Thursday, 10 April 2014

Japanese People and Japanese Literature

Japanese People and Japanese Literature (ཉི་ཧོང་གི་མི་དང་ཉི་ཧོང་གི་རྩོམ་རིག) is a short article from October 2013 by Kyabchen Dedrol (སྐྱབས་ཆེན་བདེ་གྲོལ།) discussing Japanese literature. Kyabchen draws on his own personal experience in Japan and advises Tibetan writers to be more open minded in their literary digest. Tibetan can be found here.

Japanese People and Japanese Literature 

Kyabchen Dedrol

Translated by Ingsel


Because of my surroundings they have been three distinct ways of referring to Japan. Ri bin (རི་པིན་) from the Chinese 'Rìběn' (日本), Jar pan (འཇར་པན་) from the English 'Japan' and Nyi hong (ཉི་ཧོང་) from the Japanese 'Nihon' (日本). At this time Nyi hong seems most suitable. 

In November 2009 I went to Japan on holiday. I was so impressed by both the peaceful and gentle behaviour of the people and the extent of material wealth in the city. 

On the plane from Beijing to Tokyo, the train from Kyoto to Osaka and the flight from Osaka to Korea, I read Yukio Mishima's novel 'The Temple of the Golden Pavilion'. At times I drank my Asahi beer and pondered off into nothingness. In reality and fantasy, the people and the places of this Eastern country have produced a history, religion and culture, realizing good fortune a clear path. 

I have forgotten most of the plot of 'The Temple of the Golden Pavilion' but I will never forget my special trip. Especially in Tokyo when I saw a some young women in traditional Japanese dress strolling leisurely in the shade of the storied houses. And in Kyoto some beautiful women dressed in multi coloured kimonos of red, green, blue and yellow, were performing in an exhibition of traditional clothing. What a thing good quality clothes and fabric are! How skilled they were at applying just the right amount of rouge to their faces! And with this I thought of these unfading ancient traditions and how they will forever captivates the minds of all people. 


I prefer to discuss writers with an emphasis on the individual rather than focusing on the national, grouping together a number of writers because of where they are from. If we think our own Tibetan literature, Shangshung Choewang Drakpa's poetry were lustrous in style and very exaggerative, and Gedun Choephel were easy to read and understand. What do they have in common? The only thing they have in common is that they were written in Tibetan. 

As a writer and a reader, when I think of Japanese literature, I think of Yasunari Kawabata's 'Snow Country'. As the train speeds through the snow covered land a number of images of flash across the train's windows. In Ryunosuke Akutagawa's 'In a Grove' all the witnesses produce a different account of what happened, when they are questioned by a judge. Senji Kuroi's short stories have wondrous plots yet are simple and easy to read. When I think of how both Yukio Mishima and Yasunari Kawabata committed suicide, I am unable to think like a literary critic. How many great writers there are. What made the writer special? What kind of style they employed? 

From the pens of Kawabata and these others flow the themes of meeting and parting, birth and death, love, character, isolation, and so on. From this I can see the beauty of asian literature with steady roots of religion and culture. Our own Tibetan writers have to expand their scope when it comes to the meaning and the composition of their works. If we Tibetans can write like these Japanese writers then it's possible we can produce a writer like Kawabata. In this world when someone's heart is moved by the stars they will find the stars can free all the lonely minds.


Some people mentioned to me that after the Second World War, the Japanese people began to study western culture intensely and doing so managed to become a powerful and developed nation very quickly. They added that before the war, the Japanese concentrated only on their own culture, closing off their doors. Lately I read a Tibetan translation of Tetsuko's Kuroyanagi 'Totto Chan : The Little Girl at the Window' and learnt that Western literature, music, cinema, dance, education theory and psychology had caught on even before the Second World War. Not only this but I found out the war had actually interrupted the spread of foreign culture in Japan. 

After reading Haruki Murakami's 'Norwegian Wood' I found out Western arts became an important part of life university students in postwar Japan. Murakami and other Japanese writers have adopted many motifs and images from Western culture in their own works. Western readers have enjoyed their works. This has helped Murakami become the third Japanese recipient of the Nobel Prize for Literature. A writer's composition is product of how far reaching their mind is. I think that like Murakami, we other Asian writers must we must think outside the confines of an individual culture in our writing.

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

The Poet

The Poet (སྙན་ངག་པ།) is a free form poem written by Kyabchen Dedrol (སྐྱབས་ཆེན་བདེ་གྲོལ།)  in June 2012. Kyabchen is one of the leading writers of his generation. His poems, short stories and essays have been featured in publications such as Light Rain (སྦྲང་ཆར།). The original Tibetan can be found here on Tibetan Literature Net.

The Poet

Kyabchen Dedrol

Translated by Ingsel

He is a wild animal within the wall,
A formless being hidden between rays of light,
Like a great bear slyly hurling stones towards the sun.
Writhing insects and ants in the dark shadows.

He is a madman.
And so he is poet.
Everyone can see his heart and lungs through his ribcage,
And in turn he can see their forsaken dreams and loves.

He is a swan swimming in the sky.
With a flap of his wings,
The red moon is saturated with black blood.
All the babes thrown away with the refuse by their bitch mothers, cry out once more.
He plays the piano among the clouds and rain,
Igniting red flames in the cold water.
He waves the the sword of love in all corners,
Cutting the cotton garments of beauties under the cover of night.

You've locked the gate of your high castle walls,
But no matter how one fortifies themselves,
Like a zombie residing in the ceilings of one's abode,
When you suffer from aging,
You will reek of unbearable rot.

Today he fooled a drunk and led him to a remote place,
All the numbers in the drunk's stomach bled out like intestines.

June 1st, 2012