I wrote this piece in honor of Dr. Kacem Zoughari, a martial arts practitioner with whom my husband
has studied. His Japanese martial art relies on moving in the shadows, while much of the Japanese literature I studied plays with the concept of voyeurism
This short essay attempts to flesh that difference.
Literature is predicated on what may be revealed, your art on what can be hidden. On how to hide.
I first fell in love with Japan in The Tale of Genji’s jeweled pavilions. Its
narrative pivots on kaimami (垣間見 revelation through stolen glimpses). A lustful man spies a fall of hair behind a screen. Fireflies illuminate beauties in dark rooms. Cats and wind push aside curtains to flash, for a few seconds, a face, the flicker of fate that becomes a memory, a reason to live.
In reading, we forever peek behind screens.
You create the screen. You move into obscurity.
But are the two so different?
Another Japanese novel that moved me was Ōoka Shōhei’s Kaei (花影), the story of an aging bar hostess whose money and strength are leeched by men. In English, the title is rendered as The Shade of Blossoms.
Kage = shade, shadow
Through literature and writing, we fight to glimpse the shadow side of things.
Maybe we’ll find you there, or not.
We’re both foreigners navigating Japan.
All of us are foreigners when it comes to navigating shadows.
And, speaking of Japan, a Chinese translator has rendered some of the articles I wrote for Salon in 2001, about hostessing in Japan, into Chinese: