My translation of a 1926 short story by the proletarian literature author Kuroshima Denji (1898-1943) has just appeared online at The Asia Pacific Journal: Japan Focus.
The Two-Sen Copper Coin
It was when spinning tops were all the rage. Tōji dug up an old top his older brother Kenkichi had used and gripped the three-centimeter nail pounded in to form its stem between his left and right palms to make it spin. His hands were still not very strong, so the top only stayed spinning for a little while before it toppled over. Since early childhood, Kenkichi had been the sort to get obsessed over things. He had polished the top and replaced the slender, wire-like stem it came with using the three-centimeter nail. It spun better that way, so it was a strong competitor in top battles. It was already some twelve or thirteen years since he had used it, but the top was still sturdy, shiny black, and it was heavy, as if it were made of good hard wood. It was well oiled and coated with wax. The quality of its wood and everything else were completely different from the sort they sell in stores nowadays.
The top was so heavy that Tōji had trouble making it spin. He spent half a day trying to make it spin on the floorboard of the doorframe without any success.
“Ma, buy me a top string,” he begged his mother.
“Ask Pa if it’s okay to buy one.”
“He said it’s fine.”
His mother was the sort to make a fuss about everything. In part, this was due to their strained household budget. Even after it was decided that they would buy it, she made a point of first looking through the storage room, to make sure that they didn’t have an old string used by Kenkichi.
Read more here.