Let’s practice reading 川柳！
I’d posted previously about senryu in various places, and @Gorbit99 had the wonderful idea of creating a “senryu a day” challenge for the community.
Senryu are a wonderful, informal form of Japanese poetry, similar to haiku but much less serious and without the requirement to refer to a season. They tend to focus on human foibles and are often quite funny.
Best of all, they are quite short and completely self-contained. Attempting to read and understand a single senryu per day isn’t a huge commitment, and should provide a nice little payoff every single day.
Senryu mostly follow haiku’s 5-7-5 音 structure. Here are two examples:
ゴミの日と / 丸つけられた / 誕生日 • Garbage day / circled / — my birthday
お若いと / 言われて若く / ないと知る • I’m told I look young. / That’s how I know / I’m not.
Notes on these translations
These are community translations: corrections and additional thoughts welcome!
The source document had 若くはない which is also grammatically correct, but would create 8 音 in the middle stanza. The 5-7-5 rule isn’t strictly enforced, but I’ve seen this one written both ways, so I’ll leave the 5-7-5 version here.
Both of these are from a wonderful web page of “masterpiece” senryu (名作川柳). The source page has a wonderfully janky '90s vibe (with a “hit” counter, no less!). I’ve taken the liberty of stuffing all 374 individual poems into a spreadsheet so we can keep track of our translations. Once we have a few dozen translations for that page, I plan to notify the owner that we’re doing this and give him the link to the spreadsheet with the translations.
- Source web page of 356 senryu (no spoilers, just Japanese text).
- Google sheet with translations to date (spoilers).
Every morning California-time (GMT-7 currently), I’ll post the “consensus translation” for the previous day’s poem, as well as announcing the next senryu challenge.
Anyone wishing to participate can submit a reply to that day’s post with a translation attempt. The submission should have the heading
# Translation attempt and wrap the translation in spoilers.
Everyone should vote on their favorites via the “like” (heart) button. Ultimately, I will make the final determination each day as to which translation is the “winner”, but please realize this is completely subjective no matter who chooses or how we choose. Poetry is open to interpretation. I will, however, take the number of likes a submission receives into account. The one with the most will most often be deemed the winner.
No translation can ever be perfect, but in the event of a tie, I’ll try to pick what the community deems best as much as possible.
Submitting translation attempts
Simply post a reply to this thread to submit your own translation attempt.
Please surround your translation in
[/spoiler]tags so everyone can work on their own translations without seeing any clues or giveaways. Please do this for all submissions and for any subsequent comment/discussion posts that might give something away. I realize this might become onerous, so we can probably relax about the spoiler tags for long discussion threads (participants in non-California timezones may want to be careful with scrolling too far from the daily announcement post).
Include the heading
# Translation attemptwith any translation submissions. I’ll just count the likes each morning to determine which translation was the community’s pick.
Please include the reading in kana of the original text with your submission (in parentheses or on a separate line).
Please vote on your favorite submissions each day.
Feel free to lurk, or just to vote with the like button, but anyone at any level can participate: we’re all novices here.
How submissions are graded
Submissions will be graded with the following weighting (in order of importance):
Does it capture the meaning and “vibe” of the original accurately and completely?
Is the English translation easily understood?
Submissions with more “likes” are weighted more heavily than those with fewer.
Short and pithy is better than long and wordy (to capture the essence of Japanese 川柳).
Three stanzas (short - long - short) are preferred, but strict adherence to syllable counts is absolutely not required. It’s nice when a translation is itself an English senryu, but that won’t always be feasible. Submissions that are English senryu are notable, and scored somewhat higher, but “free form” poetry is still very much fair game.
Word for word substitutions when translating from Japanese to English are generally preferred (with wide latitude in choosing precisely which word is used). Extra words not in the original are penalized (but often necessary).
Maintaining the order of thoughts from the original Japanese does not matter . It’s often necessary to change the order due to grammatical and stylistic differences between the languages.
(Completely subjective) Which entry seems the most “poetic,” with senryu-like attributes (rueful humor, word play, surprise twists)?
(Less subjective) As pointed out by @fallynleaf and described in this article, English syllables don’t really match Japanese morae. Entries that do follow the three stanza short-long-short format will be given slightly more weighting than those that don’t.
A submission with 5-7-5 English syllables gets slightly more weighting than just a straight translation.
4-5-4 gets slightly more weighting than 5-7-5.
3-5-3 gets slightly more weighting than 4-5-4.
I will use the How Many Syllables website to determine the number of syllables in each English word.
Don’t hesitate to use any resources you might find helpful, including
There are only 17 morae (音) in most of these — every single one might provide a clue to the meaning. Read carefully! (I glossed over important clues in the first few to my chagrin, completely losing the sense of the poem).
The goal is to get some small, bite-sized reading practice in each day. Using these sorts of resources is totally legit — there are no exam proctors or bonus points for translating completely on your own. Over time, I expect we’ll all get better at translating most of these without external tools.
Please join us! Any level can participate, and you never know who might have some useful clue as to what some of these really mean.
Remember: It’s not about win/lose or getting the translation right or wrong. It’s about having fun trying to tease out the meaning behind these clever little poems.
TODAY’S ASSIGNMENT: 5/17/2022 45. 工作にシャネルの空き箱子にもたせ
- 5/16/2022 18. 帰りぎわとらなきゃよかったこの電話
- 5/15/2022 143. 乾杯のグラス持たされ三十分
- 5/14/2022 88. パトカーが付いて来るよと子ははしゃぎ
- 5/13/2022: 26. 俺の方ばかり見て言う注意事項
- 5/12/2022: 280. 家中でだまされてやる父の嘘
- 5/11/2022 208. 勤務先電話をすれば夫休み
- 5/10/2022 257. オレ粗大ゴミならおまえ危険物
- 5/9/2022 347. 下書きの 送信キーを 猫が押し
- 5/8/2022 41. 言い負けてよかった妻の上機嫌
- 5/7/2022 260. ナイターの拍手隣家と敵味方
- 5/6/2022 293. 花の名を聞いてケンカの仲なおり
- 5/5/2022 9. 終電車どうして俺だけしらふなの
- 5/4/2022 285. 棒グラフ伸ばしてくれた子の寝顔
- 5/3/2022 336.「鬼は外」 鬼が豆まき オレは外
- 5/2/2022 262. 忘れ物してたまるかの十五階
- 5/1/2022 330. 宝くじ はずれて辞表 また破り
- 4/30/2022 226. 雑草の名前わかると抜きにくい
- 4/29/2022 351. 会社へは 来るなと上司 行けと妻
- 4/28/2022 167. 鬼でも来い独り暮らしはもう飽きた
- 4/27/2022 156. 禁煙と見事に書けて一服す
- 4/26/2022 191. 誰かじゃなくて何かに似ている人
- 4/25/2022 129. 目の前に違う教師がいる目覚め
- 4/24/2022 146. 待合室グリーン券を上に持つ
- 4/23/2022 93. 喧嘩して勝った子も泣く幼稚園
- 4/22/2022 63. 目は一重アゴ二重に腹は三重
- 4/21/2022 108. グーを出す孫の癖知りチョキを出す
- 4/20/2022 353. お父さん マスクも会話も よくずれる
- 4/19/2022 3. ボーナス日出逢った頃の妻に逢う
- 4/18/2022 2. 運動会抜くなその子は課長の子
- 4/18/2022 1. ゴミの日と丸つけられた誕生日
- 4/18/2022 104. お若いと言われて若くはないと知る