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!

Easy and Fun Katakana


Learn the second key Japanese syllabary from every angle: reading, writing, and real-world examples.

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

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