immediately filmed and gave rise to the new Taiyozoku ("Sun Tribe")-genre about Japan's dissatisfied youth in rebellion against the older generation, taking its cue from the worldwide youth revolution. By the way, the best film in this genre was Kurutta Kajitsu ("Crazed Fruit") by Nakahira Ko, based on a screenplay by Ishihara. It featured a new star in Ishihara's younger brother, Yujiro, "the Japanese James Dean."
[tr. as Season of Violence by John G. Mills, Toshie Takahama & Ken Tremayne]

(3) Nagareru (“Flowing”) by Koda Aya, a novel about the decline of a geisha house on the Sumida River, which forms the apex of Koda Aya's career as a writer.
Flowing describes a failing geisha establishment through the eyes of the middle-aged maid Rika who begins to work there at the start of the book. The reader witnesses the slow dissolution of a once viable way of life in a time of economic hardship. The long-established geisha house run by Otsuta is heavily in debt, and the mistress desperately tries to save her business. In that, she is assisted by her practical daughter Katsuyo (who is not a geisha and wants a regular job), but the forces opposing her are very strong. In 1956, made into a popular film by Naruse Mikio with Tanaka Kinuyo as Rika, Yamada Isuzu as Otsuta and Takamine Hideko as Katsuyo.
[No English translation, but summarized in The Writings of Koda Aya by Alan Tansman]

Koda Aya (1904-1990) was a Japanese essayist and novelist, the second daughter of Meiji period novelist Koda Rohan and her first works (written when she was 43) were memoirs of life with her father. Her subsequent short stories, novels, and essays explored women's lives, family, and traditional culture. Only a few of her short stories have been translated - who will tackle Flowing which is a truely great novel?
[Studies: The Writings of Koda Aya, a Japanese Literary Daughter, Alan M. Tansman, Yale U.P.; Mirror: The Fiction and Essays of Koda Aya, Ann Sherif, University of Hawaii Press]

[Reference works used: Dawn to the West by Donald Keene (New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1984); Modern Japanese Novelists, A Biographical Dictionary by John Lewell (New York, Tokyo and London: Kodansha International, 1993); Narrating the Self, Fictions of Japanese Modernity by Tomi Suzuki (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1996); Oe and Beyond, Fiction in Contemporary Japan, ed. by Stephen Snyder and Philip Gabriel (Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1999); Origins of Modern Japanese Literature by Karatani Kojin (Durham and London: Duke University Press, 1993); The Columbia Anthology of Modern Japanese Literature, 2 vols, ed. by J. Thomas Rimer and Van C. Gessel (New York: Columbia University Press, 2005 and 2007); The Fantastic in Modern Japanese Literature by Susan J. Napier (London and New York: Routledge, 1996); Writers & Society in Modern Japan by Irena Powell (New York, Tokyo and London: Kodansha International, 1983).]

[All author portraits public domain from Wikimedia Commons.
Photo Kami Island Ise Bay: Alpsdake, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons]

Saturday, May 8, 2021

Haiku Travels (26): Shiki and Matsuyama


Haiku Travels

Matsuyama (Dogo Onsen)

spring - in the past

a castle town

of 150,000 bushels

haru ya mukashi | jugomankoku no | joka kana


[Matsuyama Castle]

When you say "haiku," you say "Matsuyama." Matsuyama on Shikoku is the hometown of Matsuoka Shiki (1867-1902), who in his short life transformed the Edo-period hokku into the modern haiku. He is greatly honored in his hometown, with a Shiki Museum and numerous haiku stones. What is more, Shiki was not Matsuyama's only famous haiku poet - his disciples Kawahigashi Hekigoto (1873-1936) and Takahama Kyoshi (1874-1959) were also from Matsuyama and the famous haiku magazine Hotogogisu was born in this city. On top of that, the itinerant haiku poet Santoka (1882-1940) spent his last years in a hermitage in Matsuyama and Meiji-literature giant Natsume Soseki (1867-1916) taught for a year English at Matsuyama Junior Highschool. In Matsuyama, Soseki is not only remembered for the novel Botchan which is set in the city, but Soseki was also a not inconsiderable haiku poet - for a few months in 1895, he shared a house in Matsuyama, Gudabutsuan, with Shiki.

So there is every reason for Matsuyama to consider itself as the capital of haiku. There are more than 480 haiku stones (kuhi) in the city and in many places you will find a kind of postboxes where you can contribute your own haiku.

[Haiku post]

We start where usually visitors enter the city: at JR Matsuyama station. When you come out of the station, on your left you will find a rather oversized haiku stone, carrying the present poem as a sort of symbol of Matsuyama. Shiki wrote the haiku in 1895 (the stone dates from 1962).

Matsuyama Castle, to which the haiku refers, was built in the early 17th century by Kato Yoshiakira. Later, in 1635, it was given in the custody of a branch of the Matsudaira clan, relatives of the shogun in Edo. It sits on the steep Katsuyama Hill in the center of the Dogo Plain. Together with the castles in Wakayama and Himeji, it is one of three so-called "multiple wing" castles in Japan. Unfortunately, Matsuyama Castle is not as historically precious as the one in Himeji, because the most important part, the donjon or central castle tower, was several times destroyed and lastly rebuilt in 1854 on a much smaller scale. Some other towers went up in flames during WWII, and have been rebuilt now by the city - beautifully in wood.

The haiku speaks about the measure called koku - here translated freely as "bushel." One koku is in fact 180 kilograms of rice and was considered as the amount one person needed to live for one year. As tax was levied mainly as rice from the peasantry, income was indicated in koku of rice. 150,000 koku is a rather modest fief, but Shiki was proud of his hometown.

[Matsuyama Castle]

the castle hill
rises into the sky -
green gale

shiroyama no | ukami-agaru ya | ao-arashi

There is a second train station in Matsuyama called Matsuyama City Station, serviced by the Iyo Railway that connects the city with its suburbs. It is linked to the JR station via a short streetcar ride. Here, too, on the left side in front of the station (on the streetcar platform, in fact) we find a haiku stone by Shiki. The haiku was written in 1892 and again has Matsuyama Castle as its theme. "Ao-arashi", "green gale," is a strong wind blowing through the green leaves and is a kigo for summer.

[Shikido museum]

morning chill -
"anybody home?" echoes
at the back door

asazamu ya | tanomo to hibiku | uchi-genkan

Shiki composed this haiku in 1895. On the way to visit Murakami Seigetsu's house, Shiki dropped by at Shojuji Temple (which also happened to be his family temple) to pick up the priest Bukkai. Bukkai (1863-1945) was Shiki's friend and also a haiku poet - he wrote under the name Isshuku. Shiki stands at the side or back door (uchi-genkan, the private entry used by family and friends) and calls out "Tanomo," "Anybody home?" "Morning chill" is a season word for autumn.

Shojuji stands at the back of Matsuyama-shi Station and is now hemmed in by houses. The grounds seem not very attractive, until you reach the back where a replica stands of the house where Shiki was born and where he lived until age 17. Called Shikido, this is now a small museum displaying Shiki memorabilia. Opposite the museum stands one of the oldest carriages of the Iyo Railways, a box car affectionately called the "Botchan train," as it figures in Natsume Soseki's famous novel. Near the small graveyard are more monuments related to Shiki, such as a grave of his hair and a stele commemorating his connection with baseball - he seems to have been one of the earliest fans of this sport in Japan.

[Botchan train]

First Haiku Stone:
The haiku stone stands in front of JR Matsuyama Station (to the left when you exit the station). Matsuyama castle is 10 min by bus (#52) or streetcar (#5) from Matsuyama St, in the direction of Dogo Onsen; get of at Okaido. You can walk up the 132 meter high hill, or take a ropeway.

Second Haiku Stone:
The haiku stone stands on the streetcar platform in front of Matsuyama-shi Station (The Iyo Railway station, 5 min by streetcar from the JR Matsuyama Station).

Third Haiku Stone:
The third haiku stands in the grounds of Shojuji Temple, 5 min on foot from Matsuyama-shi Station. The grounds are freely accessible, but to see the Shikido museum you have to pay a small fee at the temple office.

Links to Matsuyama and Ehime
Homepage of Matsuyama; Guide to Ehime Prefecture.

For Shiki, read Masaoka Shiki, Selected Poems translated by Burton Watson (Columbia Univ. Press) and Masaoka Shiki, by Janine Beichman (Kodansha, reprint 1986). The Matsuyama Municipal Shiki-Kinen Museum has published the attractive If Someone Asks... Matsuoka Shiki's Life and Haiku.

Natsume Soseki's Botchan has been translated by Alan Turney and is available from Kodansha International.

Index Haiku Travels


Friday, May 7, 2021

Lyric Poetry Around the World: Memories of Holland by Hendrik Marsman (The Netherlands, 1936)

Memories of Holland

Hendrik Marsman

translation Ad Blankestijn

Thinking of Holland I see wide-flowing rivers
sluggishly passing through endless lowlands,
rows of unthinkably spindly poplars
standing like lofty plumes at the skyline.
And in that enormous space immersed:
farmhouses scattered through the land,
tree clumps, villages, trimmed towers,
churches and elms in a grand alliance.
The sky hangs low and the sun is slowly
smothered in gray multicolored vapors,
and in all departments the voice of the water
with its unceasing troubles is feared and heard.

Herinnering aan Holland

Denkend aan Holland zie ik brede rivieren
traag door oneindig laagland gaan,
rijen ondenkbaar ijle populieren
als hoge pluimen aan den einder staan;
en in de geweldige ruimte verzonken
de boerderijen verspreid door het land
boomgroepen, dorpen, geknotte torens,
kerken en olmen in een groots verband.
De lucht hangt er laag en de zon wordt er langzaam
in grijze veelkleurige dampen gesmoord,
en in alle gewesten wordt de stem van het water
met zijn eeuwige rampen gevreesd en gehoord.

[Hendrik Marsman]

Hendrik Marsman (1899–1940) was a Dutch poet and literary critic. Marsman studied law and practiced in Utrecht, but after 1933 he traveled in Europe and devoted himself to literature. Marsman often lived abroad, especially in France and Switzerland. He also was an important literary critic, who wrote in major Dutch literary magazines as "Forum" and in the national newspapers.

Marsman is considered the most important Dutch representative of expressionism in pre-war poetry. Under the influence of the German Expressionists, he made his literary debut about 1920 with rhythmic free verse, which attracted notice for its aggressive independence. His next collection, Verses (1923) expresses an anti-humanist, anti-intellectual rebelliousness, which the poet called "vitalism." Three more important collections would follow until his untimely death in June 1940, when the ship on which he tried to cross to England, to evade the war with Germany which had just broken out in Europe, sunk after an explosion.

Marsman hated Dutch narrow-mindedness. He once said: "Holland is and will remain misery. Anyone who stamps on the ground here will sink into the mud". He admired the German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche and his book Also sprach Zarathustra, which he also translated into Dutch. He became however a fierce opponent and a principled fighter against fascism, after he saw what that led to in Germany.

In the 1930s his vitalist work gave way to a much more traditional and realistic poetry, such as the above poem "Memories of Holland" (1936), which became one of the best-known Dutch poems after the war, and at the end of the twentieth century was even voted the "Dutch Poem of the Century."

The expression "gray multicolored vapors" towards the end of the poem may seem contradictory, but that is what it says in Dutch!

[Marsman's Berlin poem on the wall of the Netherlands Embassy in Berlin]

Another famous poem by Marsman was addressed to the city of Berlin and now adorns one of the concrete walls of the Netherlands Embassy in that city:


The morning air is a tarnished garment
a dog-eared page
a stain

the city
a woman her makeup half wiped off

but twitching she rears into the sky
like a blue horse by Marc in a harness of air


the sun is yellow

("Marc" refers to the German painter Franz Marc, the founder of "Der blaue Reiter", who often painted blue horses)

The collected poems of Marsman (in Dutch) at DBNL. Marsman's work is in the public domain in the Netherlands (it is more than 70 years after the death of the author).

Photo Dutch landscape: Alfred Grupstra, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons
Photo Marsman: Unknown photographer, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
Photo Wall Poem: Felix van de Laar, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons


Lyric Poetry Around the World Index

Thursday, May 6, 2021

Lyric Poetry Around the World (25): Under the Linden Tree, Walther von der Vogelweide (Germany, c. 1200)

Under the Linden Tree

Walther von der Vogelweide

translated by Ad Blankestijn

One of the freshest and most innocent love poems I know - genuinely experienced and universally valid. Walther von der Vogelweide is the greatest German-language poet before Goethe.

Under the linden
on the heath,
where both our bed was,
there you may find
very charming
broken flowers and grass,
by the forest in a vale,
sweetly sang the nightingale.

I came to meet him
at the meadow:
there had my lover come early,
There I was welcomed
a lady alike,
so that I'm happy forever.
Did he kiss me? A thousand times:
see how red my mouth is.

There he had made,
very richly,
from flowers a bed,
there is still laughter heartily
when someone
goes down the same path,
from the roses you can tell,
where my head was lying.

That he lay with me,
if anyone
(God forbid!) I'd be ashamed,
what he did with me,
no one shall know
except for him and me,
and a little bird,
that can no doubt keep a secret.

«Under der linden
an der heide,
dâ unser zweier bette was,
dâ muget ir vinden
schône beide
gebrochen bluomen unde gras.
vor dem walde in einem tal,
schône sanc diu nahtegal.

Ich kam gegangen
zuo der ouwe:
dô was mîn friedel komen ê.
dâ wart ich enpfangen,
hêre frouwe!
daz ich bin sælic iemer mê.
kuste er mich? wol tûsentstunt:
sehet, wie rôt mir ist der munt.

Dô het er gemachet
alsô rîche
von bluomen eine bettestat.
des wirt noch gelachet
kumt iemen an daz selbe pfat.
bî den rôsen er wol mac,
merken wâ mir'z houbet lac.

Daz er bî mir læge,
wesse ez iemen
(nu enwelle got!), sô schamte ich mich.
wes er mit mir pflæge,
niemer niemen
bevinde daz wan er und ich
unde ein kleinez vogellîn:
daz mac wol getriuwe sîn.»-

[Statue of Walther von der Vogelweide,
the Franconia Fountain, Würzburg]

Walther von der Vogelweide (1170-1230) was a German-speaking "Minnesänger" and poet, who composed and performed love-songs and political songs. His hundred or so love-songs are widely regarded as the pinnacle of the medieval German love lyric, and his innovations breathed new life into the tradition of courtly love. He was also the first political poet to write in German, with a considerable body of encomium and satire.

Little is known about Walther's life. He was a traveling singer who performed for patrons at various princely courts in the states of the Holy Roman Empire. The young Walther learned his poetic arts in Austria from a remarkable master, Reinmar von Hagenau, whom he later mentions in two of his poems. Walther is particularly associated with the Babenberg court in Vienna. Later in life he was given a small fief by the future Holy Roman Emperor, Frederick II.

His work was widely celebrated in his time and in succeeding generations (for the Meistersingers he was the songwriter to emulate) and this is reflected in the exceptional preservation of his work in 32 manuscripts from all parts of the High German area. The largest single collection is found in the Codex Manesse, which includes around 90% of his known songs. However, most Minnesang manuscripts preserve only the texts, and only a handful of Walther's melodies survive.

Notable songs include the love-song "Under der linden" (translated above), the contemplative "Elegy", and the religious Palästinalied, for which the melody has survived.

[Wilhelm von Kaulbach: „Unter der Linden“]

Text: Walther von der Vogelweide, Gedichte und Sprüche, at Gutenberg.org, public domain.

Kaulbach: Wilhelm von Kaulbach (1804-1874). Georg Jäger at de.wikipedia, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
Franconia Fountain: Ronaldino, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Lyric Poetry Around the World Index

Wednesday, May 5, 2021

Lyric Poetry Around the World: Santoka (Japan, 1940)

Ten Free-Verse Haiku


I put on
today's straw sandals

damatte kyo no waraji haku

soaked with the morning dew
I go in the direction
where I want

asa tsuyu shittori ikitai ho e iku

no other path
than this path
I walk alone

kono michi shika nai hitori de aruku

the deeper I go
the deeper I go
green mountains

wakeitte mo wakeitte mo aoi yama

walking and begging
humbly I accept
the blazing sun

enten wo itadaite koiaruku

the road running
straight ahead
makes me lonely

massugu na michi de samishii

no more houses
to beg from
clouds on the mountain

mono kou ie mo nakunari yama ni ha kumo

even in
my iron begging bowl
a shower of hail

teppatsu no naka e mo arare

a drink
would be nice now
sunset sky

ippai yaritai yuyake-zora

I'll never see again
fade in the distance

mata miru koto mo nai yama ga tozakaru


Taneda Santoka (1882-1940) was born in Hofu in western Japan. After his sake brewery business and marriage both failed, in 1920 Santoka, who already for some time had been interested in Zen Buddhism, started living in a temple and took the tonsure. Santoka has several traumatic experiences in his youth, most of all the suicide of his mother by throwing herself into the family well because of her husband's philandering; the sight of his mother's corpse being raised from her watery grave was something Santoka never could forget. He had begun to write haiku in 1911 and this became the only occupation in which he found a stable interest. As a disciple of the leading haiku reformist Ogiwara Seisensui (1884–1976), his haiku were written in the free form - they were haiku without the fixed 5-7-5 pattern, without the traditional season words and in a language very close to actual spoken Japanese. In 1926 he began the life of a wandering priest and traveled all over Japan for many years, covering thousands of miles. These journeys were a form of religious training and Santoka lived as a begging-priest. His only weakness was his great love for sake. Later, tired of the endless wandering, he set up a hermitage in Ogori, not far from Hofu. Later he moved to Yamaguchi City, and finally set up another hermitage, Isso-an, in Matsuyama on Shikoku Island. He died there in October 1940 at the age of 59. Besides thousands of haiku, he also left several interesting diaries. 

The above translations are my own. Santoka's work is in the public domain in Japan.

Studies and translations:
Santoka, Taneda (2003). For All My Walking. Translated by Burton Watson. Columbia University Press.
Sato, Hiroaki (2002). Grass and Tree Cairn. Winchester, VA: Red Moon Press.
Stevens, John (1980). Mountain Tasting: Zen Haiku by Santoka Taneda. Weatherhill.

作家別作品リスト:種田 山頭火 e-texts of Santōka's works at Aozora bunko (in Japanese)

Santoka:  Unknown authorUnknown author, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons


Lyric Poetry Around the World Index

Tuesday, May 4, 2021

Lyric Poetry Around the World: Saigyo (Japan, 1118-1190)

Ten Poems by Saigyo
translated by Ad Blankestijn

on Mount Yoshino
I changed from the trail
I marked last year by breaking branch tips
so that I might seek out
blossoms in places I never went before

Yoshinoyama | kozo no shiori no | michi kaete | mada minukata no | hana o tazunen


why should my heart
still be stained
by cherry blossoms -
I who thought
I'd finally broken with the world?

hana ni somu | kokoro no ika de | nokorikemu | sutehateteki to | omou waga mi ni


it's a shame
that people come in crowds
for cherry blossom viewing -
this is the only fault
of the cherry tree

hanami ni to | muretsutsu hito no | kuru  nomi zo | atara sakura no | toga ni wa arikeru


in this mountain village
where there is no chance
of a visitor -
how dreary life would be
without my loneliness

tou hito mo | omotaetaru | yamazato no | sabishisa nakuba | sumiukaramashi

とふ人も | 思ひ絶えたる | 山里の | さびしさなくば | 住み憂からまし

I wish there were someone
to bear
this loneliness with me -
we'd put our huts side by side
in this wintry mountain village

sabishisa ni | taetaru hito no | mata mo are na | iori narabemu | fuyu no yamazato


drifting in the wind
the smoke from the Fuji
vanishes in the sky
no one knows where to -
just like my own mind

kaze ni nabiku | Fuji no keburi no | sora ni kiete | yukue mo shiranu | waga kokoro kana


Composed along the way to somewhere in autumn

even though I claim
no longer to have a heart
I'm made to feel this sad beauty -
a snipe flying up from a marsh
at dusk in autumn

kokoro naki | mi ni mo aware wa | shirarekeri | shigi tatsu sawa no | aki no yugure


from a tree
standing on a ridge
by an old field
a dove calling its mate
at eerie nightfall

furu hata no | soba ni tatsu ki ni | iru hato no | tomo yobu koe no | sugoki yugure

ふるはたのそばのたつきにゐるはとのともよぶ声のすごきゆふぐ れ

in the sky of my mind
where darkness
has been dispelled
the clear moon
seems to near the western hills

yami harete | kokoro no sora ni | sumu tsuki wa | nishi no yamabe ya | chikaku naruran


let me die in spring
under the cherry blossoms
on that day
in the Second Month
when the moon is full

negawaku wa | hana no shita nite | haru shinan | sono kisaragi no | mochizuki no koro


[Cherry blossoms on Mount Yoshino]

Saigyo (1118-1190, real name Sato Norikiyo), was a Japanese poet and Buddhist monk. He was born in Kyoto to a wealthy family who had served the imperial court for generations. He was very skilled with a bow and arrow and was good at poetry, whereupon he became a favorite of the ex-emperor Toba. He grew up at a time when power in the state was shifting from the court nobility to the rising class of the sword nobility.

At the age of 23 he gave up his wife and children, went to Saga and became a monk of the Buddhist Shingon school. The status of a monk enabled him to live a comparatively free wandering life, in the course of which he created a wealth of verses. He travels took him from the Kansai to Kamakura and northern Japan. But he spent most of his life living as a recluse on Mt Koya (where the head temple of the Shingon school stands) and Yoshino.

Saigyō exerted a great influence on later poets up to Sōgi (1421-1502) and Matsuo Bashō (1644-1694). Contemporaries and later generations valued him as the archetype of the wandering poet and poet monk.


Commentary on the poems:

Mount Yoshino was (and is!) very famous for its mountain cherries - and this fame grew in no small measure thanks to Saigyo's many poems on this subject. The cherry blossoms in Saigyo's poems function on the one hand as a symbol for his contradictory love of the world. But on the other hand Yoshino was also known as a sacred space and a site of religious training.

This poem was perhaps written soon after Saigyo took Buddhist vows, and expresses his consternation at his remaining attachments to the world in the form of his love for cherry blossoms. The internal conflict is typical of Saigyo.

The only fault Saigyo finds in cherry trees is that they are so beautiful that crowds of people come to see them, thereby disturbing the serenity of a monk in retreat. This poem formed the basis for the popular No play Saigyo-zakura (Saigyo and the Cherry Tree). In the play, the spirit of the cherry tree rebukes Saigyo for blaming the blossoms for his discomfort.

The perfect expression of Sabi.

Saigyo does not want to escape loneliness, but share it with someone else, by building their thatched huts for meditation next to each other. In reality, Saigyo never was a complete recluse, but he had frequent contacts with other monks, poets and aristocratic sponsors.

In the Heian-period, Mt Fuji was an active volcano, smoke escaping from its crater. Smoke is a symbol of transience.

Saigyo's most famous work. "No longer to have a heart" points at the fact that as a monk Saigyo is supposed to be in a state of calm detachment. But, as he claims, even such a person can not fail to be moved by the scene before him: the stillness of an autumn evening which is suddenly broken by a snipe (or snipes) fluttering up. It is a colorless scene like an ink painting.

There is a piercing loneliness in this poem, but Saigyo had embraced his loneliness and cherished it.

The moon is a symbol of satori and the Western Hills call the Western Paradise of the Buddha Amida to mind.

Saigyo's death poem. Instead of facing West as most monks did, Saigyo hopes to die under a blossoming tree, keeping his love for cherry trees until the end. According to records, Saigyo died exactly in the way and in the period he has asked for. He died at Hirokawa Temple in Kawachi Province (present-day Osaka Prefecture) at age 72.

Saigyô, Poems of a Mountain Home, translated by Burton Watson, Columbia University Press, 1991
William R. LaFleur. Awesome Nightfall: The Life, Times, and Poetry of Saigyō. Boston: Wisdom Publications, 2003
Traditional Japanese Literature, An Anthology, by Haruo Shirane, Columbia U.P., 2007 (pp. 573-583, by Jack Stoneman)
Traditional Japanese Poetry, An Antholohy, by Steven D. Carter, Stanford U.P., 1991 (pp. 157-168)

Saigyo's Sanka wakashu at Japanese Text Initiative
Shin Kokinshu at Japanese Text Initiative

Cherries on Mt Yoshino: Tawashi2006, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Saigyo: MOA Museum of Art, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Lyric Poetry Around the World Index