Sunday, August 7, 2011

MUSINGS / July 9, 2011

The Yomiuri Shimbun

The following is a translation of the Henshu Techo column from The Yomiuri Shimbun's July 9 issue.

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A yukata-clad woman, holding a round fan in her hand, is enjoying a cool breeze on an outdoor bench. The picture is drawn in a way that we can see the coolness. But when I focus on the woman herself, her face and posture look sluggish, making me feel hot, rather than cool. Even just to be nice, I can't say the picture was done well.

I recently had a look at the picture, drawn by Saneatsu Mushanokoji (1885-1976), at an exhibition titled "Soseki to Bunjintachi no Shoga," which displayed paintings and calligraphic works by Soseki Natsume (1867-1916) and other writers at the Kanagawa Museum of Modern Literature in Yokohama.

The writer apparently was not satisfied with the picture himself. On the side of it, Mushanokoji wrote: "It was a failure. But my drawings might get better if I do them a hundred more times."

This shows he was indeed a hard-working man. But it is said he never improved at drawing.

"That's why I like him," wrote Hitomi Yamaguchi (1926-1995), also a novelist, who loved Mushanokoji's drawings.

"For me, the knowledge that there are people who can never get better no matter how hard they study encourages me far more than the knowledge that you can improve if you study hard," Yamaguchi wrote in his book titled "Mukuge no Hana" (Flower of Althaea) published as part of the Shincho Bunko pocketbook series.

We have a prime minister who is not ashamed of shifting the responsibility for his misgovernment onto someone else, and an electric power company that has eagerly turned to tricking the people with faked e-mails and other deceptions. Such things may be why I cherish the memory of a writer who was the very embodiment of straightforward honesty.

Mushanokoji wrote a poem that goes something like this: "Those who want to make a fuss, make a fuss. I'm a blue sky."

This is a summer that makes me long even more for a blue sky in people's minds.

(Jul. 14, 2011)

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