“Are You an Echo?” by Misuzu Kaneko

Today I want to talk about Misuzu Kaneko, a famous female poet here in Japan. She lived from 1903 to 1930 (she committed suicide.)

I didn’t know much about her until I read online about the book that is shown above in the photo. The book is called “Are You an Echo?” It’s wonderful. I do recommend it. It covers her (sad) life story and also includes her poetry. One of the neat things about it is that it has both English and Japanese.

When the book was introduced, Misuzu Kaneko was linked to the 3/11 disaster by the creators of the book. So I thought, maybe she was from Tohoku? No, not at all. She really has no relation at all with Tohoku. She’s from Yamaguchi Prefecture.

I got the following map of Japan from Wikipedia Commons, which says it is public domain (and therefore free to use by anybody)

Tohoku is the yellow area at the top. Yamaguchi Prefecture (Kaneko’s home) is at the bottom of the orange part. (The entire orange part is the area of Chugoku.) I very much doubt Kaneko ever visited Tohoku in her life!

However…………

The reason that the book (and this website about her) links her to the 3/11 disaster is for this reason:

After the disaster in March of 2011, for people in Japan who were not directly affected by the disaster and could watch their TV, regular TV was NOT shown. It was news about the disaster all day long, every day. (I supposed some cable and satellite channels might have had other programs, but I am talking about the basic free TV channels.) There were NO commercials during the news in the days in the disaster. Instead of commercials, there were only special public service announcements, with warm caring messages, like “Be kind to others” and “Helping others is good.” I very much remember these commercials—there were a few different ones, but basically the same ones were played over and over and over……………..  They were nice messages, though, so I don’t think we minded?

Okay, back to Kaneko. The reason why the book’s creators link her to the disaster is that one of her poems was used in one of the commecials (I think only one commercial–I’m not really sure.)

Shall we look at the commercial on Youtube?

If you watch the commercial, that’s one of her poems.

(If you can’t watch the commercial, the poem is as follows:

If I say “Let’s play,” you say, “Let’s play.”

If I say “stupid,” you say “stupid.”

If I say, “I won’t play anymore,” you say, “I won’t play anymore.”

Later on, I feel lonely.

If I say, “I’m sorry,” you say, “I’m sorry.”

Is this an echo?

No, it happens to everyone.

(I changed the translation in the video slightly as it is a little rough.)

And moving right along….

You can listen to Matthew Winner’s interview with two of the creators (David Jacobson and Toshikado Hajiri) of the book here.

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