Kino no Tabi 03 Sometimes Travelers Turn into Poets

kino no tabi 03 quick draw training

On the last night of the world, Kino will still be practicing her gunplay.

I wonder if the narrative we’re seeing is a memoir written by either Kino herself, or by Hermes. I don’t see them bringing any writing implements, so perhaps they have some fantasy way of documenting their adventures. If not… well, there’s a layer of beauty exactly, precisely at this point.

Kino as a traveler immerses herself in a journey of quantity. She limits her stops to three days per destination. For one she feels that staying any longer risks her having a desire to settle down, but for the purposes of a traveler three days is enough to learn the most important things about a locality if she fully applies herself to the task.

“The world is not beautiful, therefore it is so.”

I take this as a thought expressed in the mind of Kino herself. This implies a kind of thinking that values contrasts. The binary of two opposites gives meaning to each other. Beauty exists because ugliness does too. They define each other. In the previous episodes I have seen strangeness and darkness, but to contrast with it are Kino’s person, her actions, in the context of her surroundings and circumstances.

It is indeed beautiful in a melancholic way, which is, if I think about it, very much the truth of our existence.

But this isn’t the poetry I speak of, if anything it is only the stuff that gives Kino her words. She would claim to be one herself.

A whale’s sigh

The dreaming shooting star

It felt like that’s what they were singing.

While everything out there is changing,

the sound of these insects chirping echoes up to the sky.

That’s what I’m listening to right now.

That’s the only thing that’s for certain.

“What’s wrong, Kino?” asks the motorcycle. “Sometimes, travelers turn into poets, Hermes.”

If Kino never documented anything, and never published this… is there truth to her claim? If it is indeed so, then I am a poet too, though I haven’t been published for almost a decade. It says something about the requirement to have a society to validate our words so as to give us being.

But until that time when we all agree that Kino (or Michael Rubio) is a poet, what are they? The word amateur is inadequate. I know quite a few poets, but their profession – the work that enables their lifestyle and subsistence is teaching, being professors. What I am only certain of, is that Kino (and myself) would at a time like this tell the world (or a friend, or an invisible imaginary audience) what she perceives  and how she feels.

In the choice of words and the focused gaze, Kino is being a poet. It is a matter of being, and the world’s concern is a matter of becoming. Will she ever become a poet? I can’t tell, and she may never do so. It is not a beautiful world, therefore it is beautiful.

And now, and for most of her days, Kino is a traveler.

kino no tabi 03 overnight to the end of the world

She visits a land where the religious experts predict that the world will end on the morrow. Kino takes advantage of this by shopping from keepers who saw how charging for goods is meaningless in the face of the apocalypse. The sun rises, the world doesn’t end, and the religious leaders merely re-set the countdown 30 years hence.

Similar to how the people in the city where the tower fell, those waiting for the end of the world didn’t know what to do with themselves without that truth that the world is ending soon. The resetting of the apocalypse countdown seemed exactly what they needed to pursue their lives dedicated to mourning.

If I may be so bold as to imagine Kino’s poetic thought, she’d say something like “The end of things give more meaning to what things that are, and how things should be.”


She then travels to a land where she was treated like the most important visitor possible, and was the guest of honor for a cat-ear’s festival. When she declined to do the dance for personal reasons, the air from the festivities deflated.

She then learns that the land, after the people overthrew the king, disposed of all the traditions and sought forth to manufacture something from scratch. The reactions of the visitors determine the success, and every attempt has been a failure in the eyes of the citizens.

The descendant of the banished King is a scholar of the traditions of the land, and correctly describes the authentic tradition of the land is that of inventing inauthentic traditions.


Kino should say “Capturing people’s hearts with absolute fiction, is a fiction of fictitious people/ But they have captured my imagination anyway/”

The next land, Kino is introduced to it via a poem, and she contemplates it while on a gondola:

Inside the closed in walls of the July that has come and gone,

the words were broken down in a past without tears…

The gondolier explains that it is the custom of this land to pass down its sadness onto the succeeding generations.

The source is the legend of the happiest poet in the world, who was forced by the King to write a sorrowful poem. Incapable of writing something he didn’t know, his wife kills herself. The poet then recites an incredibly sorrowful poem that drives the kind mad and dead, and he doesn’t stop reciting it until he dies ten years after.


After which, his 14-year old daughter recites the poem for the next ten years, until the land starts choosing a 14-year old girl to recite the poem to keep the tradition. Kino learns that a recorded version of this poem is wholly the Book of Prophecy that the other city used to predict the end of the world.

Kino should say, “Foolish man, who doesn’t see the sorrow in his own impotence./ Foolishness and poetry both have stardust in their bones.”

It doesn’t end here, Kino no Tabi goes for some irony overkill at the end of this episode. For this I’ll leave Kino to ask the stars.

About ghostlightning

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27 Responses to Kino no Tabi 03 Sometimes Travelers Turn into Poets

  1. gwern says:

    Your post reminded me of things I haven’t thought of for years.

    Have you ever read Italo Calvino’s Invisible Cities?

    I remember all of a sudden that when I watched that episode with the cat festival, I was struck by the thought that such a city merited inclusion.

  2. vucubcaquix says:

    I always imagined that the little missives that would sometimes be written on the screen during a few episodes were thoughts and musings written by Kino herself.

  3. Panther says:

    Rather than the poetic part of it, this episode, to me, showed us more the result of interpretations by many different people of the same single item. Though it may touch on rather dangerous ground, it does apply to the interpretations of the Bible (which resulted in the Holy Crusade) and also the more recent interpretations of the Quran by extremists in that sector.

    Something that is passed down as a mere tradition to remind a town of its sadness becomes misinterpreted as a prophecy of doom in two various ways by two other towns. People could start learning that sometimes, they should just take things as they are and not read too much into them.

    • vucubcaquix says:

      One of the ultimate ironies presented by this show then is that since Kino has self imposed limitations when it comes to interventions and interfering with cultures, is that if/when she should come upon that realization, she won’t/can’t do anything about it. It could even be extrapolated to society at large that has the power to examine itself or others critically, but either doesn’t have the ability or the will to do anything to correct.

      It might not even be able to agree with itself on whether anything even needs correcting.

      This show really packs on the melancholy sometimes the more you look at it.

      • Well, there’s an easy inevitability that the show wields to make a point. I think this is the source of the melancholy you feel. It will really depend on how much you find yourself caring for the characters Kino meets.

    • Yeah I know of those towns.

      Reading too much — is almost always informed by some political motivation. By political I mean the control over a polity (a group of individuals). The “truth” is interpreted as instruction and leveraged against the individuals. The interpreters have the political authority. It’s a cushy deal for them, yes?

  4. bonehimer says:

    This show keeps blindsiding. In the last episode I figured it was a pretty straight forward story with a moral until the last minutes of course. And in this episode I figured this were non connected short stories but then they all come together in some way.

    • I actually want to see more such connections, because geographically these countries can’t be that far apart to warrant such extreme cultural and economic insularity.

      • gwern says:

        I think it’s possible (although never likely). Many countries have had great variation in government and culture from city-state to city-state – Italy and Greece come to mind as heavily atomized and highly contrasting regions (Athens v Sparta v Thebes, for example).

  5. Marigold Ran says:

    Every shadow just behind me,
    Shrouding every step I take,
    Making every promise empty,
    Pointing every finger at me.

    Waiting like the stalking butler
    Whom upon the finger rests
    Murder now the path called “must we”
    Just because the Son has come

    Jesus, won’t you fucking whistle
    Something but what’s past and done?
    Jesus, won’t you fucking whistle
    Something but what’s past and done?

    Why can’t we not be sober?
    I just want to start this over
    Why can’t we drink forever?
    I just want to start this over

    (Tool- Sober)

  6. Marigold Ran says:

    I.e. Kino’s Journey is a good show, but it’s lacking in the rage department.

  7. Marigold Ran says:

    Rage is memorable.

    For people with alexithymia, emotional memories fade like mist and snow.

  8. Marigold Ran says:

    I read the link. It supports my self-diagnosis. There’s a lot of things that he says that applies to me as well.

    However, he makes a common mistake: alexithymanics do feel emotion. In fact, I’m pretty confident they have the full emotional spectrum. However, unlike other people, who are capable of cognitively describing their complicated sets of emotions, alexithymanics cannot. They can only describe the basic emotions like happiness or rage. They feel things like everyone else, but most of the time they have no idea what it is they’re feeling. That’s the reason why he says he feels no emotions, when he does. It’s more like he doesn’t remember them.

    Personalities are developed through emotional memories. A person’s first date, first car, graduation ceremony, girlfriend, job, and wife and other such events establish his or her personality because of its lasting emotional significance. But an alexithymanic cannot understand and thus cannot remember the “emotional” parts of the “emotional memories.” Therefore, even though they have the memories of these events, they derive very few emotional meanings from it.

    They, in fact, do not remember “love.” “Rage” is more memorable- but only somewhat. It sounds awful, but that’s only because people like to attach emotional values to emotions like “love,” “rage,” etc.. For some mysterious reason, people believe that love is “good,” somehow, and “rage” is “bad,” somehow. But for an alexithymanic, an emotion, any emotion, is just an emotion- fun for the time being- but with limited significance.

  9. Marigold Ran says:

    The link is sufficiently interesting that I’m going to go ahead and map out the logical corollaries of this mindset. It’s not a “condition” per se because I don’t believe it’s severe enough to be so. Unlike autistic people, or people with more severe differences, we are in fact extremely functional. In many ways, alexithymanics are just like anyone else, with one essential difference: we have great difficulty recognizing our own emotions. Therefore, our emotional memory is poor. If we accept this assumption, the rest should follow almost mathematically. To wit:

    1. The author writes in the link above: “In most cases, I feel a void or, BEST CASE [emphasis mine], NOTHING AT ALL. It can be bothersome, but it comes with its benefits. ”

    My explanation: people have emotions. As they grow older, their emotions become more complicated and varied. During this growth, they find methods to handle their complicated emotions. However, in order to find effective methods, a person must first understand what these emotion are. For the most part, alexisthymiacs do not understand what these complicated emotions are. Therefore, their methods for handling complicated emotions are scatter-shot. Therefore, as they grow older, they try to avoid complicated emotions, because it gives them the willies. Therefore, for them, the best state of being is to “feel a void.” Complicated emotions like guilt, regret, ambivalence, and even love, etc.., are negative things that hamper their effectiveness and can in fact drive them quite batty at times.

    Example 1: Alex comes home upset. However, he doesn’t know why he’s upset. In fact, he doesn’t even understand that he is, in fact, upset. But he does notice that he can’t seem to concentrate on writing an essay for school tomorrow. So he does what he’s found to be effective: he goes on youtube and listens to nihilistic metal rock to simplify the emotions. Once the complicated feeling is gone, he can work again.

    2. The author writes in the link above: “It can be bothersome, but it comes with its benefits. I have no fear, no hesitation, and can act without feeling regret.”

    The second sentence of this statement is not true. They do feel fear, hesitation, and regret. It’s just that they don’t realize these emotions are fear, hesitation, and regret, and so they have no memory of it, and thus they say things like, “I have no fear, hesitation, or regret.” Analogously, it’s like an amnesiac saying, “I have no name.”

    However, the first sentence of the quote above, “it can be bothersome but it comes with benefits,” is a very true sentence that I personally have much experience with. In order to value something, a person must feel an emotional attachment to that belief or object. For example, imagine you are a good modern-day Baptist: ergo, you feel a strong emotional attachment to God and its associated set of values. Therefore, God is good and devilish things like Marilyn Manson is bad. In other words, after listening to his music, you, as a good Baptist, would say Manson is evil, satanic, etc. etc..

    But an alexisthymiac would never act this way for an extended period of time (they might, however, act this way for a brief period of time because of a burst of fanaticism, but it quickly fades over time). They can’t remember their own emotions, and so they have no strong emotional attachments. And so, to them, everything has “advantages and disadvantages,” which on a cognitive level, is true. For example, Marilyn Manson is advantageous, because his music is good. However, some of his messages may not be conducive for a successful life, thus it is disadvantageous. Etc. etc. By default, most alexisthymiacs are agnostics. Both Christianity and atheism require too much emotional effort.

    This trait, however, has one major advantage: since alexisthymiacs feel limited emotional attachment to beliefs, they can contemplate things that other people simply cannot contemplate because of conditioned emotional/psychological barriers. In this sense, they’re more imaginative.

    3. It takes longer for alexisthymiacs to learn emotional lessons than “average” people.

    Example: Alex stays up late at night. The next day at work, life sucks, because he didn’t get a good night’s sleep. When he gets back home, he stays up late again, because he’s forgotten how much it sucks to not get a good night’s sleep…. Etc.

    “Suck” is an emotion. If a person can’t remember the feeling of “suckage”, the lesson of “the suckage” won’t be learned.

    However, this trait has advantages too: by default, alexisthymiacs are more emotionally resilient. If you can’t remember the feeling of punishment, then you can survive more of it. However, like everyone else, alexisthymiacs do burn out. It’s just that many of them don’t realize they’ve burned out until several months after they’ve burned out.

    4. “I spent a great deal of my life learning about different types of personalities, how people behave and psychology in general to get an understanding of how people are. Now near 30, I can use this information fairly easily and have become a good actor, as I can interact with people and make them feel like they have a connection. I have many personalities that I switch between depending on the situation so that I can appear to fit in.”

    If everything has no or limited LONG-TERM (emphasis: long-term) emotional significance, then emotions and personalities become like a suit of clothing that a person would wear every once in a while. For example, an alexisthymiac might be malicious one day, and nice the next day, because he feels like it, for no particular reason that he can state (there probably is a reason for it- it’s just that most of the time they don’t know what it is). Emotions like “love,” and “malice,” are, to them, “fun” or “curious.” They’re always actors because they don’t trust or believe in their own emotions. And rightfully so, because they have trouble remembering their own emotions from one day to the next.

    As a result, they favor logical approaches. They prize efficiency, with limited fuss and emotion. “Everyone says that living a good life is a good thing. I like good things. Therefore, I will find the optimal way to live my life,” is the motto of successful alexithymiacs, of which there are many. They may have trouble with finding personal attachments, but they can be very capable at their jobs. The intelligent ones are natural engineers/doctors/professors.

    I might post more later, if I feel like it, but that’s it for now. Hopefully it wasn’t too long.

    • I learned a LOT. Thanks.

      It got me thinking about the implications on my linguistics-based philosophy. Particularly the thought that knowledge doesn’t exist if it isn’t articulated.

      I may possess the data for something, but without a means to call it something, it doesn’t exist as knowledge. If I attempt to talk about it, I really won’t know what I am talking about.

      However, the condition you describe tells me how the afflicted (is this a fair word to use?) does possess the emotions but fails to identify them despite the possession of a vocabulary for them.

      It’s difficult for me to imagine this. Is it like myself learning a set of Psychology jargon but possessing no mastery over them because I cannot associate them with actual behavior or phenomena?

      • gwern says:

        Heh. You sound like a young Wittgenstein.

        > Particularly the thought that knowledge doesn’t exist if it isn’t articulated.

        I would point out that psychology is full of examples of deviant mentalities where information is possessed but not articulable. Split-brain patients, blind sight, amnesiacs, Cotard’s syndrome…

        • A full decade removed from grad school, I’m afraid my command of philosophy is no longer anywhere as sharp as it used to be so I can’t validate how much of what I think is Wittegensteinian epistemology or Derrida’s confusing post-structuralism. However, I do feel that I have a more intimate experience of some of my thoughts having seen them play out in my life as often as I have (not to to suggest there’s some science to how I tested these hypotheses so to speak).

          Furthermore, I’ve only had 6 units total of psychology in undergrad so I am wholly unfamiliar with the examples you gave.

          That said, a human being that has information in her memory but unable to articulate it in a meaningful or personally useful way is not a knowledgeable person about the subject the information is relevant to. She is like a memory card or hard drive, but not a software program or a computer. Does my analogy make sense?

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