If WWII resulted in the brutal dismantling of Japan’s urban spaces, then the recovery effort was a vast re-imagining of local landscapes. Construction projects expanded cities and domesticated rivers, locking national territory into an efficient, corrective brace. The highly successful economic growth policies implemented by the conservative ruling party quickly brought Japan affluence, urban problems, and rampant environmental pollution.
The brilliant triumph of Japan’s “economic miracle” represented a dizzying rise from the poverty and hunger of defeat to the heights of capitalist luxury. By the end of the war, many of Japan’s cities had been reduced to so much rubble and ash. Millions of people had been displaced due to devastating air raids, and food and material shortages were dire. Japan’s economy was in shambles.
Ishigaki Rin, Part Two: Authority and Brutality
(Click here for Part One)
Having graduated from primary school and found employment with the Industrial Bank of Japan in 1934, Ishigaki Rin devoted her free time to poetry, and by her late teens she had participated in the founding of a small poetry journal.
When the 1941 Imperial Proclamation of War on the United States of America and England was promulgated, Ishigaki Rin was 21. In an essay titled “On Life and Writing Poetry”（「詩を書くことと、生きること」）Ishigaki says that her poetry at the time was mostly personal, separated from both her work and society. Her experiences during WWII, however, would instill Ishigaki with a concern that would shape her poetry and writing. In the same essay, she recalls:
Ishigaki Rin was born in Akasaka, Tokyo in 1920, the first child of a firewood and charcoal peddler. At age 4 she lost her mother, who had suffered injuries in the wake of the 1923 Great Kanto Earthquake. Although her father remarried just three years later, by age 18 Ishigaki had known three step mothers, and seen the death of a younger sibling.
Just recently I watched the first two installments of the new Ghost in the Shell OVA (titled “Arise”). One of the many great aspects of the new OVAs has been the outstanding musical selection. Today I’d like to introduce two songs (artists) from the series (both EDs) and my translations of the lyrics.
(Image: Bricks with ceramic fragments, Arita, Japan)
While interpreting for some visitors from the USA recently, Miyazawa Kenji’s poem 「雨ニモマケズ」(Strong in the Rain) came up in conversation–as one would expect, they had never heard of it. The poem, which had already been a widely-known perennial favorite in Japan for decades, became almost ubiquitous in the wake of the Great East Japan Earthquake. As simple as the poem is, I decided I would just jot down my own translation. And, having already gone that far, I thought I would also upload said translation here.
Sketch of a Mental Image: Spring and Ashura*
The phenomenon of myself
is a blue illumination from a
temporary organic alternating current light bulb.
(A compound of every transparent spirit)
A blue illumination
from a karmatic alternating current light bulb
burning so certainly yet
flickering restlessly, restlessly
along with landscapes and all things.
(The illumination is preserved the bulb is lost)
This is a faithful sketch of a mental image
twenty two months
from the direction I perceive to be the past
each individual chain of shadow and light
(All things flicker with me
And everything perceives simultaneously)
preserved until now
in lines of paper and mineral ink.
People, galaxies, Ashura, sea urchin—although these
consume the dust of the universe breathing air or salt water
and a vivid ontology could surely be conceived for each
in the end they are nothing more than a landscape of the spirit.
Yet each of these faithfully recorded landscapes
is just as it has been recorded and
if that is nothingness than this is just as nothingness itself is and
it is shared to some degree by everything.
(Just as everything is all that is within me,
it is also all that is in each and every thing)
But contained in the Holocene epoch of the Cenezoic period’s
enormously bright accumulation of time
within the light-dark shading that is equivalent to no more than a mere point
(or a billion years of Ashura)
these things which were supposed to be so faithfully recorded
already change their structure and disposition.
Yet nevertheless it is possible
that myself and the printer have a tendency
to perceive these things as unchanging.
Just as we perceive our sensory organs and
landscapes and people
And just as we merely perceive in common,
Records and history geological history—
the various data of each—
(according to the limitations of karmatic space and time)
amount to no more than our perception.
Perhaps in another two thousand years
a geology two thousand years different will develop
according to overwhelming proof that emerges steadily from the past
and we will think that roughly two thousand years ago
the blue sky was filled with colourless peacocks
and up and coming collegiate scholars will excavate exquisite fossils
from among the frozen nitrogen in
the top layers of the atmosphere
or perhaps even mankind’s enormous invisible footprint
will be discovered
on the face of layers of sandstone from the Cretaceous period.
Each of these hypothetical propositions
will be asserted within the fourth continuum**
as the nature of the mental image or even time itself.
January 20th, Taisho 13 (1924)
*Ashura – One of the six domains within the realm of desire from buddhist cosmology (part of the 31 paths of rebirth); the beings within this realm. Asura (jealous gods), like humans, are both part good and part evil. Their life is more pleasurable than that of humans, but they are plagued by envy, etc.
Order of the domains within the cycle of reincarnation, according to Japanese Buddhism:
Tendo – God Realm
Jindo – Human Realm
Shurado – Asura (jealous-god) Realm
Chikushodo – Animal Realm
Gakido – Preta (hungry ghost) Realm
Jigokudo – Hell Realm
**The Fourth Continuum – this term appears to involve Kenji’s original interpretation of the sutras and buddhist teachings. Mindstream = Buddhist moment-to-moment continuum of awareness
Original Japanese Poem: