One Hundred Poems by One Hundred Poets


The Ogura hyakunin isshu is a collection of one hundred poems composed for the most part over a period of some three hundred years, from the early tenth to the early thirteenth century. The poems are assumed to have been selected by Fujiwara no Teika (or Sadaie, 1162-1241), the outstanding waka poet and critic of his day, although a number of textual issues exist.

Teika mentions in his diary, the Meigetsu-ki, being requested by his son Tameie to choose one hundred poems that, when transcribed onto rectangular strips of paper known as shikishi, could be used to decorate the door panels in the villa owned by Tameie's father-in-law Utsunomiya Yoritsuna near Mount Ogura on the western outskirts of Kyoto (alternative interpretations hold that the father-in-law made the selection, which was then transcribed by Teika, or that this first selection was later superseded by an almost identical but rearranged version that Teika compiled for his own use).

First known simply as the Hyakunin isshu, the collection became the model for a variety of other similar anthologies, so the place name "Ogura" was subsequently added to distinguish it from the others. Yet such was the prestige of this particular collection that it eventually acquired definitive status, so that even now whenever one speaks of "the" Hyakunin isshu, it is the Ogura hyakunin isshu that is meant. Its influence and authority would be hard to overstate, and it seems safe to say that when the average Japanese thinks of waka, these are the ones that inevitably come to mind (they are, in fact, the first waka memorized by most schoolchildren).

For the translations, I started by relying on several Japanese sources aimed chiefly at general readers and high school students preparing for university entrance examinations. These sources are now in the process of being supplemented by more strictly academic studies. I have, of course, seen previous English translations of many of the poems, but I deliberately avoided consulting them while making my own initial versions, which are as original as can reasonably be expected for this sort of translation. Readers should find the different approaches interesting to consider. Still, not to take advantage of the efforts of previous translators can be tantamount to refusing to correct errors in judgment -- or sometimes just plain outright errors. A two-stage revision process is therefore envisioned for this complete initial set: a first stage in which I will tidy up various inconsistencies and possibly adjust the text to more closely match that of the original, followed by a second stage that takes into consideration other published translations (with credit given as appropriate). This sort of flexibility is one of the primary benefits of publishing online, and other tweaks may be made along the way. I remind readers that I own the copyright to the translations on this site.

Titles, abbreviations, and technical points

Teika selected the poems in the Hyakunin isshu from the first ten imperial anthologies of Japanese poetry, as listed below. Those collections have what might be called complete titles and condensed titles. For example, the complete title of the first such collection is Kokinwakashū (Collection of Ancient and Modern Japanese Poetry). Typically, however, the word waka is omitted, and the collection is simply called Kokinshū. This site will use the somewhat less formal shorter forms. Each translation lists the source of the waka, to which is appended in parentheses the number of the poem in the standard Shinpen kokka taikan (SKT) index published by Kadokawa (all other poem numbers also refer to this source).

The collections, with dates of completion (disagreements may exist) and the number of waka from each included in the Hyakunin isshu:

Date Title Translation No. of waka
905 Kokinshū Collection of Ancient and Modern Poetry 24
951 Gosenshū Later Collection 6
c. 1006 Shūishū Collection of Gleanings 11
1086 Goshūishū Later Collection of Gleanings 14
1127 Kin'yōshū Collection of Golden Leaves 5
1151 Shikashū Collection of Verbal Flowers 5
1188 Senzaishū Collection for a Thousand Years 15
1205 Shinkokinshū New Collection of Ancient and Modern Poetry 14
1235 Shinchokusenshū New Imperial Collection 4
1251 Shokugosenshū Later Collection Continued 2

 

A conventional five-line format has been adopted for the translations, reflecting the importance of the ku (句) for appreciating many of the poetic effects achieved through technical means (kugire is an obvious example). Place names joined with "no" incorporate hyphens in the transliterations -- "Ama-no-kaguyama" and "Tago-no-ura," for instance -- although not necessarily in the translations. Also with respect to transliteration, adjectival verbs (keiyōdōshi) are in principle treated as single words, so inflections like "ni" and "naru" become part of the stem when other particles are attached. The waka are normally accompanied by headnotes in the sources from which they are taken, but whenever a headnote simply specifies the poet or the topic (usually obvious from the poem's classification and/or content), it has usually been passed over in the comments.