Artists in the limelight, up-and-coming young people – these and others who are capturing attention on the world stage report on the latest in their activity in this essay.
Bonsai is the art of replicating the aesthetic beauty of trees in their natural form in a pot. As part of Japan's traditional cultural heritage, bonsai has transcended national borders and is loved and appreciated around the globe, as attested by the large number of bonsai enthusiasts from various countries who gather at the World Bonsai Convention held once every four years. The art of bonsai has captured the imagination of people from all over the world, but what is the secret of its appeal? In this series of essays, Takahiro Mori, a bonsai master who is working to promote this ancient art not only in Japan, but in America and Europe as well, will share various ways to appreciate and enjoy bonsai.
A couple of days had passed since the full moon. The moon floating in the sky looked much closer than usual, taking me by surprise. As I got off the car, I felt the piercingly cold air on my skin and the leftover frozen snow under my feet. Since I was expecting it would be very cold in Aomori, it did not keep me from admiring the sky.
I rarely have the opportunity to ride a car, let alone a motorbike. So on this day, feeling excited but also nervous, I let my body rock back and forth on the Tanshui-Xinyi Line of the Taipei Metro.
The Taipei Fine Arts Museum is a famous cultural institution best known for hosting the Taipei Biennial, but to me, for many years, it was just a white wall that I saw at night from the windows of my uncle's car as he drove my family around. I always felt fascinated by the view of the brightly lit-up white wall.
When in Taiwan, I always stay at my father's "home" overlooking the Tamsui River. It is a three-bedroom apartment that my father purchased to accommodate his needs as he spends more time in Taiwan than in Japan. There is my parents' bedroom and my father's study. In the spare bedroom, there are two single beds and two desks. My father says that these are for me and my younger sister. So for us, my father's "home" in Taiwan is another family home in addition to our house in Tokyo, where my mother lives.
On June 25, I boarded a plane. It was a domestic flight, so I did not need my passport. Still, I had a feeling of exhilaration at the moment of departure and just before landing. From Fukuoka Airport, I boarded the subway, and as the train car rocked me, I heard the gentle voices of an elderly couple sitting next to me. Fascinated by the intonation slightly different from what I hear in Tokyo, I felt like I could listen to their conversation forever.
The Japanese edition of The Buddha in the Attic by Julie Otsuka hit the bookstores in late March this year, and became a critically acclaimed hit immediately after its publication. In mid-April, carefree and clueless, I entered a bookstore and impulsively picked up the book, lured by the pretty flowers on its cover. But the moment I turned the first page, I was captivated.
To be honest, I have never been very enthusiastic about reading Taiwanese novels, because, despite being Taiwanese, I have to rely on the Japanese translations and this makes every attempt to read Taiwanese literature a frustrating and slightly mortifying experience. A couple of years ago, however, I read a work translated into Japanese, which made me painfully aware of the fact that I had no time to feel mortified. The work in question, which gave me a powerful sense that there were many works of Taiwanese literature that I had to read, even if relying on the Japanese translations, was the short story Zhànshì Gānbēi! [To the Soldiers!] by Huang Chunming.
As a self-proclaimed Japanophone Taiwanese, I am proficient in Japanese. For me, Japanese is the easiest language for the purposes of talking, listening, reading, and writing. People sometimes ask me "You are Taiwanese, so you speak Chinese, right?" My answer to this question is "Well, not exactly." This, of course, does not mean that I do not speak Chinese at all. But I do not speak it very well, either. In other words, my Chinese is better than incomprehensible but less than fluent. I used to feel dejected every time someone asked me "You are Taiwanese, so how come your Chinese is so bad?" but now that is a thing of the past. I have the Japanese language. My Chinese (and Taiwanese) language is alive and thriving in my Japanese. There are Taiwanese people like me. There is Japanese language like mine.
When my book Raifuku no Ie was translated and published in Taiwan, I was asked the following question in Chinese. "As a person who grew up between Japan and Taiwan, of which do you think as your home?" My immediate and spontaneous response was "Wǒzhùzàirìyǔ,"which means "I live in Japanese."