Rainbows on Eyelashes 睫毛の虹

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I bought a book of Japanese poems, Rainbows on Eyelashes (睫毛の虹), by Misuzu Kaneko. The book has the poems in Japanese characters along with English translations and beautiful watercolor illustrations by Midori Yoshida.  It is children’s poetry, really, but at my level of Japanese it’s something easy enough to remember and still learn from.

Some years ago I saw a Japanese TV drama about Misuzu Kaneko (金子 みすゞ).  She had a tragic short life from 1903 to 1930, and her poems were forgotten until they were rediscovered in 1982.  The drama had no English subtitles, but for my Japanese class I looked up the words and learned some of the poems and did a presentation on her in Japanese.  I searched for books of her poetry online and wanted this one but at the time it was expensive and had to be imported from Japan.  I recently looked again on Amazon and found a used copy in the US for only $2.81 so I got it (in very good condition.)  The book’s pages are turned the traditional Japanese way, from left to right.  It’s rather small, 8.5″ x 6″, and 68 pages.

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The poems have common themes of kindness, empathy, and appreciation for the simple things of nature. The one “Stars and a Dandelion” is my favorite, probably because it has stars in it. I memorized it for my Japanese class.

「星とタンポポ」

青いお空のそこ深く
海の小石のそのように
夜がくるまで沈んでる
昼のお星は目に見えぬ

見えぬけれども あるんだよ
見えぬものでも あるんだよ

散ってすがれたタンポポの
川原の隙に だぁまって
春のくるまで隠れてる
強いその根は目に見えぬ

見えぬけれどもあるんだよ
見えぬものでもあるんだよ

Stars and a Dandelion

In the deep blue sky,
Like the pebbles at the bottom of the sea,
The daytime stars, sinking until night comes,
Are invisible to our eyes.
But though we can't see them, they are there.
Things invisible are still there.

A fallen withered dandelion
Silently hides in the cracks of a roof tile
Its strong roots, waiting until spring comes,
Are invisible to our eyes.
But though we can't see them, they are there.
Things invisible are still there.

Having studied Japanese, I find these poems don’t have quite the same feeling in English.  I don’t think this is the fault of the translator-  some thoughts in Japanese just can’t be translated closely (the same with English, I’m sure.)  But it doesn’t matter so much with poetry, and the pictures help the translation.  These poems would be very good to read to children (and adults) — there are lessons about respect for others, like one where she scolds her cat for chasing a cricket that is missing a leg.  But some of the poems are quite sad, like the one about the shopkeeper whose dog died.

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There are a couple of poems about fish, which I memorized.  Next time I’m in a restaurant having fish with Japanese friends I’ll recite them and see if I can make someone cry, or at least pause.

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「おさかな」

海の魚はかわいそう。
お米は人につくられる、
牛は牧場で飼われてる、
鯉もお池で麩を貰う。
けれども海のお魚は
なんにも世話にならないし
いたずら一つしないのに
こうして私に食べられる。
ほんとに魚はかわいそう。

Fish

I feel sorry for the fish in the sea.

The rice in the field is cultivated by man, 
The cows in the pasture are raised by man,
The carp in the pond too are fed by man.

But the fish in the sea
Are under the care of nobody at all
And even though they never cause any trouble
They're eaten by me just like this.

I really feel sorry for the fish.

I really like this book.

ほんとにこの本が好きです。

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2 Responses to Rainbows on Eyelashes 睫毛の虹

  1. vguenzler says:

    Cool. I recently received the book すてきなひとりぼち (~=Splendid solitude), a collection of poems by Tanikawa Shuntaro, as a souvenir. It has children’s poems in it as well, including the famous poem iruka (dolphins). You might like that one as well.

    Like

  2. Thanks. I memorized one of Tanikawa Shuntaro’s poems for my Japanese class, Ohayo no asa. The site has some of his poems read by Japanese celebrities:
    http://kizuna311.com/contents/reading122/

    Like

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