One Hundred Poems by One Hundred Poets

Poem 91


naku ya shimoyo no

   samushiro ni

koromo katashiki

hitori ka mo nemu


   On a frosty night

with the crickets chirping,

   am I to spread out

a sleeve on this cold straw mat

and sleep here by myself?

-- The Go-Kyōgoku Regent and Former Chancellor


The source is the second “Autumn” book of the Shinkokinshū (SKT 518). The appellation is a reference to Fujiwara no Yoshitsune (1169 – 1206), second son of the regent Fujiwara no Kanezane (1149 – 1207) and the composer of the kana preface of the Shinkokinshū.

Like the previous waka, this is an example of honkadori, or allusive variation, although here two earlier waka are involved: Poem 3 by Kakinomoto no Hitomaro, from the Shūishū, and an anonymous waka in the Kokinshū (SKT 689) about the Maiden of Uji Bridge waiting for her lover. There may also be an allusion to a verse in the Man’yoshū (SKT 1696) that contains an identical last two measures. The Japanese word for “straw mat” is homophonous with the word for “cold,” so a kakekotoba conflating the two is the second poetic device at work in the waka. The situation described might be taken as someone living alone in a mountain village or perhaps spending the night at an inn while traveling: despite the reference to sleeping alone -- and despite the classification of the Kokinshū source as a love poem -- the focus in the Shinkokinshū is more on the lonesomeness of the season than on the loneliness of a lover, even if a suggestion of the latter remains.

Literal rendition and notes
  • Measure 1:  cricket
  • Measure 2:  chirp | ! | frosty-night | 's
  • Measure 3:  coldness + straw-mat | on
  • Measure 4:  clothing | spreading-out-one-side
  • Measure 5:  one-person | ? | ! | will-likely-sleep

The words in classical Japanese for "cricket" and "grasshopper" -- kirigirisu and kōrogi, respectively -- are thought to have reversed in meaning over time. The same thing supposedly happened with the words suzumushi ("pine cricket" in classical times, "bell cricket" now) and matsumushi ("bell cricket" in classical times, "pine cricket" now), although documentary evidence for this reversal is actually lacking. The sense of the verb katashiku ("spread out one side") at the end of the fourth measure -- conjugated in the continuative form -- comes from making a distinction between sleeping alone and sleeping with a lover, when the man and the woman would each lay out a sleeve for the other to use as a pillow.

Poem 92

  wa ga sode wa

shiohi ni mienu

   oki no ishi no

hito koso shirane

kawaku ma mo nashi


   My sleeves, like rocks

submerged in the offing

   even at ebb tide,

may go unnoticed by any,

yet are given no time to dry.

-- Nijōin no Sanuki


The source is the second “Love” book of the Senzaishū (SKT 760). Sanuki (1141? – 1217?) was the daughter of Minamoto no Yorimasa (1104 – 1180) and served Empress Ninshi (1174 – 1238), the wife of both Emperor Nijō (1143 – 1165; r. 1158 – 1165) and Emperor Go-Toba (see Poem 99).

This is the last in a short series of three waka that focuses on the image of kimono sleeves, and the second poem in a row to rely on the allusive technique of honkadori, evident in the close rewording of an original in the Izumi Shikibu shū private collection (for Izumi Shikibu, see Poem 56). The second and third measures of the Japanese original function as a descriptive preface, or jokotoba, preceding the more subjective reflections of the last two measures. The poet likely intends the word hito ("person") to refer not just to people in general but to one person in particular -- the one in whom she has a romantic interest.

Literal rendition and notes
  • Measure 1:  I | 's | sleeve | as-for
  • Measure 2:  ebb-tide | at | not-be-seen
  • Measure 3:  offing | 's | rock | (subj.)
  • Measure 4:  person | indeed | not-know
  • Measure 5:  to-dry | period-of-time | ! | nonexistent

As in Poem 46, the fourth-measure pairing of the bound particle koso ("indeed") with the bound ending ne, the perfective form of the negative auxiliary verb zu, establishes a contrastive relationship with the fifth measure, the "yet" of the translation.

Poem 93

   yo-no-naka wa

tsuneni mogamo na

   nagisa kogu

ama no obune no

tsunade kanashi mo


   Would that the world

might stay forever the same!

   How deeply moving is

the sight of a small fishing boat

being towed along the shore.

-- The Kamakura Minister of the Right


The source is the “Travel” book of the Shinchokusenshū (SKT 525). Minamoto no Sanetomo (1192 – 1219) was the second son of Minamoto no Yoritomo (1147 – 1199) and the third shōgun of the Kamakura bakufu. He was assassinated by his nephew Kugyō at the Tsuraoka Hanchimangū shrine in Kamakura.

There are two direct allusions to earlier poems that inform the waka's meaning, illustrating the honkadori technique. One is the reference to a verse in Book 1 of the Man'yōshū (SKT 22) in which the poet explicitly wishes for things to remain unchanged. The other refers to a so-called Eastern Song in the Kokinshū (SKT 1088) which remarks on the poignant sight of a boat being towed along the shore of Shiogama Bay (present-day Matsushima Bay in Miyagi Prefecture). That the same scene would have presented itself on the coast of Kamakura establishes an overlapping connection with the fate of Sanetomo (who studied waka composition with Teika). The nikugire technique is evident in the syntactic break at the end of the second measure, neatly separating the two allusions so they can be synthesized through juxtaposition.

Literal rendition and notes
  • Measure 1:  world | as-for
  • Measure 2:  being-eternal | if-only | !
  • Measure 3:  coastline | ply
  • Measure 4:  fisher | 's | small-boat | 's
  • Measure 5:  tow-rope | deeply-moving | !

The second measure begins with an adjectival verb, tsunenari ("be-eternal"), inflected in the continuative form because of the following final particle mogana, signifying a wish or desire. The adjective kanashi in the fourth measure might be rendered as "sad," but it is important to realize that the sight is regarded not simply as evoking sadness but as something the poet finds almost painfully moving. Note than in the original, the objective correlative of the poet's feelings proves to be the concrete image of the towlines rather than the scene as a whole.

Poem 94

   Mi-yoshino no

yama no akikaze

   sayo fukete

furusato samuku

koromo utsu nari


   The autumn wind blows

through the mountains of fair Yoshino

   late into the night,

the fulling block echoing coldly

where our sovereigns once held sway.

--Consultant Masatsune


The source is the second “Autumn” book of the Shinkokinshū (SKT 483). Fujiwara no Masatsune (1170 – 1221) was one of the compilers of the Shinkokinshū.

Yoshino, in present-day Nara Prefecture (mi- is a beautifying prefix), was the site of a detached palace built in the 8th century (possibly preceded by others) to which early Japanese emperors frequently repaired. By the time of the Kokinshū, the region had acquired connotations of desolation and distant imperial glory. This is another allusive honkadori poem, based on a waka in the “Winter” book of the Kokinshū (SKT 325) about the freezing cold of Yoshino when it lies buried under deep snow. The season has been transposed to autumn and the visual image of snow replaced by the conventionally desolate sound of the fulling block, which is carried on the wind.

Literal rendition and notes
  • Measure 1:  fair-Yoshino | 's
  • Measure 2:  mountain | 's | autumn-wind
  • Measure 3:  night | deepening
  • Measure 4:  onetime-home | coldly
  • Measure 5:  clothing | beat | be-heard

As in Poem 35, the connotation of furusato in the fourth measure is not the narrow one of "place of one's birth." Rather, the reference is to a place of past significance, personal or historical, and is typically associated with feelings of nostalgia. Although the adjective samushi ("cold," here inflected in the continuative form) does not function as a pivot word -- only a single meaning is involved -- a grammatical doubling takes place by means of which "cold" can be taken as referring to both the coldness of the place (in the fourth measure) and the cold sounding of the fulling block (spanning the fourth and fifth measures). The auxiliary verb nari at the end of the fifth measure is attached to the final form of inflected items and indicates that the source of a sound or voice can be identified (see also Poem 83, for example).

Poem 95


ukiyo no tami ni

   ōu kana

wa ga tatsu soma ni

sumizome no sode


   Unworthy as I am,

I shall cover with protection

   those of this mournful world.

For I reside now on Mount Hiei

in a robe with sleeves dyed black.

-- Former Major Archbishop Jien


The source is the second “Miscellaneous” book of the Senzaishū (SKT 1137). Jien (1155 – 1225) was the son of Fujiwara no Tadamichi (see Poem 76) and the author of the historical treatise Gukanshō.

A new priest is announcing his resolve to make good use of the saving grace of Buddha: he figuratively declares that he will use his new status (symbolized by his black sleeves) to protect the ordinary inhabitants of this world through prayer. To convey this presumably self-referential message, Jien has employed a number of rhetorical techniques, including a syntactic break after the third measure (sankugire); wordplay involving the kakekotoba sumizome (referring both to sleeves that have been "dyed ink-black” and the poet's “newly started life” on Mount Hiei); the associated words, or engo, of sode (“sleeve”) and ōu (“cover”; and the implied grammatical inversion (tōchi-hō) of displacing the fifth measure from its expected position after the second (implied because the accusative case particle o would technically be required before the verb ōu; that is "use my sleeves to cover"). Moreover, there is a honkadori allusion to a Shinkokinshū poem (SKT 1920, classified as a shakkyō, or poem on Siikyamuni's teachings) that was supposedly composed by Saichō (767 – 822) when he built the main hall of the Enryakuji, headquarters of the Tendai sect on Mount Hiei, in which Saichō invokes the various Buddhas' protection.

Literal rendition and notes
  • Measure 1:  presumptuously
  • Measure 2:  mournful-world | 's | populace | on
  • Measure 3:  spread-over | !
  • Measure 4:  I | (subj.) | stand | lumber-mountain | on
  • Measure 5:  black-dyeing + starting-to-live | 's | sleeve

Although rendered adverbially here, the word ōkenaku in the first measure is the continuative form of the adjective ōkenashi ("presumptuous"), used to imply humility on the part of the poet. The word soma in the fourth measure -- the Chinese character for which is 杣 -- refers to a mountain that serves as a source of timber for temples and palaces and, because it is taken directly from Saichō's verse, means that the mountain in this case must be Mount Hiei.

Poem 96

   hana sasō

arashi no niwa no

   yuki narade

furiyuku mono wa

wa ga mi narikeri


   A gale strewing

pink blossoms in my garden

   instead of snow--

the years, too, have settled on me

one upon the other.

-- The Lay Priest and Former Chancellor


The source is the first “Miscellaneous” book of the Shinchokusenshū (SKT 1052). The attribution is a reference to Fujiwara no Kintsune (1171 – 1244), who was the brother-in-law of Fujiwara no Teika (see Poem 97) and one of the most powerful men in the imperial court after the Jōkyū Disturbance of 1221.

Both the mountain gale and the blossoms are personifications (the gale is “urging” the blossoms to "enter" the garden): the gijin-hō technique. The kakekotoba furiyuku pivots the meaning from “continue to fall” to “continue to age.” Finally, the poet is affecting confusion between the images of cherry blossoms and snow: the technique of mitate. The picturesque description of cherry blossoms densely scattered in a garden thus gives way to a more somber reflection on the passage of time. That the beauty of the garden depends upon the scattering of the blossoms establishes a poignant thematic link between the two parts of the waka.

Literal rendition and notes
  • Measure 1:  flower | invite
  • Measure 2:  gale | 's | garden
  • Measure 3:  snow | not-being
  • Measure 4:  continue-to-fall + continue-to-age | thing | as-for
  • Measure 5:  I | 's | self | be!

The way that language can be compressed in waka is illustrated by the lack of an accusative case particle in the first measure (a "complete" statement would be hana o sasō) and the implied ellipsis of the expressionarashi no niwa ("gale's garden") in the second measure, which is to be understood as arashi no fuku niwa ("garden in which the gale blows"). These are not examples of "poetic" techniques so much as instances of standard Japanese usage.

Poem 97

   konu hito o

Matsuho-no-ura no

   yūnagi ni

yaku ya moshio no

mi mo kogaretsutsu


   I wait for one who

does not come, and like seaweed

   burned for salt in

the dusky calm of Matsuho Bay,

I am constantly scorched by flames.

-- Provisional Middle Counselor Teika


The source is the third “Love” book of the Shinchokusenshū (SKT 849). Fujiwara no Teika (or Sadaie, 1162 – 1241) was the son of Fujiwara no Shunzei (or Toshinari, see Poem 83). Besides the Ogura Hyakunin isshu, he played a leading role in compiling the Shinkokinshū and also compiled the Shinchokusenshū. The headnote in the source dates the waka to a poetry contest held in the palace in 1218, but Teika's private Shūi gusō (Gleanings from Humble Scribbles) collection more reliably gives the date as 1216.

The poet has assumed the persona of a woman waiting in vain for her lover to come. Matsuho Bay is located at the northernmost point of Awaji Island in the Seto Inland Sea off of Kōbe. A place name, it also incorporates the common kakekotoba (pivot word) matsu, which is a homonym for “to wait.” The second and third measures constitute a descriptive jokotoba preface presaging the more subjective image of searing passion. Yaku (“burn"), moshio (“seaweed salt”), and kogare (“scorch” or "sear") are all engo, or associated words. There is also a direct allusion to a poem in Book 6 of the Man’yōshū (SKT 940) that describes the burning of seaweed for salt at Matsuho Bay: an example of the honkadori technique. The language does seem a bit overwrought, but one would hesitate to gainsay the foremost (or at least most influential) poet of the day.

Literal rendition and notes
  • Measure 1:  not-come | person | (acc.)
  • Measure 2:  wait + Matsuho-Bay | 's
  • Measure 3:  evening-calm | in
  • Measure 4:  burn | ! | seaweed-salt | 's
  • Measure 5:  oneself | also | continuously-be-scorched

The conjunctive particle tsutsu at the end of the fifth measure signifies continuous or repeated action. In the Hyakunin isshu, the particle appears in a total of seven waka: Poems 1, 4, 15, 42, 49, 53, and 97.

Poem 98

   kaze soyugu

Nara no ogawa no

   yūgure wa

misogi zo natsu no

shirushi narikeru


   In the evening,

as the oaks rustle in the breeze

   at the Nara stream,

the rite of purification

is a last reminder of summer.

-- Ietaka, Junior Second Rank


The source is the “Summer” book of the Shinchokusenshū (SKT 192). Fujiwara no Ietaka (1158 – 1237), here identified by his court rank, was one of the compilers of the Shinkokinshū.

An annual purification rite was (and still is) held on the last day of the lunar Sixth Month at a portion of the Mitarashi River that runs through Upper Kamo Shrine in Kyoto. Because of the surrounding oak (nara) trees, the location itself is called Nara. The rite served as an occasion for participants to symbolically wash away the defilements of the first half of the year. The poem first sets a scene more appropriate to autumn: a peaceful evening with the breeze blowing through the leaves. Then, in the last two measures, the reader is reminded by mention of the ceremony that summer has not yet passed, that we are actually only on autumn's cusp. The poet, in other words, is giving expression to a sensibility that goes beyond simply dividing the year into four distinct seasons: transitions like this also prompt a keen awareness of seasonal change. The description is indirect, however, since the headnote in the source explains that the poem was composed to complement a scene painted on folding screen brought to the palace by an incoming imperial consort (in this case, Teika's daughter Shunshi, in 1229).

As noted above, the waka contains an untranslatable kakekotoba play on words in the form of nara/Nara, which refers to both the oak trees and the area to which they lend their name. This is also the last in a nearly uninterrupted series of verses, beginning with Poem 90, that constitute allusive variations of earlier waka (the honkadori technique). The allusions here are to poems on the same location in the Kokinrokujō (Six Volumes of Ancient and Modern Poetry, SKT 118; poss. late 10th century) and the Goshūishū (SKT 231).

Literal rendition and notes
  • Measure 1:  wind | rustle
  • Measure 2:  Nara + oak | 's | stream | 's
  • Measure 3:  evening | as-for
  • Measure 4:  purification-rite | ! | summer | 's
  • Measure 5:  sign | be!

The noun shirushi ("sign") has been translated as "reminder" to draw out the implication of the purification rite's marking a transition from summer to autumn.

Poem 99

   hito mo oshi

hito mo urameshi


yo o omou yue ni

mono-omou mi wa


   One person I hold dear,

another I may resent.

   Such are the thoughts

of one who has come to think

the world a distasteful place.

-- Retired Emperor Go-Toba


The source is the second “Miscellaneous" book of the Shokugosenshū (SKT 1202). Go-Toba (1180 – 1239; r. 1183 – 1198) was the fourth son of Emperor Takakura (1161 – 1181; r. 1168 – 1180). He ordered the compilation of the Shinkokinshū but spent the last 19 years of his life in exile on the island of Oki after the Jōkyū Disturbance of 1221.

Although this waka was composed more than eight years before the Jōkyū Disturbance, scholars tend to view it as presaging Go-Toba’s open conflict with the Kamakura shogunate. One certainly gets a sense of the personal politics involved at the highest levels of court life. Disagreement exists over whether Go-Toba is referring to different types of people or to different aspects that can be discerned in the same individual. The translation attempts to straddle the boundary between specific and general. Poetic techniques include the use of a kugire measure break after the second measure -- the nikugire technique -- and the tōchi-hō grammatical inversion of the first two and the last three measures.

The last two waka of One Hundred Poems by One Hundred Poets -- both by retired emperors who are also father and son -- are clearly meant to parallel the opening pair, attributed to emperors who were father and daughter. This frame can be said to give the collection as a whole a political tinge, as if Teika were aligning himself with the court and (because of contemporary political circumstances) lamenting the state of imperial decline. At the same time, this bookend-like arrangement also draws attention to the role of the collection as an affirmation of cultural identity.

Literal rendition and notes
  • Measure 1:  person | also | valued
  • Measure 2:  person | also | resented
  • Measure 3:  distastefully
  • Measure 4:  world | (acc.) | think | reason | for
  • Measure 5:  think-things | oneself | as-for

The context makes clear that the verb mono-omou ("think about things") in the fifth stanza is not connected in this case with thoughts of love. The poet is, rather, troubled by thoughts of state.

Poem 100

   momoshiki ya

furuki nokiba no

   shinobu ni mo

nao amari aru

mukashi narikeri


   The shinobu ferns

at the aging palace eaves

   are more than enough

to call to mind memories

of times that lie in the past.

-- Retired Emperor Juntoku


The source is the third “Miscellaneous” book of the Shokugosenshū (SKT 1205). Juntoku (1197 – 1242; r. 1210 – 1221) was the third son of Emperor Go-Toba (see Poem 99). He, too, was exiled after the Jōkyū Disturbance, but to the island of Sado, which was where he died.

Continuing in the manner of the previous waka, this one laments the loss of imperial grandeur as evident in the current dilapidated state of the palace. The sole poetic device is the kakekotoba (pivot word) shinobu, acting first as a noun to refer to the ferns now growing wild at the palace eaves, then doubling as a verb meaning “reminisce" (although the first two measures do come close to functioning as a descriptive jokotoba preface). The poet is overwhelmed by the thought of what once was but is no more. These last two waka represent a darkening of the mood after the purification scene described in Poem 98, but there seems little doubt that the somber tone was intended.

Literal rendition and notes
  • Measure 1:  palace | !
  • Measure 2:  old | eavetips | 's
  • Measure 3:  shinobu-fern + fondly-recall | with-regard-to | even
  • Measure 4:  still | overabundance | exist
  • Measure 5:  long-ago | be!

The poem is charged with emotional connotations grammatically as well as semantically, as seen in the use of the interjectory particle ya in the first measure, the emphatic bound particle mo ("even") in the third measure, the adverb nao ("still") in the fourth measure, and the conjoined auxiliary verbs nari (declarative) and keri (exclamatory) at the end of the fifth measure. The translation has toned things down somewhat so that the English reads smoothly.