Friday, December 27, 2019

Since Then

I haven’t written anything for so many weeks and the year is now going.

I don’t have enough work to make the company in profit these days, which is of course scary. In November, I had a small translation job about IOLs and a 3-day interpretation job for the same company about a training for sales trainers. And this month was better with two translation jobs for a Tokyo company affiliated with a German-based airline, 1-day interpretation for a Japanese TV producer and, in the following week in Tokyo, a 4-day interpretation job for medical-equipment engineers. I really enjoyed my stay in Tokyo, even with minor accidents (I got lost my way in Shimbashi as the trains and the Hahamatsucho platform were very crowded… Somehow, I managed to rejoin them after an hour or so).

And it’s been about penmanship, fountain pens and Kaiko Takeshi.  I got Rotring (not Montblanc) pens with five different nib sizes. And some dip pens too. And trying to see how it feels writing with them.

The book about Kaiko by Tanizawa was so powerful that my interest, limited to his reports about the Vietnam War until then, in Kaiko deepened. After this book by Tanizawa, I’ve read “輝ける闇, ” “青い月曜日,” ”夏の闇,” “破れた繭,” and ”夜と陽炎.

Two days ago, I started “日本三文オペラ,” which is a fascinating Osaka story, and “ロマネ・コンティ一九三五年”  is waiting now. I also have four books of “新八犬伝.” The DVD of the puppet drama was rather disappointing.

Wednesday, October 02, 2019

Loneliness Can Kill

These days, almost every day, when I wake up, anxiety attacks. It feels like my wrists are swollen with blood circulation. And an article in The Economist, How Does It Really Feel to Be Lonely, expresses many things that I also feel.

 “’I’m lonely, and I want to have a family’, and there’s a kind of shame in that.”

“if I were to write the truth [to a dating site] – that I’m lonely and worried I might not have a family – it would be just the most off-putting thing.”

“The greatest suffering is being lonely, feeling unloved, just having no one,” Mother Teresa wrote.

“They feel ashamed or embarrassed, as though feeling lonely isn’t something serious.”

“I think it is very likely”, [the psychologist Adam Phillips] says, “that people who are lonely as adults were lonely as children.”

Looking back, James explains, he reckons he had begun to distance himself from his parents and their bitterly unhappy marriage when he was about six. By the time they divorced, when he was nine, he was “completely separate” from them: “I was living in the same house as my mother and sister, but I probably wouldn’t spend more than 15 minutes a day in their company. I routinely had meals alone, then went back up to my room and stayed there, alone.”

“Loneliness is worthlessness. You feel you don’t fit in, that people don’t understand you. You feel terrible about yourself, you feel rejected. Everyone goes to the pub, but they don’t invite you. Why? Because there’s something wrong with you.”

“Like being surrounded by a dark void that you have no way of crossing.”

“Mental-health problems and depression are quite fashionable now, but loneliness is not fashionable. There’s something shameful about it – ‘it’s my fault, there’s something wrong with me, I’m a horrible person.’”

For 91-year-old Robbie, living in Kent and a widower since 2012, “loneliness is not having somebody to do nothing with.”

After three books by Kaiko, I’m now reading The Sacred Willow by Mai Eliott. Yesterday, another book by Tim O’brien, If I Die in a Combat Zone, arrived and Tanizawa Eiichi’s book on Kaiko should be on its way here.

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Ridiculous Foreign Language Learning in Japan

This afternoon, interpretation. Only for a few hours, but I had to follow speakers who never stopped for me.

And tonight, I finished Kaiko Takeshi’s autobiography, Torn Cocoon (破れた繭). The book covers many of the same things I’ve read about in Blue Monday, but there are several differences. For example, a maid working at a US military dormitory (Blue Monday), who asked about the pronunciation of “water,” becomes an “airline stewardess” (Torn Cocoon), who asked if he had been to Korea, the questions he had to handle at an English conversation school he was working. And the man who asked for private lessons for his upcoming trip to the US. In Blue Monday, he is the company president of a pharmacy chain in Osaka and in Torn Cocoon he is the company president of a confectionary manufacturer.

航空会社のスチュワーデス「韓国へ行ったことがありますか」(破れた繭 耳の物語1)
「菓子会社の社長」(破れた繭 耳の物語1)

But, a passage in Torn Cocoon, where my eyes stopped flowing, roughly says, “I was made to feel the pleasure of a sailor who is approaching a desert island by deconstructing long, complicated English sentences and reconstructing them in Japanese.”

「長くて複雑な英語の文章を分解したり日本文に組立てなおしたりする仕事には無人島に近づいていく水夫の愉しみをおぼえさせられた」 (開高健:破れた繭 耳の物語1)

Later, Kaiko laments his own lack of understanding of English in The Cross of Saigon. That’s not surprising at all. He tried to learn English by deconstructing English sentences and reconstructing them in Japanese. That is how it still is in Japan, I guess. Understanding English as and in Japanese… It doesn’t work. It never will. Deconstructing and reconstructing is just like adding numbers and symbols to Chinese texts to make them appear Japanese sentences! That’s not the way to learn Chinese, though I know those “Chinese” classes are not intended to teach students to learn the Chinese language. But what a waste… People still don’t seem to understand it, and teachers only follow the way given by the Ministry of Education that probably knows nothing about language learning. The maid’s question about the “water” pronunciation is stupid, and the teacher, Kaiko, didn’t know how to handle it.

Monday, September 23, 2019

Against the Flood by Ma Van Khang and Kaiko Takeshi

Now I remember on August 2 at CC, I said, “I can be very irritable when I’m busy and depressed when I have no business.” He said, “Then, you’re alive.” True, but tough.

On Saturday (21st), I woke up early. And I even thought about having bak ku the as breakfast in the neighborhood, but moved to the sofa and, lying down on it, began reading the remaining pages of Against the Flood by Ma Van Khang and, after the last page of it, started to read Aoi Getsuyobi (Blue Monday) by Kaiko. Against the Flood had an unexpected turn, with the beautiful “Hoan,” dealing with opium trade to get rich to shame those cowards and schemers who had acted against a man, “Khiem,” she so loved, being put in prison and mysteriously being freed by her “Network.” We don’t know if Hoan and Khiem ever met again. And it seems to me the story is rather forced, leaving me to think, “Oh no. Don’t stop there.” I wish I could read Vietnamese.

Reading Aoi Getsuyobi explains, and helps me understand, parts of Kaiko’s later works that I’ve read, Into a Black Sun and Darkness in Summer.

I still have Mai Elliot’s The Sacred Willow to read, whom I’ve met in PBS’s The Vietnamese War by Ken Burns and Lynn Novick, and Kaiko’s two volumes of his autobiography.

Surprisingly, Kaiko Takeshi describes in Blue Monday most of the countless “English conversation schools” sprouted up right after the war’s end “indecent.” “Indecent” is the adjective I always use for the “English conversation industry” where I had worked from the late 1980s to the early 1990.

Sunday, September 08, 2019

Harsh Criticism of Japanese by "Her" in Darkness in Summer

In Darkness of Summer (夏の闇), “she,” who is Japanese and hates Japanese, harshly and mercilessly criticizes them (ヤマト) for their:

Gait, which is graceless;
Look in the eyes, especially of intellectuals, which is both fearful and arrogant;
Anxiety for being alone and inability of being independent (sitting against the wall at restaurants, sitting together with other Japanese, and eating with Japanese correspondents and academics every day at the same restaurant);
Incapability of being original (similarity of overseas reports from Japanese newspapers because correspondents exchange information among themselves and rehashes of articles of overseas newspapers);
Mutual soothing of correspondents, academics and businessmen by cussing which can be understood only among themselves;
Mutual cussing among correspondents, academics and businessmen as soon as they parted;
Sly behavior of academics who quickly translate academic articles published overseas (“horizontal to vertical”) to become popular if they are consistent with the wave of Japanese media;
Inability of academics of reaching conclusions as a result of serious discussion with overseas peers;
Hopeless attitude of academics who launch overbearing debates with decisive conclusions once back home; and
Wrong, funny and bad translations by academics;

After these, “she” describes a “God-like” Japanese scholar in Kyoto, whose speech in Chinese was not understood at all by Chinese and a very prestigious Japanese scholar of English in Tokyo, whose speech in English at a Shakespeare Association in “London or somewhere” was not comprehended at all. Then, “she” wonders if a Shakespeare scholar should write his diary in the language of Shakespeare.

Her criticism continues.

Members of agricultural associations who walk in hotel corridors wearing only “steteko,” underpants for men that go below the knees, saying that if they have enough money to travel overseas, they should set things in order inside their families and surroundings;
Attitude of trading houses, who with overseas allowances that make them feel bigger than they are, for indulging in shallow luxuries;
Hitchhiking girls who get pregnant by falling to foreign men only with their making a little pass;
Attitude of gentlemen, who begin sex talks with drinks, whose cocks shrinks as soon as they see the naked bodies of White prostitutes and, nonetheless, boast about their experience;
Tourists who give “ukiyoe” postal stamps and “kokeshi” dolls to anybody from hotel porters to tobacco-peddling girls at cabarets;
Cameo sellers in Italy who hawk to Japanese with wide grins, singing an old Japanese song for kids;
Embassy officials who cuss the smell of Limberger cheese while spreading that of pickled white radish and “kusaya” dried fish;
Tokyo with more than 100,000 people and enthusiastic about building highways and skyscrapers for dumping shit of 60-70% of its population into sea by ship;
Reporters, academics and critics who cuss Japan and the Japanese; and
Translators who are also literati, publishing companies, newspapers, right-wingers, left-wingers and everything “she” can think about Japan and the Japanese

I don’t hate Japanese. Nor do I hate being Japanese. And I’m not arrogant being Japanese. Nor am I ashamed of being one. However, I absolutely understand what “she” says here. I think these comments reflect the author’s own experiences and his own inability to be otherwise.