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A Pale View of Hills

Niki, the name we finally gave younger daughter, is not an abbreviation; it was a compromise I reached with her father. For paradoxically it was he who wanted to give her a Japanese name, and I— perhaps out of some selfish desire not to be reminded of the past—insisted on an English one. He finally agreed to Niki, thinking it had some vague echo of the East about it.

from Kazuo Ishiguro “A Pale View of Hills”

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An Artist of the Floating World

‘I have learnt many things over these past years.  I have learnt much in contemplating the world of pleasure, and recognising its fragile beauty.  But I now feel it is time for me to progress to other things.  Sensei, it is my belief that in such troubled times as these, artists must learn to value something more tangible than those pleasurable things that disappear with the morning light.  It is not necessary that artists always occupy a decadent and enclosed world.  My conscience, Sensei, tells me I cannot remain forever an artist of the floating world.’

from Kazuo Ishiguro “An Artist of the Floating World”

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Tea: The Drink That Changed the World

The tea ceremony also provides an opportunity to practice being in accord with nature and to feel a harmony with the seasons. A love of nature, the ancients believed, is the basis for awakening an appreciation of beauty and, therefore, of art.

from Laura Martin “Tea: The Drink That Changed the World”

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Kokoro

It all struck me as very odd. But my intention in visiting him was not to study or analyze Sensei, so I let it pass. In retrospect, I particularly treasure my memory of that response to Sensei. Because of it, I think, I was able to achieve the real human intimacy with him that I later did. If I had chosen to turn the cool and analytical eye of curiosity on Sensei’s heart, it would inexorably have snapped the bond of sympathy between us. At the time, of course, I was too young to be aware of any of this. Perhaps that is precisely where its true value lies. If I had made the mistake of responding less than guilelessly, who knows what might have befallen our friendship? I shudder to think of it. The scrutiny of an analytical eye was something Sensei always particularly dreaded.

from Soseki Natsume “Kokoro (Translated by Meredith McKinney)”

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Uji, Kyoto, Japan in May 2015.

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Norwegian Wood

“So after he died, I didn’t know what it meant to love another person.”
She reached for her wineglass on the table but only managed to knock it over, spilling wine on the carpet. I crouched down and retrived the glass, setting it on the table. Did she want to drink some more? I asked. Naoko remained silent for a while., then suddenly burst into tears, trembling all over. Slumping forward, she same suffocating violence as she had that night with me.

from Haruki Murakami “Norwegian Wood” (Translated by Jay Rubin)”

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Memoirs of a Geisha

I won’t say my emotions had settled themselves by the time the train pulled into Kyoto Station early the following morning. After all, when a stone is dropped into a pond, the water continues quivering even after the stone has sunk to the bottom. But when I descended the wooden stairs carrying us from the platform, with Mr. Itchoda one step behind me, I came upon such a shock that for a time I forgot everything else.

from Arthur Golden “Memoirs of a Geisha”

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Uji, Kyoto in May 2015.

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Plum Wine

Yes, Japan to her shame was aggressor in war both in China and America and this ending was brought upon us for this reason. But I think worst thing is use of split atom, human discovery of nature’s secret, to destroy. Perhaps if possible. You asked me, what is Japanese idea of sin. For Japanese there is no original sin. In Buddhism, belief is that human in original state is pure and our effort should be no return to the pure nature.

The next day Miss Ota, Barbara, and Keiko set out for Matsue in Keiko’s car. Miss Ota suggested they visit an ancient Inari shrine. “You will be particularly interested, I think, Barbara-san, with your curiosity about our Japanese fox.” As they walked along a canal lined with pine trees, Barbara thought of Ko walking here; this was the place where Michi’s story began. She paused, looking down at the reflection of pine branches and her face in the water. Michi would be glad she’d come. A legacy. Sheffield the words settle into her.

from Angela Davis-Gardner “Plum Wine”

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The Lake Shinji, Matsue, Shimane in October 2014.