by Fuyuji Tanaka
A smell of dried flounder broiling
At lonely noon-time in my native village
Houses, their shingled roofs
Weighted down with stones…
Frugal smell of dried flounder broiling
This lonely noon-time in my native village.
On the empty white road
A snow-vendor from the mountains walks alone.
SOURCE: Poetry, May 1956
PHOTO: Shirakawa-gō village, Japan. Photo by Zeptems, used by permission.
NOTE: The Historic Villages of Shirakawa-gō and Gokayama are one of Japan’s UNESCO World Heritage Sites. The cultural property consists of three historic mountain villages over an area of 170 acres in the remote Shogawa river valley in central Japan. Shirakawa-gō translates to “White River Old-District.”
PHOTO: Ogimachi Village, from Shiroyama viewpoint, Shirakawa-gō, Gifu Prefecture, Japan. Photo by Bernard Gagnon, used by permission.
IMAGE: Evening Snow at Kanbara by Utegawa Hiroshige (1833), part of The Fifty-Three Stations of the Tōkaidō, a series of woodcut prints created by Hiroshige after his first journey along the Tōkaidō road in 1832. During the winter months, the village dwellers subsisted on dried fish, as mentioned in the poem.
FROM The Japan Times: Japan is famous as a nation that loves raw seafood. But dried fish has a much longer history and has played an important role in Japanese society for hundreds of years. There are basically two kinds of dried fish products in Japan. The first, which goes by various names, is dried (sometimes after fermenting) for a long period until it’s rock-hard and keeps very well, such as katsuobushi—fermented and dried skipjack tuna or bonito that is shaved like wood and used in dashi stock. The other type is usually called himono (roughly translates as “dried things”), which is typically grilled and eaten as-is. (Excerpt from “Before Japan ate raw fish, there was himono” by Makiko Itoh, The Japan Times, Nov. 20, 2015.)
PHOTO: Fish drying on bamboo rack in Japanese village. Photo by marketplace.secondlife.com, All Rights Reserved.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Fuyuji Tanaka (1894-1980) was a poet from Japan. Seven of his poems appeared in the May 1956 edition of Poetry.