happiness

“Happy birthday, Haku,” she said.

I watched her, soft and silent. She gazed at me with full and gleaming eyes, soft hazel shaded gray, and I was so touched I wanted to cry.

“I haven’t seen you in a while,” she said, “and I almost thought that I wouldn’t make it tonight, either. Things have been crazy…”

She paused, blinked, and inhaled. Then she started to talk again, low and slow and steady. She told me about her job, her classes, all the things she had been up to since we’d last met, and I listened with quiet attention. Her staying busy did not surprise me — she had always been that kind of person. I was a little concerned that she would get in over her head and burn out, but for the moment she seemed to be doing well. More than anything, she said, she was happy. And that was what mattered most to me.

“I’ll try to come again,” she said, “but I don’t really know when, my schedule is so hectic now… but listen. I’m graduating in the fall, and my boss says I’m due for a promotion, and there’s this program I want to apply for… you see? I’m happy. Really happy, things have been great and it looks like it’ll continue this way… We have so much to look forward to.”

We have so much to look forward to. Something in that statement profoundly moved me. After all that had happened, and considering how terrible her situation still was, the fact that she could still say she was happy, still say she was looking forward to the future…

Around us, the sky darkened and the salty wind began to blow the day’s fallen leaves off the grasses. The air was thick and polluted, the stars nearly invisible, but she didn’t seem to mind, and neither did I. Our meeting had been long overdue — and together, in spite of everything, we had so much to look forward to.

“Happy birthday,” she’d said. Another year, come and gone. She left the cemetery at midnight, the moment when it became not my birthday but hers, and as I looked after her I felt at peace. 

Things were going to be okay. They just had to be.

Entry #51 – Life, Updates

Hi all, hope you’ve had a good week.

Sorry to have missed daily posting the past few days. Various life things have got in the way, I didn’t have power for 30 hours straight and this heatwave is driving me nuts, and there’s a few relatives suddenly in the hospital… some good things too, it’s been a very mixed week for me. Anyhow, I will take the rest of this week off and aim to be back on my regular writing & publishing schedule on Monday.

Take care and be well,

KT.

the things i still remember

“Wait for me,” he’d said that day…

I still remember his eyes. Amber-colored, soft and gentle. They lit up at the edges when he smiled, and then narrowed and seemed to draw forward when he was being intense, thoughtful, or serious. He’d gazed at me with those narrow eyes that day – the day he left, the day we both made promises we could not keep, knowing that he would not be coming back.

I remember his hair. Long, compared to most boys back then. Slightly ruffled, thick, and dyed in all the colors I never dared. I’d admired him for his hair, something that sounds stupid now. Sometimes, when I dream, strangers with unknown faces show up framed in his hair.

I remember the way he talked. When we talked about life and death, suffering and the universe, it was slow, thoughtful, heartfelt. When he talked about music it was different – open and passionate, and rising steadily in volume, although he wouldn’t notice it. He’d talked about music a lot, and I’d listened, letting him share this part of his heart.

These are the things I still remember. Now, after all these years, they are outnumbered by the things I do not.

For some time I thought I would just let this happen, this slow deterioration of memory. But today, for some reason, I want to fight it. And so I will start by writing these lists of the things I still remember. He had talked about writing a lot back then, whenever he’d talked about composing music. “You have to write it down,” he’d say. “Take what’s in your heart and what’s in your head, and find a way to articulate it on paper. Then later you can look at it and think about it and still remember.”

I wish I could find a way to articulate the things I now forget.

Epilogue (Part IV)

Previous: Part III


IV.

You want to tell your grandchildren that you did your best one day – well, have you? “It’s not about you, it’s about us…” This isn’t a relationship. It’s abuse.

You try, I know. But it’s hard for you to understand that simple fact, the simple state of things, because you’re the one in power. You get to choose what you see and don’t see, what you do and don’t do. You get to decide who lives and who dies. And we don’t. With one flick of a brush you unknowingly consign hundreds, thousands, to their deaths before they even lived, before they even got to view this insane, beautiful world with their own eyes, and meanwhile you can’t stop talking about how much you value human life as if the two questions are not the same, as if the answer is not the same. The courts of the world to come will lock you up for child abuse and murder, and you’ll still be as confused as ever. That’s not me, you say before your ancestors. I didn’t abuse my children. I didn’t kill anyone. But you already have.

We are all perpetrators. If I repeat myself ten years from now, will you then understand?

If the words spill out of the mouth of your beloved grandchild, will you then understand?


Next: Part V

Entry #50 – Dinner Party #5

Hey all,

Kohaku here. As I mentioned in last week’s entry, this is going to be the last scheduled journal entry for now. Liner notes will be the new Sunday serial going forward – you can read the whole entry about it here, and check out the new liner notes page here.

Anyway, today is the 5th edition of my Dinner Party project. If you haven’t come across this before, here’s some info before I start:

Links to earlier installments:
→ Dinner Party #1 (full explanation of the project and its history)
→ Dinner Party #2
→ Dinner Party #3
→ Dinner Party #4

Obligatory blurb:
“The basic premise is to keep a list of 10 famous people whom you admire or respect, people who inspire you in your daily life and work. Then, track how this list changes over time. There are some new people on it this time around. These new inspirations replaced some of the old ones, to keep the list at 10, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t like or draw inspiration from those old people anymore. The Dinner Party project is just a snapshot of the 10 people who are most inspiring to you at this particular moment.”

Okay, here we go. As before, new entries compared to last time are bolded, and every name is linked to that person’s website or Wikipedia page. I’ve also added one new thing this time – beneath each entry, I’ve included a brief description of one or two reasons why they are on my list. In no particular order:

  1. Yuzuru HANYU (羽生結弦)
    — Taught me to always give my 120% even in the face of illness/injury/adversity.
  2. Greta THUNBERG & other student/youth climate activists
    — She self-educates, relentlessly speaks her mind to anyone, and is a realist who still doesn’t give up.
  3. Jane GOODALL
    — Taught me to approach environmental/climate change solutions with both determination and hope.
  4. GACKT (大城 ガクト)
    — Taught me to live life without making regrets, especially in your genuine relationships with others.
  5. hide (松本秀人)
    — Inspiration as a guitarist and artist, and remained a kind, thoughtful, loving person even after reaching extreme popularity.
  6. Hayao MIYAZAKI (宮崎駿) & the whole team at Studio Ghibli
    — Inspiration for not just making great art, but also using it to convey significant themes regarding the environment, war, female empowerment, etc. to children and young adults.
  7. Mao (山口真生)
    — Inspiration as a poet and artist, for his song lyrics and musical styles. No Wiki page, so these are links to his blog (JP) and his band’s Wiki (EN).
  8. Haruki MURAKAMI (村上春樹)
    — If I had to pick one traditional writer who influences my own writing the most, Murakami would probably be it.
  9. Yojiro NODA (野田洋次郎)
    — Inspiration as a poet and artist, for his song lyrics, MVs and representation of minorities.
  10. Chachamaru (藤村幸宏)
    — Inspiration as a guitarist and a kind, laid-back person, and expresses in a fairly “feminine” way.

Something I noticed with this edition in particular, especially when I was writing the one-sentence inspiration explanations, was that sometimes I am taking these people as individual representations of a larger group. For instance, when I say I am inspired by Hayao Miyazaki, that is true, but I also mean the animation and production team at Studio Ghibli as a whole and I don’t want to slight them. Other times, I literally mean just the one person listed – when I say Yuzu or Chacha inspire me, I don’t imply anybody else related to them. So, to be more clear, I bent the rules and added group descriptors into the list wherever applicable.

There are three new individual entries this time. Recently, I have been learning a lot about climate change solutions and really focusing on that, so it makes sense that Jane Goodall and Greta Thunberg are on my list right now. In many ways, the two of them and their approaches to addressing the climate crisis are very different, but I truly think that both ways are necessary and valuable. Greta Thunberg on my list also represents the many other student/youth climate activists who do not receive as much media attention as she does, but who are also doing really great, valuable, inspirational work.

The third new entry was Mao. He is the vocalist and lyricist of SID, one of the bands I have been listening to a lot recently. Especially for me, who exists to a large extent at the intersection of writing and music, I think it is quite natural for poets to be inspired and influenced by songwriters, and perhaps even the other way around. I read once in a music article somewhere that great poetry usually makes for terrible song lyrics, but I don’t necessarily agree. Anyway, it can’t be as simple as that. I wondered whether to include the other members of SID in the list – maybe AKi, who writes the music, or Shinji, who plays the guitar – but I decided on just Mao for now.

So, that’s my current top ten. What does your list look like right now?

Take care of yourself,

KT

Entry #49 – Introducing Liner Notes, & Related Updates

忘れられない 忘れられない そんな人だから

– SID, 「私は雨」 lyrics from JPopAsia

Hey all, Kohaku here. I hope everyone is staying safe and healthy.

As promised last week, today I’m rolling out a new blog feature, and I have some other smaller updates. Let’s get to it.


“Liner Notes”… What are they?

For a while, I’ve been searching for a more genuine way to highlight, explain, and interpret the writing pieces that I publish on this blog. Since the beginning I’ve mostly used journal entries to do that for the larger projects, but I wasn’t really happy with this system because I felt that the thoughts I put into the journals were too brief and clumsy and didn’t belong. So, starting today, I’m going to be publishing a new weekly feature that provides a broader, less regulated, and specifically dedicated platform for diving into the details of my work. In keeping with various music-related metaphors and names that I already use, I will call this new feature “Liner Notes”.

Liner Notes will publish every Sunday (at 6am PST, as usual) for the whole previous week’s worth of published material. The notes for each piece may include background information, key points to pay attention to, personal thoughts, possible interpretations, translations into English of anything in a different language, short essays on the intended meaning and message, and anything of that sort. Liner notes will also have links to the published version and any related pieces, such as B-sides or compilations that the piece is contained in, as well as general archival information such as the genre and date of publishing.

One valid question regarding this new feature is, why not post these notes daily? (One of my friends suggested that, so I will answer the question here). There are two main reasons why I won’t be doing that. First, they take a lot of time to write. Even though I post new writing pieces daily, the amount of free time and energy I have to write is not evenly distributed throughout the week. Because of that, I don’t think it would be sustainable for me to try to keep up with the liner notes day by day; it’s easier to work on them freely, whenever I can, and then consolidate them into a weekly post. The second reason is that I don’t want what’s contained in my liner notes to massively shape somebody’s first interpretation of a piece. When it comes to writing, music, and many other creative, artistic ventures, a lot has to do with a kind of back-and-forth between the creator and the audience. So – I’ll write something, you interpret it, then I’ll publish the liner notes, and if you want you can read and interpret those, too. But it starts with reading and interpreting the original piece yourself. At least, that’s my suggestion; it shouldn’t be a one-way road. The liner notes will be just supplementary information for anyone who wants to keep playing catch.


So, every Sunday… What about journal entries?

For a while now, journal entries haven’t been feeling good to me. They aren’t super genuine and don’t have too much substance, and it’s just hard to write them on weeks that I don’t have anything to write about. So, I’m going to put them aside for a bit. For now, liner notes will replace journal entries as the Sunday 6am serial.

My journal won’t immediately be gone. If I have something to say that I feel is genuine and valuable, I’ll make a new entry. If new entries keep coming, I might just turn it into a less-frequent serial, like a monthly thing. But if a long time passes with nothing and I’m enjoying the absence of this feature, I’ll probably retire it. I’m just going to test the waters and see, and if there’s a new update in the future, I’ll post about it.


what’s specifically happening

→ Today, after this journal entry was published, liner notes going back until May 25 were also published. Anyone who’s interested in seeing examples of this new feature or looking back at some older-but-still-recent work can take a look. You can just browse “Recent Posts,” but they are also under the new “Liner Notes” tab on the top menu.

→ Next week, Sunday July 5th: Journal entry #50, the fifth rendition of my ongoing Dinner Party project, will be published as the last weekly entry. Liner notes for that week’s writing will also be published simultaneously.

→ Going forward, liner notes will be posted every Sunday.


I’ll be going through the next few days trying to make sure that new pages and links work right; please let me know if you catch a mistake! I’m really excited for this new feature, and I hope others will enjoy it, too.

Take care,

KT

Zuihitsu #38

It’s not about it being easy –
though I understand your feelings when you say that.
Solutions to this devastation we have wrought will not be easy.
Solutions to our new brand of tragedy will not be easy.
“Fixing” this is not supposed to be easy –
but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do it.

Every day we go about our lives
     searching for the familiar, simple routes
     taking the paths that will require the least energy
          and the least work…
Even when we try the other paths,
     we stop when we are “satisfied”
     whatever that means
     and why?
When it comes to many things,
     this way of life is fine…
But when it comes to this?
Is it acceptable?
Is anything short of everything acceptable?

We bear it on our shoulders, after all.
It was born out of our own selfish pursuit of “easy” –
wasn’t it?

Zuihitsu #37

Universal justice and one way of life –
Science as religion and personality traits as inherent.
When we believe in absolutes we become blind to reality.

We hold up our science as Truth –
     blind to the biases and corruption and conflicts of interest
     ignorant of other explanations, other ways of life
     refusing to notice the thousand side effects listed in small print
          like a commercial for Westernization – or Americanization –
          that plays endlessly on all available channels...

We herald universal Justice –
     when such a thing does not exist
     when such an ideal brings harm
          to those who do not live the same way
          to those who are victimized by our hate
          to ourselves, who claim the role of gods…

We were never gods, or spirits, either – collectively we do not deserve them.

And that, too, is a blind universal.

Entry #48 – New Feature Next Week

さよならまではもう少しだけ時間があるね
今日は何を話そうか

– SID, 「ホソイコエ」lyrics from JPopAsia

Hi all, it’s Kohaku. How are you?

I didn’t do too much of note this week – went to see my cousin, which was great, but other than that, nothing out of the ordinary. For the past few days, I have been really tired and overall not feeling great. That’s okay, though. I’m resting and sleeping a lot and hopefully things will start to look up.

Chasing Life With You finished yesterday, didn’t it? To be honest, for the longest time I have not been satisfied with the plot of this story. The ending as well – Taiga’s was better by a long shot! But it’s alright. It was a story that I wanted to write, and I feel like some valuable things did come out of it.

In next week’s journal entry, I’m planning to release and introduce a new blog feature and some updates. Please look forward to it! I’m pursuing what I feel is a more genuine relationship with this blog because I don’t want any part of it to become forced or inauthentic or a chore, but I also want to push myself to write better and more meaningful work. Anyway, until a week from now absolutely nothing is changing.

I haven’t a clue what I want to write this week. Since practically everything else is finished now, maybe I’ll dig in and write that final draft of To Walk in the Footsteps of Angels… we’ll see.

Take care,

KT