Sunday, July 4, 2021

One Man's Maple Moon: Fireworks Tanka by Fumiko Nakajo

English Original

overhead a sound
fireworks in the night sky
shoot up and open
everywhere I
can be taken

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 following is another example taken from one of her most famous tanka:

    As one year ends and the new one begins, with fireworks in the night sky, Fumiko, in the arms of her lover, thinks of her recent operation to have a breast removed and her joy in her coming marriage.

    overhead a sound
    fireworks in the night sky
    shoot up and open
    everywhere I
    can be taken

    (Jane Reichhold's comment: The first line oto takaku, (oto - sound, and takaku – high in the sky), has a double meaning; the sound of fireworks is very loud and that the fireworks open high up in the sky. This poem contains the only sexual scene in her tanka collection. The verb ubawarete – "taken" can mean a woman's body is "taken" by a man's so that she is taken in passion or as "possessed" as in almost crazy. In addition, the loss of her breast means that a part of her body has been taken away from her which adds greatly to ephemeral aspect of fireworks. The fireworks symbolize her fleeting, transient and ephemeral happiness, since she now knows she is fated to die soon")

    -- excerpted from "Cool Announcement: Breasts of Snow," accessed at