Sutejo, Mizu kagami

Today–a hokku by Sutejo 捨女 (1634-1698).

gazing into mirroring water,
eyebrows drawn gracefully —
riverside willow

mizu kagami mite ya mayu kaku kawa yanagi
水鏡見てやまゆかく川柳

Is the one gazing into the water a human speaker, or is it an anthropomorphized willow tree?

In Tang China, the eyebrows of beautiful women were described as having  the shape of willow leaves. Willow  trees in general were associated with desirable women, as the supple shape of their branches suggest pliability and modesty. Sutejo’s verse alludes to this analogy.

In “Song of Everlasting Regret” 長恨歌, the Bo Juyi 白居易 poem that was much admired in premodern Japan, the Emperor is reminded of his beloved by lotus blossoms and willows:

the lotus [blossoms] were like her face, the willow [leaves] were like her eyebrows
芙蓉如面柳如眉

I wasn’t aware of the “willow leaf” ideal. I had heard of the “moth antennae” analogy, but the willow leaf shape is considerably different; a lot closer to modern beauty standards.

The Puzzle of Vaccine Hesitancy in Japan

From Japan On the Record podcast: An interview with Dr. Andrew Gordon and Dr. Michael Reich on the COVID-19 vaccine in Japan, where things aren’t going so well:

Link to the print article: Journal of Japanese Studies  muse.jhu.edu/article/799776

Gordon, Andrew and Michael R. Reich. “The Puzzle of Vaccine Hesitancy in Japan.” The Journal of Japanese Studies, vol. 47 no. 2, 2021, p. 411-436. Project MUSE, doi:10.1353/jjs.2021.0047.

About access, from the journal homepage: “Contents of the Journal of Japanese Studies are available online in the Project Muse and JSTOR databases.  The publication policies of the Journal meet the normal requirements for Open Access.”

On Twitter

Letters 2: Bashô 1690

The image shows a kana variant for まいらせ候

Part of my occasional Letters series. This one is from Bashô to his disciple Ukô 羽紅, who was married to one of his most famous disciples, Bonchô 凡兆. One of the things that’s immediately striking about this letter is that it’s written largely in kana (syllabary) in deference to Ukô being female. There are some other interesting points, but read on.

To: Madame Otome
From: Bashô

PS Please take good care of Miss Sai. I also send my appreciationr to Yoshi for her kindness over the years.

The other day Kaseirô 加生老 and Kyorai stopped by for a visit, and while it was a great effort for them do so, I was sorry they had to leave, feeling unbounded happiness. I am spending the winter hidden away deep in the mountains. When spring comes, I hope I may come to visit you again. It is difficult to express in words the unforgettable kindness you have long shown to me. The clothes were well-made; I am sure I will never be cold. Please do not worry about me. Please look forward to the spring in good health.

surely you keep
the kettle boiling for tea
night after night —
how I miss our three pillows
side by side in the sleeping room!

よひよひはかまたぎるらんね所のみつの枕もこひしかりけり
宵々は釜たぎるらん寝所の三つの枕も恋しかりけり


Interesting:
1) In premodern Japan, women made the clothes their husbands and children wore. From this letter, we learn that that Bashô (who did not marry) had clothes made for him by the women in his male disciple’s families.
2) Bashô is famous for his hokku, but here he expresses his appreciation in a waka. Like the kana, I presume this is a courtesy to his female recipient.
3) The print version of the letter I am using, 注解芭蕉書簡集 (Annotated Bashô Letters Anthology) by Abe Kimio 阿部喜三男  (1952) uses the fabulous ligature for “mairase sourou” (I go), see below. I don’t think there is Unicode for this character.

Ligature mairasesoro.gif


Tricky epistolary forms:

尚〻(尚尚) PS
御みまひ (they) came for a visit
御大儀 an inconvenience (for them)
ぞんじまいらせ候 (I) thought/felt
御めにかかり申すべく候 (I) intend to meet (you)
申しつくしがたき候  it is difficult to exhaust (my) expression (to you)
御こしらへ (you) made
御座あるまじく候 (I think) it will probably not exist…
御きづかい被成まじく候  (if you) please do not worry about (me)

Cool Off with Kathryn Hemmann’s “Mt. Hiei”

Scholar, author, artist, gamer and digital magick-wielder Dr. Kathryn Hemmann has published a story in White Enso’s series Hyakumonogatari Kaidankai. Number 24 in the series, i’s called “Mt. Hiei,” and is like a chilly wind in this hot season — welcome but still mysterious.

An earnest novice monk discovers something unexpected lies beneath the surface at Enryaku-ji Temple.

Dr. Hemmann’s website is: DigitalFantasyDiary.com.

No School, Now

The poem below, translated from Georgian, was written in 2018 in reference to conditions in Georgia. It was included in an email announcement from the Academy of American Poets.

As we get ready for the new academic year, I think of Afghan children and teachers, students and faculty. Things were already bad, but what will happen now?

Scholars at Risk has posted a petition calling for action to protect scholars in Afghanistan.

The Children of Beslan (To My Children)

Irakli Kakabadze

Today is the First of September and
As natural,
As the sun’s setting and rising,
The flowers’ budding and wilting,
The healing of open wounds,
And death.
This isn’t a school bell ringing,
It’s the bells of a church.
The mothers woke us up from our summer games,
But the fathers took our hands more sternly and
more proudly than never before.
The fathers left work for the market,
Carrying heavy bags and
All kinds of thoughts and rubbish
in their heads.
We left toys with wilted smiles on the beds,
Little sisters and brothers in the windows,
Grandmothers who had combed our hair and
Crossed us as we were leaving home,
To meet with God, or our first teachers.
Here, our empty, silent notebooks,
Here, our unopened books and flat, inanimate illustrations,
The red pens, which retain their strictness, but can’t express it,
A roster, read from the grade book with no answers,
Desks without purpose and
The boards, painted black,
On which is written our first, short history.
Here, our flowers for you, who
Were supposed to open the door of life’s wisdom for us,
But the flowers have chosen a better fate.
Again, light backpacks
Are hanging like crosses upon our weak shoulders and
White shirts—
Like sacrificial lambs, we make our way to the last class.
Don’t look at the road so often,
We won’t return from here,
We continued our summer games and
We are hiding behind September first.

Translated from the Georgian by Mary Childs