Japan Literature Translation

Nishina Rhapsody March

Nishina Rhapsody March1

(Nishina kyousou koushinkyoku)

TERADA Torahiko (寺田寅彦)
November 1928 in Reizan bijutsu 『霊山美術』


Old, traditional floorboards worn underfoot in, yes, an old, traditional row house. This rented house was built a bit cheaply, and I had to furnish it myself. A pasteboard desk and a tin clock, always inclined about 30 degrees and stopped at the 25th hour. Always stopped. Until the day that the last big earthquake came.


The shift handover point in the alley on the afternoon of the big clean-up, the green tresses of a green onion in a broken toy, the empty bottle empty bowl symphony, won’t you buy the dreams of the children of Marx and Mussolini? Dirty things are beautiful, beautiful things are dirty. In all this emptiness, little scraps of gold, silver and bronze tinsel. Lunch? You can put it down over there.


Yellow glares, red howls, Prussian blue moans. Stroking quickly forcefully with the trowel, bits and pieces suddenly stuck to it, pipe in mouth I brood: mon Paris, Tipperary, ratatapan. French literature there, noir and in fine script, plupart, et cetera.


Lower body close to 180 percent, are they stuck firmly eye to eye, open as far as they can get, well, what shall we do with this leg… A place closer to Vicher and Roth than the crows of Kan’ei-ji. There’s a little swipe of paint on your face, did I get it, this color is quite new, isn’t it? Tralalailalaa, you may pay for the paints at anytime.


Noah and the flood as the picture of hell over all the world’s countries, the spider crab monster crawling out from beneath the sofa. Hot and painful, body heat during the dog days of summer with bad ventilation. If Kannon loses her popularity, send a modern girl2 flying, one meal ticket for an iced coffee at the cafeteria.


Landlords are landlords, homely homes are homely, Mr Home is Mr Home and that’s the way the century goes.3 The tail of a peafowl on the head of a sea bream. There’s an elephant at the zoo, you know. The botanical garden is just so refreshing. Whatever can be said for Marx, art is art and science is science. Voilà, n’est pas, c’est ça, monsieur, a le mardi, plein, pain, ratatapan.

1. Nishina refers to the location of RIKEN (The Institute of Physical and Chemical Research), where Terada was a researcher.

The idea of a ‘rhapsody march’ doesn’t make much sense, I know. “Kikuchi Kan’s novel Tokyo Koshinkyoku (Tokyo march), originally serialized in Kingu from June 1928 through October 1929, was made into a film by the Nikkatsu film studio. The film was then advertised with photographic ads in major magazines and with the hit song ‘Tokyo March'” (Silverberg, Erotic Grotesque Nonsense, p24). With the popularity of the film and song inevitably leading to parodies (such as “The Fall of the Political Parties March” 政党没落行進曲), ‘march’ was a buzzword throughout the late 1920s. Possible links to militarism, powerful sense of forward movement of the times. Everything was a march.

2. For a definition of ‘modern girl’, see ‘The Ways of Young Women Today’.

3. This is an extraordinarily strained translation of what is not a very strained pun in the Japanese. Sorry.