U no ji

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So I was reading the Sankachōchūka again and I came upon this one from Shima Province:

今朝のうの字はうれしのうの字 消ゆる間もなきうの鏡
kesa no u no ji wa/ ureshi no u no ji/ kiyuru ma mo naki/ u no kagami
This morning's u/ is u for ureshii [happy]/ never disappearing for a moment/ the mirror of u

The edition I'm currently reading (Iwanami 1997, ed. Tomohisa, Yamauchi, Manabe, Moriyama, Ide, Hokama) calls this song "incomprehensible" (不可解). Their tentative interpretation: having spent the night with her lover, the narrator is happy, but seeing herself in the mirror before starting work for the day reminds her of how unpleasant (ushi, say) life really is. I don't really see why that's necessary; since X no kagami can mean "an exemplar of X," "the ideal X," couldn't it just be more happiness?

Looking up u-moji in Mashimo's 1967 Dictionary of Women's Language for clues, I found three unrelated entries. The first is u short for usa (as in, unpleasantness — nominalized form of the ushi above). This, he says, was used by Yoshiwara courtesans in their correspondence. The second is a kind of tea. The third is u short for uchikata, "wife," but I don't see how that could fit in either.

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Incompehensible lines often make the most nostalgic poems and lyrics. Thanks for sharing this line. It makes one think about what exactly does the writer wish to convey, but ultimately got lost in translation. One of the hurdles of translation, but still enjoyable, nonetheless. Thanks for sharing!


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and I think your "exemplar of ureshii" translation may be right

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