1997-carter-shotetsu-unforgottendreams.pdf: “Unforgotten Dreams: Poems by the Zen Monk Shōtetsu”, Shōtetsu, Steven D. Carter (translator) (1997):
[This volume presents translations of over 200 poems by Shōtetsu, who is generally considered to be the last great poet of the uta form. Includes an introduction, a glossary of important names and places and a list of sources of the poems.]
The Zen monk Shōtetsu (1381–1459) suffered several rather serious misfortunes in his life: he lost all the poems of his first thirty years—more than 30,000 of them—in a fire; his estate revenues were confiscated by an angry shogun; and rivals refused to allow his work to appear in the only imperially commissioned poetry anthology of his time. Undeterred by these obstacles, he still managed to make a living from his poetry and won recognition as a true master, widely considered to be the last great poet of the classical uta, or waka, tradition. Shōtetsu viewed his poetry as both a professional and religious calling, and his extraordinarily prolific corpus comprised more than 11,000 poems—the single largest body of work in the Japanese canon.
The first major collection of Shōtetsu’s work in English, Unforgotten Dreams presents beautifully rendered translations of more than two hundred poems. The book opens with Steven Carter’s generous introduction on Shōtetsu’s life and work and his importance in Japanese literature, and includes a glossary of important names and places and a list of sources of the poems. Revealing as never before the enduring creative spirit of one of Japan’s greatest poets, this fine collection fills a major gap in the English translations of medieval Japanese literature.
1997-tsuzuki-tokyoacertainstyle.pdf: “Tokyo: A Certain Style”, Kyoichi Tsuzuki (1997):
Writer-photographer Kyoichi Tsuzuki visited a hundred apartments, condos, and houses, documenting what he saw in more than 400 color photos that show the real Tokyo style—a far cry from the serene gardens, shoji screens, and Zen minimalism usually associated with Japanese dwellings.
In this Tokyo, necessities such as beds, bathrooms, and kitchens vie for space with electronic gadgets, musical instruments, clothes, books, records, and kitschy collectibles. Candid photos vividly capture the dizzying “cockpit effect”of living in a snug space crammed floor to ceiling with stuff. And it’s not just bohemian types and students who must fit their lives and work into tight quarters, but professionals and families with children, too. In descriptive captions, the inhabitants discuss the ingenious ways they’ve adapted their home environments to suit their diverse lifestyles.
2002-gibson: “Shiny balls of Mud: William Gibson Looks at Japanese Pursuits of Perfection”, William Gibson (2012-04-20):
The kusözu, “painting of the nine stages of a decaying corpse,” portrays the sequential decay of a female cadaver in graphic detail. The shocking subject, rooted in Buddhist devotional practices, was regularly painted and reinterpreted during half a millennium of Japanese art. The images of a decaying corpse were charged with contextualized functionalities that have gone unrecognized in current scholarship. Through an examination of four major exemplars of the genre, this study shows how new meanings of the image were catalyzed by religious and social transformations.
The kusozu, “painting of the nine stages of a decaying corpse” (hereafter, painting of the nine stages), was executed in Japan from approximately the thirteenth through the nineteenth centuries in various formats, including handscrolls, hanging scrolls, and printed books. The subject itself is derived from a traditional Buddhist doctrine that urges contemplation on the nine stages of a decaying corpse (kusokan, hereafter, contemplation on the nine stages). The teaching dates to the early fifth century and promotes a systematic meditation on the impurity of a decaying corpse as an aid to ardent devotees who wish to liberate themselves from sensual desires and affections.
This paper explores unrecognized features of the paintings of the nine stages as they appear through almost half a millennium of Japanese art. We will see that these narrative paintings functioned as distinct visual agents for audiences in different eras. The functionality of the image shifted from a meditative focus for pietistic catharsis, to a didactic incentive for the pursuit of paradise, to an intercessory offering for the dead at merit transferal rites, to a popularized platform for politically manipulated precepts on feminine morality. After giving the textual and theological background for the nine stages of a decaying corpse, I will examine four images of the nine stages from different centuries, which I term the Nakamura, Raigoji, Dainenbutsuji, and Akagi versions. Finally, some remarks are offered on the enduring vitality of this sensational subject.
teika: “The Poems of Fujiwara no Teika”, Fujiwara no Teika (2011-12-25):
a collation of English translations by various translators of waka poems by the major classical Japanese court poet Fujiwara no Teika (1162-1241)