Translation: Suetsugu Yuki on Chihayafuru for Da Vinci, Feb 2011

Here’s the second Chihayafuru interview that I’ve collected. It was published just after the release of the 11th volume of the manga, just as Chihaya and co. were embarking on their second national tournament.

Disclaimer: As always, this translation—including any mistakes or misinterpretations—is entirely my own. If you spot any issues, I’d be incredibly grateful if you drop me a note so that I can address them. Feel free to link to and quote from it if you wish, but please do not copy and paste large portions of it on any other site. And without further ado, I do hope you enjoy it.


image from Da Vinci website

This long interview was published in the February 2011 edition of Da Vinci, in a special called “The 100 poems that sing their love to you.”

Edited by Abe Hanae.

Suetsugu Yuki hails from Fukuoka Prefecture. In 1992, she debuted with “Sunny Romance” in the manga magazine Nakayoshi. In 2007, her manga about competitive karuta began in the magazine BE LOVE. It took first place in the second Manga Taisho competition (2009) as well as the women’s category of Takarajimasha’s “This manga is amazing!” in 2010.

A thousand year old connection in a breath of poetry

The world of Chihayafuru, through the lens of song

Q: Chihayafuru, a manga that plunges right into the little known world of competitive karuta, has overcome the limits of shojo-manga to become a big hit. Besides depicting competitive karuta, which is described within the work itself as “mixed martial arts* on tatami,” it also conveys the charm of Japanese poetry. The Ogura 100 poems have been held close to people’s hearts for so many years, through karuta, and as part of the canon of Japanese poetry. What reasons do you think are behind this?

Of course, the poems themselves are brilliant, but I’d say that the originality of it as a pastime is the biggest draw. Also, the fact that we memorise these poems before we actually study their meaning means that it permeates us, and becomes the foundation of our sense of the Japanese language.

* Literally, “a combat sport.” I’m just trying to go for a slightly modern variant of karate/judo etc. -karice

Q: In the manga, in conjunction with the feelings and situations that the characters face, you turn the spotlight on poems that deal with a whole range of emotions, including (romantic) love. May I ask, which of the 100 poems is your favourite?

My favourite in terms of meaning is “When compared to / the feelings in my heart / after we’d met and loved, / I realize that in the past / I had no cares at all” (Poem 43, translation by Moscow). Having been ignorant, once you know of it, you feel like all the cells in your body have been reborn. I think that everyone will undergo that experience several times in their lives, but there are few poems that express this feeling in words.

Incidentally, this poem (#43) featured in chapter 120 (volume 23)…

Q: You could say that the most recent published volume, no.11, has a phrase that conveys perfectly the charm of Japanese poetry: “No matter your age, sex, physique, intelligence or strength, one breath of poetry takes you back a thousand years.”

That was a thought that slowly crystallised within me as I attended numerous tournaments and spoke with a myriad of players. It felt so marvellous to see such a breadth of people taking part in this sport, and it made me want to tell the world about the wonder of competitive karuta.

Q: The marvel of it, the surprises, and all of those other human emotions. I’d imagine that the impetus to share the whirlpool of emotions in your heart is a feeling that’s common to all creative works. However, just that impetus alone is not enough to convey those emotions. In volume 9, there’s a line that says “‘that which you communicate’ and ‘that which is communicated’ takes place only through the rules.” Is that something that you personally experience everyday, and not only when you’re working on your manga?

Very much so. It seems to be communicated but you just can’t get it across. No matter how great the feelings behind it, the wheels just keep spinning in the air… “How do I express it such that it reaches someone’s heart?” That’s a challenge that I think we will continue to face for as long as we live. Even with the karuta scenes in the manga, I always try to make it obvious what the characters are doing. However, there are many nuanced plays, so it’s really difficult to depict them. I’m still working on it.

‘Araburu’ is like an unbalanced top that is spinning all over the place. ‘Chihayaburu’ is a balanced one that concentrates all its power in its spin.

Q: In volume 11, a deeper meaning of the title of Chihayafuru is revealed for the first time. Was there a reason you gave this manga a title connected to the “Impassioned gods” poem, which is also part of the Ogura anthology?

“Chihayafuru (Chihayaburu)” is a pillow word that’s difficult to understand, and that’s precisely why it left such a deep impression on me, such that I added it to the shelf of mysterious words in my brain. So when I came to write a manga about the 100 poems, I did not hesitate in choosing this poem for the title. But I don’t think that was a mistake. This is a manga about Chihaya learning about and coming to express the true meaning of the “strong, powerful force” that “Chihayafuru” speaks of.

Q: The Chihayafuru manga, running in Kodansha’s BE LOVE manga magazine, now raises the curtain on the second national tournament for Chihaya and her friends. Our expectations for what’s to come are growing ever higher.

There are so many things that I hope to cover in this second national tournament that I’m worried about whether I can finish this story in a reasonable number of volumes, so that it does not place too much stress on those of you reading it. Nevertheless, I want to depict the severe contests in the team tournament, as well as the surprisingly passionate matches in the individual one. I want to depict as many variations of “strength” as I can.

About karice
MAG fan, translator, and localization project manager. I also love musicals, travel and figure skating!

One Response to Translation: Suetsugu Yuki on Chihayafuru for Da Vinci, Feb 2011

  1. Pingback: For the record: かるたしよっさ | HOT CHOCOLATE IN A BOWL

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