Thursday, May 6, 2021

One Man's Maple Moon: Fruits of the Sorrow Tanka by Fumiko Nakajo

English Original

like fruits of sorrow
the heaviness
when holding a child
is boundless

Fumiko Nakajo 

Chinese Translation (Traditional)


Chinese Translation (Simplified)

Bio Sketch

Fumiko Nakajo (中城ふみ子, 1922-54) was a strong-willed woman who lived a tragic life. She died from breast cancer at the age of 32, just few months after her first collection of 50 tanka, titled Chibusa Soshitsu (The Loss of Breasts), won the first prize in a nationwide contest sponsored by a major magazine. She is, though almost unknown outside of Japan, considered to be the third in the three most famous Japanese female poets in the last century, right up there with Akiko Yosano and Machi Tawara.

1 comment:

  1. The visually poignant simile (Ls 1&2) of "heaviness" (L3) sets the tone and mood while unexpected and almost inconceivable L4 ([feeling heaviness] "when holding a child"), enhanced by L5, adds emotional weight and psychological depth to Fumiko's middle-of-the-story tanka.

    Evaluated in the biographical context of Fumiko Nakajo (1922-54) (whose most famous work, "Breasts of Snow," tells her brilliant yet short-lived life in the form of tanka), Fumiko's tanka effectively conveys her unique sense of Time and the dialectics of Life and Death when she copes with an Incurable Illness.

    When I was first confronted with the terror of the incurable disease, I was for the first time convinced of my doom, and that conviction enabled my hands to reach life at the deepest level. -- Fumiko Nakajo

    By expressing what lay at the basis of her life, she turned tanka into a weapon against the terror of death. For Fumiko, who believed in no religion, tanka was her light and her salvation. -- Makoto Ueda

    For more about Fumiko Nakajo's life and work, see "Cool Announcement: Breasts of Snow," accessed at