1 Zhang, Jiabin
On Thursday when I walked out of Hodgdon, I slipped on ice and almost fell over.
Ice on the road
Reflection on the snow
I miss home
Professor Inouye emphasized that this class would spend the whole semester on two concepts: evanescence and form, which are fundamental components of Japanese culture. These two ideas seem contradictory to me. If the world is always changing and nothing would last, why are there so many rules that tell people how things should be done? For example, “hana always means cherry blossoms” (Inouye, 2) which, in turn, always relates to spring in Japanese poems. This paradox can be understood in two ways. First, it can refer to “the embrace of change come as resistance to it”(Inouye, 15). In order to appreciate change, there must be some forms. The Chinese saying, “without rules, one cannot draw squares and circles,” has the same implication. The poets who wrote about evanescence needed to follow the 5-7-5 syllable rule of haiku. We need form to pinpoint the change. Therefore, in Japan, season is formalized. People dress according to season or calendar instead of temperature (Inouye, 9). Another perspective is the Japanese “non-symbolic understanding of symbols”(Kitagawa, 45). This idea can be illustrated by the case of “utsusemi” and “utsusomi,” which mean shell of cicada and mortal world respectively. Because of the similarity, these two “became conflated” with one another(Inouye, 23). Now, in tanka, “utsusemi” means impermanence or evanescence, which is the reality of this mortal world. Thus, “utsusemi” is not what we now define as symbol because there is no separation between cicada’s shell and the changing reality. “Utsusemi” is this non-permanent world. By the same token, hana, cherry blossoms is animated to be spring.