Short Stories, Irish literature, Classics, Modern Fiction, Contemporary Literary Fiction, The Japanese Novel, Post Colonial Asian Fiction, The Legacy of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and quality Historical Novels are Among my Interests

Thursday, March 23, 2023

"Ivy Gates" -by 岡本かの子門 KANOKO OKAMOTO - 1936. - published in Japanese Short Stories:Works by 14 Modern Masters: Kawabata, Akutagawa and More Translated by Lane Dunlop Foreword by Alan Tansman TUTTLE Publishing Tokyo Rutland, Vermont Singapore “Books to Span the East and West”

"Ivy Gates" - A Short Story by 岡本かの子門 KANOKO OKAMOTO -1936

Japanese Literature Challenge 16 January through March 2023

2023 is the 15th Year in which I have participated in The Japanese Literature Challenge hosted by Dolce Bellezza. In 2009 when I first participated I had yet to read any works originally written in Japanese. Now numerous Japanese writers are on my read all I can of their works list.. The post World War Two Japanese Novel is a world class cultural treasure.

Both new and experienced readers will find numerous suggestions on the website. To participate you need only post on one work and list your review on the event website (listed above). New book bloggers will find participation a good way to meet others and expand those following their blog

In January for The Japanese Literature Challenge I posted upon 

 At the End of the Matinee by Keiichiro Hirano -2016- 306 pages- translated from the Japanese by Juliet Winters Carpenter

In February I posted on Tokyo Ueno Station- A Novel by Yu Miri -2014- translated from the Japanese by Morgan Giles - 2019 - 189 Pages

Yesterday I was kindly given a review copy of a very valuable collection of Japanese authored short stories.

Japanese Short Stories:Works by 14 Modern Masters: Kawabata, Akutagawa and More Translated by Lane Dunlop Foreword by Alan Tansman TUTTLE Publishing Tokyo Rutland, Vermont Singapore “Books to Span the East and West”

There are 12 stories in the collection. All the authors are deceased, three were women. There are very informative biographies of each writer, taken together they provide an overview of the development of the short story in Japan.

Ivy Gates" - A Short Story by 岡本かの子門 KANOKO OKAMOTO is narrated by an upper class woman in a house with numerous servants. The story opens with a stunning account of the beauty of the ivy growing on the Gates of her house. The most important character is a house maid.

"It was as if the quick-tempered Maki, by being able to calculate with her eye the spread of the growth of the tips, had for the first time discovered in herself a love for nature. Although an honest person, Maki was set in her ways to the point of inflexibility.Because of this, her two marriages had ended in divorce. Obliged to work as a maidservant in the house of strangers many years, this aging woman, who somewhere in herself possessed a hard shell of ego, had at least had the gentle side of her drawn out by these ivy tips. It pleased me. Past fifty and on the outs with all her relatives, childless, Maki herself had come to feel subconsciously the hardness of her lot. Hadn’t the natural development of her emotions and the necessity to find something to love in her later years appeared to some extent even in this matter of the ivy?"

The emotional core of the story centers on how Maki bonds with a neighbourhood girl she once loved and overcame her loneliness.

Kanoko Okamoto was born on March 1, 1889, in the Akasaka district of Tokyo, now Minato-ku. Both her father, who had been a purveyor to the Tokugawa shogunate, and her mother, descended from a famous old family of Kanagawa Prefecture and skilled in the ballad drama known as tokiwazu, were persons of artistic taste. “Ivy Gates” belongs to a group of stories about ordinary Tokyo people written during the last years of Okamoto’s life. It preserves the atmosphere of the Meiji and Taisho eras that lingered on in the low-lying shita machi district east of the Sumida River and the hilly district to the west until the late thirties. Her writing was much admired by Yasunari Kawabata, and more recently has served as an inspiration for the artist Mayumi Oda. Her major work is the long novel Shojoruten (The Vicissitudes of Life). On January 31, 1939, on a trip to the Ginza with a young friend, Kanoko Okamoto was stricken by a cerebral hemorrhage as she got off the bus. She died eighteen days later.

Mel Ulm


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