This is a curious book, resulting from a student project
at a womens college in Japan, and published to coincide
with an international conference on D.H. Lawrence. The idea
was, the editor tells us, to show visiting scholars some
aspect of Japanese culture. Masako Hirai, who was the students
professor, first introduced her wards to Shiki.
it turned out, the museum commemorating Kyoshi, one of Shikis
main disciples, not far away at Ashiya in Hyogo prefecture,
had a recently discovered manuscript of a Shiki notebook,
known as the Gyôga-manroku. The book under review,
which is beautifully illustrated, presents selected pages
from this journal in photographic reproduction, with transcriptions
in modern Japanese, and translations into English. Since
the journal contains pictures, the illustrations in the
book give us some of Shikis sketches and watercolors.
impression created by all of this is very vivid, much as
a display of the document might be, but there are some mysteries
about the provenance. While remarking that the journal was
found by chance only a few years ago, Hirai does not explain
how it relates to other material about the poet that has
already been collected. Is it simply the original of a notebook
that had been copied already and formed a part of Shikis
works, or is it something wholly new?
answer would seem to be that it is the original of something
already known, since the title appears in Shikis collected
works, and the contents are discussed in works written or
compiled about him. Some of the prose translation tallies
with certain passages quoted by the scholar Janine Beichman,
in her book Masaoka Shiki (first published in 1982); indeed
the editor quotes Beichman in the sections in Japanese.
Of notable interest is an extract from what Beichman calls
the Stray Notes While Lying on My Back, where
Shiki expresses a death wish. Hirai only includes half this
portion (page 30), since it is all on one page, but this
includes two sketches and a final quotation, which is omitted
from the end of the longer Beichman version (126).
seems generally agreed that the notebook was a private one,
never intended for publication. Seventeen extracts have
been printed, though there is no indication of how much
of the original notebook this represents. But all the extractssome
with haiku, some with paintings, some with proseare
extremely interesting. Not being intended for publication,
these notes are extraordinarily direct about the poets
physical condition, and honest in complaint. As Beichman
says, there is no persona for public consumption here, but
real suffering, and the intense, because restricted, pleasures
of the invalid.
records, in paintings and in haiku, the flowers blooming
in his garden and the sky beyond, or the colorful Korean
costume worn by a young girl visitor, and in prose the food
he ate and the progress of his ailments. There is an excellent
picture of a morning glory, for example, but one of the
most surprising pictures is of a food label. Peerless
Chicken Loaf was an American import, its rectangular
label divided diagonally into two triangles of red and yellow,
with a black strip across the middle carrying the name.
It is quite a startling image, like an Andy Warhol soup
can, among the garden views, but reminds us of the poets
interest in all things new. It was Shiki, remember, who
first translated Bashô into English.
is a comment on Bashô, where Shiki unfavorably compares
that poets literary skill, in a verse about the Mogami
River, to a more factual verse about the summer rains by
Buson, that reminds the reader where the present international
orthodoxy comes from. Affixed to the top of the page is
a sketch of a bridge across a river sent to Shiki by an
artist friend in Paris. Shikis own prose and haiku
are not particularly well translated here. Most of the haiku
are given as sentences:
single morning glory in a small
pot has withered.
where not quite a sentence in the English version, no attempt
has been made at suggesting breaks with lineation:
frost, there is nothing
blue in the small yard
not that in any case be green? There are explanatory
essays at the beginning and end, and the word haiku
is italicized throughout.
of the notes, explaining things like futon and tatami, are
rather quaint, but they are comprehensive. Despite its shortcomings,
this is a well-designed book that whets ones appetite
for more. It can be viewed on <amazon.co.jp>, though
it will be necessary to give the title in Japanese. The
students must have enjoyed compiling the book, and their
comments are recorded in it.