Desk Chronicle

By Kaoru Sakasaki - Translated by Toshiya Kamei

sfgenreYeah, it’s been a while since somebody last showed interest in this line of work.

How far should I go back? When my old man was a young boy, folks argued over the old and new Japanese Industrial Standards. In a nutshell, it’s about tabletop measurements. With the new standards, the width and the depth of tabletops were a couple of inches longer. Of course, you could place your notebook and textbook more easily on a larger desk. But you couldn’t change the classroom size. Do you know when they came up with the old standards? In the Meiji era. Did you know that? Yeah, Meiji. The late nineteenth century, to be more precise.

Larger desks would fill up the classroom, leaving no space for anything else. So some old schools went out of their way to look for smaller, old standard desks to replace run-down desks. But that didn’t last long. Soon the new standards became dominant—until the even newer EJIS standards took effect when Japan entered into an alliance with the Axis Powers.

Japanese classrooms have been always different from ones in other countries. Especially, years ago, every school in Japan had the same desks and chairs lined up in the same way. Ha, if today’s researchers saw it, their jaws would drop! Still, shoddy goods were everywhere. That’s how industrial standardisation came into the picture. There’s no use denying history.

Do you know what was wrong with a desk back then? Its biggest defect? Strength, you say? Close, but not quite. The answer is weight. The most important thing was its mobility. At lunch time, kids moved their desks to form groups. In a class that required face-to-face discussion, they needed to turn their desks. At any rate, a desk had to be light enough so that a kid could move it alone. So the craftsmen racked their brains to devise a way to reduce weight.

Back then, too, resins were commonly used, mainly for the tabletop and the drawer. But resins can be easily dented. The tabletop fell apart easily, so the craftsmen received a lot of complaints.

So Riron-sha’s gelmonica resins were innovative. They looked like plastic and weighed little. Even so, they were as sturdy as laminated lumbers. The catch was the price. As you surely know, schools are always short of money. Ironically, the patent was sold to another country where they mass-produced them and sold them to Japan cheaply. They practically stole our technology, but they put it to good use.

When I was a kid, classrooms were pretty much the same as today. Freedom. Just freedom. Now freedom is coupled with responsibility. I pity today’s kids.

My parents bought me a desk before I started elementary school. I was crazy about insects, so I chose green. I soon learned I was the only one who chose this colour. Other kids chose more conventional colours like brown and cream. Some who wanted to stand out wanted white. That was the extension of their freedom! What was your colour? Ha! Suits fine. Boring.

Come to think of it, I chose this career path because of what happened when I was a boy.

It’s been criticised a lot, but the #OwnDesk movement was great. I got really into personalising my own desk, so I made a hidden drawer and kept bugs inside as my pets. I laid a layer of mud, placed some stones, fed them dried leaves, and sometimes moistened the mud. One of my buddies made a rock garden. You must’ve seen a photo of a karesansui in your history textbook. He didn’t let anyone touch his garden. He’d scream: “You’ll damage my wasabi!” I wonder what he’s doing now.

The problem with the #OwnDesk movement wasn’t financial or political. In the end, desks failed to evolve. For many decades, schools had promoted the use of personal desks, but desks remained pretty much the same. Just as scholars say, this may mean that education was defeated. We often advocate freedom, but we don’t want to be truly liberated. Cultural homogeneity. It’s one issue this country has faced for hundreds of years.

In that sense, the trend that followed the #OwnDesk movement brought a dark period for school desks. “Going back to your roots” sounds great, but it’s essentially conservative reaction. “Physical freedom and spiritual freedom were too liberated.” That’s what a cabinet minister said. As you can see, politicians hate freedom. They don’t want anyone to be free, not even themselves. Someone delivered an apologetic speech at the Diet. Everybody must have felt relieved.

Even so, the EJIS-certified desk from that era is a masterpiece. Have you seen it? The curved plate and legs that support it are made of a single piece of wood. Every time I see it, it reminds me of a female body. I don’t mean tits and asses, though. A woman’s ankle comes to my mind. Some say it’s a nape, but that’s too sexual. That desk turns me on without a fail. It was a good thing I didn’t have that desk when I was a kid.

They say Tony Yoshimura was born overseas, but he understands wabi-sabi better than any Japanese native. I know their plywood and lumber manufacturing technologies are highly advanced compared to ours, but he’s got quite a talent for incorporating those technologies into desks. It would never occur to me in a million years to come up with something like that. What’s so great about Yoshimura is that he’s made desk manufacturing possible through generic processing. Many folks get this wrong, but EJIS-certified desks have nothing to do with craftsmanship. They concern industrial products. Yoshimura only cares about mass production. He’s never made something for particular consumers in mind. In a way, he’s made desks for a certain country or a certain people.

Maybe I was a bit off about Yoshimura. I didn’t mean to make him out to be a nationalist. Either way, he’s not an artist but an engineer. That’s what I think.

I met Yoshimura once. Only once.

He gave a lecture at my alma mater. On the fifth of July. After Independence Day. I don’t remember much of his lecture. I was disappointed because it was generic. On the way home, I bumped into Yoshimura. He was talking to someone, quite possibly a school staffer. Then Yoshimura and I locked gazes. He was much older. I passed him, as we bowed slightly.

  All this time, Yoshimura remained seated on a desk. He was there probably after I was gone.

I don’t remember what kind the desk was, but it wasn’t an EJIS-certified model. That’s for sure. Yoshimura didn’t sit flatly on the desk. Instead, he perched on the edge of it, his feet dangling in the air. His toes barely grazed the floor. He leaned over as he talked, met my gaze, bowed slightly, and felt me pass. In the meantime, he remained seated on the desk. Yoshimura, that genius designer who invented ingenious desks.

When I was on the battlefield, I remembered Yoshimura. Even if I wore advanced protective gear, I was scared shitless on many occasions. At times, my buddies’ heads flew from the other side of a river like billiard balls. Other times, stealth planes dropped silent bombs. In times like these, I always imagined Yoshimura seated on the desk. Then I’d feel calm. Who knows why? I’d feel a warm sensation arise below my navel. Once I feel calm, I can do anything. I can be anything. Thanks to Yoshimura, I was awarded many medals.

Yeah, since I returned home from the war, I’ve been working hard. Since then I’ve thought of Yoshimura many times. I gather that EJIS-certified desks are no longer in demand. Nowadays you’re responsible for your own freedom. That’s only expected. Even so, every school I’ve blown up had EJIS-certified desks. Some schools had rooms full of them while others had only one left in the warehouses. I never choose my targets. My mission has been to bring freedom to my people. Personal revenge isn’t my thing. I receive signs from heaven and act on them. Anyhow, who gives a damn, right?

So, mister, let me ask you something. Am I getting my freedom back? I’m bored to death here because I’ve got no desks.

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About the Author

Kaoru Sakasaki

Kaoru Sakasaki 200Kaoru Sakasaki lives with his family in Yokohama, south of Tokyo.

He writes late at night after putting his children to bed.

In 2020, he won the Judges’ Special Prize in the first Kaguya SF Contest organized by Virtual Gorilla Plus.


About the Translator

Toshiya Kamei

Toshiya Kamei holds an MFA in Literary Translation from the University of Arkansas.

His translations have appeared in venues such as Clarkesworld, The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, and World Literature Today.

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nuke conflux 2017 200Ion Newcombe is the editor and publisher of AntipodeanSF, Australia’s longest running online speculative fiction magazine, regularly issued since January 1998, and conceived back around November 2007. He has been a zealous reader and occasional writer of SF since his childhood in the 1960s, and even sold a few stories here and there back in the '90s.

“Nuke”, who it turns out loves editing more than writing, lives in the New South Wales North Coast holiday destination of Nambucca Heads, where he is self-employed in IT training, computer support, desktop publishing, editing, writing, and website implementation. He is also the resident tech-head, skeptic, and board member of community radio station 2NVR, where he produces a number of shows including The AntipodeanSF Radio Show.


mark web 200Mark Webb's midlife crisis came in the form of attempting to write speculative fiction at a very slow pace. His wife maintains this is a good outcome considering the more expensive and cliched alternatives. Evidence of Mark's attempts to procrastinate in his writing, including general musings and reviews of books he has been reading, can be found at

One of Mark’s very best forms of writing procrastination is to produce the eBook series for AntipodeanSF, which he has been doing since issue 175.


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AntiSF's Narration Team

sarah pratt 200Sarah Pratt is an avid fiction writer and a Marketing Consultant.

She is currently working on her first novel but loves diving into short stories to bring a little lightness, intrigue or humour to the day.

Her work has appeared in Sponge Magazine and The Commuting Book.

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ed erringtonAlthough a writer of the baby boom persuasion, Ed has not boomed for quite a while.

He lives with his wife plus a menagerie of non-domesticated — native Australian animals intropical North Queensland.

His writing within the ‘real’ science fiction context of COVID-19 is intermingled by long night sky vigils — searching for pesky aliens intent on maintaining their social distance to the nth degree.

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lauriebell 2 200Laurie Bell lives in Melbourne, Australia. She was that girl you found with her nose always buried in a book. She has been writing ever since she was a little girl and first picked up a pen. From books to short stories, radio plays to snippets of ideas and reading them aloud to anyone who will listen.

She is the author of The Butterfly Stone and The Tiger's Eye (YA/Fantasy) White Fire (Sci-Fi) and The Good, the Bad and the Undecided (a unique collection of short stories set during the events of White Fire/Sci-Fi). 

You can read more of her work on her blog <> Look for her on Facebook <> or Twitter: <@LaurienotLori>

Rambles, writing and amusing musings

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alistair lloyd 200Alistair Lloyd is a Melbourne based writer and narrator who has been consuming good quality science fiction and fantasy most of his life.

You may find him on Twitter as <@mr_al> and online at <>.


tim borellaTim Borella has never lost his childhood passion for SF and writing in general and has been lucky enough to have worked most of his life as a pilot — in other words, he’s never properly grown up.

He lives in country Far North Queensland, has won awards for songwriting, and has had various other writing achievements, the most recent being an honourable mention in the 2018 international Literary Taxidermy Short Story Competition.

He also has bachelor degrees in science and teaching, and has completed a couple of as-yet unpublished SF novels. He’d dearly love to spend more time writing, but will have to continue juggling for another couple of years until the kids have fully left the nest.

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pixie willo 100Pixie is a voice actor, cabaret performer & slam poet From the Blue Mountains in NSW.

She enjoys writing short fiction, plays for radio and stage as well as her own brand of weird poetry.

She hosts the 'Off-Beet Poetry Slam' held bi-monthly in Katoomba.

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marg essex 200Margaret lives the good life on a small piece of rural New South Wales Australia, with an amazing man, a couple of pets, and several rambunctious wombats.

She feels so lucky to be a part of the AntiSF team.

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timonthy gwyn 100Timothy Gwyn is a professional pilot in Canada, where he flies to remote communities. During a lull in his flying career, he was a radio announcer for three years, and he is also an author.

In addition to short stories at AntipodeanSF and, his SF novel is available internationally in print and ebook formats. "Avians" draws on his love of alternative aviation to tell the tale of a girl who runs away from home to join a cadre of glider pilots on a world without metal or fossil fuels.

On Twitter, he is @timothygwyn, and his blogs are at <>.

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garry dean narratorGarry Dean lives on the Mid Coast of New South Wales Australia, and has been a fan of SF for most of his natural life. Being vision impaired, he makes good use of voice recognition and text to speech in order to write. Many of his stories have appeared in AntipodeanSF over the years, and his love of all things audio led him to join the narration team in 2017.

You can read examples of Garry's fiction on his website <>

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mark english 100Mark is an astrophysicist and space scientist who worked on the Cassini/Huygens mission to Saturn. Following this he worked in computer consultancy, engineering, and high energy research (with a stint at the JET Fusion Torus).

All this science hasn't damped his love of fantasy and science fiction. It has, however, ruined his enjoyment of rainbows, colourful flames on romantic log fires, and rings around the moon. He has previously been published in Stupefying Stories Showcase, Everyday Fiction, Escape Pod, Perihelion and also on AntipodeanSF where he is part of the narration team.

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AntiSF Radio Show

antipod-show-50The AntipodeanSF Radio Show delivers audio from the pages of this magazine.

The weekly program features the stories from recently published issues, usually narrated by the authors themselves.

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The Contributors

Chad has a B.S. in Biochemistry from California State University Dominguez Hills and an Associates degree in Culinary Arts from Le Cordon Bleu, Pasadena.

His fiction has been published in Larks Fiction Magazine, 365 Tomorrows, Farther Stars Than These and Verdad among others.

He has made a few short films the most recent of which was an official selection of Dances with Films.

Link to Chad's Vimeo: <>.

nick petrou 200Nick works as a freelance writer out of Perth, Western Australia, where he likes to read unsettling fiction and complain about the sun.

His short fiction is forthcoming in two anthologies by Black Hare Press.

You can find out everything there is to know about him (and more) at <>.


callan j mulligan 200Callan J. Mulligan was born in Melbourne, Australia, in 1988.

Writing poems and fiction from a young age, his imagination took him through several creative careers including Marketing, Music, and Film & Television.

At the age of 29 he wrote his first published work of fiction, a novella titled ‘A Mind of His Own’. The debut work received critical acclaim and scored amazon's Top 100 for thriller and suspense.

Callan predominantly writes science fiction, and his work often contains existential and philosophical themes. He has a deep, personal, love of science, especially astronomy and cosmology.

Callan lives with his wife on the Queensland Gold Coast and spends his time playing more video games than should be considered healthy, and not reading nearly as much as an author should.


louis evans 200Louis Evans is a sci-fi writer living in Brooklyn with his partner and two cats named after fictional European detectives, Hercule Poirot and Lord Peter Wimsey.

His fiction has appeared in Analog SF&F, Interzone, GigaNotoSaurus and more.

He would never get involved in a pyramid scheme, which is why you can have complete confidence that THIS business opportunity is the! real! deal! Let's do lunch . . .

His website is and he tweets @louisevanswrite

Kaoru Sakasaki 200Kaoru Sakasaki lives with his family in Yokohama, south of Tokyo.

He writes late at night after putting his children to bed.

In 2020, he won the Judges’ Special Prize in the first Kaguya SF Contest organized by Virtual Gorilla Plus.

neil a hogan 2020Neil A. Hogan has been writing space fiction on and off since the '80s.

His next novel, The Robots of Atlantis, is due out in May 2021.

Find out more at <>.


João VenturaJoão Ventura writes short fiction, which has appeared in several websites (AntipodeanSF and Bewildering Stories among them), and also in printed form: Somnium, in Brazil; Dragão Quântico, Hyperdrivezine, Phantastes (Portuguese fanzines); Universe Pathways (in both the English and the Greek versions).

He had short stories in several Portuguese and Brazilian antologies: A Sombra sobre Lisboa (2006), VaporPunk (2010), Antologia de Ficção Científica Fantasporto (2012), Lisboa no ano 2000 (2013), Lisboa Oculta - Guia Turístico (2018), O resto é paisagem (2018), Almanaque SteamPunk (2019), Winepunk (2019), Regiana Magna (2020).

In 2018, a collection of his short stories (in Portuguese) came to light, with the title Tudo Isto Existe.

He likes reading, writing (surprise!), has a blog and is a university professor (now retired).

He is married, with two children and he lives in Lisbon.

Those who read Portuguese can have a glance at some of his stuff in Das palavras o espaço.

Samuel Gachon is a student in creative writing at QUT, with a minor in media and entertainment.

He lives in Brisbane, and has published a few stories on Wattpad and Deviantart.

Links:WordPress: <>.

Wattpad: <>.


james patrik 200An emerging writer, James Patrik enjoys exploring the existential themes.

A lifelong science fiction fan, he has a particular fondness for Japanese culture—especially Tokusatsu.

James is also passionate about psychology and is currently studying a Bachelor of Psychological Science.

You can read more of his work at: <>.


Toshiya Kamei holds an MFA in Literary Translation from the University of Arkansas.

His translations have appeared in venues such as Clarkesworld, The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, and World Literature Today.

steven fritz 200Steven Fritz graduated from the University of Maryland, became a Naval Aviator and flew helicopters and maritime patrol aircraft in the US Navy.

After leaving active duty, he earned a Ph.D. in Radiation Biophysics at the University of Kansas and spent several years as a medical school faculty member and senior administrator.

After university he managed a seed stage venture fund and did a stint as an avionics entrepreneur. He’s been infatuated with science fiction since his youth and has been writing SF full time for three years. You can follow Steven on his website at <> or on Twitter at @StevenLFritz1.

brian-biswasBrian has published over sixty short stories in the United States as well as internationally.

His short story "A Betrayal" was nominated for a Pushcart Prize and anthologized in The Irreal Reader.

A collection, A Betrayal and Other Stories, was published by Rogue Star Press in 2018, and his novel, The Astronomer, will be published by Whiskey Tit Press later this year.

Brian is listed in the International Writers and Authors Who's Who, Marquis Who's Who, and the Internet Speculative Fiction Database.

You can read more of Brian's work at his website: <>.

Or follow him on Twitter: @brianbiswas

"Mercury" is an extract from Brian's upcoming novel The Astronomer.

lauriebell 2 200Laurie Bell lives in Melbourne, Australia. She was that girl you found with her nose always buried in a book. She has been writing ever since she was a little girl and first picked up a pen. From books to short stories, radio plays to snippets of ideas and reading them aloud to anyone who will listen.

She is the author of The Butterfly Stone and The Tiger's Eye (YA/Fantasy) White Fire (Sci-Fi) and The Good, the Bad and the Undecided (a unique collection of short stories set during the events of White Fire/Sci-Fi). 

You can read more of her work on her blog <> Look for her on Facebook <> or Twitter: <@LaurienotLori>

Rambles, writing and amusing musings

Smile! laugh out loud! enjoy the following



ed-harveyPretty much a life-long fan of speculative fiction, Edwina Harvey is a writer, editor, silk painter and ceramic artist.

Her short stories and articles have appeared in a variety of publications including Aurealis, Antipodean SF, Grass Roots, Harbinger, Magpies, Strange Pleasures #3 and Worlds Next Door.

She has had three books, The Whale’s Tale, The Back of the Back of Beyond, and An Eclectic Collection of Stuff and Things and a novelette, Never Forget, published through Peggy Bright Books. <>.

 Edwina received her editing qualifications in 2012 and now works as a freelance editor, specialising in speculative fiction.


Harris Tobias lives and writes in Charlottesville, Virginia. He is the author of two novels: The Greer Agency & A Felony of Birds. He has written dozens of short stories many of which are available on line at <>. He is the author of many children’s books including At The Robot ZooMoonRivet Saves His Skin and An Alphabet Book of Bugs available in print from

CreateSpace and as ebooks for Nook & Kindle. You can find links to his writings here: <>

kevinjphyland 200Old enough to just remember the first manned Moon landing, Kevin was so impressed he made science his life.

Retired now from teaching he amuses himself by reading, writing, following his love of weather and correcting people on the internet.

He’s been writing since his teens and hopes he will one day get it right.

He can be found on twitter @KevinPhyland where he goes by the handle of CaptainZero and his work is around the place if you search using google or use the archive.