April 19, 2011

Current Anthology of Ten Thousand Leaves

There is an ancient anthology of poems which has been loved for over 1200 years by people in Japan. It is 万葉集 - Anthology of Ten Thousand Leaves. It contains about 4500  poems  including Tanka- short poems, and was compiled around the mid-eighth century when Nara was the capital of Japan. The most unique feature about the anthology is that the chosen poems are composed by a wide variety of people, from the emperors to beggars, transcending the social status. The poems are unassuming and dynamic.

These poems are mirrors reflecting the feelings or thoughts of the people and the social conditions of the time  . The emperors and noble people mentioned love, essence of beauty of flowers or glory of the realm. The  poor farmers lamented  the misery of poverty and hunger. The frontier guards cried over  the pain of separation from their families. As the poems are freshly appealing to us , we vividly feel the emotions of ancient people.

In December 2008, one Tanka(short poem) was sent in to the poetry section of Asahi Newspaper by a self-declared homeless person, Koda( or Kuden) Koichi.  Since then he had regularly sent in his poems and  most of them were selected and appeared in the newspaper every Monday. Judging from his poems which described his everyday life, we believed he was a homeless poet. His perspective and the way he lived with dignity as a homeless person  deeply touched our hearts.

百均の「赤いきつね」と迷いつつ月曜だけ買ふ朝日新聞  公田耕一(ホームレス)

I can hardly decide whether to buy Akai Kitsune cup noodle at a 100yen shop
or to buy Asahi Newspaper. 
But  I choose to buy Asahi newspaper only if it is on Monday. 
by Koda Koichi (homeless)

Every time I read his poems, I am moved very much, and  I was especially moved by this poem. Monday is the day when the selected poems appear in  the newspaper. He wanted to read the poetry section on a brand-new newspaper.

Here is the other unique poet who has been regular member of the poetry section of Asahi Newspaper since 1996.  He is Go Hayato who has been serving a life term in prison on a murder charge in California, USA.

囚人の己が〈(ホームレス)公田〉想いつつ食むHOTMEALを  郷隼人(アメリカ)

Even I, a prisoner,getting a hot meal,
thinking of homeless Koda. 
 by Go Hayato (America)

温かき缶コーヒーを抱きて寝て覚めれば冷えしコーヒー啜る  公田耕一(ホームレス)

I sleep holding a warm canned coffee
and sip cool coffee upon waking. 
by Koda Koichi (homeless)

Above two poems appeared on March 30th, 2009 in Asahi Newspaper side by side.  It was the most exciting moment for the readers. This was a miraculously rare chance as every week thousands of people send in their poems to the newspaper and only 40 poems are selected.  Both of them sent their poems and both of poems were selected. It's uncertain, but it seems as Koda is responding to Go while Go is consoliong Koda. This is the only one moment the two lonely hearts crisscrossed.

 Koda appeared like a comet and disappeared suddenly in September 2009. Nobody knows who he is or what happened to him. He has remained enigmatic.

Go published the collection of his Tanka (short poems)  and essays, titled "LONESOME 隼人(Hayato)" in 2004.

The people in the disaster-stricken area have also started to compose the  poems on the earthquake, Tsunami and nuclear plant crisis.  I am sure all of them could be the poets of a Current Ten Thousand Leaves Anthology if it were compiled.  One thousand years later, future  people will read their poems and share their emotions, sorrows, passions, pains as we are now sharing love, misery, sadness and more mentioned by ancient people through the poems.  I believe these poems are more powerful than history books.

Normal life is gradually returning to Japan even though a pile of issues lie ahead of us . Tokyo Disneyland reopened with fewer lights on April 16th. Many notable Japan's musicians such as Gackt, T.M Revolution, Radwimps, AKB48 and more  are contributing to collect donation for the badly affected areas.  If you are a fan of XJapan, this news will interest you. The founder of  XJapan, Yoshiki announced to offer up his favorite crystal piano to the highest bidder for the quake relief. Yahoo Auction (sorry, it's only in Japanese) already started on April 17th beginning with 1 yen and will end on 24th April. Now the bid is soaring up to one hundred  million yen!

Yoshiki, XJapan のクリスタルピアノ、オークションのやり直しをしているようです。60億という値段まで飛び出しましたが、いたずら入札が多かったようですね。とても残念なことです。4月27日

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  1. what a lovely collection. i wonder if that is translated in english. thanks for sharing this post.

  2. Thank you for your caring post. Your words and photos are so warm and compassionate. I will be back to read more, I also have a story to tell you about your profile picture.

  3. 印象的で美しい写真を背景にした優し文章から、二人の心の繋がりを短い言葉からも知ることができました。ありがとう。

  4. I delight in your photos which have a unique eye for composition. I believe this is true: "poems are more powerful than history books"

  5. Your photos symbolises your contents so well.
    I've heard of Koda Koichi, though I came to know better thanks to your lovely post. Before I sometimes read tanka poem on paper by Sakaguchi who was arrested amidst of movement by students and incident of Asama-sanso.

  6. That is so wonderful about blogging we can find so many talented people. And it astounds me.
    You made me feel so good reading your talented post.

  7. Thank you for snowwhite and an always wonderful photograph.

    Those "Work" is one of the enjoyments of me.

    The following of "Cherry blossoms" are "Fresh green. "

    It becomes busy again.

    It may be a thing that becomes the work of holding bread.

    Always I'm sorry for making "Blog" of snowwhite dirty.

  8. Your sense of beauty and the firm skill to get it across through pictures seem exceptional to me. I'm always admired with your blog.

    To know there're lots of dedication to the relief activity in various forms and sizes by the people from celebrities to unknown volunteers,from inside and outside of Japan is a great help to go forward. Good for X-Japan!

  9. Such beauty in your thoughts and shots! I'm going to look out for that book of poems.

  10. Wonderfully informative. The images are beautiful.

  11. How fascinating to read poems from people in all walks of life, particularly from past times when the feelings of ordinary people were often not recorded. I have a great curiosity about the past, and L P Hartley's comment that the past is a foreign country, is always with me.

  12. this is a most beautiful post. thank you for sharing the poetry, and the stories behind the two poets and more. I'm interested in reading Lonesome and will keep my eyes open for the book. your photographs are lovely as always. have a great week Keiko!

  13. Your images are beautiful as always Snowwhite.
    Poetry does indeed have a unique way of connecting people across continents and centuries.

    All best wishes!

  14. I haven’t known both of the poets, for one thing I haven’t subscribed the Asahi for many years but for another maybe my antenna for a good story had not been high up.

    Your pictures are so apt to modern Manyoshu Anthology as sung in the jungle of urban cities. I felt goose-puns on the first photo: the river is dyed in the setting sun and cities are enveloped in the spring haze. Awesome!

  15. The composition of the first photograph gives a grand impression to me!!

  16. The photo of the sunset over the river is truly beautiful.


Thanks a lot for visiting my blog and leaving warm messages. I will visit your site soon. keiko