Monday, August 5, 2013

Falling Blossoms

A while ago I blogged about a Japanese WWII memoir called Falling Blossoms. Last month, out of nowhere, I got a follow-up e-mail about the book:


I saw your blog mentioned the book Falling Blossoms by Hiroshi Funasaka. I have been trying to find this book for many years. Do you know how i might get a copy (or photocopy or electronic version)? I am the translator. Just before the book published i became a monk in a remote monsatery. now i do not have a copy and really love the book. Can you help?

Jeff Rubin

Dear Jeff,

It's an honour to be in contact with you. Thank you for translating such a fascinating book.

I got my copy through the Singapore National Library, which has a lendable copy in its Repository Used Book Collection. I'm not sure if any copies exist for sale anymore. Perhaps I should photocopy the book and send you the copies?

Ng Yi-Sheng

Dear Mr. Ng,

I would be eternally indebted to you. perhaps you can scan it and email it. Or any way you like to do it. Please tell me whatever expenses would be involved and i will reimburse you.

It was so many years ago that Hiroshi and I worked on that book in his tiny office facing Shibuya Square in Tokyo. My desk was under a giant photograph of Yukio Mishima staring down with great intensity. I felt Mishima's presence there unmistakeably, and no wonder as Mishima was Hiroshi's sword student. before publishing, Hiroshi had handed the manuscript of Eirei no Zekyo (from which Falling Blossoms was based) and Mishima wrote the introduction, which we translated. As a token of gratitude, Mr. Funasaka gave Mishima a valuable antique samurai sword. It was with this sword that Mishima later committed ritual suicide in public a few years later.

I think Falling Blossoms meant something absolutely different to Hiroshi and I than what it did to Mishima - the spirit of humanity transcends the cult of the sword.The reality of building friendship with Crenshaw his "captor" in the POW camp eclipses "honorable death" The lesson is still valuable for our world today.



Hi Jeff,

Yes, I got that sense too, reading the work. It must have been heartbreaking for Mr Funasaka to see his work and his sword abused in such a manner.

Do you know how the book came to be published in Singapore?

I'll be making photocopies and posting them to you, as scanning an entire book would prove difficult. Could you give me a postal address?

Ng Yi-Sheng

Yes My Funasaka felt deep pain on that account, but he was not one to easily reveal his sorrow. He was a true hero, but really there are no celebrated Japanese war heroes. The world would agree, and even most Japanese would agree that that is all for the good, but still it makes it hard for people to understand his mind.

As to why we published in Singapore - I first went to NY to find a publisher. My agent said she cried for the first time in 20 years after reading the book. But at that time, it was hard to sell a book in which the "hero" of a WW II story was not an American. The publishers couldn't see the message that Hiroshi was not portraying himself as the"good guy" and the Americans were the "bad guys" . Rather everyone was facing life and death. But the surface stereotype was too much for the publishers in the US at that time. Perhaps now it might have been a bit different. Anyway, we found the publisher in Singapore.

My address where I am staying is [redacted]

Thank you for all the trouble you are taking on my behalf.


Only just posted it! (UPDATE: Thanks to my friend Jeff Mishler for blanking out the address.)

Unfortunately, the photocopying process ended up cracking the spine of the National Library's copy, turning all the pages into loose leaves.

Never mind - I am serving the text, not the codex! Hopefully we'll see this volume in publication again in the very near future.

1 comment:

Mike Shepherd said...

I am happy to hear from Jeff Ruben. I have been writing a book about Crenshaw and Funasaka. I am digging in the archives about POWs,trying to verify which camp he was held at (he says Socorro, TX. He also says Crenshaw is the hero of the book, in spite of 200 pages of survivor-all for the emperor fighting on Angaur and escape attempts on Peleliu.