SBP Blog

Stone Bridge Cafe: What Was Lost at Dan no Ura

Thomas Joel - Thursday, May 03, 2018

Stone Bridge Cafe is a bi-weekly online series from Stone Bridge Press devoted to bringing readers short stories, poems, non-fiction pieces, photographs, and artwork from and/or about East Asia. For submission guidelines and info, follow the link at the bottom of this post.

This week we're serving up an eloquent haibun (a poetry-and- prose form from Japan) written by M.C. Danzinger that meditates on the classic Japanese war epic, The Tale of the Heike (Heike Monogatari, 平家物語)—a tale full of dramatic death and heartbreaking tragedy. Of the epic's many conflicts, Danzinger chose to focus on one particularly important battle: the battle of Dan no Ura. Besides being one of the battles that sealed the fate of the Taira (Heike) clan, it is also where one of the most tragic deaths of the entire story takes place. Enjoy! 

☀☀☀

What Was Lost at Dan no Ura 
 
Imagine the ocean, deep, dark and angry. Imagine cruel conflict between two ancient families. Imagine being a six-year-old emperor, and sailing on those warring waters. The battle of Dan no Ura is where the forces of the warrior-clan Taira lost the Genpei war (1180-1185) to the opposing clan of Minamoto at the strait between Honshu the main island of Japan, and the southern island of Kyushu. In the dramatized epic The Tale of the Heike, the losses are described to us in poetic detail, and the words reach across centuries to touch us. None of these deaths is more tragic than the death of the young emperor Antoku.
 
young boy forced to take the throne,
royal in life, home,
blood, and bone.
 
The name Antoku is special; the Chinese character for “virtue” (toku 徳) is only included in the posthumous names of emperors who died far from the ancient capital of Kyoto. The other character (an 安) ironically means “peace” and “safety.” That, and his innocent attire described in the Heike add to the tragedy.
 
looped hair cradled by his shoulders,
robes of pleasant green and grey
belie the gravity of fate.

The main theme of the Heike is one of the Buddhist ideal of impermanence. The opening lines of the tale itself reflect this; “The Jetvana Temple bells / ring the passing of all things.” Buddhism, especially the Pure Land sect which believes in rebirth in the “Pure Land”, was practiced widely at this time. When Antoku’s grandmother Kenreimon’in realizes along with the rest of the Taira forces that their situation is hopeless, she decides that it would be more merciful to have Antoku drown in the turbulent waters of the Shimonoseki strait than fall victim to the opposing Minamoto.
 
in fervent prayer clasped tiny hands,
to the east and west,
for purer lands.
 
grandmother forced you to the sea,
“peaceful virtue”
in the capital below the waves.
 
Bibliography:
 
Adolphson, Mikael S., and Anne Commons. Lovable Losers: the Heike in Action and Memory. 2015.
 
Tyler, Royall, translator. The Tale of the Heike. Viking, 2012.

 

☀☀☀

M.C. Danzinger studies Japanese language and literature at the University of Alberta. He tutors high school English language arts and tries to inspire his students to enjoy poetry as much as he does.

If you would like to submit your own work to Stone Bridge Cafe, follow this link for submission info and guidelines: http://www.stonebridge.com/sbp-blog/stone-bridge-cafe-guidelines-submission-info


Like our blog? Please share it!

Categories

Subscribe to the SBP Mailing List

New Releases

Amy’s Guide to Best Behavior in Japan


Going to Japan? This unfussy modern guide guarantees you keep it polite and get it right!

China Smart


Essential essays on all things Chinese that inform and entertain travelers, students, and anyone working or living in China

Oh, Tama!


A deeply eccentric novel about lives and connections—and a cat of course—in 1980s Tokyo: witty, offbeat, and strangely profound.

The Fourth String


Two women. Two cultures. One music.

Tag Cloud

forty seven samurai shamisen performance a memoir traditional japanese music kyodo news Basho's Narrow Road kimba the white lion larry herzberg jungle emperor pacific rim review of books classic Japan the buddhist swastika new york amys guide to bes tbehavior in japan a memoir of sensei and me japanese customs best behavior in japan film my year of dirt and water chinese literature leonard koren WWII Spirituality china history performance ningen shikkaku frank beyer the hidden writer author event Chiune Sugihara bowing in japan Japanese holidays huffpost japanese manners The Colorado Review Language matcha astro boy writing gratitude in japan classic japanese literature shaimsen lions roar kyoto journal graphic novels Coming of Age Day etiquette dazai the fourth string huffington post author japan books kinokuniya event japan food japan book review suehiro maruo fred schodt ancient symbol bushido the fourth string a memoir of sensei and me death suicide japan today ibpa publishing university brad hawley tk nakagaki religion poet walt disney washington dc hiroaki sato Japanese literature diary the silver spoon book reviews japanese cutlure japan guide tricycle magazine china where igo World War II gaijinpot danica davidson forest gander Poetry william f sibley forty seven ronin ancient symbols author signing china book japanese gallery awa jun hazuki japan travel zen monks wife' anime buddhism donald richie bookstore will eisner japan travel etiquette book review travel Japan frederik schodt review literary prize asia podcast book talk comics journal Christianity japan visitor Children's Literature buddhist china smart japan behavior amys guide to best behavior in japan book giajin Chinese Astrology buddhist swastika foreword indies illustration nara rachel manley how to order in japan green tea monk wife AAS Second World War wife book award chinese Chinese history astrology kyoto yukio mishima year of zen Nikolas Bunton Chinese New Year understandind china through comics koun the asian review of books oh tama tea garden the japan society mieko kanai lucille cara monks wife 47 ronin 4k reviews translators 1960's Japan shun medoruma lesley university travel literature kansuke naka Culture non-fiction China the lion king hitlers cross eating in japan miswest book review interfaith a shameful life t.k. nakagaki japan trip black jack japan travel guide peace diymfa living in japan japanese books 2019 american shamisen tea Christianity in Japan book publicity UCLA wanderlust author talk japan restaurant simba japanese drunk seppuku Translation osaka japan culture manners verticle travel manners tourist amy chavez new release alan moore Shoah comic history jared cook 2020 Olympics osamu dazai polite japan etiquette VIZ History photography Olympics expat juddhism author tour publishing keanu reeves event trip Korea monk osamau tezuka fantasy literature criterion asian review of books haibun Interview henry kiyama osamu tezuka traditional zen monk awards world literature today internment sensei and me japanese book japan manners michael emmerich eastern and western philosophy japanese music manga blurb tracy franz center of east asian studies benjamin franklin award Art/Design learning in japan Children's Books japanese culture hitler book tour japanese etiquette zen monk in japan dirt and water ritual rebecca otowa zen finalist university of chicago visitor book signing japanese bath memoir, tracy franz, zen monk, buddhist book hoarding japanese instruments japanese books in english namethetranslator welton gaddy japan custom janet pocorobba traditional japanese instrumenet travel to japan manji hippocampus magazine summer vacation 1960s Korea zen monk wife no longer human japanese to english do it right and be polite hate sensei book reading catcher in the rye how to ex pat literature international book award 47 samurai pulitzer prize koto poetry of consciousness gaijin japanese classic politics and prose china What You Don’t Know, What You Need to Know— A Past & Present Guide to History, Culture, Society, Language journal of a zen monk Year of the Dog pottery journal of a zen monk's wife in the woods of memory expat in japan japanese travel musical journal' monks wife paul mccarthy Tokyo Olympics nichi bei weekly, naomi hirarahara swastika the millions damian flanagan haiku buddhist priest memoir travel etiquette japan vacation stone bridge cafe Korea photography donald keene drinking in japan disney foreword reviews foreword indies award new books forewrod reviews indies Alexandra Johnson why we write podcast tomoko aoyama jing liu diy mfa Japanese aesthetics holden caufield a mejiro novel how to travel in japan Spring Festival Okinawan literature Anime/Manga/Comics manga biography nazi journal of a zen monks wife in japan china travel Basho literary review Chinese culture japanese craft japanese translation zazen otakuusa buddhist symbols janet pocrobba Ukiyo-e japanese people japan book min kahng japanese instrument traditional japanese instrument award tokyo learning shamisen memior shamisen takuma sminkey controversy PEN AWARD guide chapters mark gibeau Travel kris kosaka benjamin franklin awards literature four immigrants alan brill student teacher purification books chinese comics the inland sea foreigner in japan IBPA japan memoir japan ravel behavior new york events janet pocorbba World War Two the japan times publicity hooked cross what do in japan state of belief nova scotia dark horse holocaust announcement book blurb memoir writing china vacation china guide stone bridge press evil Asian Studies gaijin pot Japanese art
RSS