5 Schwartz Ezra

This past Saturday I was working on the Campus Center patio, soaking in the hot sun.


poem 5


journal 5


During this weeks reading of Ihara Saikaku’s Woman Who Loved Love, the song Big Yellow Taxi, originally by Joni Mitchell, repeated itself in my mind. In said song, each verse ends with the lines, “Don’t it always seem to go / that you don’t know what you got ’til it’s gone / they paved paradise, and put up a parking lot” (Mitchell, 1970). Saikaku’s heroine could relate to this song more than anyone. Losing everything, her new masters destroyed the beautiful nature described in the song that once was the heroine’s life, and “paved” a new persona on top of the land (i.e. life) that she used to identify with. Saikaku’s heroine was transformed, or “paved,” to represent the new paradise that the rise of Hedonism demanded. Although Saikaku illustrates that a “tea-house girl” truly understands identity, language, and commercial enterprise due to her assimilation towards the ideal prostitute (Inouye, P. 71), it is her understanding of love and sex that saddens me the most. As she writes about the men who use her services, the heroine expresses that because of her many “intimate friendships,” she now regards all men with whom she lays as if they were “fellow-passenger[s] on a ferry-boat before it reached the opposite bank” (Saikaku, P. 205). How awful it must be to lose all intimacy from the most intimate act we can experience. Hence, not only must she truly understand passion due to complete absence of it, I believe she embodies the principle of dukkha. Who else could understand suffering to the same extent?


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2 Responses to 5 Schwartz Ezra

  1. Profile photo of Jiabin  Zhang Jiabin Zhang says:

    Hi Ezra,
    I agree with you that the heroine in Saikaku’s book probably understand the concept that life is suffering very well because of her occupation. But I think during this period, that is, the start of Tokugawa rule, most urban people understand that concept through mono no aware. They felt that they all suck and there was no way they could change that, which was the origin of hedonism of that period. Moreover, through all these “sufferings” like abandonment by her master, the heroine established a sense of “self,” which is why they are more modern than their contemporaries.

    Jiabin Zhang

  2. Profile photo of Emily  Carlin Emily Carlin says:


    Interesting connection between the Joni song and Saikaku.

    I was also struck by the part in Saikaku where she writes about the men she meets as “fellow-passenger[s] on a ferry-boat before it reached the opposite bank” (205). However, I was curious about how that statement would read to other Japanese people of the time. It seems to me that implicit in evanescence is the idea that every connection between people is fleeting — like that of passengers on a ferry. Perhaps for Saikaku this was so pronounced that she chose to express it this way. I just remember reading it and thinking, “Isn’t this true for everyone who accepts evanescence / reality as constantly shifting?”

    Anyway, I enjoyed reading your paragraph and like the drawing behind your poem.

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