April 6th, 2008


Adult Hunting

One of the more disastrous realisations that I made recently was that I could in fact order books and CDs from Amazon Japan (although not rice cookers, mobile phone straps and toys). I've known of sources for CDs, but the combination with books is a particularly dangerous one as much of the music that I'm interested in crosses over with the art and literary worlds. I thought perhaps I should share some of what I've been investigating.

I rarely post these days, although with some travelling in the near future I'm sure to get started again, and when I do try, I often find that what should in theory be a quick spurt of typing turns into hours of compulsive researching and less than focused writing. Small dishes would be better than overnight stews. So, as briefly as I can manage, while I stretch these muscles in the hope of them regaining some sort of shape...

There are two particular figures in what I'll call the Japanese Avant-Garde who have long interested me. One is Shuji Terayama (variously poet, essayist, dramaturge, gambler, film director) and the other is Shibusawa Tatsuhiko (variously translator, Francophile, occultist, collector, novelist). Initials S.T. (or at least it is if I don't make up my mind whether to put the surname first or not. Some Japanese names I invert and some I don't. Bad habit.) but quite different as personalities I suspect. Terayama grew up rather more waywardly in Aomori and Shibusawa's background was rather more gilded. Although they were both closely involved in their way with the avant-garde, I don't think that they had much professional contact and as far as I can establish didn't actually get on that well in life when they did.

Anyway, I've been buying various items relating to the two of them, replacing some books I once owned and lost, books I've seen and never bought, CDs I'd never have thought of buying. For today, let me start with this mp3 of the original broadcast of Terayama's Adult Hunting (Otona-gari) from 1960. There's probably a better host than Rapidshare, if so please advise as I've quite a lot more material to upload in future.


...which is here... (30 mins, about 40M)

Adult Hunting owes something to Orson Welles' War of the Worlds in both its form as a fictionalised news programme about children rising up in revolution to kill adults and also in some of the resulting impact. Produced by Radio Kyushu, the broadcast was charged by the Fukuoka authorities with encouraging the violent revolution of children and subverting sexual morality. To Terayama's annoyance, Radio Kyushu apologised for the broadcast and the potential charges were dropped.

(Meanwhile and elsewhere in 1960, Shibusawa Tatsuhiko was charged along with the publisher with public obscenity for his translation of de Sade's Histoire de Juliette; ou, Les Prosperites du vice. The case grumbled along in the way things do in the Japanese legal system and nine years later Shibusawa was found guilty and fined a fairly paltry ¥70,000. The Sade Trial (Sado Saiban) is somewhat analogous in literary notoriety to the 1960 trial of Penguin Books for the publication of Lady Chatterley's Lover.)

Terayama resuscitated the radio play later into the 1970 film Emperor Tomato Ketchup, but much had happened in Japan over that ten year period. The Japan of 1960 witnessed large-scale and sometimes violent demonstrations around the renewal of so-called AMPO Treaty which culminated with the attempted storming of the Diet on June 15. And in 1970, oh, hang on, they demonstrated against the renewal again... Let's save the history for another time. What I will say, before my brain fogs over, is that Terayama's play is hardly a clarion call to arms. Far from it. Much of the avant-garde, at least those more fixedly joined to the dogmatic left, found that Terayama less than satisfactory as his works were decidedly critical of and provocative towards the idea of political engagement and revolution. In 1960, Adult Hunting appeared to be a work that incited children to revolution and dismayed social authorities. By 1970, the film version appeared to be a work that portrayed revolutionaries as children, children who make all the same horrific mistakes as the adults, which annoyed revolutionary cadres. So it appeared. Well, that could probably be thought out and filled in quite a lot better, but I've a train to catch.

(For the record, I find listening to this rather like some Japanese listening examination that I'm not quite smart enough for. My Japanese isn't that good, especially given a two year break, so I won't pretend I get all of it, although I might find it more satisfying than those who don't speak any Japanese! Keep awake at the back!)

In other news, whilst researching various restaurants in Osaka, one discovery I made was that the potter Bernard Leach helped to design this bar in the Hotel Royal Rihga: