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leighvmewithmyimagination
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Kawabata anyone?

I'm reading The Lake by Yasunari Kawabata.  Has anyone read it?  I'd like some insight.
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mwinasu
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Re: Kawabata anyone?

Sorry, my computer has been down.  I have never read The Lake, but I have read several of his other works.  Is this your first encounter with Japanese Literature.  I would love to discuss Kawabata with you. I am trying to find a copy.

mwinasu

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mwinasu
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Re: Kawabata anyone?

Well, I wasn't able to find The Lake.  Is it a short story from one of his collections?
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mwinasu
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Re: Kawabata anyone?

O Boy.  It occurred to me to check the internet so I have ordered the book.  If you would not mind communicating with a ditz , please don't give up on me.
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leighvmewithmyimagination
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Re: Kawabata anyone?

Oh it's great that you've found it!  I happened by it at a used bookstore...had never seen it before then.  I started reading it a few weeks ago, but have only been able to read it during lunch and every other day at best.  So.....I've decided to start over since I've lost track of what's going on and who's who.  I decided to finsh the other book I was reading at night first.  So...I'll wait until you get your copy.  It's only about 160 pages or so.

 

I've never read Japanese literature before.  I'm hoping to broaden my horizons and open up my thinking.  I have a few of his other books that were recommended by the owner of the used book store I used to go to.

 

I'll try to hurry up and finish the Stephen King I'm reading...so let me know when you get your copy!  Look forward to discussing it with you!

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See what no one else sees. See what everyone chooses not to see...out of fear, conformity, or laziness. See the whole world anew each day.
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mwinasu
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Re: Kawabata anyone?

I got the book last night.  I read a little of it but did not get very far .  I can't even begin to thank you for this opportunity.  It is really hard to find anyone willing to step out of their comfort zone and try something different.  Japanese literature is like Japanese food and it may take you some time to get used to it, and Kawabata isn't the easiest writer you could have chosen. It looks very simple and yet it is extremely complex.  What little I have learned of this type of writing has been pieced together like one of those 3D jigsaw puzzles of the Earth.  And I am beginning to think the dog has eaten some of the pieces.  Thanks again.       mwinasu
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mwinasu
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Re: Kawabata anyone?

Have you ever wondered what life was like in Japan after WWII? 
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leighvmewithmyimagination
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Re: Kawabata anyone?

I finished Duma Key this morning so I'm going to re-start The Lake sometime today.  

 

Hopefully I'll get more out of it than the last time I started to read it!

 

 

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See what no one else sees. See what everyone chooses not to see...out of fear, conformity, or laziness. See the whole world anew each day.
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leighvmewithmyimagination
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Re: Kawabata anyone?

So on the very first page we learn that Gimpei "might" be a wanted criminal.....and in the following pages Gimpei makes several mentions of criminals/criminal acts to the bath girl.  It seems he's quite concerned with the idea that he is a criminal or might be compared to one.  I wonder what it is that he's done.....

 

He also seems very concerned with what the bath girl thinks of him doesn't he?  Wondering if she thinks his body looks old, what age she thinks he is.  And soooo obsessed with his toes!  He often makes up lies about his toes and the way they look?  Weird.  Strange how even a century later in a different country we act the same way.  People are by nature extremely concerned with the way they appear to others.

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See what no one else sees. See what everyone chooses not to see...out of fear, conformity, or laziness. See the whole world anew each day.
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mwinasu
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Re: Kawabata anyone?

Gimpei is one of those names that kind of sounds  like English.  In Japanese Literature a person with a physical defect is often portraying a spiritual or emotional defect that engenders deep shame.  So I think that Gimpei (Gimpy) as a character was Kawabata's way of saying that the Japanese people were in a period of deep shame.  The fake athelete's foot was an allusion to the jungle rot brought back from Southeast Asia.  My Dad had it too. This must have been a very hard time for the Japanese.  It must have been similar to what we are going through now here in the United States.  Are we responsible for the actions of our leaders or are we innocent?  I have never killed anyone and I did not vote for that man but am I responsible for war crimes?  Like Gimpei I do not know.

When I compare this novel with his others  it makes me think that he was trying to write  this one for westerners. 

You know how we often use Sci-fi to talk about difficult political issues?  Well I think the Japanese use erotica as a way to discuss politics and issues of power.  I know that I would rather read erotica.  This is one weird story.  Thanks  

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mwinasu
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Re: Kawabata anyone?

Kawabata's Thousand Cranes was my second Japanese novel.  I read it because he was a nobel prize winner. I did not get it and that really bugged me.  So I decided to figure it out.  I found that everything  given has a purpose in the Japanese literature of this time period. Nothing is wasted and everything has meaning.  Sometimes it has more than one meaning  but the meanings are tied together like patterns in fabric.  I do not know enough about Japanese history and culture to understand all of the symbols, but I think I have read enough to recognise one when I see it.  Of course I could always be wrong.

   As we move along in the story we find that Gempei has gotten his new clothes and  spa treatment courtsey of a woman who threw her purse at him and ran away because he was following her.  Her I.D. and over 200,000 yen was in the purse.  He keeps the money but throws away the I.D. without looking at it.  Since she threw the money at him is he a thief?  If he throws away the I.D. without looking at it is he a stalker?

  The bath house girl and the woman are tied together by Gempei and the money he took, but I am not sure how yet.

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leighvmewithmyimagination
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Re: Kawabata anyone?

I would never have caught the name thing.....so glad we're discussing the book!  I've already learned something!  It's a huge A-HA! moment for me.

 

I actually finished the book Sunday.  I could never figure out what the deal was with Gimpei constantly bring up his "athlete's foot".  Weren't the Japanese more reserved with their sharing of personal information?  He did it several times and then claimed he had no idea what had made him say it.  Subconscious nudgings?

He claims his ugly feet are chasing beauty, so this is why he's obsessed with beautiful girls?  And if he's so ashamed of his ugly feet then why does he always bring it up to these girls?  It almost seems he was using it as an excuse.

 

I found it so odd that Arita liked younger women to behave in a motherly way, he was 70 years old!  But it wasn't sexual was it?  I mean, he was seeking that motherly comfort and love.  And also that these young women were okay with it. 

Sort of found it relating to younger women of today using older men for their money.  Men with money can get away with bizarre behavior, their little sugar babies allow it because they don't want to lose their meal ticket. 

 

I never really considered life in Japan after the war until I read and watched Memoirs of a Geisha.  They had a drastic culture shock happening...I guess it's like that anytime cultures collide.  I suppose it must have been quite the adjustment from such strict obedient ways in Japan. 

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See what no one else sees. See what everyone chooses not to see...out of fear, conformity, or laziness. See the whole world anew each day.
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leighvmewithmyimagination
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Re: Kawabata anyone?

How familiar with the West was Kawabata?  And you say he might have intended the book for Western eyes....why?  What's the true message?
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mwinasu
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Re: Kawabata anyone?

I forgot to mention that Gempei was a homeless guy.  When he went into that bath house he smelled pretty bad and he was really dirty.  Can you imagine a street person going into a  fancy spa today and having visions while getting the premier treatment.  One of the issues that he talks about is the problem of homelessness.  Can you see it?   You can throw a lot of money at it and run away but it will not change the nature of the problem.   That takes compassion and human to human contact.  I can't spend much time today cause I am still making my presents but I will get back later.  I did not answer your question, I know, but I need a little more time to get into it.
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Re: Kawabata anyone?

The bath girl handled him well....polite and never made him feel less than a regular customer.  I remember now he did say he smelled bad and he hadn't taken a bath in a long time.  He was so worried about her washing his hair.

 

Miyako was so taken by Machie's beauty.  I'm thinking this is because Arita made her feel old.  She was 25 and felt like she was losing her beauty.  I think she envied Machie, and longed to have her youth back. 

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See what no one else sees. See what everyone chooses not to see...out of fear, conformity, or laziness. See the whole world anew each day.
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leighvmewithmyimagination
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Re: Kawabata anyone?

So...I found it annoying that Gimpei hated the little terrier dog for it's obsession with mice.  Is he not too so obsessed with something that it makes him crazy?!

 

I found that that sort of behavior is not uncommon.  I often think I hate people's actions or behaviors (for whatever reason) and then I can turn around and have similar actions and behaviors and justify it. 

I hate that the women I work with constantly talk bad about two other employees.  But I find it okay to call my mother and gripe about my roomate and how dirty, lazy, and gross he is.  Is it not the same thing?  In my mind I can justify the comments I make because "Who doesn't fill up the Brita water filter after they pour all the cold, filtered water into their work-out water jug and then put it back in the fridge empty!?  Are you retarded?"  Yeah....I'm just as hateful as the women I work with.  My petty annoyance equals my coworkers' snide secretive remarks.

 

But still.....Gimpei can't see these similarities.

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See what no one else sees. See what everyone chooses not to see...out of fear, conformity, or laziness. See the whole world anew each day.
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leighvmewithmyimagination
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Re: Kawabata anyone?

I don't think Gimpei is living in the "real" world.  What I mean is....he spends a considerable amount of time fantasizing and remembering things.  Does he not have anything to live for?  Is there nothing in the present that satisfies him? 

They say that people who spend more time in the past and future than in the present are unhappy, unsatisfied with themselves.  I think deep down, Gimpei hates what he is and what he's become.

 

I wonder if he envies these girls who he sees to have everything.  They want for nothing, so he thinks.  But I wonder if he got these things if he'd be happy.  He seems to be the type who would always be wanting more.

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See what no one else sees. See what everyone chooses not to see...out of fear, conformity, or laziness. See the whole world anew each day.
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leighvmewithmyimagination
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Re: Kawabata anyone?

Gimpei hates when the two women follow him.  It's so ironic that this happens, can't he see that the women are repulsed in the same way he claims to be.  He can't seem to see this similarity. 

 

He thinks that he's above the two ugly women who give him attention.  Why!?  He's ugly too!  Sounds like all the ugly, old men who only seem interested in the pretty little 18 year-olds.

 

At the end when he has the chance to be with someone who wants him, he's repulsed by it.  He can't even imagine being with this woman in the chance that she might have ugly feet.  How can he be so repulsed by something that he possesses? 

 

If Kawabata created this for western eyes, was the message:

Westerners always want what they can't have.  When they have the opportunity for something they seem to think they're above it and demand more.  This group of people tend to embody this belief system.

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See what no one else sees. See what everyone chooses not to see...out of fear, conformity, or laziness. See the whole world anew each day.
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mwinasu
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Re: Kawabata anyone?

Very astute.  I hope that you understand that I am just an old lady and no one of any standing in the world and this is what I think.

I think this book is not so much for us as it is about us and our relationships with the Japanese right after WWII. Many Japanese writers at this time swore to give up writing ,this includes Kawabata.  When he wrote this he was writing a eulogy for his country.  In his earlier and more famous novels he uses women as a metaphor for the spirit of Japan.  And that is what he does here.

Gempei's homelessness is a metaphor forJapan's occupation and his foot problem is  radiation burns.   There is a passage that speaks of a book byYukichi Fukuzawa.  Anytime you see a book quoted in another Japanese book you should pay particular attention to it.  Often the quote is completely made up, but the book or author has a very important meaning.  I have not read the book that was quoted, but I know that the author was one of the first Japanese to travel to America.  He wrote the first English to Japanese Dictionary and was a big influence in the westernization of Japan.He truly believed that the Japanese would benefit by cooperating with the west.  Remember that Japan had been closed since the 16th century and only opened their borders under threat of attack by America.  If we had not forced the Japanese to open up and become more like the west, would they have been interested or capable of seeking an empire?  The Woman at Ueno station is Hisako.  Gotta Go.  More later.

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mwinasu
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Re: Kawabata anyone?

I think the book was written for Americans because we were occuppiying Japan at the time this was written and Kawabata was unlikly to name a crippled character Gimpei if his audience was Japanese.  He also explains things (like the the colors of the cloud and the meaning of" in the grass" ) that he would not have bothered with unless he knew that his audience would not be able to understand the reference.  However,  my book was translated by a Japanese person and he could have tried to act as a cultural bridge which would have  made it look like Kawabata was writing for us.

I think that Arita is supposed to represent HiroHito.  Kawabata portrays him as a big baby, as less than a man.  I am sure that Kawabata believed that Hirohito should have committed suicide rather than live with his shame.  Moreover I think that the money in the purse represents the lives lost at Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

  The firefly festival was a way to say that Kawabata pinned his hopes on the next generation.  Machie is probabaly his daughter from before the war.  At least he thinks she is.  The only times that I have seen towers used in Japanese literature  has been as a symbol for a penis.  Got to go