I feel the Nobel Prize has for once been given to someone I think is a good writer; what can they be thinking of? Anyway, Connie and I were sitting at breakfast talking about Kawabata, whose name I can never remember, and usually recollect it as being Watanabe, whoever he may be, when the radio suddenly announced that he had been awarded the Nobel Prize; at first I thought it was some aberration of sound in my head. He was the one I was complaining to you that he was so little translated, which will now change as I expect at this very moment the minions of Alfred A. Knopf are arranging for a great pretentious Collected Works or the like, which in this case is fine by me. Connie filched my copies of Snow Country and Thousand Cranes to take to the Vineyard to reread, else I would have sent them to you, but I think they can still be come by -- Berkeley has them out in paperback.
Edward Gorey to Peter F. Neumeyer, October 18th, 1968. In Floating Worlds: Letters of Edward Gorey and Peter F. Neumeyer, page 72. Somehow, Watanabe seems to be the default Japanese name when you can't think of the right one. Genshiken chapter 59:
Okakura Kakuzo wrote The Book of Tea in English in Boston in 1906 to introduce the Japanese tea ceremony to a Western audience steeped in Aestheticism. Tuttle picked it up in 1956 and has kept it in print ever since. Over the twentieth century Americans worked out a plain, tough, colloquial style of prose ideally suited to writing about Zen practice. Okakura pre-dates that. Here he is on flowers:
Tell me, gentle flowers, teardrops of the stars, standing in the garden, nodding your heads to the bees as they sing of the dew and the sunbeams, are you aware of the fearful doom that awaits you? Dream on, sway and frolic while you may in the gentle breezes of summer. To-morrow a ruthless hand will close around your throats. You will be wrenched, torn asunder limb by limb, and borne away from your quiet homes. The wretch, she may be passing fair. She may say how lovely you are while her fingers are still moist with your blood. Tell me, will this be kindness? It may be your fate to be imprisoned in the hair of one whom you know to be heartless or to be thrust into the buttonhole of one who would not dare to look you in the face were you a man. It may even be your lot to be confined in some narrow vessel with only stagnant water to quench the maddening thirst that warns of ebbing life.
Oh, brother! An ikebana master should hit him with a stick. Tuttle is not doing the way of tea any favours by keeping this book in print.
It's Round Four of the 2014 Emperor's Cup, otherwise known as the Round of 16. Of the sixteen clubs in contention, nine are from J1 and seven from J2. We're all about the underdog here at Plenty of Nothing, so let's boldly follow the J2 teams:
Game #73: Sanfrecce Hiroshima [1 - 3] Gamba Osaka
Game #74: FC Tokyo [1 - 2] Shimizu S-Pulse
Game #75: Cerezo Osaka [2 - 0] Júbilo Iwata
Game #76: Montedio Yamagata [1 - 0] Sagan Tosu
Game #77: Giravanz Kitakyushu [1 - 0] Ventforet Kofu
Game #78: V-Varen Nagasaki [1 - 2] JEF United Chiba
Game #79: Ehime FC [1 - 2] Omiya Ardija
Game #80: Thespakusatsu Gunma [0 - 1] Nagoya Grampus
V-Varen Nagasaki's name and blue and orange uniform commemorate the city's ties with the Dutch East Indies Company, and the goose on their emblem recalls Nishiyama Sōin's verse:
150 years ago today the Chōshū Domain took on Britain, France, Holland and the United States in a bid to expel all barbarians from Japan. The Shimonoseki War is not much commemorated in the West, but it was a major event in the development of modern Japan. And though the Chōshū Domain lost this battle, its leaders went on to dominate the governments of the Meiji period.
The painting is Attack on the Japanese Battery at Shimonoseki by a Naval Brigade, September 1864 by Niels Møller Lund. It's held at the National Museum of the Royal Navy in Portsmouth.
A few passengers were standing there talking to the officer who had brought the records. The boat was already off the Sanuki coast. One of the passengers said to the officer, "Purser, which one of those mountains is the one with Kotohira Shrine on it?"
"It's that one there," said the officer, pointing. "It's supposed to resemble an elephant's head. Lord Kotohira on Elephant Head Mountain -- that's how they used to refer to the shrine in the old days, I'm told. You see that black patch on the side of the mountain? It looks pretty small from here, but when you get there you'll find that it's a big forest."
Four or five fishing boats, their sails taut, sped past over the indigo sea. The purser said that they were now about in the middle of the Inland Sea, where the tides from the east and west met as they came in and parted as they went out. "Next month will be even busier," he said, "when Zentsūji Temple has its festival."
Kensaku moved away from the group and went astern. There he sat down on a bench and looked at the line of mountains in the distance. There was a mountain on this side of the one the purser pointed at which seemed to Kensaku to have a much greater resemblance to an elephant's head.
The elephant, which has until now only shown its head, suddenly rises out of the ground. The people are thrown into a panic. Will this monster destroy all mankind, or will they find a way to destroy it? Soldiers, statesmen and scholars from all over the world gather together and rack their brains. Guns and mines won't do, for the elephant's hide is a hundred yards thick, and they would only scratch its surface. Trying to starve it would be useless, for it eats at fifty-year intervals. The more intelligent men say that so long as it is not annoyed it will do no mischief. Certain men of religion in India say that it is a god. But the great majority of men clamor for its immediate destruction, and are full of foolish ideas as to how this might be accomplished. The elephant begins to get angry.
Before he knew it, Kensaku himself had become the elephant, excitedly preparing for his one-man war against the world at large. He is in a city. Each time he stamps a foot, fifty thousand men are crushed to death. Guns, mines, poison gas, airplanes, airships -- all such ingenious devices created by man's intelligence are directed at him. He takes a deep breath, exhales through his long nose, and the airplanes, feebler than mosquitoes, fall to the ground; the airships float away helplessly like balloons. He draws up water into his nose and disgorges it, and there is a flood; he descends into the depths of the ocean and comes up suddenly, causing a tremendous tidal wave ...
"I hope the trip hasn't been too boring for you, sir. That over there is Tadotsu. We'll be arriving in about ten minutes." It was the purser. Little did he know that at that moment Kensaku was far from being bored.
Naoya Shiga, A Dark Night's Passing, pages 132-4. This novel was published in 1937, but most of it was serialized from 1921 to 1923, three decades before the first Godzilla movie; which only goes to show that everything was invented in the Twenties.