japonisme: 7/3/11 - 7/10/11

09 July 2011

Where am I standing, if I'm to stand still now?


oboro-oboro fumeba mizu nari mayoi michi

in hazy night
stepping into water...
losing my way

David G. Lanoue

The season word in this haiku, oboro, refers succinctly to a hazy night of spring. In this uncertain, dreamlike light, Issa steps off a path into water. Hiroshi Kobori notes that the poet's state of mind is like the misty night. He feels insecure and bewildered, aware of the uncertainty of his own future.

According to Lewis Mackenzie, this haiku alludes to the death of one of Issa's friends, a Buddhist priest. On a journey, Issa went to visit him only to find that he had been dead for several years. Mackenzie translates the last phrase, "Ways of delusion!" See The Autumn Wind: A Selection from the Poems of Issa (London: John Murray, 1957; rpt. Tokyo: Kodansha International, 1984), 30.

In Saigoku kikô ("Western Provinces Travel Diary") there is an explanatory prescript of which Shinji Ogawa offers this paraphrase: After hearing of his priest friend Sarai's death, Issa begged his replacement for a night's stay at the temple but was refused. Counting on Sarai, he had come over 300 ri (732 miles), "without a soul to lean on, going over the fields and the yards..." See Issa zenshû (Nagano: Shinano Mainichi Shimbunsha, 1976-79) 5.36.

Makoto Ueda reports that Issa found a place to stay that night "just one hundred feet away"; Dew on the Grass: The Life and Poetry of Kobayashi Issa (Leiden/Boston: Brill, 2004) 33.

Debi Bender likes the repetition and alliteration in the opening phrase (oboro-oboro). To preserve this subtle music, she suggests this translation:

misty, misty moon
stepping into water
losing my way

Issa, Debi Bender


Dreamed the thong of my sandal broke.
Nothing to hold it to my foot.
How shall I walk?
The sharp stones, the dirt. I would

Where was I going?
Where was I going I can't
go to now, unless hurting?
Where am I standing, if I'm
to stand still now?

Denise Levertov

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06 July 2011

revolution by simplicity

Many developments in 19th century art reflect the influence of Japan. Artists such as Manet experimented with flattened forms after seeing Japanese prints. Vincent van Gogh collected hundreds of Japanese prints, and they influenced his use of brilliant colors and heavy outlines. Larger artistic movements such as Arts and Crafts and Art Nouveau have a great deal of Japonisme at their root. Though the primary Japonisme craze was in the 1880's and 90's, artists and designers continued to use elements of the style for some time, particularly when dealing with Japanese themes.

With respect to book-binding, cover designers employed a variety of techniques that reflected an interest in Japanese style. In the Victorian period, covers that didn't necessarily look Japanese showed the influence through the use of asymmetrical design, strong diagonals, oriental typefaces and motives, and a variety of fill patterns.

In the move away from more gaudy Victorian covers, many designers appreciated the simplicity of some of Japanese style. Some covers mimicked the binding style of Japanese books, or Japanese paper. Others used an oriental style typeface or actual Japanese characters. Asymmetrical design continued to be popular as well as imitations of the flat Japanese landscape style. Many of the covers of books by author Lafcadio Hearn are done in these styles, reflecting his subject matter and immigration to Japan.

Certain known cover designers showed influence by Japonisme. Some of Sarah Wyman Whitman's simple elegant designs have evidence of roots in Japonisme, while others use more explicit Japanese motifs, although she herself denounced the gaudy 1880s eclectic covers that "represented a combination of bad French art mixed with Japanese art; scrolls and arabesques, which had to do with some debased form of book cover mixed with a bit of Japanese fan." Several covers by Bertha Stuart, who designed primarily between 1903 and 1911 show a strong Japanese influence as well.

not, i will admit, wholly new, but i believe all of these extraordinary images are, new to this blog. much much more at the website where these words come from, HERE. these designers, they take my breath away. see more from this blog (including links) HERE.

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04 July 2011

no wedgies either

No ironic commentary on their clothing, their religion, their customs, shall be done, and no rude or insulting words shall be sent them.

We will not use the words keto (Chinese hairy) akahige (red beard), and ijin (barbaric).

One should not face them with impert- inence.

When we visit a strange house, one should be wearing clean shoes.

Foreign missionaries must be respected as equal to Japanese priests.

Avoid disturbing the games or rides strangers by throwing tiles, stones or sticks, or spitting, throwing fruit peels and scraps of cigars on trains or boats where you find them.

oddly, these words appear just under that lovely photo of the horikiri iris garden. if there is a larger context, neither my french skills nor my translating (google) patience give me any real context. it may surprise you (it surprised me) to learn that the photograph was taken in 1915, and hiroshi yoshida's print of the same place is from 1928. and the book is HERE.

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