Archives for posts with tag: Japan

japanese pastry

Culture Shock
by Jane Boch

Carla no longer trusted chocolate. Her bite into the filled pastry contorted her face with sourness and disappointment.

“Bean paste,” Evan said, laughing.

Carla forced a swallow. “You knew?” she accused.

Carla would be in Japan for three weeks. She hoped this trip would propel her into an engagement with Evan, a U.S. Naval Officer, or prompt them to end the long-distance relationship. She couldn’t imagine marrying a man whose career demanded replacing chocolate with the gooey pastiness of mung beans.

A walk in Evan’s hilltop neighborhood led Carla to an overlook of the bay. Turning from the water view, she glimpsed a sign picturing a loaf of bread. Inside the shop, the fragrance of freshly baked goods, arranged on racks lining the walls, reminded her of the bakery in her hometown. She asked, “Sweet?” while pointing at a croissant topped with sugar.

The baker nodded and said, “Yes, sweet,” with a smile. Optimistic, Carla took two.

Sitting on a bench outside, she took a bite. The mouthful of hot, soft airiness mingled with cream cheese filling as luscious as the inside of a truffle. Yes, sweet, she thought. Maybe she could marry Evan after all.

IMAGE: Pai-Shuu (Japanese cream puffs)

Boch

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: This piece of flash fiction is crafted around my experience of trying out desserts in Japan when we lived in the city of Yokosuka. One of my favorite outings was a walk to the bakery with Jonathan in the stroller. The cream cheese inside the croissants was truly sweet.

AUTHOR’S PHOTO CAPTION: Jonathan and I pose with the owner of the bakery where we were frequent customers, up the hill from our house in Yokosuka, Japan (December 2009).

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Jane Boch started writing in first grade, when she won a Young Author contest for a story about an ice cream cone and a roller coaster. As an adult, her frequent moves with her submarine Naval Officer husband took her to Japan for two years. She spends her days taking care of her two boys and a three-year-old Labrador retriever.

Danno
Snow Adventure
by Yoko Danno

In the dead of night,
out of the 11th floor of a downtown
apartment building, nebulous shadows
slip out of a window, gently glide down
along the deserted street,

by fluorescent moonlight
gathering speed,
slide down the ice-covered slopes―

resolute for adventures,
a boy, in a blue silk scarf,
dreaming of tropical fish swimming,
and a girl, in a red wool cap,
streaming long black hair in the cold wind,

ski down the soft skin of an enormous
white monster in hibernation,

heading for a point of cosmic contact―

By midday warmed
by the piercing sunshine,

trees shed heaps
of snow from their limbs

as if slipping out
of padded
white kimonos,

stand naked
in the slanting rays
like antennas,

to get ready
for communication

with meteors.

AUTHOR’S NOTE ON THE PHOTOGRAPH: I took this photo when I visited Mt. Zao in 2002, which is why I wasn’t included in it.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I wrote this poem, inspired by the frost-covered trees at Mt. Zao, a famous ski resort in Northern Japan’s volcanic region.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Yoko Danno lives in Kobe, Japan. For decades, she has written poetry solely in English. Her poems have appeared internationally in numerous journals and anthologies, online, and in print. Her books of poetry include Epitaph for memories (The Bunny and the Crocodile Press, 2002); The Blue Door, a collaboration with James C. Hopkins (The Word Works, 2006); a sleeping tiger dreams of manhattan: poetry, photographs and sound by Danno, Hopkins, and Bernard Stoltz (The Ikuta Press, 2008, and translated and published in Latvia, 2012); Trilogy & Hagoromo: A Celestial Robe (The Ikuta Press, 2010); and Aquamarine (Glass Lyre Press, 2014). Her translation, Songs and Stories of the Kojiki, the creation myth, songs and historical narratives, compiled in the 8th c., Japan, was published by Ahadada Books (Toronto/Tokyo, 2008, and Red Moon Press, 2014). Visit her at http://ikutapress.com/danno3.html.

umeboshi
Self-Portrait with Umeboshi
by Robert Okaji

Our resemblance strengthens each day.

Reddened by sun and shiso,
seasoned with salt,

we preside, finding
comfort in failure. Or does
the subjugation of one’s flavor for another’s

define defeat? The bitter, the sour, the sweet
attract and repel

like lovers separated by distances
too subtle to see.
Filling space becomes the end.
What do you learn when you look through the glass?

Knowing my fate, I say fallen. I say earth.

NOTE: Find out more about Umeboshi at wikipedia.org.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Robert Okaji’s work has appeared in Boston Review, Otoliths, Prime Number Magazine, Clade Song, and Vayavya, among others. He lives in Texas with his wife and two dogs.

elaine_plesser

JAPANESE GARDEN

by Clara Hsu

arched

sky                 water

bridge

half moon

June

slips

by

in a pair of geta

koi in red kimonos

things to wear

under

shades

a

bell

IMAGE: “Water Lilies and Koi Pond” by Elaine Plesser. Prints available at fineartamerica.com.

clara_hsu

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Clara Hsu practices the art of multi-dimensional being: mother, musician, purveyor of Clarion Music Center (1982-2005), traveler, translator and poet. Since 2009, she has co-hosted the monthly San Francisco Open Mic Poetry Podcast TV Show with John Rhodes. In 2013, she co-founded Poetry Hotel Press with Jack Foley. Clara has been published internationally. Her book of poetry, The First to Escape, is due to be released in the summer of 2014.

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MAY
by Nimuae

Welcome the May as
life weaves a new spring from her
pink and white blossoms. 

IMAGE: “Pink cherry blossoms” by Sonja Quintero. Prints available at fineartamerica.com.

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LITTLE YELLOW FLOWER
by Matsuo Bashō 

Slender, so slender
its stalk bends under dew –
little yellow flower

Photo: James Jordan, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

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In 2006, Haruki Murakami, author of The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, accomplished a long-standing goal — translating The Great Gatsby into Japanese. Murakami has discussed his reverence for the F. Scott Fitzgerald novel many times over the years — and has written a compelling afterword to his translation. Read Murakami’s moving love letter to Fitzgerald’s masterwork at scribd.com.

Here are some excerpts from Murakami’s heartfelt homage to The Great Gatsby

When someone asks, ‘Which three books have meant the most to you?’ I can answer without having to think: The Great GatsbyDostoevesky’s The Brothers Karamazov, and Raymond Chandler’s The Long Goodbye. All three have been indispensable to me (both as a reader and as a writer); yet if I were forced to select only one, I would unhesitatingly choose Gatsby. Had it not been for Fitzgerald’s novel, I would not be writing the kind of literature I am today (indeed, it is possible that I would not be writing at all, although that is neither here nor there).

Whatever the case, you can sense the level of my infatuation with The Great Gatsby. It taught me so much and encouraged me so greatly in my own life. Through slender in size for a full-length work, it served as a standard and a fixed point, an axis around which I was able to organize the many coordinates that make up the world of the novel. I read Gatsby over and over, poking into every nook and cranny, until I had virtually memorized entire sections.

Remarks such as these are bound to perplex more than a few readers. ‘Look, Murakami,’ they’ll say, ‘I read the novel, and I don’t get it. Just why do you think it’s so great?’ My first impulse is to challenge them right back. ‘Hey, if The Great Gatsby isn’t great,’ I am tempted to say, inching closer, ‘then what the heck is?’…Gatsby is such a finely wrought novel – its scenes so fully realized, its evocations of sentiment so delicate, its language so layered – that, in the end, one has to study it line by line in English to appreciate its true value.”

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MOON HAIKU
by Matsunaga Teitoku (1571-1654)

Many solemn nights
Blond moon, we stand and marvel…
Sleeping our noons away. 

PHOTO: The moon rises behind the helicopter from the original Batman television show, which people can ride at the New Jersey State Fair, Saturday, June 22, 2013, in East Rutherford, N.J.  (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

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MUSIC BOX
by Jorge Luis Borges

Music of Japan. Parsimoniously
from the water clock the drops unfold
in lazy honey or ethereal gold
that over time reiterates a weave
eternal, fragile, enigmatic, bright.
I fear that every one will be the last.
They are a yesterday come from the past.
But from what shrine, from what mountain’s slight
garden, what vigils by an unknown sea,
and from what modest melancholy, from
what lost and rediscovered afternoon
do they arrive at their far future: me?
Who knows? No matter. When I hear it play
I am. I want to be. I bleed away.

—translated by Tony Barnstone

ILLUSTRATION: Music Box from Japan (1950s) available at etsy.com.

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RAIN EFFECT
by Mary Ruefle

A bride and a groom sitting in an open buggy
in the rain, holding hands but not looking
at each other, waiting for the rain to stop,
waiting for the marriage to begin, embarrassed
by the rain, the effect of the rain on the bridal
veil, the wet horse with his mane in his eyes,
the rain cold as the sea, the sea deep as love,
big drops of rain falling on the leather seat,
the rain beaded on a rose pinned to the groom’s
lapel, the rain on the bride’s bouquet,
on the baby’s breath there, the sound of the rain
hitting the driver’s top hat, the rain
shining like satin on the black street,
on the tips of patent leather shoes, Hokusai’s
father who polished mirrors for a living, Hokusai’s
father watching the sky for clouds, Hokusai’s father’s son
drawing rain over a bridge and over the people crossing
the bridge, Hokusai’s father’s son drawing the rain
for hours, Hokusai’s father rubbing a mirror, the rain
cold as the sea, the sea cold as love, the sea swelling
to a tidal wave, at the tip of the wave white.
***
“Rain Effect” appears in Mary Ruefle’s collection Cold Pluto (Carnegie Mellon University Press, 1996)

ART: “Mt. Fuji Through Raindrops” by by Katsushika Hokusai (1831)