Skip to main content


Hyakunin Isshu: poem 2 (Empress Jitō・haru sugite)

So spring ends and summer comes, now white robes hang to dry on Mount Amanokagu.
Haru sugite 夏来にけらし
natsu kinikerashi 白妙の
shirotae no 衣干すてふ
koromo hosu chō 天の香具山
Ama no Kaguyama

Empress Jitō Empress Jitō (持統天皇Jitō tennō; 645–702) is one of the poets, whose poem in the Hyakunin Isshu originally comes from Man’yōshū 万葉集(Collection of Ten Thousand Leaves; finished around 759) – the first collection of Japanese poetry, and therefore represents this oldest period in the history of waka和歌.
Jitō was born as Imperial Princess Uno no Sarara (鵜野讃良皇女Uno no Sarara no himemiko), and was the second daughter of Emperor Tenji (天智天皇 Tenji tennō; 626–671; poem 1). In 657 she married her uncle Imperial Prince Ōama (大海人皇子Ōama no ōji), who went on to become Emperor Tenmu (天武天皇Tenmu tennō; ?–686) in 673. With Tenmu, Jitō was mother of Imperial Prince Kusakabe (草壁皇子Kusakabe no ōji; 662–689). Kusakabe was supposed to succeed his father on the throne but died just three years after his father, without ever becoming t…
Recent posts

Hyakunin Isshu: poem 77 (Retired Emperor Sutoku・se wo hayami)

Swift waters parted by the jagged rocks, are joined at river’s end.
Se wo hayami 岩にせかるる
iwa ni sekaruru 滝川の
taki-gawa no われても末に
warete mo sue ni あはむとぞ思ふ
awan to zo omou
Retired Emperor Sutoku (崇徳院Sutoku-in) Emperor Sutoku(崇徳天皇Sutoku tennō; 1119–1164)  was born as Imperial Prince Akihito 顕仁親王Akihitoshinnō), son of Emperor Toba (鳥羽天皇Toba tennō; 1103–1156, reigned 1107–1123) and Fujiwara no Tamako 藤原珠子 (also read Shōshi, later 待賢門院 Taikenmon’in; 1101–1145), although there were rumors in the palace that his real father was Toba’s grandfather Emperor Shirakawa (白河天皇Shirakawa tennō; 1053–1129, reigned 1073–1087).
Emperor Sutoku reigned as the 75th sovereign from 1123 to 1141, right after Emperor Toba. He was made to abdicate at the end of 1141, in favour of his younger brother Imperial Prince Narihito (体仁親王Narihito shinnō; 1139–1155), who became Emperor Konoe (近衛天皇Konoe tennō; reigned 1142–1155). When Konoe died at the age of sixteen, instead of Sutoku’s son, Toba placed another one of his own son…

Hyakunin Isshu: poem 40 (Taira no Kanemori・shinoburedo)

Since I could not hide my love, people would ask if I was pining for someone.
しのぶれど Shinoburedo 色に出にけり iro ni idenikeri 我が恋は wa ga koi wa ものや思ふと mono ya omou to 人の問ふまで hito no tou made
Kanemori… Taira no Kanemori 平兼盛 (died 990) was a middle-rank courtier, a descendant of Emperor Kōkō (光孝天皇Kōkō tennō; 830–887, poem 15). It is believed by some that he was the biological father of Akazome Emon 赤染衛門 (dates unknown; poem 59).
As a courtier, Kanemori was not particularly successful, only rising to Junior Fifth Rank, Upper Grade (従五位上ju goi no jō) and ending his career as a governor of Suruga 駿河, modern-day Shizuoka 静岡.
As a poet, however, Kanemori is considered a representative poet of Gosenshū後撰集(Gosen wakashū 後撰和歌集; Later Collection of Japanese Poems, 951) period and is one of Fujiwara no Kintō's 藤原公任(966–1041; poem 55) Thirty-six Poetic Immortals 三十六歌仙(Sanjūrokkasen).  
84 of his poems are officially included in imperial anthologies: 38 in Shūishū 拾遺集(Shūi Wakashū拾遺和歌集; Collection of Gleanings, 100…

Hyakunin Isshu: poem 17 (Ariwara no Narihira・chihayaburu)

Impassionate gods have never seen crimson that lies in the Tatsuta River.
Chihayaburu 神代も聞かず
kami-yo mo kikazu 竜田川
Tatsuta-gawa からくれなゐに
kara-kurenai ni 水くぐるとは
mizu kuguru to wa

Ariwara no Narihira Ariwara no Narihira 有原業平 (825–880) was a son of Prince Abo (阿保親王 Abo shinnō; 792–842) and Princess Ito (伊都内親王 Ito naishinnō; died 861), who were respectively son of Emperor Heizei (平城天皇Heizei tennō ;773–824) and daughter of Emperor Kanmu(桓武天皇Kanmu tennō; 735–806). This makes Narihira a grandson of Emperors Kanmu and Heizei. However, Kanmu himself was the eldest son of Emperor Heizei, meaning that Narihira was both a grandson and a great-grandson of Emperor Heizei. Imperial descent, however, did not grant Narihira an imperial title, only the last name Ariwara 有原. Another son of Prince Abo, Ariwara no Yukihira 有原行平 (818–893; poem 16) was Narihira’s older half-brother from a different mother.
Rather than for his political career, Narihira is known as a poet and the most-likely main protagonist of Ise …