A woman, philosophy, and sweets
Comparing an amazing piece of literature to food, especially luscious, cheek-melting chocolate or caramel frosted cookies, is something a dorky woman like me is inclined to do. So, reading Nogami Yaeko and discovering she has a similar streak in her put a heartfelt smile on my face this morning.
The book I’ve been reading is a collection of eleven year’s worth of correspondence between Nogami Yaeko and Tanabe Hajime, a renowned philosopher of the Kyoto school. Some time in their mid-sixties after each of their spouses had passed away, the two (who, at first, knew one another tangentially through Yaeko’s friendship with Tanabe’s wife), grew closer over mutual sympathies, and gained a deep respect for one another. They began exchanging letters as frequently as every few days, with most gaps in communication only lasting about seven to ten days. Tanabe resided in Kitakaruizawa, at the foot of Mt. Asama, and generally, in seclusion. Yaeko continued to visit the area each summer to escape the heat and noise of Tokyo, as she had for many years. She often mentioned in her letters how she longed to return to the mountain village and spend more intellectually rewarding time with her mentor. Yaeko called Tanabe sensei. This letter was written the day after Yaeko returned to the area following her typical year-long absence.
June 20th, 1956
Looking at the clock after having returned home last night, I was very surprised to realize how late I had stayed. I apologize, and beg your kind forgiveness for taking you away from your regular strolling time. I’ll be sure to bring my watch the next time I visit you. . . . Last night, I revisited your Introduction to Philosophy. You may not like the way it sounds, but this is surely a masterpiece. The increase in kana letters and improved quality of paper might be why it seems even more crystal clear. I find myself enjoying philosophy as if I were treating myself to sweets. Speaking of sweets, I split Nininshizuka confections evenly between you and I, though I may have ended up giving you a few less than I did myself. I should have counted them for us not to fight over it……
Just wanted to offer my apology for now.
P.S. Reading your Introduction to Philosophy at night, as calmly and peacefully as I can in these moments, is something I cannot do unless here in Kitakaruizawa. Can you imagine?
竹田篤司・宇田健編 (2002)『田辺元・野上弥生子往復書簡』 岩波書店 pp.282-283
- 野上彌生子 (Nogami Yaeko)
- 田辺元 (Tanabe Hajime)
- 北軽井沢 (Kitakaruizawa)
- 二人静 (Nininshizuka)