A Blessing And A Verse

Posted by on Sep 26, 2011 in Iwate, Travel Volunteer Journey | 3 Comments
A Blessing And A Verse

Because of a defective part of my brain, and because studying English literature largely removes the fun from reading, I don’t like poetry. That’s a pretty sweeping statement, and of course not true in every case, but for the most part it just doesn’t grab me. I don’t see poetry as more layered than, say, a novel; I can’t believe it’s more insightful than an extended essay.

Of course, millions of people disagree with me, not least man of letters Inazo Nitobe who wrote: “If there is anything to do, there is certainly a best way to do it, and the best way is both the most economical and the most graceful.” That was in his definitive 1900 work Bushido: The Soul of Japan which detailed the life and ethics of not just the Samurai, but of his country as a whole. It speaks to the brevity of poetry as well – today more than usual because we were in one of Nitobe’s former home towns, Hanamaki in Iwate prefecture.

Nitobe wasn’t a poet himself (though he was hardly lacking in ability) but he did share his time in Hanamaki with another great Japanese artist: the poet, writer, geologist, cosmologist, teacher and all-round talent Kenji Miyazawa.

Like many of the giants of literature, Miyazawa only achieved fame and the recognition he deserved after he had passed away. Today, his poems, fairytales and idiosyncratic philosophies are studied and admired across Japan.

But since the cataclysmic events this spring, one of his works has become much bigger than the sum of its parts. In the wake of the March 11th tsunami which devastated much of Iwate’s coast, Miyazawa’s Strong In The Rain somehow came to symbolise humankind’s refusal to be defeated, even by the most malevolent fury of mother nature.

Today we read the poem at the site of former school teacher’s old house and, with the sun setting and Ichiro our local guide playing us a video of Ken Watanabe reading the script, both of us found it impossible not to get caught up in the whole thing.

Miyazawa couldn’t have known that his verse would come to mean so much to so many people, but in the last six months his translated words have been read at memorial services in Washington DC and Westminster Abbey in London.

The coast is several miles away from this cultural hub, but there’s a sense of loss that lingers still – even as Katy visited an onsen tonight, she met a woman whose entire world had been torn asunder just six months ago.

At times like these, the work blows past preconceptions and idiotic notions like personal preferences, and becomes something much bigger.

STRONG IN THE RAIN

By Kenji Miyazawa

 

Strong in the rain

Strong in the wind

Strong against the summer heat and snow

He is healthy and robust

Free of all desire

He never loses his generous spirit

Nor the quiet smile on his lips

He eats four go of unpolished rice

Miso and a few vegetables a day

He does not consider himself

In whatever occurs…his understanding

Comes from observation and experience

And he never loses sight of things

He lives in a little thatched-roof hut

In a field in the shadows of a pine tree grove

If there is a sick child in the east

He goes there to nurse the child

If there’s a tired mother in the west

He goes to her and carries her sheaves

If someone is near death in the south

He goes and says, ‘Don’t be afraid’

If there’s strife and lawsuits in the north

He demands that the people put an end to their pettiness

He weeps at the time of drought

He plods about at a loss during the cold summer

Everybody calls him ‘Blockhead’

No one sings his praises

Or takes him to heart…

That is the sort of person

I want to be.

 

私の貧困な理解力と、また英文学を学んだことで読書を楽しめなくなった私は詩があまり好きではない。これは非常に極端な言い方かもしれないし、もちろん例外もあるが、詩にあまり興味がないのだ。詩が、他の面白い小説やエッセイよりも魅力的に映る事はまずない。

もちろん多くの方が反論してくる事は覚悟しているし、その一人は『何事であれ もし何かをしようとすれば それを為すための最善の方法とは もっとも無駄がなく もっとも優美なやり方になるであろう』という名言を残した新渡戸稲造だろう。

これは1900年に出版された『武士道』に記されている。武士のことだけを語ったものではなく、日本について語られたものと言ってよいと思う。岩手県花巻市にある新渡戸稲造の自宅を訪れたので特にそう感じるのかもしれないが、それは詩にもあてはまるように思う。彼は素晴らしい詩を残しているものの詩人ではないが、花巻出身の芸術家であり、詩人であり、作家であり、地質学者であり、農業指導家であり、先生である多彩な宮沢賢治と時を過ごしている。

他の多くの有名な作家と同じように、宮沢賢治も没後その作品が注目を浴びるようになった、そして今日、彼の作品は称賛され、教科書の教材などにも使われるほどの評価をえている。が3月11日以降、その中の一つの作品が特に注目を集めることとなる。津波の深刻な被害を被った岩手県沿岸部。宮沢賢治の『雨ニモマケズ』は岩手の人々の復興への支えとなり、また象徴となったのだ。

今日私達もその詩に触れ、また私達をご案内して下さった一郎さんが、渡辺謙さんが朗読しているビデオを流して下さった時、私達はそのビデオから目が離せなくなった。
宮沢賢治は、彼が作った詩がこれほど多くの人の心の支えになるとは思ってもいなかっただろうし、特にこの半年の間には多くの言語に翻訳され、アメリカやイギリスの公式な場でも朗読されることになるとは想像だにしなかっただろう。

岩手県内で文化的資源の多いエリアは沿岸部から遠く離れているが、それでも大切なものが失われている事をひしひしと感じる。ケイティが温泉で出会った女性も、この半年で人生が180度変わったと言っていたようだ・・・。宮沢賢治の詩は、そんな私達の心に沁み入り、そして支えになってくれているのだ。

「雨ニモマケズ」

雨にも負けず
風にも負けず
雪にも夏の暑さにも負けぬ
丈夫なからだをもち
慾はなく
決して怒らず
いつも静かに笑っている
一日に玄米四合と
味噌と少しの野菜を食べ
あらゆることを
自分を勘定に入れずに
よく見聞きし分かり
そして忘れず
野原の松の林の陰の
小さな萱ぶきの小屋にいて
東に病気の子供あれば
行って看病してやり
西に疲れた母あれば
行ってその稲の束を負い
南に死にそうな人あれば
行ってこわがらなくてもいいといい
北に喧嘩や訴訟があれば
つまらないからやめろといい
日照りの時は涙を流し
寒さの夏はおろおろ歩き
みんなにでくのぼーと呼ばれ
褒められもせず
苦にもされず
そういうものに
わたしはなりたい

3 Comments

  1. Mary Neilson
    September 26, 2011

    Thank you for sharing this beautiful poem with your followers. Hanamaki is Sister City to Hot Springs, Arkansas, US and I have been very blessed to have been able to visit our Sister City with delegations on three occassions. Each time I witness as members of the delegation are forever changed – as I was, as you were, by the beauty, hospitality, gentility, and strength of the people of Hanamak and the Japanese culture that you read about in this poem.

  2. Ryoko Okamoto
    September 27, 2011

    This poem is very famous in Japan from of old.Since the March 11th disaster,I often associate this poem with the people in Tohoku region.They are strong and patient in severe winter cold(it’s very cold and heavy snowing in Tohoku region,north-eastern Japan).I hope you will feel the various aspects of Japan… sorry for my poor English;;

  3. Ami
    September 29, 2011

    I know that japanese words are much more contextual than any other language, and that is very difficult to make a translation that is close to the original meaning of the words. But this poem which is so dear to me, I have read hundreds of times, and found that even some versions in english can bring forth it’s feelings of greatness in being humble.