Haruki Fukashima: one man, or many?
The self-evident aphorisms of Haruki Fukashima have failed to increase in popularity in recent years, which is part of his appeal, among a small but diminishing number of fans. But who exactly was this little known man of seldom quoted words? To this day, his true identity remains a mystery. A few likely candidates stand out, but then again, Fukashima might not have been any of them…or perhaps he was all, and more?
“Today I have not seen paradise” (Hoy no he visto el paraiso) - Fukashima
In a complex world in which profound advice is loudly applauded, Haruki Fukashima had nothing but the obvious to say.
In introspective moments, when we yearn for deep insights, Fukashima touches only the surface. His resistance to penning informative narratives leaves his readers none the wiser. His failure to impress is noteworthy. He achieved no widespread recognition, and his words are seldom quoted. All this confirms a glowing lack of brilliance. It's comforting to look to the ordinary and the plain in our sensational, hyped-up world. And so Fukashima comes to us as a tranquil breeze, quieting the raucous cries of the geniuses on every street.
“Fortunately, I have nothing interesting to say, or I'd be up all night.” - Fukashima
A Common Man
In recent times, scholars have suggested Haruki Fukashima may be an oral tradition rather than a singular person. This school of thought asserts Haruki Fukashima aphorisms are simply sayings that coalesced under his name. It is argued that embarrassed by what they had just said, the original narrators of these aphorisms endeavoured to disowned their words by passing them off as those of Fukashima.
Yet undoubtedly individual men have lived, breathed and spoken as the man we know as Haruki Fukashima.
As a living, breathing being, Fukashima was appauled by the suggestion that he was nothing more than a folk tradition. Afterall, his aphorisms are ground in physicality rather than abstract ideas and thoughts. He often said he was a common man of blood, bones and flesh, with nothing significant to say. He added that to suggest otherwise was intellectual tomfoolery of the worst order, and for that, he had no patience.
Shinto devotees claim Fukashma is immortal. Buddhists say he reincarnates. Fukashima himself rejected metaphysics.
“There is nothing beyond what is, yet that doesn't stop people searching." - Fukashima
A Boy (or girl) with a Tea Pot.
In 1543, a Portuguese ship en route to China was blown off-course. It beached on the southern-most tip of the Japanese island of Kyushu.
The Commander and Crew of this wayward vessel spent some months living under the protectorate of Kyushu Warlords. A cultural exchange took place-creating a fertile environment for new ideas. The Japanese military leaders were fascinated by the European's muskets. At the same time, the Portuguese were thrilled to learn the board game, Shogi. This two-player game of strategy, intelligence and wit, was known in Japan as, The Game of Generals.
It was observed by a tea-boy doing his rounds that, "A man with a Musket wins at Shogi no matter the moves on the board."
This simple observation made it's way to the Imperial Court in Tokyo. Caligraphers entered it in a codex dated 1543.
For some time after that, whenever in a spot of bother, Emperors would ask, "Well, what would Haruki Fukashima say?"
Interest in the sayings of Fukashima reached a zenith in seventeen century Japan. After that, his name became something of an embarrassment in the conservative nation, for evidence emerged suggesting Fukashima was not a boy at all, but a young woman in disguise. To this day, few people in Japan acknowledge Fukashima, preferring to shrug and fane ignorance whenever his, or her, name is mentioned.
“To be forgotten, that is my only ambition." - Fukashima
The Lunatic of the Lexicon
In the late 1800s, Willam Chester Minor resurrected public disinterest in Fukashima. That is to say, the aphorisms of Fukashima were all but unknown to the world at that time, and Chester Minor did nothing to promote them. He did, however, amass a vast private collection of Fukashima quotations. It filled all the shelf-space on the four walls of his asylum cell, from floor to ceiling.
While working on the first edition of the Oxford Dictionary, Chester Minor was drawn to speculate on the true origins of his Fukashima collection.
After mulling it over one day over eggs and toast, Chester Minor concluded that the Chinese monk, Jōshū Jūshin, was the likely source.
Jōshū said nothing but the obvious. Chester Minor thought this so closely resembled the style of Fukashima that the two men must have been one and the same.
Chester Minor was convinced Haruki Fukashima was the orgional pen-name of Jōshū Jūshin. However, this claim is controversial and challenging to prove.
Sceptics say Chester Minor simply made up many of the quotations that he attributed to Fukashima, and then reattributed to Jōshū.
“There are a lot of superfluous words in a dictionary." - Fukashima
Jōshū Jūshin was born in 778. He is said to be one of the greatest Zen masters of ancient China, although he would have found this accolade absurd.
It is claimed his saying were so illuminating that his lips emitted light. At first, this suggestion of illumination seems a poor fit with the dim aura of Fukashima. However, one must understand that the notion of illumination was nonsensical to Jōshū Jūshin, and Fukashima alike. "To illuminate is to dazzle with misunderstandings," Fukashima once said.
Jōshū often quoted Lao-Tzu, the great Taoist teacher of ancient China. In turn, Lao-Tzu likely cited many of the sayings that he'd been taught. Requoting and adapting older idioms is universal to mankind. Through this mechanism, Fukashima is said to have managed to write aphorisms both before and after his passing.
At the age of sixty, Jōshū filled his water bottle, gathered his walking stick, and set off. After twenty years of wandering, at the age of eighty, Jōshū settled down in the village of Jo.
During this final period of his life the sayings of Jōshū were recorded.
Jōshū, however, maintained that he had little to say, and nothing to teach. When Jōshū was asked, what is the meaning of Life, he shrugged and said, "I am just an onlooker."
Jōshū had no faith in abstract concepts such as the Way, the Truth, the Buddha, or even Enlightenment.
He considered the quest for meaning to be misguided. He thought people have a foolish tendency to look for answers when no answers exist. He believed things are simply as they are for no discernible reason.
In the preface to, Radical Zen, the Sayings of Joshu, Youl Hoffman writes, "His way is so extremely simple and so absolutely clear that we find it hard to understand… he says what he says for no particular reason. There is thus no particular need to understand… Jōshū's message is that there is no message: that the world with all its various things is neither 'good' nor 'bad,' neither 'holy' nor 'unholy', it is nothing beyond itself."
Jōshū's failure to provide satisfying answers to the painful questions in Life leaves many of his readers cold.
Humans are an insecure animal. Unsure of our place in the universe, we strive to decipher our fate in the flickering of stars. Jōshū would have none of that. His aversion to metaphysics and spiritualism makes him a possible source for many of the early aphorisms attributed to Fukashima.
“My originality is based on repeating what others have said." - Fukashima
A Fool on a Donkey
Over the years, there have been many Haruki Fukashima impersonators, the best of them were always unaware of their mimicry.
When one sets out to deliberately write a Fukashima aphorism, when not Fukashima himself, they are of course set to fail.
Mulla Nasrudin was a foolish thirteenth-century Sufi from Turkey.
Although he never knew of Fukashima, it is said Nasrudin spent much of his life copying him. He did so with such precision that he is sometimes cited as actually being Fukashima! The absurdity of this is such that Sufi teachers say only complete ignoramous such as the Mulla could have pulled it off.
In all likelihood, Mulla Nasrudin was simply Mulla Nasrudin and nobody else. However, given this Sufi tradition, it would be disingenuous to make no mention of Nasrudin when speculating on the background of Haurki Fukashima.
Nasrudin was best know for his habit of riding backward on his donkey. Asked why he travelled backward, Nasrudin would deny that it, claiming that it was, in fact, his donkey who was the wrong way around.
Asked where he was going, Nasrudin would reply, "Don’t ask me, ask the donkey.”
When pressed on how many hooves had his donkey, Nasrudin would say, "That depends if she is standing still or trotting, for her hooves blur when she moves.” Adding that, "If I knew what two and two were, I would say four.”
As noted in, The Exploits of the Incomparable Mulla Nasrudin, the Mulla, once observed that, "The moon is more useful than the sun, because at night we need the light more.”
For this quote alone, Mulla Nasrudin is said to be a probable source of many Fukashima sayings.
“I have spent my entire life impersonating myself, although not all that convincingly." - Fukashima
El Caballero de París
Fukashima is said to have written far more aphorisms after his death than during his lifetime. That is to say, although Fukashima may no longer be with us, Fukashima quotations are still being discovered.
A fantastic treasure trove of Fukashima sayings emerged out of Cuba in the 1950s. Although he never admitted to being Fukashima, José María López Lledín is perhaps as good a candidate as anyone. This curious man handed out a great many Fukashima sayings on the streets of Havana. But does that make Lledín the real Fukashima, or a just a pretender? López claimed the latter, but it's still open for debate. To my mind, Lledín was the real deal.
José María López Lledín was a homeless vagabond who roamed the streets of Havana with a pen, paper and a briefcase full of magical treasures. He wrote dozens of Fukashima sayings every day. He gave them to strangers, he left them on doorsteps, he exchange them for bread and ciggaretts, he slipped them into the pockets in croweded cafes, and dropped them on the footpaths between trampleing feet.
Lledín was born in Europe, a second before midnight on December 30, 1899. According to one story, at the age of fourteen, Lledín washed ashore when the steamer he'd stowed away on sank off the Cuban coast. He was rumoured to be of blue blood, born into the French aristocracy. But he'd fleed Europe when wrongly accused of murder.
Another tail says it was, in fact, his wife and children who'd been shipwrecked on their journey to join him in Cuba. It is said Lledín went mad with sorrow. He took flowers to the docks for years following the tragedy, hoping every day for his sweetheart and children to arrive.
In the late twenties, Lledín was arrested and sent to prison at El Castillo del Principe in Havana. The nature of his crime, and for how long he was incarcerated, is unknown.
Lledín gained unsort notoriety on the streets of Havana during the fifties, when he started going about telling stories, handing out roses to ladies and giving away coloured pencils to children. He made greeting cards with Fukashima quotations inside, and he passed them out to strangers when they looked sad.
Dispite being impoverished, Lledín never complained and nor did he ask for money or beg. He did, however, graciously accepted alms when offered. In exchange, Lledín would write down his thoughts at that moment and gift them to his benefactor.
He insisted these thoughts were the forgotten sayings of Fukashima, but these words were likely his own. It is believed Lledín, did not use his own name for he was a shy and humble man who wanted no recognition. He simply wished to put a smile on a strangers face and then fade into the background.
A number of people thought Lledín was a philosopher. Others said he was a mystic. Many considered him a poet. Some called him the Heart of Havana, some called him The Price of Peace. Yet beyond all these titles, Lledín was universally referred to as, El Caballero de París (The Gentleman from Paris).
Lledín was admitted into the Havana Psychiatric Hospital in 1977. Doctors said he was suffering several multi-personailty disorders, but he insisted everyone of him was doing just fine. His collective personalites passed away on July 11, 1985, at the age of 86. Lledín clearly touched the hearts of Havana, which would seem a remarkable accomplishment for an insane vagabond. Despite wanting no accolades, Lledín was honoured with a statue that stands outside his final resting place. The bronze beard and fingers of his effigy are polished by passersby who rub agaist them for good luck. Fukashima fans place his quotations on the statue.
“None of my words are worth repeating, they don't count for anything. Likewise, none of my sufferings ought to be relived, for they too are inconsequential. It matters only that I was kind." - Fukashima
The Final Word.
A washed-up hobo limps down a garbage-filled street in the Bronx. He's thin and unkempt. His toes poke out from the front of his worn-out shoes. Sheltering from the rain in a bus stop, he takes a pen and paper from his jacket pocket. He writes a note and tapes it over the timetable.
It reads, "I have waited long enough, yet I know not what I'm waiting for - Fukashima."
Could this scruff be the elusive Haruki? Many Fukashima fans believe so, claiming he's risen once again. Others are unconvinced. They shrug their shoulders and say this aimlessly wandering bum who posts notes signed Fukashima is just Jim Carrey.
In the end, who is to say who anyone is? Or as Fukashima once said, "I am someone else to everyone, and mostly nobody at all."
Who we are to others is always something of a fiction, and Fukashima lived that observation to the full.
“At the end of the day, the day ends. So goodbye, and thank you." - the final words of Fukashima