Points for appreciating waka - How to enjoy ancient and modern waka collections -

I like Hyakunin Isshu and waka! I think there are actually quite a few people who say that.
For example, this kind of song immediately evokes traditional scenes of flowers, birds, wind and the moon, and any Japanese person will feel deeply moved by it.

“Spring has passed, summer has arrived, white clothes are worn, and heavenly Kaguyama” (Emperor Jito)
``If you go out to Tagonoura, you'll see snow falling in the middle of the white mountain.'' (Akato Yamabe)

However, the so-called Manyo-style ``shashoka'' that are easy to get used to are not the mainstream in the history of waka poetry.
If you look at the collections of waka poems selected by generations, you will see that most of the waka poems are ``technical and intellectual'' poems that have been elaborated in the head. In other words, proper appreciation requires complicated knowledge such as ``mitate'', various ``rhetoric techniques'', and ``a knowledge of ancient poems and stories.''
Therefore, even if there are people who say they like ``Hyakunin Isshu,'' people who say they like ``Kokin Wakashu'' are serious waka enthusiasts.

However, it is undeniable that the source of Japanese culture lies in the narratives and lyrical poems of the first imperial anthology, Kokin Wakashu.
→Related article “What is Kokin Wakashu?

A collection of ancient and modern waka poems that you cannot escape from when exploring Japanese culture and history.
This time, let's have fun and introduce some points to watch.

→Related article “Points for appreciating waka (advanced) - New and ancient collections of waka poems, seeing the invisible -

Key point 1: “Imagine the scenery”

There are many poems in the ``Kokinshu no Waka'' that are difficult to interpret due to their unique rhetorical methods.
But let's ignore that for now!
You can fully enjoy the scenery that can be obtained from the sound of the words, even in old and modern songs.
For example, the song below.

9 “The haze, these buds will bloom, and when the snow falls, even the flowerless village will scatter.” (Ki Tsuneyuki)
There are words for ``hari'' and ``haru'' in ``haru'', but let's ignore these.
Even without the technique, I think I was able to conjure up in my mind ``an image of snow dancing like flowers in a deserted village with a hazy spring mist.''
All waka poetry needs is this ``imagination''.
*By the way, when it is explained in colloquial terms like, ``Budly, Harukagakaru, and so on...'', the world of waka poetry suddenly becomes a bit rustic.

So, what kind of impression does the next song give you?
32 “If you fold it up, the sleeves will be in the middle of nowhere, and there will be plum blossoms, and here the warbler will chirp.” (Yomito Shirazu)
This time, I think I was able to create a three-dimensional scene that included not only images but also the sound of the warbler's voice.

Furthermore, what about this?
40 "On a moonlit night, you can't see it, but the scent of plum blossoms is worth knowing." (Bonkouchi Mitsune)
I think it also gives an impression of the scent of plum blossoms filling the dark night.

This is the power of the narrative that waka poetry reproduces.
Words can stimulate our sensibilities and create an impression of a world of beauty that transcends reality.

Second point: “Find the skill of layering”

Waka poetry has a character limit of 31 characters. Since it depicts a majestic ideal beauty, it is natural that various efforts are made.
The fundamental technique is the mastery of “layering”!
This is the biggest highlight of ``Kokinshu no Waka'', so let's get to know the basic techniques and enjoy it to the fullest.

Overlapping words (kakeji)

626 “Depending on the lack of encounters, if the waves rise, I can look back and return home” (Motokata Ariwara)
At first glance, it seems like a song about the beach, but in reality, ``Nakisa'' is multiplied by ``Nakisa'' and ``Naki'', and ``Urami'' is multiplied by ``Uramite'' and ``Grudge''.
This is called a “kakeji”.
→Related article “Introductory waka poetry class

When you find the layers of words, you realize that it is a sarcastic song about a man who has never visited you.

Overlapping of scenes and mental images (prelude)

601 “When the wind blows, I can tell from the peaks that the white clouds rise and fall. Are you in my heart?” (Mibu Tadamine)
This is a song that expresses pain by layering the scene of ``clouds blowing in the wind and moving away in two directions on a mountain peak'' with ``a loved one who has left me.''
This technique of overlapping "scene" and "mental image" is called "preposition."
→Related article “Introduction to Waka Poetry Class

In the love poems of Kokin Wakashu, ``prologue'' is often used.
It's interesting to see what kinds of scenes Heian poets compare their feelings to.
→Related article “Why are love songs boring?

Layering of sights (1) (overlaying the meaning behind a single sight)

145 “A firefly chirps in the summer mountains. If my heart is open, I am lost in thought, and there is no voice.” (Yomijin Shirazu)
Why don't you let me hear the voice of Hototogisu! Are you saying that strongly?
This is because ``Hototogisu's voice'' has an ulterior meaning of ``remembering a loved one.''
The so-called ``poetry language'' of waka has many such layers of meaning. Knowing this will greatly expand the scope of your appreciation of waka.

Layering of scenery (2) (overlapping seasons with multiple scenery)

5 ``Plum blossoms are blooming on the branches. It's spring, but it's still snowing.'' (Yomito Shirazu)
It is also common to layer scenic objects on top of each other to enhance the impression of the four seasons.
This song depicts the beautiful scene of early spring by layering ``plum'', ``Japanese warbler'', and ``snow.''
There are other combinations such as ``Wisteria'', ``Hototogisu'', and ``Autumn leaves'' and ``Deer''.
→Related article “Introductory Waka Poetry Class Special Edition Collection of Ancient and Modern Waka Poetry List of Scenic Spots of the Four Seasons

The four seasons of Kokin Wakashu are made up of ``scenic objects'' that overlap to form one big connection, or story.
Therefore, the correct way to appreciate Kokin Wakashu is to appreciate the connections between the songs, rather than the individual songs.

Point of visit: “Enjoy history and culture”

Waka is a culture that flourished in the imperial court.
If you can see the history and culture behind each poem, the way you can enjoy appreciating waka will expand at once.


52 ``As you get older, you get older, but when you look at a flower, you can't think of anything.'' (Former Dajo Minister)
This is a song that Fujiwara Yoshifusa, the regent of the time, sent to his daughter Akiko.
By becoming the maternal grandfather of Emperor Seiwa, the son of this flower, Yoshifusa was able to control politics as he wished.
During the Otenmon Incident, he succeeded in driving out Ban Yoshio, the Ban clan, and the Ki clan from the imperial court, solidifying the existence of the Fujiwara Sekkan family.
Knowing the background behind songs like this is irresistible to history buffs.


“There is nothing strange in the hazy moonlit night of a spring night, neither shining nor cloudy” (Chisato Oe)
This poem about a hazy moonlit night shows the diverse influences on Heian literature.

First of all, the new collection of ancient and modern waka poems.
``The sky is hazy with the smell of plum blossoms, and the moon is cloudless on a spring night.'' (Fujiwara Teika)
It was made into a bewitching nighttime song by Fujiwara Teika's honkatori.

And the Tale of Genji "Flower Banquet"
"Nothing similar to Oborozukiyo"
It is also used in the scene where he meets a woman (Oborozukiyo) who approaches him.

In fact, this song is originally a line from the collection of poems by Bai Rakuten (Bai Juyi) called ``Bai Clan Bunshu.''
"Unknown, Undark, Oborozuki"This is the poem I wrote about.

In this way, you can enjoy a stroll through a variety of history and literature using one song as the core.

How was that.
Don't you think that the ``Kokin Wakashu,'' which you used to hate, is like a fun theme park full of attractions?

Just like the Hyakunin Isshu poems, great waka poems are fun to listen to one by one.
However, waka is essentially a collection of poems that allows us to enjoy the delicate changes of the seasons and love.
Therefore, please enjoy the first imperial collection, Kokin Wakashu, in its entirety.

→Related article “Points for appreciating waka (advanced) - New and ancient collections of waka poems, seeing the invisible -
(Written by Uchida Engaku, a poet)

Learn the basics of waka poetry and try reciting it!

We are holding a "Utajuku" with the goal of learning from representative classical works and being able to compose traditional "Waka" on an individual basis!