Catch 51: A Han-Japa Odyssey Paperback – 15 December 2020
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Half a century ago, two Japanese boys played baseball at a Catholic international school in Yokohama. Now they pitch each other stories about wounds old and new that time alone may never heal.
"I was a paulownia tree that was supposed to grow straight. But they cut me near my roots when I was a sapling, and grafted a strange branch onto my soul. They tied the gnarly thing with wire and fed me toxic nourishment -- which is how I got to be this who-knows-what I am today."
These are the words of Kimiyoshi Sugawara talking to Bob Toriumi, a grade-school friend he hasn't seen in 51 years. Their mother tongue is Japanese, but they went to an international school and converse in English.
Kimiyoshi agonized over having been made a fool of in college, where dorm mates called him a "han-Japa". He was also heavily burdened by memories of the sexual molestation he had received from a teacher he highly respected in high school. He lapsed into severe insomnia, and on the advice of a psychiatrist, he wrote stories of his traumas, titled them "Lullaby for a Madman", and buried them in a closet.
Bob, also a han-Japa, has had problems of his own, including his son Tsubasa, a sociophobe who has kept to himself mostly in his room at home for the past twenty-five years. Bob, who learns about Kimiyoshi's woes, asks him to let him read the "Lullaby".
Catch 51 is a story of how two Japanese, who had received the same peculiar educations at a Catholic international school but then walked very different paths, open their hearts on the occasion of their reunion 51 years later.
Japanese edition The POD and Kindle editions of this English translation of Catch 51 -- A Han-Japa Odyssey have been published by Soseki Books simultaneously with the POD and Kindle editions of the original Japanese, Kyatchi 51 -- Aru han-japa no tabi.
Kunioki Yanagishita (author and translator) was born in Yokohama in 1944 and graduated from International Christian University. His English translations include Kenzaburo Oe's novel A Quiet Life (Grove) and many of Oe's lectures, including Who's Afraid of the Tasmanian Wolf? (Rainmaker). His Japanese translations include Dick Gregory's Nigger (forthcoming from Gendai Shokan). He is presently a kabuki drama translator and commentator.
William Wetherall (co-translator) was born in San Francisco in 1941 and graduated from the University of California at Berkeley, specializing in Japanese literature, society, and history. A researcher, writer, and novelist, his literary translations include Oe Kenzaburo, Oda Makoto, Takagi Nobuko, Matsumoto Seicho, Nishino Tatsukichi, and others. He has lived in Japan since 1975 and has Japanese nationality.
- Language : English
- ISBN-10 : 4991027527
- ISBN-13 : 978-4991027529
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Il est aussi fascinant de voir comment, malgré tous nos efforts pour oublier, minimaliser ou rationaliser des comportements dévastateurs de nos bourreaux, notre cerveau devient finalement incapable de supporter le refoulement, et alors le corps réagit de façon incontrôlable.
La deuxième partie du livre est surtout composée de dialogues, qui permettent peut-être au lecteur qui n’a pas vécu au Japon de percevoir des sensibilités japonaises. Mais les personnages montrent aussi cette touche d’ouverture d’esprit propre à ceux qui ont grandi avec différentes cultures ou styles d’éducation. On reconnaît aussi deux aspects opposés et pourtant bien présents dans la culture japonaise, qui sont le souci de heurter la sensibilité de l'autre, même lorsque l'autre est son bourreau, mais aussi le fait de cruellement marginaliser la différence. Ceux qui connaissent la culture reconnaîtront des références culturelles, telles que le poulpe et le Hikikomori.
Un autre sujet important est le besoin crucial du sentiment d’appartenance dans la construction de son estime et de son identité. Tandis que le fait d'être éduqué avec plusieurs cultures et langues peut être envié, cela peut aussi empêcher de maîtriser chacune des cultures et des langues étudiées. Ce qui peut conduire à un manque d'intégration, et donc de sentiment d'appartenance et de confiance en soi.
La lecture est très facile grâce au style d’écriture épuré bien que détaillé et on est impatient de connaitre la suite, de savoir comment le personage principal fait finalement face à ses chocs émotionnels.
Je loue enfin la persévérance de l’auteur d'avoir écrit sur plusieurs décénies, jusqu’à publier des pensées et idées intimes, dans un but cathartique mais aussi d’aide aux victimes de traumas et de discriminations.
From an early age, Kimiyoshi is sent to an international school in Yokohama called St. James. It is an all-male school run by Catholic fathers, some of whom turn out to be morally corrupt men who prey upon the innocent boys. The emotional scars they inflict stay with their victims for life, and Yoshi’s feelings of shame and guilt resurface again and again in nightmares or bouts of extreme insomnia. In an attempt to exorcise these demons, Yoshi writes down his thoughts in a journal named ‘Lullaby for a Madman’ that, at its climax, transcends normal language and takes on the form of poetry. What he writes is a vision of Hell and, as one who later reads the journal says, “…showing innocent children an illustration of Hell is akin to taking their souls hostage and robbing them of the meaning of having been born in this world”. After writing the journal Yoshi tries to forget, and only after meeting his old schoolmate Bob after 51 years is he forced to confront again the issues he had hidden deep within himself. The consequences of this meeting will, just possibly, lead to a kind of redemption.
But child sexual abuse is not the only monster with which Yoshi must contend. Almost as soon as he enters St. James he is given the nickname Joe, which is “born of mocking laughter”, and which he emphatically rejects in later life. Despite being born to Japanese parents, his ‘international’ schooling gives rise to an identity crisis that robs him of a sense of belonging. Brought up in this kind of no man’s land, he feels isolated from the society around him and he is cruelly set upon by his contemporaries who call him “Han-Japa”, the demeaning term for a ‘half-baked’ Japanese. For both Yoshi and Bob, the English they had to speak at St. James “…was the price [they] paid for [their] identity”. This affects Yoshi much more than his friend because language and literature is so important to him. Yet, while his Japanese may be imperfect, his English also “lacks dynamism”. The problems faced by Japanese students returning to Japan after studying abroad has become a social issue today, and this novel is a penetrating account of another form of this worrying topic.
‘Catch 51’ is a magnificent book. Though written in a natural and easy-going style, there is also a great sense of immediacy, and its difficult themes are expressed in a very moving, authentic and convincing manner. I highly recommend it!
There’s another huge problem for Yoshi. He has gone to a Catholic international school from primary grades through high school. Most Japanese would go to their local public school, but at St. James, there is an emphasis on the English language and western religious culture. The problem is when Yoshi goes to college and later starts working, that his peers see his education as reason to shunt him into the less-than-pure-Japanese category; they look down on him. He’s seen as a han-Japa, a half-baked Japanese. So now Yoshi is waist deep in two problems.
Yoshi doesn’t hold back in tearing open his chest to see how han-Japa lives in him. He tries like hell to get rid of what he feels is a toxic branch grafted upon his Japanese self. With Yoshi’s other han-Japa friends like Naoki, who is part Swedish and who lives in the U.S. for a while with his American girlfriend, and Tomo, who marries a Japanese girl and who wants to become more Japanese, the twists and turns in their lives provide a good foil for Yoshi’s story.
Then after 51 years when he reunites with his fellow classmate, Bob, Yoshi can’t help but reevaluate his past experiences in the light of completely new data: Bob has not been hindered by St. James; it has helped him to flourish. His well-integrated personality has been doing very well, thank you, at work and with family and friends. Yoshi and Bob probe into how and why their lives have turned out so differently. Over wine, beer, and Cinquante-et-un, they uncover truths about their identities.
The insights that Yoshi gains (very keenly, refreshingly observed!) have implications for how he lives his life from day to day, and offer an interesting, reasonable prediction for the future. More than that, one of the highlights in the book is seeing how Yoshi circles back to his early trauma and has a chance to redefine it in a way that will provide healing. These passages involve a cat’s thump, a catcher in the rye, and an unexpected but a juuust right amount of suspense.
There is a cat motif that runs through the book. Echoes of Soseki and Haruki Murakami? Bob Dylan, Holden Caulfield, and Lady Macbeth play a part in Yoshi’s grappling with his plight. How does han-Japa rear its head in major league Japanese and American baseball? Yoshi and Bob do a play by play.
Yoshi’s story was an excellent entry into a world I was not really aware of. And if I broaden the han-Japa situation into how different cultures affect us, then there is more to explore. As a third generation Japanese-American kid growing up in Hawaii, I felt on equal footing with the Chinese, Hawaiian, and Caucasian kids I played with. When I was older, however, I felt my Japanese culture was second rate to the American culture I saw on TV, at school, and in Caucasian friends. It wasn’t until I was in Japan where I could see and feel my Japanese roots that I began to understand and appreciate my ethnic background and want to nourish it more.
Catch 51 is a fascinating glimpse into the han-Japa experience and holds identity and cultural implications for all of us. A great read and highly recommended.