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The Floating Bridge of Dreams ★★

The Floating Bridge of Dreams was written by Ota Nampo. Born into a samurai family, he expressed his literary talents in satirical forms, such as kyoka and kibyoshi. The focus of this story is Eitai Bridge. Two hundred meters long and six meters wide, it was the biggest bridge in Edo. In 1807, during the Fukagawa Hachiman festival, the bridge collapsed under the weight of sightseers who had flocked from all over Edo. Over 400 people died. They included a woman who went to the festival to spite her unfaithful husband. In the wake of the accident, painful farewells and chance meetings fill the city with drama. In this level-headed account, Nampo looks at the causes and effects of an unprecedented disaster.

和訳: 1808年頃に書かれた「夢の浮橋」。作者は大田南畝(おおた・なんぽう)。武士の家に生まれ、狂歌や黄表紙といった滑稽のジャンルで文芸の才能を発揮した。舞台となった永代橋(えいたいばし)は、隅田川にかかる全長200メートル、幅6メートルの江戸第一の橋。1807年、深川八幡宮の祭礼で、江戸市中から見物客が詰めかけたことが原因で永代橋が落下。400人以上の犠牲者を出した。夫の浮気の腹いせに、祭りに出かけ亡くなってしまった妻。事故が生んだ別れや出会いのドラマが街にあふれた。この未曾有の大参事を、南畝は冷静にみつめ事故の実態と意味を書きとめた。

From NHK’s J-Bungaku

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Kotowaza – Two Rabbits

I’ve been meaning to give this blog a new lease on life by adding more things that interest me personally, postings related to my own study of the Japanese language and culture, in addition to the English resources for my students I’ve been posting, in the hope that it will attract a larger more varied audience. One of the things I’ve been meaning to write about is Japanese kotowaza, or sayings and proverbs.

The first installment of this series is a saying that occurs to me every time I play tennis:

二兎を追う者は一兎を得ず

Ni to wo ou mono wa itto o ezu

He that hunts two hares loses both.

(二兎を追う者は両者を失う)

Between two stools you fall to the ground.

(二個の椅子の間に座ろうとする者は床に落ちる)

Whenever I try to pick up a tennis ball that is near feet before my partner can return a ball to me, 9 out of 10 times I fail to both pick the ball on the ground up and hit the ball that’s flying towards me. And yet, I try, try, try again to get both balls. When will I ever learn?

Another Japanese saying with a similar meaning is abuhachitorazu (アブ蜂取らず):

虻蜂取らずになる

Chase two hares and catch neither.

欲張っていると虻蜂取らずに終わってしまうぞ

If you are too greedy, you’ll end up with nothing at all.

ガールフレンドがいるのに、ほかの娘を追いかけるなよアブ蜂取らずになるぜ。

You have one girlfriend. Don’t start after another. You’ll fall between two stools.

彼女は仕事か結婚かどちらかを選ばなければならなかった、両立しないことをしっていたからだ。

She had to choose between a career and marriage. She knew she couldn’t have it both ways.

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