Names in this site follow the Japanese custom of family name first.

September 26, 2012

Columbia Anthology of Modern Japanese Literature (Book Review)

If you drop the Columbia Anthology of Modern Japanese Literature on your foot, you will end up in a plaster bandage. Physically, it is not a pleasure to read such a brick - I have the paperback edition that already starts cracking at the spine in the middle.

But the main question is: is this a good anthology? This is a tricky question because there could be as many anthologies as readers - everyone has his or her own preferences. I am not going to talk about authors who have been unjustly excluded or included, because that is too personal. But there are some objective markers as well.

One of these: Does the anthology offer a new view of modern Japanese literature?

My answer is: not really, this Columbia Anthology does not offer a new perspective. It is again an all-too-familiar anthology of mainly prose fiction. That ties in with the Western 19th-20th century view of literature as mostly prose fictional narrative. Some poetry and drama has been included, but in number of pages really very little. One of the poetic giants of Meiji literature, Masaoka Shiki, gets only two pages…

Therefore the book does not do justice to the Japanese tradition, also not of the late 19th c. and first half of the 20th c. treated in this anthology.

In Japan and China, lyrical poetry and short prose forms other than fiction (in Japan called zuihitsu and nikki) have always been of great importance as literature. (Besides that, they have of course also greatly influenced narrative fiction in Japan). What I almost completely miss are these short prose forms.

Where is the Romaji Diary of Takuboku? Why has not one of the uta-nikki, poetry diaries of Shiki been included, for example “One drop of Ink”? What about the diaries and zuihitsu of Kafu, for example Hiyori-geta or "Tidings from Okubo"? What about the essays and literary criticism of Tanizaki, for example a new translation of "In Praise of Shadows"? What about the diaries of Santoka? Why is the Tono Monogatari not included as this is certainly also great literature?
A really excellent anthology, doing justice to all in Japan important genres of literature would have to consist of five parts, in separate volumes:

1. Narrative Prose (prose fictional narrative)
2. Essays, diaries and letters (zuihitsu, nikki and other non-fictional literary prose)
3. Lyrical poetry (also including complete collections as Midaregami)
4. Drama and film scripts (Ozu, Kurosawa!)
5. Literary theory and criticism

Let's start thinking and puzzling about what to include!

Large numbers in Japan

Large numbers in Japan are difficult as you do not count in units of thousand, but rather in units of ten thousand (with different names for those units the higher you get):

1 = ichi (一、one)
10 = ju (十、ten)
100 = hyaku (百、one hundred)
1,000 = (is)sen (千、one thousand)
10,000 = (ichi)man (万、ten thousand). You can also write 4man, or 4.5 man=45,000
100,000 = ju-man (hundred thousand) - ten man or 10 x 10,000 = 100,000
1,000,000 = hyaku man (one million) - hundred man or 100 x 10,000 = 1,000,000
10,000,000 = (is)sen man (ten million) - one thousand man or 1,000 x 10,000 = 10,000,000
100,000,000 = (ichi) oku (億、hundred million). Again you can say 4 oku or 4.5 oku = 450,000,000
1,000,000,000 = ju oku (one billion; in Europe people call this "milliard") - ten oku or 10 X 100,000,000
10,000,000,000 = hyaku oku (ten billion) - one hundred oku or 100 x 100,000,000
100,000,000,000 = sen oku (thousand billion) - one thousand oku or 1,000 x 100,000,000
1,000,000,000,000 = (it)cho (兆、one trillion; in Europe people call this "billion"!). Again you can say 4 cho or 4.5 cho = 4,500,000,000,000
10,000,000,000,000 = ju cho (ten trillion).
100,000,000,000,000 = hyaku cho (hundred trillion)
1,000,000,000,000,000 = sen cho (quadrillion; in Europe people call this "billiard")

We could go even higher (the next unit coming up is called "kei" (京), a one with 16 zero's or 10 quadrillion), but in practical use cho is the highest counting unit. But you see the changes with myriads and not thousands: 1 followed by four zeros is man, 8 zeros oku, twelve zeros cho, and 16 zeros kei etc.

So when you see "92 cho 2694 oku" it is 92,269,400,000,000 etc. Here the counting is clearly in "man" units, therefore you have four digits in front of the "oku". The US GDP is (in yen) 1401 cho 7171 oku = 1,401,717,100,000,000. Mindbogglingly large figures...

September 4, 2012

Event Calendar for September

Sept. 2, Kyoto: Hassaku Festival at Matsunoo Shrine 
Prayer for a good harvest. Nenbutsu dance at 16:00.
Kyoto City Bus 28 to Matsuo Taisha; or Matsuo St on the Hankyu Arashiyama line.

Sept. 9, nationwide: Choyo no Sekku
Chrysanthemum festival. 

Sept. 9, Kyoto: Karasu Sumo Wrestling and Choyo Ceremony at Kamigamo Shrine 
Shrine priests imitate the voice of crows and their manner of jumping, after which local children compete in the shrine's annual Karasu Sumo wrestling event for the entertainment of the Kami (from 10:00). 
Kyoto City Bus 4 or 46 to Kamigamo-jinja-mae

Sept. 15-17, Kyoto: Seiryu-e Festival of Kiyomizu Temple
Rite of the Blue Dragon who is a reincarnation of the temple’s main statue, Kannon, and comes to drink every night at the Otowa no taki waterfall in the temple precincts. A large dragon (made washi paper) is carried around, while monks blow horagai horns (from 14:00).  
Kyoto City Bus 206 to Kiyomizu-michi

Sept. 14-16, Kamakura: Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Matsuri
Festival of Kamakura's major shrine. Yabusame (archery on horseback) on Sept. 16.
10 min walk from JR Kamakura St

Sept. 15-16, Kishiwada (Osaka): Danjiri Matsuri
Danjiri festival of Kishiwada, south of Osaka. Fight between large floats crashing into each other, while young men waving fans balance themselves on the roofs of the floats.
30 min south from Namba St (Osaka) on the Nankai line.

Sept. 15-16, Tokyo: Annual Festival of the Nezu Shrine
Chiyoda Subway to Nezu St. or Sendagi St.

Sept. 18, Kamakura: Menkake Gyoretsu, Goryo Shrine
Procession of people wearing grotesque masks from the Goryo Shrine to Gokurakuji Temple (from 13:30). Based on a legend that Yoritomo had affair with outcast girl whom he visited accompanied by masked men to hide his identity. The masks are antique pieces from the mid 18th c.
5 min by the Enoden Line from Kamakura St. to Hase St., then walk 3 min

Sept. 21-22, Kyoto: Annual festival of the Seimei Shrine
Mikoshi parade from 13:00 on the 22nd.
20 min. by bus 9 from Kyoto St. to Ichijo-Modoribashi Seimei Jinja-mae Bus Stop

Sept. 23, nationwide: Autumnal Equinox Day
Higan, visiting the family graves.

Sept. 24, Kyoto: Comb Festival at Yasui Konpiragu Shrine
Offering of thanks to women's combs and hair ornaments (from 13:00). Procession of women with various historical hairstyles. 
Kyoto City Bus 206 to Higashiyama Yasui.

Sept. 28-30, Kyoto: Kangetsu no Yube, Daikakuji
Moonviewing party (from 17:00-). Dragon boats sail on Osawa Pond as in Heian times for this festival of the harvest moon.
One hour by City Bus 28 or Kyoto Bus 71, 74 or 81 from Kyoto St. to Daikaku-ji Bus Stop.

Sept. 30, Nara: Uneme Festival
Procession of Hanaguruma from JR Nara St to Sarusawa Pond from 17:00. Boats and gagaku on Sarusawa Pond from 19:00-19:30. 
5 min. from Kintetsu Nara St.; 10 min. from JR Nara St.