One Hundred Poems from the Japanese by Kenneth Rexroth


[on pivot words] “The word matsu, for example, is often used in the sense of ‘pine’ and ‘long for’ exactly as in the English ‘pine’ and ‘pine.’ Naku is  used in the double sense of ‘cry’ and ‘without.'”

“Classical Japanese poetry is read in a slow drone, usually a low falsetto; that is, the voice is kept lower and more resonant than its normal pitch, with equal time and stress on each syllable.”

[on “Murasaki”] “Roughly it means ‘purple’ or purple-dyed.’ Actually it is the name of the Lithospermum erythromrhizon, a purple rooted plant of the borage or forget-me-not family. A related species is called ‘puccoon’ in the USA, and was once used as a rather fugitive dye.”

some interesting information from the intro to Rexroth’s One Hundred Poems from the Japanese

Some Prefer Nettles by Junichiro Tanizaki


“Ichimura is known as ‘puppet-town,’ and its theater goes back, one hardly knows how many centuries, to a certain court nobleman who was banished from Kyoto and came to live in Ichimura, and who in his boredom with country life took to making puppets and to manipulating them for his own amusement. The famous Aawaji Gennojo family descends from him, it is said.”

“With the heart of Kyoto changing so rapidly, one has to go to Wakayama, Sakai, Himeji, Nishinomiya, to find the old cities as they have always been.”

“A pure white bath or toilet is a piece of Western foolishness. It matters little, you may say, because no one is around to see, but a device that sets your own sewage out in front of your eyes is highly offensive to good taste. How much more proper to dispose of it modestly in as dark and out-of-the-way a corner as you can find.”

some quotes I enjoyed from Tanizaki’s Some Prefer Nettles

Dandelions by Yasunari Kawabata


“Can you imagine a baby being so adorable, so utterly adorable that you just keep staring and staring until it dissolves away, and you don’t see it anymore?” asked Kuno.

“To enter the Buddha world is easy; to enter the world of demons is difficult.” (Ikkyu)

“You used to feel sorry for the camellia blossoms when they dropped, so you would gather them up. Put them in envelopes, between the pages of a book. I never once saw you sweep the flowers up and throw them away.”

some quotes I loved from Dandelions, the unfinished novel by Kawabata

Hiroshige: Masterworks of Ukiyo-e


“Hokusai and Hiroshige, who are generally held to be the greatest of the nineteenth century ukiyo-e artists, both died penniless. (Hiroshige’s will contains passages explaining in detail how the mortgage on his newly bought house should be paid off. Hokusai, toward the end of his life, wrote to his publisher asking for money, saying that he had not even enough clothes to keep himself warm.)”

“Unlike most ukiyo-e artists who came mostly from very humble origins, Hiroshige’s family was one of moderate respectability…” [Both he and his dad were fire wardens]

“In [Toyokuni’s] studio at that time were already such noted artists as Kunisada and Kuniyoshi, and had Hiroshige worked with them it is unlikely that he would have had the freedom to develop that he enjoyed under Toyohiro.”

some interesting info I found in the Hiroshige volume of the Masterworks of Ukiyo-e series

Japanese Books – Ima wa mukashi


images taken from the Boston Museum of Fine Art‘s collection

“…Imawa-mukashi (a simple translation of which would be ‘Once upon a time. . .’, though the opening characters can also mean ‘stories of strange demons’).

“There is one other inexplicable feature of Imawa-mukashi: it repeats several creatures, in almost unchanged form, that appear in a painted scroll by the Maruyama/Shijo artist Komai Genki.”

“. . . by showing the awful unnerving effect of the apparitions on ordinary human beings, Shunei heightens their terrifying aspect.”

“. . . [I]n the three volumes comprising the work, there is limited colour-printing, but it is invariably effective, eerily highlighting bloodstains, or menacing shapes, like the bulk of the ogre-mountain, printed a sullen red in the original.”

~from The Art of the Japanese Book by Jack Hillier