Japan Literature Socialism Translation Travel

Crossing the New Siberia

Crossing the New Siberia

(Atarashiki shiberia wo yokogiru)

by MIYAMOTO Yuriko
January and February, 1931.

Miyamoto Yuriko and Yuasa Yoshiko lived in Moscow from 1927 until 1930.  Yuasa would go on to become one of the best known Japanese-Russian translators, particularly for her translations of Chekhov. After their return, Miyamoto left Yuasa and remarried.

 October 25th (1930).

Departing Moscow at last, at last, at last!

Went to the post office a million times in the morning. After frequently presenting my unmistakably Japanese face at the registered parcels window, the female clerk with messy blonde hair said, a little annoyed,

“Haven’t I already seen you more than twenty times just this morning!”

“I’m sorry. I’ve been living in your city for three years. And tonight I’m returning home, to Japan. I shan’t be back again tomorrow, and I haven’t anything else to send off, so please bear with me.”

“I see.” The clerk took a second look at the small, round Japanese woman’s face for the first time that day.

“Will this reach Japan? All of it?”

This I did not understand.

A big calendar page with “25” in black numerals hung on a blank space, and an electric clock that moved every minute. The shuffling sound of the group walking and stopping along the floor. The Japanese woman took all this in as if classifying it, as the post office’s heavy door swung open and closed.

After Y got back, we said our goodbyes, gathered our bags, and exhausted, exhausted, we waited only for the train to leave soon and to lay down. 6:15pm.

 October 26th.

3 roubles, 10 kopeks. Set meal (obed) for two.

It’s getting awfully cheap. In November 1927, a three-course meal (soup, meat or fish, dessert) for one on the Trans-Siberian Railway was two and a half roubles. Now 30 kopeks buys a bottle of Narzan mineral water. What’s more, there’s meat in the soup! Making the full-course meal cheaper so that everyone can eat it and making ordering dishes à la carte more expensive is Soviet rationality.