Omitted

The coldest line in the Man’yōshū isn’t actually in a poem. It’s in the note about the author that comes afterwards. Here it is with the poem for context; this is MYS 8/1428, in a “Spring: Miscellaneous” section. Original orthography taken from Man’yōshū kensaku, the latest iteration of the venerable MYS search system from Yamaguchi University.

草香山歌一首

忍照 難波乎過而 打靡 草香乃山乎 暮晩尓 吾越来者 山毛世尓 咲有馬酔木乃 不悪 君乎何時 徃而早将見

(ositeru / nanipa wo sugwite / uti-nabiku / kusaka no yama wo / yupugure ni / wa ga kwoye-kureba / yama mo se ni / sakyeru asibi no / asikaranu / kimi wo itu si ka / yukite paya mimu)

右一首依作者微不顕名字

The content is fairly unremarkable:

One poem about Mount Kusaka [part of Mount Ikoma]

Passing Oshiteru [Cranston suggests “[of the] Shining Waves”] Naniwa, Mount Kusaka I cross as evening falls; crowding the mountain in bloom, the ashibi (Japanese andromeda) are not bad; when shall I arrive and see not-bad you next?

The first two thirds of the poem are all leading up to asikaranu (not bad), which puns on asibi (modern ashibi or asebi, and functions as a pivot to get us from the vivid but objective description of the journey to the inner thoughts of the journeyer. Who indeed has not longed for their not-bad beloved after extended separation?

(Since the actual text of the source is just 不悪, i.e. not represented phonemically, some people use another reading of 悪 to render the relevant word nikukaranu [“not loathsome”], but this doesn’t really do it for me.)

Moving on, here’s the note about the author:

The author of the preceding poem being of low status, their name is omitted

Not “unknown,” but “omitted.” Intentionally. I guess this is what happens when your commitments to literary meritocracy and aristocracy conflict. I’m sure the poet was promised a lot of exposure, though.

(According to Satake Akihiro et al, who edited the Shin Nihon koten bungaku taikei 新日本古典文学大系 edition of the MYS, this is the only such note in the collection.

Tan-tan Tanzaku

Happy Tanabata! Here’s a poem by Noguchi Ujō 野口雨情 in honor of the occasion. According to Aozora Bunko, this was first published in the July 1933 edition of Shōgaku Ninensei (“Elementary school second-grader”) magazine.

Mainen shichigatsu
Nanoka ni wa

Tan-tan Tanabata
Hoshi matsuri

Tan-tan Tanabata
Kita naraba

Tan-tan tanzaku
Uta kaite

Tanzaku tsurushita
Take tatete

Tan-tan tanabata
Matsurimashō

And in quick and inelegant English translation:

Every year in the seventh month
On the seventh day

Tan-tan Tanabata
The star festival

Tan-tan Tanabata:
When it has arrived

Tan-tan tanzaku:
Write a poem

The tanzaku hung,
Raise the bamboo

Tan-tan Tanabata:
Let’s celebrate

Ujō is often praised for the mysterious and somewhat melancholy depth of his writing for children, but as this example shows he was not above straight-ahead soundplay.

“Raise [literally “stand up”] the bamboo”: Back in the Edo period, people really took this seriously. A picture like this (Hiroshige, 1857) shows clearly that the tanzaku-laden bamboo was raised well above the roofs. Now even the de facto official Tanabata song, “Tanabata-sama,” has the tanzaku swaying nokiba ni, “eaves-LOC,” which is at best “by the eaves” and more naturally “under (i.e. hanging from) the eaves.”

Beorht wæron burgræced   burnsele monige
heah horngestreon   heresweg micel
meodoheall monig   mondreama full
oþþæt þæt onwende   wyrd seo swiþe

See you in 2019, everyone!

The University of Tokyo’s East Asian Classical Studies department has posted some reading lists prepared by its faculty members. The level appears to be “serious introductory,” although of course for us non-native speakers there can be a bit of a disconnect between our level of interest and our ability to read books at that level. Still, if you’re sure you’re interested in how the Heian nobility read Chinese texts aloud, how better to familiarize yourself with the field and its terminology than by reading Heian jidai no kanbun kundokugo ni tsukite no kenkyū?

(Via Kasama Shoin)

Not the whole truth

The ultimate act of love? The truth behind Japan’s charaben culture” by Joshua Paul Dale is a pretty good popular intro to decorative food in Japan, but it contained one of my pet peeves:

Kawaii literally means “able to be loved” […]

Etymologically speaking, the direct ancestor of kawaii is kawayui, which can be traced back (with appropriate sound/morphology rewind: kahayusi, however you wanna pronounce that) to the end of the Heian period. This in turn is widely considered to derive from kahahayusi, roughly “flushed of face,” to do with embarrassment, pity, etc.

Dale is referring to the standard kanji spelling of kawaii, 可愛い, which can indeed be parsed “able to be loved.” But this spelling has nothing to do with the etymology and was applied long after the word came to be. To say that kawaii “literally means” this is oversimplified at best, misleading at worst. Oh well.

I have another objection to the article, actually: when it finally gets around to “the truth behind Japan’s charaben culture,” it doesn’t even touch on what we might call the “dark side” of charaben. I mean, consider this:

After all, these creations prove a mother’s dedication towards her child, not to mention her creative prowess.

I’m sure that for most mothers who make charaben, it is indeed a way to express maternal love. But given the whole “prove a mother’s dedication” thing, it shouldn’t be hard to imagine how, in some environments, peer pressure could transform charaben into a de facto public-facing obligation (falling entirely on the mother, natch). And indeed you do hear stories like this. I know it would have been a downer after the charaben Instagram success story talk, but I feel like it could at least have been mentioned.

Songs of People at Work and Play

Arbiter have released the fifth volume of their Japanese Traditional Music series: Songs of People at Work and Play. As usual, there’s a long blog post about it with background, plus links to the liner notes, additional notes (texts and translations), and Japanese notes. So note enthusiasts are very well served here.

For those who came in late, the Japanese Traditional Music series is a cleaned-up and digitized version of a government-sponsored 60-shellac-disc anthology of traditional Japanese music from the early 1940s. 60 discs = 120 sides, and since there are 24 tracks on each of Arbiter’s releases, this fifth volume concludes the set. They’re all on Apple Music, too.

Umi no sachi, Yama no sachi

Kyushu University have made two ehaisho 絵俳書 “illustrated haiku books” from the 1760s available online: Umi no sachi 海の幸 (“Bounty of the mountains”) and its sequel Yama no sachi 山の幸 (“Bounty of the sea”), edited by Sekijukan Shūkoku 石寿観秀国, illustrated by Katsuma Ryūsui 勝間竜水. Pictures of marine and montane (respectively) flora and fauna, plus haiku to go with.

These two books join the rest of KU’s Rare Books Collection (check the “With fulltext” option to limit your search to items that you can view online). They’re also at Waseda University’s Japanese and Chinese Classics, but the versions there appear to be different and KU’s scans are much crisper.

(Via Kasama Shoin.)

New Aozora Bunko search engine

Hoyt Long and the ARTFL project have released a decent search interface for Aozora Bunko. There’s even a video tutorial on YouTube, so masochists needn’t feel left out. (To be fair, I wouldn’t want to spend hours taking screenshots and assembling them into a written guide either.)

The announcement blog post promises “additional tutorials and information about the history and make-up of this unique collection”—sounds good!

No-one tells me anything (Medieval French edition)

Last October, the Works of Guillaume Machaut project finally released volume 1 of The Complete Poems and Music: The Debate Series. (You can read the whole thing, including translation by R. Barton Palmer, online at that link.)

Car tant m’a fait compaignie
Que c’est niant dou depart,
Ne que jamais, par nul art,
Soit sa pointure garie.

Zonamoshi hunting”

Added to Aozora Bunko on January 2: a short story called Zonamoshi-gari ぞなもし狩り (“Zonamoshi hunting”) by Toh EnJoe 円城塔. Note the pink background to the page, indicating that the copyright holder has elected to add the work to Aozora Bunko without actually relinquishing the copyright.

What is a zonamoshi? A sentence ending in the Iyo dialect of Japanese (spoken in Ehime prefecture; Iyo was the name of the province that Ehime replaced), made famous by Natsume Sōseki in his early novel Botchan.

As EnJoe Toh stories go, this is more “doing donuts in the parking lot” than “heading off for uncharted territory,” but since the donuts are in classic EnJoe style and the parking lot is shared by Japanese dialectology and Modern Japanese literature as well as Beppu itself (I mean metaphorical Beppu, not like a physical parking lot outside Beppu), I enjoyed it.

Apparently this was written for an event at Beppu University, and the works by the other participants have also been added to AB: Gurōbaru Tawā ni te グローバルタワーにて (“At Global Tower”) by Hukunaga Thin 福永信, and Yukemuri 湯けむり (“Steam clouds”) by Sawanishi Yūten 澤西祐典.

One Hundred Forms of Seal Script Calligraphy

Here’s an interesting book I found in Waseda’s Database of Japanese and Chinese Classics: A Thousand Characters and One Hundred Forms of Seal Script Calligraphy by Sages from Successive Dynasties 歴朝聖賢篆書百体千文, apparently by Sun Zhixiu 孫枝秀 and Zhou Hong 周霟. (English translation of title courtesy of Rebekah Clements’ A Cultural History of Translation in Early Modern Japan.)

I’m skeptical that any sage found much use for “crane script” 寉書 (p 39, far left) or “turtle script” 亀書 (p 23, second from left), let alone “great pole seal script” 太極篆 (p 40, second from left), but I’m pretty sure I independently invented “wooden tablet writing” 木簡文 (p 49, far right) on my binder in middle school.