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The Temple of Dawn

It was the rainy season in Bangkok.  The air was saturated with a continuous fine drizzle, and often drops of rain would dance in a brilliant ray of sunlight.  Rifts of blue were always visible here and there; and even when the clouds clustered most thickly round the sun, the sky at their circumference was dazzlingly blue.  Before an approaching squall, it would turn ominously dark and threatening.  A foreboding shade would shroud the predominantly green, low-roofed city dotted with palms.

from Yukio Mishima “The Temple of Dawn” (Translated by E. Dale Saunders and Cecilia Segawa Seigle)

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Silence

My hunch from some time back was not wrong. What are the Japanese peasants looking for in me? These people who work and live and die like beasts find for the first time in which they can cast away the fetters that bind them. The Buddhist bonzes simply treat them like cattle. For a long time they have just lived in resignation to such a fate.

from Shusaku Endo “Silence” (Translated by William Johnson)

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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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In Praise of Shadows

Why should this propensity to seek beauty in darkness be so strong only in Orientals The West too has known a time when there was no electricity, gas, or petroleum, and yet so far as I know the West has never been disposed to delight in shadows.

from Junichiro Tanizaki “In Praise of Shadows”(Translated by Thomas Harper and Edward Seidensticker)IMG_1488.jpg

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In Praise of Shadows

Every time I am shown to an old, dimly lit, and, I would add, impeccably clean toilet in a Nara or Kyoto temple, I am impressed with the singular virtues of Japanese architecture. The parlor may have its charms, but the Japanese toilet is truly a place of spiritual repose. It always stands apart from the main building, at the end of a corridor, in a grove fragrant with leaves and moss. No words can describe that sensation as one sits in the dim light, basking in the faint glow reflected from the shoji, lost in meditation or gazing out at the garden. The novelist Natsume Sōsekicounted his morning trips to the toilet a great pleasure, “a physiological delight” he called it. And surely there could be no better place to savor this pleasure than a Japanese toilet where,surrounded by tranquil walls and finely grained wood, one looks out upon blue skies and green leaves.

from Junichiro Tanizaki “In Praise of Shadows”(Translated by Thomas Harper and Edward Seidensticker)

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All God’s Children Can Dance

This hurt the first time she said it, but after he had gone with her long enough, Yoshiya began to enjoy dancing. As he let himself go and moved his body in time to the music, he would come to feel that the natural rhythm inside him was pulsing in perfect unison with the basic rhythm of the world. The ebb and flow of the tide, the dancing of the wind across the plains, the course of the stars through the heavens: he felt certain that these things were by no means occurring in places unrelated to him.

from Haruki Murakami “After the Quake: Stories” (Translated by Jay Rubin)

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Demian

Even the most harmless people can hardly avoid coming into conflict, once or twice in their lives, with the beautiful virtues of piety and gratitude. At some point we all have to take the step that separates us from our father and our teachers; we all have to feel something of the cruelty of solitude, even if most people cannot endure too much and quickly crawl back to safety.
I had not parted from my parents, from the “world of light” of my wonderful childhood, in a violent struggle – I had slowly, almost imperceptibly, grown distant from it and more and more a stranger to it. I was sorry, I spent many bitter hours during my visits home, but it didn’t touch me to the core, it was bearable.

from Hermann Hesse “Demian” (Translated by Damion Searls)

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Siddhartha

He longed to be rid of himself, to find peace, to be dead. If only a bolt of lightning would strike him down! If only a tiger would devour him! If only there were a wine, a poison, that would numb him, bring him oblivion and sleep, and no more awakenings! Was there any sort of filth with which he had not yet defiled himself, any sin or folly he had not committed, any barrenness of soul he had not brought upon himself? Was it still possible to live? Was it possible to continue, over and over again, to draw breath, to exhale, to feel hunger, to eat again, to sleep again, to lie again beside a woman? Had not this cycle been exhausted for him, concluded?

from Hermann Hesse “Siddhartha – An Indian Poem” (Translated by Tom Robbins)

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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)”