July, 2014

This page is written monthly
by Harumi Okochi.
Sometimes Harumi's friends join.
We'd be happy if you look at
previous issues.


The legend of Sayohime
appears in the Man'yoshu

The Man'yoshu Poems in Karatsu
Oldest Anthology of Japan

Hello, friends!
I am going to write this month about the Man'yoshu and the poems of Karatsu in that anthology.

The Man'yoshu means literally "Collection of Ten Thousand Leaves". This is the oldest existing anthology of Japanese poetry, compiled sometime after 759AD during the Nara Period.
The compiler is thought to be Otomo no Yakamochi, who was a high rank nobleman of the time's dynasty.

Over 4500 poems were gathered here, whose writers range from Emperors, Noble men to unknown soldiers or farmers of 4th to 8th centuries.

Man'yoshu has been a home town for Japanese mind. People are proud if even only one poem mentions their place.
Karatsu has 30 poems, and besides the capital cities of the time, it is amazingly many!

I will pick up some of Karatsu poems from Man'yoshu. Please excuse my poor translation.

The Matsuura River,
Your stagnant pools sometimes stop the water.
But I will be never stagnant,
Waiting for you ever and ever.

At the time of Man'yo-shu,
the present Tamashima River was
called Matsuura River.
Now, the Matsuura River is a bigger, longer river flowing through the city.

My house is in this village of Tamashima,
Up this beautiful stream.
I will not reveal whose daughter I am, though.
Being ashamed before you, My Lord.

The village up the Tamashima River.

Long, long ago,
The Lady Matsura Sayohime waved her scarf
Goodbye to her leaving husband.
The legend named the mountain "Hirefuri (Scarf Waver)"

The mountain of legend,
"Hirefuri-yama" is now called
Kagamiyama beyond the pine forest,

The Lady Sayohime
Waved her scarf to the leaving sail,
Praying and hoping, in vain,
That the ship might return to her.

Seen from Kagamiyama.
Sayohime waved her scarf to the ship leaving this bay.

Matsuura River.
Glistening and rippling,
And makes the skirt wet
Of the girl who stands to fish Ayus.

Ayu (sweet fish) in Tamashima River

I wished I would return before Autumn
And see my Hagi flowers and pampas grass at home.
But still now I am far away,
And my flowers must have been gone.
(Is my loved one still waiting for me?)

Hagi (Bush clover) in early autumn

Wild geese,
Flying over the mountain range,
If you go far to my home town,
See and tell me how my wife is.

Geese flying north

Everybody is a poet once in a while.
I feel happy when I see dew drops on Hagi flowers, shadows of geese flying away,
the glorious evening sun setting into the sea...........
Then I try to write a nice poem, beautiful and touching....
And give it up!
Please send me your poems instead.
Let me share your happiness of being a poet.

Thank you very much for joining me.
I hope you will visit us again next month.

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