Tales of Ise

Nara Women's University is sitting on a powder-keg of old editions of the Ise monogatari, just a mouse-click-spark away from exploding through your monitor in a white-hot cloud of flesh-searingly handwritten, mercilessly high-res fragments of scholarship.

Allow me to throw myself on the tumbling ink-grenade and suggest something everyone can enjoy, even if they don't read-a the joined-up Japanese writing: Ise monogatari zue, which is to say, "Illustrated Ise monogatari". Behold our hero maxin' and relaxin' at his writing-desk, looking like he just got hired as a middle manager at his dad's lighter-flint concern! Thrill to the famous scene where he is visited by the Pineapple of Golden Week Past! Laugh as he is mistaken for a member of Aerosmith! Wonder why everyone is just sitting around smiling contentedly when the building is obviously on fire!

Before installing her infamous chainsaw hand.

If musty old books aren't your scene, pops, you might prefer this Taishō edition (with section links), translated into capital-M Modern Japanese by YOSHII Isamu and illustrated by TAKEHISA Yumeji. (Sample at right -- love that waterline.)

All of the rest are more or less words-only, which means that you either (i) don't need my help to find the interesting ones, or (ii) wouldn't find them interesting anyway. So I will close with one final shout-out to the Shinji Ise monogatari ("True-character Ise monogatari") from 1643, which is a translation into Kanbun (Japanese Chinese). For your convenience!

Popularity factor: 7


So great. How have I never heard of the Shinji Ise monogatari before? This will consume my evening.


I guess everything really is better in Chinese after all.

Waseda seems to have a copy up too.


I've always said that if there's anything Chinese characters are better for than representing genetically unrelated languages, it's representing the poetry of those languages.

Thanks for the Waseda link! Much prettier scans there, and a PDF download. Made me wonder all over again why the book is called 真字勢物語 on the front cover but 真名伊勢物語 inside, though. (Didn't the book binders see the irony of getting characters wrong when working on something like this?)


I've posted this to MetaFilter, and people are providing some amusing captions along your lines. Check it out.


Thanks, 'Hat!


I posted a little write-up on the Shinji Ise Monogatari on my blog. Comments welcome.


Sorry, should read, "...blog. Comments welcome."


I love the illustration you sampled. So much with so few lines.

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