Friday, December 22

Going Home

Final three pages of a diary, kept by Nagai Kafû during his years in the United States and France, 1903–1908.

March 18. Feel a cold coming on, couldn’t focus on reading.
March 19. Made a plan for a novel describing the lives of Japanese living in the U.S.
March 20. Received another letter from father. It appears my fate has been sealed, and I’m to return to Japan once and for all. Though I have already come to terms with this, I nonetheless felt a sudden shock.
March 21 (Saturday). As dawn came, neither awake nor asleep I mulled over my future. There are two options before me: Shall I return to my country and become a writer in wretched poverty? Or shall I go back to New York where Edith awaits me, and resume a life of sin? I wracked my brain, but could not come to a decision.
March 23. Saw Professor Anesaki.
March 24. I’ve felt ill for several days, and find the preparations for my journey so tiresome I can’t bear it. In the afternoon I took to bed to recover.
March 25. No matter what I do, I still don’t feel like I’m actually leaving France. My bags are already packed, and yet I feel as though were going to remain forever in Paris, instead of merely passing through as a tourist.
March 26. Took a last walk through Lyon for old time’s sake. Still feel rotten. I’m worried that my fatigue is such I won’t even be able to make the journey.
March 27. Went to dinner with Mr. Nakasa, assistant manager at the bank. Walking home late I crossed the Pont Lafayette and for some reason on this night the sound of the Rhone was not wild and thrashing, but instead I found the lapping of waves against the ships along the shore indescribably peaceful. The night was clear, warm, and still. Thinking I would never see the Rhone again, I leaned against the railing and wept.
March 28 (Saturday). Clear all day today, like it was summer. I wanted to stay just one more day in Lyon, but finally made up my mind to board the train for Paris. The sun was just about to set as we passed out of Dijon, when I thought of what awaited me upon my return home and felt a bottomless melancholy. Will arrive in Paris at twelve o’clock. I plan to spend the night at an inn near the station and then move to the Latin Quarter tomorrow morning.
March 29 (Sunday). Walked around the city all day. Exhausted, I fell asleep and for some reason had a dream in which I saw my mother in the beauty of her youth. I was startled and awoke. It was three o’clock in the morning, and I could hear rain falling.
March 30. In the afternoon saw sculpture of Maupassant in Parc Monceau. Evening, went to opera.
March 31. Day, Musée du Luxembourg. Evening, Montmartre.
April 1. Day, Musée du Louvre. Evening, the Odéon.
April 2. Day, the boulevards. Evening, the Concert Rouge.
April 3. Day, Musée du Luxembourg. Evening, the Opéra-Comique.
April 4 (Saturday). Day, Boulevard, Stock Exchange, La Madeleine. Evening, .
April 5 (Sunday). Day, Père Lachaise Cemetery. Night, Concert Rouge.
April 6. Day, Montmartre Cemetery. Night, Casino Montmartre.
May 28. Left Paris. Arrived in London after dark.
May 29. Stayed in London.
May 30 (Saturday). Set sail at twelve o’clock.

Tuesday, December 12

Song Overheard

There is a scene in Tamenaga Shunsui's Shunshoku umegoyomi (The Spring-colored Plum Calendar, 1833), in which erstwhile gang-leader Oyoshi, who has just discovered that the man she loves has been involved with her younger sister, the geisha Yonehachi, overhears a girl next door singing a popular song:
梅に鶯アレきかしやんせ すゐなゆかりとわれながら、我つま琴を掻きならす、思ひの丈の尺八も、一夜ぎりとはきにかゝる 凧の糸目も花の邪广
'Cuckoo in the pines, let me hear that one again. "What a strange attraction, despite myself I'm strumming my lute, my flute the length of my desire, one night is not enough." The kite string is only in the flowers way.'     Hearing this song, she wondered if it were an omen, a sign to break the "kite string" of her relationship with Tobei, and thus keep the flowers from scattering, as it were.
Nakamura Yukihiko suggests in his commentary that this song is lifted from an 1816 jōruri called "Sono kouta yume mo Yoshiwara" 其小唄夢廓 (more commonly referred to as Gonpachi, after the name of the protagonist). The passage is at the beginning of part two, where Gonpachi is troubled by a dream he's had of sharing a last drink with the geisha Komurasaki before his own execution:
間夫といふも廓の名、客といふも廓の名、嘘と誠の分隔て それも鳴く音の鶯も梅に三浦の小紫、粋な由縁と我ながら我がつま琴とかき鳴らす思ひのたけの尺八も 恋慕流しは権八が一節切とは気にかゝり
Lover is just a quarter name, and customer is just a quarter name, the difference is in lies and truth. And singing this the cuckoo in the pines, Komurasaki of Miura. What a strange attraction, despite myself I'm strumming my lute, my flute the length of my desire. Surging with longing, for Gonpachi one night is not enough.
On this sight you can view an image of the historical Gonpachi's grave. He was the son of a Tottori samurai, who killed one of his father's comrades and became a bandit in Edo, but eventually turned himself in and was executed. Komurasaki, who committed suicide over his grave, is buried next to him.
    If you're curious, there's an excellent translation of part of Shunshoku umegoyomi in the Columbia Early Modern Japanese Literature anthology.