@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

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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The first source says “so she sent him this”, i.e. I assume she wrote it down and had a servant deliver the message. And probably his reply was also in written form. So it was written down right from the start, is my guess.
The question is, who kept it afterwards and published it…


Lol maybe the servant took a peak and thought “this is fire! Better hold on to it!”

I wish I had access to a good library because so far I’ve only been able to use blogs as my sources, and while there doesn’t seem to be much resources on Heian poetry in English, there are still some monographs I can’t get my hands on :cry: I’m sure this answer is out there. I’ll have to compile a list of such unanswered questions in case I get the chance to go to a proper library in the fall.

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Oh, this just reminded me of a poem by Goethe where he actually describes composing in bed :joy_cat:

The poem is called 5th Roman Elegie.

This is the German original

This is an English translation which is quite fine but it blunders when it comes to my favourite part: In the German version he says that he softly counted the hexameters onto her back with his fingers, which is an image I really love.

Well, erm. Back to our Japanese poets again!

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20 わびぬれば 今はた同じ 難波なる 身をつくしても 逢はむとぞ思ふ

I had trouble making heads or tales of this poem before finding explanations in English tbh.


I can’t find much information worth sharing on Prince Motoyoshi that isn’t already in this book–he was quite a philanderer. I did, however, find more information on the addressee of the poem. It was one Fujiawa no Hoshi ( 藤原豊子), aka Lady Kyōgoku, according to the Gosenshu (951, shortly after his death), the anthology in which the poem originally appears. She was the granddaughter of Fujiawa no Mototsune who I mentioned in my write-up on poem 13. Small world! I feel like getting a handle on the geneologies will really help solidify our knowledge of these poems and their historic contexts, at least in terms of timeline.

I can find a lot of people calling Motoyoshi’s cuckolding of the emperor a scandal, but nothing on whether or not he was punished. Apparantly this poem was written after the scandel broke out. Genji from the Tale of Genji also has an affair with the emperor’s wife but it doesn’t seem to cause the same scandal (in fact, it works out for him well in the end). When scandal does break out for Genji, it’s for sleeping with his brother’s de facto consort. He just moves away from Kyoto before being formally expelled, and is eventually recalled, but I presume an affair with a consort of the emperor would demand much more punishment.


While lazy on my part, again this is done more concisely than I can word it:

The first two lines express the poet’s awareness of having been placed in an untenable position, along with a grim what-have I-got-to-lose sort of attitude (a full syntactic break at the end of the second line signals the nikugire technique). The last three lines complete the overall logic with the poet’s assertion that he will meet the woman despite the heavy price he knows he will have to pay. Miotsukushi is a kakekotoba (pivot word) suggesting the poet’s willingness to sacrifice his reputation for the woman. If it is to be taken as more than just clever wordplay, channel markers must also be seen as somehow sacrificing themselves, so an interpolation has been ventured.

It’s this above sort of analysis that I find most helpful for making sense of poems.

I’m not sure how channel markers sacrifice themselves, however. I found two other possibilities, one MUCH darker. Either the river of his tears would need such a gauge to measure it, or his body (身)could be found at the tide gauge in Naniwa bay if his hope could not be achieved.

A Miotsukushi is a channel marker like this:
Even with the book explaining that, I didn’t get it.

The other reading of this kakekotoba is 身を尽くしても, which means “even if it exhausts my life.”

Presumably because of the scandal the Hoshi was unwilling to meet him again fro fear of further damaging her rep, so I guess this is his attempt to encourage her back.




6th week, now starting the second part of the book :slight_smile:

  • 21 今来むと 言ひしばかりに 長月の 有明の月を 待ち出でつるかな(素性法師)
  • 22 吹くからに 秋の草木の しをるれば むべ山風を 嵐といふらむ(文屋康秀)
  • 23 月見れば ちぢにものこそ 悲しけれ わが身一つの 秋にはあらねど(大江千里)
  • 24 このたびは ぬさもとりあへず 手向山 紅葉の錦 神のまにまに(菅家)
  • 25 名にしおはば 逢坂山の さねかづら 人にしられで くるよしもがな(三条右大臣)
  • Just reading the book/poems

0 voters

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It’s very close to the one present in the book, though :thinking: Was there anything specific that tripped you up in the book’s explanation?

I think I was just tired and while I was understanding the sentences, I had trouble seeing how they would actually look in reality–maybe I wasn’t trusting my own comprehension of the language? You know what I mean?

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Ah, sure! I know that feeling. Anyway, thank you for always contributing. :slight_smile: