This first volume in Vagabond’s Asia Pacific Poetry Series brings together a selection of poetry from three key contemporary Japanese poets Masayo Koike, Shuntaro Tanikawa & Rin Ishigaki translated by Leith Morton and introduced by Yasuhiro Yotsumoto, with cover art by Ikumi Nakaya.
Masayo Koike was born in Tokyo in 1959 and graduated from the International Relations Department of Tsuda Juku College in Tokyo. Her first published book of verse was Mizu no Machi kara Arukidashite (I Began to Walk from the Water Town) which was released by a major publisher of poetry in 1988. Her second volume of poetry was Seikasai (Fruit and Vegetable Festival) published in 1991. Her third volume of poetry Eien ni Konai Basu(The Bus that Never Comes), published in 1997 and was awarded the 15th Gendaishi Hanatsubaki Prize (Modern Poetry Camellia Prize). Her following book of verse Mottomo Kannohtekina Heya (The Most Sensuous Room) was published in 2000 and awarded the 30th Takami Jun Literary Prize. Then followed two more books of verse, Yoakemae Juppun (Ten Minutes before Dawn) and Ame Otoko, Yama Otoko, Mame o Hiku Otoko (Rain Men, Mountain Men and Men Who Mill Coffee Beans) both published in 2001. In 2003 Masayo’s first selected poems appeared.
Shuntaro Tanikawa has been a phenomenon in Japan since the publication of his first collection, Alone in Two Billion Light Years, in 1952. In the book’s prefatory poem, Tanikawa’s mentor, Tatsuji Miyoshi, introduced him as a young man who “has come from a distant land, unexpected [ . . . ] bearing the weight of being alone”. Indeed, he seemed to be totally unencumbered by Japan’s post-World War Two psyche. Over the past 50 years, many different editions of this first collection have appeared; Alone in Two Billion Light Years has remained a favourite among readers.
Ishigaki Rin was born in Akasaka in downtown Tokyo in 1920. From 1934 to 1975 she worked as a bank clerk and thus first became known as the ‘bank clerk poet’. She was also an active trade unionist, holding a number of positions in the bank employees’ union. Her four major poetry collections were published between 1959 and 1984 and were awarded a number of literary prizes including the Mr H. Prize and the Tumura Toshiko Prize. In addition to poetry, Ishigaki has also written several volumes of essays. A leading contemporary poet, Isaka Yohko, describes Ishigaki’s poetry as “contemptuous of arrogance and power” and as possessing a universal quality in her exploration of the quotidian crises of her domestic life.
Leith Morton was formerly senior lecturer in Japanese at the University of Sydney and foundation Professor of Japanese at the University of Newcastle. He now teaches English at the Tokyo Institute of Technology, Japan, where he is a full professor in the Foreign Language Research and Teaching Center and the Department of Value and Decision Science. His main research interests are modern Japanese literature, culture and aesthetics.