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About this poet

Born in 1930 in Kita-Kyūshū City, Fukuoka, Japan, Tada Chimako spent most of her youth in Tokyo, during the tumultuous years of the second World War.

Tada attended college at Tokyo Women's Christian University where she studied French literature and formed friendships with other poets and intellectuals. Upon graduation, Tada enrolled in Keio Gijiku University to further her studies of literature.

In 1954, she became a member of Mitei, a magazine formed by poets and writers of the Japanese avant-garde. In 1956, she married Kato Nobuyuki, with whom she moved to Kobe, a quiet town in Western Japan, at the foot of Mt. Rokko. That year, her first book of poems, Hanabi was published. She continued to write on the outskirts of city life, in relative isolation.

Tada authored over 15 books of poetry in Japanese and was also a prominent translator of French literature, most notably of the poet Marguerite Yourcenar. Her Japanese translation of Yourcenar's Memoires d'Hadrien was published to critical acclaim. Tada's own work, which frequently referenced Greek, Latin, Chinese, and Japanese classical literature, concerned itself with the psychology of women in both mythology and the modern world. Her work took on several different poetic forms, including prose poetry, tanka, and haiku, demonstrating her fluidity with both classical and contemporary modes. She also published several books of essays on cultural theory, ancient thought, and mythology.

Tada was the recipient of several Japanese awards, including the Modern Poetry Women's Prize for her book, Hasu Kuibito, the Kobe Municipal Cultural Prize for her contributions to local culture, and the Hanatsubaki Prize for Modern Poetry for Kawa no hotori ni.

In the 1970s Tada taught French and European literary history at Kobe College. In 1986, she served as Poet-in-Residence at Oakland University in Michigan where she taught modern Japanese literature. In 1987, she was appointed as an instructor of French literature at Eichi University in Amagasaki where she also went on to teach religious studies in the University's graduate school up until two years before her death in 2003.

A Selected Bibliography

Poetry in Japanese

Hanabi (Fireworks). Tokyo: Shoshi Yuriika, 1956.
Tōgijo (The Gladiator’s Arena). Tokyo: Shoshi Yuriika, 1960.
Bara uchū (Universe of the Rose). Tokyo: Shōshinsha, 1964.
Kagami no machi arui wa me no mori (The Town of Mirrors, or Forest of Eyes). Tokyo: Shōshinsha, 1968.
Nise no nendai ki (A False Record of Ages). Tokyo: Yamanashi Shiruku Sentā, 1971.
Tada Chimako shishū (Poetry of Tada Chimako). Gendai shi bunko 50 (Modern Poetry Paperbacks 50). Tokyo: Shichōsha, 1972.
Shimendō (The Four-Faced Path). Tokyo: Shichōsha, 1975.
Suien: Tada Chimako kashū (A Spray of Water: Tanka by Tada Chimako). Kobe: Kōbe Bukkusu, 1975.
Hasu kuibito (Lotophagi). Tokyo: Shoshi Ringoya, 1980.
Kiryō (Spirit of the Season). Tokyo: Chūsekisha, 1983.
Hafuribi (Ceremonial Fire). Tokyo: Ozawa Shoten, 1986.
Teihon Tada Chimako shishū (The Authoritative Edition of the Poetry of Tada Chimako). Tokyo: Sunagoya Shobō, 1994.
Kawa no hotori ni (Along the Riverbank). Tokyo: Shoshi Yamada, 1998.
Nagai kawa no aru kuni (The Land of the Long River). Tokyo: Shoshi Yamada, 2000.
Kaze no katami (A Souvenir of Wind). Fukiage-chō, Saitama: Yūshin Bunko, 2003.
Fū o kiru to (Upon Breaking the Seal). Tokyo: Shoshi Yamada, 2004.
Yūsei no hito: Tada Chimako kashū (Person of the Playful Star: Tanka of Tada Chimako). Fukiage-chō, Saitama: Yūshin Bunko, 2005.

Poetry in English

Moonstone Woman: Selected Poems and Prose. Trans. Robert Brady, Odagawa Kazuko, and Kerstin Vidaeus. Rochester, MI: Katydid Books, 1990.
Forest of Eyes: Selected Poems of Tada Chimako. Trans. Jeffrey Angles. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2010.


Kagami no teōria (Theoria of Mirrors). Tokyo: Yamato Shobō, 1977. Revised edition, 1980, Tokyo: Chikuma Shobō, 1993.
Tamashii no katachi ni tsuite (On the Shape of the Soul). Tokyo: Hakusuisha, 1981.
Hana no shinwagaku (Studies in the Mythology of Flowers). Tokyo: Hakusuisha, 1984.
Kamigami no shimon (Fingerprints of the Gods). Tokyo: Chikuma Shobō, 1989. Reprinted Tokyo: Heibonsha, 1984.
Dōbutsu no uchūshi (A Record of the Universe of Animals). Tokyo: Seidosha, 2000.
Jiyūjizai kotoba mekuri (Punning with Characters and Words). Tokyo: Kawade Shobō Shinsha, 2000.
Jū-go-sai no tōgenkyō (The Peach Blossom Spring at Age Fifteen). Kyoto: Jinbun Shoin, 2000.
Inu-kakushi no niwa (The Garden that Spirited My Dog Away). Tokyo: Heibonsha, 2002.


Hadorianusu tei no kaisō (Mémoires d’Hadrien) by Marguerite Yourcenar. Tokyo: Hakusuisha, 1964.
San-Jon Perusu shishū (Poésies de Saint-John Perse) by Saint-John Perse. Tokyo: Shichōsha, 1967.
Revi-Sutorōsu to no taiwa (Entretiens avec Claude Lévi-Strauss) by Georges Charbonnier. Tokyo: Misuzu Shobō, 1970.
Hariogabarusu: Mata wa taikan seru anākisuto (Héliogabale, ou, L’anarchiste couronné) by Antonin Artaud. Tokyo: Hakusuisha, 1977.
Tōhō kitan (Nouvelles orientales) by Marguerite Yourcenar. Tokyo: Hakusuisha, 1980.
Raion (Le lion) by Joseph Kessel. Tokyo: Nihon Buritanika, 1981.
Hi (Feux) by Marguerite Yourcenar. Tokyo: Hakusuisha, 1983.
Tsumibito (Le malfaiteur) by Julien Green. Co-translated with Inoue Saburō. Kyoto: Jinbun Shoin, 1983.
Piranēji no kuoi nōzui (Le cerveau noir de Piranese) by Marguerite Yourcenar. Tokyo: Hakusuisha, 1985.


The mirror is always slightly taller than I
It laughs a moment after I laugh
Turning red as a boiled crab
I cut myself from the mirror with shears


When my lips draw close, the mirror clouds over
And I vanish behind my own sighs
Like an aristocrat hiding behind his crest
Or a gangster behind his tattoos


Oh traveler, go to Lacedaemon and say that in the mirror,
Graveyard of smiles, there is a single gravestone
Painted white, thick with makeup
Where the wind blows alone

From Forest of Eyes: Selected Poems by Tada Chimako, published by University of California. Copyright © 2011 by Tada Chimako. Used by permission of the publisher. All rights reserved.

From Forest of Eyes: Selected Poems by Tada Chimako, published by University of California. Copyright © 2011 by Tada Chimako. Used by permission of the publisher. All rights reserved.

Tada Chimako

Tada Chimako

Born in 1930 in Kita-Kyūshū City, Fukuoka, Japan, Tada Chimako spent most of her youth in Tokyo, during the tumultuous years of the second World War

by this poet

Facing the mirror, I put on my face
Apply a thin layer of makeup
But not like usual this time, not like each night
Tonight, I become an adolescent boy!

A fifteen-year-old boy's shirt and blazer
A fifteen-year-old boy's slacks
Strangely enough, they fit me well
I become a boy just before his beard comes in


Person of the Playful Star: Tanka [there is a hole at]

there is a hole at
the end of night
a secret
surrounded by red
road construction lamps

the round spoon
with the curvature
of a concave mirror
scoops out my eye
and swallows it