"The World is Yours" - Buck-Tick

Buck-Tick has been one of my favourite bands for a while, just on the basis of a few songs that I've come across. I admire the range of styles, the guitar work, and especially the singer's (Atsushi Sakurai's) voice. Honestly, I could listen to his voice all day long. He doesn't limit himself to pretty singing though. Lately I've been trying to learn a bit more about their music. It's tough going, since they've been making music since 1983 (they made their major label debut in 1987) and put an album out every year.* They'll mark their 25th year anniversary in 2012 and have about a million* songs. *This is an exaggeration. They have 17th albums, not including mini/live/compilation albums, and at most half a million songs.

Today I've tried to translate "The World is Yours." It came out in 1990, in their 4th album 『悪の華』. They have a PV for this song, but something about the 80's/90's set, the fashion of the ladies in the audience (who are all standing like contestants in the Ms. America pageant for some reason), Sakurai's pants and the way they resemble a plastic bag, the gravity-defying spikes of hair that quiver above the drummer Yagami Toll, and the bit of monologue at the beginning of the performance (which provides more 聞き取り練習, hurrah), makes me want to place the video of their live on オールナイトフジ(All Night Fuji) here.

Now, without further ado, "The World is Yours."

I'll be scared and chewing poison, longing for destruction,
If I look for that fleeting dream at the apocalypse I was promised

Don't laugh baby, I've been looking foolish
I laugh and scream in the middle of the night
The shadow of megalomania dances
I'm bound so tightly it hurts on this moonlit night

I'll be drowning in the erotic and grotesque, a flower blooming out of season,
If I bleed red at the monochrome end

Don't cry baby, I'm run-down
I stop breathing in this languid darkness
And soar into this giant city's sky,
So drunk it's scary on this moonlit night

You are crazy
I'm crazy

Don't touch baby, this is goodbye
The night has swallowed everything
I'll burn out at the edge of this city
And never wake again

You are crazy
I'm crazy

Chewing poison, fleeting dreams, laughing, crying,
I'll bloom out of season, stop my breath and burn out
毒を咬み怯えてる 破滅へのあこがれ 
約束の終末に 淡い夢探せば 

 Don’t laugh Baby バカげてた……
笑い泣き叫ぶさ 夜の中
メガロマニアの影 踊りだす 月夜に痛い程縛られて…

エロ・グロに溺れてる 狂い咲く花びら 

 Don’t cry Baby ボロボロさ
メトロポリス空に舞い上がる 月夜に怖い程酔いしれて


Don’t touch Baby お別れさ
メガロポリスの果て 燃え尽きる
月夜にもう二度と 目覚めない


毒を咬み 淡い夢 泣き笑い 
狂い咲き 息を止め 燃え尽きる 

Regarding the lyrics: I made some vocabulary decisions about metropolis and megalopolis. They just seemed too big (or something, she said, poorly defending her decisions). I felt like metropolis could fit, but megalopolis? I realize megalopolis is not often heard in Japanese, either, but... I also wanted to separate from the verb tenses used in the original, but since I already changed it up a bit with the megalopolis/metropolis issue, I stuck to the Japanese. And last, there is no outright subject marked, so I suppose it could be someone other than "I" ("we" maybe? Or "you"?).  Really I went with what I felt was proper as I listened to the song, but it is something I pondered over. I'd be happy to hear your own thoughts on these matters, or any errors you notice/suggestions you have.


『マルものおきて』Marumo's Rules Episode 1, Part 1

I'm trying to get more organized with my study, especially in terms of reading/listening, since I've been doing a lot of flashcards lately. So, I've made a rotation. I study about 1.5-2 hours of kanji, vocabulary, and grammar in the morning, and then sometime later in the day I'll add 1-1.5 hours of a listening/reading activity, or extra study. I'll rotate through the activities during the week. Reading includes stories and lyrics (lyrics I'll translate, stories I may not have time to); listening includes drama and podcasts, as well as shadowing (a summary/review of the drama, and a transcript of the podcast if it's short enough). This is my accountability feature. Let's see how long it goes! Since I only have one hour or so to watch, note, and review, I am splitting the dramas up into 20 minute segments. 

The first drama I'm looking at is: マルモのおきて . The ending theme song and dance are super cute and seem to be super popular to boot, judging from the youtube videos of people dancing to it in their living rooms.

I'm guessing there's a dog in this at some point. The title for this first episode gives it away: 独身男と双子が家族!? 犬がつなげた絆 (A single man and twins, a family!? A bond tied by a dog). Watching any commercial for the show also ruins what I guess would be a surprise (turns out the dog talks)  but in this first half of episode 1, the dog hasn't shown up. So far at this point the main characters are:
  • Mamoru 護 - the 担当 of a branch in a stationary (文具) company
  • Sasakura 笹倉- an old high school baseball buddy of Mamoru's, who suddenly returns for a reunion
  • Kaoru 薫 - Sasakura's young daughter, a twin
  • Tomoki 友樹 - Sasakura's young son, the other twin
I've seen the actor, Abe Sadao, who plays Mamoru before in the drama "OLNippon." I think he's good at switching between the comic and the serious, so I was excited to see him in this. I've also seen the actress for Kaoru before. Her name is Mana Ashida and she's referred to as a genius. Her acting skills are undeniably refined for someone her age. She's very believable and natural.

Anyway, finally onto the drama itself.


Managers of the World Losing Face to a Fictional High School Girl: もしドラ

As promised in the last post here's the translation of  Naojirou Masaoka's article about the もしドラ novel by Natsumi Iwasaki. His article is titled 高校野球女子マネジャーにも劣る経営者たち (Managers Losing to a High School Baseball Club Manageress), and in it he talks about his recent perusal of the popular novel about a girl who becomes the manager of her high school baseball team and ends up picking up Drucker's book to educate herself about her new position. Masaoka didn't have a very high opinion of the novel in a literary sense, but he found that the protagonist Minami's approach to Drucker's complicated work, "Management," was worthy of a second-look. This is just a small excerpt from the first page, but he finishes his article with this line: 「世の経営者よ、「もしドラ」を読んでみようではないか。いや、P. F. ドラッカーの『マネジメント』そのものを「みなみ」のごとく熟読し、理解して実行に移してはどうだろう。」 (Managers of the world,  try reading "MoshiDora." Or rather, how about carefully reading, understanding and implementing P.F. Drucker's "Management"  as if you were Minami?)
Even if we discount the too-perfect aspects and the forced logic of the story, there are more than a few things that we can learn from this high school girl. However, in regards to the learning points which I point out here, and the evaluation of this increasingly popular novel, my opinions are completely different.
  1. The protagonist Minami Kawashima reads the part in which Drucker explains that "Mangers require only one quality, which is not ability, but earnestness" and ponders the meaning of "earnestness" until she comes to an answer. In this world, how many managers are there who have thought so thoroughly?
  2. When Minami is lost, she comes to believe that she must return to "Management." Again, how many managers have been so diligent as to return to their starting point, reflect on themselves, and try to find a solution?
  3. And, when give thought to the fact that we must fully interpret the content to put it into practice, the truth is that Drucker's book, "Management" is not necessarily easy to understand.
If we look at Drucker's assertions as a whole, we assume, as per his definition, that "management" is to guide the enterprise and decide its mission; in addition, to establish objectives,organize resources, and take responsibility for its success.

Drucker also raises three points for management duties.The first is to accomplish the objective and mission peculiar to the organization, the second is to work productively to bear results, and the third is to carry out social duties. Further, if a business' objectives are the creation of the client, Drucker offers marketing and innovation as the function by which those objectives can be achieved. We can define marketing as 'starting from the client' and innovation as 'bringing forth a new contentment.'

Incidentally, what is the relationship between function, objectives, goals, missions, and business guidelines? Or the relationship between the definition and function of management? The further we read the more difficult it becomes to understand the context of Drucker's assertion, and we are unable to grasp the technique necessary to put it all into effect. But Minami clearly explains the almost incomprehensible, nearly unimplementable contents of "Management," simplifies them to their barest, and beautifully puts them into effect. 

Let's compare the things which Minami explains and implements with the actual state of the world's managers...
Masamuneさん, like Minami and Masaoka Naojirou, believes Drucker's book is a good resource. Two pieces of advice, specifically, which Masamuneさん mentioned having read in "Management" made a good deal of sense, so I thought I'd share them here. These are paraphrases from my notes and from my conversation with Masamuneさん, not actual quotes from the book.

1. 資源と限界をわからないといかない。
Know your resources and your limits. 
2. 将来の成果のために、今日の計画を立てる。
Make a plan for today for the sake of your future success/results.

The second especially seems like an all-around good piece of advice. Like I said last post, I am a notorious 計画倒れ. Instead of making plans which always are set to start tomorrow, make them for today (to defeat the procrastination monster). If you're interested in more 名言 (wise sayings) from Drucker, try the following video. Japanese practice and more!


もしドラ: P.F. Drucker's "Management"

The other day I was talking to Masamuneさん about management - not necessarily management of a business, but of oneself. How do you manage your time and goals? How productive are you? It was a particularly relevant discussion because I had just erected another plan for my Japanese Study, my Diet, and my Exercise routines. For each of these I had numerous plans-of-action drawn up, all of which were viciously and savagely beat about the face and other sensitive areas by a tag team of Procrastination and Lassitude. I am a 計画倒れ - someone who makes plans but doesn't follow through with them. Half the time I never even start due to 先延ばし (procrastination).

Masamuneさん brought up the topic of management because he's recently been reading a book called 『マネジメント』. "Management" is written by P.F. Drucker - the "creator and inventor of modern management"  - who worked with the likes of both major companies such as Coca-Cola, and (when he got sick of seeing executives rake in the bucks while they laid-off their workers) non-profits such as The American Red Cross. If you'd like to know a bit more about his life and impact on management, check out this article at Bloomberg Businessweek, which was published shortly after his death. For more about his life, try this biography.

Drucker created a presence far outside the United States, of which the Vienna-born management consultant was a naturalized citizen; he became quite popular in Japan, receiving honors from the government, working with Japanese companies, and even co-authoring a book on Japanese art. Many of his books on management, business, 'social ecology', etc were translated into Japanese . 『マネジメント』 was published in Japanese back in 1974, and periodically republished since then, but the big Drucker Boom hit just recently. Why, do you ask?

Why, because it was referenced in a 2009 novel by a former super-popular-girl-group AKB48 assistant producer, Natsumi Iwasaki, which subsequently became a NHK anime series in March, and then a movie in June, of course!

Titled 「もし高校野球の女子マネージャーがドラッカーの『マネジメント』を読んだら」 ("What if a high school baseball club's girl manager read 'Management' by Drucker?") or もしドラ, for short, the anime featured the voice-talent of AKB48 members: Youko Hikasa, who voices protagonist Minami Kawashima and Sayaka Nakaya, voice actress for the character Ayano Houjou (younger friend of protagonist). The movie also has AKB48 members, Atsuko Maeda as Minami, and Minami Minegishi, as Ayano.

Now, maybe it's just me, but when I see a movie with girl/boy band members in it, I with my personal bias automatically think "this movie is fan service for teenage girls (and possibly some older dudes, not judging or anything) so I'm probably not interested." You can't really say that just because popular singers are in it, it won't be something high-quality or enjoyable or well-acted, though, and I don't know much about AKB48 outside of 会いたかった so I'll give it a chance when I get around to watching the movie.

Related to the quality of the story and returning to the management bit: on IT Media I found an interesting article in Japanese about the book by 増岡直二郎 (Masaoka Naojirou), published last year before the anime and movie came out. Here's an excerpt in its natural Japanese:
  1. 主人公「川島みなみ」が、ドラッカーの説く「マネージャーの資質は一つだけ、才能ではない、真摯さだ」いう部分を読んで、最後の最後まで「真摯さとは何か」を考え続ける。世に、そこまで考え抜くことをする経営者はどれほどいるだろうか
  2. みなみは迷うと、『マネジメント』に帰るという信念を持つに到る。そこまで忠実に原点に帰って、己を反省し、解決策を探ろうとする経営者は、これまたどれほどいるか
  3. そして、実はドラッカーの著書『マネジメント』は、内容を充分解釈して実行することを念頭に置くと、理解することは必ずしもやさしくはない
そして、マネジメントの役割として3点を挙げている。1つは組織に特有の目的とミッションを果たすこと、2つに仕事を生産的にし、成果を挙げさせ ること、3つに社会的責任を全うすることである。さらに企業の目的を顧客の創造だとし、その目的を達成するための機能として、マーケティングとイノベー ションを挙げる。マーケティングとは顧客からスタートすること、イノベーションとは新しい満足を生み出すことである、とする。


I'll put up a translation and add a bit more about what I learned from Masamuneさん about Drucker tomorrow.


A Grand Memory for Forgetting...

Forgetting kanji, that is. I knew some kanji when I went to Japan, but I came back knowing many more, most of which I promptly forgot upon returning to school. I can recognize the bulk of the kanji that I've learned in the past, but writing it is another matter. Sometimes I forget how to write words that I learned my first year of study. This seems to be a common problem for most learners (and native-speakers) of Japanese. Once I was complaining about not being able to remember how to write something, and I was told "It's OK, Japanese people forget that kanji too."

While I have to admit that did, in some perverse way, raise my self-confidence, that kind of rationalization ultimately is of no use to anyone. Especially if that someone is studying for the JLPT - Japanese Language Placement Test. Yes, I am currently trying to bring my kanji knowledge (and my grammar) up to par for the JLPT. The first test is coming up in July, but I am signing up for the one in December. This gives me about 4 months to double the number of kanji I can read, learn some (mostly literary) grammar forms, and extensify my vocabulary (which is apparently small enough even in English that I feel the need to create words such as 'extensify').

There are many sites available for the purpose of studying kanji, but I've been using one called JLPT Kanji Project, which has flashcards separated by JLPT level. The design is easy to use and easy on the eyes. If you sign up for an account, you can put kanji you don't recognize or that you'd like to study further into a separate folder (up to 250 at a time). They also have a vocabulary section - in fact, when you click on a kanji to see its meaning and pronunciation, the description also includes relevant vocabulary, ordered by JLPT level. For example, the description for the kanji has a breakdown of its meaning (warship), pronunciation (かん), and the Level 1 vocabulary in which it appears: 軍艦.

Hopefully I can get my kanji knowledge up to the standard 2,000 or so. Once that struggle is over, the struggle to maintain it begins.


Play some guitar and learn some Japanese

I took up guitar a month ago, thanks to a guitar-happy friend. Originally my goal was to play "Home" by Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, which I had become obsessed with, and which, having only a few chords, seemed conquerable. Well, I still can't play B minor with any competency, unfortunately. But I am now able to play one of my favorite Japanese songs: チェインギャング (Chain Gang) by ザ・ブルー・ハーツ (The Blue Hearts).

I got the lyrics and the chords for Chain Gang at a site called Gakki , which also sells instruments (as you can probably tell by its name). It only has three chords, so it isn't the most complicated song, but I am practicing my Japanese, and learning new words. Once you translate the song, you basically have a sure-fire way to remember new vocabulary and their definitions. Even if you aren't teaching yourself/playing guitar, learning songs is a good way to practice pronunciation (although you'll find some singers who distort their words) and expand your repertoire of words. Some of the songs I'm hoping to move onto, once I finally conquer finally get tired of trying to conquer B minor are:

Luna Sea's Fate, more because it is fun to sing than the guitar part:

The Blue Hearts' キスして欲しい

Jero's 海雪, even though I'll never be able to sing it:

B'z's Calling:

Aqua Timez's 虹:

 Do As Infinity 真実の詩, although it was the ending song for Inuyasha, which I hate with illogical passion:

 ELLEGARDEN's Marry Me, even though it isn't in Japanese at all:


Takamiy's Voice 2011 May 30: Top 10 Things People Want to Do in an Empty Office

Started doing some radio listening, to try and separate my listening skills from my visual-information-extrapolation skills, which I heavily rely upon, alas, when watching Japanese media. I am, as you probably are, quite adept at putting visual cues together in order to fill in the gaps in my Japanese comprehension. Which is a good skill to have, but not so much when you are trying to hone your listening skills. So besides shadowing, I thought I'd try this. I looked on TBS and downloaded some radio blogs. Today I looked for the shortest one I had (5 minutes or so), and it was... Takamiy's Voice! From May 30th, to be exact. I found him in the Culture section and thought "爆走・暴走・爆笑" and "ロック選曲" sounded like it could be my kind of program. I didn't recognize Takamiy, aka Takamizawa Toshihiko...

This man was born in the 50's and has nicer hair than I do.

...but I have heard of The Alfee, which is the band he is a member of. I'm pretty sure I have/had at one time one of their songs/collaborations. Found a handy dandy playlist on youtube, if you're interested. Click through it a bit, since they've had very long careers and so have experimented with a few different styles.

Anyway, he has this radio blog, which I enjoyed listening to. I felt like I understood at least 90% of it, but transcribing it was a different matter. Once again, I extracted all the main ideas but I wasn't listening for details. So this was a good exercise. Try listening to it yourself. You might be able to fill in the (?) or correct the (probably incorrect sentences?), or even revise some of the sentences I thought were pretty decent.

A working transcript:

今週のTakamiy's Voiceですけどね。ちょっと想像してほしいと思うんですけどね、だれもいないオフィスね・・・ (どうも?)自分の中に潜む、こう、いたずらのですね。(むしが、こう、さわいでしかたがない?)。実際にやらないにしても誰もいないオフィスでこんなことしたら楽しいではないのかなとですね。妄想ですね。含ませることもあるんじゃないかな。怖いからいかないかい?誰でもいないオフィスは。誰もいないね、静かなオフィスでみんなやってみたいこと何だろうということで、愚問やりますね。もう、これ、もう色んなランキングがあるんですけど、ここまで調べるのがということで、誰もいないオフィスで一度やってみたいことランキングっていうのがあるんですが、一位から十位まであるんですけどね。(?)の結果こうなりました。

第十位が、ドミノ倒しですよ。何倒すんだろう、誰もいないオフィスで。あっ、ドミノ並べてやるんだ。これは(いっそ?)大変な時間かかるよ、これね。第九位。臭いがきついものを大量に食べてる。何だこれは。たとえばギョウザとかにんにく(?)ですかね。これはでもね、かなり・・・ たけどあれだよね、お弁当とかそういうもの、駅弁(?)、お弁当、においきつくなくても「ああ、誰か食ってんだ」ってわかるよね、新幹線なんかとかでね。会社でもそうなのかね、やっぱり。

第八位がですね、嫌いな上司のモニターの位置はあげるってどういうこと、これ?見にくくするんだ!これはちょっとプチ犯罪だけど。もうだめでしょう、これは。(嫌いな上司の)モニターをちょっと、コンピューターのモニターの位置上げて、見にくく・・・ でも意味ないと思うよ。あっと思うとすぐ直すからね。嫌がらせですね、これね。

次、第七位。爆音で音楽をかけて踊る。踊るか!まあ、爆音の音楽をかけるのはわかりますね。誰もいない。だけどびっくりして警備の方来ちゃうんじゃないですかね、これ、ね、あんまりデカイと。そして第六位がホワイトボートに落書き!ああ。かさ書いて・・・9かくのから?)・・・ 社長を(?)とかやつ。相合傘。そんなわけないですかね。次、第四位。会社の大きいプロジェクターで映画を見る。これはいいんじゃない。そう思うよ。映画をね。映画館(?)に、一人で見ると。これもあまり大きい(?)あの警備の方来ちゃうぜ。気をつけてほしいな、と思いますね。

そして第三位。コピーで顔や体を複写・・・できんのか、そんなこと!コピー機で。えっ、できるの?顔をつけるの、これだって?やったことあんのか!ちょっとびっくりしました、は、これ(?)(が入ってる?)んで、これないだろうと思った。あるんだ!意外と僕は、夜中と言いますかね、まあ、スタジオが多いんでね、そう、会社に行ったことないんですけど。まあ、スタジオなんかでもコピー機ありますから!へー。でもあんまコピー自分でやったことない。(やってまっちゃうんだね?)、コピーとかね。(?)コピーできるの?何でもコピーできるんだ!とりあえず・・・ へー。(さくらい*のね?)(?)やってみようかな、俺も。へー。

次、第二位。オフィスチェアで廊下をかけっ[笑]! さあって、子供じゃないんだ、これ!これなんか楽しそうだね、廊下をわーっとかでかけるの。これはなんか、(ストレッサー?)(?)にいいんじゃないですかねこれ、なかなかね。誰もいないだったら平気でしょう。あんまり(やると?)あの警備が来ちゃうんでね、んん、気をつけたほうがいい。第一位が、社長のいすに座る。はぁ。色んなことありますね、これね。誰もいないオフィスで、一度やってみたいことランキングっつのね、一位から十位まで。なんか自分がやってみたいのは何だろうな。

[・・・]でもそうだね。でも小学校ってさあ、あんだけ人がいっぱいいるのに気楽になるじゃない。けっこう(閑散?)とする中にちょっと、こう、怖さもあるんじゃない。だからなんか忘れ物取りに行くときに(?)、「なんか、あれ?なんか怖くないこれ。これちょっとこわくないみたい」の感じがありますね。最近の方、なんか、学校の怖い映画とかいっぱいあるのね。んん。子供たちは怖がっているみたいです、やっぱり。ええ。オフィスで廊下をかけるっていうの、こう、ちょっと楽しそうだなって。あと、爆音で音楽をかける。あるいはアンプを入れて爆音でギターを弾くと。社長(?)、社長のいすに座って、思い切り爆音でギターを弾くよ。これがTakamiy's(?)オフィスで一度やってみたいことランキングでありますけど。うちのオフィスの社長ですよね、デカイ鉄人に(?)。何の会社(?)みたいな。かなり目立てますね。ということでありました。といことで、今週のTakamiy's Voiceはここまで!

*Sakurai is the name of another member of The Alfee. 


Part 2 of "Happiness Has the Form of a Kitten" (Otsuichi)

乙一の『しあわせは子猫のかたち』 2
You can read Part One if you haven't yet.

Part Two 

I had been eating lunch alone in the school cafeteria, far removed from everyone. In the beginning I didn't plan to go through the trouble of making a friend to eat with. 

One day a man suddenly sat down in front of me. I didn't know him. 

"You're the guy that moved into the house where someone was murdered, right?" That was Murai. He was in the year above me. At first I just gave short answers to his questions, but he didn't seem to be a bad guy. He look was affable, knew a lot of people, and looked like kind of person who could get along with anyone.

From then on we started hanging out. I say "hang out" but we weren't what could be called friends. I just got to ride in his beloved Mini Cooper to go shopping, or if I had some errands to run near the station. His blue, cutely shaped car drew everyone's eyes when it stopped in the street.

Murai was popular and loved by everyone. He didn't pressure me if I didn't drink alcohol. He often started friendly chats, surrounded by people. At those times I quietly left my seat. Nobody noticed. I didn't feel like participating in that kind of conversation. Instead of listening to the conversation from somewhere a little removed, I felt most at peace sitting alone on a bench on the campus grounds, staring at the rotting root of a potted tree. I could become calm when alone, more so than being in a large crowd. 

Murai's friends were overflowing with energy and always laughing. They were rich, good at sports, and active. They were residents of a world different from mine. 

Compared with them, I felt as if I was a lower level organism. In reality, my shabby, unironed clothes and the habit I had of quickly choking on my words became a target for their laughter. What's more, because I didn't speak unless it was absolutely necessary, they probably thought I was completely apathetic. 

Once, they performed a small experiment. It happened in the A building lobby on campus.

"We'll be back soon, so you wait here," they said, and left for somewhere, taking Murai with them. I sat on a bench in the lobby and read a book as I waited for them to return. College students milled noisily around me. An hour passed, but no one had come back. I grew nervous, but in the end I continued to read for another hour. 

That's when Murai returned, alone. He looked at me with a complicated expression on his face and said, "You were tricked by everyone. No one was going to come back, no matter how long you waited. They all got tired of watching you and drove off a long time ago."

I responded only with Oh, I see, then closed my book and stood to go.

"You aren't embarrassed? Everyone was having fun watching you get nervous," Murai said. 

It's always happened to me, so I only half cared.

"I'm already used to this kind of thing." I left him behind and walked quickly away from that place. I felt Murai's gaze on my back. 

I had felt from the beginning that I couldn't belong with them. They had all kinds of things that I would never be able to get, no matter how much I reached for them. That's why I felt a secret hopelessness after I exchanged words with them, and embraced a feeling close to hatred. 

No, I didn't feel that only for them. I hated everything, cursed it. Especially things like the sun, the blue sky, flowers, songs - I emphatically muttered my curses at them. I thought all of the people who walked around with bright faces were all very ugly, stupid things. Solely by rejecting the world and keeping it at a distance like that, I could become calm.

That's why I thought the pictures that Yukimura had taken were miraculous.


しあわせは子猫のかたち「作家」乙一 "Happiness Has the Form of a Kitten" (Otsuichi)

Otsuichi (real name 安達寛高, Adachi Hirotaka) is a prolific author who began publishing at 17. A number of his works have become movies and/or manga, including the short story 『君にしか聞こえない』 (Calling You) and the novel 『GOTHリスット事件』 (Goth). He is also a scriptwriter. Several of his works have been translated into English, including his short story collection Zoo and his first published book, 『夏と花火と私の死体』 Summer, Fireworks, and My Corpse. You can read about his reading habits in this interview with 作家の読書道. He also uses twitter.

The following is the first part of Otsuichi's 『幸せは子猫の形』, which is in his own collection 『失われる物語』 and part of a compilation called 『きみが見つける物語』. The latter describes itself as a "十代のための新名作恋愛篇", or a collection of new masterpieces about love for teenagers. I initially wanted to get the mystery series version of the book, but I decided I would try to broaden my horizons and read some love stories, since I guess love isn't that bad now that they have mostly proven that cooties don't exist and all. They have quite a few different collections for students of Japanese who want to read something at a kind of middle level. The text is more advanced than beginner/elementary reading materials (probably more interesting too), but the kanji isn't as in your face as more complex materials. Moving onto Otsuichi's story, I'd heard of some of his stories and movies, but only had a general idea of his work (spooky, twist at the end, imaginative, bittersweet, etc). I've really enjoyed what I read so far, and I'm looking forward to Part Two, and more after that.

Part One

When I decided to leave the house and live on my own, it was simply because I wanted to be alone. What I wanted more than anything was to go to an obscure town where no one knew me and die alone. That's why I purposefully chose to go to somewhere far from home for college. I apologize to my parents for becoming the kind of person who turns his back on his hometown. But I have many siblings, so they shouldn't be hurt that they've lost one never-do-well son.

It was necessary to determine a place of residence before I began living alone. My uncle owned an old house, so I decided to rent it. The last week of March, I went to that house together with my uncle, to inspect it.

Until that time I'd never had even a single conversation with my uncle. I sat in the passenger seat of the car he was driving, and we headed for our destination, but the conversation fell flat. It wasn't just because we had no topics in common. I lack any ability to converse, so I'm not the type of person who can speak frankly with ease.

"I heard that a college student drowned in that lake over there about a month ago. Got drunk and fell in." My uncle pointed out the window with his chin as he drove.

The trees flew past and I glimpsed a large pond in the midst of the dense, thick leaves. The pond's surface was dyed grey as it reflected the overcast skies, and it gave off a lifeless, lonely impression. Around it was a field of grass.

"Really?" As soon as I said it, I thought I should have been more exaggeratedly surprised. My uncle was probably expecting me to be surprised.

"You aren't really shocked by things like people dying, then?"

"Well, no..." I'm not easily moved by the mundane deaths of strangers.

My uncle looked slightly relieved, but I didn't realize the meaning behind his expression.

Thanks to my manual-like answers, the conversation with my uncle didn't last much longer after that. My uncle fell quiet, looking bored, and as I wondered whether he thought I was tedious an uncomfortable silence rose within the car. It's a situation I can't get used to, despite having experienced it countless times, but I don't feel any anger. I've simply always been the kind of person who is unable to match up with others.

Even so, I'd already grown tired of worrying over how to connect with people. It was enough already, more than enough. From now I would refrain from meeting with people as much as possible. I would try not to leave my house to often, and live quietly. And as much as possible, I wanted to avoid doing things like walking down the middle of the street. Nothing is a greater relief than to leave the crowds behind, and be alone. From now on, I would live my life alone with the curtains closed.

The home that my uncle owned was a two-story wooden house in an unremarkable, ordinary residential area. Compared to the homes surrounding it, it seemed old as a hand-coloured photograph, and looked like it might lean to the opposite side if you pushed it. When I walked around it I was back to where I started before I knew it, so I didn't foresee any disasters. There was a neat garden, and there were traces of someone having grown their own vegetables there recently. There was a water pipe and faucet on the side of the house, and the green hose was laid out in a coil.

When I looked around I was surprised to find that nearly all the furniture and household items were still inside. I had imagined an abandoned house, but now I felt as if I'd set foot in a stranger's home. 
"Had someone been living in here until recently?"

"I was renting it to a friend of a friend. That person's already died, but since they had no relatives there was no one to take the furniture and all..."

My uncle didn't seem eager to say much about the previous tenant.

It was as though life had been going normally until just a second ago, when suddenly only the people disappeared with a puff. An old movie calendar, a postcard stuck to the wall with a pin. Silverware, books, cassette tapes, cat figurines on the shelves. All of the previous tenant's things were left just as they were.

"You can use what's left. The owner is gone," said my uncle.


"I Tried to Get Rid of 9 Outfits"

I read the first chapter of an online manga, 洋服を9枚に減らしてみた, by 青木光恵 (Aoki Mitsue). It's really short and an easy read. I translated it - the first chapter is お服、大好き! or, I Love Clothes! The lines are separated as per the panels and grouped as per the page. You can read the Japanese (and actually see illustrations, which helps a lot since it's a comic and all) for frizzle (that's free, said in a hip way) here. It's only a few pages. You can find more free manga at Yahoo!コミック.

Since I was young I've longed to go camping.
Do you remember "The Story of Perrine"? About the girl that travelled around with her gypsy mother?
I loved that part where they live in the log cabin!

In the last episode she gets to live in that rich old man's mansion. It's a happy ending but...
".... Boring..."
"Living on the road sounds like so much more fun than being rich!" ...was the kind of reaction I had.
I really yearned for the -- what do I call it?-- the have-nothing, free lifestyle.

So how could I, at 41 years old, have a room like this?
It would be OK if it was just my office... "The living room..."

And the bulk of it is clothing. "I can't travel like this! This won't fit on a donkey!"

"The clothes over here... They're the kind I wore 10 years ago."
"They're still in boxes... since the house before the house I moved here from..."
"There's no way they still fit."
"Oh, I still want to wear them... ... But they definitely don't fit."

"But I still like them! And they have sentimental value! Plus they were expensive! I don't wanna throw them away!"
"Still! Just thinking about dealing with them in any other way..."
"It's such a pain in the ass!"
"Ooo, seriously!"
So then, what to do?