Monday, July 14, 2008

Now it turns out I'm going to Japan

Although there ain't no guarantee uh nothin', it looks like I will go to Tokyo, On Business, for basically the entire month of August. What a wonderful opportunity, etc., etc. But Japanese banks don't fly a person halfway around the world to retrace the steps of Basho.

I've never been farther west than San Francisco, so this really is a good thing, although it will be, mostly, work and more work. I worry that it will impact my posting. No, who cares about that, I worry it will impact my reading.

No formal reading list this time, although I am looking at some of Kenneth Rexroth's translations of classical Japanese poems, and I just finished Christopher Benfey's The Great Wave, a superb account of the cultural interactions between Japan and the United States (New England, really) in the late 19th century. Maybe more on that book later.

I'm also trying to teach myself Japanese. Ha ha ha ha! Teach myself - ho ho - Japanese! Ichi, ni, san, shi, go, roku, shichi, hachi, ku, jū. Hajimemashite. Amateur Reader desu. Dozo kory-something. That was from memory - am I learning? Is it more polite to mangle your host's language with the best intentions, or to stick with English?

A 9th century poem, by Ariwara No Narihira, from Rexroth's One Hundred Poems from the Japanese:

I have always known
That at last I would
Take this road, but yesterday
I did not know that it would be today.


  1. Wow! Japan is one of the countries I'm dying to visit, but I've resigned myself to waiting for an end to the oil crisis (i.e., electric planes) before I can afford it. Will you post pictures afterwards?

  2. I hope your interest will last long enough that you'll provide some insights into Japanese literature, too.

    What do you do for a living that affords you such great opportunities to travel?

  3. Th, you are killing me. Have you been talking to my reporters? Are they feeding you this kind of language? Affect. AFFECT. It will affect your reading. It will HAVE an impact UPON your reading. It will afford you the opportunity to purchase completely bizarre snack foods. It will allow you to eat extremely peculiar candies. It will give you the chance to purchase Hello Kitty and KerKeroKeroppi and Chococat and Bad Badtz-Maru items in bulk.
    Sigh. Lucky. Make sure you stay in one of those coffin hotels for a night, just for the experience. Let me know if it's as much like being a sandwich at an Automat as I think it must be.

  4. I'm surprised more consulting-speak doesn't leak into my writing (although "will impact" meets NYT standards). At least I never write (or say) that I'm "building eminence" or "architecting a solution".

    This trip spurs the imagination more than most of my business travel, which is generally very limited - two days in Jacksonville, FL, and two in Tampa covers all of last year, I think. But in fact, I'll be lucky if I have three full days free in Tokyo.

    As for the coffin hotels, no way: Imperial Hotel. As for bizarre snack foods, yes, load me up.

  5. Wow! How exciting! Did you know this when you posted about reading Japanese and Chinese literature or is it just a coincidence?

  6. Not a coincidence. I had known about this for a little while before I wrote about it, although it still seems quite sudden to me.

  7. This is wonderful - or rather, exciting. Even if you don't to do much sightseeing. I used to live in Japan and there are days I really miss it. Then there are the other days :-)
    Have you read Soseki? or Oe? I'd at least try one of the two if you get a chance.
    I'm so jealous of your chance to eat Japanese food for an entire month. The Swiss man and I are planning a trip for next year (course we said that last year too...)

  8. However little time I have to do anything else, I will get to eat. One of the world's great food cities and an expense account - I have no complaints about that.

    I've read neither Oe nor Soseki, nor Kawabata, Tanizaki, or Endo. That's one of the reasons I don't wat to think about a reading list - there would be too much on it.

    Good luck getting to Japan next year.