The Japanese section of IBBY, JBBY, was an important presence at this year’s Congress in London. I will post more fully on the session that they presented; for today’s Poetry Friday I want to highlight a book that was part of a display of new picture books from Japan – “The Expression of Japanese Children’s (Picture) Books After March 11th”.
JBBY Board member Atsuko Hayakawa showed me a picture book published in July this year called “Sagashiteimasu”, which translates as “I Have Been Searching For…” or “I Am Searching” . It’s a set of fourteen poems by Arthur Binard (a long-term resident in Japan and translator of this book highlighted by Sally last year). Each poem is in the voice of an object in the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum – an object that was left behind when the owner was killed by the atomic bomb that was dropped on Hiroshima on 6 August 1945. Beautifully composed photographs of each object by Tadashi Okakura accompany the poems.
Here’s the blurb on the book from the leaflet I was given ( if it becomes available as a pdf, I’ll add a link) -
A stopped clock, a pair of gloves without an owner, a charred, radioactive lunchbox… These are among the fourteen everyday items, all atomic-bombed on August 6th 1045, presented in this photography book as ‘storytellers,’ each one revealing its tale to the modern reader. Since the morning of that day when Pika-don (the atomic bomb) was dropped on Hirsohima, these objects have been searching for the life they once knew, or for the familiarity of their owners who suddenly disappeared. The author, who was born and raised in the United States, is also a poet who has lived in Japan for many years. Focussing on the devastation not as the history of the past, but as the reality we face now, the author alerts the readers to the catastrophic potential of nuclear fission with as little as 1.0kg of uranium, and advocates against the reliance on nuclear power.
The book is in Japanese but you can read this insightful article here about how Binard came to write the poems, with some translations of extracts: enough to make me wish I could read the whole book. The image that really struck me was of a beautiful purple dress. I think it must be this one. It is very, very sobering, reading the stories behind the artifacts in the Hiroshima Memorial Museum’s Peace Database, and from the translations in the article, I can imagine just how powerful these poems must be. Thank you, Atsuko-san, for showing this book to me.
***Atsuko has kindly sent me the JBBY leaflet “ The Expression of Japanese Children’s (Picture) BooksAfter March 11” to share with you.