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