@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

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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I’m going to finally have the time to do a bunch of research tomorrow in the early afternoon. In the mean time, what is everyone’s favourite poem/poet so far, or what are they really like or being annoyed by about the poetry of this period?

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I’m not gonna lie, I haven’t looked any deeper into it than what the research says, but it’s an interesting question. I might have another look if I get the chance.

As it stands, if I understood it correctly, these stories are the official reason he was dethroned, spread by his regent Fujiwara no Mototsune. But becasue of the Fujiwara’s constant power play, it is now believed that they may have been made up from the get go. So I suppose without doing any deeper research, the primary source would be Mototsune really xD

I actually think the man married quite a few women in his time, one of which, as we know, was Emperor Koko’s daughter. Another one was one of her sisters too. As for stories, again, if I get a chance I’ll look into it, but there wasn’t anything that came up as I was looking into it the first time…

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Well, my favorite poem so far has to be number 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, just for the pun on しか.

My favorite poet, though, has to be 小野小町, because she seems to have been amazing.

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)


Breezes of Heaven, blow closed the pathway through the clouds to keep a little longer these heavenly dancers from returning home.
– Peter MacMillan, in: Fujiwara, Teika (2018). One Hundred Poets, One Poem Each: A Treasury of Classical Japanese Verse. Penguin UK.


Henjō (遍昭 or 遍照, 816 – February 12, 890) was a Japanese waka poet and Buddhist priest. At birth he was given the name Yoshimine no Munesada (良岑宗貞).

Munesada was the eighth son of Dainagon Yoshimine no Yasuyo (良岑安世), a son of Emperor Kanmu who was relegated to civilian life. He began his career as a courtier, and was later appointed to the position of kurōdo, a sort of Chamberlain, of Emperor Ninmyō. In 849, he was raised to the Head of Kurōdo (蔵人頭, Kurōdo no Tō). After Emperor Nimmyō died in 850, Munesada became a monk out of his grief, taking the religious name Henjō (literally “Universally Illuminated”).
In 885 he was appointed 僧正そうじょう, a rank assigned by the state to Buddhist clergy. Afterwards he called himself Kazan Sōjō (花山僧正).


I found the contents of the poem to be pretty straightforward (see “Translation”) so I have nothing special to report here.

(EDIT: I just realized that this may be the effect of what has been written as general criticism of the author: “he knows how to construct waka, but there is less real emotion. It is like when you see a picture of a woman and it moves your heart”. So yes, the poem is beautiful, the imagery is vivid and clear, but then… that’s about it.)

On one page I found a nice explanation of some words that I want to insert here:

word explanation
雲の通ひ路 天と地をつなぐ道。天女たちが通ると考えられていた
をとめ ここでは「天女」を指す
しばしとどめむ 天女たちをもうしばらく見ていたいという気持ちがこめられている

Henjō was rumored to have had a love affair with the famous female poet Ono no Komachi.

Henjō had a son called 素性法師そせいほうし who also became waka poet and Buddhist priest. He was also chosen to be one of the 三十六歌仙さんじゅうろっかせん, and 百人一首 poem # 21 was written by him.




An exchange between the two:

Ono: 岩の上 旅寢をすれば いと寒し 苔の衣を 我に貸さなん
Henjo: 世をそむなく 苔の衣は たゞ一重 貸さねば疎し いざ二人寢ん (wow!)

I wonder how this sort of thing ended up in anthologies. Did they just keep manuscripts for people to find after they died? Were Ono and Henjo sitting in bed and saying “this was a good exchange let’s show it off/save it for posterity”? How does this happen?

Source with translation:

Edit: blurred sources so that the preview doesn’t spoil the translation.

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