TITLE: The Wandering Samurai
GENRE: Literary Fiction (for adults)
The more you think about a thing, the more unreal it can become.
In my father’s house in Yoshihama, in the alcove in his private room, hangs a small scroll. It was painted by my mother’s uncle, who was considered to be a very gifted calligrapher, and presented by him to my father on the day that he married my mother. In thick black strokes are painted the following words, spoken by Basho Matsuo in advice to one of his disciples: ‘Go to the pine if you want to learn about the pine, or to the bamboo if you want to learn about the bamboo.’
Ever since I was a small boy, that scroll has fascinated me. The creamy beauty of the washi paper on the dark yellowy green of the backing paper; perfection of each character, both in its own formation and in its relation to the characters surrounding it; the small red stamp at the bottom which only the best calligraphers should use to announce their own work: these drew me in long before I was able to read the words, let alone understand their meaning. We had other, more showy scrolls, with perhaps a single character or a painting of willow depicted on pure white washi and mounted on deep blue paper with flecks of real gold, and these were hung in the formal rooms for our guests to see, but although I could see their beauty from an objective point of view I was unmoved by them.