Archives for posts with tag: Japan

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

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)

Zazen on Ching-t’ing Mountain
By Li Po

The birds have vanished down the sky.
Now the last cloud drains away.
We sit together, the mountain and me,
until only the mountain remains.
Zazen on Ching-t’ing Mountain” by Li Po, translated by Sam Hamill, appears in Crossing the Yellow River: Three Hundred Poems from the Chinese (BOA Editions Ltd., 2000).

ART: “Fuji, mountains in clear weather” (Red Fuji) by Katsushika Hokusai (1831)

by Matsuo Basho

Year’s end,
all corners
of this floating world, swept.

by Taigu Ryōkan

If the sleeves
of my black robe
were more ample
I’d shelter everyone
in this floating world. 

Photo: ”Gull feather & midnight sun, Nome, Alaska” from the postcard book: Sierra Club Nature in Close-Up. ©David Cavagnaro,1988, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Find the 160-page book at Amazon here.

by Tomiyasu Fusei

I love the rest of my life
Though it is transitory
Like a light azure morning glory.

Photo: Mailman17013, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

Note: This poem is found in the beautiful book Zen Poems, Edited by Manu Bazzano with Illustrations by André Sollier. Find it at


by Taigu Ryōkan

Showing its underside,
showing its face
a falling maple leaf.

Photo: “Falling red maple leaves, Boone County, Missouri” From the postcard book: Sierra Club Nature in Close-Up. ©Gay Bumgarner,1988, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Contact the photographer at her website gaybumgarner.comFind the 160-page book at Amazon here.


“Writing is flying in dreams. When you remember. When you can. When it works. It’s that easy.” NEIL GAIMAN

Photo: “Whooper Swans, Japan” by Stefano Unterthiner (National Geographic). The photo appears in the White Gallery on the National Geographic website devoted to Life in Color, a 504-page book of 245 photos, divided into 11 color-based chapters. Find the book at

In 2006, Haruki Murakami – author of The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle — accomplished a long-standing goal by 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

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.”

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)