(The increasingly less) Daily senryu thread

Let’s practice reading 川柳(せんりゅう)

THE MOST RECENT ASSIGNMENT can be ready by expanding the “solution” below.[1]

Previous Translations

Apologies, this list is woefully out of date. It became too onerous to update this every day.

Yow! I’m quickly betting behind. I still need to add 9/23 through 10/5.

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 (おん) structure. Here are two examples:

  1. ゴミの()と / (まる)つけられた / 誕生日(たんじょうび)Garbage day / circled / — my birthday

  2. (わか)いと / ()われて若く / ないと()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 (わか)ない which is also grammatically correct, but would create 8 (おん) 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(めいさく)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.

Overall process

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] and [/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 attempt with 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.

  • Have fun!

How submissions are graded

Submissions will be graded with the following weighting (in order of importance):

  1. Does it capture the meaning and “vibe” of the original accurately and completely?

  2. Is the English translation easily understood?

  3. Submissions with more “likes” are weighted more heavily than those with fewer.

  4. Short and pithy is better than long and wordy (to capture the essence of Japanese 川柳(せんりゅう)).

  5. 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.

  6. 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).

  7. 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.

  8. (Completely subjective) Which entry seems the most “poetic,” with senryu-like attributes (rueful humor, word play, surprise twists)?

  9. (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.

  10. A submission with 5-7-5 English syllables gets slightly more weighting than just a straight translation.

  11. 4-5-4 gets slightly more weighting than 5-7-5.

  12. 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.

Tips and tools

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.

  1. I grew tired of updating this link and the previous translations ↩︎


Monday, April 18

Previous senryu:

  1. ゴミの()と / (まる)つけられた / 誕生日(たんじょうび)
    The circled day was my birthday … and garbage day


  • I’m fairly certain 丸つかられた modifies 誕生日, but I’m open to corrections. I’m still very much a novice.

Current senryu challenge:

  1. 運動会抜くなその子は課長の子

So is the “next senryu” the one that should be analysed? In that case I would call it current, this previous-next thing is confusing

  1. 運動会抜くなその子は課長の子

The kid that didn’t attend the sports festival was the chief’s.


運動会抜く - to skip the sports festival
な - turns it into an adjective
その子 - the kid
運動会抜くなその子 - the kid that skipped the sports festival
課長のこ(だ) the section manager’s/chief’s kid

Fixed. Thanks for the feedback.

Some context to kick off the current discussion:

Pretty much every primary school in Japan conducts an 運動会(うんどうかい) (usually translated as “sports day”) annually. They are actually quite fun, with the parents cheering on the kids for tug-o-war, relay races, and various other athletic games. But like anything they can sometimes become a bit of a hassle for the parents, especially if you have kids of different ages and multiple schools.

Garbage day, circled in the calendar, is my birthday


I think that’s a little off the mark. Is it the kid that’s extracting themself?

You mean it would be closer to
The kid that got pulled out from the sports festival…?

I’m pretty sure the と in the poem is a simple “and”. The day is definitely circled, and that day is definitely both the birthday and garbage day, but I think the way it’s written it’s the birthday that’s encircled.

I believe, in other words, that the literal translation would be:

Garbage day and encircled-birthday.

But that doesn’t give the sense of the poem at all.

My translation:

Don’t skip sports day. That’s the section chief’s child over there.

(i.e. One parent talking to another a few days before sports day. In other words, “You’ll want to be seen supporting the kids.”)

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と is also used as punctuation of sorts in haiku, and that’s how I read this.

It’s the same day, so I think it’s fair to say that the garbage day is also circled

Yeah, that makes more sense, but then wouldn’t it be kids talking to each other or something? Or do parents also go to these?
Couldn’t it be one kid talking to the other about that guy being a snitch?

I figured 抜く must have some special meaning in relation to sports, so I looked it up and it could mean overtake, and I think that fits. I imagine it’s talking about track

At the sports festival, don’t overtake that kid, my boss’ kid


I think it’s overtake only metaphorically, like extracting yourself out of the crowd


I’ve certainly been wrong before, and I suspect your Japanese is better than mine, but let me find a native to see how this should be parsed for certain. I think it’s just a simple “and” here.

I think that 丸つけられた modifies birthday explicitly in this sentence: 丸つかられた誕生日 is one “thing” (technical linguist lingo).

In any event, I think that “The circled day was my birthday … and garbage day” captures the feeling behind the poem pretty well. It’s VERY typical for everything to be reversed, of course, translating between the two languages. It’s tricky because the whole joke is the ambiguity around why it’s circled.

It’s impossible to directly translate poetry, of course (certainly not while meeting the 5-7-5 requirement) but the feeling might be written in idiomatic English something like: “Wednesday is both garbage day and my birthday. I wonder why it’s circled?”

I’m just trying to capture the fact that the literal translation includes the words “circled birthday”.

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Nah, I think it’s closer to “don’t extract yourself from sports day” or “don’t skip sports day”. There’s no special relationship to sports that I’m aware of.

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Either way it doesn’t make a difference. I think omitting the “and” makes sense regardless

Not arguing that, I think that’s incorporated in my translation

Sure, that just not how I like it

Keeping the syllable count is irrelevant to me. While it is important in Japanese, I don’t feel like it adds anything in English

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I really don’t see how that fits with the poem. What does that have to do with 課長の子

That said I have changed my mind and instead think it’s more likely a contraction of 気を抜くand more like

Sports day, don’t lose focus, that’s my boss’ kid

I can’t make it sound like a poem, though

Agreed. I just think “Garbage day, circled in the calendar, is my birthday” literally says garbage day is circled while the original Japanese literally states its the birthday that’s circled and just implies it for garbage day.


My birthday is circled. It’s also garbage day.

Thoughts? We need somebody else to weigh in to break the tie. :slight_smile:

The feeling I get is “the boss is gonna be there, you’ll want to be seen supporting the kids.”

Hmm. That sorta makes sense to me, too, but without the 気を, 抜く definitely connotes “pull out” / “extract” / “withdraw” / “skip” rather than losing focus.

For example:

昼飯(ひるめし)を抜く • skip lunch

I also suspect it’s “our boss’s kid” rather than just the speaker’s boss. Hard to know though since the form forces brevity. I guess it boils down to whether the conversation is happening before sports day or during.

Unfortunately my unpaid translators lovely family is in Japan taking care of family stuff, so it may take a while to hear back. :wink:


Parents (and extended family and friends) are definitely encouraged to go to 運動会(うんどうかい) to support the kids. They often have at least one event where the parents are asked to participate! I participated in my share of tug-o-war’s at these things. :slight_smile:

Usually (always?) the schools break the kids up into 白組(しろぐみ) (white team) and 紅組(あかぐみ) (red team) with only one overall winner announced at the end of competition. Each class within a school year is randomly assigned an arm-band/head-band with their team’s color (一年一組(いちねんいちぐみ) is assigned to white, 1年()組 to red, etc.).

Most events have kids in the same school year going against each other, but some of the more luck-oriented games (throwing balls into baskets held aloft by a teacher, for example) have all ages competing together.

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