Four Poems by Yoshiko Hanabusa
Four Poems by Yoshiko Hanabusa
Rina Kikuchi 0
Part of the Japanese Studies Commons 0
Language Interpretation 0
Translation Commons 0
Modern Literature Commons 0
the Poetry Commons 0
0 Shiga University
Follow this and additional works at: https://scholarworks.wmich.edu/transference
Four Poems by Hanabusa Yoshiko
The State of My Day
Sitting on the dresser A box of Shikishima cigarettes, gloves, a plastic pinwheel, Karukasu cracker crumbs, postcards and calling cards
More and more things there too A train ticket, a half-used ball of yarn, A wallet, a sachet of Ry?kakusan cough medicine, A fountain pen, a handkerchief dried in the sun
When night falls and the children sleep I clean up the dresser top Piled up there, each item recounts The pleasures of deeds done that day
Come tomorrow, fresh and new, May the pile grow ever higher With tomorrow?s items Healthy and full of love!
?This is my boy
The day he graduated from aviation school at Kasumigaura?
A memento of the time
He received a gift from the Emperor,?
I say this, pointing at the desktop photo
In a plaza, walled by red and white curtains,
In front of another long curtain,
You, straight as a shoot of bamboo,
Raise your hand to salute the Emperor
I vividly feel
Your pulse, your pride
But only a few days later, far too soon,
He was sent to the Navy Base in Oita
May 24, 1939
7:25 in the evening
Those numbers?forever, as long as I live?
Will remain deeply lodged in my body and soul
He joined a night drill
In preparation for the heavy yet honorable duty
To which he was about to be called
They say he asked to lead the aircraft 95 in combat,
But that evening
His life concluded at twenty-four years
As he died, becoming a fallen blossom in the open sky
That was the last of him
His fighter plane crashed
Onto the great plains in Oita, darkness already falling
Dyeing the navy-blue wheat field with burning red
Like a falling meteorite
The officers dashed there, shouting
Who?s that? Whose craft? What aircraft number?
His body was clad tight in uniform,
His face hidden in his helmet,
It wasn?t easy to identify who he was
One voice screamed, ?Lieutenant Colonel Ikeda!?
Tearing through the darkness of night
His comrades-in-arms held their breath
Then called your name like thunder
While surrounding you, my boy
Their cries called him back to life
Using his last strength, he sat,
Held the control stick again
As if to lift his spirit and fly once more
He lasted only half a minute more
They brought him to the Navy Hospital
But despite diligent care,
My boy?s soul left this world
All wept for his heroic end
Those who knew him and those who did not
Attended the solemn military funeral
All this was written in a heart-felt letter
I received from a perfect stranger
Made my wishes come true
Your mother, who adores the blue sky and wide-open ocean,
Had her wishes granted thanks to you
Beautiful both inside and outside, you became
One of the youngest, bravest soldiers of the sea, of Japan, of the Fatherland
Your death is in the utmost honor
I wish for nothing more in this world, for humankind, for myself
There is nothing more I wish to say
I, a nameless woman poet, Am humble, full of awe. I say ?Long life?banzai!?to Your Majesty, the Emperor.? 42
Over the Winter Mountains
- Joining the Kagayaku women?s troop
to visit Minato Veterans?
Hospital?We should have brought some flowers,?
Someone said in the bus.
She was right, no one has flowers
But still we go over the winter mountains
Bearing only our pure hearts
The seaside town of Izu, covered in dust,
Greeted us gloomily
Islands, seagulls, fruit orchards, mountain surfaces
Everything I see makes me cold
Lake Ippeki is the only blue
Turning from the bus
I fill my fountain pen
With the clear water of this lonesome high land
Minato Veterans? Hospital, are we there yet? Not yet, much, much further This mountain, that mountain From the city of Shimoda,
We once more go over the mountains
The Battle of Sparrows
In the sunny, quiet sky of autumn
The sparrows fight incessantly
Darkening branches as they gather
Their noisy cries never cease
Some may be wounded but still
Their uproar brings me cheer
One dark night, as dark as a lone house,
I plant spring onions.
Snow-white, straight shoots
Burrow into the cool, soft soil
One by one, they go down deep
As I collect my thoughts
I am a triangle-shaped ruler.
If I become edgeless, I will no longer exist.
So, my friends, forgive me.
The tree half-felled by the storm,
Is it falling down
Or is it rising up?
A rainy day
Are the umbrellas
Feeling joy or grief?
Answer me, with your own ideology
The State of My Day
Shikishima: the name of a cigarette brand of the time.
Karukasu crackers: thin, big, round crackers which are like wafers.
Ryukakusan: the brand name of a cold medicine.
The Japanese title, Sange (??), literally means ?falling petals? and refers
to a Buddhist ritual in which the petals of water lily flowers are scattered. It
is meant to purify the place for the god(s) to come down and/or to pay
respect to the god(s). However, during war time, sange started to be used to
refer to dying an honorable death, most likely because the image of petals
falling from a tree resembles the aircraft falling from the sky. The beautiful
image of falling petals was effectively used to glorify death in war.
Kasumigaura: The name of the city where a military school was located.
Oita: A prefecture in the southern part of Japan. Thus, ?the sky in the
South? implies the sky in Oita, where the son?s plane crashed.
His father: Hanabusa left her husband and got officially divorced when
Isamu was about seven years old. Isamu and his elder sister were raised by
a foster mother. The details of her first marriage and how she came to know
of Isamu?s death appear in her autobiographical novel, Waves (?,
Over the Winter Mountains
Izu: Izu peninsula is 100 km south of Tokyo. It is a heavily forested area
with lots of mountains, beautiful beaches, bays and hot springs.
Lake Ippeki: Ippeki literally means ?one deep-green lake? in Japanese.
Shimoda: A city in the Izu area.
Yoshiko Hanabusa (???, 1892?1983) is one of the women
pioneers of free-style modern verse, and her first solo poetry
collection, On the White Bridge (?????), was published in
1925. She was one of the first five women who managed to
publish a solo free-style poetry collection in Japan. Her free-style
poems, short stories and essays appeared in various journals
and magazines, notably the radical feminist magazine,
Nyoningeijutsu, Women?s Art (????, 1928?32). When she was
around 30 years old, she abandoned her husband and two
children in order to pursue her dream career and become a poet. It
was very difficult for a woman to be a wife/mother and a poet
at the same time. Many women sacrificed one or the other. An
extreme example of this is Misuzu Kaneko (?????, 1903?
1930), a renowned pre-war woman poet, who chose to kill
herself at the age of 26 because her husband did not allow her to
After the divorce, Hanabusa worked in factories and took
many other jobs to financially support herself in Tokyo. She
never remarried, but later became a single mother and lived
with her son, Atsumasa (1927?). She kept writing and
publishing till the end of her life. Her poetry collection, Town of
Disguise (????, 1993), was published with a small disc, which
records her readings of her own poems.
I hope this selection demonstrates the poetic path many
early women free-style poets took, by focusing on her pre-war
poems on feminism, women?s life, war and imperialism,
aesthetics and philosophy.
?The State of My Day? was published in On the White
Bridge reflecting her everyday life as a mother and a woman
with a career. I kept all the Japanese names, such as Shikishima
and Karukasu, in ?The State of My Day? in the English
translation, though they may be easily deleted. I argue these particular
names of cigarettes, crackers and cough medicine bring reality
into the poem. The poem is based on the poet?s own everyday
life, and because of these brand names, the readers can share
the familiarity of everyday middle-class family life. It was
important for women poets, who were fewer than 10% of all poets
in Japan in the 1920s, 30s and 40s, to write what (they thought)
men-poets could not, but only women could, about women?s
I have chosen three poems published in one of the first
free-style poetry anthologies of women poets, Anthology of
Contemporary Women Poets (???????, 1940). War poems
such as ?Fallen Blossom? and ?Over the Winter Mountains? were
completely neglected after the surrender of Japan in 1945,
mainly because both poets and critics felt ashamed of propaganda
poetry in support of war. However, as Hideto Tsuboi points out
in his Celebration of Voices (????, 1997), a reassessment of
war poetry is necessary to fully understand the development of
Japanese free-style poetry in the twentieth century, and I argue
that the war poetry written by women deserves its own position
in Japanese literary history.
?Fallen Blossom? is one of the earliest free-style war
poems written by women, which reflects the imperialism of wartime
Japan. Government imperialism brainwashed almost all
Japanese citizens, including intellectual, elite, well-educated women
writers and poets with the ?Emperor Showa as God? ideology.
They were repeatedly taught that Japanese citizens were the
emperor's chosen children, whose highest honor was to serve
him, implying that sacrificing their own lives for him was their
duty as good citizens. Dying for the emperor was taught and
believed to be the most honorable act one could achieve in life.
This poem is crucial, not only because it strongly reflects
this ideology but also because it demonstrates the paradoxical
twist of the feelings of the mother, who is trying to turn her
heartbroken sadness into honor. In order to give a meaning to
her son?s death, the mother tries to believe in the doctrine of
Japanese imperialism. The imperialism is used as a means to
overcome the tragedy. This poem was written based on
Hanabusa?s own experience with the death of her son, Isamu.
?Over the Winter Mountains? is also based on her own
experience, a visit with her fellow women writers to Minato
Veterans? Hospital in Izu area. Hanabusa became a passionate
volunteer to help war victims after her son?s death. ?The Battle
of Sparrows? was also published in the same anthology, but it
reflects her ideology and philosophy. Many similar
epigramlike poems were written by women in pre-war Japan. Such
epigram-like poems have been unfairly disparaged. They
express women?s struggles to live their lives fully, as well as the
fact women can be philosophical and can deal with issues
beyond household and motherhood. I believe these early women?s
poems have their own importance in literary studies as well as
in gender studies.
Hanabusa , Yoshiko. ? The State of My Day.? Over the White Bridge [??? ??] , Masago shuppan , 1925 , pp. 110 - 112 .
--- . ?Fallen Blossom,? ?Over the Winter Mountains,? and ?The Battles of Sparrows.? Anthology of Contemporary Women Poets [?????? ?] , Sengabou, 1940 , pp. 145 - 159 .