@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

Last week ended differently for my irl life than I expected it to which is why I didn’t cover my poem but I will have no problem doing picking it back up (I still want to talk about that poem) and keeping up with this week.

I don’t mind the catch-up week since it’s seeming popular.

In terms of detachment from this thread, I think I can get that in so far as the conversation isn’t super lively, which is a little sad just because I really like everything we are doing, but on a personal level I am finding it super engaging just by having to do research and reading everyone else’s findings. I do find myself constantly checking the thread.


I know! I feel like I should comment more as well (especially since I don’t have time to do any research myself, again, hat tip to you and the others), but usually that would just boil down to “wow that’s cool” or “huh, interesting”, and there’s already a “like” button for that :slightly_frowning_face:


Reading the explanation of poem 17 in the book, there’s yet again an 言われている and it finally struck me. More than a thousand years later, we are still gossiping about those people.
It feels… weird in a way? How would you even know who was behind the 屏風 at the time? How did we get those gossips? Did people write them down at the time and we found them? Or is it a less reliable way, like oral transmission before it finally got written down at some point? :thinking:


I’ve been thinking a lot about this too. It seems like these poetry collections are themselves actually some of the most important primary sources available to us on these people, which is so cool! Like, they are some of the most praised poets in history, getting cool titles like the Thirty Six Immortals, and we know so little about them. I guess Homer is vaguely comparable in influence, but he seems far enough away to get a pass. But he only seems so. It’s a pretty cool testament to…idk the power of the written word and the frailty of human memory? But at the same time I’ve been awe struck by what a miracle it is that we know even as much as we do and can get to read these! Komachi especially struck me with this because she has so many rumors but also I felt like her poetry was such a strong statement. Still waiting for time to really compare the two and think about what they mean, but it’s really cool!

Definitely haven’t answered your question, lol. It’s definitely the sort of thing scholars spend a lot of time over so I’m sure we’ll be able to find an answer eventually. But I have to get caught up on my individual poem research first.


15 君がため 春の野にいでて 若菜摘む わが衣手に 雪は降りつつ

This is such a sweet little poem! It makes me quite happy.


Well, Emperor Koko seems to have at least left a good impression in the official history books ( Nihon Sandai Jitsuroku), which describe him as well educated, calm, moderate, and gracious. I wonder if that had something to do with ascending to the throne so late. He’s well known for bringing back falconry of all things, which had fallen out of fashion for around fifty years. That strikes me as a testament to a calm and leisurely character that still has great appreciation for culture.

He actually came into power because the last one was deposed by one Fujiwara no Mototsune, the first kampaku, a role invented by him (Mototsune) to retain power after Koko became emperor. It sounds like this is the beginning of the tradition of somebody else doing most of the emperor’s ruling in his stead. I bet that also contributed to Koko’s ability to enjoy more cultural pursuits (not that that wasn’t already an essential part of court life).

The story of his ascension to the throne is funny. While they were still figuring out the succession, Mototsune just started addressing him as a sovereign when he went to visit, assigned him some guards, and then he (Koko) just got on the Imperial Palanquin and became emperor. Gave me a chuckle.

Comment on Contents

At first I thought, “Oh, this is another poem about manual labor by someone who doesn’t do manual labor, like the first poem,” but it turns out (according to Tsurezuregusa, which is a 14th century source) that he did his own cooking! What a funny emperor. After a little more research, it seems that picking the greens yourself was common even for the upper class.

The address is unknown but according to Kokinshu, another anthology in which this poem appears, it “was sent together with young greens to someone when the emperor was still a prince.”


I’m just going to translate from one Japanese source because I agree and think they are nicely concise:

This is a poem that depicts heartfelt sympathy and, with words like “spring field,” “young greens,” “kimono sleeves,” and “snow” containing soft images, a refined poem. The contrast between the green of the field and young herbs and the white of the snow is very beautiful, and a pure feeling drifts from the whole. You can see a pure cultivated heart that does not know filth. Emperor Koto after his corronation seems to have entrusted politics to entrusted politics to Motohara Fujiwara. It seems that the world of politics which required scheming and wickedness was not suitable for this poem’s author.

I like to think of this as the 9th century version of “thinking of you <3”

Comparison to other poems

The Heian period was so-called because people preferred to use conniving to solve problems rather than open conflict. Reading one article about the court scene (I recommend y’all look at it in my sources), it sure sounds psychologically intense and lusty. That makes me appreciate even more the simplicity of this poem. It’s like a breath of fresh air while greeting the new year! (not that our other poems are really that stifling, this one just still stands out to me plus from what I’ve read about the historical context)

I find I’ve been spending a lot of time just reading about the individual poems rather than actual general material on the periods except where the two come into contact with each other, so I should do that more.


https://garage.vice.com/en_us/article/mbwgwa/the-love-poems-of-japans-heian-court-were-the-original-thirst-texts (THIS ONE SEEMS ESPECIALLY WORTH THE READ)

I always feel like my research is insufficient in terms of background content, but I guess that’s just part of the learning process.


19 難波潟 みじかき芦の ふしの間も 逢はでこの世を 過ぐしてよとや (伊勢)


“To go through this life, not meeting
for even as short a time as the space
between two nodes of a reed
in Naniwa Inlet—
is that what you are telling me?” - Joshua S. Mostow, in Pictures of the Heart: The Hyakunin Isshu in Word and Image (English and Japanese Edition)


Lady Ise (伊勢, c. 875/877 – c. 938), also known as Ise no Go (伊勢の御 - Lady Ise) or Ise no Miyasudokoro (伊勢の御息所 - Court Lady Ise), was a Japanese poet in the Imperial court’s waka tradition.

Her father Fujiwara no Tsugukage (藤原 継蔭) was the governor of the prosperous Ise Province, her grandfather Ōnakatomi no Yoshinobu was an important poet of the waka tradition.
Although the Fujiwara family was among the most influential families in Japan at that time, her father’s branch of the Fujiwara family had declined in status, becoming mainly known for its scholarly achievements and rising no higher in the court hierarchy than the position of provincial governor.

Despite being born as a governor’s daughter, she earned a name for herself through her extensive as well as passionate and witty poetry both in her private collection (the so-called Ise Shū) and through Imperial anthologies where her poetry is both frequent and prominent.

She was selected to be one of the 三十六歌仙三十六歌仙, the Thirty Six Immortals of Poetry.


As Professor Mostow explains, the poem has two possible interpretations: one where she has been spurned by a cold lover, and the other where she cannot reveal her hidden love.


Lady Ise
Lady Ise’s real name is not known, therefore she is referred to by the position of her father, who was governor of Ise prefecture. This practice is called “Notname” and is frequently used for artists whose identity got lost.

As handmaid of Fujiwara no Onshi (also Atsuko or Yoshiko; 藤原 温子), emperor Uda’s wife, she gained access to the imperial court at the age of about 15. After a non-lasting relationship with Onshi’s brother, she became a concubine to Emperor Uda and gave birth to a son, Prince Yuki-Akari, who died in infancy.
When Onshi died, Lady Ise remained in service to her daughter, Princess Kinshi, who had gotten married to the imperial Prince Atsuyoshi (a son of Emperor Uda). Lady Ise became Atsuyoshi’s lover and had three children with him.

One of these children was the (female) waka poet Nakatsukasa (中務) who was selected alongside her mother as 三十六歌仙.
Natsukasa is also a “Notname” as it refers to her father Atsuyoshi who was minister in the central ministry (中務卿なつかさきょう).

Naniwa Inlet is the bay of what is now the famous city of Osaka, though back then it was a far smaller city, with many waterways, streams and such. Naniwa (Osaka) is often associated with reeds at the time as other poems of the time show, and is mentioned in two other poems in the Hyakunin Isshu (poem 20 and poem 88).




Wait, we have trace of all of that but don’t know her name? How does that even work? She was using that pseudonym on all official documents? (Even though it’s a while ago, I assume people kept track of the imperial family at least)

We don’t know a lot of Ye Olde people’s real names. Like Murasaki Shikibu.

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Well, she was not part of the imperial family, so that might explain it. She was just a servant / concubine. And it seems that in former times artists would not sign their works with their names, so it seems that it can easily get lost :woman_shrugging:


That’s true, but we seem to know so many other things about them… it feels just weird I guess :upside_down_face:

But she gave birth to member(s?) of the imperial family (at one official one from your trivia). How does that work? They wrote down “father: Emperor Uda, mother: some rando”? :rofl:


Alright, as discussed, we will play some catch up this week.
Here are the poems with no commentary as of now (conveniently, there are 5 of them)

Pick which ever you would like to research

  • 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)
  • 16 たち別れ いなばの山の 峰に生ふる まつとし聞かば 今帰り来む (中納言行平)
  • 17 ちはやぶる 神代も聞かず 竜田川 からくれなゐに 水くくるとは (在原業平朝臣)
  • 20 わびぬれば 今はた同じ 難波なる みをつくしても 逢はむとぞ思ふ (元良親王)
  • N/A

0 voters

Additionally, I think it’s also a good time to discuss about how we should proceed.
I don’t think we need a poll for that right now, but I think we might want to discuss more the content of the book as well (based on @Belthazar’s comment). As far as I am concerned, the current format was mostly picked because people with no access to the book expressed interest. However, I think they are all gone by now :cry: so there’s no need anymore?

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I have been reading along, but I haven’t had the time to really look into anything and haven’t been able to discuss anything. Just want to say that I’m still here, following along


That’s appreciated :+1: It’s always hard, leading a book, when things are a bit too quiet in the thread(s) :sweat_smile: Plus, this one isn’t even my own nomination, so I’m extra worried I’m doing it wrong…


Hello, I’m here again reporting my existence @@ Since the last time, my day to day life got busier and the free time I had for this was swept away by more work that came along :'D
At this point maybe I’ll be able to help at the end, hopefully, but I’ve been following along until now >< So at least I’m obtaining that reading practice (?) lol
Still, just to let know I’m not dead~ (although I’m new so maybe that’s not really noticed haha)


Hmm you’re making a very good point here.
I’m not gonna lie, I don’t really know how to comment about the book just as it is. I kinda read it, file it away somewhere in the deep depths of my brain where it’ll most likely soon be forgotten (which I’m aware isn’t the idea xD), and move on. I just really find it hard to find anything to say. Doing the research is actually what keeps me on track here, because it’s almost like homework in a weird way.

I understand that the format clearly isn’t working as it is, but I’m honestly a bit lost as to what an alternative would be for this kind of book.


Just a note to say I really enjoy reading this thread. The research everyone is doing is fascinating and is being read and appreciated by those of use who aren’t advanced enough to participate.


Yes, same here… I also wouldn’t know what to contribute other than the research I’m currently doing…

Any ideas or suggestions, anybody?
@Belthazar, what would be an engaging interaction with the book in your opinion?

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No idea. Maybe I just need to make sure I sit down and actually read every page each week. Honestly haven’t touched it since week one…


I hope this doesn’t derail the conversation about the format of this book club, but I wanted to get this done before I get busy again and even if we do change how this club works, I like at least rounding out the first 20 poems (kinda. works in my mind because I did one every week I guess. I’m a bit OCD about these kinda things)

13 筑波嶺の 峰より落つる みなの川 恋ぞつもりて 淵となりぬる (陽成院 )


陽成院, oldest son of Emperor Seiwa and previously known as Sadaakira Shinnou (貞明親王), became the 57th Emperor in 876 with only seven years old, and stayed on that throne until the age of 15, in 884. His mother was Fujiwara no Takaiko, who was involved in a scandal with Ariwara no Narihira, who wrote poem number 17.
陽成院 was unfortunately better known for his mental instability than his poetry, which was the reason why very little of it was every published. This is the only poem of his to make into any of the Imperial anthologies. It is said to have been written to the Princess of the Tsuridono, Emperor Koko (poem 15)’s daughter Suishi, who later did become 陽成院’s wife. Likely one of the rare love poems that bore fruit.
He was known to enjoy violence, like feed live frogs to snakes so he could watch, and would later on personally execute criminals, even chase after people that displeased him. In fact, the reason for his dethronement in favour of Koko was that he ordered men to climb high trees and others to poke them with sharp lances until he could watch them fall to their depths. He was forced to abdicate my Fujiwara no Mototsune, who was his uncle on his mother’s side and his regent.
However, considering the fact that forcefully abdicated by a Fujiwara, it is possible that these stories are little more than a made up justification for the actions of the power hungry Fujiwara.
His son Motoyoshi wrote poem 20.


Mount Tsukuba is famous in Japan, particularly due to its two peaks, 男体 (なんたい “man”) in the west and 女体 (にょたい “woman”) in the east. It was frequently used in poetry revolving around love and romance. The poem makes use of that by likening the deepening of love to the widening of the river as it descents Mount Tsukuba.
Interestingly, this poem being a love poem is very contrary to 陽成院’s apparent violent disposition.


みね from line 2 and みな from line 3 are an echo of each other and こい is an example of 掛詞, which means both ‘love’ and ‘deep’.
みなのがわ can be written with the Kanji for ‘man’ and ‘woman’, 男女川, echoing Mount Tsukuba’s twin peaks.
The first 3 lines are 序詞 to the following stanza, essentially serving as a metaphor the love described in lines 4 and 5.
In essence, the poem flows beautifully by linking the みね (‘peak’) to the subsequent みな (part of the name of the river), where as みなの (the name of the river) links back to the mountain’s twin peaks. All of this is, in turn, 序詞 to what follows, as such seamlessly leading into 恋, which both refers to the literal ‘love’, as well as the dark depths of both the river みなの mentioned in the beginning and the ふち (a deep pool in a body of water) in the last line, perfectly rounding out the poem.


There is a legend surrounding Mount Tsukuba, which says that a long time ago, a deity descended from heaven and was looking for somewhere to spend the night. After Mount Fuji, which is visible from Mount Tsukuba, refused due to arrogantly believing it didn’t need the favour of a deity, Mount Tsukuba welcomed the deity with open arms, offering food and water. That is said to be the reason Mount Tsukuba is ripe with vegetation and full of colours as the seasons change, while Mount Fuji remains cold and lonely.
Mount Tsukuba is also still a popular tourist destination.







I sure hope those stories are just propaganda. The poem itself is so cute and it seemed especially sweet that the poem bore fruit. Do you know what the primary sources are on those stories, or anything else about his marriage?

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