‘Hibakusha’ means a victim of radiation poisoning, and in Japan is associated with Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Kurose was in the UK in 2011 when the Fukushima disaster was caused by a tsunami. This poem captures the eerie strangeness of being so far from home at a time of tragedy: the different light, the fish and chips, the shock – sharp as vinegar – of hearing that word spoken by academics. Our literal translator Alan Cummings told us that Kurose occasionally uses old-fashioned spellings, creating a deliberately anachronistic effect. The cod wears ‘Koromo’ (meaning batter but also a garment) in this poem, and we played with archaic sounding phrases like ‘cloaked’ but eventually settled on it being ‘mantled’ as a strange, unsettling formulation.
Please note: this tanka does not have a title so we have used the first line as a title.