Japan Diary 2: Some Japanese Literature

Spring rain —
In our palanquin, you whisper
Sweet nothing

You said that you know/read/and have Buson’s books of haiku but never come across this one. I found it in a bookstore on one cold night in Kyoto. Me and my boyfriend, we were taking refuge in this place. My spot was in front a bookshelf of books about Japan: Japan’s guidebooks, Japanese phrasebooks, books about tea, books about onsen, and also, books of Japanese literature.

The verse was in a compilation of Japanese haiku, with theme on love and erotica. I sneakily jotted down some haiku on my iPhone. Sorry, but everything was so expensive here so I had to save. Besides, I didn’t like every haiku that were in the book, I only like some. Some, such as:

Don’t, please
When she whispers in
You’re halfway there


Teased by
Every visitor — the bride
The morning after

At the same book shop, I saw printed words on the spine: “As I Crossed a Bridge of Dream”.

Who said names are not important? (Ok, I know one of them is Shakespeare–the “What’s in a name? that which we call a rose”. But In this context, I totally disagree). If it’s not because of the name, I wouldn’t pick up As I Crossed a Bridge of Dreams, another book I found there.

When back at the guesthouse that night. I wrote down names of Japanese books I want to read. Here they are:

  1.  As I Crossed a Bridge of Dreams: Recollections of a Woman in 11th-Century Japan, by Lady Sarashina (Penguin Classics)
  2.  The Book of Tea, Kakuzo Okakura (Penguin)
  3.  Anthology of Japanese Literature: From the Earliest Era to the Mid-Nineteenth Century, edited by Donald Keene (Grove Press, 1994)

The third one–Anthology of Japanese Literature, I couldn’t resist the temptation. It costed around 900 THB. I then took the picture of the cover and showed it to you. You pinged back with another picture. Same book but in hard cover. You won, this time.

It was the first paragraph, or even, first several sentences of Kagerō Nikki’s The Mother of Michitsuna that made me decided to take it home with me. It begins:

“The year of my youth have passed, and I can see little in them that suggests greatness. It is, I suppose, natural that I should have fallen into such mediocrity.” – The Mother of Michitsuna, Kagerō Nikki 

You also have The Book of Tea. Well, my boyfriend has it too. You guys should compete. He’s a Japanese nerd no lesser than you.


Anthology of Japanese Literature: From the Earliest Era to the Mid-Nineteenth Century, edited by Donald Keene

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