Did you know that Everybody Poops was first known in English as Everybody Eats And......? It's true! You see, the original publisher, Fukuinkan Shoten 福音館書店 (literally "Gospel House Publishers"—they were originally founded to distribute Christian materials) includes in the colophon of every children's book they publish an English translation of the book's title, but apparently the literal translation of minna unchi (viz, "everybody poops") was deemed a bit too shocking for colophonic insertion, so they bowdlerized it, no doubt inspired by the final two pages summarizing the book's thesis: ikimono wa taberu kara, minna unchi o suru n' da ne, "Animals [all] eat, so they all poop [too].")

The English titles in Fukuinkan's colophons are a sort of mini-treasury of translation techniques, as it happens. Some of them have a sort of brutal simplicity, like "Pretty Box" for Sena Keiko's Kirei na Hako: the meaning is fine, but it would be more idiomatic in English to include at least a definite article. Some struggle valiantly to preserve the feel of the original in relatively staid English, like "Kid Hops and Jumps" for Tashima Seizō's Koyagi ga Pyon-Pyon ("[Goat] kid goes boing-boing!"). Others add peculiar embellishments: Anno Mitsuaki's A-I-U-E-O Omise becomes "Anno's A-I-U-E-O Shops." Anno is amazing, but is he really that well-known outside Japan that this treatment makes sense?

Some use the jargon + explanation technique to handle Japan-specific cultural stuff: the English title for Kabayama Sachikazu's Kakigōri is "Kakigori - Japanese Shaved Ice". And then there are some where you want to give the translator a pat on the back: Masuda Junko's Osakana ippai ("Lots of fish") is dubbed "Red Fish, Blue Fish, Yellow Fish". Meanwhile, Hayashi Akiko's Otete ga deta yo ("My hand popped out" — it's about a small child putting on a smock, poking their limbs out of the expected holes one by one") is "Where's My Hand?" (actually closer to a line on the previous page).


May 5th, last December

Today, I offer a link to "The Meaning of Hakuin's Fuji Daimyō Gyōretsu Painting", by Yoshizawa Katsuhiro.

Paintings of Mount Fuji are common in Japanese art, but Hakuin's painting Fuji daimyō gyōretsu 富士大名行列 (A daimyo procession under Mount Fuji) is unusual in its multidimensional manifestation of the master's thought, achieved through his use of a variety of artistic techniques. It is no exaggeration to say that this piece is the most comprehensive pictorial expression of Hakuin's views on Zen, and is thus the most representative example of his Zen art.

You can see the full painting here.

In The Religious Art of Zen Master Hakuin (Yoshizawa 2009, trans. Norman Waddell), the translation of the classical Chinese poem is a bit different:


"The Meaning of..." translation:
I have portrayed the True Face of the Old Barbarian
And present it to the priest of Jisho-ji, so far away
If you don’t understand this painting for the festival of December, May 5th
Flog a straw sheep and interrogate a wooden man.

"The Religious Art of..." version:
Having successfully captured the old Persian's true face,
I can now send it along to the priest at far-off Jishō-ji;
If you have doubts about a December Boy's Festival,
Whip the straw sheep forward and ask the wooden man.

The "old barbarian" vs "old Persian" difference has to do with the interpretation of the character 胡. The general meaning is indeed "barbarian," but since it's used here to describe Bodhidharma, who is specifically identified as a Persian in some traditions, it seems fair to narrow it down. See also suiko 酔胡, "Drunken Persians",

What interest me is "the festival of December, May 5th" vs "a December Boy's Festival" for 旧臘端午. Here's how you get the first translation: 旧臘 means "(last year's) twelfth/final-month-in-the-lunar-calendar," and 端午 is the original name for what is today generally called "children's day" (kodomo no hi), a festival held on the fifth day of the fifth month (originally the fifth lunar month, now just May). So "the festival of December, May 5th" is a kind of hyperlocalization of "the festival-held-on-the-fifth-day-of-the-fifth-lunar-month of the final-lunar-month-of-last-year." Waddell's version is a bit better, but that "December" is still quite misleading. Not that there's an elegant solution—English just doesn't have handy names for lunar months. Maybe "a winter boy's festival" would be an acceptable fudge.

What's that? You want to hear more of Yoshizawa's thoughts on Hakuin? Good news! His "Towards a Hakuin Studies" is online too.



Here is Buson's most metrically irregular (奇なる) haiku, according to Shiki:

ochi-kochi/ ochi-kochi to/ utsu kinuta kana
"Here and there/ There and here/ Beating the fulling-blocks" (trans R. H. Blyth)

This one often turns up in discussions of onomatopoeia in haiku, probably because early Western haikologist Blyth used it as his first example of "[t]he direct representation of the sounds of the outside world by the sound of the voice". But I think that what Buson is doing is much more clever than simple bang-crash onomatopoeia.

You see, the thing about ochi-kochi is that although it looks a bit mimetic, etymologically it isn't; it derives from two OJ morphemes woti and koti which meant simply "far place" and "near place". And Buson uses it in this non-onomatopoeic way elsewhere, e.g. to describe waterfalls that are near and far. So the key to its use in this poem, the thing that makes it interesting, is the repetition.

The beating of the fulling-blocks is a notoriously rhythmic sound. There's a whole genre of shamisen/koto music called "fulling-block pieces", kinuta-mono, and their special rhythmic patterns are what set them apart. Skillfully played, they can induce an almost trance-like state. And that's what we see in this haiku, too: although it's broken up 4-7-5 by convention, there's no way to see the first "line" break on your first read-through. You just have to keep going: ochi-kochi ochi-kochi... until the to utsu snaps you out of it. The only overt sign of structure is the final five-mora closer (ending with kana, natch).

In other words, Buson uses the repetition of ochi-kochi to create a regular rhythm that is completely unlike what we expect to see in a haiku. The reference is not to the timbre or tone of a beaten fulling block, but to the rhythm, the strucure, of the beating itself. This might count as onomatopoeia in a broad sense, but it is certainly nothing like the poku-poku of Blyth's second example.


Noh and kamigata rakugo and them, and literature

Diego Pellechia has a blog called 外国人と能 ("A Foreigner and Noh", or perhaps "Foreigners and Noh") about his "journey into Noh theatre". Sample post: Polish – Japanese Noh diplomacy: Chopin and ‘The Piano Tuner’.

Matt W. Shores has a blog called Kamigata Rakugo and Me, which is about "comic storytelling [rakugo] in Osaka [kamigata]". Sample post: Artistic Family Crests 一門の定紋.

Also, I can't remember if I plugged this one before because it's been going for a while, but Will Eells has a great (English-language) Japanese literary news blog called Junbungaku. Sample post: Unpublished Kawabata Manuscript Based on Hungarian Play.


Mugen nō

The broad division of Noh plays into the two categories of mugen nō 夢幻能 "Phantasm Noh" and genzai nō 現在能 "Reality Noh" is a useful one, not least because "inventor of mugen nō, and therefore perfecter of the Classical form" is a handy nutshell summary of who Zeami was.

But Zeami and his contemporaries didn't actually use that terminology. In fact, according to Umehara Takeshi's Umehara Takeshi no jugyō: Nō o miru (梅原猛の授業 能を観る "An Umehara Takeshi course in watching nō"), the phrase mugen nō was coined in 1909 1926 by Sanari Kentarō 佐成謙太郎. Umehara claims that in a "Radio lecture on national literature" (国文学ラヂオ講座), Sanari said the following of the Noh play "Yorimasa" 頼政:


In this way I suppose that one might call those [plays] where the protagonist appears in the waki's dreams mugen nō, and therefore to refer to plays with a structure like "Yorimasa" as fukushiki mugen nō ["two-part phantasm Noh"]

... "Two-part phantasm Noh" being the classic, even stereotypical Noh structure: a first act where the waki encounters a rustic local who obligingly explains the details of some historical tragedy that took place nearby, and a second act where the rustic local returns in his true form: the ghost of said tragedy's principal figure. The name of this structure was also the inspiration for the John Lennon/Yoko Ono album title Double Fantasy. (Sadly, that last sentence may not be entirely true.)



So I was reading Ann Hutchison Guest's Dance Notation (1984) and found, as an example of an "avant-garde composer[...] indicat[ing] duration by length" an excerpt from "The Garden of Royan-gi by Louis Andriesson, 1967".

I found that title intriguing and suspicious, and indeed it appears to be a typo for The Garden of Ryoan-gi, i.e. Ryōan-ji. The work was apparently for three electronic organs, and 1967 is a decade and a half before Cage's famous take on the same theme.

There's no performance of The Garden of Ryoan-gi available online as far as I can tell (although Andriessen himself has a blog), but I did find a nice performance of Cage's piece by Liz Tonne (voice) and Tim Feeney (percussion). If you want to follow a score for the percussion part, you'll find one on the first page of this transcript of a 1983 conversation between Cage and Morton Feldman.


Radio and namako

At the beginning of Miyamoto Yuriko 宮本百合子's 1933 novel Kokukoku (刻々, "By the hour"), a prison guard complains:

この一二年、めっきり留置場の客種も下ったなア ... もとは、滅多に留置場へなんか入って来る者もなかったが、その代り入って来る位の奴は、どいつも娑婆じゃ相当なことをやって来たもんだ。それがこの頃じゃどうだ! ラジオだ、ナマコ一枚だ、で留置場は満員だものなア。きんたまのあるような奴が一人でもいるかね?!

We really been seeing a lower class of people in the jail here this past year or two... used to be that you'd hardly ever see a new face around, but those who did get locked up, they'd done something real serious on the outside. But now! The place is full of guys locked up for radio, a sheet of sea cucumber... ain't there anyone with any balls?!

Those are some pretty obscure crimes. To the dictionary!

Although, actually, we don't need a dictionary for "radio" (rajio) because the original text includes the explanation "無銭飲食" ("eating/drinking without paying") in parentheses. This is a pun: musen 無銭 meaning "without money", i.e. "without paying", is homophonous with musen 無線 meaning "without wires", i.e. "wireless."

"A sheet of sea cucumber" (namako ichimai) is tougher, at least for me. Umegaki Minoru 楳垣実's 1956 Ingo jiten (隠語辞典, "Dictionary of cant") says that namako "sea cucumber" was code for "cucumber", logically enough. (I use the past tense, but I suppose if people are still stealing cucumbers they might still be using this expression.) Meanwhile, "a sheet" (ichimai) means one standard unit of whatever's under discussion: one "sheet" of rice was 10 koku, one "sheet" of sugar was 100 bags, and so on.

(I think that here "sheet" refers to a sort of IOU-ish/share-ish "bill" or "ticket" to be exchanged for the goods, rather than a physical arrangement of the goods themselves, so "sheet of sea cucumber" is probably a misleading translation. So it goes.)



The July issue of Gendaishi techō (現代詩手帳, "Contemporary Poetry Notebook") is a Gary Synderfest, in a sort of belated tie-in with his 2011 visit to Japan. One of the essays, by fellow poet Koike Masayo 小池昌代, is entitled Watashitachi no karada (わたしたちのからだ, "Our bodies"), and begins with a comment on Snyder's "The Bath", from Turtle Island:

One phrase appears every stanza (and is set in italics in the original). At first it is is this our body?; after two appearances like this, the intermediate form this our body appears; it then becomes this is our body, which is then repeated. That is, the initial interrogative changes, with one intermediate step, into a strong affirmative. I have read this poem many times over the years, and this is what remains with me.

In the Ainu kamuy yukar, there is a type of refrain known as a sakehe, a group of words the meaning of which is not well understood but which are retained for the importance of their sound and their function in the song). These words of Snyder's, too, strike me as a sort of modern sakehe, even though they do carry lingering meaning. (My translation)

More about sakehe from Sarah M. Strong's "The most revered of foxes: knowledge of animals and animal power in an Ainu Kamui Yukar" (2009):

As a native speaker of Ainu, Chiri Yukie knew orally the chants she had heard since childhood. For her, each kamui yukar was not a static, memorized "text" but rather a living oral tradition, and her written versions possess qualifies of oral performance. One feature of each chant that was clearly central to her experience of it was its refrain or sakehe. Because the refrain of each kamui yukar is unique to the particular chant it was traditionally used as a way of identifying the chant. Both in the earlier notebook versions and in the Ainu shin'yoshu text Chiri includes the sakehe as a defining title after first identifying the animal spiritual being who is singing its tale. Thus, in the case of the third chant of the Ainu shin'yoshu she names the chant as that "of the fox (chironnup) about itself" and further identifies it with its unique sakehe, haikunterke haikoshitemturi. Although the sakehe, with its long phrases, might seem puzzling for readers unfamiliar with the tradition, for those within Ainu oral tradition it serves as an easy way to distinguish this fox kamui yukar from others about the same animal spiritual being.

(The original title Strong is translating is "Chironnup yaieyukar, 'Haikunterke Haikoshitemturi'", and you can read it for yourself because the book is out of copyright and available at Aozora Bunko.)

Incidentally: <kamui> or <kamuy>? As I understand it, this just represents two different ways of transcribing diphthongs. My impression is that the <-y> form is standard nowadays, but I don't know the specific reasons for this. I suppose it has to do with reducing ambiguity by representing diphthongs explicitly rather than implicitly. (I wish I could dig better info up on this, but I don't anticipate seeing my Serious Books on Ainu again until I move...)


Yo wa Kodoku wo yorokobu Ningen da

Here's a tanka by Ishikawa Takuboku:

With sale upon sale, only/ an overhandled German dictionary remains/ on the summer floor

The unthinkable grief of having sold all one's books except a grotty German dictionary! Leavened somewhat by how nice old-fashioned wooden floors are in summer.

The phrase I translate as "overhandled" is in the original teaka kitanaki, literally "dirty with hand-grime." It's a very vivid image.

Note that Takuboku wrote his infamous Romazi Nikki in a German-like Style with capitalized Nouns (although this is a bit irregular and in particular "formal nouns" like koto and so on tend to be lower case).

Yo wa Kodoku wo yorokobu Ningen da. Umare-nagara ni site Kozin-syugi no Ningen da. Hito to tomo ni sugosita Zikan wa iyasikumo, Tatakai de nai kagiri, Yo ni wa Kûkyo na Zikan no yô na Ki ga suru.