Skip to content →

Category: Japan

POEM: Japanese Punk On The Corporate Wheel

Japanese Punk On The Corporate Wheel

Got my uniform on again. Now, in addition to being
embarrassed by the fact of it, I’m also embarrassed
by the fit. I’ve lost twenty-five pounds and look like
a kid in my father’s clothes. And if there’s one thing
I no longer want to wear, it’s the legacy of my father.
Either of them. Anyway to cut the taste of defeat
I control the music. Me and my Bluetooth speaker
against the world, or at least the office. Right now
I’m playing the Japanese punk band Chai at a volume
that can only be called inconsiderate. I know. But
there are times when four young women screaming
in unison in Japanese is the only thing that will
shove the darkness back a few steps so I can get
a full breath in.

/ / /

Jason Crane
7 January 2020
State College PA

One Comment

Finding JAPAN

OK, so I need to tell you a crazy story.

From 1991-92, I lived in northern Japan. Although I lived far from the other exchange students in my program, I did see them occasionally for Rotary events. When I did, we tended to sing the title track from Tsuyoshi Nagabuchi’s album JAPAN. I adore this album, which came out in ’91 and features folks like Roy Bittan (E Street Band) and Arnold McCuller (Phil Collins, Lyle Lovett, James Taylor). This song means a lot to me, and the album means a lot to me too.

Last year I lost everything I’ve ever owned — my entire record and CD collection, all my books except my poetry books, most of my photos from my entire life, my journals … everything. Included in that loss was my copy of JAPAN.

The other day, Elaine and I were working at Webster’s and taking things out from under some bins. She came across a box of world music CDs and handed one to me, asking if I could read it. Against every possible chance, it was a copy of Tsuyoshi Nagabuchi’s JAPAN. I was absolutely stunned. There’s no reason at all for this CD to be in Webster’s. It’s a 23-year-old CD that came out in Japan and, as far as I know, wasn’t released in the US.

I took it from her with trembling hands and my heart pounding. Then I ran over to the CD player and cranked up the first track. I stood there for the whole six minutes with it blasting through the store, I’m sure confusing our customers.

Life is weird and unpredictable and often wonderful. And I have JAPAN back.

japan

One Comment

POEM: my first night in Japan

miso_soup

my first night in Japan
(for the Inoue family)

I slept for twenty-four hours
at least that’s how I
remember it happening

then we had miso soup with
tiny clams in the bottom
of each wooden bowl

we were seated around
a dining room table
on regular chairs

all things I’d been told
not to expect to find
10,000 miles from home

it was my host mom, brother
two sisters and me;
obaasan ate in her own room

we brought her a tray, some
for her, some for the shrine
to her late husband

it was when we put our hands
together to remember him
that I fell in love with Japan

19 November 2013
Oak Street

2 Comments

POEM: smoke from a new stick of incense

smoke from a new stick of incense

fills the cold room
with the scent
of a Japanese temple
or the small room
on the second floor
I used to meditate in
the one I had to unlock
with a kitchen knife

9 November 2013
Oak Street

Leave a Comment

POEM: rainy season

walkway

rainy season

the walkway to the laundry is flooded
following days and days of rain
it’s pouring now, in fact
so I’ve opened all the windows
to let in the sound
my first full summer in Alabama
reminds me of Japan
flower petals covering the stones
wearing my outdoor sandals
to haul the bag of laundry back inside
when I arrived here last year
it was in the middle of a drought
I hiked to a waterfall but found
a trickle (and even that’s generous)
this is the part of the poem
where the metaphor goes

6 July 2013
Auburn AL

Leave a Comment

POEM: walking with Basho

tumblr_lkczill31j1qc6wuio1_500

walking with Basho

morning and evening
someone waits at Matsushima!
one-sided love

I know how she feels
though there are no pine trees
outside my lonely window

viewing the moon
no one at the party
has such a beautiful face

they are all lovely
in a way I find hard to describe
the scent of tea from the kitchen

in the world outside
is it harvesting time?
the grass of my hut

indoors all day
birdsong as I read the paper
sun warming the room

speaking out
my lips are cold
in autumn wind

I want to kiss you
though I know I can’t
so I picked two yellow flowers

I didn’t die!
the end of a journey
is autumn nightfall

if I am not stronger
at least my feet are toughened
by the stones on this path

from this very day
erase the inscription with dew
on the bamboo hat

starting out again
through the tall grass
where no one has blazed a trail

25 February 2013
Auburn, AL

/ / /

I first read the work of Japanese poet and travel writer Matsuo Basho in 1991, when I was living in northern Japan, in a town he’d once passed through. I’ve been inspired by his style and his daring ever since. The italicized sections of this poem are haiku poems written by Basho. The non-italicized sections are mine. If you’ve never read any of Basho’s travel journals, I recommend Back Roads to Far Towns: Basho’s Oku-No-Hosomichi (Ecco Travels).

I’ve written about Basho before

Leave a Comment

POEM: Naruto Ramen, Brooklyn

Naruto Ramen, Brooklyn

where the cooks speak a mixture
of Japanese and Spanish
Irashaimase!” they call
as people come in off 5th Ave
hang their coats and backpacks
on the wall hooks
those who know sit at the bar
because the bar is a sacred place
where devotion is paid
to the sprout, the noodle,
the bean pod, the tofu square,
the white pepper garnish
the sweat on the brow
the cold Sapporo or Asahi
the cheap balsa wood hashi
that you break at the end
scraping the sticks against
one another to remove splinters
order the extra noodles because
they’re generous with the broth
slurp loud enough to pay respect
to the hachimaki-sporting men
flinging pots on the six-burner stove
like Barishnikovs with ladles
for some, the nostalgia is as thick
as the steam rising off the broth pots
it’s a bit of a surprise to leave
and find yourself in Brooklyn
not in any of a thousand thousand shops
just like this one, tucked around a corner
of a narrow street, in every town in Japan

4 April 2012
Brooklyn, NY

/ / /


It’s National Poetry Writing Month! A poem a day, each day in April.

Leave a Comment