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I'm going out to clean the pasture spring;
I'll only stop to rake the leaves away
(And wait to watch the water clear, I may):
I shan't be gone long. - You come too.
I'm going out to fetch the little calf
That's standing by the mother. It's so young,
It totters when she licks it with her tongue.
I shan't be gone long. - You come too.
If you're traveling in the north country fair
Where the winds hit heavy on the borderline
Remember me to one who lives there
Bob Dylan, Girl from the North Country
Most of Japan is very, very hot in summer. Tokyo is hot. Kyoto is even hotter. But there is one place that is always cool and comfortable in summer. Hokkaido. Hokkaido is the northern island of Japan. It is a centre for agriculture, especially Hokkaido potatoes and all dairy products. Sapporo is the largest city in Hokkaido. Sapporo ramen is very popular.
Morihei Ueshiba the founder of aikido went to Hokkaido in 1912 when he was twenty-nine. It was there he met Sokaku Takeda and began his studies of Daito-ryu Jujutsu.
Many Japanese schoolchildren know the English phrase: Boys, be ambitious! It was originally said by the American educator William Smith Clark. He established Sapporo Agricultural College which eventually became Hokkaido University. One of the early students at the college was Inazo Nitobe. He wrote Bushido: the Soul of Japan...More
A daimiō's wife, as befitted the wife of a warrior and the daughter of long generations of brave men, never shrank from facing danger and death when necessary; and considered the taking of her own life an honorable and easy escape from being captured by her enemy.
Alice Mabel Bacon, Japanese Girls and Women
losing my way
is part of the journey
from Far Beyond the Field: Haiku by Japanese Women
The Japanese women's soccer team just won the World Cup. It was an improbable win. Astonishing even. They beat several strong teams and won the final against the USA in a penalty shootout after the game ended in a tie.
The team's nickname is Nadeshiko. Nadeshiko or dianthus superbus is a wild pink flower. Yamato nadeshiko can also mean the archetype of a Japanese woman, beautiful and resilient like the flower. It might be said with a sense of nostalgia.
Samurai women used the naginata, the long slashing spear or halberd or glaive, or a short tanto or kaiken dagger. This week in Japan there was news about one period drama starting and one period drama finishing. The new drama is on the public broadcasting network NHK. It's about Yae Niijima, a strong and determined woman samurai. The samurai drama that will end in December after more than forty years is Mito Komon. Kaoru Yumi is one of the regular members of the cast. Her ofuro
Orange Sky by halfrain used under creative commons licence
The sea has never been friendly to man. At most it has been the accomplice of human restlessness.
Joseph Conrad, The Mirror of the Sea
timeless wind of the sea
sea wind of the night
Rainer Maria Rilke, Song of the Sea
deep quiet rules the waters
Johann Wofgang von Goethe, Meeresstille
Remembering legends of undersea, drowned cities.
What voyagers, oh what heroes, flamed like pyres
With helmets plumed have set forth from some island
And them the seas engulfed. Their eyes
Distorted to the cruel waves desires,
Glitter with coins through the tide scarcely scanned,
While, far above, that harp assumes their sighs.
Stephen Spender, Seascape
In heaven the only thing they talk about is the sea.
Martin, Knockin' on Heaven's Door
This week there is a national holiday in Japan. Sea Day. It is nice to get away to the sea but Tokyo is a port and you can go to the sea even in Tokyo. Japan is an island nation so as for all island nations the sea has a special importance. By the way in French the sea is la mer and mother is la mère. The words sound the same and mer is part of mère so the sea is contained within mother. In Japanese the character for sea is 海 kai or umi. The lower right part is mother 母 bo or haha so mother is contained within sea. Perhaps this is all coincidence but anyway the sea is closely linked to the idea of fertility. Many people live from the sea. And t
as hatracks into peachtrees grow
or hopes dance best on bald men's hair
and every finger is a toe
and any courage is a fear
e.e. cummings, as freedom is a breakfastfood
And indeed there will be time
To wonder, "Do I dare?" and, "Do I dare?"
Time to turn back and descend the stair,
With a bald spot in the middle of my hair -
(They will say: "How his hair is growing thin!")
T S Eliot, The Love Song of J Alfred Prufrock
Barber walked in, started saying grace, Oh Lord, for these haircuts
we are about to receive, may we be truly thankful. Dominus possum
pax probiscus, post mortem, et tu brute, puella carborundum. He was
sorta half-Baptist, half-Catholic - kind of a Cathtist. He started cuttin'
my hair and preachin' at the same time. I mean he's a wild man, scissors
and razors a'flyin' around my head, he's talkin' about the liquor and wild
women and music and sex and the evils of dancing and the music business
in general. Then he looked down at me and he said, What do you do for a
living? Now, I'm not ashamed of what I do for a livin'. Workin' bars and casinos,
around liquor and wild women, I just play my piano, sing my little songs.
I looked him right in the eye and I said, I run this church for loggers.
Ray Stevens, The Haircut Song
It's time for summer haircuts. Young boys get a bozu haircut with electric hair clippers called barikan. It's almost like
In every landscape, the point of astonishment is the meeting of the sky and the earth, and that is seen from the first hillock as well as from the top of the Alleghanies. The stars at night stoop down over the brownest, homeliest common, with all the spiritual magnificence which they shed on the Campagna, or on the marble deserts of Egypt.
Ralph Waldo Emerson, Essays
I remember meeting you in a dark dream
of April, you or some girl,
the necklace of wishes alive and breathing around your throat
John Ashbery, Hop o' My Thumb
the bamboo leaves rustle
traditional Tanabata children's song
Maybe I'm dreaming. My eyes are open, which means maybe I'm awake dreaming that I'm asleep. Or, or more likely, I'm asleep dreaming that I'm awake wondering if I'm dreaming.
Philippe in Ladyhawke
It is Tanabata in Japan this week. Or at least in some parts of Japan. Usually Tanabata is celebrated on 7 July, or in Sendai and some other parts of Japan on 7 August. The Sendai Tanabata is the largest festival. Tanabata is the star festival. It's the next day in the series 1/1, 3/3, 5/5. Children write wishes and hang them.
The original story about the princess and the cowherd came from China. The separated lovers can meet only once a year. In western culture we have had this idea of lovers separated by a spell or a curse or the will of a god since the Greek myths. In films we have it too. In Ladyhawke La
Le Daïmio - matin de bataille
José-Maria de Heredia
Sous le noir fouet de guerre à quadruple pompon,
L'étalon belliqueux en hennissant se cabre
Et fait bruire, avec des cliquetis de sabre,
La cuirasse de bronze aux lames du jupon.
Le Chef vêtu d'airain, de laque et de crépon,
Ôtant le masque à poils de son visage glabre,
Regarde le volcan sur un ciel de cinabre
Dresser la neige où rit l'aurore du Nippon.
Mais il a vu, vers l'Est éclaboussé d'or, l'astre,
Glorieux d'éclairer ce matin de désastre,
Poindre, orbe éblouissant, au-dessus de la mer ;
Et, pour couvrir ses yeux dont pas un cil ne bouge,
Il ouvre d'un seul coup son éventail de fer
Où dans le satin blanc se lève un Soleil rouge.
The Daimyo - morning of battle
José-Maria de Heredia
Translation by Lafcadio Hearn
Under the black war whip with its quadruple pompon the fierce stallion, whinnying, curvets, and makes the rider's bronze cuirass ring against the plates of his shirt of mail, with a sound like the clashing of sword blades.
The Chief, clad in bronze and lacquer and silken crape, removing the bearded masque from his beardless face, turns his gaze to the great volcano, lifting its snows into the cinnabar sky where the dawn of Nippon begins to smile.
Nay! he has already seen the gold-spattered day star, gloriously illuminating the morning of disaster, rise, a blinding disk, above the seas. And to shade ...More
There are two kinds of artists left: those who endorse Pepsi and those who simply won't.
To be perfectly honest, what I'm really thinking about are dollar signs.
Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted, and the trouble is I don't know which half.
back when the names of things
hadn't had time to stick
Rita Dove, Testimonial
when I'm watchin' my tv
and that man comes on to tell me
how white my shirts can be
Rolling Stones, Satisfaction
I was surprised - of course I shouldn't have been - to notice deliberate product placement in an anime animated cartoon. You don't even need to film or photograph a real product. You can just draw one.
Japanese people don't seem to mind overt commercial sponsorship. Many of the professional baseball teams - like the Chunichi Dragons or the Seibu Lions - are known by their sponsor's name, not their city's name. Some commercials using Hollywood stars were so bad that they were not allowed to be shown outside Japan.
Today I am going to give my own endorsements. But they are real. Not for the products - the quality of Japanese products is usually excellent. But for really great service.
I have a pen that was owned by my first aikido teacher. His wife gave it to me with some personal things of his after he died. I use it every day. It's about thirty years old. It is a ballpoint pen with two colour
RAILWAYS by digicacy used under creative commons licence
The song of her whistle screaming at curves,
Of deafening tunnels, brakes, innumerable bolts
Stephen Spender, The Express
When we climbed the slopes of the cutting
We were eye-level with the white cups
Of the telegraph poles and the sizzling wires.
Like lovely freehand they curved for miles
East and miles west beyond us, sagging
Under their burden of swallows.
Seamus Heaney, The Railway Children
they talk about a life of brotherly love
show me someone who knows how to live it
there's a slow, slow train coming
up around the bend
Bob Dylan, Slow Train
I'm on the night train
Never to return
Guns N' Roses, Night Train
I saw Railways last week, starring Kiichi Nakai. It's a good movie. It's about a forty-nine year old male senior business executive - in Japanese they say an elite salaryman. After his mother becomes ill he leaves his job and his life in Tokyo to return to his home town in Izumo in Shimane in western Japan to be near her. He gets a new job as a train driver. So the movie is about new starts.
Railway journeys in Japan especially by express train are fast and efficient. But there are many local lines too. You can buy a special book of train tickets that only allows you to travel on local trains. So a trip that takes two or three hours by shinkansen bullet train can take a whole day. The ticket is called a Seishun 18 Kippu - youth 18 ticket - 青春18Ӕ
here comes the rain again
falling on my head like a memory
and I wonder still I wonder
who'll stop the rain
Creedence Clearwater Revival
the bottoms of my shoes
from walking in the rain
Haiku by Jack Kerouac
it's rainin' all over the world
Brook Benton, Rainy Night in Georgia
The rainy season has officially started in Japan. In Japanese it is called 梅雨 tsuyu - plum rains. Japan is made up of four large islands plus Okinawa and some smaller islands. Weather fronts like cherry blossoms or the rainy season move north and east with the rotation of the earth from the southern island of Kyushu up through Shikoku and the main island Honshu to the northern island of Hokkaido.
The rainy season is not pleasant. Sometimes it is humid and wet and sometimes it is cold and wet. Anyway it is wet. Leather shoes and bags and jackets and belts can get mouldy. Washing is slow to dry. Especially thick cotton gi - martial arts uniforms.
I don't know if Japanese people use telepathy or if they just check their mobile phones. But you know they know something you don't when you get on a train and everyone has an umbrella but you.
Perhaps life is just that - a dream and a fear
Joseph Conrad, Under Western Eyes
The thing I fear most is fear
Michel de Montaigne, Les Essais
"I think you're scared." He took hold of my hand. His was strong, hard, warm and slightly sticky. "I know you're scared," he whispered.
"I'll get over it," I said. "One way or another."
Raymond Chandler, Farewell My Lovely
The irony of the photograph is that the guy is secure enough to wear a jacket with INSECURITY on it. Or maybe he just doesn't speak English.
Courage in Japanese is yu 勇 or yuki 勇気. Anxiety in Japanese is fuan 不安. Fear in Japanese is kyofu 恐怖.
All humans have weaknesses - like selfishness and pride - and fears - like the fear of death or the fear of the unknown or the fear of failure. How do we face our weaknesses and fears and understand them and overcome them? That question - and the answer - will be left behind when we die.
So what is written on your jacket?
Language note 1
Words with long or double vowel sounds can be written in English with a macron bar diacritic in the Hepburn romanization system or with an extra letter. For example勇 can be written yū or yuu which are more accurate and more helpful for readers than yu. But we write judo and aikido in Tokyo not jūdō and aikidō in Tōkyō or - even more clumsily - juudou and aikidou in Toukyou. So for consistency as well as...More