"Rocks and the Men Who Love Them" -- Susukida Kyûkin

posted Monday, May 23, 2005


It is said that once a man has learned to appreciate everything else, he discovers the beauty of rocks. Tu Qinwu prized many things, but rocks were what he loved most. It is said that he spent his whole life collecting thirty-six unusual rocks, each corresponding to one of the Thirty-Six Peaks of Wuyi Mountain and bearing an appropriate name, and he would show these to all his visitors.

Zheng Banqiao, too, liked to paint rocks, but all of those rocks were ugly -- so much so that the most extreme examples shocked those who saw them. But when we also consider Dongpo's assertion that "Rocks are both refined and ugly", we can see that painting the ugliness of a beloved rock was Zheng Banqiao's way of expressing his love.

Mi Yuanzhang, that celebrated calligrapher of the Song era, loved rocks more than anyone else. When he became a prefectural governer in Huainan, he was overjoyed to find a large, unusual rock of an ugly shape in the office garden, and quickly smoothed his clothing and bowed to it. Then, speaking to it as he would a member of his own family, he said, "My brother. Meeting you is a happiness above all others."

His superiors heard about this rather eccentric behavior, and Yuanzhang was eventually fired, but the fact that he could not stop himself from calling the rock "brother" with such feeling allows us, perhaps, to understand the depth of his affection for rocks.

Lingbi is famous for the peculiar rocks it produces, and it happened that at one time Mi Yuanzhang held an official position in a district not very far away. Great lover of rocks that he was, he could hardly bear the excitement of being so close to the source of so many marvellous ones. Day and night, Yuanzhang did nothing but collect and admire rocks, not even favoring his supposed workplace with a glance, and neglecting his duties entirely.

It was then that Yang Jie arrived on his inspection rounds to see how the district was faring. Yang Jie was a close friend of Yuanzhang's, but could not in good conscience overlook his unprofessional behavior. So, making an extremely displeased face, he said: "According to the rumours abroad of late, your old habits are flaring up again. Our superiors would not be pleased to hear that an obsession with rocks has led you to abandon your duties."

But even at these thorned words from his superior, Mi Yuangzhang only smirked in reply. Then he withdrew from his left sleeve a single rock and showed it to Yang Jie.

"You may say those things," he said, "but would not anyone who met a rock like this fall in love?"

Yang Jie looked at the rock reluctantly. It was a fine specimen, lustrous like a jewel and with excellent ridges and hollows. But he kept his face impassive.

Mi Yuanzhang slipped the rock back into his left sleeve, and brought out another from his right. "How about this?" he asked. "Would not anyone who held a rock like this fall in love?"

In both color and shape, this rock was superior to the previous one by an entire grade. Mi Yuanzhang let it rest on the palm of his hand, and gazed upon it with inexpressible fondness in his eyes. Yang Jie did not soften his expression a bit.

Mi Yuanzhang returned that rock to the sleeve from which it had come, then withdrew from his breast a third rock, seemingly his most treasured. When the inspector saw this, his heart began to pound. Its form of black, overlapping ridges -- its mottled patterns, like courses of white water -- its marvelous interplay of grottoes and tracks -- it was altogether like a miniature heaven, reduced to a single jewel, and it barely seemed of this world.

"And this?" Mi Yuangzhang asked "Surely, anyone who saw this rock would fall in love with it."

And as Mi Yuanzhang's loving words hung in the air, Yang Jie cried out, "Truly it is as you say! I love it myself!" Then he snatched the rock from Yuanzhang's hand and fled from the building, as nimble and sly as a wild beast.

He had left his carriage waiting for him outside the gate, and no sooner had he leapt in than he cried to his attendants as urgently as if his whole body were a mouth:

"Flee! Flee! Quickly, quickly!"


Towards the end of the Ming Dynasty lived a loyal man named Qu Shisi. Trying to act as both pillar and foundation to his half-fallen nation, he tried all manner of reconstruction plans, but nothing can withstand the march of time and before long the castle he was protecting fell to the Manchu warriors, who made him their prisoner.

He was being carried along a mountain road past Duxiu Peak when he suddenly saw, in the shade of a tree, a peculiarly shaped rock that looked like a crouched animal with its ugly face raised to the heavens. Quickly he called for the soldiers carrying him to stop. "Hey! Put me down here for a moment. I just noticed that strange rock."

Qu Shisi had always loved garden rocks, and even now that he was being carried along as a captive could not bear to part from a discovery like this so soon.

The soldiers did as he asked. Qu Shisi, dropped to the ground, went closer to the rock and examined its features closely before finally straightening his collar and bowing politely.

"To meet you here was truly a blessing. I only wish I could be left by your side for longer," he said to it, as if speaking to a person. And then, no matter how long the soldiers waited, he made no attempt to stand again.


『石を愛するもの』 (Ishi wo ai suru mono), published 1931, written by Susukida Kyûkin (薄田泣菫), 1877-1945.

Aozora Bunko version entered by Kadota Hiroshi (門田裕志) and proofread by Takayanagi Noriko (高柳典子).

Thanks to Andy for help tracking down Qu Shisi.

Alternate spellings of author's name: Susukida Kyukin, Susukida Kyuukin

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"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

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"Marching Song for the New School Term", Act 2 -- Unno Jûza

posted Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Notes. Act 1. Act 3.


(Music. A dream song, like Schumann's "Träumerei")

AOKI (A SENIOR): H'm, I don't recall seeing this place before. What am I doing walking around a field like this now? Hey! That's strange. A billboard suddenly appeared before my eyes. What's that written on it? "Practice Examination Area". Well, if I pass a practice exam that might give me some extra confidence, so I wouldn't mind giving that a try... but where is this "area"?

FEMALE TEACHER: Excuse me, Mr Aoki? This way, please.

AOKI: Oookay... When did a teacher get here? Ah, there's a desk and a chair. Ah, I see. This must be the Practice Examination Area.

FEMALE TEACHER: All right, everyone, now that you're all here I shall begin giving you the problems. Are you ready? Here we go: "There was once an old lady who sold eggs. One day, she put a small number of eggs in a basket and set off for town to sell them. At the first house, she sold an amount equal to half of her eggs plus half of one egg. At the next house, she sold half of the rest of the eggs plus another half an egg. And at the last house, she sold half of the remaining eggs, plus another half-egg -- and then she had sold them all." How many eggs were there in the basket to begin with? I should add that she did not actually break any eggs in half -- she sold only whole eggs at all three houses. Please solve this problem using algebra.

AOKI: Sensei, please repeat the question.

FEMALE TEACHER: Yes, I'll repeat it once more. "An old lady egg-seller put a small number of eggs into a basket and set off for town to sell them. At the first house she sold half of the eggs plus half of a single egg; at the next house she sold half of the rest of the eggs plus half of an egg; and at the last house she sold half of the remaining eggs plus another half of an egg, and with that all of the eggs had been sold." How many eggs were in her basket when she set off? None of the eggs were sold broken. Please solve this problem using algebra.

AOKI: Gosh, how interesting. It's just like a riddle. And being told to solve it with algebra makes it even better. All right, first of all let's call the total number of eggs x, and then...

FUSAKO (A FEMALE SENIOR): Sensei, I've finished.

AOKI: What the-- there's already someone finished!

FEMALE TEACHER: Thank you Fusako, very good. What kind of equations did you use? Please read out your work to us.

FUSAKO: Yes, sensei. At the beginning, the number of eggs sold at the first house is x divided by two plus half of one egg. If we put this together, we have a figure whose denominator is two and numerator is x plus one. We can call this a.

FEMALE TEACHER: Call it a? All right, and then...?

FUSAKO: Well, the number of eggs sold at the next house is half of the remaining eggs -- in other words, x minus a divided by two -- plus half of one egg. We have seen a before, so we can substitute it here, and after that we see that the number of eggs sold at the second house is x plus one, all divided by four. Let's call this b.

FEMALE TEACHER: Excellent work so far. What happens next?

FUSAKO: The number of eggs sold in the last house is x minus a minus a all divided by two, plus half of one egg. This comes out to a figure with a numerator of x plus one and a denominator of eight. Call this c.

FEMALE TEACHER: And so the answer is...?

FUSAKO: x equals a plus b plus c, and we can substitute and solve this to find that x equals seven.

FEMALE TEACHER: Correct! There were originally seven eggs in the basket.

△ Vigorous applause

AOKI: What a surprise. That girl's pretty good for a kid... I'm going to have to study algebra harder. Ahh, another teacher's appeared at the lectern, a bearded old man this time.

OLD TEACHER: Now see here, all of you! It appears to me that you have been utterly conquered by textbooks and swallowed by exams, and this won't do at all. You must study in a more relaxed, easy way. To this end, I shall give you a more fanciful problem. If you can solve this one properly, you'll pass the exam. This is a solid geometry problem. Er... "Use geometry to prove the existence of spirits". All right? Do you understand? I'll explain it to you once more: "Use geometry to prove the existence of spirits." That is the entire problem.

△ Everyone begins to talk

OLD TEACHER: See here! Be quiet! Aoki -- give the problem a try. Come on, stand up. Stand up like a man.

AOKI: "Prove that spirits are real with geometry"? I can't solve a weird problem like that.

OLD TEACHER: It doesn't matter! I said to stand up! If you stand up, I'll gently send out an electro-magnetic wave to help you.

AOKI: You will? You'll help me? All right, I've stood up. Let us first consider a two-dimensional plane world. What the-- this is strange! My mouth started speaking on its own!

OLD TEACHER: First we consider a plane world. What do we do next? Keep going.

AOKI: Yes, Sensei. In a plane world, there is length and width, but no-one knows about height. We ourselves live in a three-dimensional, solid world, and so everyone understands what length, width and height are. But we can understand a plane world if we think of a still body of water. Imagine, if you please, a "world" consisting only of the surface of the water. Then please imagine the beings who would live there.

OLD TEACHER: Very good, very good, and then?

AOKI: I have one egg here. This egg is of course a solid. I hold it in my fingers and bring it close to the face of the water. Then I gently let go. Now, what happens next? Of course, the egg will pass through the surface and fall into the water. But, to the beings who live in the face-of-the-water world, what does the egg looks like as it passes through?

OLD TEACHER: Indeed, how does it appear, I wonder. After all, in a plane world, the egg's height cannot be comprehended.

AOKI: First think of the moment the egg touches the face of the water. In the face-of-the-water world, it looks like nothing but a single point. After all, they cannot see anything above or below the face of the water.

OLD TEACHER: H'm, I see.

AOKI: Next, the egg will continue to fall further and further through the water. How will this look in the face-of-the-water world? No sooner have they noticed the sudden appearance of a single point than it becomes a larger, round shape and continues to grow, even as they watch. And then before long, after it has reached its largest size, it begins to shrink again. In other words, when the egg is more than halfway into the water, its profile begins to get smaller again, and the area intersecting with the face of the water decreases. Eventually it becomes a single point again, and then vanishes altogether. In the face-of-the-water world, they don't know that an egg has fallen through. At first a point appears, then it grows larger as they watch, then begins to get smaller, then finally disappears, almost with a pop. They have no idea what it was they saw. And so they think "Ah, that must have been one of those spirits I've heard about."

OLD TEACHER: A confused way of putting it, but not far off, I suppose. What next?

AOKI: Next... I will prove the reality of spirits who appear in our world of solids. We humans know nothing other than the three measurements of length, width and height, but let us suppose that right here and now, there was another world of super-solids, incorporating some measurement that humans cannot comprehend. Now, if an egg or somesuch from the world of super-solids suddenly passed before our eyes, how would it look to us? First, a single point would appear. After that, as we watched, it would swell until it was like a rubber balloon, get larger and larger until it was as large as a gas tank. Then all at once it would begin to shrink, and before we could say "look at that" it would be as small as a balloon again, and then finally vanish, pop. Well, humans would be absolutely floored. What would they say? "Ah, I just saw a spirit there!"

In other words, when something from the world of super-solids comes into our world of solids, it appears to us to be a spirit.

△ Some sound effects of spirits disappearing and mysterious music.


『家庭コント 新学期行進曲』 (Katei Konto Shingakki Kôshinkyoku), broadcast from JOAK September 30, 1938, written by Unno Jûza (海野十三) (1897-1949)

Aozora Bunko version entered by Tsuchiya Takeshi (土屋隆) and proofread by Tanaka Tetsurô (田中哲郎)

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"Marching Song for the New School Term", Act 1 -- Unno Jûza

posted Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Notes. Act 2. Act 3.


△ Sounds of a noisy middle-school classroom. Rapid-fire conversations can be heard in the background: "Hey, Kamei!" "What do you want, Matsuoka?" "Sure are looking dark-skinned there." "Something strange about being dark-skinned, pasty?" "What'd you call me, darko?" Mixed in with this, the sounds of ill-fitting shoes clomping on the floor and someone whistling the Patriotic March can be heard

△ The siren for the beginning of the school day blows in the background

△ Sounds of more STUDENTS throwing the door open, running into the classroom, throwing their bags down, and having hurried conversations: "Where was my desk again?" "Hey, Yoshida! Over here!" "H'm, that's strange. I don't remember sitting over here..."

EBIHARA (A STUDENT): Ah -- it's sensei!

△ Sound of door clanking shut


(Everyone immediately falls silent. Brief pause)

SENSEI: (Fumbling noisily with the attendance book) Er, well now, everybody. I see this class is as lively a crowd as ever. And how were your summer holidays? No doubt you had fun. Myself, I spent the whole summer holidays worrying about -- (catches himself in mid-sentence) er, mumble mumble, ahem. -- Er, now, I'm going to begin the new term by giving everyone in this class some frank advice.

△ STUDENTS begin to chatter and argue nervously

SENSEI: Er, this class is as lively and wholesome a group of fellows as one could ask for, which does please me -- but, er, there's one thing that I cannot approve of. To be, er, to be specific, you have of late been turning in some frankly unimpressive homework, and your performance in recent exams has also been poor. I can only consider this a troubling trend.

(By now, the STUDENTS are all silent again. Brief pause)

SENSEI: (Shouting at the top of his voice) I believe this is because you have all begun neglecting your studies entirely due to an obsession with playing soldiers. Now, playing war games is not necessarily a bad thing. But studying must come first. After all, you are students first and foremost, are you not? And just as a soldier's duty is to defeat enemy troops, a student's duty is to study. If you, the next generation of the Japanese people, neglect your studies now, how do you think this will affect the future? If a war breaks out at some point, and your inadequate education has rendered you unable to make fine tanks or planes to crush the enemy troops, you will be able to do nothing but sit and weep. In other words, when one is defeated in war, it is due to the enemy's superior education. Is not education, then, the most serious and important thing there is?

(Hurried footsteps from the corridor, sound of door opening)

MAINTENANCE BOY: (panting) Ah! Yamada-sensei! Phone call from your house. They say to please come home right way.

SENSEI: (surprised) Ehh? Wh- wh- what did they say has happened?

MAINTENANCE BOY: They say that a baby is about to be born at your house.

(STUDENTS raise a shout of amazement, drumming their feet and pounding their desks)

SENSEI: They what?! So the time has come at last. Truly a most serious and important thing.

(STUDENTS are still shouting, laughing)

SENSEI: Quiet, be quiet! (Quietens the students so that he can talk) Everyone, rejoice for me -- for the first time in fifteen years, a baby will be born to my family! God has blessed us with child. In war, noble soldiers die, the nation's power wanes, and it is the birth of babies which must compensate for this. It's no laughing matter! There's no-one with my wife at home right now, so I must hurry back. Keep quiet while I'm gone.

(SENSEI's footsteps, receding. Sound of a door)

CLASS PRESIDENT: 'Truly a most serious and important thing'...

(No-one laughs)

CLASS PRESIDENT: Hey, everyone! So early in the term, and yet already a truly most serious and important thing has happened. I have to admit, we have been neglecting our duties as students -- don't you think?

(STUDENTS noisily argue both sides of the debate)

CLASS PRESIDENT: What do you say, everybody, let's give something new a try. To fulfill our serious and most important duties, let's form a "Study Union".

(STUDENTS talk noisily)

STUDENT: What's a "Study Union"?

CLASS PRESIDENT: As a Study Union, everyone will stay behind at school after classes are over.

STUDENT: Stay behind and do what?

CLASS PRESIDENT: Stay behind and revise what we learnt that day, together. And not just revision. We'll also run the student council, take practice tests... and if there's anyone among us who can't keep up with classes, we'll all help teach him until he understands as well as everyone else.

STUDENT: I don't know -- I always want to run around and exercise after classes. It's important for the future Japanese nation to be fit and strong, you know.

STUDENTS, TOGETHER: That's right! Exactly!

CLASS PRESIDENT: All right then, let's gather at someone's house after dinner instead. Our family business has a big meeting room, so I'll talk to my father and get permission to use that.

STUDENT: You think it'll work?

CLASS PRESIDENT: I'm sure it'll work!

STUDENT: But what about students as bad as Ebihara? No matter how much you teach them, they won't improve.

CLASS PRESIDENT: Don't worry, I'll make sure even they benefit. I've got another plan up my sleeve that should work on even the worst students. Here's what we do...

(A sound signifying a change of scene)

(STUDENTS being noisy)

(In the background: bicycle horns, whistling passers-by and other assorted street noise)

CLASS PRESIDENT: Noisy outside, isn't it? It's a bit hot, but let's shut the window anyway.

(Sound of window being shut)

STUDENT: Ah, I've got it! This is it, right? x is 5 and y is 3, and z is 12.

CLASS PRESIDENT: Let me see. x is 5, y is 3, and z is ... 12. All right! your answer is correct. Here, have a caramel.

STUDENT: (happily) Oh, thanks! This makes five caramels for me. (He pops it into his mouth and chews) Oh dear, Ebihara's crying! What's the matter, Ebihara, can't you work it out?

EBIHARA: (sobs) I can't figure it out no matter how hard I try.

STUDENT: Tsk, let me have a look. What the-- you're only up to number 2!

EBIHARA: I know that! And I've only had one caramel so far!

STUDENT: Well, that can't be helped. You get one caramel for each problem you solve. And didn't you spend the whole algebra class today drawing pictures of aeroplanes? That's no good to anyone.

EBIHARA: Who are you calling 'no good to anyone'?!

(CLASS PRESIDENT's footsteps)

CLASS PRESIDENT: Here, you two, no fighting.

STUDENT: D'you see, I told you, Ebihara can't keep up. He's still on number two, utterly stuck. Give him a hand.

CLASS PRESIDENT: All right, I will! Ebihara, how far have you gotten? Ah, this is no good. You're forgetting the formula. That's why you can't solve the problem. I told you this just before, don't you remember? Look, if you factorise a squared minus b squared, what do you get?

EBIHARA: Err... a squared, minus b squared... it's... err... uh...

CLASS PRESIDENT: Hurry up and remember, Ebihara! Don't you want a caramel? Look how lovely a color it is!

EBIHARA: I do want a caramel! If I had that one, maybe I'd remember the formula...

CLASS PRESIDENT: No, no, there's no way I'm giving you a caramel if you don't remember the formula first. All right, here, to help your motivation, I'll throw in a bonus. A bonus chocolate! Don't you want a chocolate?

EBIHARA: I want it, I want it, my mouth's watering so much it's almost full! Ahh, I can't take it, it's poison to my eyes. I'll have to tear them out... a squared minus B squared is... err... a minus b squared... no, no, a minus b plus caramel-- no, that's wrong. Err... umm... ah, I've got it! The product of a minus b and a plus b!

CLASS PRESIDENT: Good work, Ebihara! That'll do. Now don't forget it again. Here you go, one caramel and one chocolate.

EBIHARA: Thank you! (cheeks bulging as he chews) Ah, they're so delicious, my cheeks are going to fall off!

CLASS PRESIDENT: Now that you've remembered the problem, hurry up and finish the problem. Come on, look here. a minus b is over here as well, so you can divide both sides by a minus b, right?

EBIHARA: Ah, you're right. So divide by a minus b and then we have... er... 3a minus 2b equals a plus b? All right, what do I do next?

CLASS PRESIDENT: Oh, come on. That's it, that's the answer.

EBIHARA: What? This is the answer? Well, what do you know! That was easy. Heh heh heh, algebra's kind of fun, isn't it?

CLASS PRESIDENT: Ha ha ha, Ebihara's saying algebra's fun! Ha ha ha!

STUDENT: I bet he enjoyed the caramel more, though!

CLASS PRESIDENT: This is truly a most serious and important thing! Banzai for the Study Union!

(STUDENTS laugh merrily together)

(In the background, the sound of people singing "Punish the unjust in the name of heaven..." , a farewell song for soldiers on their way to the theatre, draws nearer)



『家庭コント 新学期行進曲』 (Katei Konto Shingakki Kôshinkyoku), broadcast from JOAK September 30, 1938, written by Unno Jûza (海野十三) (1897-1949)

Aozora Bunko version entered by Tsuchiya Takeshi (土屋隆) and proofread by Tanaka Tetsurô (田中哲郎)

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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

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