Kiss

Year One: BoobsThe WindBaseballLederhosenEels, Monkeys, and Doves
Year Two: Hotel Lobby OystersCondomsSpinning Around and Around街・町The Town and Its Uncertain WallA Short Piece on the Elephant that Crushes Heineken Cans
Year Three: “The Town and Its Uncertain Wall” – Words and WeirsThe LibraryOld DreamsSaying GoodbyeLastly
Year Four: More DrawersPhone CallsMetaphorsEight-year-olds, dudeUshikawaLast Line
Year Five: Jurassic SapporoGerry MulliganAll Growns UpDanceMountain Climbing
Year Six: Sex With Fat WomenCoffee With the ColonelThe LibrarianOld ManWatermelons
Year Seven: WarmthRebirthWastelandHard-onsSeventeenEmbrace
Year Eight: PigeonEditsMagazinesAwkwardnessBack Issues
Year Nine: WaterSnæfellsnesCannonballDistant Drumming
Year Ten: VermontersWandering and BelongingPeter Cat, Sushi Counter, Murakami Fucks First
Year Eleven: Embers, Escape, Window Seats, The End of the World
Year Twelve: Distant Drums, Exhaustion

Nonfiction gives Murakami the opportunity to flex his writing muscles in really interesting ways, one of which is character work. He’s experiencing life in Europe with his wife, and he spends a lot of time with his thoughts (as I think you’ve seen with the first two posts), but once he gets on the road, he actively includes the people he encounters, the first of which is a woman named Valentina who is the realtor or property manager who introduces them to the house where they stay on the island of Spetses. This is their first destination immediately after Spetses.

Murakami does a great job of capturing Valentina and her tendency to draw out the vooooowels of words. She says she’s a writer, too, who writes poems but needs another job to live, and she seems disappointed with Murakami. She expected more, which doesn’t seem to surprise Murakami:

Sometimes I get to thinking that I lack what might best be termed an “aura” as a writer (or an artist). Even in Japan, I often get mistaken for a bakery deliveryman or a supermarket worker. I’ll be shopping and a stranger will ask, “Hey, where’s the red pepper?” (And of course I go ahead and tell them where it is.) But this isn’t entirely because of what I wear. Occasionally I’ll be dressed up nice in a dark suit with a tie on, standing in a hotel lobby, and some old man will say, “Hey you, where’s the Tsuru-no-ma room?” So I couldn’t really fault Valentina. Auras—not that I know what purpose they serve, realistically—are something that’s clearly defined when you have them and totally absent when you don’t. Just like onsen and oil fields.

ときどき僕は思うのだけれど、どうも僕には作家としての(あるいは芸術家としての)オーラとでも称するべきものがいささか不足しているようである。日本にいてもよくパン屋の配達人とか、スーパーの店員に間違われたりする。買い物をしていると、知らない人に「ねえ、唐辛子どこにあるの?」ときかれたりする(そてまた、しっかり教えてあげちゃったりもする)。でもそれは服装のせいとばかりは言えないようである。たまにきちんとネクタイをしめて、ダークスーツを着てホテルのロビーに立っていても、どこかのおじさんに「おい君、鶴の間はどこかね?」と尋ねられたりもする。だから僕にはとてもヴァレンティナのことを責めたりはできない。オーラというものは―それが現実的にいったいどういう役に立つのか僕にはよくわからないけれど―あるところにはちゃんとあるし、ないところには全然ないのだ。温泉とか油田とかいったものと同じように。(44-45)

Murakami does go on to ridicule Valentina a little. She draws a very simple map of the island and marks the port and house. Murakami later learns that she’s drawn it upside down (basically) rather than aligned with the cardinal directions. And in a troublesome paragraph, he suggests that Valentina and all women in general value what they can see and experience over the overall impression of a map.

So not a great outing, but he does capture much of the impression that Valentina leaves, sometimes very literally:

When she finished drawing the map and marked the location of the house with a final flourish, she nodded with a very satisfied look on her face. She yelled, “I looooooooove this island!” and pressed her lips firmly against the map. Then she handed me the piece of paper. She had left the distinct mark of her thick lipstick on the map.

Like this:

The island, thus transformed by her distorted view and lack of understanding, was beautifully sealed by her lipstick.

At the time I didn’t know what kind of reaction she expected from such a passionate kiss (and I still don’t), so I just said, “Thank you” as I took the note, glanced at it, folded it in half, and put it in my pocket. Then I tried not to think about the map again.

彼女は地図を書き終え、そこに画竜点睛という風情で家の位置を書き入れると、いかにも満足したという表情を顔に浮かべて頷く。そして「私、この島だあああああああ好き(大好き)」と叫んで、その地図の上にぎゅっと唇を押しつける。そしてその紙を僕に手渡してくれる。地図の上には彼女の濃いルージュのあとがくっきりと残っている。

こんな具合に。

そのように偏見と無理解によってデフォルメされた島は、口紅によって見事に封印されたのであった。

その熱情的なくちづけに対してどのような反応を期待されているのか、僕にはその時まったくわからなかったので(今だってわからないけれど)、まあとにかく「どうも、ありがとう」と言って地図を受け取り、ちらっと見てから二つに折ってポケットにしまった。そしてそれ以上地図については考えいないようにした。 (51-52)

This feels like Murakami just getting started before he really gets into gear in some of the more rural places he visits. A lot to look forward to.

How to Japanese Podcast – S01E01 – Daniel McCalla

I’ve always been impressed with the breadth of Daniel McCalla‘s Japanese culture consumption, judging from his Twitter feed, and I’m even more impressed after talking to him for the first episode of the How to Japanese Podcast. Listen to our conversation here:

At the top of the podcast I reminisced about the brief, awesome ten weeks when I watched football along with thousands of Japanese fans on Twitter.

You can also subscribe to the How to Japanese Podcast on AppleGoogle, or Spotify.

Exhaustion

Year One: BoobsThe WindBaseballLederhosenEels, Monkeys, and Doves
Year Two: Hotel Lobby OystersCondomsSpinning Around and Around街・町The Town and Its Uncertain WallA Short Piece on the Elephant that Crushes Heineken Cans
Year Three: “The Town and Its Uncertain Wall” – Words and WeirsThe LibraryOld DreamsSaying GoodbyeLastly
Year Four: More DrawersPhone CallsMetaphorsEight-year-olds, dudeUshikawaLast Line
Year Five: Jurassic SapporoGerry MulliganAll Growns UpDanceMountain Climbing
Year Six: Sex With Fat WomenCoffee With the ColonelThe LibrarianOld ManWatermelons
Year Seven: WarmthRebirthWastelandHard-onsSeventeenEmbrace
Year Eight: PigeonEditsMagazinesAwkwardnessBack Issues
Year Nine: WaterSnæfellsnesCannonballDistant Drumming
Year Ten: VermontersWandering and BelongingPeter Cat, Sushi Counter, Murakami Fucks First
Year Eleven: Embers, Escape, Window Seats, The End of the World
Year Twelve: Distant Drums

Murakami begins the memoir in Rome, and it quickly becomes apparent that his excuse from the prologue was cover for one of the very real reasons he decided to travel—the trip was an escape from some of the responsibilities of a young, popular writer in the Japanese literary establishment. After five years of writing and three of being a full time writer, Murakami is exhausted and wants an escape of sorts.

He personifies this exhaustion in the form of two bees buzzing in his head, going as far as naming them Giorgio and Carlo.

So he and his wife pack up, ask friends to take care of their cats, rent out their place, and take off for Rome.

He makes it clear that the memoir is made up of nonfiction he wrote for magazines while he was traveling, that the collection was basically serialized to a certain extent, and this introduction feels like he is pumping himself up to get ready to write. To write not only the rest of this memoir but the other fiction he would put together over the subsequent years.

There are some interesting Easter eggs in this part. Take a look:

The biggest problem was that I was tired. How the hell had I even gotten so tired? But no matter how it’d happened, I was tired. At least too tired to write fiction. That was the biggest problem I was facing.

I wanted to write two novels before turning 40. No, “wanted” wasn’t quite the word; I had to write them. That was very clear. But I was unable to get started on them. I knew basically what to write and how to write it. But I couldn’t get it out of me, unfortunately. It even felt like I might never write again. And the bees were buzzing around in my head. They were so loud I couldn’t even think straight.

The phone was still ringing in my head. That was also part of the sound the bees made. The phone. The phone was ringing. Ring ring ring ring ring ring. They were demanding things of me. Do an ad for a word processor or something, they said. Give a lecture at some women’s college, they said. Make some food you like for a feature photo shoot, they said. Do a magazine talk with some writer you’ve never heard of, they said. Give us your comments on sexism or overtourism or some musician who died or the revival of the miniskirt or how to quit smoking, they said. Judge some competition, they said. Write a 30-page “city fiction” story by the 20th of next month, they said. (And what the hell is “city fiction”?)

It’s not like I was particularly angry about any of it. Of course I wasn’t angry. Because these were all matters that had already been determined. Because I was simply being included. It wasn’t anyone’s fault, and no one had messed up. I knew that. In a certain sense, I was even an accomplice in the circumstances. It’s a winding bottleneck you have to go through to get to what I mean, but I still had a hand in it. So I had no right to get angry at anything. At least I don’t think I did. I was the one calling myself. In a certain sense.

That duplicity frustrated me. And left me feeling powerless. (35-36)

いちばんの問題は僕が疲れすぎているということだった。まったくどうしてこんなに疲れちゃったんだろうな?でもとにかく僕は疲れている。少なくとも、小説を書くには疲れすぎている。それが僕の抱えたいちばんの問題だった。

僕は40になる前に二冊の小説を書きたいと思っている。いや、思っているというよりは、書く必要があるのだ。それはとてもはっきりしている。でも僕はそれに手をつけることができないでいる。何を書けばいいのか、どう書けばいいのか、それもだいたいわかっている。でも書き出すことができないのだ、不幸なことに。このままでは永遠に書けないんじゃないかという気さえする。そして頭の中をぶんぶんと蜂が飛び回っている。すごくうるさくて、僕はものを考えることさえできないのだ。

僕の頭の中では、まだ電話のベルが鳴り響いている。それも蜂のたてる物音の一部なのだ。電話だ。電話がなっている。りんりんりんりんりんりん。彼らは僕にいろんなことを要求する。ワープロだかなんだかの広告に出ろと言う。何処かの女子大で講演をしろと言う。雑誌のグラビアのために自慢料理を作れと言う。誰それという相手と対談をしろと言う。性差別やら、観光汚染やら、死んだ音楽家やら、ミニスカートの復活やら、煙草のやめ方やらについてコメントをくれと言う。なんとかのコンクールの審査員になれと言う。来月の二十日までに「都会小説」を三十枚書いてくれと言う(ところで「都会小説」って一体なんだ?)。

僕は別に腹を立てているわけではない。もちろん腹なんか立てていない。何故ならこれらは既に決定された事項であるからだ。僕はただ単にそこに含まれているだけなのだから。誰が悪いわけでもなく、誰が間違っているわけでもない。それはわかっている。僕だってある意味では、そういう状況に加担している人間のひとりなのだ。かなりまわりくどい意味の隘路を辿って行くことになるけれど、それでもやはり僕だってちゃんとそれに加担しているのだ。だから僕にはそういう物事に対して腹を立てる権利なんてないのだ。たぶん、ないと思う。僕に電話をかけているのは、僕自身でもあるのだ。ITALICSある意味では。 ITALICS

そいう二重性が僕を苛立たせる。そして無力感を抱かせる。(35-36)

I love this section. You have a different perspective on the telephone. It comes up so frequently in Murakami’s fiction, which I wrote about it in my review of The Colorless Tazaki Tsukuru, but here it’s kind of a bother whereas in his fiction it generally connects, although can sometimes be ominous.

You also get some really interesting hints about the kind of projects he’s working on. He makes a clear reference to the short stories that would become 回転木馬のデッドヒート(Dead Heat on a Merry-go-round), which I wrote about (also over at Neojaponisme). The series was initially titled 街の眺め (Views of the City), and he seems to have figured them out in an effective way despite his skepticism here. He’s even said that the series was critical training for more realistic writing and that without it he wouldn’t have been able to write Norwegian Wood. The series ran from 1983-1985, so it spans the first part of his trip.

It’s also interesting that Murakami brings up 対談 (taidan) which I’ve translated as “magazine talk.” There’s nothing that really equates with the 対談 phenomenon in the U.S….except maybe podcasts? They are conversations between two people, often writers or intellectuals, and the transcript is edited and then printed in the magazine with photos of the writers looking very serious and intellectual. Murakami did one with Murakami Ryu that was republished in a hardcover format.

He also did at least 17 others between 1980 and 1984, which is about one every 2-3 months. I can’t tell whether that’s a lot or a reasonable amount, but combined with all the other asks on him and the essays and fiction he was also being asked, it was probably somewhat of a burden. I can’t imagine that these are as easy as showing up and having a chat with someone.

I wonder if he had a particular writer in mind with that line or if it was just kind of a random throwaway line.

If you’re interested in finding out, I’ve picked out all the 対談 Murakami did. This comes from Osakabe Yoshio’s now-defunct website that tracked all of his publications. It’s cached on Archive.org if you want to track it down. Here are the 対談 with English dates added:

May 1980:
happy end 通信 1980年5月号 Vol.2 No.4
対談: 映画月評 「出逢いを見て考えたこと」 (対談相手: 高橋千尋) 表紙と裏表紙

December 1980:
小説現代 1980年12月
対談: [特別企画-小説・ジャズ・野球] 「一九八〇年の透明感覚-村上龍Vs.村上春樹」

November 1981:
平凡パンチ 1981年11月2日号 第18巻第42号
原作者対談:映画ってなんだ!?」 『遠雷』立松和平Vs『風の歌を聴け』村上春樹 P27-29

December 1981:
対談: Hot Dog Press 1981年12月10日 第3巻第19号 No.37 P16-18
対談: HUMAN HOT INTERVIEW SPECIAL 「風の歌を聴け」 原作者 村上春樹 VS. 監督 大森一樹

April 1982:
朝日ジャーナル 1982年4月2日号 24巻 P26-32
対談: 「大衆化した「大学」はどこへ行く–「300万人の大学」執筆者 (漂う「大学」の脱出路)」 天野郁夫; 樋口恵子; 村上春樹

April 1982:
GORO 1982年4月22日号 第9巻第9号
カルチャー・ショック対談: 村上春樹VS糸井重里 湯村輝彦・イラスト P160-163

July 1982:
ユリイカ 1982年7月号 14巻 P110-135
対談: 特集 チャンドラー 川本三郎との対談 「R.チャンドラー あるいは都市小説について」

February 1983:
小説現代 1983年2月号 P222-233
対談: (五木寛之) 「言の世界と葉の世界」

May 1983:
クロワッサン 1983年5月10日 P48-51
対談: (道下匡子) 「あるとき、いちばん嫌いな人(ヤツ)を好きになってしまった!」

May 1983:
平凡パンチ 1983年5月30日号 第20巻第20号 P32-33
WIDE SPECIALならためて YMO でございます。 「創作作法対談 村上春樹氏とー坂本龍一」

July 1983:
「話せばわかるか」 (糸井重里対談集)1983年7月30日
対談: (糸井重里) 「1982.2.22 村上春樹と六本木・瀬里奈で話した」 エッセイ集

February 1984:
イラストレーション 1984年2月号 No.26 P34-40
対談: 特集:安西水丸・透きとおる影 対談:村上春樹vs水丸

February 1984:
GORO 1984年2月23日
対談: (安西水丸) 「男にとって”早い結婚”はソンかトクか」

February 1984:
ビックリハウス 1984年2月号 第10巻第2号 (通巻109号) P98-102
対談: (安西水丸) 「千倉における朝食のあり方」 安西水丸氏に聞く?T 小竹文枝・イラスト

March 1984:
ビックリハウス 1984年3月号
連載エッセイ: 人はなぜ千葉県に住むのか??D 対談: (安西水丸) 「千倉における夕食のあり方」

May 1984:
朝日ジャーナル 1984年5月25日 26巻 P43-47
対談: (筑紫哲也) 「若者たちの神々」 P81-82

Sometime in Fall/Summer 1984 (or February 1982?):
文庫版「話せばわかるか」(糸井重里対談集)
対談: (糸井重里) 「1982.2.22 村上春樹と六本木・瀬里奈で話した」

March 1985:
国文学 1985年3月号 30巻 P6-30
対談: (中上健次) 「仕事の現場から」(都市と反都市<特集>)

October 1985:
NEXT 1985年10月
対談: (島森路子) 村上春樹の世界 話題作「世界の終わりとハードボイルド・ワンダーランド」を手がかりに

October 1985:
IN★POCKET 1985年10月号 第3巻第10号 P4-74
対談: (村上龍、司会: 島森路子) 「作家ほど素敵な商売はない」 宮内忠敏/野上透/塚越亘/景山正夫・写真

February 1986 (and maybe February 1994):
「風の対話」 1986年2月
文庫版「風の対話」は 1994年2月4日 河出書房新社 (河出文庫)
対談: 五木寛之対談集 「ワンダーランドに光る風」

June 1986:
「on the border」 最新エッセイ+対談 1982-1985/オン・ザ・ボーダー 中上健次・著 1986年6月
対談: (中上健次) 「仕事の現場から」 P88-136

June 1986:
波 1986年6月 P6-11
対談: (中野圭二/村上春樹) 「アーヴィングが世界を見れば」

December 1989:
シネマ・ストリート パート2 (安西水丸著) 1989年12月12日
対談: (安西水丸) 「私の嫌いなもの・恐いもの」 285-299

How to Japanese Podcast – S01E00 – Season 1 Trailer

For me, podcasts are inextricably linked with Japan. I started listening to them while I was living there, way back when I had to manually drag episodes from iTunes over to my big, fat iPod.

I listened to them as I drove around Fukushima Prefecture to the elementary school where I taught and on the weekends to see friends and to travel around Tohoku. My mainstays back then were Bill Simmons’ BS Report, the Penny Arcade guys (even though I wasn’t really playing video games), Car Talk, and the NPR Sunday Puzzle.

It took me a while, but How to Japanese now has a serious podcast! Check out the trailer (S01E00).

I had a podcast misfire back when I was in grad school (and desperate to make something…anything), and I hope you don’t spend too much time tracking it down because it was shite.

I’ve put more work into this (real) one. I’m planning to release the podcast in 10-episode seasons with the first season starting next week. The goal is much the same as this blog—be helpful. Help readers/listeners get used to Japanese and learn how others have had success living and working in Japan and with Japanese. I found 10 incredibly interesting guests who were very generous with their time and shared how they started translating, writing, editing, teaching English, studying, researching, lawyering, ramening, and making video games in Japan. I’m very excited to share their stories and advice.

So please subscribe and share! And if you have any questions, feel free to get in touch at howtojapanese at gmail dot com. I’d be glad to take language questions and any other Japan-related concerns.

All music in the podcast comes from the excellent おとわび.

You can find it on Apple Podcasts, Google Play Music, and Spotify.

The おじさんing

I’m in the Japan Times Bilingual page this week with a look at “words of personal reference”: “How to address the ‘sisters’ we’ve never met.”

This article starts with a story that happened to me shortly after I moved to Tokyo in 2008. I wish I’d written down the details at the time! Especially what the women said when they replied to my friend. Their tone (the laughter, the appreciation, how easily we all had such a nice time) is still so clear in my mind, but the words have gone.

It was such a great party with fun people and really interesting conversation. The Japanese guy who used お姉さん went on to try his hand at stand-up comedy. Not sure how that worked out.

The bar was Yokohama Cheers, if anyone wants to check it out.

I ran out of space in the article but wanted to look at where the division line is between お姉さん and おばさん and between お兄さん and おじさん.

I found this really interesting discussion site.

Here’s a key quote that backs up what I remember from the conversation:

最近は気を使う方が増えてると思います、呼ぶ時におばさんだと失礼にあたると思われるのか、お姉さんを使う男女の方がなかにはいらっしゃいますね。

The women we spoke with laughed when my friend used お姉さん, but it was a friendly laugh, one that recognized the difficulty of the situation.

Another commenter provides this loose breakdown in the terminology, although clearly the cutoff for お姉さん is a little young:

26歳くらいまでがお姉さん
以降、40代までがおばちゃん
50代からはおばあちゃん
60代超えだしたらお婆ちゃん かな~

I also found a personal blog with an interesting discussion of what the writer’s niece and nephew’s children call her. Here’s an interesting line:

かといって 呼ばれ慣れない「おばさん」や まして「おばあちゃん」もなんか私じゃないみたい。

And I also found some surveys. I can’t vouch for their methodology, but they suggest that one becomes either おじさん or おばさん around 41-45 years old…which is approaching way too quickly in my case ^^;

Distant Drums

It’s September: Murakami Fest is upon us! Year 12 of the fest, to be precise.

Here are previous entries:

Year One: BoobsThe WindBaseballLederhosenEels, Monkeys, and Doves
Year Two: Hotel Lobby OystersCondomsSpinning Around and Around街・町The Town and Its Uncertain WallA Short Piece on the Elephant that Crushes Heineken Cans
Year Three: “The Town and Its Uncertain Wall” – Words and WeirsThe LibraryOld DreamsSaying GoodbyeLastly
Year Four: More DrawersPhone CallsMetaphorsEight-year-olds, dudeUshikawaLast Line
Year Five: Jurassic SapporoGerry MulliganAll Growns UpDanceMountain Climbing
Year Six: Sex With Fat WomenCoffee With the ColonelThe LibrarianOld ManWatermelons
Year Seven: WarmthRebirthWastelandHard-onsSeventeenEmbrace
Year Eight: PigeonEditsMagazinesAwkwardnessBack Issues
Year Nine: WaterSnæfellsnesCannonballDistant Drumming
Year Ten: VermontersWandering and BelongingPeter Cat, Sushi Counter, Murakami Fucks First
Year Eleven: Embers, Escape, Window Seats, The End of the World

This year I’m looking at bits and pieces of 遠い太鼓 (Tōi taiko, Distant Drums), Murakami’s memoir of traveling in Europe.

(Brief aside: For years I thought the title was inspired by Gunter Grass’s The Tin Drum, but apparently it is not.)

The book is excellent, some of Murakami’s strongest writing, and I wonder why more of it hasn’t been translated. If he was motivated by money, I’m sure Murakami would publish it, and American publishers would encourage him to publish it, because he’s reached the point where anything with his name on it will sell. So my only guess is that he’s not confident with the writing, much like he was with his first couple novels for a long time.

I’ve looked at small sections in previous years, but I think I may use the next few years of the Fest as an annual motivation to get me through the book. I started reading it back when I was on the JET Program, but something threw me off pace. So I’m starting it up again, and taking more notes this time.

The first section of the book is an introduction written after the trip is complete, looking back at both the trip and the writing process. Murakami was in Europe from ages 37-40. He calls 40 a 節目 (fushime, turning point), noting that a 精神的な組み替え (seishinteki na kumikae, emotional recombination) occurs, after which you can’t go back — you have to go forward.

It feels like Murakami’s midlife crisis of sorts. If he goes past a certain point without having completed some unstated goal, that it would be a waste to him. So he leaves Japan. Spoiler alert: He writes Norwegian Wood while he’s on this trip, the book that launched him into the mainstream. Oh, he also translates a bunch of stuff, writes a ton of short stories and nonfiction for magazines, and lives an amazing life in the Mediterranean. It’s easy to call Murakami privileged, but you can’t ever accuse him of not putting the words on the damn page. He’s a workhorse.

The introduction is compelling because it gives Murakami the opportunity to write to his strengths: the passage of time, the elusiveness of memory, the challenge of pinpointing an objective reality—really the core of the human experience.

Here’s the section that generates the title of the book:

Of course, people go on getting older no matter where they are. Whether they’re in Japan or in Europe, it’s the same thing. That’s what getting older is all about. To put it another way, we maintain some semblance of sanity precisely because we’re able to absorb ourselves in the everyday and go on getting older. At this point—having turned 40—that’s something I believe. But at the time, I thought differently.

It feels very strange to be back in Japan now, sitting here at my desk thinking about those three years. When I look back, I get a mysterious sense of absence. The feel of empty space. A sense of floating, or being within a flow. My recollection of those three years drifts around in the gap produced by levitation and gravity. Those years are lost, in a certain sense. But in another sense, they have a tight grip on the reality within me. I feel the distinct clip of the memories somewhere on my body. The long arm of the memories has reached out from somewhere amongst the darkness of unreality and grabbed the real me. I want to express to someone what that feeling means. But I don’t have the corresponding words to do so. Perhaps like some feelings it can only be expressed as a metaphorical whole.

*

I was turning 40. That was one thing that compelled me to go on a long trip. But it wasn’t just that. There were a number of other reasons I wanted to get away from Japan. That included several positive reasons and several negative reasons. Practical reasons and metaphorical reasons. But I don’t want to get into them now. Because at this point, I honestly don’t care about them at all. They are neither here nor there to me, and likely neither here nor there to the reader as well. No matter what kind of realistic reasons compelled me to travel, the long trip washed away the original reason that generated it. At least in effect.

That is, one day, suddenly, I had to go on a long trip.

To me, that feels like the ideal reason to go on a trip. It’s simple and persuasive. And it doesn’t overgeneralize anything.

One day I woke up, and when I listened carefully, I could hear the sound of drums somewhere far in the distance. The sound of the drums came to me from somewhere far away, from some time long ago. Ever so faintly. And as I listened to them, I felt I had to go on a long trip.

That should be enough, no? I heard distant drums. At this point, that feels like the only honest reason that compelled me to travel. (15-16)

もちろん、どこにいようと、人はだらだらと歳を取ってしまうものだ。日本にいようが、ヨーロッパにいようが、どこでも同じだ。歳を取るというのはそういうことだからだ。そして逆の言い方をすれば、日常にかまけてだらだらと歳を取ることができるからこそ、人はまだなんとか正気を保っていられるのだ。僕も今では—四十になった今では—そう思う。でもその時には、それとは別な考え方をしていた。

今こうして日本に帰ってきて、机の前に座ってその三年間のことを考えていると、とても不思議な気分になる。ふりかえってみると、そこには奇妙な欠落感がある。質感のある空白。ある種の浮遊感、あるいは流動感。その三年間の記憶は、浮遊力と重力の作り出す狭間を流されるように彷徨っている。その年月はある意味では失われている。でもある意味では、それは僕の中の現実にしっかりとしがみついている。僕はその記憶のクリップをはっきりと体のどこかに感じ続けている。記憶の長い手が、非現実の暗闇のどこかから伸びて、現実の僕を摑んでいるのだ。僕はその質感の意味を誰かに伝えたいと思う。でも僕はそれに相当する言葉を持たない。それはある種のこころ持ちがそうであるように、おそらく比喩的な総体としてしか示せないものなのだ。

*

四十になろうとしていたこと。それは僕を長い旅に駆り立てたもののひとつである。でもそれだけではない。日本を離れようと思ったのには、その他にもいくつかの理由があった。そこにはいくつかのポジティヴな理由があり、いくつかのネガティヴな理由があった。いくつかのプラクティカルな理由があり、いくつかのメタフォリカルな理由があった。でも今はもうそれについては触れたくない。今となっては、それは本当にどうでもいいことになってしまっているからだ。僕にとってもどうでもいいことだし、おそらく読者にとってもどうでもいいことだろうと思う。たとえどのような現実的な理由が僕を旅行に駆り立てたにせよ、その長い旅はそれを発生せしめたそもそもの理由なんかどこかに押し流してしまったのだ。結果的に言えば。

そう、ある日突然、僕はどうしても長い旅に出たくなったのだ。

それは旅に出る理由としては理想的であるように僕には思える。シンプルで、説得力を持っている。そして何事をもジェネラライズしてはいない。

ある朝目が覚めて、ふと耳を澄ませると、何処か遠くから太鼓の音が聞こえてきたのだ。ずっと遠くの場所から、ずっと遠くの時間から、その太鼓の音は響いてきた。とても微かに。そしてその音を聞いているうちに、僕はどうしても長い旅に出たくなったのだ。

それでいいではないか。遠い太鼓が聞こえたのだ。今となっては、それが僕を旅行に駆り立てた唯一のまっとうな理由であるように思える。 (15-16)