Translating Japanese

Noriko Ibaraki’s poems

I am introducing two poems of Noriko Ibaraki. The first is her most known poem that any Japanese child would learn at school. Please don’t stop after reading the first poem, and also read the other one, which is a less known one.


Don’t blame others
For your own drying heart,
While failing to water it properly.

Don’t blame your friends
For your becoming difficult.
Aren’t you the one who lost grace?

Don’t blame your family
For your getting irritated.
It is me who could not do anything well.

Don’t blame your life
For your losing motivation.
It was not strong enough from the beginning.

Don’t blame the time
For everything you did not want.
It will result in renouncing the last light of dignity.

It is your own work
To protect your sensibility,
You idiot.

(Translated by Paromita)


汲む – Y.Yに –

When I was a young girl
And believed that to be an adult
Is to be a withered cynic,
I met a woman
Whose manners were elegant
And words clear as crystal.
She said to me in a very casual conversation,
perhaps she understood my young prejudice,

The important thing is
To stay fresh,
Both to people and the society.
When you stop regarding others
As same human beings,
The falling starts.
I have seen many
Who were falling
And trying to hide it
In vain.

I was startled,
And understood deeply in my heart
That I can be a naive and fragile adult.
I can say awkward greetings,
With ugly flashed face.
I can get hurt by children’s innocent swearing.
My coward wobbly heart like an oyster
did not have to be tempered at all.
I can be a fresh rose flower,
Still tender at old age.
It is indeed difficult to bloom,
Wide open to the outside world.
At the core of every work,
Every good work,
Shivering weak antenna is hidden,
I think…
My age has reached hers back then.
Sometimes I look back
And ponder quietly,
what she told me.

(Translated by Paromita)

Because of the strong words of the first poem, (and its meaning was not as clear when read it as a teenager) she was not a very interesting poet for me, though I certainly recognised her name and remembered it. It was only when I encountered an anthology of her poems titled “Words of Woman” that I really liked her.

The second one is my favourite from the anthology. It is actually an interesting contrast with the first one, and I would say both are true, and both are aspects of the same woman.

Noriko was born in 1926, started her career as a script writer for children stories, before she became to be known as a poet. In her later years, she learned Korean language and contributed to introducing Korean poetry to Japan. She passed away in 2006.

I will introduce another one before I end.

“My Camera”

My eyes
Are my lens.

My blinks
Are my shutter.

I have even a small darkroom
Surrounded by my hair.

So that’s why
I do not carry a camera.

Did you know,
Inside me
I have kept so many films of yours.

Your smiling under a tree in spring,
Your golden body cutting through the waves,
Lighting a tobacco, sleeping like a child,
fragrant like an orchid,
You have even become a lion in the forest.

It is one-and-only in the world,
My film library
That nobody knows.

(Translated by Paromita)

No Comments

    Leave a Reply