Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Snoopy's Scenario

I shot these photos last night. I don’t do anything special for Xmas, but I enjoy watching houses dress up with lights.

This evening, my neighbor and I walked by the city hall. In front of the building, a three-story pine tree stood like gorgeous Greek statue. Wind blew. The tree swayed in slow twist. Mmm. Fabulous. Why did I leave my camera at home? I told my neighbor. She talked about timing and her two unused camera. We watched the tree. Long chains of tiny white lights draped around it from top to bottom. We put our hands in pockets and watched the tree danced for a while. Wind blew harder.

Once or twice or maybe more times, Snoopy sat on top of his doghouse and typed, “It was dark and stormy night.” That’s my favorite scene. That was the kind of nights we had. Happy Holidays!

Monday, December 21, 2009

The Cutest

A nine year old girl is riding a bike. The sky is blue. White peak of the mountain range stands in the background.

The day before yesterday, her bike passed me by wobbling. I said to her father,

“May be the seat is too high.”

“No, I don’t think so,” he said, “She’s riding this kind for the first time. She could have done it earlier, but she didn’t.”

“Every kid is different. Like us,” I said.

“Yep, that’s right,” he said.

In the meantime, she didn’t bump into the parked cars or truck, managed to make a U-turn at the end of the cul-de-sac, and came back.

“That’s impressive,” I said to the father, “The first day I rode my bike, I hit against my neighbor’s fence. I couldn’t turn.”

Next day, she is riding her bike again. The father is standing on the sidewalk watching her. I say to him on the way to my walk.

“She learns fast. The bike isn’t wobbling much.”

He says yes.

“She is so cute,” I said.

The third day, the cul-de-sac was clear. No truck. I see the back of the father’s head over a parked car. A block away, I see the back of two young girls on bike at the stop sign. The father holds his arms in front. The girls with helmets cross the street. I walk toward the father. He stares straight to the street like a rock. His chin is close to the neck. I’m only used to his smile and greetings. So I said,

“She might bring back her fiancé. Watch out!”

His eyes widened.

“What!? She just!…only…. riding!….a bike!”

His cheeks reddened.

Hee hee hee. I had my fun of the day. He made a big grin.

Friday, December 18, 2009

My Favorite Restaurant: Sunny Taj

I love Indian foods. And “Sunny Taj” is my favorite. The top photo, the left person is Bisen Shing, the main chef, and right is Bir Shingh. I’m sorry I didn’t get the name of the middle cook. Looking at their faces, I tend to speak in English, but Bir speaks Japanese.

The restaurant just moved to the new location in September to the back of the new large building that is still under construction. The building is situated across and leftward from the Keikyu Department Store. I’m writing these details because even though most readers do not live in Yokohama, but if any of you go, I want you to find it. I checked the Web information, and they all point to the old location, and their rating of Sunny Taj does not justify their food and services.

I go there often, and their food is excellent. I especially like vegetable curry. The curry has chunky turnip, carrot, and potato to fit to Japanese taste. But I don’t go there just for the food. I go there because the owners and employees are warm. I feel at home. And prices are reasonable.

I took these photos with the female owner’s permission, but when I made a shot, she hid herself to the right behind the window. It was the evening before I left Japan, and the restaurant was packed. So I had to hurry up and clicked away. That’s my excuse for a bit blur images.

Friday, December 11, 2009

About I

Because Rebb made a comment on the absent of “I” in Japanese, I hope to write better response than what I wrote in the past. http://www.redroom.com/blog/keikoamano/subject-and-object

According to “Kotoba to Bunka,” I summarized what Suzuki Takao wrote as follows.

The first person singular is “I” in English, “ich” in German, and “ik” in Dutch. They look different, but they are not. In the early modern time, English “I” was written in small letter as “i,” and the pronunciation was not “ai” but “i:”. (I can’t spell the consonant here, sorry.) In the medieval period, it was pronounced with a consonant at the end. And the oldest English document shows the word as “ic” and the pronunciation is considered to be close to “ik.” So, all the first person singulars among the Germanic languages are considered to come from the same source.

And for the Romance Languages, the first person is “je” in French, “yo” in Spanish, and “io” in Italian. They are known to come from “ego” in Latin. So, “ego” in Latin, “ego” in Greek, and “ik” in the old Germanic languages, and also considering other Indo European languages, the very old type of the first person in the Indo European language must be close to “ego.”

Further, Suzuki Takao writes that this is a tremendously amazing fact. The fact is that in the Indo European languages, people spoke for many thousand years with the first person singular and consistently. In comparison, the Japanese language differs totally. I checked other quite different languages like Finnish, Hungarian, and Indonesian, but they all have the Subject- Verb-Object form.

I think it’s best to say, “The Japanese language does not have the same type of the first person singulars of the Indo European languages.” Probably last 70 or 80 years or so western-influenced authors have been increasingly using the following first person singulars, “watashi” or “boku.” Watashi(私) also means private, and boku(僕), servant.

“Watashi” is used by both males and females, and “Boku” is usually used by males. There are more details about this, but I stop for now. So we have only about 100 year history of Japanese first person singulars. And I think this fact probably is giving non-Japanese illusion. I think knowing the difference is as important as knowing the similarities. So I couldn’t help it, but wrote it again, folks!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Lie, Stupid, Starving

We can translate “lie” into Japanese, but “uso 嘘” doesn’t exactly mean the same as  “lie.” I’ve been reading a few books by Suzuki Takao, a Japanese linguist. He pointed out this important matter about “lie.”

If an English speaker says, “You lied to me,” it means that I did something morally wrong. That’s quite disturbing, isn’t it? I haven’t thought too much about it in the past, but come to think of it, the linguist is right that we Japanese think of “uso” as only “uso.”

Uso means untruth. If you say untruth is negative, then from that point of view, yes, it is negative, but there is no other negative meaning attached to it. I looked at my dictionary and found that “lie” means an intentionally false statement involving deception. I’m a bit shocked to see the words “intentionally” and “deception.” Uso is not necessarily malicious. So “lie” is malicious “uso,” I think. Fiction is uso. That’s why someone made a funny face when I said fiction is lie.

We Japanese often say in Japanese, “You’re a liar,” or “That’s a lie!” with no intention of accusation, but those speeches exclude subjects and articles, such as “You’re a” or “That’s a.” That’s our normal daily speech. Our customary grammar alone, I think, shows less accusation than in English. Definitely, “You’re a liar” is stronger than “Liar.” And the modern Japanese grammar was developed based on the western grammar, so we have the first, the second, and the third person points of view. But that’s because they have been defined according to western grammars. So that fact alone is actually problems because it forces the well-developed but not- matching grammar onto our totally different language. I think it’s been giving people quite illusion

So when Japanese say “Lie” or “Liar” to other Japanese in Japanese, it usually sounds comical and light hearted. I often hear that word repeated by Japanese with or without smiles. I didn’t think much of it all these years. But to delve into the meaning of each word takes tremendous time and experience.

Also “stupid” is not exactly the same as baka. Once I had a heated argument with my son about it, now I think back that maybe there was misunderstanding. I love my children, and they are smarter than when I was growing up. I respect them. So under any circumstances, I’d never call them “stupid.” But one time, my son accused me of it. I was furious. I said to him,

“I never said that. I never have that in my heart and brain. How can I ever say that?” I said.

That ended our argument. But I was disturbed by it. What made him tell me that? Growing up, my mother mumbled to herself sometimes when she made an error. She would say, “Because I’m baka. My brain is bad.” Those sentences are without any subject and possessive. But she was very smart person. Westerners usually say such persons have low self esteem. That does not apply to Japanese. My mother had very high self-esteem. That’s one thing I’ve been successful planting in my children without putting any extra effort.

Anyway, for three or four years, my mother was reared by her most disciplined, high-rank samurai grandfather. Putting herself down was cultural, and it’s her own way of improving herself and being humble. Baka is written 馬鹿 which is horse and deer. Well, I might have said to myself, “Baka-ne.” My son speaks only English.
I hope he is reading this.

I think we only realized something like this only when we get into troubles. Can you imagine how many erroneous but innocent words I’ve been using in the past? Wow, I have to go around all over the countries to apologize for the rest of my life!

After talking about lie and stupid, I want to cover “starving.” My daughter was twelve when she came to Japan the second time. She stayed with my mother for a few weeks, and she went to stay with a friend of mine for three weeks. Her family members do not speak English in their daily life, but with a good dictionary, they can carry a basic conversation. I don’t know how exactly the situation was, but my daughter said, “I’m starving!” The friend looked at the dictionary for the word. The following year I met her, I thanked her for taking care of my daughter. She said to me,

The fact is that…it was a mealtime and. I thought I should let you know this,” she continued in stops and starts.

“What is it?”

“I thought you should know, and you probably ought to tell her not using such language.”

I frowned a little.

“Your daughter said…well….Starving”, she said putting her hand over her mouth halfway.

“Is that all?” I said, “In English, we say, “I’m starving when we are very hungry. That’s nothing wrong with that. We all say it. It’s humorous.”

The friend’s expression turned deflated.

In Japanese, starving is the state of serious famine. So the meaning of each word demands much attention and discussion. I don’t think linguists alone can make a perfect dictionary. Besides languages are always changing, too.

In summary, I think the real problem is not only miscommunication but also how each of us sees the world in which we’re in without judging. I don’t know how many times I have done. As I read, I find even well-known linguists make mistakes on language assessment. No wonder, we all make mistakes often without being aware. Well, what’s news, right?

Friday, November 27, 2009

Them and Us

We are different, you know.

The city of Yokohama honors only ducks and flowers. We’re good pigeons. We’ve been taken for granted. But it’s okay because a photographer over there understands it. We are connected. We don’t need to belong. We’d rather be connected.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Beats vs. Syllables

Vincent made a comment about syllables in my previous blog. Apparently, this issue had been a hot debate among linguists, and according to Kindaichi Haruhiko, Kamei Takashi, also a Japanese linguist, named “beats” for the smallest units of Japanese spoken sound to avoid mix-ups.

Kindaichi also wrote an interesting debate among French linguists. One French linguist said, ““Epe” could be divided into two, “e” and “pe.” Another French linguist said, “The first unit was up to the point of closing lips when pronouncing “p,” and the second unit starts at the point of opening the lips. Still, other French linguist said, “Discussing what point is a divider is as though we’re trying to reach an agreement on where the bottom of a valley is. Therefore, the discussion is nonsense.”

What a relief! Some western people agree with Japanese sentiment. For me, the syllable concept is totally confusing. Now I know why I couldn’t figure out the rules of English haiku. More knowledge helps. Don’t you agree? Besides, I couldn’t find written haiku rules on the Web. You might say, “Rules are not important.” Yes, that’s been my motto. From the perspective of cannot-help, I’m absolutely on your side. Otherwise, we can’t enjoy other cultures.

For a record, I think the 1953 version of “Japanese” by Kindaichi Haruhiko has erroneous data on syllables by a foreign linguist. So I checked them with the 1988 version of the same book. Sure enough, the data in question was completely gone. I’m just letting you know that I’m reading old books. But the two-volume 1988 version is not necessarily better than the single 1953 version. If any of you are interested in detail, please let me know. Otherwise, I won’t disturb you with more details.

In summary, the spoken Japanese has a relatively small number of clear beats, and the syllable concept doesn’t apply.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Japanese Beats

A while ago, a Japanese friend of mine told me that her American husband said that spoken Japanese sounds like staccato. Japanese is my native language, so I can’t tell the sound objectively. But if the language sounded in staccato, it would be certainly not a beautiful language. But we Japanese think of our language beautiful. Separately, most people would agree that the French language sounds beautiful. I absolutely agree. So and but, I hope you don’t ask me which is more beautiful.

Because of the staccato element, I want to talk about beats. Japanese beats are very simple. I envy the beginners of Japanese language because I’ve been struggling with English even now. So if you’re beginners in Japanese, you have advantage.

According to the book, “Japanese,” by Kindaich Haruhiko, a linguist, Japanese language has 112 beats, and English has over 3000. For instance, tobichiru (splash) is 4 beats because we can separate it as to-bi-chi(or ci)-ru. In English, splash is only one beat. I didn’t know this until recently. No wonder I had hard time in making English haiku in the past.

Since the number of Japanese beats is small, children can memorize them pretty easily. And they can also dictate what they hear pretty easily. They just need to write as they hear each beat. So once you learn all the beats, anyone can search any word in the dictionary. In English, we have to know how to spell at least the first alphabet such as “know.” In Japanese, if you master all hiragana, you can write. No spelling needed in writing Japanese. Isn’t that great?

But as always, behind the simplicity, complex features are hidden. I don’t know why, but we have many same sounding words. The other day, I replied back to Jitu on my “Names and Preference” blog about the meaning of Keiko,. Jitu looked at a few Web sites and found two translations of Keiko. First, I don’t know how they came up with those meanings. Second, our names usually come in Kanji, and each kanji has a unique meaning. There are many different kanji for Keiko. Pronunciations can be the same. Also we have same sounding verbs and nouns. So when we speak, sometimes, we miscommunicate. This is a downside to Japanese language. To avoid miscommunication, we need to put extra effort to describe it clearly in any way we can.

So, Japanese beats are simple but other things are complex. And like heart beats, we breathe and sleep with them day in and day out. We feel comfortable and our aesthetic comes out of those 112 simple beats.

The author of “Japanese” wrote an interesting story. In the beginning of WWII, Hitler made a visit to Japan. I didn’t know that. I was surprised to read this. Anyway, Kitahara Hakushu is a very famous Japanese poet. He was asked to make a welcome poem for Hitler—can you imagine?-- and someone composed a melody. At that time, they all didn’t know what Hitler was up to, I guess. Isn’t that weird? A professor who sang the song followed the German way of singing. To Hakushu, the beats were all wrong. They had a heated argument.

Anyway, the author went on to say that Japanese are sensitive to our beats because not many exist. To this statement, I agree.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Beginning Japanese: Lesson One - Bonus One

The photos are from the wood block prints of Gengi Monogatari. Original documents do not exist, but several copies survived, and an excellent wood block artist recreated an excellent copy. Isn’t that wonderful? You can’t tell if it’s a woodblock print, can you?

The below photo, you read right to left and top to bottom. Can you find あ on the first line? あ is “a” of aiueo. Remember? It says あたらしきもふるきもwhich means “New as well as old.” But you’re looking at only あたらしき (new). I just wanted to show it to you so that you know that with guidance, you’re able to read how it’s like to read ancient Japanese texts.

Isn’t that exciting?

Once you learn all the hiraganas, you can read aloud many books written in hiragana. And they’re not only children books but adult books with furigana. Furigana is hiragana written in small prints next to kanji so that they help readers with not much knowledge of kanji. You can also read newspapers written in hiragana. But I mean you can only read aloud knowing all hiragana. Understanding what you read is another matter, of course. But reading is easy, right?

Friday, November 20, 2009

Beginning Japanese: Lesson One

Many years ago, I used to teach beginning Japanese to my colleagues during our lunch break. I’m not a language teacher, but I wrote one simple instruction for you as below.

Write the first five hiragana letters. Practice 10 times.
1. あいうえお   あ a  い i う u え e  おo

Write the second five hiragana as follows. Practice 10 times.
2. かきくけこ   かka  きki  くku  けke  こko

Have you practiced 10 times each? If not, go back to item 1 and start again. You cannot cheat my lesson. But you can ask me questions. I’ll answer when I can. So when you feel comfortable with あいうえお and かきくけこ, you can read the following. Okay? Now read it. Go ahead.
3. けいこ

Did you figure it out? Good.

Now you’ve learned how to write my name in Japanese. You gained the important concept of Japanese beats. You pronounce each beat evenly. けいこ。It takes three beats. Since you’ve learned 10 hiragana, you can also read a Japanese haiku written in hiragana only. Haiku is the beats of 5-7-5.


Above translation:
a-ka-i-ka-ki-ku-u (akai=red, kaki= persimmon, kuu=eat )

Haiku is formal, so the above haiku is called senryu. Kuu for “eat” is used by men, not by women. But I just wanted you to see how we can play with Japanese words. In my next blog, I’ll talk more about beats.

The above photo is a heron in the river near my place. He or she just caught a fish and ate it. I saw it. I also took the photo below to show you the color of the soil here. The sign says "Watch Your Foot" because of the roots of Cherry trees.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Call Me Penny

Penny belongs to my son's family. She is tender and lovable. I slept with her a few times. She is cuddly. I love her. She and my grandson get along well.

Because of the recent Rebb's and Luciana's postings, I decided I had to have a dog in my blog.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

U. S. President Obama in Tokyo

Three days ago, U.S. President Obama gave his speech in Tokyo. First, Prime Minister Hatoyama made his speech. He spoke in his monotone voice on and on. I usually fall asleep while listening to this kind of speeches, but I was hoping Hatoyama would stop soon. I stared at his broad shoulders and wondered if his wife instructed their tailor to sew up extra pads. A while ago, he and his wife made their appearance in a fashion show. I changed the channel. Have you seen it? I wished the program wouldn’t be aired in foreign countries.

Hatoyama was about to end his speech, I thought. Instead, he began another phrase. The audience appeared to sigh at the same time. You might not hear it, but I could tell. I felt sorry for Obama. He came all the way from Washington and had to hear the loong speech. If he were eating lunch, he could have finished it. Wait. Make that dinner, please.

At last, Obama had his turn. He spoke as usual in his clear voice with varied pitch. A QA session followed. A Japanese male journalist--I think he was from a television station-- asked a few questions to Hatoyama. Without having him answer those questions, the journalist simply directed his questions to Obama. No one intervened. I thought he would be asking a few questions to Obama and trying to save his question time. It could be a good thing.

I was wrong. On the contrary, the journalist went on and on, too, asking more questions. I watched Obama’s face. His eyelids almost closed halfway at the fourth or fifth questions. Still the journalist went on to his next question. Obama smiled. His white teeth showed. I mumbled, “Please stop the question right there. Please don’t embarrass us.” He couldn’t hear me. I didn’t know how many bullet questions he asked, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he threw seven or eight.

I just want you to know that long speeches and many questions all at once are not a national characteristic. I hope. It was individual things. I assure you. As I believe one way criticisms are unfair, so I want to offer my help on this problem. But nobody has ever come forward and asked me yet. Well, I’m here.

Saturday, November 14, 2009


Dorraine’s blog triggered this post. Thank you, Dorraine, for memories.

In 1970, I went to California for the first time aspiring to be a hippie! I went to May Company and bought the snake-skin-designed outfit in the photo. I wore it only a few times. After this photo, I made a trip to San Francisco with our twenty or so international club members. But I didn’t see any hippies during the trip. I was very disappointed.

Afterward, I wore only the bellbottom pants to my campus. I adored my purple and yellow woven shoulder bag from India and collected leather belts and barrettes with peace-sign designs.

I wish I could post my other photo with the same outfit. On that photo, my chin was up, my elbow was out forward, and I had a big grin on my face. My boyfriend then stole it. I asked him to return it, but he never did.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Lu Xun's Photo

As I promised to Vincent, here I attached a photo. Lu Xun is close to the Chinese pronunciation, and in Japanese, we call him Rojin. Japanese have hard time pronoucing consonants, so we japanize all the foreign words. So it may sounds very different, but Rojin and Lu Xun are the same. This photo was taken in 1935, a year before he died. I took this photo from his book. I like this photo. Looking at it and reading his stories and letters, I connect with the development of his struggles. If he knew only Chinese, I think his life was much simpler.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Names and Preference

Rebb, do you want me to call you Reb, not Rebb? Luciana, do you want me to call you Lu or Luli? I know Mares likes Mares. Vincent and Jitu, how about you? And any readers? I don’t want to drop an alphabet or add a few wrong ones. I rather call you in the name you like the best. So please let me know.

Most people have preference on how their names are called. I haven’t had any preference on my name. I wish I have. When people ask me, I always say whatever the name is fine with me. This is not a good answer, I realized. It sounds as though I’m lifeless and careless. In the past, people said, Kieko or Kaiko, but that was because they were non-Japanese and weren’t used to Japanese names. So I told them Kieko or Kaiko was fine. I meant it. We can’t expect anyone to get angry with foreign mispronunciation. Right? Anyway, long ago, a colleague of mine started to call me Cake for a short period. I like cakes. But I wouldn’t call it my preference although I don’t mind anyone call me Cake.

Growing up, I read “Ann of Green Gable,” “Little Women,” and other western books. Those western characters often talked about their names. Sometimes, they went on and on about their preference. I used to think why they cared so much about it? What made them feel that way? Their names sounded very important, so I envied them. Eventually, I concluded that their tendency was a sophisticated, civilized thing. I dreamed of having a preference someday. After all, Keiko is the most popular Japanese girl name. I wasn't fond it growing up.

But to this day, I still have no preference on my name. I wonder why. Do you think anything wrong with me? Perhaps, I haven’t matured in that area of growth? Some of you will be kind and say, “No, Keiko, nothing is wrong with you there, so don’t worry!” Well, thank you. But I just want to say once to someone:

“No, I don’t want you to call me Keiko, please call me “ .””

But I don’t know what I should fill the name.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Honesty and Trust

First, the photo is a map I used for the book festival. Yamamoto Shoten(山本書店)is the leftmost bookstore that I circled in red. Can you see? That’s where I purchased Rojin’s books.

I translated the following excerpt from “Midsummer Tales” by Rojin or Lu Xun.
I became interested in him and his work when I read a complaint by a Japanese linguist who translated Yusen-kutu (Taverns of Disporting Fairies). Yusen-kutu is from the Tang period of China. I don’t remember the name of the linguist/translator, so I refer him as he. He wrote a few negative sentences about Lu Xun. It was something like this: “Lu Xun knew the fact Yusen-kutu was discovered by Japanese and studied extensively over many centuries, but Lu Xun wrote and published the opposite.”

I wondered what went through Lu Xun’s head when he had to write that. Chinese government then was corrupt. Chinese in China were oppressed by the Japanese military. He struggled between two countries and for his people’s freedom. Lu Xun spoke and wrote Japanese. He studied in Japan for eight years. What went through his mind? I want to know. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lu_Xun

Below, Lu Xun wrote it toward the end of his life in Shanghai. I’m not crying, but I wish I can.


A “B, we trusted you. You seemed a fine person, so we let you in on the
revolution. Why did you squeal to the enemy?”

B “No way! Squeal! I only told them because they asked.”

A “Couldn’t you just keep saying you don’t know?”

B “No, no! I’ve never told a lie since I was born. I’m not such an
untrustworthy person.”


A “Oh, hello, Mr. B. It’s been three years. You were probably very
disappointed in me, weren’t you?”

B “No, not really. Why?”

A “I told you then. I was going to the West Lake and write 20,000 long
poems. I haven’t written a word up to now. Ha ha ha!

B “Well…..but I’m not a bit disappointed.”

A “You’ve gotten better at spoken words, haven’t you? You remember things
well, you’ve known to blame others quite severely, and you’re not the kind
of person who can reply with wishy-washy words. Everyone knows it. Are
you able to lie now?”

B “No, I’d never lie.”

A “Then, you’re not disappointed in me, right?”

B “No. There is nothing to be disappointed. After all, I’ve never trusted
you in the first place.”

Saturday, November 7, 2009

The World Largest Bookstore Town

The World Biggest Book Festival
Jinbōchō, Tokyo

Don’t you just love bookstores? I haven’t confirmed it, but I think the Jinbōchō Used Books festival must be the world largest for the size of the area and the number of customers and book sales. It was from Oct. 27 to Nov. 3. It was amazing. Jinbōchō boasts 159 bookstores, publishing houses, and good restaurants. I spent four full days there including the last day. Nov. 3rd was Cultural Day, a national holiday. The town was packed with people on sidewalks and alleys, operators snaked through the crowds with their push-carts piled with books.

The first day I went, I headed to Yamamoto Shoten. The shop sits facing north at the corner of Yasukuni and Sendai streets. It is the west edge of the town. All bookstores face north to protect their books from long sun exposure. My plan was to walk eastward and check every bookstore. But that was impossible.

Yamamoto Shoten carries Chinese and Japanese classics and rare books. Most of the books there are expensive. I looked around and found a small bookcase filled with used paperbacks. I prefer paperbacks. They are light and cheaper. Top of that, I prefer old used paperbacks because they are even lighter in weight although the price will not go down for the kind of books I like. They are about 800 yen each.

In the small bookcase, I found “Languages” by Jaspersen and also by Sapier. I also found a complete twelve-volume collection of Rojin or Lu Xun (1881-1936). I didn’t think I could finish reading 12 volumes, so I bought the first and the last. He was a bilingual Chinese writer. I became interested in his works when I read “Yusen-kutu” which belongs to China’s Tang period. The last volume of the Rojin collection contains his letters in Japanese. That’s precious.

I also bought Kaizuka Shigeki’s translation of “The Analects of Confucius” and “Meng Zi.” And I picked up a very thin paperback, “Lao-Tse,” by Ogawa Tamaki. He is a younger brother of Kaizuka Shigeki. And I also I found “Japanese” by Kindaichi Haruhiko. He is a well-known Japanese linguist. Mmm, I’m happy.

On the second day I went to the Jinbōchō festival, I bought a few books here and there. I walked through alleys and stopped by at a few shops showing drama books. I also went to see Suiheisha. The shop specializes in civil rights on Ainu and Okinawan. I didn’t know until the recent years that Okinawans have been discriminated against severely. I have an Okinawan friend, and my old high school friend married an Okinawan man, but the subject never came up. I have a lot to learn about my country. But I’m glad I missed such negativity growing up.

On my third visit to the festival, I went to listen to a talk. The writer’s name was Atouda Takashi. He wrote a surreal fiction called “Napoleon Crazy.” He was funny playing with words in both modern and traditional ways. He talked straight about Nobel prizes on Japanese literature. Thank goodness. Someone agrees with me. He said, “I’m not against anyone getting the prize. But how can the members of the Novel committee decide on whom to pick? They don’t even speak or write Japanese.”

I also have a similar feeling about the popular Japanese writers known to foreign countries. But of course, this cannot help in a way because not enough books were translated and not many people can read Japanese. Translating books is not easy like making scones. But still, I want non-Japanese readers to be aware of this situation. There is much more to it than what readers see about Japanese literature. I’m sure others language writers see the same situation. I’d like to hear from the writers from other countries.

Anyway, I finished reading “Japanese” by Kindaichi Haruhiko. It was the first edition. The book was very lightweight, and the written language was in an old format with the older version of kanji characters. Today, younger people do not or cannot read those books. Even the people of my generation do not bother reading this style of books. I can read them because I had those books at home growing up, and I don’t give up easily. In other word, I’m stubborn.

Nevertheless, the book offered great benefits to me not only because of its rich content, but also the writer’s POV from the pre-WWII era. For an example, he used “Shina-go” instead of “Chugoku-go.” Both mean Chinese language. I asked my young hair stylist the other day if she knew the word “Shina.” She replied she had never heard the word. How fast words fade away. It used to be an offensive word. But I have a feeling that “Shina” will come back in the original form. I’m sure of it. This will be a good thing.

The last day of the festival was my fourth visit. On that day, I found one old collectible book titled “Novel Plays” written in the old style and edited by Kawabata Yasunari. It’s a collection of about six great writers’ novella. By the way, we Japanese say novel (shousetsu) for novel, novella, and short story. We don’t discriminate them. So I liked the title. The sepia papers of the book looked coarse. The book was published during the war. I didn’t know when I would get to read it, but I had to have it.

At 4:30 pm, I went back to Yamamoto Shoten and stood in front of the same small bookcase. A minute later, a man said, “We’re closing.” Instead of going out, I began checking the shelves. I looked and looked, but I didn’t see the rest of the collection by Rojin. Yes, I wanted the whole collection in the back of my mind. Did someone come by and purchase volume 2 to 11? What kind of person is that? People who want to buy a collection need the first and the last volume. Who would buy such incomplete collection? Now I want them more.

Lights in the back went off. I walked over to the manager and told him that I couldn’t find the paperbacks I was looking for. He said, “You’ll probably find them there,” pointing to the racks at the entrance. They are all 200 yen each.” A sales woman was pulling in a rack through the door, saying to the customers, “we are closing.” My mind raced, no time to argue or think. I knew Rojin’s books were not there, but I walked over and checked the rack anyway while they waited. I searched the word “Language” in each title. I selected all the books with “Language” and handed to the manager. He said 1200 yen. I paid and left as they closed the door.

Whew! After four days at Jinbōchō, I bought about 60 books. Now I have to read them and blog. It’s nice to blog. Thank for reading.