"Marching Song for the New School Term", Act 3 -- Unno Jûza

posted Friday, May 20, 2005

Notes. Act 1. Act 2.


△ A radio begins to play in the distance -- a naniwa-bushi ballad or a gidayû chant piece

MOTHER: Let's see... the cephalopod class includes the squid, the cuttlefish, the octopus, and the nautilis. So you can remember it with the acronym "SCON”. Next, the gastropods: snails and slugs, limpets, abalone, and sea slugs, which you can remember with “SSLASS”.

△ Loud snoring can be heard by about this point

MOTHER: Next, the bivalves. Oysters, clams...

△ Snoring grows even louder

MOTHER: Dear me, what can that noise be? Oh, it’s snoring! I wonder whose snoring it is. Father isn’t home yet, sister’s out, and so... could it be Michio? Ah, it is! Ignoring the studying he needs to do to prepare for the exam and taking a nap instead -- how disgraceful.

△ Sound of someone standing up on tatami and opening the paper screen door to the next room

MOTHER: Now, Michio, why are you snoozing like that? You’ll never pass the high school entrance exam that way. Now wake up. Come on, look lively!

MICHIO: Urgh... rghrgh... I’m so sleepy today, mother. I ran around so much in gym class that I can hardly keep my eyes open now.

MOTHER: Oh, is that so? That won't do at all. You have so many problems left to do -- if you don't finish at least seventy-five each night, you won't finish before the exam. Come on, now, let's get back to it. Mother will help.

MICHIO: But I’m sleepy! I feel like I’ve borrowed my brain from somewhere else. It just won't work for me.

MOTHER: My, my, that’s no good. Well, there’s nothing for it. You mustn’t ruin your brain, so today you can go to sleep early. And rest as well as you can. I'll even give you a sleeping pill. All right.

MICHIO: (about to fall asleep) Mmf... sure...

△ Sound of futon being laid out. MOTHER closes the sliding screen, returns to the living room and sits down with a thump

MOTHER: I really wish I could study in Michio's place -- I’m not a bit sleepy. ... All right, I suppose I'll read ahead a little. After all, I'll need to know more than him if I'm going to test his comprehension. Ah, I wonder if all mothers of only children worry this much. (getting back to work) Let's see... bivalves: Oysters, clams, mussels, scallops, ark shells, and dumb clams.

△ Sound effects: Front door rattles open. (FATHER has come home)

FATHER: What’s that? "Ark shells and dumb clams"? -- what a feast! But please, stop calling them "dumb clams". They have a more polite name: "surf clams."

MOTHER: Welcome home, dear. Have you already eaten?

FATHER: Actually, I was hoping to change out of these western clothes and then have dinner by the heater.

MOTHER: All right.

△ Closet noises as FATHER takes off his western clothes. At the same time, the sound of a meal being prepared: a kettle, a wooden ohitsu rice bowl, and so forth

MOTHER: Please, take a seat.

FATHER: Ahhh... (grunt as he sits down) ... H'm, what happened to Michio?

MOTHER: Oh, he was so sleepy that his brain was about to turn into tofu, he said, so I let him go to bed early.

FATHER: I see, I see. He's so tired from all that cramming lately, poor kid. Good work sending him to sleep early.

MOTHER: Here you are, dear, your dinner's ready.

FATHER: Give me a mountain-sized helping! I'm so hungry.

△ Sound of chawan rice bowl being placed on table, and ohitsu being opened

FATHER: Hey, where are the ark shells and surf clams?

MOTHER: Here you are, super mountain-sized helping.

△ FATHER fills his cheeks with rice as he eats

FATHER: But where are the ark shells and surf clams?

MOTHER: Oh, that? I was just memorising some biology.

FATHER: (cheeks still full) Biology?

MOTHER: Yes. You see, the class called the bivalves includes clams, mussels, scallops... and so on, down to ark shells and dumb clams.

FATHER: D'oh! It wasn't about dinner at all? What a disappointment. (suddenly has a thought) But why do you need to memorise that stuff about ark shells and dumb clams anyway?

MOTHER: You--! Y-y-you--!!

FATHER: Wh-wh-wh-what?! What are you so excited about all of a sudden?

MOTHER: I'm sorry, dear... but you're just so cold-hearted towards Michio. He's even given up listening to his favorite records so that he can concentrate on studying for his exams, but you don't seem to care a bit whether he passes or not.

FATHER: Stop kidding around. I certainly do care about --

MOTHER: Well, now, please listen to what I have to say. Unlike you, I'm studying together with Michio for the exams. I'm memorising the cephalopods, gastropods, bivalves, and the rest, because I thought that Michio would be inspired by me knowing more than him. And not only that -- I read every single advertisement in the newspaper every day, and if I see a good new exam preparation book, I go right to the bookstore and buy it. Then I read through it, pick the practice problems that aren't in the other books, and have Michio run through some problems every day. If I don't pass on every single practice exam question printed in this country to Michio, I simply can't sleep at night. Who knows how much this will help him during the actual exam. And then I...

But even so...

FATHER: More rice.

Sound of chawan and ohitsu

MOTHER: You're too cold-hearted.

FATHER: Don't be silly. I'm glad you're so fired up about this, but I just can't act that way myself.

MOTHER: I can't believe you would say a thing like that.

FATHER: Why? I'm just telling it like it is. Memorising like crazy, buying a huge collection of exam test books -- it's totally insane. Focusing so much on buying the books not only won't help, it can even end up hurting you. All you need to do to prepare for the exams is to properly learn the main, fundamental principles. It's just common sense. As for exam books, one is plenty. You act like a pack rat.

MOTHER: A pack rat! How cruel. If Michio just worked on "fundamental principles" like you say, he wouldn't be able to solve a single one of those difficult high school entrance exam problems.

FATHER: Well, since you've studyied so much, let me ask you a question. A typhoon is approaching, all right? Where you are, the wind is blowing from the east. Now, which direction is the eye of the typhoon?

MOTHER: The eye of the typhoon... that isn't in any of the exam question lists.

FATHER: You see? You have no idea, do you? Exams are going to have problems like this, the kind where you just need common sense. I'll tell you the answer, just for reference. Ready? If the wind is blowing from the east, then the eye of the typhoon is a little west of south-south-west. Roughly speaking, you stand with your back to the wind and you put your left hand out at an angle. Then it'll usually point right to the eye of the typhoon. You see?

MOTHER: Ah'm, oh, really? All right, now I'll ask you a question. In world history, what year was China's "Queue Order" promulgated?

FATHER: Dunno.

MOTHER: Ohhh dear, you don't know? It was 1645, by the Western calendar. (she laughs merrily) Next, what year was the Battle of Red Cliffs?

FATHER: Dunno.

MOTHER: Ahem, it was the year 208. All right, then, how about the Treaty of Nerchinsk?

FATHER: Look, I haven't memorised every single historical event. You can look up those things just by flipping through a history book.

MOTHER: But you can't pass the entrance exam without knowing them.

FATHER: You idiot, there's no point in memorising stupid things like that. What good will it do you to know when they issued the pigtail order, or whatever it was?

MOTHER: That's exactly why I'm saying you're too cold-hearted. If on the off chance the Queue Order is on the exam, and Michio can't answer, he'll fail. Condemning your only son to failing the exam... you must be an ogre, or a snake, or I don't know what kind of...

The paper door to the next room rattles open (MICHIO, now awake, emerges)

MICHIO: Father, mother, you're both so noisy that I couldn't sleep. Maybe I'll put on a record -- it's been a while since I did that.

MOTHER: Michio! No!

FATHER: What? Let him play his record. In fact, son, I went and bought you a new one to help you relax.

MOTHER: Oh, you--! Whatever kind of record did you buy?

You're interfering with Michio's studies...

FATHER: Ah, don't worry so much. I wanted to help Michio make his studying more fun, so I went and found a nice record for him. It's an expression of my fatherly love. Michio, go ahead and put it on. It's the one over there with "Arithmetic Song" on the label.

MICHIO: Yes, I see. "Arithmetic Song".

△ The record "Arithmetic Song" plays cheerfully


Comments: 0

The Bass Harp: new English translations of Japanese short stories, essays, poems, criticism, and whatever else is out of copyright.

So far, everything here has been posted by me, Matt of No-sword.

e-mail me at: matt at no-sword dot jp

April 2005 May 2005 September 2005 January 2006

For listings by title, check my master translation index.

- About the Bass Harp (including romanisation notes)
- Notes on honorifics

- Aozora Bunko + updates
- Japanese Text Initiative (UVa)
- List of E-texts (M.Shibata)
- Japanese Classical Literature (Taiju)

RSS feed

[Powered by Blogger]