Sunday, June 09, 2013

Politics and Poetry: Senryu For The Week Of June 3, 2013 - Abenomics Burning

What's up with this drawing? Just hang in there, I'll get to it.

The serious reversal of the euphoria in the equities markets has dented the reputation of Prime Minister Abe Shinzo and his Three Arrows reform program, a.k.a. "Abenomics." Unsurprisingly, the rough patch for the PM brought out schadenfreude in the writers of senryu comic verses who submit their creations to the fiercely left-of-center Tokyo Shimbun.

Here is selection of this week's comic verses, starting with the mildly interesting and winding up with a "let there be no doubt about where we stand on this" flame fest.

Kiken yori
gaika kasegi ga
saki ni tatsu

From danger
those booking their earnings in foreign currencies
have set out first
Until now the Japanese markets were an effervescent mix of opportunity and danger for the foreign investor: skyrocketing equities prices on the plus side with a falling currency on the minus. Now, with the market in correction, the heretofore acceptable risk now sends the skittish on a search for other places to play.

itami ni taero
mo gomen

Let's grit our way through the pain
of the side effects.
I'm sorry, it's already...
It does not take too much time for the reader to understand that the medicine here is Abenomics, with the side effects being inflation in the cost of imported goods and volatility in the equities and bond markets. Just who is saying "mo gomen" is left up to the reader's imagination. Is it Abe, apologizing for putting his fellow citizens through suffering from rising prices without concurrent rises in income? Or it is members of the public who are telling the PM the pain is already too great to bear -- so please do not ask us to bear more?

Umashi kuni
awa no mikusu
uki shizumi

The bountiful country
In the mix ("mics") of bubbles
rises and sinks
My translation is pathetic. However, the heavy duty wordplay here would challenge even a competent translator.

The author starts out with an archaic expression umashi kuni, "the bountiful country." However, rather than tip her hand, the author has chosen to write umashi in hiragana rather than with a Chinese character. This choice is deliberate, not because there is more than one way to write the expression -- there are, indeed two ways -- but because seeing the phrase written out with the appropriate character would detract from the reader's fun. The reader has to make the conversion in his/her head, transforming うまし国 into 美し国. The reader then knows the author's umashi kun (うまし国) is actually Abe Shinzo's infamous utsukushii kuni (美しい国 -- "the beautiful country"-- Link) .

Senryu are supposed to be fun -- so why be obvious?

The next line again plays with the various written forms of Japanese words. Awa no mikusu -- the "mix of bubbles" is supposed to conjure up a vision of investment bubbles rising and bursting. However, the katakana the loan word mikusu ("mix”) hammers home the similarity between awa no mikusu -- “Awanomics” -- and the Abenomics of the current non-occupant of the Prime Minister's Residential Quarters. "Abenomics/Awanomics" certainly has created a bubble in the equities markets, a bubble that seemingly has popped.

Ushinau to
iu ji ni niteru
ya no ji ka na

The character that looks like
the character for "loss" --
it's “arrow” isn't it?
The Chinese character for the verb ushinau -- "to lose" -- is 失. The Chinese character for the noun ya -- arrow -- is 矢. In what is a purely visual pun, the author notes that only the slightest change takes one from the Three Arrows of Abenomics to losses.

So what about the drawing at the head of this post, with the PM's posterior on fire?

It is the illustration the Tokyo Shimbun produced for the third poem on this week's list, from a Matsuda Masaru of Kashiwa City:

Shiri no hi mo
kezezu shusho
shita kocho

Without putting out
an ass that is on fire
the prime minister’s tongue keeps right on going
There is a slight bit of word play in the last line, where shita kocho could intentionally be misread as zekkocho -- "going just great" -- but when you have a butt that is on fire, there is no time for pedantry.


Image and poems reproduced from page 5 of the Tokyo Shimbun of 8 June 2013.

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