Saturday, December 28, 2013

Ono Yoko

(road  top  small  mind   one  road  smooth or flat  secure)

I've been watching Yoko Ono's interviews and happened to come across the above words on my Chinese FB friend's post.  I thought it sums up my feeling about Yoko and also anyone's life. 

I watched her on David Frost's show for the first time and saw young and free-spirited Yoko, and when she said, I'm mad at you, David, I think it's because he has invited a belligerent man and woman purposely to create heated discussion with John and Yoko.  I saw Frost's shoulders tightened when he replied no to Yoko.   How much courage she had to muster up to that point in her life and before the television camera as an artist who is deeply rooted in totally different culture. Most of us try to avoid confrontation almost at any cost, especially women.  I felt pain watching her on Dick Cavett's show.  A lot must have happened between those shows, I thought. She seems not herself.  John keeps talking, and Cavett's eyes swim past Yoko and hardly look Yoko directly into her eyes. She no longer quips much or challenges the interviewer.  She is mostly quiet. 

But I also watched her video オノ・ヨーコへの質問 1/3 – 3/3  for the first time.  What a relief!  This sums up my thought 路上小心一路平安

The photo is my mini rose that has survived.  It is related to my recent water-bill mishap, but what a joy!

Monday, December 2, 2013

Madame Butterfly Forever: Miura Tamaki (1884-1946)

Miura Tamaki and Giacomo Puccini 

She met Puccini in 1920 at Teatro Constanti, Rome when she performed Madame Butterfly. He came to see her with his wife and was so impressed with her performance.  He told her she was true ciocio san of his dream.   Because of the Madame Butterfly debut at the Milano Scalla was a big failure, and Puttini was very angry about it, he disallowed the Milano Scalla to perform Madame Butterfly ever.  So, she never performed Madame Butterfly there.  She visited Puccini's lakeside house many times.  He requested her to sing Japanese songs. She did, and he integrated those songs she sang into his composition later.  

I didn't like Madame Butterfly before, but I understand now how exquisite her performance must have been.  She knew the pain of love and Meiji women.  

As a typical of the Meiji era, she was pressured to marriage.  Her father pushed a military doctor for her husband and told her if she married him she could continue her music activities.  So, she married him without falling in love.  

Her role as an music educator and performer prospered, so she wasn't a dedicated wife to her husband as ordinary wives were then.  So, one day her husband gave her ultimatum that he was assigned to the Sendai unit, northeast, and wanted her to go with him.  That meant death to her because the only music school was in Tokyo where she taught and learned.  

She explained to her husband that her passion and mission of her musical career was not only for her personal purpose but for elevating Japan's culture before the world.  He understood and they divorced. Probably because of it, she wrote, what we refer to today, feminist essays.  I've read only a bit, but I could see her deep personal thought on women and our choice or no choice.  

In the essay I read, she often used the word, dignity.  It conveys her utmost feeling of the time while the journalists then were scandalizing her for every move she made.

Sometime after her divorce, a Tokyo University medical student and distant relative of her appeared and proposed her.  He understood her passion and mission.  He suggested that he would take a post in Singapore which would give him quite large sum of money after one year of service which would enable them to travel to Germany and both to study there for three or four years.  

They married against many oppositions including her father.  He traveled to Singapore, and in secret, she traveled to see him after six months.  Upon his return to Japan, it took more years for them to realize their dream, but they did travel to Berlin at last in 1914.  

But the political situation made them leave  Germany not long after their arrival, and they moved to England.  In London, He went to study medicine, and she stayed home.  She wrote to Sir Henry Wood three times, and got an audition.  

I'm just writing like this, but you understand how tenacious she was.  She learned some German in two month voyage from Yokohama to Berlin from her husband, and she was in London not too long.  So, she couldn't speak English yet.  Anyway, the most famous conductor in London then was impressed with her voice and performance.  She got a part right away to sing in front of high society people, and then at huge Albert Hall.  She made a success out of all her performances.

The Meiji women were oppressed, no doubt about it.  Her mother divorced her husband eventually also.  He made many troubles related women which was typical things for men then.  Women had no choice.  After her divorce, her mother was living alone, and later, Tamaki invited her to live with her. 

Mother made all Tamaki's kimono, so Mother was accomplished kimono maker.  Many women made their own kimono, but I'm sure not many could cut most expensive silk with design that must match exactly.  Mother also let her daughter go so that Tamaki could pursue her dream in Berlin.  So, when Tamaki sang Madame Butterfly, her thought of self-sacrificed Meiji women like her mother, her own experiences of failed and successful love, and every emotion came together.  

Tamaki also met an accomplished Japanese dancer in Paris, and she helped Tamaki choreograph her movements to show deep emotions.

After London, Tamaki and her husband went to New York.  Then, he went to Yale University to continue his study.  She signed a contract with Chicago Opera Company as a Metropolitan singer with help of Japan's consulate and a man from Metropolitan.  She sang in Washington DC, Boston, Saint Louis, Indianapolis, South America, and from May 27th 1918, she sang at Metropolitan in NY.  Enrico Caruso played her opposite.  

She played Madame Butterfly 2000 times in the US, Europe, Brazil, Argentina, Russia, and many countries.  In the U.S., she sang before President Wilson, Harding, and Coolidge.  After 20 years in overseas, she returned to Japan and continued her career as the war escalated.  

Her second husband returned to Japan earlier and received his PhD on his vitamin C research, but he died wishing to be with her.  She had contractual obligations, so she could not be with him.  Her mother survived until she returned to Japan, but later died.

From "Miura Tamaki  Madame Butterfly Forever" written by  Takahashi Iwao  

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Interview: Julia Stein, a Los Angeles Poet

A great interview of Julia Stein, a Los Angeles poet.

To read the link below is to understand what political poems are.  Also Julia Stein wrote to poets who do not seek money for their work and told them to understand contracts and get paid.  I respect her for it.  No poets ever told me that.

She has published five books of her poems.  I have all, except one.  I have to get the fifth one next time I see her.  She's been my teacher in creative writing and also a very good friend of mine.   Because our backgrounds are so different, I've been learning so much from from her.

To me, she is a descendant of Electra, and most of all, I appreciate her openness.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

"Friendship, It's Powerful”

A few days ago, I was talking about my past Facebook post about the world university ranking problem to three Japanese women.  One of them handed me a thin paperback titled "Friendship, It's Powerful  友情 力あり” written by Shiroyama Saburo.  It’s a nonfiction story about a group of Japanese and American students including the author who attended a series of conferences in the US and Japan right before WWII. 

This is a thin book, but very good.  By reading it, I thought the situation between the U.S. and Japan hasn't changed much.  On page 204, one Japanese American member tells the author, "I want Miyazawa Kiichi to become prime minister (Miyazawa who became PM was also a member of this group.  He was probably the only PM who spoke English.) ... Besides, Ambassador to Japan should at least speak in Japanese, and journalists in Japan should also.  With speaking only English, how can people really understand Japan?  It's impossible to understand each other unless many more Americans learn to speak Japanese." 

I agree with above statement if we seek true democratic world.  I was excited to find that opinion written at last!  This is very difficult for Japanese to say to non Japanese, especially for that generation.  The author wrote it, not as his opinion, but through the opinion of his friend.  But we can understand this, can we?  It is his opinion, too, after all.

What is your opinion about this?

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Edward Morse's Collection

Edo Tokyo Museum is showing a special exhibit on Edward Morse’s collection.  From 1877, he visited Japan three times for total of four years.  Four years seem not enough time to learn Japanese culture, but it’s amazing how much he observed and collected Japanese utensils. 

It was a strange experience, to be honest.  Museum viewers came in and looked at similar items with which I grew up.  It wasn’t that long ago.  No kidding!  We were using them in my house except the items for painting teeth black.

A one-sided-blade knife was in a showcase with a stone to sharpen it.  Its label said the knife to cut fish.  It was small.  It must be appropriate size for most housewives then.

What I appreciateed most was children’s smiles in the photos.  I don’t know if Morse took those photos himself or not, but I’m sure he made them laugh.  That’s a big contribution for his work which he tried to depict day to day Japanese. 

Before I left the museum, I went up to the sixth floor and browsed their regular Edo exhibits.  I took off my shoes and went up to a wooden house like the one I grew up in.  I came out, and I was about to leave when I heard a couple speaking in English.  A man said, “Is this a school?”  So, we chatted a while.  They were from New York.

7:30 pm was closing time.  I headed to the station.  It was dark and no people around.  The location is the middle of Tokyo and very lonely looking place, I thought.  Gee, similar house in which I grew up was in the museum already!  This is a weird image.  Unfortunately, many young Japanese haven’t had experience in living in such house and even older people, too, never seen some of those utensils that Morse brought back to America growing up.  Right now, I have a renter in my wooden house, but I must preserve it.  I don’t want it disappear.  So, this is usually my problem, but yesterday, I reconfirmed that it is my happiness.  

Taikan's letter to Keisen

These are my photos of the postcards I've purchased at Yokohama Museum last Tuesday.  The exhibit focuses on Yokoyama Taikan's art, but the first painting is "Night Cherry Blossoms" by Tomita Keisen, one of Taikan's students.  I like it so much for many reasons.  Under the painting shows a Taikan's letter to Keisen praising Keisen's talent and this "Night Cherry Blossoms."  How refreshing Taikan must have felt for the first time he saw it.  Today, we can see light-up cherry trees everywhere, but not early 1900s.  Nights were dark then.  I appreciated the letter.  I felt his personality behind the dynamic and innovative art.

Taikan is a huge, national artist, and even at the time, he was especially to all the accomplished artists led by Okakura Tenshin.  I've mentioned about Tenshin many times, but if you love Japanese traditional arts, please read "The Book of Tea" written by him in English.  Taikan was also bilingual.  Other three pictures are by Taikan.  Taikan literally means "Big Picture."  He certainly lived up to his name.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

"Literacy and Race"

Contemporary Literary Horizon has confirmed me that my new short story will be published in either CLH 5/2013 Sept.-Oct. 2013 or in CLH 6 (38)/Nov.-Dec. 2013. The title is "Literacy and Race."

I'm sure the story is nothing you would expect, so I won't give out the story here. But I bring it up because I see an element of coincidence in the recent news: Japan's place in OECD's literacy and numeracy tests. 

In the beginning of the story, the narrator points out the difference in the definition of "literacy" between ODE and Japanese English dictionary.

I hope you are intrigued!

At the entrance of Yokohama Asahi Culture Center, three flower arrangement schools show one display each. Out of three, I happen to like this design. The name of the artist is unknown, but as you probably can imagine, the artist is not a novice. It might look easy to arrange those flowers and tree branches, but no, it's hard work. Much details and discipline are behind it. For that, I appreciate any work of arts.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Earthquake Proof Grave

Last year, this grave stone fell down because of repeated earthquakes and old deteriorated granite base. This is a new look.  The base and the fence are now all marble, and the ground is covered with fine gravel. It's simple and clean, and easy to maintain.  My brother has done a great job.

It was raining, so I had a shop employee light up a bunch of incense.  I carried it like a torch climbing up the stairs.  My eyeglasses steamed up. I stared at wet screen of my cell phone and clicked.  

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Terauchi Takeshi: Musician
Below, I’ve translated roughly from Japanese Wikipedia about Terauchi Takeshi.  Also see English Wikipedia.

He was born on January 17, 1939 in Tuchiura, Ibaragi prefecture.  His father was a politician and also a successful businessman who managed movie theaters and electronic shops. His mother was a descendant of one of the original traditional schools of kouta singing and one of the shamisen schools, too.
He practiced playing guitar since he was five years old. He tried to make a guitar as strong as the sound of his mother's shamisen and used a telephone to make an electric guitar. For speaker, he used air-bombardment alarm device.  WWII ended in 1945.  When neighbors heard the sound, they hid away into their fox holes. He claims he made the first electric guitar. For a young boy, it was true because he hadn't seen any electric guitar in his life. A year before he was born, Rickenbacker had introduced the first electric guitar.
              Because of the sounds he produced and the neighbors' negative reactions to it, his father was arrested by the military police.  He was said to be disowned 10 times starting at age nine. (In my opinion, this is not technically disowned according to the dictionary.)  Anyhow, he improved his own creation of electric guitars and speakers further.  In 1949, he was using his own PA systems on stage.

His motto: if you don't play, guitar will make no sound.  Isn’t that a truth? He said that he hasn't yet reached the level of his mother’s shamisen expertise.
              He continued to play guitar and focused on making his guitars better.  His school work suffered.  His grades were low.  A rumor has it that his father made a school for him so that he could be admitted.
In his high school, father begged him to be number one just once in one subject, and if he did, he could play guitar all he wanted.  In response to this request, he studied frantically for six months and became number one in one subject only.  I don't know what subject was. Then father said, "You are able boy if you try." Father wanted him to study more. Takeshi replied, "Now we know I'm an able person if I try hard, so I quit." Teachers used to think he was no good, but now he proved himself, so his teachers started to say he was in fact a good boy. So this attitude of his made adults (father and others) angry.

In high school, he set up a mandolin club and won the NHK award for three consecutive years.  He entered Meiji University in response to Koga Masao’s recommendation.  Koga Masao was a famous composer, and he had earlier created a mandolin club at the university.  But Takeshi had to leave the school after only a week because of his father’s guidance.  Because of father’s wish, he then entered Kanto Gakuin University and majored in electronic engineering.

He was also the inventor of Yamaha Electrone, electric piano, as well as his electric guitars. Although he had made his father go through nightmare, I'm sure he listened to his advice also.

He was invited to Ed Sullivan show, but his schedule was too tight. Has any unknown artists refused an invitation to Ed Sullivan show? But he didn't refuse.  He simply couldn't accept it because he couldn’t turn down his promise. Also he was chosen as one of three best guitarists by a music magazine called “Music Breaker.” Other two were Chet Atkins and Les Paul.  Because I've translated all this info. from Japanese Wikipedia, I do not know how to spell some of English names. So, some could be in error. 

Jongara Bushi (Tsugaru Folk music)

Yokohama Concert in 1975:  Flying Guitar 

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Al Vezzetti's Celebration

Al's Celebration

Al Vezzetti has been the head of San Dimas Writer's Workshop
He is moving on, but will be in touch.

Beautiful Caroline Corser will be our new head of the workshop.  She was a professor in English at a college in Bakersfield.  She majored in Linguistics, so she is very detail in editing.  I appreciate all her explanations and comments.  She also speaks, reads, and writes Spanish.

Our Chaucer expert, Dolores Cullen, talking about Canterbury Tales from her point of view.

                  Al looks happy leaving San Dimas.  I look sour.  I'm not chewing lemon.

Ray in the back read his essay.  It was about generational gaps and well written.   I hope he finds a good publication to show the essay.


Frank Kohoutek made this.  He is multi talented.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Our Yokohama Memoir Class

This memoir class in Yokohama will end on June 24th.  Watanabe Kichio Sensei will be teaching his new essay class starting next month.  Most of the people in the photo joined this class a year and three months ago.  So, I thought this gathering was a goodbye party.

Watanabe Kichio Sensei 渡辺起知夫先生 and me.
I like the way he teaches.  He gives us great freedom to write, but he helps us in editing to make our manuscripts look professional.

I've been learning quite a lot in this class, but it's much more.  I look forward to our meetings.
It'll be sad if we lose this class.


By now, I know each classmate quite a bit, where they were born, what school they had gone, and so on.  

Here are my two favorite classmates.  They are opinionated and hilarious.   I wish I can introduce them, but perhaps, I can do that when they publish their memoir.  

At the end of this party, one of the classmates asked the group members if anyone would join the new essay class.  They all said yes.  So, this wasn't a goodbye party after all.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Sugita Genpaku and His Workshop

This is a bus stop.  I think someone volunteered to leave those chairs.  I don't know why, but the city does not provide a bench at most of bus stops.

Lately, I've been reading Japanese classics on western thoughts, and today, I read "The Beginning Dutch" by Sugita Genpaku (杉田 玄白, 1733 – 1817).

He tells a story of how he and other Japanese scholars met regularly and put their heads together to translate Dutch medical documents. They made very slow and painful progress in the beginning. But new people with some knowledge of alphabets joined them, plus they acquired some Dutch and translated books. Occasionally, interpreters and a Dutch man came to their meetings, so their study improved. 

One old man named
良沢 was much older than others, and at least 10 years older than Sugita. As the time went on, 良沢 stopped socializing with other people or doing the things he used to do like many old people tend to be. But he still kept coming to their deciphering Dutch document meetings. The old man had energy just for that. They all looked forward for the meeting, and Sugita just couldn't wait for the sun to rise on the day of the meeting. 

I love it! I can tell how that is. Sugita describes how fun it was to meet the group and translate the Dutch document. I wish I were there. Some people were doctors, others had commercial interests such as making profit in trade and so on, and some were there without purpose. It's like a high school drama club. I didn't know the Japanese classics are this much fun! I also read "One Hundred One New Thoughts" by Nishi Amane. That was also excellent. Their sentences have no connectives, punctuations, and no change of lines. They flow like a large river from the beginning to the end.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Old Family Photos

 Yamada Kikan (also Norichika)
The Wikipedia site shows he served as a Commander at Takasaki Regimental District
from 1907 - 1910 (as of March 5, 2014).  Previously I gave a wrong date.  

My grandfather, Makizo  牧三

Ume 梅  Makizo's younger sister

 I do not know who this person is.  Perhaps, Kikan's brother.
The back of this photo is the second photo down.

 This is the back of above Kikan's photo

勝  Makizo's younger sister

Mine and Yoshi

I'm posting this for my family and relatives who cannot read Japanese, but you're welcome also.

In the third photo are my great grandfather's older sister, Mine (Meeneh), and her daughter, Yoshi.  Mine married the only son of Yamamoto Hanya.  Hanya committed harakiri to take responsibility for the failure to guard the second post which was a temple. The war was the second Choshu Seibatsu by the Shogunate government. It was the beginning of the end to the feudal system in Japan.

Kawakata Zenjiro who was a cousin of my great grandfather was adopted into Yamamoto family to save the family lineage.  I believe Yoshi in the first photo married him. Those photos were taken in front of Ichigaya Military Academy in Tokyo. Mine on this photo must be younger than I am today. I feel for her looking at the hardship on her face. 

Many people suffered then because of the revolution-like chaos, but Hamada han’s members plunged into extreme poverty.  I didn’t know the history until recently.  I’ve been researching and learning as I read related books. 

Saturday, May 18, 2013

“”Up to Sandakan” by Yamazaki Tomoko

I’ve just finished reading this book.  Yamazaki Tomoko is the author of “Sandakan Brothel No. 8” and “Up to Sandakan” is her memoir that came out in 2001.   The story grabbed my attention right from the beginning and kept going until the end.

One thing made me very interested was that her mother was also a teacher of the Japanese traditional arts, Chanoyu and flower arrangement like my mother.   Some of her feeling toward her mother is similar to mine, it made me think.  

I’ll comment on a few things here.

In one of the scenes, the narrator describes how she was fired from her waitress job at a coffee shop.  At the time, she was married to a Korean man in Tokyo.  He came to Japan when he was very young, and at the time she met him, he was a graduate student in Political Science at Tokyo University.  He is multilingual.  Because the legal process of marrying a Korean person during 1950s was difficult, they were common law husband and wife, not on paper.

Anyhow, the owner of the coffee shop told her that she was fired because the owner found out that she was married to a Korean man.  Isn’t that amazing?  The narrator said to the owners, husband and wife, “But you are both Koreans, too.”  They replied, “No, we are no longer Koreans.  We became Japanese citizens.  So, we cannot hire a Japanese woman who married to a Korean man.”

Imagine that!  How bizarre!  At this point, the narrator does not give her thought on this.  She is speechless and totally perplexed.  Me, too.  But there are more than a few points during my reading this book that I could not really understand the feeling of the characters.  I think the issue is so dark, ridiculous, pessimistic, so twisted that nobody, both Koreans and Japanese cannot explain how they feel.  I think those confused people are confused because their feeling is based on what they imagine what others feel.  And their imagination is so wildly yucky dark. That’s the only explanation I can come up with.

For an example, the narrator’s uncle in Osaka to whom she has never met in her life goes to the relative of the Korean husband and blurts out all the prejudiced words.  Of course, I can’t understand why this uncle suddenly appears in the narrator’s life and go charging into a stranger’s house.  It’s so rude beyond any imagination.  It’s insane.  But a sad thing is that the very intelligent Korean husband, although he knows what happened at his relative house in Osaka, never tells his wife about the incident.  She found that out later on.  She doesn’t say, but I think that had a lot to do with their breakup.  You might say it’s because he tries to protect her.  No, I don’t buy that.  Even if that were his intention, I think it works opposite.  For husband and wife, we need to discuss these important matters until we are satisfied.  Otherwise, how could we overcome difficulties together?

The name of the Korean man is Kim Guantek.  He was born in 1930 in Cheju island of South Korea.  He was the head of the North Korean student movement in Japan in 1950s.  Because of much complication, she departs from him one day without letting him know.  She says she left him because she loves him and wishes he can pursue his true passion in his life which is to unite both North and South Korea. 

I googled his name, Kim Guantek, 金光澤, but it’s strange that his name doesn’t come up.  He is a scholar specialized in international relations and North Korea.  He was at Oxford University in the summer of 1967, but suddenly he disappeared and his older brother in South Korea has never heard from him last 30 years.  The brother and his family members were investigated by KCIA.  They found nothing and were released, but the brother had to resign from his high position in the Construction Ministry. 

Monday, April 22, 2013

Tanka by Ishikawa Takuboku

Selected from the above paperback, I have translated a number of tanka and showed them on Facebook.  Lately, I've been neglecting my blog, so here I am.

Takuboku is one of Japan's major poets.  He lived in extreme poverty, so many of his poems are grim, but I think I've selected here a good mix just to introduce to those readers who have never heard of his name.  His tanka speak to our heart.  Talking of heart, I’m still writing about my mother.

Takuboku was one of my mother's favorite poets.  She often recited his poem effectively at the right moment.  Yes, she was a great private actress!  But I didn’t think we were poor when I was young, and I didn’t think much about it.  Now I’m older and live in my fixed income, I feel much more.   

I thought about it.  I think my father had influence on Mother in the area of poetry.  He kept quiet.  Mother performed all the artistic expressions throughout our daily life.  The first one was my mother’s favorite when I was young.  

I hope you enjoy reading.

i work and work more
but my life doesn't get easier
stare at my hands

the hustle and bustle of Asakusa
in the evening
meanders in and out
that sad heart

pick up a mirror
and make every possible various faces
when i'm tired of crying

'die for such a small thing?'
'live for such a small thing?'
stop, stop questions and answers

cross my arms
and think lately
storm out before many eyes of enemy

on the road side
a dog makes a long yawn
i do the same
out of envy

without a reason
i want to dash out and run
until no more breath
perhaps on a meadow

show just one incredible thing
and while people are surprised
I think I'd disappear

Thursday, April 4, 2013

On Copyright

an old and surviving rose in my backyard

I didn’t know this old but still interesting copyright related issue: the melody of “Akatonbo (赤とんぼ A Red Dragonfly).” I listened to "Introduction and Allegro in D Minor," Opus 134" by Robert Schumann.  Wow, it isn’t similar.  It’s exactly the same. 

On Facebook, Rip Rense and I discussed this issue.  We both thought originally Shumann borrowed the Japanese song, but Robert Schumann (1810-1856) was much older than the Japanese composer, Yamada Kosaku (1886-1965) who was also a well-known, prolific Japanese composer.  I became curious how he reacted to this issue.

So, I went to the Yokohama Central Library and read his article which had appeared on Bungeishunju, a prestigious monthly magazine.  The issue was September in 1961.  Because of the copyright issues-- I’m not making fun of it, but since he died in 1965, I cannot translate it.  So, I’ll recap the article below. 

“The Phantom Shadow of Akatonbo, Goodbye!”
 Yamada Kosaku wrote that he learned that Ishihara Shintaro (politician, author, and former governor of Tokyo) wrote about the issue in Chuoukoron, another monthly magazine.  Kosaku replied to an interview, “It’s my 37-year-old song like my own child.  It’s been sung and loved by Japanese people all these years.”  He could not say more than that.  Then he read the article by Ishihara, so below is my recap of his recap. 

Ishihara Shintaro was drinking with a friend of his, a German journalist, I guess at a piano bar.  The piano player started “Akatonbo.”  Shintaro told him that the song is a well-known Japanese song.  The friend pointed out that the song was an old German folk song.  They argued for a while.  The German stood up and started to sing the same tune in German. 

Anyway, I guess Shintaro and the customers around them were impressed, and he was convinced with the performance.  I also guess Shintaro, a veteran author, and the German journalist didn’t think of investigating further about it and confirm the whole situation.  
Kosaku did not defend or attack Shintaro’s article.  But I thought the following paragraph showed his thought.  He wrote that he concluded by reading Shintaro’s writing that the argument took place over their drinking alcoholic beverages and therefore, it was light and vague.  The journalist later updated his information to say that the source song was a Nadeland’s missionary song of a few hundred years old.  Kosaku decided that this was not an issue that mature adults need to discuss with open heart. 
He also wrote that the German journalist later made a visit to Kosaku, and they spoke in German.  I don’t know how well Kosaku spoke in German, but he wrote; that the journalist was impressed and apologized of causing him a trouble.  The journalist also told him that the incident gave him a chance to visit Kosaku, and he was appreciative. 

It made me think.  I’ve also talked about this matter with a friend of mine in Japan.  She said it was common to sing foreign songs in Japanese.  That’s true.  When I was small, we used to sing all kinds of foreign songs in Japanese.  The title of those songs had notes such as an old Russian or German folk song.  We didn’t think of copyright in those days. 
This is what I think.  I think Kosaku concluded that all the people involved in this argument were not thoughtful and did not see the big picture, therefore, he wouldn’t come forward to discuss it.  If the people thoroughly investigated the matter, studied the history and other copyright cases and came to him with good attitude, I think, perhaps he would have discussed further.  What do you think?  So, those people including me were not worthy for his time to defend his work.  He has much more meaningful things to do.  Well, he didn't say that.  I did, but you understand my point.  
Interesting, isn’t it?  I now admire him to have had written the essay about it for posterity although I’ve spotted some overly proud moments here and there.  But I think we can understand his pride.  After all, he was a well established composer, educator, and author of many essays.  I’ve read some of them, and they are very interesting.  He wrote about Isadora Duncan and Ishii Baku, creative modern dancers and choreographers.  He met Isadora a few times, and he worked with Baku.  He was the center of the Japan’s first modern art movement.  It must have been very exciting. 
Reading his essays further, this touched me.  I read that he used to travel to Yokohama by train to hear the classical western music.  He went to the house of a British man who gave a concert regularly at his home.  The man was not a professional artist.  I think he played cello and his wife sang or played piano.  Kosaku had to bribe the policemen in advance to let him listen to the sounds outside the house because he wasn’t invited.  The train fare was expensive for him in those days, and he did this during a dead cold winter!  Oh, I can’t imagine how that first generation of the European art movement in Japan had to go through. 
I hope when the copyright expires, someone translates all his essays for the world to read.  It's inspiring.

One thing.  While I was talking about this with the friend, she told me about Lion King’s issue.  What Lion King's issue? I said.  She said it is the copy of ジャングル大帝 by Teduka Osamu.  I just read a few sites about it.  The organization which is supposed to protect all Japanese manga artists had protested Disney.  My goodness, out of all the companies in the world, it’s Disney.  Nobody knows what happened.  Well, I like to zoom into a big picture.  
I don’t know if you can understand why I bring this up.  One difference between Yamada Kosaku and Teduka Osamu is that Kosaku knew the culture and practice of Europeans or Americans.  The culture is this, generally speaking:  Do not apologize.  Don't I know it.  Kosaku studied in Germany, but I don’t think Teduka has.  I think that’s a big difference. 
Do we need to change?  No.  That’s my conclusion today.    

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

SHIGIN: "No Thought" written by Ryoukan

no thought  by Ryokan
translated by keiko amano

flowers, with no thought, lure butterflies
butterflies, with no thought, flutter around flowers
when flowers bloom, butterflies flutter
when butterflies flutter, flowers bloom
I neither know others
others neither know me
with no thought, we follow the law of nature

I found this link.  You can hear the shigin.  Then you can sing along with him in Japanese.  I wrote it down in roman letters below.

hanawa mushin nisite chouwo maneku
chouwa mushin nisite hanawo tazunuru
hana hiraku toki chou kitari
chou kitaru toki hana hiraku
waremo mata hitowo sirazu
hitomo mata warewo shirazu
sirazusite teisokuni shitagou

Saturday, March 30, 2013

The Pickle Shop

I was a freshman in high school, which was a 45 minutes travel by streetcar.  I had chosen the school on purpose.
During one class break, two girls in front of my desk were talking about the Gumyoji shopping arcade.  To me, the arcade is not an interesting place because it’s very close to my home.  I rather go to fashionable Motomachi or Isezakicho shopping streets.  My streetcar pass let me get off at the two streets.  That's why I had chosen my school.  Anyway, both girls made a meaningful smile to each other.  I was curious.
“What are you going to do there?” I said.
“We are going to the pickle shop,” one of the girls said, "to look at a man."
“A man in the pickle shop?  Oh, he is a friend of my brother.  He has probably been practicing judo with my brother.”
“Really?” the girls said.  They both looked excited. 
I told them his last name, although I don't remember now.  The girls were grateful. 
“What are you going to do there?” I continue.  “What pickle do you buy?”  
“We go there every weekend to peek at him.  He isn't there during week.  He is so handsome!”
“You mean you go all the way there just to look at him?”
They both giggled.  They lived pretty close to the school unlike me.  

Anyway, since then whenever I passed through the arcade, I look at the shop. Long ago, I was sure he was a friend of my brother.  They went to same high school as well as junior high school.  There were a few periods in my life I was unsure, but last eight years or so, I thought the man I saw in the store was the handsome man those girls had talked about.  He looks okay to me, although not my type.  He looks like Ishihara Yujiro.  Yujiro was so popular long ago like Robert Redford.  They both are not my type.  This kind of things is subjective.  Besides, this was the way I felt when I passed by the shop and looked at the man more than 40 years ago.  He looked okay then, and he still looked okay to me.
Today, I gathered my courage and asked the man if I could take photos.  He said yes for his shop, but not his photo, and then, he hid behind the shop.  I told him about my brother and his high school name.  He told me that he didn’t go to that school, his family took over the shop many years ago from his relative, and his last name and the relative's are the same.
Hmm, I thought.  His last name wasn't familiar to my brain.  I don’t remember the name, but if he told me my brother’s friend’s name, I’ll recognize it, I think.
Come to think of it, there was one more pickle shop in the arcade, and maybe, long ago, there were more than two.  I'm unsure now.  All the shops were family-own, so teenage children used to help out parents in the afternoon or weekends. 

In the evening, on the way back from my errand, I walk through the arcade again, looking around and inside the shops that I used to visit when I was a child.  The clock shop was also closing, and inside the glass door, a familiar face smiles at other familiar face.  They must be my classmate’s brother and his son.  They all have the same looking eyes and noses.  That classmate sat next to me in our third grade class.

Friday, March 22, 2013

"Home Economics" by Tsukamoto(or Emoto or Enomoto) Hideko Published in 1918

I received this book in the mail today. To make a long story short, this book was written by one of my female ancestor. I'm so excited. In the Meiji period, Tsukamoto (or Emoto or Enomoto) Hideko had taught home economics at Oita Girls High School in Kyushu, and in 1918, she published this book titled "Home Economics: Practical Application and Techniques."

In the book, she stresses to young women not just to follow our tradition blindly, but consider scientific studies and apply the result on their housework. I'm quite surprised to find the author's progressive idea. Wait, no. Actually, it makes sense why the way my mother was. She was also in some way progressive. The author lists some recipes of western dishes and shows how to make them. And the first one is the Worcestershier sauce. Wow. I didn't know the sauce until I went to the U.S. for the first time in 1970, and it took many years for me to pronounce it correctly.

The photo showing a Japanese woman washing laundry standing was quite progressive advice in 1910s.
Even in 1950s, women were washing laundry with their knees on the floor.