hisakata no

hikari nodokeki

   haru no hi ni

shizugokoro naku

hana no chiru ramu


  On a day in spring

with the light softly extending

   into the distance,

one would say the blossoms fall

because of their troubled hearts.


-- Ki no Tomonori

Poem 33 from One Hundred Poems by One Hundred Poets

(See notes and more poems.)


Literary News

Letter written by Natsume Sōseki discovered (June 10, 2014)

A letter written in 1896 by novelist Natsume Sōseki (1867-1916) to Ikai Takehiko, one of his colleagues at Ehime Prefectural Middle School in Matsuyama, has been discovered at the home of Ikai's grandson in Wakayama City by the grandson's eldest daughter. Ikai had tried to pay a visit to Sōseki before the latter's departure for Kumamoto, but Sōseki had not been at his lodging so Ikai had left a letter and a tanka with the caretaker. Soseki wrote back the next day apologizing for his absence and adding a haiku of his own. Sōseki's letter also included two poem-cards on which Sōseki had written two more haiku. In addition, an 1899 New Year's card from Sōseki, traveling in Ōita Prefecture at the time, was also discovered, suggesting that the two former colleagues had maintained a correspondence.

Unpublished tanka by Yosano Akiko discovered (June 17, 2014)

Two previously unpublished tanka composed by poet Yosano Akiko (1878-1942) have been discovered among five poem-cards in the possession of a restaurant owner in the city of Tsushima, Aichi Prefecture. The poem-cards were apparently written when Yosano visited Tsushima to give a lecture at a girls' school in 1935, and they all bear Yosano's name as well as the brush-inscribed poems themselves. kurenai no / botan saku hi wa / oozora mo / chi ni shitagaeru / kokochi koso sure (On a day when / crimson peonies bloom, / even the broad sky / seems willing to yield / pride of place to the earth.) haru no yo no / nami mo tsuki aru / oozora mo / tomo ni ginshi no / yoreru tokoro wa [or possibly "yoreru tokoro zo"] On a night in spring, / both waves and the broad sky / with its bright moon / seem thoroughly entwined / in strands of silver. The proprietor of the restaurant, Yamada Harunobu, discovered the poem-cards inside a paper box on a storage shelf in the Buddhist altar room of his home. It is thought that the poems were left by Yosano when she stopped for lunch at an inn being operated at the time by Yamada's family.

Another tanka by Yosano Akiko discovered (July 2, 2014)

A tanka composed by poet Yosano Akiko (1878-1942) has been discovered in Wakayama Prefecture. The tanka is in praise of a furuya-ishi -- an unusually shaped natural stone often suggestive of mountain landscape -- originally the property of the collector Noguchi Ritarō of Tanabe City and now owned by his grandson Hiroshi. Yasano apparently saw the stone at an exhibition Rintarō held at Mitsukoshi Department Store in Tokyo, and composed the tanka in appreciation. Rintarō had titled the stone, which might be interpreted as a human figure holding an object in its hands, "Mi Fu Admires a Stone." Mi Fu, or Bei Fu in Japanese, was an eccentric but talented Chinese literati of the Northern Song Dynasty who took a special interest in collecting distinctively shaped stones. Yosano's poem humorously notes that Mi Fu has been eternally fixed in stone while admiring a stone of his own. The existence of the poem had previously been documented, but the text was not known.

Letters between Kawabata Yasunari and Itō Hatsuyo discovered (July 9, 2014)

Ten letters received by Nobel Prize-winning novelist Kawabata Yasunari (1899-1972) from his early fiancé Itō Hatsuyo (1906-1951) have been discovered at Kawabata's former home in Kamakura, along with one letter addressed by Kawabata to Itō that was never sent. Kawabata met Itō when she was a 13-year-old waitress at a cafe in Tokyo's Hongō district. After the cafe was closed in 1920, Hatsuyo was sent to live in Gifu and Kawabata didn't see her for a year, but in 1921 contact was reestablished and the two became engaged. It was in early November that Itō wrote Kawabata saying that a "certain event" (or "certain emergency" -- aru hijō) made it necessary for her to leave him. The letters from Hatsuyo start from from September 1921; the unsent and undated letter from Kawabata, which expresses concern over Itō's delay in responding to his previous letter, appears to have been intended for posting sometime in or after late October. It is not known why Kawabata did not send the letter.

An additional unpublished tanka composed by Yosano Akiko discovered (July 11, 2014)

In what has become something of a windfall, another previously unpublished tanka by poet Yosano Akiko (1878-1942) has been discovered in Tokyo. The poem, composed a month after the Marco Polo Bridge Incident in July 1937, expresses dismay over the fighting between China and Japan. The tanka reads akikaze ya / ikusa hajimari / minato naru / tada no fune sae / mite kanashikere (Autumn wind-- / with a war now under way, / I view with sadness / even the ordinary boats / I see in the harbor). The tanka is brush-written on a folding fan that belonged to a former government official who happened to meet Yosano at a coffee shop in Yokohama and asked her to inscribe a poem on his fan. The official's son has had the fan in his possession since his father's death.

151st Akutagawa and Naoki Prizes announced (July 17, 2014)

The 151st Akutagawa Prize has been won by Shibasaki Tomoka for Haru no niwa (Spring Garden, published in the June issue of Bungakukai). The 151st Naoki Prize will go to Kurokawa Hiroyuki for Hamon (Expelled, published by Kadokawa). This was Shibasaki's fourth shortlisting for the Akutagawa Prize and Kurokawa's sixth for the Naoki Prize. The presentation ceremony will be held in Tokyo in late August.

Letter with haiku from Natsume Sōseki to Masaoka Shiki discovered (August 13, 2014)

A letter written by novelist Natsume Sōseki (1867-1916) to his friend the haiku poet Masaoka Shiki (1867-1902) has been found at a bookshop in Tokyo. The letter, dated August 23, 1897, was written in Kamakura the day after Sōseki attended a poetry meeting at Masaoka’s Nezu home in Tokyo, and contains nine haiku, including two that have never been published. Sōseki’s wife, Kyōko, was convalescing in Kamakura at the time, and one of the unpublished haiku refers to her illness:  Kyō ni futsuka / mata Kamakura no / aki o omou (Two days in Tokyo, / then thoughts again of autumn / in Kamakura.). The other haiku refers to the temple of Engakuji, which later figured in Sōseki’s novel Mon (The Gate). The letter was found among other documents the owner of the bookshop—located in Kogenei—had purchased about 15 years ago in Osaka.