- The Moon is a Boat
Hometown: Kilcullen, Ireland
Number of years in Japan (cumulative): 30 (as of September 2018)
My first encounter with Japan was when I came to teach philosophy and English literature here 30 years ago. I knew nothing at all about Japan at that stage. It was the beginning of a grand adventure that gets more wonderful and mysterious every day.
The line, “The moon is a boat,” captures for me the essence of the Japanese poetic spirit that I am introducing to the world. The line is quoted from a poem in the “Manyoshu” and reads in my translation: “In the sea of heaven / cloud waves rise / the moon is a boat / that I watch sailing / till it hides / in a forest of stars.” It is a very romantic and beautiful poem.
The thing that I am most proud of is the creation of the first English karuta (traditional Japanese card game) for the “Ogura Hyakunin Isshu” (“One Hundred Poems, One Poem Each”). The world's first event was held at the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo in January 2017, hosted by Ambassador Caroline Kennedy. Now I am creating a product based on the game that is scheduled to be ready for sale at the end of this year or early next year.
I would like to continue to translate books of Japanese poetry, write new noh plays and other books, including books related to Japan. I would also like to create more prints and other art exhibitions and work for TV and radio. If I ever become rich, I would like to create a company to develop pillows for cats.
I think that the most important thing to have a really fascinating and magical experience here is to learn the Japanese language, which holds the key to Japanese culture and to communicating well with the Japanese. There are so many things to learn in this great country, so the most important thing is to have an open mind. I would also suggest traveling as much as possible because there are great differences in each region.