Friday, January 24, 2014


Twenty-fourth day:  The provincial overseer of religion arrived to give us a farewell party. Every one, high and low, old and young, was fuddled with drink.  Even people who have never learned to write the figure one were merrily dancing figures of eight.”

Note:  Reading the Tosa Nikki (Tosa Diary), the Japanese poet and diplomat Ki no Tsurayuki’s sea voyage account from 936 AD two nights ago, and then remembering it in last night’s freezing cold weather, reminded me how comforting a little brandy  (and a little more) would be. 

The poet’s anonymous/heteronymnous work has this surprising beginning as he dons his mask:

“Diaries are written by men, I am told. Nevertheless I am writing one, to see what a woman can do.”  

Immediately above is a calligraphic excerpt from the Tosa Nikki. Ki no Tsurayaki’s portrait appears below. The strikingly beautiful photograph at the head of this post shows a contemporary bridge in Kōchi prefecture, the modern name for ancient Tosa.

The Tosa Nikki is in all its remarkable details a bridge across millennia and only apparently different cultures. I would like to meet Ki no Tsurayaki, drink saké with him and my wife, and introduce him to my daughter Jane.  We canceled our Japan trip several years ago at what then seemed like the height of the Troubles.  Perhaps it’s time to reschedule before it’s too late.

Excerpt from the Tosa Nikki, trans. G.W. Sargent, included in Donald Keene (ed.), Anthology of Japanese Literature, New York, Grove Press, Inc., 1955.


  1. Curtis, that contemporary bridge in Kochi Prefecture piqued my interest.

    Something about the way that curiously solid shadow falls upon the hillside beyond the bridge.

    And so naturally I went off in pursuit.

    But it is claimed that the one famous contemporary bridge in Kocki Prefecture is <a href=">this one</a>.

    Now, either they've shrunk it, or I'm missing something.

    The wee toy bridge, by the way, apparently figures in a popular film.

    (With, of all people, Danny Glover.)

  2. Replies
    1. Your bridge seems to be a famous one in Kochi City. This one (and the photo is indeed weird -- there are some comments about it on the Reddit Infrastructure web-page) is in Okawa Village. It is arresting, I think. Reading the pages about this poet's sea voyage and return home to Kyoto after 5 years at his Tosa posting, where he recently suffered the loss of a child, was extremely affecting. I'm busy today trying to complete work on a contract for a pizza store franchising business. It''s a great business idea (it's a new-fangled pizza product, which is already very popular in Italy and everyone loves pizza), but the contract is really headache-y because the text was awkwardly translated into English. I'm trying to make the document effective and sufficiently readable while making as few changes as possible. Not easy. I'd like to see this bridge. Danny Glover's a funny one, but I guess you can say that about a lot of people. Supposedly next Tuesday here it will be -5 degrees. Curtis