Tetsuya Ishida – “Self-Portrait of Other”

Wrightwood 659 has a new exhibit of Tetsuya Ishida’s art: “Self-Portrait of Other.” This is the first retrospective exhibition of his work in the United States.

The exhibit comes to Wrightwood from the Reina Sofia in Madrid where curator Teresa Velazquez and organizers were surprised by attendance numbers—350,000 people visited the exhibit.

Once you see Ishida’s paintings, however, his draw isn’t a surprise at all: his images are striking.

Ishida works at the same time in hyperrealist and surrealist modes. His paintings incorporate the vocabulary of everyday Japanese life: textbooks, cardboard boxes, phone booths, lamps, trains, street-corner traffic mirrors, brands of food. As well as uniquely Japanese situations: school desks, school buildings, passed out drunks, generic apartment buildings, gyudon restaurants.

The hyperrealistic pieces make up very clearly surrealistic images, clearly inspired by artists such as Magritte.

There’s clearly a lot of pain in his work, and he seems to have picked out the parts of Japanese society that seem to be “unusual” to outsiders, which isn’t always easy to do as a native. Velasquez calls it his work “stunning testimony of a turbulent decade in Japan—the 90’s.”

In a way, Japan went through the financial crisis 20 years before the U.S. did, and Ishida seems to reflect that—he worked two jobs to stay afloat (security and work at a printmaker) and gained recognition after his death when his work was shown on an NHK program (based on his official site).

This is the fifth exhibit at the Tadao Ando-designed gallery space, which itself is beautiful. Velasquez noted that the simplicity of the gallery helps viewers focus: “the experience of the work [at Wrightwood] is unique, and much more interesting than in Spain. … You concentrate more on the work.”

They are showing 70 of Ishida’s paintings, sketches, and notebooks, a massive selection from the artist who died at age 31 and only produced around 180 works in total.

Wrightwood is also reprising pieces of a past exhibit in a new form on the level below the Ishida exhibit: “Ando: Museums + Galleries.” On display are models of some of Ando’s art museums as well as a scale model of Naoshima.

Wrightwood releases free tickets for the week each Monday, so I recommended getting on their email list. You can also purchase tickets for specific days, if you’re here for a trip. Tickets are for a specific window of time. Wrightwood will also be open for Open House Chicago, but reservations are required.

Based on what I’ve seen at Wrightwood 659 so far, its exhibits are quickly becoming an appointment viewing. They don’t have a permanent collection, so they partner with groups like Reina Sofia, Alphawood Exhibitions, and the Smart Museum to bring in artwork, which gives them great flexibility and division of labor, and the exhibits they have brought in occupy a space between the Museum of Contemporary Art and the Art Institute of Chicago. They’ve had everyone from Ai Weiwei, Ando himself, Le Corbusier, contemporary LGBTQ artists, and now Ishida, who seems posed to become a singularly representative Japanese artist from the 1990s.

Rotemburo

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, Kiss, Lack of Pretense

100 pages into the memoir, Murakami has settled into life on the island and takes a chapter to capture his daily routines titled “A Day in the Life of a Novelist on Spetses” (スペッツェス島における小説家の一日).

Here’s a section from the beginning:

Once I finish breakfast, I run. At least 40 minutes, and at most about 100 minutes. When I get back I take a shower and get to work. While I’m on this trip, I’m planning to work on two translations, a set of travel sketches (like what I’m writing here), and a new novel. So I don’t have much free time at all. I work on my manuscript for a bit, and when I get bored I move to the translation. When I get bored of the translation, I work on the manuscript again. It’s like going to a rotemburo on a rainy day. When I start to feel light headed, I get out of the water, and when I get cold I get back in. This goes on and on. (110-111)

朝食が済むと走る。短くて四十分、長くて百分ぐらい。帰ってきてシャワーを浴び、仕事にかかる。今回の旅行中に仕上げる予定でいるのは翻訳二冊ぶんと、旅行のスケッチ(今書いているような文章)と、それから新しい長編小説。だから決して暇ではない。自前の原稿をしばらく書いてそれに飽きると翻訳に移る。翻訳作業に飽きると今度はまた自前の原稿を書く。雨の日の露天風呂と同じである。のぼせると湯から出て、冷えると湯に入る。延々とつづけられる。 (110-111)

It’s interesting to read about his daily routines. I feel like I read a different account that was like this but separated fiction and translation more cleanly into morning and afternoon activities – translation was something he said he could do once he’d already been somewhat exhausted by the work of writing fiction. I can’t seem to track down that passage.

After running and writing, Murakami and his wife walk into town. He gives a narrative account of the walk, describing the buildings, shops, and sights. They stop at a cafe and read the paper. Murakami makes friends at the restaurants and small stores, including one well-captured profile of a shop owner who helps him with his Greek and gets very curious about the camera he has with him.

Murakami makes lunch, his wife makes dinner. He goes fishing in between using stale bread and feta cheese as bait, as taught by the friendly store owner. Sometimes they eat out. And then there’s a lovely little ending to the chapter:

When we finish dinner, it’s already pitch dark outside. I read and listen to music in the living room, and my wife adds an entry to her journal, writes letters to friends, does our budgeting, or makes bizarre complaints like, “Gahh, I can’t stand this. I’m sick of getting older.” On cold nights we light a fire in the fireplace. Time passes quietly and comfortably as we zone out and stare at the fire. The phone doesn’t ring, and there are no deadlines. There’s no TV, either. There’s nothing. Just the crackling of the fire as it pops and hisses in front of us. The silence is blissful. We empty a bottle of wine, and after a straight whiskey, I get a little tired. I look at the clock, and it’s nearly 10:00. And then I just drift into a pleasant sleep. The day feels like I did so much and yet also like I did nothing at all. (123)

夕食が終わると外はもう真暗になっている。僕は居間で音楽を聴きながら本を読み、女房は日記をつけたり友だちに手紙を書いたり、お金の計算をしたり、「あーやだやだ、歳をとりたくない」などとわけのわからない愚痴を言ったりしている。寒い夜は暖炉に火を入れる。暖炉の火を眺めつつぼんやりとしていると、時は静かに気持ち良く過ぎ去っていく。電話もかかってこないし、締切りもない、テレビもない。何もない。目の前でパチパチと火がはぜているだけである。沈黙がひどく心地好い。ワインを一本空にし、ウィスキーをグラスに一杯ストレートで飲んだところで、いささか眠くなる。時計を見るとそろそろ十時である。そしてそのまま気持ち良く眠ってしまう。いっぱい何かをしたような一日であり、まるで何もしなかったような一日である。 (123)

The mention of the phone and deadlines ties in nicely with the earlier sections of the memoir. The tone here reflects how much has changed. Short, clear sentences, as compared with the longer, breathless ones from the earlier sections that reflect the chaos of the move and of life in Tokyo.

That’s it for Murakami Fest 2019! Already looking forward to next year and taking another close look at Murakami’s travels.

How to Japanese Podcast S01E03 – Brian MacDuckston

You can find Brian MacDuckston of Ramen Adventures crushing bowls of ramen on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook, and now you can find him on the How to Japanese Podcast:

  • How was your trip to Hokkaido? How is Hokkaido different from the rest of Japan?
  • How long have you been in Japan and what have you done so far?
  • How much time are you doing ramen/journalism work versus English teaching?
  • What strategies would you recommend to diversify your income as an English conversation teacher?
  • What is it like teaching private students?
  • The Collabo-Ramen videos were great!
  • How has ramen changed in the last nine years? What trends are you seeing? Is ramen a trend-driven industry?
  • Why are Japanese so obsessed with/interested in food?
  • When did you start studying Japanese and what strategies have been helpful?
  • What ramen vocabulary has been helpful for you?
  • Mapple maps were amazing, and are sadly now not necessary because of smartphones
  • What has it been like being a creator in Japan?
  • When did you start to feel Ramen Adventures taking off?

At the top of the pod, I talk about set phrases used for condolences, which I wrote about in the Japan Times back in April 2016. Here is he set of telegram phrases I found, some usage recommendations for telegrams from a digital telegram service, and the cost breakdown for messages from NTT.

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

Lack of Pretense

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, Kiss

Murakami arrives on Spetses in mid-October, right at the end of the high season while there are still people on the beach. The bars and restaurants are full, there are breasts being bared (and people ogling those breasts), but there is also a transition as some leave and others return to the island during the change in seasons. The island is so small that they take a horse-drawn wagon to the house from the port.

Murakami talks about his jogs and how he discovers the island and how it’s changing. He recounts a time when he forgot to cash traveler’s checks and he and his wife are forced to be frugal over a weekend when the banks are closed—he does this in a funny way, imagining Greek choruses singing the takeaways behind he and his wife. He also recounts a big chunk of history of the island in the form of shipbuilding and war.

He and his wife gradually settle into the rhythm of life on the small, isolated island, and Murakami does what he’s always loved to do during down time: go to the movies. This is another excellent opportunity for him to do some location as character work:

There are two movie theaters in town, one which closes in the fall, and another that’s open year round. The one that closes is named “Cine Marina,” and the one that’s open is named “Cine Titania.” Both are on the outskirts of town, and neither look very much like a movie theater. “So, what do they look like?” you might ask, and I’d be flummoxed. To be perfectly honest, this is due to the fact that they don’t look like anything at all. If I had to describe them, I’d say they have the feel of those stores, ubiquitous in every shopping arcade, that give no hint of what they sell. They are much too narrow to be movie theaters, and the doors look like the doors on a run-of-the-mill general goods shop. The reason you can tell they’re movie theaters is entirely because of the movie posters hung outside the entrance. There are two posters, one labeled “ΣΗΜΕΡΑ (simera, today)” and the other “ΑΥΡΙΟ (avrio, tomorrow).” By which they mean this one is being shown today, and the other tomorrow, but as with most Greek ΑΥΡΙΟs, they weren’t really applicable. Sometimes when we went they showed the same thing as the day before, and other times they showed an entirely different film from what was advertised. So I thought the best policy was to take these as a sort of “rough hypothesis.” However, whatever the case was, the entrances had a total lack of pretense.

This lack of pretense differed slightly in sensibility from that of the movie theaters in the small cities of rural Japan. No matter how small and run down and dirty and reeking of piss a Japanese theater may be, it at least announces itself as a movie theater. The building is a little different from the surrounding buildings, and there’s what might best be called a festive atmosphere to the place, to one degree or another. However, the movie theaters on this island have none of that appearance. There are two posters, one says ΣΗΜΕΡΑ, the other ΑΥΡΙΟ, and that’s the end of the story. It was such a small town on such a small island that there must not have been any need to put out a sign notifying everyone that it was a movie theater.

町には映画館がふたつあって、片方は秋になると閉館し、片方は年間を通して開いている。閉館する方の名前は「シネマリーネ」、開いている方の名前は「ティタニア映画館」である。どちらの映画館も町外れにあるが、どちらも特に映画館らしい格好はしていない。じゃあいったいどういう格好をしているんだ、と聞かれても困る。はっきり言って、どういう格好もしていないからだ。あえて言うならば、どんな商店街の中にも必ずひとつは存在する「何を売っているのか見当もつかない店」という雰囲気である。映画館というにはあまりにも間口が狭く、扉もごく普通の雑貨屋みたいな感じの扉である。これが映画館だとわかるのは、ただひとえに入り口の脇に映画のポスターが貼ってあるからだ。ポスターは二枚あって、ひとつには「ΣΗΜΕΡΑ(シーメラ・本日)」ひとつには「ΑΥΡΙΟ(アーヴァリオ・明日)」という札がぺたんと貼ってある。こっちのは本日上映のやつで、こっちは明日上映のやつですよ、ということだが、大方のギリシャのΑΥΡΙΟがそうであるようにあまりあてにはならない。行ってみると昨日とおなじものをやっていたということもあるし、予告とは全然別の作品を上映していたということもある。だからこういう予告は「ある種のおおまかな仮説」というくらいに考えていた方が懸命であろうと思う。しかしいずれにせよ、全く愛想というものがない門構えである。

こいう愛想のなさは、日本の地方小都市の映画館のありかたとはいささか趣を異にしている。日本の映画館というのはどんなに小さくてぼろくて汚くて小便臭いところでも、一応ここは映画館ですという格好をしている。建物の感じも周りの普通の建物とはちょっと異なっているし、そこには程度の差こそあれ祝祭的とでもいうべき雰囲気が漂っている。ところがこの島の映画館にはそういった構えがまるでない。ポスターが二枚貼ってあって、一方がΣΗΜΕΡΑ、一方がΑΥΡΙΟ、それでおしまいである。どうせ狭い島の狭い町だから、いちいちここが映画館ですと看板を出して断る必要がないのだろう。(90-91)

The section on the theater is quite long and a lot of fun. He and his wife go to see a Bruce Lee movie. The have a bizarre encounter with an old woman at the entrance who insists it isn’t Bruce Lee, but a man shoes them into the theater where they discover it’s someone else reenacting the life of Bruce Lee. A horde of young kids are monkeying around in the theater until some of the adults who stroll in late shout them all down. It sounds like a pretty funny experience, and unfortunately too long to translate in completion here.

And as for the theaters themselves, it looks like they still exist! The photo at the top seems to be Cine Marina from a Wikimedia Commons entry, and there are a number of pages for Cine Titania, which appears much more theater-like these days after a 2017 facelift. The photo above, however, looks much like Murakami describes – a random, rural grocery store somewhere in Japan.

How to Japanese Podcast – S01E02 – Emily Balistrieri

Emily Balistrieri is a Russian translator in another universe. Fortunately for us, she’s a Japanese translator in this one. On the second episode of the How to Japanese Podcast, learn about Emily’s translation projects past and present, study experience, and how Japanese beat out Russian in the end:

For the top of the podcast, I talked about learning how to cook in Japan and how it made me want to go back to Japan.

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

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 ^^;