@Belthazar’s poem research club for the betterment of everyone’s education: reading マンガ✖くり返しでスイスイ覚えられる百人一首

Yeah I hear you.

I see some of the translations and I think, “How on earth did you get that from that?”


Sorry for being so late to the party, but can I double-check on this?

The poem says 踏み分け 鳴く鹿 where the first part is the ます-stem of 踏み分ける, thus the whole expression looks to me like an “and”-connection of the two actions (trampling and calling) in a relative clause that is applied to the deer?

Now I guess you found another, different way of interpreting this, as you say there is no way to tell, and I would be curious to learn what you came up with!


You could also interpret it as 踏み分け、(鳴く鹿)の聲きく, with the two connected actions being the trampling and the listening, while the 鳴く only closely describes the deer further.


Oh, nice! Thanks a lot, that really opens another perspective :exploding_head:


haha thanks, was gonna reply, but you beat me to it xD

@NicoleRauch just to be transparent here, I found a few sources that mentioned the fact, but no one actually broke it down to explain why. When I looked at it, I came to the same conclusion as Myria did. It’s the fact that the first clause can be attributed to the deer or the poet and it’s still grammatically correct.


かささぎの 渡せる橋に おく霜の 白きをみれば 夜ぞぶけにける
I picked this one because I think Magpies are very cool birds! :smiley:


Yakamochi (718-785) was born into a prominent family (the Otomo clan) and served as a prominent statesman. He apparently shared love poetry with “innumerable woman,” and so the tryst-y themes of this poem seem nicely typical of him. As governor of Etchu (now Toyama prefecture) he got to get up to a lot of sightseeing which contributed to his delicate nature poetry. After 751 he moved back to the capital and it seems he was too embroiled in politics to do much poetry writing, so I presume this poem would have been written earlier in his career, probably within the time frame of his innumerable love affairs. However, one website does mention his posting in Nara as Minister of Military Affairs allowed him to gather poems from frontier soldiers, which I presume went into the Manyusho.

Our book mentions his contribution to the Manyoshu, but does not mention how heavily represented he is in the book: 479 out of 4496, roughly 10%. The last few books especially function as a sort of poetic diary for him. Since he is especially present in those last few books, it suggests he was the last in a series of compilers. I wonder how much poetic clout he had to get away with so much self-insertion in such an important text lol.

Contents: The Tanabata Legend

The story for the Tanabata festival is inspired by the “The Cowherd and the Weaver Girl” from Chinese mythology. Orihime/Weaving Princess (織姫) wove beautiful cloth by the banks of the milky way (天の川). Her father Tentei/Sky/Heaven/Universe King (天帝) loves the cloth. However, Orihime (in a typical Japanese fashion?) works so hard she fears she will never find a lover and she becomes sad. Tentei, fearing for his daughter, introduces her to Hikoboshi the cow herd (彦星) from the other side of the Milky Way. They fall in love and marry, but they enjoy it a little too much; she neglects her weaving and his cows wander all over the place. Tentei angrily separates them, but moved by his daughter’s sadness he concedes that they may meet once a year. When the fated day, June 7th, comes, they realize that even though they are allowed to meet there is no bridge to cross the river. Orihime starts to cry, but some magpies come to console her and promise to form a bridge for her. Neat final note pulled directly from Wikipedia because its too concise to paraphrase: ‘It is said that if it rains on Tanabata, the magpies cannot come because of the rise of the river and the two lovers must wait until another year to meet. The rain of this day is called “The tear of Orihime and Hikoboshi”.’

I have never heard of so literally star-crossed lovers! And the Wikipedia page on “Star-Crossed” doesn’t even mention them! It apparantly has similarities to a Mesopetamian legend, and was very popular in China and Japan already in Yakamochi’s period, but I don’t think there was a similar legend that Shakespeare could have heard when he coined his phrase for Romeo and Juliet, though now that I think of it, I am reminded of Proserpine (less for star-crossed and more for general plot points).

If any of you like star gazing, Orihime is Vega, the brightest star in Lyra, and Hikoboshi is Altair, the brightest star in Aquila.

There are 133 poems on this legend in the Manyusho. I presume this has more to do with the legend’s popularity than anything, but I wonder how that affected Yakamochi or how Yakamochi affected that, him being a compiler of the Manyusho.

The allusion to the Tanabata legend seems to provide most of the context for this poem. Perhaps it is a funny little reflection the poet had in the moment, on how as the night goes on the aristocratic lovers would be running out of time for their trysts and would be crossing their own little bridge (the steps in the palace) soon. An alternative I found is he is remarking upon a rendeveuz of his own. Since he’s still at the steps, maybe she didn’t show, and he laments how the night goes on as he is stood up. I think the unseasonality of the Tanabata reference furthers this–he is reminded of the bridge between lovers, but it is winter–they aren’t meeting right now, and he does not live in a legend. Or, alternatively, it is a comment on the persistence of love, and even in the winter the (metaphorical) magpies find a way (presumably for other love affairs he is thinking about vis-a-vis the first interpretation–had he met a lover I’m sure we’d have a different poem).

Trivia: Magpies are Cool

Magpies were only introduced to Japan from Korea in the 16th century, but they are common in China where the legend originates. They had the legend without actually knowing what the bird was! Maybe they thought it was a kind of heron (サギ). I think if I were a Nara period Japanese poem reader that would add a wonderful mystique to this poem.

The same source that mentioned the above also says that Magpie are often associated with frost in Waka poetry. This to me implies that the Japanese had an idea of what Magpies look like–I guess if they didn’t see magpie themselves that would just be a detail transmitted alongside the legend.

Classical Japanese, or, Me Taking Shots in the Dark with Grammar

A saw this comment chain a blog and that it was really good stuff so I’ll just copy it here since it’s short:
Greg said:

I am trying to understand the correct way to parse ふけにける in the last line. Is ける an attributive form of けり? If so, what’s the に doing in there?

Temca, the uploader of the poem, replied:

The ni に is the continuative form of the perfective affix marker nu ぬ, and indicates that the action of the verb is completed, or the state that it describes is in effect – in this case that night is in the condition of having come to an end. Keri 〜けり is in its attributive form keru 〜ける because of the earlier emphatic particle zo ぞ, which required sentences to end in the attributive form, through what is known as a kakarimusubi 係り結び (bound ending) relationship between a particle and sentence ending.

Tofugu and Imabi seem to have quite approachable articles on Kobun which I am slowly starting to work through as things come up.

I’ve been seeing a lot of adjectives like 白き. These are the ancestors of い adjectives from the /k/ being dropped. 白き is the attribute form. 白し would be the terminal/end of clause form. It seems those forms have fused in modern Japanese. Very simple, but it feels good to grasp even a simple thing from the old version of a language you are learning.

I hadn’t realized that izenkei+ば has any meaning besides “if.” It can also mean observation or conclusion. To me it felt like in this context it also had a circumstantial feeling. However, classical ば, compared to the modern provisional form with which we are familiar, seems to have a sense of less reality: ‘it was less “if P, then Q” and more “if P were, then Q would be”.’

That would mean the meaning is less circumstantial and more “If I were to see the frost, the night would be over.” However, I found one translation that goes: “Seeing the whiteness / Night, indeed, is over.” The circumstantial nature of that participle seems to fit better with the explanation in our book. I’m going to assume that this instance of ば is part of the “other uses” the source I was using to get the above description of ば mentions.

Maaaaaybe the use of the irrealis (a-vowel ending, but the etymology of the English word for the form helps me have a sense of its feeling) emphasizes the longing/melancholic mood of the poem? That’s just my thought after only briefly reading about Classical Japanese grammar, but I figured it was worth sharing.




Thanks, I see it now as well. It’s always interesting to discover different interpretations of a sentence that looks quite straightforward in the beginning (at least to me :upside_down_face:). Curious to see what learnings the next round of poems will have for me!


While as far as I can tell this is correct, it makes me wonder what 秋は悲しき is doing in poem 5. Is this the Classical Japanese equivalent of ending a show in the middle of a sentence?

Edit:I already posted Temca’s answer to the same problem but with verbs. ぞ forces attributive form. Well that sure reinforces that lesson.

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Just to let everyone who is waiting know: I’ll be doing the work on the poem today or tomorrow!



I might pick up 10 towards the end of the week if I have spare time (which I should be able to make) since nobody else voted for it and I like doing the extra research.


Here is my long awaited :sunglasses: research of poem #8:

This time I did the research alone so please correct me if I messed up ^^

8 - わが庵は 都のたつみ しかぞすむ 世をうぢ山と 人はいふなり (喜撰法師)


Loosely: People say that I am a secluded hermit living in Ujiyama, but my hermitage is just to the southeast of the capital! - on 喜撰’s Wikipedia page


喜撰法師きせんほうし, also called 喜撰きせん, was an early Heian period Buddhist monk and poet. Little is known about his life other than that he lived in Ujiyama. It is not even known when he lived. (To put this into perspective: Heian period lasted from 794 to 1185.)

紀 貫之きのつらゆき selected him as one of the six poetic sages (六歌仙ろっかせん) whose work was to be considered as superior, and mentioned him in the preface of the 古今集こきんしゅう, an early anthology of the waka form of Japanese poetry, which was published around 905.

Our poem is one of only two poems that can be confidently attributed to 喜撰, according to Wikipedia.


The main lyric feature of the poem is the use of 掛詞かけことば, which is the name for a word that (based on its sound / Hiragana spelling) has multiple meanings. Those meanings are all taken into account at the same time, thus producing a deeper understanding or a pun, without using up too much space in the poem.

In this poem this instrument is used twice: In the first part, the word しか can be translated as “然 - like this” and as “鹿 - deer”, thus on the one hand describing that his chosen place to live is just southeast of the capital, and on the other hand adding another rumour that it’s in the countryside (where the deer live).

In the second part, the word うじ can be interpreted as the name of the mountain (宇治山) or as (bitter, melancholic), therefore putting the double-meaning of “retreating to Ujiyama” and “being fed up with society” into the rumour.


喜撰 lived in the early Heian period which saw a boom in Japanese literature. Hiragana were invented, which also allowed women to write poetry and literature, as it was not considered befitting for women to learn Chinese characters (which was the only method of writing Japanese until then). But at that time, literacy was only common among the court and Buddhist clergy.

Poetry, in particular, was a staple of court life. Nobles and ladies-in-waiting were expected to be well versed in the art of writing poetry as a mark of their status. A well-written poem could easily make or break one’s reputation, and often was a key part of social interaction.

Is this mountain really just around the corner from the capital?
In the Heian period, the emperor’s palace was moved to Kyoto. So I looked around for a mountain called 宇治山 that is southeast of Kyoto. While I found a city called 宇治市, the only mountain place I came across was Ujiyama Gonokuchi which didn’t look really convincing to me. Further googling brought me to this weblio article which claims that the place formerly known as 宇治山 is now called 喜撰山 - so they even renamed the place after our poet, which I think is quite impressive.

Google Maps claims that the walking distance to the top of the mountain, starting at the Emperor’s Palace, is 21.4 km, so this distance can indeed be covered in a day.

Back in the day, the scenery must have been quite different, though, as the lake near the mountain peak was created by a dam that was built in 1966-1970.


https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heian_period ( https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heian-Zeit )
喜撰山: https://goo.gl/maps/qjvBrf6EVJptMZqL9
貴賎山ダム: https://goo.gl/maps/sZURHQon3XHLgxRz7


Sorry everyone I know I didn’t keep my word but I fell down a rabbit hole with this one.

9首:花の色は 移りにけりな いたづらに 我身世にふる ながめせしまに


I know that I said I wasn’t going to post a translation, but this one was too beautiful to not do.

A life in vain.
My looks, talents faded
like these cherry blossoms
paling in the endless rains
that I gaze out upon, alone.

  • Translation by Peter McMillan, 2008.

The image above is a woodcut by Tsukioka Yoshitoshi showing Ono as an old woman.

小野小町(おののこまち) was born in an unknown year during the Heian Period. Nothing is known with certainty about her life which has captivated peoples’ attention. She is rumoured to be the granddaughter of another Heian Poet, 小野篁(おののたかむら).

In addition to her poetry she has a reputation as an incredibly beautiful woman with many suitors. You go, girl.

Like most of the poets we’ve looked at so far she is one of the Thirty Six Immortals and also one of the Rokkasen.


Like poem 8, covered by @NicoleRauch, this poem is filled completely with 掛詞.

The straight reading of the poem is examining the changing seasons alongside the passage of time but really it appears to be an allegory about the author ageing.

Here the author is the cherry blossom herself who is an admired beauty who then withers away.

The notable double meanings of this poem are with 「世」、「ふる」、 and 「ながめ」.

  • 世(よ) has the straight meaning of 時代(じだい) meaning age or era but is actually a reference to poem 21 of 伊勢物語(いせものがたり) where the same word refers to 男女の仲(だんじょのなか) or the relationship between a husband and wife. Interestingly enough Ono has been linked with the one of the possible authors of Ise Monogatari which is a collection of stories and poetry on sex and Buddhism. Very steamy and very interesting. There’s a translation on JSTOR by Susan Blakely Klein.
  • ふる’s meaning here is 経る(へる) “to pass” but to modern eyes looks like 降る(ふる) “to precipitate”. Here I might be reading into it a little but there’s the obvious reading of “time passes by” and then a slightly more depressing or sultry (you decide) reading when taking 降る and 男女の仲.
  • The final major wordplay here is on the word 「ながめ」 where it means 眺め(ながめ) “a reverie” or 長雨(ながあめ) “heavy rainfall”.

The whole focus on the blossoms and the ageing is very typical of 「物の哀れ」(もののあわれ) “the pathos of things” where a focus is placed on the transiency and sorrow of beautiful things.

  • In popular Japanese culture girls of various cities were given the suffix 小町(こまち) as a pageant prize for being the most beautiful in honour of the author. This practice has mostly given way to the more western “Miss X”.
  • There’s also a tradition of different types of legends about Ono: (1) legends about her beauty, (2) legends about her sensuality, (3) legends about her haughtiness, (4) legends about her poetry, and (5) legends about her decline and death. Which just goes to show how nowhere in this world is safe from sexism.
  • On the last Sunday in March you can catch the Hanezu Odori in Kyoto which is in honour of Ono. Though I presume it was cancelled this year.

For the second week in a row, I’ve had no time to look into the poems, so thank you everyone who contributed!
The only thing I can say about poem 10 (because I have only read the book) is that 平安 poets sure like their puns 掛詞 :eyes: My favorite is probably しかぞすむ from poem 8, especially combined with the illustration from the manga next to it :rofl:


That is indeed an impressive translatoin. Nice find.

I’m curious about these legends. From your comment about sexism I presume they are not particularly flattering, which I’m surprised to hear. Did you find them directly sexist or indirectly/systemically so? I would expect her to be more respected as one of the thirty-six immortals.

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Off the top of my head they include:

  • legends of her being a slut;
  • a legend where she promises to marry a man if he comes to her bedchamber 99 times in a row only for him to die on the 98th
  • legends of her incredible beauty fading to ugliness as she ages.

I suppose the last one isn’t sexist per se, but it’s the same emphasis we see in the west of beauty fading being a negative thing to happen. Far too often it carries the implication with it that once feminine beauty fades nothing worthwhile remains.


Week 3: I would like to research…

  • 11 わたの原 八十島かけて 漕ぎ出でぬと 人には告げよ 海人の釣舟 (参議篁)
  • 12 天つ風 雲の通ひ路 吹き閉ぢよ をとめの姿 しばしとどめむ (僧正遍照)
  • 13 筑波嶺の 峰より落つる 男女川 恋ぞつもりて 淵となりぬる (陽成院)
  • 14 陸奥の しのぶもぢずり 誰ゆゑに 乱れそめにし われならなくに (河原左大臣)
  • 15 君がため 春の野に出でて 若菜つむ わが衣手に 雪は降りつつ (光孝天皇)
  • I’m only here for the discussion, I’m not researching anything.
  • I’m only here.

0 voters

Thanks again to people who contribute :green_heart: Thanks to you all, this thread is everything I hoped for and more :smiley: Even though I feel bad for not contributing myself.


That makes sense and I follow. I must admit that the second one made me chuckle just because I wasn’t expecting that. The third one is neat mostly because she herself is commenting on the same thing in this very poem–I wonder how much the legend existed already in her own time, and how that can affect our reading of the poem.

A saw someone displaying Karuta cards on their wall recently and recognized them! Already enjoying real-world benefits from our studies. I was really excited to be able to do that and it was fun trying to figure out what the handwriting said.


gah! I wanted 15 but clicked the wrong thing by accident. What do?

Show vote> change vote.


I picked 13 because I can’t get enough of the 恋歌.