Sans soleil

by which the Japanese wash off
one year to enter the next one.

A full month is just enough for them to fulfill
all the duties that courtesy owes to time,

the most interesting unquestionably being the acquisition
at the temple of Tenjin of the uso bird,

who according to one tradition eats all your lies of the year to come,
and according to another turns them into truths.

But what gives the street its color in January,
what makes it suddenly different is the appearance of kimono.

In the street, in stores, in offices, even at the stock exchange
on opening day, the girls take out their fur collared winter kimono.

At that moment of the year other Japanese
may well invent extra flat TV sets,

commit suicide with a chain saw,
or capture two thirds of the world market for semiconductors.

Good for them;
all you see are the girls.

The fifteenth of January is coming of age day:
an obligatory celebration in the life of a young Japanese woman.

The city governments distribute small bags
filled with gifts, datebooks, advice:

how to be a good citizen, a good mother, a good wife.
On that day every twenty-year-old girl
can phone her family for free, no matter where in Japan.

Flag, home, and country:
this is the anteroom of adulthood.

The world of the takenoko and of rock singers
speeds away like a rocket.

Speakers explain what society expects of them.
How long will it take to forget the secret?