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Archive for August, 2012

on translating Kenji Miyazawa’s “Ame ni mo makezu”

August 15, 2012


Here is an excerpt of a recent  Q & A from “Tomo Anthology blog

featuring two translators, David Sulz and Hart Larrabee, on their

respective translations of the classic Miyazawa poem “Ame ni mo

makezu”, about which this blog posted previously:

“What do you particularly like about this poem?

David Sulz: I love the human vs. nature struggle. It is not about defeating nature, or escaping into your basement/car/office/mall, or coming up with technology make yourself immune to nature. It’s about accepting nature, dealing with nature on its own turf,  and becoming mentally strong enough to not only endure but also enjoy it. Maybe this poem has influenced me embrace winter in one of the coldest winter cities on earth, Edmonton, where walking to work in -40 degrees or playing hockey outdoors or cross-country skiing is even more satisfying an achievement than in warmer climes.

I also like the idea that one can be both humble and strong at the same time. Humility isn’t weakness and strength isn’t aggression. A satisfied and good person doesn’t have to be ostentatious with big houses and fancy meals. Courage also comes from small acts that seem easy on paper but are difficult in real-life such as convincing people to stop quarrelling or helping someone with a heavy load when lots of other people are watching.

Finally, I appreciate the last line—“this is my goal, the person I strive to become.” Miyazawa is not telling anyone else how to act or be except by his own example—which is very Buddhist, I think. He is saying, here’s what I think it takes to be human, I’m going to try to achieve it, you can try too if you’d like but you don’t have to.

Hart Larrabee: On its own, I like it as a spare and deeply personal meditation on right living. As a phenomenon, I am fascinated by the way it has been employed post-3/11 to convey a kind of stoic resolve in the face of tragedy. I can’t help but wonder if Satoh’s use of the poem on Nihongo de asobo—recitations of the poem in regional dialects from around Japan are one of my favorite parts of the show—helped lay the groundwork for the poem’s resurgence.”

To read the entire interview, and see both their translations, click here.

Bob Dylan & Kenji Miyazawa on rain (雨ニモマケズ)

August 13, 2012


Here’s Bob Dylan’s classic 1964 “A Hard Rain’s Gonna Fall”, 

and the lyrics–


“A Hard Rain’s a – Gonna Fall”


“Oh, where have you been, my blue-eyed son?

And where have you been my darling young one?”


“I’ve stumbled on the side of twelve misty mountains

I’ve walked and I’ve crawled on six crooked highways

I’ve stepped in the middle of seven sad forests

I’ve been out in front of a dozen dead oceans”


“I’ve been ten thousand miles in the mouth of a graveyard

And it’s a hard, it’s a hard, it’s a hard, it’s a hard

It’s a hard rain a-gonna fall”

“Oh, what did you see, my blue eyed son?

And what did you see, my darling young one?”


“I saw a newborn baby with wild wolves all around it

I saw a highway of diamonds with nobody on it

I saw a black branch with blood that kept drippin’

I saw a room full of men with their hammers a-bleedin’”


“I saw a white ladder all covered with water

I saw ten thousand talkers whose tongues were all broken

I saw guns and sharp swords in the hands of young children

And it’s a hard, it’s a hard, it’s a hard, and it’s a hard It’s a hard rain a-gonna fall”


“And what did you hear, my blue-eyed son?

And what did you hear, my darling young one?”


“I heard the sound of a thunder, it roared out a warnin’

I heard the roar of a wave that could drown the whole world

I heard one hundred drummers whose hands were a-blazin’

I heard ten thousand whisperin’ and nobody listenin’”


“I heard one person starve, I heard many people laughin’

Heard the song of a poet who died in the gutter

I heard the sound of a clown who cried in the alley

And it’s a hard, it’s a hard, it’s a hard, it’s a hard

It’s a hard rain’s a-gonna fall”


“Oh, what did you meet my blue-eyed son?

And who did you meet, my darling young one?”


“I met a young child beside a dead pony

I met a white man who walked a black dog

I met a young woman whose body was burning

I met a young girl, she gave me a rainbow”


“I met one man who was wounded in love

I met another man who was wounded in hatred

And it’s a hard, it’s a hard, it’s a hard, it’s a hard

It’s a hard rain’s a-gonna fall”


“And what’ll you do now, my blue-eyed son?

And what’ll you do now, my darling young one?”


“I’m a-goin’ back out ‘fore the rain starts a-fallin’

I’ll walk to the depths of the deepest dark forest

Where the people are many and their hands are all empty

Where the pellets of poison are flooding their waters”


“Where the home in the valley meets the damp dirty prison

And the executioner’s face is always well hidden

Where hunger is ugly, where the souls are forgotten

Where black is the color, where none is the number”


“And I’ll tell it and think it and speak it and breathe it

And reflect from the mountain so all souls can see it

And I’ll stand on the ocean until I start sinkin’

But I’ll know my song well before I start singin’

And it’s a hard, it’s a hard, it’s a hard, and it’s a hard

It’s a hard rain’s a-gonna fall”



And here’s Kenji Miyazawa‘s classic 1933 “Be Not Defeated By the Rain”

(Ame ni mo Makezu), (a poem “found posthumously in a small

black notebook in one of the poet’s trunks”), with the lyrics in the

original Katakana and English–


































(English translation, from Wikipedia)


not losing to the rain

not losing to the wind

not losing to the snow nor to summer’s heat

with a strong body

unfettered by desire

never losing temper

always quietly smiling

every day four bowls of brown rice

miso and some vegetables to eat

in everything

count yourself last and put others before you

watching and listening, and understanding

and never forgetting

in the shade of the woods of the pines of the fields

being in a little thatched hut

if there is a sick child to the east

going and nursing over them

if there is a tired mother to the west

going and shouldering her sheaf of rice

if there is someone near death to the south

going and saying there’s no need to be afraid

if there is a quarrel or a lawsuit to the north

telling them to leave off with such waste

when there’s drought, shedding tears of sympathy

when the summer’s cold, wandering upset

called a nobody by everyone

without being praised

without being blamed

such a person

I want to become