Spreading the charms of Japan to the world from Fukui




The fifth collection of tanka by Machi Tawara called “I am Mario” (2013)



*Tanka means a 31-syllables Japanese poem.

I read the book ”I am Mario" sometimes before I go to sleep.
Every tanka is lively and I feel overwhelmed with her remarkable talent in creating tankas.


Machi moved to Ishigaki Island from Sendai City after the Great East Japan Earthquake
with her son, who was 7 years old. After a while, she noticed that he hasn’t been used his game machine and said to him “You don’t play a game lately, do you?” Then he replied “Because I am the Mario now, mom.” The book title was taken from this conversation.
Since he came to Ishigaki Island, it seems that he came to think he himself was the game’s main character by spending time in nature.
Here is her tanka about that.


“I am Mario now” since we came to this island, my son stopped playing a game


Talking of Machi’s son, now there is a collection of sayings on the internet.
And his sayings had been a popular topic on Twitter. He seems to have a good taste in choice of words, which may be because of a gene from his mother.


Additionally, I will introduce some other tankas which are about life in Ishigaki Island from the collection.


Short winter is gone like a part of paste and the island’s beaches open in March
A shower gets the island wet like crunchy straws are falling
Daily life like Orion Beer is always in the fridge is not bad and my 40’s passes
The day I did snorkeling, I thought humans are creatures on the upper half of the earth
School of fish turns around quickly and smoothly like dropping oil on a mass game
In June, kids of the island practice in a rice field not for planting but harvesting
My son is sleeping with a reward of the day, which he saw a crested serpent eagle
While I can see everything through the eyes of a traveler, I see the blue of the sea


By the way, Machi Tawara is a person who has a deep connection to Fukui Prefecture.
Because she used to live in Echizen City in her junior and high school days. Also, she is
a big fan of brothers and a cousin’s band “Kiiyama Shoten” from Ishigaki Island, like myself,
so I have a sense of closeness very much. In Ishigaki Island, she was on the radio together with the members of the Kiiyama Shoten. Currently, she lives in Miyazaki City because of her work but she sometimes visits ‘home’ Ishigaki Island.


As for the cover of the book, the work of a textile designer from Ishigaki Island,
MIMURI is used. The colors are very beautiful and bright. The image is exactly the same with vegetation in Okinawa and Ishigaki Island. (H.S)



Machi Tawara talks about “I am Mario” (Only in Japanese)

Reading Arthur Binard



Arthur Binard is an American poet, who was born in Michigan in 1967.
He came to Japan upon graduating university, and started writing poetry and translation.
He received the Chuya Nakahara Prize for his first anthology.
After that, he received many other prizes.
Now he lives in Hiroshima City, appears on TV and radio and energetically gives lectures across Japan.


Actually, his lecture was held in July here in Fukui City too, but I couldn’t go.
My dead friend used to say about him, so I have always wanted to read his books and read his two essays only recently.


He writes that he is often asked “What is your most favorite Japanese words?” and
it is very hard to answer because he has so many. I sometimes see the same question to
foreign people on TV shows. If I am asked “What is your most favorite English words?”,
I cannot answer quickly either because I have so many ones too.


Also, it is interesting that he has gaps between English in Japan and his sense as an American. For example, in the 2008 U.S. presidential election, in Obama City, Fukui Prefecture, they supported Obama and the supporters' logo mark showed “FIGHT OBAMA”.
The term makes sense in Japanese but in English, it has totally the opposite meaning.
Afterwards, someone pointed it out and it changed to I LOVE OBAMA.
Even so, he felt a gap but it matched well with the farce of presidential race.


By the way, the Japanese words that he wants to export to the United States
is “hanafubuki” (blowing snow-like fluttery petals).
In his hometown, Michigan, when petals are are falling, they only compare it to cottons.


I recommend books of Arthur Binard, especially for English learners and translators.
I am sure that you can discover a lot. (H.S)


Here is an article about his lecture in Fukui City in July.
(from Daily Kenmin Fukui on July 4th, 2017)
An acquaintance who listened to his lecture said “It was good one than I expected and
so happy. I was almost crying. I have never met any American like him who tells the truth. ” His topics ranged from the attack on Pearl Harbor to Daigo Fukuryu Maru.

“Walls in Kyoto” written by Dr. Takeshi Yoro



An anatomist, Dr. Takeshi Yoro gave a lecture at a lecture meeting by Bhutan Museum
in Fukui City, last year.
In fact, his father was from Ono City, Fukui Prefecture, so he has a connection with Fukui.
We took its video and posted it on this website and our YouTube channel.
I subtitled it in Japanese and English spending a long time, so now I feel an affinity with him.
Here is the video.

Speaking of Dr. Yoro, his big bestselling book called “The Wall of Fools” is famous, but he is also well-known as a bug lover. And, he likes Bhutan, so he has visited Bhutan many times. But, why Kyoto now? It is because he became the first director of Kyoto International Manga Museum and served the position until this spring.


Dr. Yoro is interested in “cities”. When he sees Kyoto as a city, he says that the most unique thing is there is no castle in Kyoto. Although the title of the book is “Walls in Kyoto”, he said there is no wall in Kyoto first so I was surprised.
According to him, instead, Japan made “Emotional wall” as a ritual boundary.


I smiled when I read about dogs in Bhutan as he said at the lecture last year.
Moreover, when I read about his cat “Maru”, it was irresistible because Maru is so cute
and its photobook was even published!


"Dr. Yoro and his cat Maru"

Dr. Yoro wrote that in Kyoto, there are values which are different from money.
For example, Kyoto values students and learning, culture and traditions.
It is said that the wall in Kyoto is high but it is a little lower for university professors
and students. So students seem to have gathered from across the country.


Tracking back the history, the reason for capital relocation was probably due to resources,
he said. It was abundant in groundwater and Heian Period lasted for such long time, which means it was a fairly wise choice. However, abundant groundwater makes so cold in winter and hot in summer, because once the groundwater warms up, it’s hard to cool down, and in winter, it freezes as the groundwater gets cold. I thought vaguely that Kyoto is a basin so it’s hot in summer and cold in winter but actually it was due to the groundwater. Indeed, the heat from the ground surface in Kyoto, it is quite different from the heat in hot and humid Fukui.


Meanwhile, he wrote that cities where develop to a high degree flourish centering on a river like Paris and the Seine, and Kamo-gawa River equals to the Seine.
Indeed, I cannot imagine Paris and Kyoto without the Seine and Kamo-gawa River neither.


According to him, “You can learn the attraction of Kyoto only by visiting there. So I guess
people visit Kyoto including me. Even if there is the wall of Kyoto there.”
Maybe because there is such an invisible wall, its mystique has born, intriguing and a culture of its own has accumulated.


When I finished reading the book, I wanted to walk around Kyoto again.
After it gets much cooler…(H.S)


Walls in Kyoto written by Takeshi Yoro

Akutagawa Prize winning novel “Convenience Store Woman” by Sayaka Murata



I am curious how she lives her life. Because she has been working part-time at a same convenience store for 18 years after graduating from university.
There is no clerk left who got training with her initially. The store manager is the eighth.  


I’m sure the main character Keiko comes to the convenience store today and
eats breakfast that she bought at the store in its backroom and after a morning meeting,
she greets their customers with high energy.
“Good morning!”
She says that she likes this moment. Because she feels like a time of “morning” is bringing into herself. The author herself is the model for Keiko. Even after winning the Akutagawa Prize, she works at the convenience store.


― While working at a convenience store, I am often looked down. But I rather liked watching their faces whose looked down on me. Because I had a feeling that they were truly humans.
As I read the part, I was shocked. She likes watching such people’s faces?
What kind of person is she? Also, she says that she has very little feeling of anger.
In the story as well, she doesn’t criticize others.
On the other hand, she doesn’t flatter anyone.


― A new convenience store that is supposed to open soon looks like a transparent
aquarium on the first floor of an office building. ―
There are many impressive expressions and I like the best this figurative one that
I can see the scene instantly.


Keiko may not be a normal person, indeed. But is normal such a great thing? I think
that it’s about time people should be released from normal. When Keiko thinks that
she exists for the convenience store, she thinks that she is a significant creature.
So, anyway, I feel happy there is a place for her called convenience store.


According to my friend who used to teach Japanese to foreigners, an American student
said, “Japanese convenience store are like the land of dreams. They sell everything,
you can draw money and send a package by courier service. And, you can buy tickets
for the real land of dreams Tokyo Disneyland! But in America, convenient stores are usually next to gas stations, dirty, dim and very dangerous.”


I wish Japanese convenience stores and the people work there a happy future! (H.S)


A novel “Echizen Bamboo Doll” by Tsutomu Mizukami



I visited “Echizen Bamboo Doll Village”, where was in Maruoka, Sakai City, to take a video
near the end of last year.
Speaking of Echizen bamboo doll reminded me of the novel of the same title by
Tsutomu Mizukami. So I read it on the occasion.


“Weeping Cherry Tree” Created by Reimei Morota(1936-2010) from the website of
“Echizen Bamboo Doll Village”  


The novel is set in present South Echizen Town. However, it is written in
Wakasa dialect which is close to Kyoto language thoroughly. It may cause a problem by current proofreading but it matched the subtle and profound world of the novel.


The main character of the novel, Kisuke grew up without mother’s love. After his father
who was a master of bamboo craft died, Tamae, who was a prostitute in Awara hot springs visited Kisuke and said that his father had been a help to her.


Afterwards, she got into trouble and was deeply upset. I was impressed that he depicted
her feelings realistically as if he was a woman himself.


Because she didn’t want to hurt her most important person, she thought and thought again. Once she makes a decision, she will just do it. Tsutomu Mizukami wrote well such aspect of women’s ways as if Tamae possessed him. Or, it seems that he wanted to tell us that women are in a vulnerable position at any rate and women cry over reasonable things.


A famous writer Junichiro Tanizaki commented on the novel as follows.
― It left feelings as if I read Japanese classics. Also, it is good that the plot flows naturally.
I even associate ”The Tale of Bamboo Cutter“ with the novel because Tamae is compared to spirit of bamboo. ー


By the way, a Japanese famous theater group Bungakuza performed the “Echizen
Bamboo Doll” last October to November. While the performance period, Fukui Prefecture
sold its specialty like Habutae-mochi, bamboo dolls etc. and they were sold out.
I hope that they will perform it in Fukui someday. (H.S)


Here is a video that we took about two foreigners who live in Fukui experience to make bamboo dolls.