In this essay we aim to identify a few landmarks, to find some lyrical interference, a bridge between two cultures: the Japanese and Romanian. ,,Japanese poetry is different from the European one: other structures, another story,”says N. Manolescu the preface History of Japanese Literature (from the origins to the present), written by Shuichi Kato. Although the reknown Romanian critic recognizes the differences between the two cultures, states that, “the lyricism is universal” and confesses that he wanted to entitle the preface my Japan.
Among the peculiarities of the Japanese poetry, mentioned at the beginning of the book of Shuichi Shuichi Kato, are: simplicity and lyricism. The whole lyric is established “in a graphics of feeling ... the Japanese draws its moods in relation to landscape. Amiel's formula - landscape, state of mind - is valid for Japanese poetry as for any other”, considers Nicolae Manolescu, recognizing the paradox of this lyrical. ,,The sophistication (the Japanese is sophisticated) becomes the shape of the maximum simplicity. But under the appearance of naturalness, is for exeample at Soseki, a laborious fineness, a minute of the words’ sifting, a dramatic confrontation of the limits of the expression”.
Although it is a long distance between the Romanian and the Japanese literature and bridges are fragile, despite appearances, these bridges allow the passage from a literature to another, even more, gradually creates a strange sense of familiarity. N. Manolescu, a lover of wood civilization, as he confesses in his autobiographical books Life and books, and in the preface History of Japanese literature, relates a personal experience. The critic finds similarities and notes that Maramures wooden churches or the premises of the Neamt monastery resembles the Buddhist temples that he visited in Japan and made him feel at home. ,,The Wood Civilization links over time and space, Romania and Japan. One discovers the transience air: wood does not last. The Zen Buddhism and the orthodoxy both created monks, hermits and ascetics. Society stops at the gate of the temple or hermitage.” In the same preface, N. Manolescu remembers that Japanese finance the repairing of Moldovian churches. The most beautiful album of Romanian church architecture was published in Tokyo.
The Westerners are more and more attracted to non-European literatures. Identity is found in relation to otherness. M. Eliade aims to generalize the Romanian cultural perspective. Among the first interested in the oriental civilizations were M. Eminescu, B.P.Hasdeu, V. Parvan, L. Blaga, C. Brancusi, and then ethnologists, the visionaries.
The Japanese literature has a history of nearly two millennia. Although early works were heavily influenced by Chinese literature, Japan soon developed its own literature. Shuichi Katō lists five basic factors that distinguish the literatures: their role in the entire culture, the form of its historical development, language and writing, social context and their own conception of the world.
I noted that apparently, we identify common elements: Japanese literature has a written tradition and the Romanian is based on Folk literature; Japanese literature has extremely varied language and cultural differences, the Japanese words and phrases are not so easy to translate. Oral literature and Romanian folk objects, the sacred topos of our churches or of the Buddhist temples, worldview, sensitivity about the elements of nature, of the Japanese cherry blossom, of the green leaf or apple flower for Romanian. We can find numerous links between Zen philosophy and Romanian folk, on the deity or the unwritten law of hospitality.
Hajime Nakamura, prof. of Tokyo, in the book East and West. A comparative history of ideas (Humanitas Publishing House, 1997) concludes, “Although there are many differences, many parallels are still quite evident. Common features reflect ways of thinking and common rules.” Hajime Nakamura builds his argumentation from the theory of Nicolaus of Cusa coincidetia oppositorum, which M.Eliade also developed. According to this concept, the individual is identical with the universal, the divine essence. God is the unity of all opposites, coincidentia oppositorum. God is the highest (maximum) and also the lowest (minimum). ,,In Him there are not two opposite essences, but one,” says the author of East and West.
Haiku lies in the paradox, sprang from the union of opposites. If Uddālaka argues that the ultimate principle of the universe is Being seen as the true spiritual principle, the philosophy of Miorita ballad is the same: solving situation by identifying antithetic essence. Uddālaka continues that during deep sleep and death, it is permitted to every human to enter into Being, they get to the unity and do not realize that they penetrate into Being.
The Upanishads metaphysical thinkers have a tendency towards the Unity, as well as of the Moldovian shepherd from the folk masterpiece, is simple, but essential. If we were to analyze meaning of silence in Miorita or the Oriental literatures, then we would find many similarities. ,,Those who speak know nothing; / Those who know are silent”, writes poet Bai Juyi about Lao, quoted in the book East and West. The Moldovian shepard’s desire is, “Not to tell them" - the silence is part of initiation rites and mysteries of the initiative, and Bashô, the practitioner of the artistic asceticism, writes in 1689, “Words-words / mauve lips/ autumn wind” or “Silent-e-re-e/ rocks pierced by/ cricket song.” In many other poems, we identify the relationship between silence and the crickets’song. For example, the haiku quoted by Aldous Huxley is suggestive, “It's so much silence/ the voice of the cricket/ Penetrates-n/ the Rock” to understand the opposition between full and empty, or to understand the theory of Nicolaus Cusanus on coincidentia oppositorum. ,,Not the words, the silence gives voice to the word” writes I. Pillat in Poetic Art, and for L.Blaga, “the word is a plague of silence” for ,,non-word” pleades also N.Stănescu.
Famous verses of the Edo period (1600-1868), written by masters like Matsuo Bashō, Yosa Buson and Kobayashi Issa are generally known as Hokku and all call for harmony between micro and macrocosm. “If you focus on your own emotions and if you put them in harmony with what surrounds you, the essence of your own spirit and heart become haikai” said Sanzōshi. The Moldovian shepherd found the way out of conflict, identified the Superego as a sign of the reintegration into the Great All. The Absolute is the Inner Order, the immortal, your Self. Everything else is pain” it is written in Brhad.-Up, III, 7, 3. To touch the self, the superego means to exit the diversity and to sense the Sacred.
According to the theory of Paul Diel, the superconscious is evolving, it is manifested by the tendency of ordering all mental functions, to harmonize and legalize them. The superconscious has imaginative and symbolic function and it is possible through spiritualized introspective effort, to be submitted to conscious control. Supreme Self knowledge or of the Superself is supreme happiness of the human, and the fact of being separated from Self without knowing it, was considered suffering. ,,You know the Inner Order which arranges within this world, the other world and all beings, so they move like puppets...“ (Brhad.-Up, III, 7, 1). This is the convergence point between the mentality of the Moldavian shepherd and of the Oriental wise. The verse “If I were to die” does not suggest resignation, but acceptance and enlightenment, harmony between the Inner Order and the Superego. Plato and Aristotle “urge us to contemplate” reminds us the Japanese researcher Hajime Nakamura. The lack of action of the Mioritic hero has no other explanation than an Eastern mentality oriented towards divinity. “Do not decide anything about you. Let things be as they are, move like water, stay still as a mirror, respond like an echo, pass quickly as the nonexistent and be as quiet as purity... To become the world’s bed”. The meditative practices ended in solitude because there was the belief that one person, when is totally cut off from the outside world, gains a certain degree of holiness.
Even if the concept of missing someone is not translatable, some Japanese poems range from metaphysical sadness, born from the nostalgia of life passage. The poems in the anthology Kokinshu (a masterpiece of Japanese literature) are based on nostalgia: “Years pass by -/ I reached old age /But still, looking at a flower /I forget everything and all.” On the other hand, both nations have found an easier way to drown sorrows. ,,Instead of doing /Countless worries/ Which are of no help/ better drink a cup/ of undistilled sake.” If the Japanese sings Praises to the sake cup, the Romanian praises the glass of wine or brandy. In vino veritas, the Latin says, “the bottom of the glass speaks the truth”, says the Romanian, and Japanese writes: “One thing mostly wanted/ Also by the ancient seven/ most wise men/ was in the old times/ the sake drink.”
Also, humor, the good mood from the jokes, riddles and witty words shouted by the Romanian are common with those of the Japanese, who sent love notes to impress his girlfriend. Western black humor we meet at Ariwara no Narihira: “From a long time /About the last journey without money/ waiting to be told something/ The last ones I gave yesterday/ to the Priest who reads Sutra.” Many funny stories are similar to the Romanian jokes. Here is a story included in the History of Japanese Literature “A man goes to a temple. He askes about the priest and he is told that he is not there. He sees another priest plucking a goose. Confused, the priest tells him that if he plucks it and puts the feathers in the pillow, it will do well for his gout. Not being used to doing this, the plucking goes hard. “Oh, it's really easy. Give it to me!” says the man to the priest, he plucks it and gives the feathers to the priest. He hastily said to him, “Then you do not need the rest.” And he leaves happy with the bird at home.” Even if Japanese literature has not the name of Pacala and Tandala, the Japanese have their hero Tarōkaja, always with his jokes. The common man is more agile than the priest, the children are more alert than parents etc. The Japanese literature has ballads or sekkyōbushi, which were accompanied with traditional tools. Sekkyōbushi transmits the messages of the Romanian lamentation, their purpose being to make the listener cry. We quote a passage from Karukaya, where it is described the son’s pain at his mother's death, “Cried with hot tears, weeping, the one thought he will give up his soul.”
We can identify many other motifs and similar themes in those two literatures, for example, the cuckoo theme, often met in our poetry. Nor of the Japanese poetry that symbol of solitude or of unshared love is missing, “How much sorrow /To hear in the midnight / How the cuckoo sings/ In a country without cuckoos/ I would walk the whole night”, confesses an anonymous Japanese in the poem quoted. The same reason is presented in the creation of Fujiwara no Sanesada (1139-1191) “Gazing/ towards the part where/ A cuckoo sang/ I'm given to see only the moon/ From that morning.” The cuckoo is the symbol of night and solitude and the skylark is a sign of freedom and joy. To this regard, we quote a haiku of Basho, “Off the plain/ free, free/ the skylark sings.” The motif of the bird, in general, it is similar in the two cultures. In the same anthology, Kokinshu we find a tanka poem with the bird symbol, “The flowering branch/ Where it stopped to sing/ Not finding it anywhere / Here the nightingale/ became sad at once.”
The leitmotif of the bird (cuckoo, skylark, nightingale, etc.) is commonly met in our popular literature, being present in the creation of Japanese poets. For example, Otomo no Tabito (665-731) referring to sadness and to the communion man and nature, writes, “And my heart is sad,/ But in the twilight dusk/ a bird starts singing ...” Yamabe no Akahito (first half of the eighth century) writes everything about the song of birds, “There on the top of trees /From Yoshimo, on the Kisa top,/ Sounds the bird’s voice.../ Ah, the perfect peace /stirred by scattered songs!”
Another element of nature, become symbol and emblem of Japan, is the cherry blossom. Since ancient times, the Japanese have praised the beauty of cherry blossoms or sakura as they call it. The text of Ariwara no Narihira is the old waka, today’s tanka, “If in our world/ cherry flowers wouldn’t have beeen/ how would we feel/ Spring with our heart/ Easy and free.”
The leitmotif of this flower is present in their lyrics for over a thousand years. The cherry blossom is described in conjunction with the snow, creating confusion between the two symbols, both denominating the ephemeral, “The cherry blossoms/ flickering away on the mountain/ In the beams of dawn…/ Have there been snowflakes?”, asks himself nostalgic the monk Ton A (1293-1378).”
Plum or orange flowers are often invoked when they symbolize the idea of beauty, but also the ephemeral of life. They are opportunity for meditation for the poet born in 1114, Fujiwara no Shunzei, suggesting memento mori. “In other century the fragrance / Of these orange flowers/ Will luxuriate the same/ Any man thinking of me / When I will be long gone?” Likewise, princess Shokushi writes about the passage of life “...How many springs caught me/ crying after fallen flowers!” The term Hanami meaning “the admiring of flowers”, is an ancient custom, since the Heian period (794-1185) the nobility organized parties to enjoy the sakura. The Japanese go in big number towards their favorite place to enjoy the tranquility of the wealth of petals. Kida, kigo and kikan are three concepts that designate the communion of man with nature.
Even though the Romanians have not a particular flower to be popular symbol, the green leaf is the leitmotif of our popular poetry. Flowers are praised for all holidays, especially on Palm Sunday, or during the Christmas holidays, the apple blossoms. Eminescu's poetry and love of nature has some common notes with the sensitivity of tanka poems. Eminescu's Lake or Desire resemble with an anonymous tanka poem. The lyrical ego is lonely, anxious to hide from “curious eyes”, but choosing for a dreem meeting, “Give me a date in my dream./ Noone to see me,/ To ask me some questions...” The poetic prose of Alecu Russo, Vasile Alecsandri, Mihail Sadoveanu, Calistrat Hogaş etc. has many similarities with the haibun. Romanian authors have the same sensitivity to nature. M. Sadoveanu’s character is a good connoisseur and lover of nature, like Basho Japanese pilgrim, retired to the mountains. There are many similarities between our poets and the Japanese ones. “Around the top of the mountain/ A handful of clouds floating”/ “missing the loved one/ Far away as the sky” says Fujiwara No Teika (1114-1204). They, living in communion with nature, understand the meaning of life, the cycles of the passing in a mythical order.
With gates opening of Japan to the West in the nineteenth century, Japanese literature entered the western area, exerting a massive influence on writers, continuing up to this day. Marius Chelaru, in the study Al. T. Stamatiad and Japanese lyric, sustaines that, “one could discuss about the concerns for the Japanese-inspired poetry for the second half of the nineteenth century.” The critic mentions that King Charles I had received a silk roll written in Japanese ideograms from a prince. When it was translated, at the king’s request, B.P. Hasdeu would have observed some Japanese poems. Other Romanian writers interested in Japanese literature were Gheorghe Asachi, Alexandru Macedonski, Alexandru Vlahuţă and George Voevidca.
In 1911, Al. Vlahuţă Romanian showed to Romanian public throught the book By the fireplace, a novelty at that time: Japanese poetry and painting, where he wrote: Nobody understood as the Japanese how much charm is in the seasons changing, how eternal rejuvenation, what endless stream of poetry lies in the wide pace of life.” A prodigious researcher is Ioan Timuş, who wrote two volumes about Japan: Japan, life and customs in Japan, art, woman, social life, Publishing House of Schools, 1924-1925. Still I. Timus is the author of Ogio-san, two editions (Cugetarea Publishing, 1938, and the second, reprinted in 1984, Dacia Publishing House, Cluj-Napoca) Japanese Fairy Tales, Ed Cugetarea, 1940; Japan yesterday and Today, Universe Publishing, Bucharest, 1942 awarded by the Romanian Academy in 1943; Characters of Japanese civilization, 1942, awarded by the Society for International Affairs in Tokyo Kokusai Bunka Shinkokai, The transcription into Romanian of the Japanese phonethic system, the magazine Studia et Acta Orientalia vol. II, 1959, Japanese poetry, study in the Twentieth century, no 9, 1963.
The poetry of some Romanian poets has as base the thinking of the revelatory metaphor. Blaga’s paradox, the antithesis between light and darkness in the poem I did not crush the world's corolla of wonders demonstrates the complexity of contradictions, of the unknown that deepens by expanding to infinity. The shadow increases with the light. In the volume of aphorisms, Stones for my temple, Bucharest, Romanian Book, 1919, opinated that, “There are hidden parts of the soul easy as the shadows: they disappear as soon as you try to put light on them. Darkness does not need to have light on to be seen.” Florin Vasiliu and Brânduşa Steiciuc claim that Lucian Blaga's aphorisms can be considered poems in one verse. The researchers exemplified by the texts, “Day-what is it?/ Abundance of light with which the sun covers its spots” or “Shadow – The shadow is a reverence that light does to darkness.”
The Japanese koans are statements of paradoxical thinking. By using them, spiritual solutions are found, unidentified than through paradox. In Japan there are over 1700 known Koans having its origins in Zen thinking, the mentality throught which one can come intuitively, to “the third eye”, at the essence of the world through waiting. Koan is the technique of putting into crisis the rhetoric of the meaning. The techniques of Zen Mondo and koan will initially be met into tanka and later into haiku.
Ion Pillat, Traian Chelariu and Al.T.Stamatiad contributed enormously to our familiarization with tanka, haiku, but with some other authors of the Archipelago. Ion Pillat the first to write Poems in one verse (1935-1936) in the Romanian literature. In the book Seasons, we mentioned that the author of the Calendar of life includes a selection of texts, a synthesis of the modern and the traditional, respecting the calendar, but also the popular name of the months. “Ion Pillat has information, sensitivity for plastic finess” notes the critic George Calinescu and Şerban Cioculescu said “Pillat read all old and new poets, from Antiquity until today, from all over the world.”
Florentin Popescu confesses, referring to volume Leverage and poetry Twins that he asked himself (if who knows?), V. Voiculescu would have become a peerless author of short poems in the style of Japanese haiku. The author of History of Romanian literature from its origins to the present, G. Calinescu, fascinated by the beauty of oriental culture wrote Starry mirror, the play called Sut, Mongolian myth or Undisturbed Way (1940), I was in New China (1953), Joshiwara District. Nichita Stănescu in The Epica Magna wrote some very suggestive micropoems, haiku style, “Death is a child./ It suck as milk / the hourglass’ sand.” or “Quiet/ silence ... / like I would be thought by a tree.” There are some who texts remembering of koan or of the aphorisms of L. Blaga, “Darkening darkness/ here you are/ the gates of light!” In a poem he even uses the term haiku, “Haiku spirit / snowflakes that frozen the light/ and reviewing the cold winter of words.” Marin Sorescu wrote and tri-verses, without calling them haiku, in the books This way, The Clouds, The Road. For example: Random “with me happens/ something/ a human life” is the Japanese style. Concerns for the Japanese literary phenomenon are numerous. Truly fundamental are the books: Anthology of Japanese classical poetry, by Ion Acsan and Dan Constantinescu, Mondero Publishing, Bucharest, 2002; Dictionary of Japanese literature, written by Octavian Simu Albatros Publishing House, 1994; History of Japanese Literature, written by Shuichi Kato and translated by Kazuko Diaconu and Paul Diaconu, Publishing Nippon, Bucharest, 1998; anthologies of Al. T. Stamatiad: The Japanese courtesans songs, Bucharest, Weather, 1942 and Silk Scarves. Japanese anthology, Bucharest, Contemporary, 1943, over 250 pages; Anthology - Japanese lyrics Bucharest: Albatros, 1981, 5 volumes, contemporary Japanese poetry, 1984, composed by Emil Eugen Pop.
Other newer studies that we will go in alphabetical order are: Marius Chelaru Traian Chelariu and Japanese poetry, Ion Pillat and one verse poem. Reception of yesterday and today and lyrical perspective Japanese creators, Al. T. Stamatiad and Japanese poetry, Science, Cultural Foundation Publishing Poetry, 2011; Florin Grigoriu, Haiku Lessons, 366 lessons of Haiku, both occurring in Bucharest, Twilight Sentimental, 1999, 2009, Florin Vasiliu and Brânduşa Steiciuc, Lyrical Interference - Constellation Haiku, Dacia Publishing House, Cluj, 1989, F. Vasiliu, Camelia Bastia, Japanese lyric poetry. Aesthetic values, Haiku Publishing, Bucharest, 2000. Studies haiku tanka and renku theory, published by Master Şerban Codrin the magazine previously Albatros and Orion/ Little Orion he edited; the magazine Haiku and the new blogg Romanian Kukai coordinated by Cornelius T. Atanasiu.
Through this study, we remembered the immemorial existence of the Japanese culture, but also the Romanian folklore, of “our Asian age”, as stated G. Călinescu, starting with that popular and ancient.
We consider that in the cultural domain there are no conclusions, but open bridges for deepening of research or for other studies reopenings. The Japanese poem is a “new genre”, a genre that puts “too much reason on the value of the reader’s collaboration”, as G. Călinescu observed.
The white of the page, Japanese “haukay” are, “some grains of common sense spread on an area of silence,” said F. Balpe. Poetry reminds us of Plato's cave myth, makes us look at life differently from the other side of the hourglass, as stated in the preface of the book Lyra song.
In contemporary society, which tends towards globalization, every nation will come to the table of cultural dialogue with its most valuable assets. Therefore, the task not only of the men of culture, but also of all is to keep their identity, the given matrix. The search for meaning must begin by identifying the poetical interferences.
- Acsan, Ion, Constantinescu, Dan, Classical Japanese Poetry - Anthology, Bucharest, Mondero, 2002.
- Chelaru, Marius, Traian Chelariu and Japanese Poetry, Ion Pillat and a verse poem. Reception of yesterday and today and Lyrical Perspective Japanese Creators, Al. T. Stamatiad and Japanese Poetry, Science, Cultural Foundation Publishing Poetry, 2011.
- Diel, Paul, Divinity. Symbol and its meaning, trans. By Michael Avadani, preface by Nicu Gabriel, Iasi, European Institute Publishing, 2002.
- Kato Shuichi, History of Japanese Literature (from the origins to the present), translated by Kazuko Diaconu and Paul Diaconu, Bucharest, Nippon, 1998
- Kato Shuichi, Form, Style, Tradition: Reflections on Japanese Art and Society, Berkeley, University of California Press, 1971
- Nakamura, Hajime, East and West. A comparative history of ideas, trans. in English by Dinu Luca, Bucharest, Humanitas Publishing House, 1997
- Vasiliu, Florin, Steiciuc, Brânduşa, Lyrical Interference - Constellation Haiku, Cluj, Dacia Publishing House, 1989
- Vasiliu, Florin, Basti, Camelia, Japanese Lyric Poetry. Aesthetic Values, Bucharest, Haiku, 2000