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

Forty-Seven Samurai


One of the most spectacular vendettas ever: the history and haiku behind the mass-suicide featured in the 2013 film 47 Ronin

Oh, Tama!


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

Tag Cloud

william f sibley learning instruments in japan budhist swastika internment monk t.k. nakagaki literary prize Chiune Sugihara japanese customs shamisen keanu reeves memoir in japan anime japan books japanese music chinese japan culture japan memoir visitor Chinese Astrology pottery China etiquette foreword reviews japanese etiquette author talk japan travel guide non-fiction walt disney Anime/Manga/Comics journal of a zen monk's wife polite fred schodt japan etiquette travel Japan japan vacation Children's Literature Chinese culture japanese bath death center of east asian studies religion books diymfa japanese culture graphic novels state of belief awards Basho's Narrow Road memoir writing Spring Festival 4k Alexandra Johnson author signing japan book review asian review of books AAS buddhist wanderlust forest gander miyazaki dark horse tomoko aoyama japan custom juddhism japanese cutlure japan trip alan brill Tokyo Olympics journal' monks wife japanese craft international book award journal of a zen monks wife in japan guide china smart understandind china through comics the buddhist swastika award osaka kimba the white lion announcement donald richie ancient symbol china history musical catcher in the rye the lion king bushido society the asian review of books travel manners tokyo hiroaki sato nazi bird talk and other stories shun medoruma frederik green Art/Design new books podcast how to travel in japan association of jewish libraries the fourth string a memoir of sensei and me haibun summer vacation japan times hooked cross hippocampus magazine four immigrants janet pocorobba japanese book japan manners dazai controversy a mejiro novel comics expat in japan amy chavez book reviews World War II in the woods of memory kinokuniya event the fourth string kris kosaka shaimsen gaijin pot japan book 2019 Second World War hong kong machiya restaurant otakuusa my year of dirt and water benjamin franklin awards min kahng osamau tezuka swastika Chinese New Year book publicity japan today poet manji buddhism VIZ new release writing memior stone bridge cafe book review hitler Japanese aesthetics sensei and me book year of zen IBPA ningen shikkaku gratitude in japan WWII kotaku new york japan travel pulitzer prize welton gaddy Okinawan literature tracy franz expat illustration jared cook Coming of Age Day learning shamisen Basho publishing lucille cara the japan society expert student teacher rebecca otowa Japanese literature eli lieberman tk nakagaki china What You Don’t Know, What You Need to Know— A Past & Present Guide to History, Culture, Society, Language steve alpert traditional japanese instrumenet sensei larry herzberg Ukiyo-e book reading giajin evil buddhist priest chinese comics china vacation tourist Chinese history Korea photography trip ibpa publishing university damian flanagan diy mfa china book foreigner in japan zen monk chinese literature traditional koto classic japanese literature frank beyer what do in japan journal machiya restaurant guide japanese business frederik schodt alan moore japanese books in english Nikolas Bunton a memoir of sensei and me hitler symbol china guide Interview 47 ronin japanese american shamisen foreword indies award koun travel etiquette will eisner eating in japan jing liu japanese history classic author wife japan ravel Japanese art new york events forty seven samurai kansuke naka black jack travel to japan lions roar Language zen monk wife monks wife japan guide the japan times japanese translation kyoto guidebook japan travel etiquette gallery awa the silver spoon leonard koren bookstore diary memoir zen monk in japan 20th century chinese literature traditional japanese instrument takuma sminkey fiction author tour astro boy ex pat literature japanese instrument book hoarding how to doris bargen PEN AWARD sharing a house with the never ending man china where igo washington dc literary review world literature today ripe mangoes japan food finalist World War Two Christianity in Japan why we write podcast green tea peace symbol blurb rachel manley nara lesley university osamu tezuka event ritual japanese manners mentorship in japan photography donald keene buddhist swastika jungle emperor drinking in japan Olympics simba Poetry Children's Books japan visitor kyodo news gaijinpot the millions travel literature janet pocrobba jun hazuki oh tama Japan zen 47 samurai university of chicago publicity book tour purification amys guide to bes tbehavior in japan tea review studio ghibli Korea literature hiaku steve heller forty seven ronin comic history a memoir mark gibeau fantasy literature dirt and water symbol kyoto japanese books suicide japanese to english buddhist symbols chapters japanese travel interfaith hate amys guide to best behavior in japan kyoto journal japanese people suehiro maruo gaijin pacific rim review of books michael emmerich 2020 Olympics learning in japan japanese drunk matcha politics and prose education about asia 1960s Korea the inland sea traditional japanese music namethetranslator nhk Spirituality henry kiyama a shameful life History holocaust janet pocorbba do it right and be polite behavior japan restaurant peace benjamin franklin award huffpost book signing monk wife memoir, tracy franz, zen monk, buddhist disney Christianity classic poetry japan behavior anne prescott book award reviews forewrod reviews indies tricycle magazine nova scotia performance xu xu Asian Studies japanese classic translators manners classic literature living in japan paul mccarthy book talk tea garden shamisen performance Culture UCLA Shoah china travel film 15 years at studio ghibli eastern and western philosophy journal of a zen monk stone bridge press 1960's Japan studying in japan manga Japanese holidays kyoto travel astrology no longer human foreword indies the hidden writer nichi bei weekly, naomi hirarahara osamu dazai ancient symbols how to order in japan seppuku best behavior in japan Travel haiku luke patitsas holden caufield hitlers cross miswest book review bowing in japan zazen mieko kanai The Colorado Review Translation criterion brad hawley verticle poetry of consciousness japanese instruments book blurb yukio mishima manga biography Year of the Dog danica davidson zen monks wife' asia author event huffington post
RSS