As part of our embroidery collaboration, artist and architect Shirley Liu introduced us to the poem 雨ニモマケズ by Kenji Miyazawa. The poem is dates back to the Showa period of Japan, was found posthumously in a small black notebook in one of the poet's trunks.
Be Not Defeated by Rain
雨ニモマケズ not losing to the rain
風ニモマケズ not losing to the wind
雪ニモ夏ノ暑サニモマケヌ not losing to the snow nor to summer's heat
丈夫ナカラダヲモチ with a strong body
慾ハナク not fettered by desire
決シテ瞋ラズ by no means offending anyone
イツモシヅカニワラッテヰル always quietly smiling
一日ニ玄米四合ト every day four bowls of brown rice
味噌ト少シノ野菜ヲタベ miso and some vegetables to eat
アラユルコトヲ in everything
ジブンヲカンジョウニ入レズニ count yourself last and put others before you
ヨクミキキシワカリ watching and listening, and understanding
ソシテワスレズ and never forgetting
野原ノ松ノ林ノ蔭ノ in the shade of the woods of the pines of the fields
小サナ萓ブキノ小屋ニヰテ being in a little thatched hut
東ニ病氣ノコドモアレバ if there is a sick child to the east
行ッテ看病シテヤリ going and nursing over them
西ニツカレタ母アレバ if there is a tired mother to the west
行ッテソノ稻ノ朿ヲ負ヒ going and shouldering her sheaf of rice
南ニ死ニサウナ人アレバ if there is someone near death to the south
行ッテコハガラナクテモイヽトイヒ going and saying there's no need to be afraid
北ニケンクヮヤソショウガアレバ if there is a quarrel or a lawsuit to the north
ツマラナイカラヤメロトイヒ telling them to leave off with such waste
ヒデリノトキハナミダヲナガシ when there's drought, shedding tears of sympathy
サムサノナツハオロオロアルキ when the summer's cold, wandering upset
ミンナニデクノボートヨバレ called a nobody by everyone
ホメラレモセズ without being praised
クニモサレズ without being blamed
サウイフモノニ such a person
ワタシハナリタイ I want to become
Background to 雨ニモマケズ
Despite being regarded widely as a talented poet today, Kenji Miyazawa was practically unrecognized for his literary works during his life time. At the time of his death, a humble, black notebook was found in the lid of his trunk — and in its pages consisted of the now literary classic 雨ニモマケズ.
While Miyazawa's works were praised by a handful established poets during his lifetime, his writing did not gained its reputation until posthumously. He eventually found work as an agricultural science teacher, as his self-published pieces failed to bring him financial success. His students described him as an eccentric. Miyazawa also preferred conducting hands-on lessons in the field over hosting classes in the classroom. Two years later, he resigned from his teaching position altogether to take up farming. He had hoped to help the impoverished peasants in the rural communities with his knowledge. He died of pneumonia in 1933 at just age 33.
Despite writing the poem on his sickbed, Miyazawa's "Be Not Defeated by Rain" speaks of hope. His unwavering words does not sound like one who is near death's door, but instead, are filled with earnestness and kindness. Even in his last moments, Miyazawa strives to tell us of who he wishes to become.
Today, a museum dedicated to his life and works stands in his hometown. His poems are read and well-loved by all.