Japanese Essay Tokyo Tower

東京タワーは、東京でいちばん優しい。Tokyo Tower Is Tokyo’s Kindest Tower

Today we feature a Japanese essay that has an insightful lesson.

It is about the difference between seeing a thing from afar, or hearing about a thing second hand, and seeing that same thing up close. It’s about getting your information, and your experiences, about that thing directly from the source. In today’s age of information gluts, and gluttony, where to “know” something is to say that you once googled it and scanned the the top 3 search result headlines, the essay argues the case for deeper experiential learning.

It uses the spectre of Tokyo Tower, potent symbol of a mega-city, as a parable to explain why it is better to live life in close range, than at  arms length.  It was written by Inazo Inamoto( 稲本稲三) and appeared on his note.com blog. We have a reading of it in Japanese, then in English, then a mix of the two. I hope you enjoy it, and please subscribe if this is of interest, and check out Inamoto’s other work on Note.

Approx Japanese level

Text Type

東京タワーは、東京でいちばん優しい。

今日は、「普通の旅」をしました。

その地域で生活するというだけのことです。

こういう風にして、僕は疲れていると感じたとき、いつもいる場所から少し離れて、ボーっとする時間を確保しています。

仕事や家のことで忙しくしていると、どうしても「あれを終わらせなくちゃ…」「早く寝ないと…」と、常に何かに追われている感覚になります。

特に僕は、家で仕事することが多いので、仕事のオンオフが曖昧になりがちで、仕事のことを考えない日はありません。

家の中には、仕事グッズがたくさんあり、隙さえあれば仕事を進めてしまいそうになりますし、実際に取り掛からなくても、仕事のことを考えてしまいます。

なので、完全に心身を休めるためには、家の外に飛び出して、一人でゆっくりする時間を取ることが欠かせないのです。

今日は、東京タワーを観ながら、ボーっとしていました。

東京タワーは、どういうわけか、どこから見ても綺麗に見えるので、東京タワーに向かって歩いていない人でも、振り返って写真を撮っていました。

通行人のほとんどが、東京タワーを綺麗に撮りたい一心で、何度でもシャッターを切り、地べたにカメラを置いたり、腰を後ろに90度曲げようと無理な体勢をとりながら、自分なりに最高の角度を探していました。

その他にも、東京タワーに照らされた恋人を見つめてはしゃぐカップル、東京タワーを眺めて芝生に寝っ転がる中年男性、インスタ映えを狙う女子大生、展望台に昇る楽しみを抑えられずに走り出す小学生、その誰もが東京タワーに心を動かされていました。

これまで僕は、東京タワーを都会の象徴だとしか思っていませんでした。

もし、東京タワーが喋るなら、「資金力のある大都会じゃないと、こんなスゴい建造物は建てられないだろ?ほら、これが東京の凄さなんだよ!」と、いやみったらしく自慢してくるんだとばかり思いこんでいました。

しかし、実際のところは、全く違いました。

東京タワーを見れば見るほど、僕は安心感に包まれていきました。気がついた頃には、芝生に座り込んで、2時間も東京タワーを眺め続けていました(笑)。

恋人がいようがいなかろうが、仕事がうまくいこうがいかなかろうが、全東京の人々を暖かく受け入れて、どこから目を合わせても嫌な顔をしません。

その証拠に、ほとんどの通行人が、東京タワーに心を奪われているのを何度も目撃しました。

たくさんの人の心を預かってくれる東京タワーが、東京でいちばん優しいヤツなのかもしれません。

ちゃんと近づかないと、分からないものはたくさんあります。

ただ、見ただけの情報、聞いただけの情報に満足するのは、もったいない気がしました。

そして僕は、これから何かあるたびに、東京タワーに心を預けたいと思います(笑)。

Tokyo Tower Is Tokyo’s Kindest Tower

Today I took what you would call a very ordinary trip. By “very ordinary trip”, I mean going to a place other than my own local area to stay overnight, and live for two days.

In this way, when I feel I’m getting tired, I take myself to a place just a little away from where I am, and provide myself with some time to zone-out. When I busy myself with matters of the office or the home, I can’t help but get myself caught up in thinking “I must finish that…” or  “I must get to sleep”. This is especially so as I do a lot of my work from home, switching from on the job and off the job can become hard to differentiate and there is no day that I don’t think about my work. My house is full of the tools of my trade, I find it hard not to fill every spare moment of time with progressing my work, and even if I don’t get started on something, I think about what I should be doing.

So, to completely relax mind and body, getting out of the house to spend quality time alone is irreplaceable.

I spent today gazing vacantly at Tokyo Tower.

Somehow, Tokyo Tower is a thing beautiful to behold from any angle. Even the people not walking in it’s direction turn to take photographs.

Most of the passers-by are as one in their determination to photograph Tokyo tower at it’s most beautiful, and they repeatedly release the camera shutter, or place their camera on the bare ground, or bend at the waist at unreasonable 90 degree angles, in pursuit of the perfect shot.

You also see care-free lovers luminescent in Tokyo Tower’s haze, middle-school boys lounging round on the lawn staring up at Tokyo Tower, high-school girls going for the Insta-shot, elementary school children sprinting towards the observation deck unable to contain their excitement, every last one of them their hearts moved by Tokyo Tower.

Until now I had thought of Tokyo Tower as being no more than a symbol of the city.

If Tokyo Tower could talk, I thought it would sneer conceitedly, “Behold the financial muscle of the great metropolis, who else could erect such an awesome edifice? Heed Tokyo’s grandeur!”

But, actually, the situation is quite to the contrary.

The more I looked at Tokyo Tower, the greater the sense of calm that enveloped me.

Lover, or no lover, work going well, or not going well, the tower warmly takes in one and all, meets each eye to eye and points not a disagreeable face to any vantage.

In evidence, I noted all but a handful of pedestrians having their hearts repeatedly stolen by Tokyo Tower.

This Tokyo Tower, that keeps the hearts of so many safe, just may be Tokyo’s friendliest giant.

Some things you can’t understand unless you get up close.

It made me think that to simply be satisfied to hear about or see something from afar is a great waste.

I think that from now on, when I have the need, I will entrust my heart to the safekeeping of Tokyo Tower.

ただ、見ただけの情報、聞いただけの情報に満足するのは、もったいない気がしました。 It made think that to simply be satisfied to hear about or see something from afar is a great waste.

Favorite lines

ただ、見ただけの情報、聞いただけの情報に満足するのは、もったいない気がしました。

It made think that to simply be satisfied to hear about or see something from afar is a great waste.

ちゃんと近づかないと、分からないものはたくさんあります。

Some things you can’t understand unless you get up close.

たくさんの人の心を預かってくれる東京タワーが、東京でいちばん優しいヤツなのかもしれません。

Tokyo Tower, that keeps the hearts of so many safe, just may be Tokyo’s friendliest giant.

Unfamiliar Words For me

資金力 Financial might

インスタ映え To try and make yourself look good for an Instagram photo

Conclusion

Seeing a picture of an icecream is not the same as eating an icecream. Watching people fall in love in a movie is not the same as falling in love. Gazing at a Tokyo Tower from a far is not the same as seeing the people who live, play and pass through its arches everyday. Inamoto’s essay is a call for mindfulness, but delivered in a modern way without any of the residue that that Buddhist-derived buzzword holds. 

It’s a lesson you don’t have to go to Tokyo Tower to implement. 

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Who is behind this site?

I’m Peter Joseph Head. I lived in Japan for four years as a student at Kyoto City University of the Arts and on working holiday. I have toured the country six times playing music and speak Japanese (JLPT N1).

ピータージョセフヘッドです。3年間京都市立芸大の大学院として、一年間ワーキングホリデーとして日本に住み、6回日本で音楽ツアーをし、日本語能力試験で1級を取得しました。要するに日本好きです。

Transgender Women Accepted Into Japanese Women’s Universities

We’ve translated some Japanese media and social media about recent moves for the Women’s Universities in Japan to welcome transgender women as students.

There are a group of Women’s Universities in Japan that have recently come out to say that they will soon start accepting transgender women. This is, of course, a major change in the country and has been covered in several major news outlets and provoked a lot of discussion, of a more or less civil nature, across social media.

Today we’ve translated some excerpts from Asahi News, The Huffington Post Japan, and a selection of tweets from twitter to get an overview of the coverage.

We present the selections in Japanese, then in English, then sentence by sentence in Japanese and English for those that are interested to get down in the weeds of the language a bit more

トランス女性OK、深化する女子大 課題はハラスメント

(2020年8月13日付け朝日新聞より)

 

生まれた時の性別が男性で、性自認が女性のトランスジェンダーの学生の受け入れが今春、お茶の水女子大(東京)と奈良女子大の国立2大学で始まった。

実際に入学したかどうかは明らかにしていない。

来春は宮城学院女子大でも始まる。

受け入れを検討する女子大が増える中、大学側に当事者を保護する取り組みを求め声もあがる。

 「全ての学びたい女性に開かれているのが女子大。それは、戸籍上の女性に限らないということ。女子大の使命の延長線上にある」

 この4月、トランスジェンダー女性の受け入れを始めたお茶の水女子大の三浦徹副学長はそう話す。

同大は2018年7月に受け入れを表明。19年4月に対応ガイドラインを制定し、準備を進めてきた。

どう接すれば…受け入れ前は不安の声も

 受け入れにあたっては「性自認が女性である」ことをどう認定するかが問われた。

同大では、受験前に申告書を出してもらい、性自認の確認や、受験時や学生生活を送る上での態勢などについて必要があれば面談をする形にした。

医師の診断書は必須ではない。「性自認は変化する。あえて多面的にした」と同大は説明する。

Trans women allowed, Women’s Universities Deepen, Harassment Challenge Remains

 

From this Spring, two public universities, Ochanomizu Women’s University (Tokyo) and Nara Women’s University, have begun accepting transgender students whose sex at time of birth was male but who identify their gender as female.

It is not clear whether any transgender students have yet been admitted.

From next Spring, Miyagi Gakuin Women’s University will also begin admitting transgender students.

As women’s universities that accept transgender women increase, so do the voices calling for safeguards for students.

“It’s the Women’s Universities that provide all women wishing to learn a safe place. That does not apply only to women who are listed as such on the official Family Register. This is an extension of the mission of Women’s Universities.”

So spoke Ochanomizu University Vice Head of School Toru Miura in April.

The university announced that they would accept transgender students in July 2018. Since drafting guidelines in April 2019, preparations have been proceeding.

Prior to the changes, voices expressed their unease at how they should interact with the students 

Questions have been raised about how “people that identify as female” should be validated under the new system.

At Ochanomizu, prospective students are asked to submit an application document prior to sitting the entrance exam and, where necessary, are asked to have an interview to confirm status of their gender identity in relation to exams and student life.

There is no necessity for a medical certificate from a doctor to be produced. “Gender identity changes. We now presume that it is versatile.”

室伏学長(お茶の水女子大学) は会見の冒頭で次のように述べた。

 

学ぶ意欲のあるすべての女性にとって、真摯な夢の実現の場として存在するという国立大学法人としての本学のミッションに基づき判断した。

今回の決定を『多様性を包摂する女子大学と社会』の創出に向けた取り組みと位置づけており、

今後、固定的な性別意識にとらわれず、ひとりひとりが人間としてその個性と能力を十分に発揮し、『多様な女性』があらゆる分野に参画できる社会の実現につながっていくことを期待している。

はるか以前の社会と比べると格段に進歩したが、それでも様々な場で女性が職業人として活躍するには困難がある。

その現状を変え、女性たちが差別や偏見を受けずに幸せに暮らせる社会を作るために、大学という学びの場で、自らの価値を認識し、社会に貢献するという確信を持って前進する精神をはぐくむ必要があると考える。

それが実現できるのは、女性が旧来の役割意識などの、無意識の偏見、そういったものから解放されて自由に活躍できる女子大学だろうと考えている。

本学はすべての女性たちがその年齢や国籍等に関係なく、個々人の尊厳と権利を保障されて、自身の学びを進化させ、自由に自己の資質能力を開発させることを目指している。

その意味からも、性自認が女性であって、真摯に女子大学で学ぶことを希望する人を受け入れるのは自然な流れだろうと思うし、多様性を包摂する社会としても当然のことと考えた。

As a national university corporate body, this decision was based on our mission of providing a place to all women who have a sincere desire and dream to learn.

We see this decision as part of a movement to create a women’s university and society that embraces diversity

We dream of a society where “diverse women” can participate in a variety of fields and where each person can achieve their own expression of their own unique human abilities, unrestrained by rigid concepts of gender. 

Though we have come a long way in comparison to societies of the distant past, there are still many barriers to women’s fruitful participation in the workforce.

We believe that we must change the status quo by fostering women’s sense of self worth and resolve to contribute to society, so that they can take their place in society to lead happy lives free from discrimination and prejudice.

We believe that it is the freely functioning women’s university that is able to free women from the conceptions of women’s traditional roles and from unconscious bias.

Our university aims to develop all women, regardless of age or nationality, by guaranteeing each and every individual’s dignity and rights, and pushing forward their learning to create people with the ability to freely express their innate abilities.

In this respect, we consider that it naturally flows that women who identify as female, who hold sincere desires to study at a women’s university, should be welcomed and that this should happen as a matter of course within a society that embraces diversity.

Some Twitter Comments

@milk_and_wine

Trans女子大のトランス女性受け入れに当事者でもないのに(当事者ってのはこの場合、その大学の学生たちのこと)「女子大終わった」みたいなこと言ってるトランスヘイターこっわ。

普通に学生やってるトランス女性より、こういうひとたちの方がよっぽど一緒に学びたくない…こわいし…

 

@ripo0079

トランス女性がお茶大入るのは女性の権利の侵害などと訴えている方は概ねお茶大には縁がない程度の知的階級さを感じさせますね。

 

@horry_a

「人の生命に関わることがらについて『コスト』という言葉を使う」って、ほんとにダメだと思う。

去年、お茶大の報道時に、誰でもトイレの増設は必要(でもトランスを閉じ込めてはいいけない)って書いたら「コスト」がかかるって非難がきた。

それはコストじゃない。必要なもの。

 

@MJunko0523

お茶大のトランスウーマン受け入れの件で、トランスウーマンになりすます奴がいるから駄目だという人たち。

たとえば、ある国で「日本人になりすました奴が犯罪を行ったから日本人は全員入国禁止」と言われたら、「はいそうですか」と納得するのですか?

私は納得できません。

要はそういうことです。

@milk_and_wine

I find the Trans-haters, who, without being in any way the ones that are personally affected by the admitting of transexual women (which is to say, students), and say things like “It’s the end of Women’s Universities”, just give me the creeps. I find the idea of studying with them a lot more scary than studying with transexual women.

 

@ripo0079

I find that the ones who say that allowing transexual women into women’s universities is a breach of women’s rights are generally those of the intellectual class with no connection with the university whatsoever.

 

@horry_a

I think that the use of the word “cost” when talking about matters that affect people’s very being is just not on.

When it was reported last year about Ochanomizu University,  I wrote that it is necessary to extend the provision of toilet amenities and I took criticism over the cost that this would entail.

That is not a “cost”. It is a necessity.

 

To the people who say that it won’t do to have trans women at Ochanomizu because there are men that will make themselves out to be transgender to get access.

If you heard that there was a country where they said “There are people making themselves out to be Japanese citizens that are coming to our country and committing crimes, so we will ban entry to all Japanese Citizens”, would you just say, “yes, that’s fair enough” and accept it.

I would not.

It’s a similar thing.

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Who is behind this site?

I’m Peter Joseph Head. I lived in Japan for four years as a student at Kyoto City University of the Arts and on working holiday. I have toured the country six times playing music and speak Japanese (JLPT N1).

ピータージョセフヘッドです。3年間京都市立芸大の大学院として、一年間ワーキングホリデーとして日本に住み、6回日本で音楽ツアーをし、日本語能力試験で1級を取得しました。要するに日本好きです。

Hana Kimura, Her Mother’s Petition and The Rigging of Terrace House

Today we translate an article from the Shukan Bunshun that outlines how Hana Kimura’s mother, Kyoko Kimura, is petitioning Japan’s broadcasting watchdog to examine how the show Terrace House was set up in a way that ultimately led to Hana’s demise.

Along with the text, we read the article in Japanese, then in English, then sentence by sentence in both languages.

Original Article from Shukan Bunshun

自ら命を絶った木村花さん(享年22)の母・響子さん(43)が、7月15日、BPO(放送倫理・番組向上機構)に対し、放送による人権侵害があったとして審議を申し立てたことが、「週刊文春」の取材で分かった。
自殺の原因となったのは3月31日にNetflixで配信された第38話「コスチューム事件」。花さんが同居人の帽子をはたくシーンが流れ、花さんのSNSに誹謗中傷が殺到した。配信当日、精神的に追い詰められた花さんが自殺未遂を起こしたにもかかわらず、フジは5月14日にYouTubeで「コスチューム」事件の続編(未公開映像)を3本立て続けに公開し、5月23日には地上波で本編を放送した。その5日後の5月23日、花さんは自ら命を絶つ。
響子さんは「週刊文春」の取材に対し、「コスチューム事件」の撮影において、スタッフから花さんに対し「ビンタしたらいいじゃん」などとやらせ指示があったことを証言。それを裏付ける花さんのLINEメッセージも携帯電話に多数残されていた。また、帽子をはたかれた同居人の小林快さんも、生前の花さんから「(帽子をはたいたのは)本心からではなくスタッフに煽られた行為だった」と謝罪を受けていたことを明かし、やらせの常態化も告発した(7月9日発売号)。
花さんら出演者がスタッフからの理不尽な要求に従い続けた背景には、フジ側と交わした「同意書兼誓約書」の存在がある。28項目ある誓約書の中には「演出指示に従うこと」をはじめ、「途中リタイアしないこと」「写真週刊誌などの雑誌に口外しないこと」「(制作側に)SNSのアカウント情報を開示すること」などという文面が並び、これらの誓約条項に違反し、放送・配信が中止になった場合は、出演者が放送回分の制作費を無条件に賠償すると記載されていた。
パワハラや名誉棄損問題に詳しい大城聡弁護士が指摘する。
「台本はなく、自由に共同生活を送っているかのように放送しているが、巨額の損害賠償の可能性をちらつかせた現代の“奴隷契約”とも言える誓約書兼同意書によって出演者個人の意思が制作側に制限される強い支配構造があったといえる。制作側による演出の態様によっては、憲法13条の自己決定権が奪われていたことになる。また、凶暴な悪役という虚像が本当の人格として視聴者に結びつけられ、SNSの炎上は生まれた。この点から放送によって人格権も侵害されていたともいえる。BPOではやらせがあったかどうかの放送倫理の問題だけでなく、人権侵害があったかどうかも審議されるべきです」
フジは7月3日の社長会見で、「無理強いはしていない」「感情表現をねじ曲げるような指示はしていない」「花さんと話し合った上で撮影や配信を行った」と主張。また、社内調査中だとし、検証結果は遺族感情を踏まえながら公表するとしている。
こうしたフジの説明に不信感を抱く響子さんは7月15日付でBPOの放送人権委員会に申し立てを行い、「週刊文春」の取材に次のように答えた。

「花や共演者、スタッフの証言から分かってきたのは、フジテレビさんが花を人間として扱ってはいなかったということ。フジ側はあたかも制作側と花が対等かのように説明していますが、これはイジメやパワハラの論理と同じです。2度と同じ悲劇が起きないようにするためにも、フジは花の死にきちんと向き合って欲しい」

English Translation

As outlined in the Weekly Bunshun magazine, Kyoko (43), the mother of Hana Kimura who took her own life at the age of 22, lodged a request with the Broadcast Ethics and Program Improvement authority on the 15th of July to examine whether human rights infringements had occurred in Fuji Television’s Terrace House broadcasts.

The cause of the suicide is the “Costume incident” that aired on the 31st of March on the 38th episode of the Netflix program. In the episode, Hana is seen to strike the hat off one of her housemates, leading Hana Kimura’s social media accounts to be flooded with abusive comments. Paying no heed to the desperate mental state that led to Kimura’s failed suicide attempt  on the day of the broadcast, Fuji Television released 3 videos on youtube on the 14th of May featuring unreleased footage continuing the “costume incident” theme and then put to air a larger program on the 23rd of May. Five days later, Kimura took her own life.

In coverage by the Shukan Bunshun magazine, Kyoko Kimura stated that production staff had instructed Hana to “go ahead and give him a slap”. This statement is backed up by numerous messages in the Line app on Hana’s phone. Further, the house mate Kai Kobayashi who had his hat struck off has made clear that he received an apology from Hana saying “I never wanted to hit your hat off. I was made to do it by production staff.” and that “fake” scenes had become the norm on the show.

Behind the unreasonable demands that Hana and other participants continuously bowed to was the Letter of Consent cum contract that they had entered into. In the 28 items of the contract were a parade of statements that included (the participant must) “obey performance instructions”, “must not give up during production”, “must not communicate with weekly photographic magazines”, and “must inform production staff of all social media account information”. In the event of contract violation and broadcast cancellations participants were required to make recompense of the production costs of broadcast episodes.

According to one lawyer well acquainted with matters of Power Harassment and defamation, Oshiro Satoru

While creating an appearance of housemates freely going about their lives unscripted, we can say there was a compelling structure of domination controlling participants by holding the possibility of a large scale compensation claim over them, amounting to a modern “contract of slavery”. The terms set out relating to performance from the production staff stole the participants right to self determination as set out in clause 13 of the Constitution. In being presented as a violent villain, Kimura’s true character was entwined with a false image in the eyes of the viewer, leading to a social media explosion. In this way, we can say that the broadcast was in violation of Kimura’s personal rights. The BPO should consider not just the ethical implications of whether or not there was false staging, but also whether there was a violation of human rights.

 

In a statement on the third of July, Fuji television’s president said “we have not used any compulsion”, “ We have made no instructions to make people change their emotional expression”, “we shot and broadcast in full consultation with Hana”. He further said that the company was conducting an internal investigation, and the results would, in consideration of the feelings of family members,  be released to the public.

Holding suspicions regarding the veracity of these explanations, Kyoko Kimura lodged a statement with the BPO Committee on Broadcast Human Rights on the 15th of July, and told the Shukan Bunshun,”What we have understood from the statements of Hana and her fellow performers is that Fuji Television did not treat Hana as a human being. The Fuji camp is trying to make it out as if the production team and Hana were on a level footing. This is the logic of bullying and power-based harassment. In order for this tragedy to never ever repeat, I want Fuji to properly face up to the death of Hana.

Language Learning Program Reviews

Japanoscope is a registered affiliate with several online shops and may receive a commission when you click on some of the links within content.

Who is behind this site?

I’m Peter Joseph Head. I lived in Japan for four years as a student at Kyoto City University of the Arts and on working holiday. I have toured the country six times playing music and speak Japanese (JLPT N1).

ピータージョセフヘッドです。3年間京都市立芸大の大学院として、一年間ワーキングホリデーとして日本に住み、6回日本で音楽ツアーをし、日本語能力試験で1級を取得しました。要するに日本好きです。

Learn Japanese Through Death Poems Part 3

Japanese Reading Difficulty

9/12 Could be read by 5th grade level student in Japan

Themes

Poetry, Death, Mortality, nature.

Text Type

Poem, Haiku

About Japanese Death Poems

Today we’re taking our third look at Japanese death poems. Now like the name suggests these are poems that people in Japan have written through the ages just before they die, or on their deathbed, and they’re fascinating little windows into a whole different world across time and space -windows on people reflecting on their lives in their final moments.
These poems have been around since around the 7th century.
I first came across these through this book Japanese death poems by Yoel Hoffman. It’s a fantastic little compendium of these poems and translations. So I thought I’d go through and introduce some of these but also give my own take. I’ll do some of my own translations, because there’s often quite a few different ways that these things can be done.

Death Poem byHiroshi Kuroshiki

A translation of an Instagram post from the artist

香波

Ko-Ha

Died 14 August 1897

Following on from the misty moons, and writers who are dreaming in our previous look at Japanese Death Poems, we have a death poem by Koha 香波. Once again we have somebody with a pretty groovy name. I wish we could all have names as good as these guys. Ko 香 means a “fragrance” or a “smell” and 波 ha means “wave”. So Koha is a fragrant wave. You often hear references to fragrances, and the idea of lotuses and flowers in Buddhist thought. Indeed, if you go to a temple, you often see they put out incense burning to create an otherworldly feeling. Koha died in 1897, so we’re going relatively modern here! His poem goes:

筆投げて

 

月に物言う

 

ばかりなり

 

Fude nagete

 

Tsuki ni mono iu 

 

Bakari nari

 

Now, I hurl my pen

From here on

I talk with the moon.

 
 

Explanation of the poem

筆投げて

I feel like this one has a little bit of that attitude to it. Koha is talking about throwing his pen, or his brush. A bold statement for a writer. I imagine people at this time would have been writing with brushes more than ballpoint pens. So we can take 筆, fude, to mean pen. 

 

月に物言う 

Once again in our Japanese Death Poems we have the 月 つき moon coming in. As most people that have had some experience of Japanese culture will know, we find a lot of reverence for the moon, and doing moon viewing and that sort of thing. 物 means thing and 言う means say, so I’m going to say things to the moon.

ばかりなり

ばかり is “only”, so Koha is saying “all” I’m going to do is speak to the moon. Then again, as many other poems, we’ve got なり nari, which is one more of our 切れ字 kireji, which is there to give an emphasis. People probably know the word なり nari as meaning “to become”, or it’s often a way of saying “is”. I was confused by the word in the past, for example when a waiter would bring an order and say something like “ビールになります”, which sounds strange if you say “this is becoming a beer”. It actually just means “here is a beer”, so it’s just saying this is something. So this “nari” is different to “kana”, which is offering a sense of wonder. Nari is a bit more solid, and saying ばかりなり is really saying “that’s all all I’m doing”, from here here on all I do is talk to the moon.

So let’s just refer back to Hoffman translation which is:

I cast the brush aside –

From her on I’ll speak to the moon

face to face.

An English Parallel

All of this made me think of the Bob Dylan song Tombstone Blues, which isn’t talking about deaths, but it’s still talking about that sense of a writer or somebody that’s involved in the sciences, or the worldly ways reaching the edge of where that can take you. Reaching the end of logical thought and just wanting to “throw it”. It’s that sense of wanting to just throw your tools across the room because they can’t help you anymore. 

Bob Dylan writes in Tombstone Blues, 

The geometry of innocence, flesh on the bone

Causes Galileo’s math book to get thrown

At Delilah who’s sitting worthlessly alone

But the tears on her cheeks are from laughter”

 

Sometimes sentiment can be similar across centuries and continents, people and place. 

Japanese poetry books

Japanoscope is a registered affiliate with several online shops and may receive a commission when you click on some of the links within content.

Who is behind this site?

I’m Peter Joseph Head. I lived in Japan for four years as a student at Kyoto City University of the Arts and on working holiday. I have toured the country six times playing music and speak Japanese (JLPT N1).

ピータージョセフヘッドです。3年間京都市立芸大の大学院として、一年間ワーキングホリデーとして日本に住み、6回日本で音楽ツアーをし、日本語能力試験で1級を取得しました。要するに日本好きです。

Japanese Death Poems 辞世 Part 2 – Translated and analysed

Japanese Reading Difficulty

9/12 Could be read by 5th grade level student in Japan

Themes

Poetry, Death, Mortality, nature.

Text Type

Poem, Haiku

About Japanese Death Poems

Here is our second installment on Japanese death poems, this time we’re looking at a poem by Onitsura. These poems are messages from people writing on, or close to, their death beds.
I first came across these through a book Japanese death poems by Yoel Hoffman. I thought I’d try my own hand at some translations.

Death Poem byHiroshi Kuroshiki

鬼貫

Oni-tsura

Died 2nd August 1738, aged 78

Today’s poem is by a Onitsura. Another great name. Oni, means demon. It can also be used as a shorthand term for great power, something like “super”. Tsura, also read as Kan, is a unit of measurement. In it’s Kun-reading it can be tsuranuku, meaning to pierce or penetrate. So was the name meant as “

夢返せ

からすのさます

霧の月

 

Yume kaese

 

Karasu no samasu

 

Kiri no tsuki

 

Give me back my dream

 

Misted moon

 

That wakes with the crow

 

Explanation of the poem

Here is the second in our series looking at Japanese Death Poems. Today, we’re looking at a poem by Onitsura. Onitsura died in 1738 at the age of 78.

Like all of the poets we are looking at, Onitsura has a great name. Oni means Demon. It can also mean “super”, in its supernatural sense. Tsura can mean piercing through, it was also a unit of measurement.

So I’m not sure exactly what that the sense of this is meant to be. Perhaps it is of a “piercing demon”. Or maybe Onitsura was meant to be somebody was “piercing the demon” or

“has a demonic power that’s piercing”. Or perhaps someone that has a measure of supernatural power. I’m not sure. Somebody might be able to comment on that and shed some light.

Onitsura’s deaths poem goes:

 

夢返せ

からすのさます

霧の月

Yume kaese

Karasu no samasu

Kiri no tsuki

I’ve translated that as:

Give me back my dream

Misted moon

That wakes with the crow

In the the Hoffman translation he says:

Give my dream back,

Raven! The moon you woke me to

Is misted over.

Language Analysis

夢返せ

夢 Yume means dream and 返せ is the imperative form of to “return something” or  “give back”.

So this line is a demand “Give me my dream back!”

I think that’s a feeling that probably most people can identify with, that feeling of being asleep and then being rudely awakened. Indeed, we have the term “rudely awakened” in English talking about wanting to get back to some dream that you’ve been in. I think in this poem the “夢 Yume” has a has the dual meaning of the writer literally having been asleep at a moment close to death but also the idea that all of life is some kind of dream state, that you’re living out a story. I think of the line from the Edgar Allan Poe poem “all that we see or seem is but a dream within a dream. This is a persistent idea through art, that the world is somehow a dream, in and of itself. 

The next line is 

からすのさます

さます is to awaken. It is the transitive version of the intransitive to wake 覚める. So here someone is being woken up. We have a からす crow, or a raven, or a black black bird and the poem ends with 霧の月.  I’m not a hundred percent clear whether the poet is being awoken by the cawing of the raven, or the cawing of the raven and the misty covered moon. Perhaps it is meant to be a combination of being awoken by that whole scene of a cawing raven and a mysterious moon and saying, “I just want to go back to sleep and get back to my dream, and maybe I want more time in my life to achieve the things that I wanted to achieve”. Apparently Onitsura did have some hardships as a poet, apparently, he was never given the standing or the title of a “Grand Master” poet. There is also some indication that he may have lived his poetic life somewhat in the shadow of the more famous Basho, who was 17 years his senior. Maybe he’s referring to the fact that he didn’t quite get to finish what he had started in his life.

An English Parallel

Now, to find a bit of a parallel in English, I’ve turned to the world of lyrics. As someone that’s very into songs and songwriting, I was thinking about how Bill Callahan often seems to talk about dream-like states. He has an amazing song called Eid Ma Clack Shaw, which is kind of a bit of gibberish verse. 

 

 

The words go: 

“I dreamed it was a dream that you were gone

I woke up feeling so ripped by reality

Love is the king of the beasts

And when it gets hungry it must kill to eat

Love is the king of the beasts

A lion walking down city streets

I fell back asleep some time later on

And I dreamed the perfect song

It held all the answers, like hands laid on

I woke halfway and scribbled it down

And in the morning what I wrote I read

It was hard to read at first but here’s what it said

Eid ma clack shaw

Zupoven del ba

Mertepy ven seinur

Cofally ragdah”

So, I think once again most people can identify with that idea of having a dream and feeling like you’ve had a major breakthrough, or you’ve had some kind of a revelation, that you figured something out and then you go to recall it, and it’s just on the tip of your tongue, but you just can’t. It’s unattainable. Anyway, there’s just a little parallel for you. We will continue to look at more of these Japanese Death Poems.

Japanese poetry books

Japanoscope is a registered affiliate with several online shops and may receive a commission when you click on some of the links within content.

Who is behind this site?

I’m Peter Joseph Head. I lived in Japan for four years as a student at Kyoto City University of the Arts and on working holiday. I have toured the country six times playing music and speak Japanese (JLPT N1).

ピータージョセフヘッドです。3年間京都市立芸大の大学院として、一年間ワーキングホリデーとして日本に住み、6回日本で音楽ツアーをし、日本語能力試験で1級を取得しました。要するに日本好きです。

Japanese Death Poems 辞世 Translated and analysed

Japanese Reading Difficulty

9/12 Could be read by 5th grade level student in Japan

Themes

Poetry, Death, Mortality, nature.

Text Type

Poem, Haiku

About Japanese Death Poems

Today we’re having a look at Japanese death poems. Now like the name suggests these are poems that people in Japan have written through the ages just before they die, or on their deathbed, and they’re fascinating little windows into a whole different world across time and space -windows on people reflecting on their lives in their final moments.
These poems have been around since around the 7th century.
I first came across these through this book Japanese death poems by Yoel Hoffman. It’s a fantastic little compendium of these poems and translations. So I thought I’d go through and introduce some of these but also give my own take. I’ll do some of my own translations, because there’s often quite a few different ways that these things can be done.

Death Poem byHiroshi Kuroshiki

A translation of an Instagram post from the artist

智輪

Chi-rin

Died 24 Dec. 1794

The first poem is by a poet called Chirin. All these poets have really fantastic names. 智 Chi means insight or wisdom, which comes from the Sanskrit, I believe, word prajna. So it’s a Buddhist Buddhist concept. 輪 Rin is like a circle, so this is this person’s name is actually a circle of prana insight

天地に

ちりなき雪の

麓かな

 

Ametsuchi ni

Chiri naki yuki no

Fumoto kana

 

Across the sky and land

Not a speck of dust

Behold the snow on the foothills!

 

Explanation of the poem

あめ in modern Japanese usually means rain but here it’s referring to the sky 天, to the heavens and has a different character to 雨

つち usually literally means dirt, but here it’s got a broader meaning of “land” and then ちりなき 

 

Literally means dust. I think both dust or chiri are very interesting words in either Japanese or English. There’s kind of this association between dust and garbage or rubbish. Probably people that have studied Japanese for a while probably would have come across people saying, you know, get some chiri officer off the floor it’s meaning that it’s dirty & dusty. Even in English we have this word “dustbin”. We don’t put generally don’t put dust in a bin. It’s more like rubbish that we’re putting in there. So there’s this association between things that are dirt or dirty and rubbish.

So ちりなき means ちりがない.

For my translation, I’ve gone with:

 

Across the sky land land 

not a speck of dust and the

 

But the other interesting thing about ちりなき is that we said that the poet’s name was chirin, so there’s actually a play on words, and this is something you find in a lot of these death poems. Often the poet will take their name and sort of try and work it into the actual poem either through the sound or through the meaning. So there’s this interesting play that they do, looking at the idea of their self and how that idea exists in the world. So chiri naki has a double meaning of no dust, but also no chirin, as in, he himself has disappeared. Or he’s about to disappear.

And then it comes to 

雪のふもとかな

Now this word かな is interesting as well. 

In modern japanese if you say kana it usually means that you’re not sure about something or you’re wondering about something.  So you might say come on 買い物行こうかな, I think I might go down to the shops. Or somebody might say to you そうかな if you’ve said something and now they’re doubting you. 

But you find in it’s poetic context it has a slightly different meaning. 

Here it’s used as a 切れ字 Kireji.

切る means to cut and 字 is a letter or a word. So these are special words that are put in either to divide up a section or phrase, or at the end to give a sense of finality.  “Kana” is usually expressing some kind of wonder, some sense of the numinous. When you think about it, even the modern idea of wondering about things, we wonder at the world, we wonder what’s happening. There is that connection in the same way that we said that ちり and dust and rubbish and garbage have this strange connection. There’s a connection between wondering in a numinous way and in a more prosaic way. 

So, the reason I put in “behold” the snow on this foothill is that I was trying to get that sense of wonder.  “Behold” I know is a very old sounding English word, but this is a poem from 1794, so I think that’s valid to say, “behold the snow in the foothills”

In Hoffman’s translation he went with:

In the earth and the sky

No grain of dust-

Snow on the foothills

So Hoffman hasn’t worried about putting the “behold” in. The かな gets lost in that translation but really there’s not really any great way of getting around that anyway.

Now, just a way as a way of finding a parallel between this poem and the world of English poetry I was thinking about poets that look at nature, appreciating snow and appreciating the natural world as it is in it in its “suchness”, to use a Buddhist term. 

So I was thinking about Robert Frost, because he does a lot of that sort of poetry and he’s got a famous one Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening. 

Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.

And then it goes on from there. You get this sense of somebody by themselves in nature just appreciating snow. This makes me think of that famous koan that’s come into popular culture
“If a tree falls in the forest, and no one saw it fall, and no one heard it fall, did it really fall?”
Which is about just appreciating the suchness of things, and the fact that you can’t really explain the nature of reality in words.

Robert Frost also has another poem which refers to both dust and snow as well.

It’s called Dust of Snow:

Dust of Snow

The way a crow
Shook down on me
The dust of snow
From a hemlock tree

Has given my heart
A change of mood
And saved some part
Of a day I had rued.

Japanese poetry books

Japanoscope is a registered affiliate with several online shops and may receive a commission when you click on some of the links within content.

Who is behind this site?

I’m Peter Joseph Head. I lived in Japan for four years as a student at Kyoto City University of the Arts and on working holiday. I have toured the country six times playing music and speak Japanese (JLPT N1).

ピータージョセフヘッドです。3年間京都市立芸大の大学院として、一年間ワーキングホリデーとして日本に住み、6回日本で音楽ツアーをし、日本語能力試験で1級を取得しました。要するに日本好きです。

Japanoscope Translations Podcast #2: Being An Artist In Covid-19 Japan – Getting Back To Nature With Live Painter Kohei Kondo

Kohei Kudo at Haretara sora ni mame maite
Kohei Kudo at Haretara sora ni mame maite

Japanese Reading Difficulty

5/12 Could be read by 5th grade level student in Japan

Themes

Art, Painting, Live Painting, Covid-19, Music

Text Type

Social Media Post (from artist's instagram)

About The Artist

Kohei Kondo

I first met Kohei Kondo when we were put on the same bill to play a gig at the magnificently named Tokyo music venue「晴れたら空に豆まいて」”When the weather’s fine throw peas at the sky”.

Japanese Parasol Umbrella from haretara sora ni mame maite
Red Japanese Parasol at Haretara sora ni mame maite

I was playing songs in Japanese and English and Kohei was doing Live Painting. It was one of the first shows I had done with live painting. If you are not familiar with the concept, it’s pretty much how it sounds. The artist makes a painting while a musician does sound. It actually works pretty well. 

In my experience, this goes on a lot more in Japan than in the English speaking world.  It’s hard to know why that is.  It could be as simple as being because Japanese gigs are usually more expensive to get into so there’s a little more money to go around. Japanese gigs also tend to be a lot less raucous, with audiences that sit and listen fairly quietly, so having an artistic element makes a lot more sense.

Liquid Lighting at Emma Russack and Lachlan gig in Melbourne

Kohei makes swirling rainbow-like visions that seem at once vivid and washed out. His style is someone remiscent of liquid lighting techniques popular from the psychadelic 60s. 

His pictures also have some common ground with the visual work of legendary Dirty Three guitarist, Mick Turner.

A translation of an Instagram post from the artist

3月はライブペインティングが3本なくなり、4月は全部なくなった。

5月はhoshiotoとグリーンルームという大好きなフェス。それと台湾台北での浮現祭というフェスでのライブペインティンが楽しみだったけれど、全部なくなった。でも日本のふたつは両方とも中止ではなくて延期だから楽しみが先に延びたんだなぁと思うのも悪くない。浮現祭もまた再び開催されるといいな!

僕は絵描きとしてライブペインティングとあとは絵を個展で発表してそれを販売するというこの2つが主に大きな活動。間違った。あとはCDジャケットやポスターなどに提供もあるから3つだ。

その中でライブペインティンがなくなったので今はずっと家にいて絵を描いている。病気を持っている高齢の父とふたり暮らしなので父さんと一緒に過ごせる時間がたくさんあるのは嬉しい。もしかしたらプレゼントのような時間なのかも?とも思ってしまう。

それと去年はゆっくりとできなかった畑も再開した。毎日午後絵を描いた後に草刈りからしてるのだけどめちゃくちゃ楽しい。草刈りは明確にやった分の成果が見えるのが楽しい。あと単純に僕は土とか虫とか小さい生き物が好き。子どもの時からずっと。

どれくらいかというと方向感覚がくるちゃったのか道路を無謀にも横断しようとしているミミズを見つけたらすかさず手でつまんで草むらに救出しちゃうくらい!

草刈りが終わったら、土を耕して、苗を植えて。。。楽しみだなぁ。

今一番一生懸命描いているのは画集の絵だ。2年前から約束しているのにずっとずっと待たせてしまった。出してくれるのはやはり2年前に立ち上がったばかりの出版社。僕は元々児童書業界にいたのだけど、児童書業界というのは会社の垣根を超えて勉強会があったり普通に仲良しなんだけど、その時に知り合った他の会社の出版社の編集者。僕がクレヨンハウスという絵本屋さんで働いていた時から知ってるのだからもうもしかしたら15年ぐらいの知り合いなのかも!!!すごい!

そうそう、そのかたが会社をやめて独立をされて自分の出版社を立ち上げたのだ。その最初のタイミングで僕に声をかけてくれたのだから嬉しい。いい画集を作りたいなぁと思う。

 

あとそれに父さんは元々編集者で書物を・紙媒体をこよなく愛している人なので父さんに見せてあげれるのも嬉しい。
ところで僕は3〜4年前ほどはひたすらがむしゃらにライブペインティングをしていて、年間150本ぐらいしていた。だけどやはり父さんと過ごす時間も短くなるし、純粋に体力的にもきついなぁと感じていた。いや、体力は持つんだけど個展に向けての制作に時間がうまく配分できなくなっていた。ライブペインティングの時と制作の時は随分と精神のモードが違うのだけど、そう簡単には切り替えることができない。

だから制作を初めて1週間ぐらいたって「あ、制作モードになってきたなぁ」という時にライブペインティングが入ってしまうと心のモードが途切れてしまう。
たとえ一日のライブペインティングでもまた制作モードに入れるのは数日後。
だからこうしてずっとライブペインティングがないのことはプレゼントのような時間なような気がする。でもこう書いているとライブペインティングが嫌いなように見えてしまうけれど、全く違くて心から超超超超超大好き。

普段からこんな感じにメリハリつけて「この月は制作」とか「この月はライブ」とか決めればいいんだけど、でも難しい!
だって僕は音楽が大好きで大好きなミュージシャンがたくさんていてライブペインティングも大好きだから。
ライブペインティングのいいところはその日の化学科反応で僕でも知らない何かが描けること。なんていうか横方向に無限というか。
個展の制作はまた違う面白さがある。自分の中を深く潜っていく感じ。こっちは縦方向の無限なのか。

いつも話ずれちゃうし、「康平くんの話は落ちがなくて、雰囲気勝負だよね」って時々友達に言われてちゃうのだけど今日もそうなっちゃった。。。 とにかく今は画集の絵を頑張っているという報告と。

それとまたライブペインティングできる日をもう本当に体の奥の方からウズウズしている。みんなに会いたいな

 

Gig poster for Peter Joseph Head and Kohei Kondo gig in 2014

May has my favourite festivals, Hoshioto and Green Room. I was also looking forward to doing  live painting at the Ukigensai festival in Taipei, Taiwan, but it’s been cancelled. It’s not all bad though, at least both of the Japanese festivals are still being planned to take place at a later date and have not been canceled, so the fun has just been delayed. I hope the Ukigen Festival will happen at some stage!

These two festivals were to be my current major activities as a painter, consisting of live painting with sale of works at a solo exhibition afterwards.  I’m also working on three other CD jacket and poster projects I’ve been asked for.

So the Live Painting has stopped happening and now I’m constantly at home drawing. I live with my sick elderly father, so I’m happy to have a lot of time to spend with him.  It makes me think, maybe this time is actually like a gift?

Also, I’ve been able to get stuck into tending the rice fields that I wasn’t able to spend much time on last year. Everyday after I’ve done my painting I go out and do the mowing. I’m having a ball. It’s so satisfying to see the tangible results of something like mowing the lawn. In a simple way, I just like the soil, the insects and all the small lifeforms you come across. I’ve been that way since I was a child.

How far have my sensibilities changed? Well, If I come across an earthworm, recklessly trying to cross the road, I find myself picking it up in my fingers to deliver it to the safety of the grass!
After mowing, I plow the soil, I plant the seedlings. . . I’m having a good time
What I’m working on most intently at the moment is a new art collection. I promised the work two years ago, but I’ve been putting it off forever. The publisher only launched themselves two years ago. I was in the children’s book industry, which is a tight knit world, and the publisher is one of the editors that I used to know during this time. I’ve known him since I worked at a picture book store called Crayon House, so maybe I’ve known him for about 15 years! Wow!
Yes, that’s how it was, the editor finished up with the publisher he was with, became independent, and started his own publishing company. I was so happy that he called on me right at the start of his business. You know, I really want to make this art book good.

Also, my father was an editor, so he loves books and paper and I’m happy that I can share my work with him.

For about 3 or 4 years I was spending all my time all-out hustling doing Live Painting, and would do about 150 gigs a year. But it got to the point that I was having so little time to spend with my father, and that it was just too much for me even physically. Well, I guess I had the physical strength, but it was becoming impossible to efficiently allocate time to production for my solo exhibitions. Live painting requires a whole different state of mind, and it is not that easy to just switch the different modes of working. 

I would get into the solo production mode, feeling like “I’m getting into the zone here” and then a week later a Live Painting gig would come along and it would feel like my whole mindstate had just been interrupted.

Even with a single day’s live painting, it still takes me a few days to change modes.

So it feels like having no live painting like this is actually a gift. When I write it like that it sounds like I don’t like Live Painting but actually I love love love love Live Painting.

Ideally, it’s good to organise things so that it’s “production this month” or “Live Painting this month”, but that’s easier said than done!

I love music, I love the musicians I work with, and I love Live Painting.
The thing about live painting is that you can come up with something that is like a direct chemical reaction to what is going on at the time. It’s kind of like you find some kind of infinite horizontal direction.
Solo production is interesting in it’s own way. It’s more like you’re diving deeply inside yourself. Perhaps solo is about the infinite vertical direction?

When I talk, I always seem to go off the rails. My friends tell me, “Kouhei, your stories don’t have a punchline, you’re always trying to bluff it by creating some kind of atmosphere”, and I fear today is no different. Anyway, for now, I guess I’m just reporting that I’m hard at work on a new art collection.

Also, I’m itching, from deep down inside my body, for the day when I can get back to the Live Painting. I tell you, I can’t wait to meet up with everyone.

Kondo Kohei drawing

Visit Kondo’s website here

Visit his web shop here.

Kohei Kondo Artist Profile 

Born in 1975 in Japan, Kohei Kondo is a painter based in Tokyo. He holds a Masters Degree from Tottori University, majoring in forestry. Later he taught himself painting. He is active in a variety of “painting” genres including live painting, clothing line branding, book sleeves, CD jackets and performing arts.

 【Exhibition history】 He has heldsolo exhibitions at large commercial facilities including Laforet Harajuku,  Shinjuku Isetan and Shibuya PARCO. He has held solo exhibitions in various locations across Japan, Taiwan and the United States . 

【Work history】He has provided designs for fashion brands, seasonal visuals at commercial facilities, CD jackets, and has appeared on television. 

【Live Painting Performance】 His performances use painting improvised in accordance with musicians’ performances. While responding & synchronizing with the music, he uses the palm of his hands to paint directly on to large canvases. Audience members often remark “I have never seen painting done live as a performance” or “it felt like I was watching a movie.” He is active in various music festivals, music venues, theaters etc.

【Personal Statement】 My pictures are influenced largely by two things. One, that I spent my childhood in nature. I majored in forestry at university and have studied Japanese environments. As a result, there were many opportunities to get in touch with nature. I became interested in these wonderful habitats which bring out feelings beyond words when touching the sea, the wind, the clouds and forests. Nature is my grand motif. I would like to express the feelings that I get in nature.

The second thing is a Japanese traditional aesthetic sense called “MITATE”. For example, ancient Japanese have seen a rock in the garden as an island floating in the waves. Likewise, they have imaged the plum blossoms in association with the snow. I’d like to make use of this kind of sensibility in my paintings. I’d like to bring “mitate” into one universe and narrative, in a pattern that floats across the canvas.

Japanoscope is a registered affiliate with several online shops and may receive a commission when you click on some of the links within content.

Who is behind this site?

I’m Peter Joseph Head. I lived in Japan for four years as a student at Kyoto City University of the Arts and on working holiday. I have toured the country six times playing music and speak Japanese (JLPT N1).

ピータージョセフヘッドです。3年間京都市立芸大の大学院として、一年間ワーキングホリデーとして日本に住み、6回日本で音楽ツアーをし、日本語能力試験で1級を取得しました。要するに日本好きです。

Japanoscope Translations Podcast #1 An Abridged English Translation of Chichan no Kageokuri (Chii and the shadow game) ちいちゃんのかげおくり英語訳

An abridged version of the classic story chichan no kageokuri for Japanese Reading Practice

About The Author

Kimiko Anma

Kimiko Anma lived in China as a child during WWII. She returned to her country at the age of 19, after Japan’s defeat.

Several of her works are featured in elementary school textbooks in Japan and are thus read by millions of Japanese children every year. Her stories combine Japanese cultural sensibilities with a nod to classic children’s storytelling from around the world. Her stories are influenced by authors such as Kenji Miyazawa.

Chichan’s Shadow Game is the tragic and deeply moving tale of child’s view of the hardships of war. It is told in a matter-of-fact, quasi-objective way that somehow makes the tragedy all the more moving.

When I came across this in my child’s reading book when he was in grade 3 at Japanese school, I was truely shocked by the somewhat brutal, though deeply touching, nature of the story I was being asked to read my child. I have noticed that there no shortage of such dark, lest-we-forget, type tales in the literature being taught Japanese children. The Japanese are less squeemish about this than much of the English speaking world.

Japanese Reading Difficulty

3/12 Approximately Elementary Grade 3 level in Japan

Themes

War, children, short stories

9784251030115: Chii-chan no kageokuri

ちいちゃんのかげおくり      

あまんきみこ作

「かげおくり」って遊びをちいちゃんに教えてくれたのは、お父さんでした。

出征する前の日、お父さんは、ちいちゃん、お兄ちゃん、お母さんをつれて、先祖のはかまいりに行きました。その帰り道、青い空を見上げたお父さんが、つぶやきました。

「かげおくりのよくできそうな空だなあ。」

「えっ、かげおくり。」

と、お兄ちゃんがきき返しました。

「かげおくりって、なあに。」

と、ちいちゃんもたずねました。

「十、数える間、かげぼうしをじっと見つめるのさ。十、と言ったら、空を見上げる。すると、かげぼうしがそっくり空にうつって見える。」

と、お父さんが説明しました。

「父さんや母さんが子どもの時に、よく遊んだものさ。」

「ね。今、みんなでやってみましょうよ。」

と、お母さんが横から言いました。

 ちいちゃんとお兄ちゃんを中にして、四人は手をつなぎました。そして、みんなで、かげぼうしに目を落としました。

「まばたきしちゃ、だめよ。」

と、お母さんが注意しました。

「まばたきしないよ。」

ちいちゃんとお兄ちゃんが、やくそくしました。

「ひとうつ、ふたあつ、みいっつ。」

と、お父さんが数えだしました。

「ようっつ、いつうつ、むうっつ。」

と、お母さんの声も重なりました。

「ななあつ、やあっつ、ここのうつ。」

ちいちゃんとお兄ちゃんも、いっしょに数えだしました。

「とお。」

目の動きといっしょに、白い四つのかげぼうしが、すうっと空に上がりました。

「すごうい。」

と、お兄ちゃんが言いました。

「すごうい。」

と、ちいちゃんも言いました。

「今日の記念写真だなあ。」

と、お父さんが言いました。

次の日、お父さんは、白いたすきをかたからななめにかけ、日の丸のはたに送られて、列車に乗りました。

「体の弱いお父さんまで、いくさに行かなければならないなんて。」

お母さんがぽつんと言ったのが、ちいちゃんの耳には聞こえました。

ちいちゃんとお兄ちゃんは、かげおくりをして遊ぶようになりました。

夏のはじめのある夜、空しゅうけいほうのサイレンで、ちいちゃんたちは目がさめました。

「さあ、急いで。」

お母さんの声。

外に出ると、もう、赤い火が、あちこちに上がっていました。

けれど、たくさんの人に追いぬかれたり、ぶつかったり―、

ぶつかったり、追いぬかれたり―

ちいちゃんは、お母さんとはぐれました。

「お母ちゃん、お母ちゃん。」

ちいちゃんは、ひとりぼっちになりました。ちいちゃんは、たくさんの人たちの中でねむりました。

朝になりました。町の様子は、すっかり変わっています。あちこち、けむりがのこっています。どかがうちなのか―。

家は、やけ落ちてなくなっていました。

その夜、ちいちゃんは、ざつのうの中に入れてあるほしいいを、少し食べました。そして、こわれかかった暗いぼうくうごうの中でねむりました。

「お母ちゃんとお兄ちゃんは、きっと帰ってくるよ。」

くもった朝が来て、昼がすぎ、また、暗い夜がきました。ちいちゃんは、ざつのうの中のほしいいを、また少しかじりました。そして、こわれかけたぼう空ごうの中でねむりました。

明るい光が顔に当たって、目がさめました。

「まぶしいな。」

ちいちゃんは、暑いような寒いような気がしました。ひどくのどがかわいています。いつの間にか、太陽は、高く上がっていました。

そのとき、

「かげおくりのよくできそうな空だなあ。」

というお父さんの声が、青い空からふってきました。

「ね。今、みんなでやってみましょうよ。」

というお母さんの声も、青い空からふってきました。

 ちいちゃんは、ふらふらする足をふみしめて立ち上がると、たった一つのかげぼうしを見つめながら、数えだしました。

「ひとうつ、ふたあつ、みいっつ。」

23いつの間にか、お父さんの低い声が、重なって聞こえだしました。

「ようっつ、いつうう、むうっつ。」

お母さんの高い声も、それに重なって聞こえだしました。

「ななあつ、やあっつ、ここのうつ。」

お兄ちゃんのわらいそうな声も、重なってきました。

「とお。」

ちいちゃんが空を見上げると、青い空に、くっきりと白いかげが四つ。

「お父ちゃん。」

ちいちゃんはよびました。

「お母ちゃん、お兄ちゃん。」

 そのとき。

体がすうっとすきとおって、空にすいこまれていくのが分かりました。

一面の空の色。ちいちゃんは、空色の花畑の中に立っていました。見回しても、見回しても、花畑。

Chii’s Shadow Game

By Kimiko Anma

Translated and abridged by Peter Head

Chii first learnt about the game called  “Kageokuri” from her dad.

The day before her father’s deployment to war, Chii’s Dad took Chii with her brother, and her mother, to visit the ancestral graves. On the way, he looked up at the blue sky and muttered. “This is the perfect sky for doing Kageokuri”

“Kageokuri”, repeated Chii’s brother.

“What’s Kagekuri?”, asked Chi.

“Well, you stare at shadow for a while, you count to ten and then look in the sky. You’ll find that the shape of the shadow you have been looking at is projected in the sky before your very eyes.” explained the dad.

“Your mum and I used to play when we were kids.”

The mother interjected, “Hey. Why don’t we all try it now!”

With that, the four joined hands, with Chii and his brother on the inside, and everyone stared down at their shadows.

“Don’t blink!”, said the mother.

“We won’t”, replied the children.

 

“One, two, three”, said the father.

“Four, five, six”, joined in the mother.

“Seven, eight, nine”, chimed in Chii and her brother.

“Ten”

 

The family turned their eyes to the sky and saw four white shapes projected there.

“Wow.”

Said Chii’s brother.

“Wow!” said Chii.

“Well, that will be today’s commemoration photo” said the father.

The next day, sent off by the waving of the rising sun flags and with a white cord strung diagonally across his body the father boarded a train.

Chii’s ears were close enough to hear her mother say, “I can’t believe even my weak husband now has to go and fight”

Chii and her brother came to play kageokuri regularly. They played kageokuri as they sent their father off, swinging their arms in the sky to “Banzai!”. 

 

One night in early summer, Chii’s household was awoken by an air-raid siren.
“It’s time to move”
Chii heard her mother’s voice.

Outside, many red flames were already rising in the night sky.
Chii’s mum took Chii and her brother’s hands and ran.

But Chii was overtaken by other’s running, bumping into her, and overtaking her once again. She was separated from her mother.

“Mum, mum.”, she yelled.
Chii was alone.
That night, she slept amongst a crowd of strangers.
Morning came. The appearance of the town had changed completely. Smoke lingered here and there. Where is home?

The house was fallen and gone.
That night, Chii ate a little bit of dried rice from a duffel bag. She slept in a dark air-raid shelter.
“I’m sure my mum and brother will come back”
The cloudy morning came, the day went by, and the dark night came. Chii took a few bites of her dried rice and once again slept in the broken air raid shelter.

She awoke to a bright light on her face.
“It’s so bright”
Chii felt a strange combination of hot and cold. Her throat was badly parched. Somehow, the sun had risen high in the sky.
At that moment, she heard her father’s voice from somewhere above her, as if he was calling to her from the sky.
“This is the perfect sky for doing Kageokuri”

 

“Why don’t we do it all together?”, joined in her mother’s voice from the sky too.
Chii stood up with shaky legs, and started counting, staring at a single shadow.

“One, two, three, four.” 
Before she knew it, she could hear her father’s low voice joining in. 

“four, five, six”

Next, the higher voice of her mother joined in.

“7, 8, 9”

The soft voice of her brother joined too.
“Ten” 
Chii looked to the sky. She saw there are four distinct white shadows outlined above her. 
“Dad!”, she cried.
“Mum, brother”.

In that second, she found that her body was becoming see through, as if it was being absorbed in the sky. 
Everything was the colour of sky. She stood in a flower garden the colour of sky. Around and around, all she could see was flowers.

The story in song

Japanoscope is a registered affiliate with several online shops and may receive a commission when you click on some of the links within content.

Who is behind this site?

I’m Peter Joseph Head. I lived in Japan for four years as a student at Kyoto City University of the Arts and on working holiday. I have toured the country six times playing music and speak Japanese (JLPT N1).

ピータージョセフヘッドです。3年間京都市立芸大の大学院として、一年間ワーキングホリデーとして日本に住み、6回日本で音楽ツアーをし、日本語能力試験で1級を取得しました。要するに日本好きです。