Saturday, May 08, 2010

A trip to meet two heroes for Japanese (1)

My wife, three-year-old son, and I took a trip to meet a hero. Who was he? He was Anpanman, the most popular hero among Japanese pre-kindergarten kids.

Anpanman is a justice friend wearing a cape and flying in the sky like Superman. His item to help people is his face – it is made of bread! When he finds a starving person, he cuts off a part of his own face and gives it to him/her.. "Anpan" means bread with "an" which is Japanese bean jam.

The history of national star of Anpanman is very long. He was born as a picture book character in 1973. At first, it was popular among a group of kids. In 1988, this character was animated for a TV program, then he became a popular nationwide hero for kids. On the TV program, the original story was changed. It didn't include starving people but many characters based on meals. For example, a banana, pizza and a donut... Guinness book of world records admitted this program for the world's highest character count animation – 1,738. Of course now Anpanman is broadcasted all over Japan every Sunday morning.

Like other kids, my son likes him (his first word was "Anpanman") so my wife planned a trip to Anpanman sanctuary. It is the birthplace of the author of Anpanman where the Anpanman Museum was built.

We reserved the "Anpanman-train". Its walls, ceiling and seats are printed with Anpanman characters.

It took two and half hours by this train and 30 minutes by Ampanman bus to go to the Museum (the author's birthplace is rural).

The museum (left) and a hotel.

This hotel is fully furnished in Anpanman!

A settlement near the Museum also features Anpanman characters.

(Taking pictures of the Museum is allowed but posting them on blogs is prohibited.)
My son seemed very excited and satisfied by this hotel and museum. It was what my wife and I wanted.

(to be continued: the next entry will be about a hero of most Japanese adults.)

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

F. Scott Fitzgerald "Great Gatsby"

(This entry was written in 2006, soon after Haruki Murakami's Japanese translation was released.)

In 1922, 30-year-old Nick moved to New York. He spent his life frugally, but lived in an area of many mansions. In such an area, Gatsby, who lived next door to Nick, had especially large land and a splendid house. Nick attended his party to know the mysterious neighborhood...

[My opinion]
This is a new Japanese translation by Haruki Murakami. With Murakami's many praises to this novel, I had been looking forward to reading it. In conclusion, this novel certainly met my great expectations.

The Japanese publisher of this new translation labeled this copy "a sorrowful and noble story". Such words fit this work more than other novels, I think. The vanity of luxurious parties, love affairs among men and women, unmeasured indiscretion of people who have power, sudden tragedy and Gatsby's rarefied will and behavior of his will – these factors were described by very classical sentences. This "classical" means high quality, neat and having value that may not be lost overtime. I think it depends on Fitzgerald's original sentences but also Haruki Murakami's spirited translation.

After a long interval, I encountered an overseas novel which I now want to read many times. The intrinsic value and power of this story are deserving.

After reading, I saw the book cover of this novel and felt very sad, even though I never gave heed to it before reading. It is merely a picture of a withered leaf floating in water. This difference of feeling may show the power of this novel.