Chihayafuru Manga: Poem 139

Am I ready?

Poem 48 (Kaze wo itami):

Kaze_wo_Itami1

風をいたみ 岩うつ波の おのれのみ くだけて物を 思ふころかな

Kaze wo itami iwa utsu nami no onore nomi kudakete mono wo omou koro kana

Like a driven wave,
Dashed by fierce winds on a rock,
So am I: alone
And crushed upon the shore,
Remembering what has been.

** WARNING ** SPOILERS AHEAD **

Poem 139

With Taichi’s confession and its aftermath weighing on her mind, it’s also time for Chihaya to think more deeply about her future. Even now, her biggest reason for wanting to become a teacher is in order to watch over a school karuta club. But as her homeroom teacher warns her, teaching involves far more than just that…this scene is played for laughs because Kouda Yoshio had pretty impure motives himself (he wanted to be popular with female students). However, the Empress herself observes that the broad theme of his advice is particularly significant for Chihaya…

The results of the start-of-year tests have been delivered to the students’ homes, and Mrs. Pressure starts blowing her top at Taichi. But his response stops her in her tracks: “I’ve quit the karuta club, so the next one will be fine.”

Back at Mizusawa, the Empress is worried for the club, since they’ve lost their pillar of strength. But the person who completely surprises her at this juncture is Sumire, who takes charge of the four new members. One of them is the Tamaru younger sister (recall those two siblings who try to rile their opponents up with pointless, needling talk? She is super annoying for the rest of the chapter, but I really don’t feel like going into any more detail about it…), who decides that she doesn’t need the introductory talks since she’s already Class A, and asks to play Chihaya right off the bat. As another new member reveals his own strange reason for joining, Sumire realises for the first time how difficult it can be to take on this responsibility. But she is determined to stay on, because of her part in Taichi’s departure…

Returning to the match, Chihaya starts off well, putting the other seniors at ease that Taichi’s departure hasn’t affected her play. But when her gaze pauses on her fingers, she remembers Taichi’s words about how he likes them…and his parting words also come to her mind. The cards turn black for Chihaya, and though kaze wo itami is read, she doesn’t move… The result: she ends up losing by a considerable margin.

Saying that she’s not feeling well, Chihaya leaves the club room…and the tears start falling as she walks down the corridor, where her Japanese teacher, Fukusaku-sensei finds her. Here, she confesses the guilt that is overwhelming her:

Fukusaku-sensei, this poem, kaze wo itami

I was the rock…the rock that crushed Taichi’s feelings into dust…all this time…Taichi…all this time…

And Fukusaku-sensei tells her:

Ogura’s Hundred Poems are amazing, aren’t they? They’ve given you this metaphor, these words.

I thought it was because of spring that you looked so fragile. You, too, look like you’re about to break.

But perhaps the hundred poems have prevented that?

When Chihaya responds that she can’t play, because she is now afraid of karuta, Fukusaku-sensei hands her one of the study books for modern and classical Japanese that he was carrying.

Go and learn something. Anything will do, just go and learn.

Skipping over the newbies (please thank that annoying newbie)…Taichi turns up at the cram school that he has signed up to, and immediately catches the attention of several girls there. Everyone is focused on their courses and timetables, no one is talking about club activities or karuta…

And one of the cram school teachers comes around the corner: he too is immediately accosted by female students, who address him as “Suou-sensei”… Taichi stands still in shock as he comes face-to-face with the Meijin.

Oh? Are you in Class A?

COMMENTARY

Well, things are progressing faster than I expected, both for Chihaya and Taichi. I guess they had to, given that the Meijin qualifiers are just eight months away… Let me start, however, by explaining something about Japanese third years (in both junior high and senior high) that Westerners in particular may not understand.

The Japanese education system and Taichi’s decision

School in Japan is divided into three segments: elementary (6 years), junior high (3 years) and senior high (3 years). Whilst parents can elect to send their children to private schools at any stage, dependant on whether they pass certain entry criteria, most Japanese kids go through the public school system. But in all cases, two years are particularly important: the third year of junior high, and the third year of high school, because these two years are held to determine the future of the child. Until junior high, kids go to their local public school; however, they have to take competitive entrance tests to get into high school. The difference in academic levels between the best and worst high schools is pretty extreme (a whole one or two grades, at least). As a result, there is a lot of pressure on the students, for if they don’t make it into their first choice, they can only try to use those same test results to get into other schools that still have places to spare – by this stage, however, the only schools that have so are places are usually the really high level ones or the really low level ones. For the high school/college leap, the completion is arguably tougher, especially if one is aiming for the top schools (NB: Tokyo and Kyoto are both in the top 3 in Asia for medicine). So students have to try to make sure that their results will get them into their first choice. To facilitate this, most students stop their club activities just 3-4 months into their third year of junior high/senior high – after their final regional or national summer tournaments (see this post for another treatment of this subject). In some schools, students even stop participating in club activities in their second year, so that they can focus on their studies.

So, Taichi quitting at the start of his third year wouldn’t strike me as being particularly unusual if I were one of this teachers. But given how he has been presented so far, I seriously doubt that Taichi would have quit at this time for any reason other than how Chihaya reacted to his confession in the last chapter. As such, the questions that remain for us readers are: why did he tell only Nishida and Komano? and what exactly did he tell them? The fragment we find out about their conversation in this chapter (“I entrust the club to you”) only leaves me wondering what else was said…and what was left unsaid.

Just go and learn.
Just go and learn.

What Chihaya needs for her future…

I’m glad Suetsugu has brought up something that I pointed out elsewhere several months ago: if she really wants to become a teacher, Chihaya must think about more than karuta. Her passion for the game has only brought Mizusawa stellar results so far because of everyone else that has been backing her up, especially Taichi – though the others have all played their part. But a teacher has to play all of these parts by him or herself! S/he has to inspire, but also motivate, and this requires that s/he be observant and understanding. S/he has to know instinctively how to react so as to accommodate even the most surprising discoveries, without making the student feel as if their issue is just being washed under the bridge, or worse, as if it’s something that’s invalid, an issue that should not exist. To me, Chihaya’s reaction to Taichi’s confession – where she acted as if she wanted it to be a lie – highlights how she lacks this incredibly important skill. Whilst it may not matter as much if she wants to work at a desk job, I challenge anyone to argue that she doesn’t need it as a teacher.

That said, I wonder if Chihaya really understands what she is lacking. In this chapter, she tells Fukusaku-sensei that she’s “the rock that has crushed Taichi’s feelings into dust…all this time.” I’m going to assume that she’s not blaming herself for not returning his feelings: if she’s really in love with Arata, as everything so far suggests, then it’s not something that she can help, after all. But does it mean that she blames herself for not noticing his feelings? If so, then I think she’s blaming herself for the wrong thing. Although I still argue that this is the type of thing she has to become more observant about if she is to become a teacher, I think that the bigger problem lies in the way she reacted. The first issue is that, as usual, Arata coming to her mind made her lose sight of what was in front of her, a friend that had told her just how much she meant to him. Which led to the second issue: she didn’t even think about what his feelings meant, other than how much they bothered her (or so it seems).

Why do I think the main problem lies with Chihaya rather than with Taichi?

I know that some people have absolutely no problem with what Chihaya has done here. Instead, Taichi is criticised for confessing without thinking of how much it would shock Chihaya, for not giving her enough time for her to think about it, and then leaving in the way he did. I won’t argue with the last of those three points, because I have issues with it myself (though arguably to a lesser degree), but I have to question the first two points. First, I think he knew that it would surprise Chihaya. That’s one of the reasons he didn’t confess for so long, trying instead to get her to notice his feelings, or at least to suspect that he might be interested in her. He hinted at it several times at the start of their high school life (when she first found out that he had a girlfriend, and then when he asked her if there was anyone she liked). But after he realised that she had no idea what romantic love was (e.g. she was willing to go out with a stranger just to experience what having a boyfriend was like), he seems to have stopped hinting, just making sure that he was supporting her karuta dream instead. The people who keep criticising him for not telling Chihaya about his feelings seem to miss these issues – they never seriously consider why he didn’t, and couldn’t, just tell her. Think about it: if he’d confessed to her back then, isn’t it likely that she would have just accepted his confession without really thinking about what it meant? That would have been unfair to both of them! Though I can’t say that this outcome was any better…the thing is, how much longer should Taichi have waited? And would it actually have made a difference? As for the second point of ‘not giving her enough time to think about it’, that wasn’t his choice: Chihaya was the one who rejected him right there and then. Another manga I read had the guy gently stop the girl as she tried to turn him down, asking her to take some time to think about it more carefully, to carefully compare him with the person she was in love with. Whilst I think that this would have been a good approach for Taichi to try, I’m really not sure if it would have made any difference, given how shocked and depressed Chihaya seemed to be at that initial discovery.

Of course, this doesn’t absolve Taichi of the way in which he chose to resolve the issue, by leaving without telling her. I honestly think he should have tried to tell her how hurt he was by her reaction, which seemed to be saying “I wish I never learned of this,” but at the same time, I honestly don’t know how he would have gone about doing that. Perhaps my imagination is lacking, but at the same time, I feel that I really understand just how crushed he was when he saw how Chihaya couldn’t even keep her attention on him when he confessed. So, whilst Taichi’s actions after he was rejected are problematic, to me, the root of the issue lies with how Chihaya herself reacted. At least she’s started to think about it now, and if she can understand exactly what it was that she should be regretting and trying to address, then she will only be stronger and better off for this painful experience. Hopefully, Taichi will reflect on his actions too.

Anyway, that’s just the way I see it. YMMV, and that’s ok with me…to a certain extent at least…

p.s. As for Sumire, I really don’t think she should be blaming herself at all. Though it’s wonderful that she’s grown so much…

Are you in Class A?
Are you in Class A?

As for Taichi…

Well, whilst I did expect Suou to be involved at some level with Taichi’s return to karuta, I didn’t expect that it would be so soon. I thought that Taichi would already have been going to a cram school, but with how much time the club would have been taking up, it does make sense that he only joined one after he quit. At any rate, I really like this development, and whilst I don’t expect it to be smooth sailing from here on out, I’m looking forward to seeing how Suetsugu brings this all together.

(And, of course, I still hope that Arata will also play a significant role in getting Taichi back into karuta!)

About karice
MAG fan, freelance translator and political scientist-in-training. I also love musicals, travel and figure skating!

18 Responses to Chihayafuru Manga: Poem 139

  1. Love your comments as always! And yes, looks like the story has been leading into a swifter stream than some of the slower parts we have had: It’s true that we are coming very near the panel where Chihaya is playing her Queen match and we sort of get a flashback of everything……….i wonder if the story will continue in the ‘present’ time….maybe to wrap things up? Or see Arata come to Tokyo? Will it continue in their college lives? That would be more Josei to see how they fend when a bit older…….mmmmm…..i wonder….

    Like

    • karice says:

      Thanks! I do enjoy putting my thoughts together on this series ^^ and I really hope I never lose that!!

      Hm…whilst I think we’ll see a little of the future, I really don’t think we’ll see too much. I’m guessing that it’ll be an epilogue along the lines of Naruto’s chapter 700, or JKR’s “Nineteen years later” in the Harry Potter series… Though I suppose I’d be happy to be surprised on this point!

      Like

      • omg you just scared me……epilogue like Naruto 700????? EH? oh please hope that Suetsugusan is more intelligent………….LOL

        Like

      • karice says:

        LOL. I mean it in the sense of how JKR describes her epilogue: as if you’re looking through the smoke at Platform 9 and 3/4… Or, in other words, a brief glimpse of them still playing karuta in the future…

        Though I see your point: Kishimoto made many things far more concrete in his final chapter, huh?

        Like

  2. idk says:

    So, am I the only one who is suprised about Chihaya can’t play karuta anymore? Even though for a while but still

    Like

  3. Bob Revelations says:

    thanks for the summary! i wish suetsugu-sensei could release chapters more frequently 😦

    Like

    • karice says:

      You’re welcome ^^ and thank you for commenting!

      Usually, she does release chapters really regularly – the breaks come only when she has to touch up the chapters for the tankoubon version…. But this time, for some reason, she’s taken two big breaks. Maybe she’s just decided it’s time for a proper holiday? I’m speculating though – maybe something will show up on her twitter…

      Like

  4. eers says:

    Hi, been lurking for a while gotta say love your analysis.

    Don’t you think that Chihaya not being able to play Karuta is also a symbolism for something. Seeing as how Karuta is the most important thing in her life and losing it just as she just lost Taichi feels like the crutches being kicked out from under her.

    Like you said Chihaya has to realise what Taichi means to her. I feel that she may “love” both Arata and Taichi. Romantic or otherwise she just has to realise what that means and what she wants to do with these 2 very important relationships in her life.

    I’m a Taichi shipper so forgive me but I feel that she idealises Arata like how a religious fanatic idealises God, but I feel she needs Taichi in her life. I dont know this is just me hoping i guess, Taichi is by far the most developed character and Arata in comparison seems to pale. Hopefully, when she tries to process her feelings for Taichi she will also take another look at her feelings for Arata.

    Like

    • eers says:

      also i know Suetsugu-sensei is probably going the easy way and going with Arata, but you know one can only hope.

      Liked by 1 person

    • karice says:

      Thanks for commenting, then! ^^

      Don’t you think that Chihaya not being able to play Karuta is also a symbolism for something. Seeing as how Karuta is the most important thing in her life and losing it just as she just lost Taichi feels like the crutches being kicked out from under her.

      Well…that’s a possible interpretation. I’d like to think that Suetsugu is being realistic as opposed to just symbolic though — to me, the symbolism has always been encapsulated in the poems rather than in anything else.

      Proceeding along these lines (the poems = the symbolism), for Chihaya, Arata is the one who’s really associated with her “chiha” card, with the “chihayaburu” force. At this point, I don’t really see this changing…especially considering how we’ve seen matches between Chihaya and Taichi, and between Taichi and Arata, but are still waiting on the match between Chihaya and Arata. Of course, perhaps that’ll be the match where Chihaya really works out how she feels about her two friends… But, to be honest, I feel that this arc we’re currently in is about her working it out, and it seems pretty clear to me where her heart lies…

      Liked by 1 person

      • I was also thinking about the matchi between Chihaya and Arata. Maybe it will be upcoming in the next highschool tournaments’cause this is probably the next chance for them to see eachother) and this is maybe where Arata will help Chihaya out of her depression over Taichi’s departure?…………as a Taichi shipper i sort of apprehend this. During this match Chihaya will probably make up her mind, even if it already seems evident to us readers where she is looking.

        I thought that if their ‘match’ will be on hand in not too long a time, i was wondering where Taichi’s apprenticeship with Suou Meijin would lead him……(because it is evident that Suou is going to take him under his wing, i guess) Seeing the time line until the East west qualifiers and next Meijin/Queen matches…….will Taichi still strive to become Meijin? Is this his ultimate ‘not running away’? Did Taichi already wholeheartedly give up on Chihaya? I would be a bit surprised at that………gosh, does he really have no chance with her…… ;;

        Will 8 months be enough to get them all on Suou’s level? He seems to be unbeatable…….

        wow sorry for my babbeling, i’m just speculating where this all will lead….

        Like

      • karice says:

        Maybe it will be upcoming in the next highschool tournaments’cause this is probably the next chance for them to see eachother) and this is maybe where Arata will help Chihaya out of her depression over Taichi’s departure?

        Whilst I’m not sure whether I want to see their long-awaited match in this upcoming tournament (to be honest, I’d probably prefer it to be the last thing we see in this story), what I really don’t want to see is “Arata helping Chihaya out of her depression over Taichi’s departure.” I don’t think that’s fair to either of the boys. This is something that Chihaya needs to work out, preferably with input from the people around Taichi. I just don’t think that Arata knows the situation well enough.

        Did Taichi already wholeheartedly give up on Chihaya? I would be a bit surprised at that………gosh, does he really have no chance with her…… ;;

        Well…I could be wrong, but as I wrote in some of my previous posts, I honestly think that Taichi strongly believed that he had no chance with her, and that the main thing he was seeking from Chihaya with this confession was acknowledgement and validation of his feelings and everything that has been born out of them (his efforts in helping her create the strongest HS karuta club in Japan)…

        Will 8 months be enough to get them all on Suou’s level? He seems to be unbeatable……

        Personally, I think there’s a good chance that the next Meijin will be Taichi, not Arata…

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Lu says:

    I really do hope and I’ll pray that may your thoughts for Taichi becoming the next Meijin will come true…
    And, you’ve stated that its already pretty clear to you where Chihaya’s heart lies… Could it be Taichi? I wish he is.

    Like

    • karice says:

      (Thanks for dropping by and commenting!)

      Well, Suou seems to be more interested in Taichi than in Arata…if that counts for anything.

      As for where Chihaya’s heart lies…you can figure out what I think from my posts, right…?

      Like

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  8. kaye says:

    “What Chihaya needs for her future…
    I’m glad Suetsugu has brought up something that I pointed out elsewhere several months ago: if she really wants to become a teacher, Chihaya must think about more than karuta. Her passion for the game has only brought Mizusawa stellar results so far because of everyone else that has been backing her up, especially Taichi – though the others have all played their part. But a teacher has to play all of these parts by him or herself! S/he has to inspire, but also motivate, and this requires that s/he be observant and understanding. S/he has to know instinctively how to react so as to accommodate even the most surprising discoveries, without making the student feel as if their issue is just being washed under the bridge, or worse, as if it’s something that’s invalid, an issue that should not exist. To me, Chihaya’s reaction to Taichi’s confession – where she acted as if she wanted it to be a lie – highlights how she lacks this incredibly important skill. Whilst it may not matter as much if she wants to work at a desk job, I challenge anyone to argue that she doesn’t need it as a teacher.”

    right to the point.. you are right.. she’s only thinking about caruta but she’s not thinking on how she could actually do it and what lies ahead and what’s involved, especially in becoming a teacher.
    really like your insights… enjoying reading every piece of it no matter how long it is… 🙂

    Like

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