字 the Kanji Kid

the Kanji Kid

A collection of my translations~ and other things.


Lemon -- Motojirou Kajii

An unfamiliar, ominous mass had been continually putting pressure on my heart. Should I 
call it impatience, or should I call it disgust-- like the hangover one gets from drinking
alcohol, as if I were drinking every day I was in a state which seemed almost to be a 
hangover. That was the kind of state that had come over me. This was a little worrying. 

It wasn't the discovery that I had a pulmonary catarrh, or the nervous breakdown, which 
worried me. It was also not the debt burning into my back that worried me. What worried me
was this foreboding mass.

The things which had once given me joy, no matter how beautiful the music or how beautiful
the poem, I could now no longer stand a single line. I would go out with the intention of 
listening to a record, but two or three lines made me so uneasy I wanted to turn it off. 
Something was making me unable to endure it. So I wandered continually from town to town. 

For some reason, at that time I remember being drawn to beautifully shabby things. Even 
with scenery I preffered the crumbling cities, and within those cities, more so than the 
main streets I liked the intimate back alleys with dirty laundry hung out to dry, people's
junk left everywhere, and all the squalid rooms you could see into. The city appeared to 
be saying "rain and wind will eat into everything, until it returns to the soil", as its 
dirt walls collapsed and its houses leaned to one side.

The only thing with any vitality was the plants, and when the time came there was a 
shocking amount of sunflowers and canna lilies blooming.

Sometimes as I walked along those roads I would try and bring about the illusion that this
not Kyoto, this was somewhere hundreds of leagues away from Kyoto, and I had come to a
city like Sendai or Nagasaki. I wanted to leave Kyoto if I could and run away to a city 
where I knew not a single person. 
The most important thing was tranquility. A single room in a deserted inn. A clean futon.
Nice smelling mosquito nets, and a well-starched yukata. And I would want to lie down 
there for about a month, without thinking about anything. I prayed that this would 
somehow become a place like that. When the illusion finally began to take effect I would 
set about smearing the colours of my imagination. A double exposure effect would be 
created between my illusion and the broken city. I looked forward to losing sight of my 
real self within that.
I began to be attracted to those things again, fireworks. 

The fireworks were second rate, the bundle filled the sky with cheap-looking reds, purples,
yellows and blues in various striped patterns, battling like pampas grass under the stars 
at Nakayama Temple. There was also one called a pinwheel packed inside the box. That one 
strangely excited me. 
Other than that, I liked Portuguese glass marbles with fish and flowers in them, and I 
liked other glass beads. Giving them a lick was also an unspeakable pleasure to me. Is 
there a flavour as cool and light as that of glass? When I was young I would often put it 
in my mouth and get scolded by my parents. Maybe it was because the sweet memories of that
youth revived the me whose soul had sunk, but that faint and lively flavour, almost 
poetically beautiful, would float on my tastebuds. 
You may have guessed it but I had no money at all. A certain level of luxury was necessary,
as I was the kind to be moved just by looking at those things. By luxury, I mean things 
costing two or three sen. Beautiful things-- things that would excite my senses even in 
my languid state. They naturally consoled me. One of the places I liked before my life 
became worm-eaten, was for instance Maruzen. 
Red and yellow bottles of Eau de Cologne and Eau de Quinine. Fashionable Kiriko glassware, 
elegant rococo-style amber and jade green perfume bottles. Pipes, daggers, soap, tobacco. 
There was an occasion where I had spent over an hour looking at those things. Eventually 
my act of luxury had been to buy a good quality pencil.

But even this place became nothing but stifling for me at that time. Booksellers, students,
cashiers, all appeared to me like apparitions of debt collectors.
One morning-- at that time I was moving around, lodging with friend A, then friend B-- my 
friend went off to school and I was left all alone in a meaningless kind of atmosphere. I 
had to get out of there and go wandering again. Something was pursuing me.

So I went from neighbourhood to neighbourhood like before, going through the alleys, 
stopping in front of the small candy stores and peering at the dried shrimp, dried codfish
and beancurds of the dry good stores, until finally I went through Teramachi and came to
Nijou, stopping in front of a fruit seller. I would like to introduce that fruit store 
a little bit here, as it was my most favourite store in the area. 
It was not a splendid looking show, but one could sense the undisguised beauty which is 
characteristic of a fruit store. The fruits were lined up on top of their steep stands, 
and the stands themselves were painted with old fashioned looking black lacquer.
The volume of an elegant, beautiful allergro. Or the hues of the mask of a Golgon which 
would turned all who looked at it to stone. The fruits were tinged with those kinds of 
things, standing still as they were. There were also vegetables, piled higher and higher 
the further one went into the store. And truthfully the leaves of the carrots there, among
other things, were beautiful. Also, the natto soaking in water, and the sagittaria 
Another part of that store's beauty was its appearance at night. Teramachi street is 
generally busy-- though it feels much cleaner than Tokyo or Osaka-- the lights from the 
display windows leak out onto the street. But for some reason the area around that store's
front was strangely dark. It was on a street corner, one side facing the dark Nijou 
Street, so it made sense for that part to be unlit. But what didn't make sense was that 
the neighbouring store was dark as well despite being on Teramachi street. Though if that
store had not been dark, I don't think I would have been so enticed to the fruit store.
One other thing was the awning that the store had put out-- which hung low like a cap over
someone's eyes-- more than a metaphor, this awning actually hung so low that it would 
make one think "Oh, that store's cap is worn exceedingly low", and above the awning was 
also completely dark.
Because of its black surrounds, the electric lights washed over the storefront brilliantly
like a shower of rain, without being detracted from by the other stores, and the singular
beauty of that store's scene was illuminated. Whether standing in the street with the bare narrow rays of light stabbing sharply into my
eyes, or sitting in the nearby store Kagiya's second floor and looking out the window at
that fruit store, it was rare to find something that excited me so much even in Teramachi. 

That day, I uncharacteristically bought something at the store. That is to say, the store
had put out some rare lemons. It was almost overflowing with lemons.
Though the store was not shabby it was still nothing more than an average grocer's so I 
had not been in to look around much. I completely loved those lemons. Their colour so pure
it was as if they had been squeezed out of a paint tube and solidified, and their shape
like a spindle loaded with thread. Eventually I decided to buy just one. And oh, how and 
where I wandered after that! I walked through the city for a long time.
I saw that the ominous mass which had placed pressure on my heart all day, had loosened a 
bit, and I was unusally happy there in the upper end of town. That the persistent gloom 
could be relieved with this singular piece of fruit-- in some ways it was almost 
suspicious. Paradoxically, though, it was true. What an inexplicable thing the heart is.

The coolness of that lemon was incomparably good. At that time the condition of my upper 
lungs was worsening and I constantly broke out in fever. Truthfully, my friends would show
off my fever to anybody, and have us grip hands, but nobody's palm was hotter than mine. 
Maybe it was because of that fever, but the cool feeling of that lemon pleasantly seeped 
into my body from my palms. Over and over I would bring that fruit to my nose and smell it. 
When I considered its place of production, somewhere like California came to mind. In a 
kanji passage about citrus selling there is a line which says something about how its scent
"hits one's nose", pieces like that kepts appearing in fragments in my head
And if I were to breathe deeply its fragrant scent, until my lungs were full, having not 
ever filled my lungs so completely with air before, the reisdual warmth from my blood 
would wash over my face and body and it was as if health had been awakened in me. To tell
the truth, the simple senses of cold, touch, smell, vision, that arose from that lemon 
were enough to make me think, strangely, that this was what I had been looking for all 
along. Those were my thoughts at the time.

I was overcome with delicate excitement in the street, feeling something almost like pride,
and walking as if I were one of those beautifully clothed poets who strutted around the 
city. I placed the lemon on my dirty handkerchief, or against my coat to see the contrast
in colour. And basically, I had this thought: it all came down to the weight. I grew 
tired of even questioning its weight, I just believed undoubtedly that this weight was 
the weight of everything good and beautiful. That's the kind of stupid thought that arose
from my jester of a heart, anyway-- whatever the case, I was happy.
Where and how I walked I do not know, only eventually I found myself in front of Maruzen. 
I thought that I might be able to enter the store without trouble now, despite how I 
tended to avoid it. "Let's try going in for once", and so I walked daringly in.

However for reasons unknown the happiness which had filled my heart escaped me. The 
bottles of perfume and pipes did nothing to ease whatever was pressing on my heart. I 
thought that maybe the gloom I had shut tightly away had been released again as I became 
weary from walking around. 

I went to stand in front of the art copybooks. Surely their collections of pictures would 
be able to ease the weight on my chest without any more effort than usual. So I thought. 
But I tried to take a book out, and I tried opening it, but no matter how faithfully I 
turned the pages no new feeling ever came to me.

As if I were under a curse I took out the next volume. That was the same thing.

If I didn't disarrange them I didn't think I could be satisfied. I couldn't stand it 
anymore so I just put the book down. I couldn't even recall what its original position 
had been. 

I repeated that action countless times. Finally, I had even placed the big orange book of 
Ingles that I love so much, in an attempt to withstand the feeling. What a curse it was. 
My hands were fatigued. I became depressed, staring at the books I had taken out and piled
up. What a sight were these picture books which used to allure me so. After I had 
finished exposing them all like this, and surveyed the otherwise normal surroundings I 
realised that a discordant sight like this was something I used to take pleasure in.

"Ah, that's it, that's it!" I remembered the lemon sitting in my sleeve. The books were 
piled so that their colours were all jumbled up. What if I tried it with the lemon? 

"That's it!"

The gentle excitement I had felt earlier returned to me. I added to the book pile with 
whatever I could find, then hurriedly pulled my construction down in order to build it 
anew. I searched out new things and added them, then removed others. A strange and magical 
castle grew, becoming red, then blue. Finally it was finished. 

Controlling my leaping heart, I fearfully placed the lemon atop those castle walls. And 
it was a great success. Looking it over, the hue of that lemon seemed to absorb all the 
clamour of the gradients below it into its own spindle-like body, creating a vivid scene. 
I felt that the dusty atmosphere of Maruzen, the surroundings of everything but this
lemon, were somehow strained.

I looked at it for a little while

Then a second unexpected idea occured to me. I was startled by my own strange plot-- I 
would leave it like that. Exit the store with a face as if nothing had happened. 
I felt strangely tickled. "I should leave. That's it. I'll leave." And so I quickly left.

That ticklish feeling had me grinning all the way up town. I was the mysterious villain, 
who had placed a shining, awe-inspiring yellow bomb on the shelves of Maruzen. After some 
time had passed, if there was an explosion in the center of those artful Maruzen shelves, 
how funny it would be.

I passionately pursued this fantasy. "Then that stuffy Maruzen would be blown to bits."
And with a strange effect hanging over the town, as if it were all out of some moving 
picture, I made my way down Kyougoku street.