Winter II: 21



nagoyaka ga shita wa
kokoro nomi koso
yo o kasanurame
My piled bedding is
Soft, and beneath it
I am lost in thought;
Only those feelings
Come to me night after night…



Right (Win).


itazura ni
akuru yo o nomi
hitori fusuma no
toko zo sabishiki
Dawn breaks night
Time and again;
A single blanket on
My bed is sad, indeed…



Neither Left nor Right has anything to say.

Shunzei’s judgement: The Left’s ‘piled bedding’ (atsubusuma) is similar in style to the poems of the previous round. The Right’s ‘single blanket’ (hitori fusuma) is a comparable piece of bedding, but the configuration of ‘pointless dawn breaks night’ (itazura ni akuru yo o nomi) is elegantly beautiful [sugata yūbi ni kikoyu]. Thus I make the Right the winner.

Winter II: 20



kasanezu wa
ake no koromo
nani naraji
mi o atatameyo
asade kobusuma
With no garments piled with
My vermillion robe
What good is it?
Come, warm my flesh,
O meagre hempen blanket!

Lord Suetsune.




sayuru yo no
samusa mo ima wa
araji kashi
ake no fusuma no
atsuku miyureba
On this chill, clear night
The cold now
You feel not, I think, for
With vermillion has your bedding
Grown thicker, it seems!

Lord Tsune’ie.


Both Left and Right say that the other’s poem is undesirable.

Shunzei’s judgement: The conception and diction [sugata kotoba] of the Left’s ‘come, warm my flesh’ (mi o atatameyo) and the Right’s ‘the cold now’ (samusa mo ima wa) have the Gentlemen of each team stated to be undesirable, but this is not sufficient criticism. Neither poem expresses enough. They are of the same quality.

Winter II: 19

Left (Win).


sayuru yo ni
oshi no fusuma o
sode no kōri o
On a freezing night
Beneath my duck-down bedding
I lie alone;
The ice upon my sleeve
I can never brush away…

A Servant Girl.




ko no ha o ya
tori no uwage ni
neya no fusuma mo
sayuru shimo yo ni
Are there any leaves
Left by the birds
For extra feathers?
The bedding in my chamber
Is frozen with frost tonight…



Neither Left nor Right have anything in particular to say.

Shunzei’s judgement: I wonder about accepting the Left’s ‘Beneath my duck-down bedding I lie alone’ (oshi no fusuma o katashikite). The strengths and weaknesses are plain, and so there is not much more to say than that. The Left wins.

The echoes are chill as pearls…

This is a reference to a Chinese poem by Sugawara no Michizane in the Wakan rōei shū – Shunzei is referring to the Chinese characters used to write the words arare (‘hail’) 霰 and tama (‘gemstone’) 玉 rather than the words themselves: 「麞牙米簸声々脆、竜頷玉投果々寒」. In Rimer and Chaves’ translation (1997, 120), the poem is:

The roebuck’s teeth, rice grains in a sieve,
every sound so crisp;
from dragon’s jaws, peals are tossed,
every kernel cold,

This poem is on the topic of ‘Hail’, even if the word, or character itself does no appear in it.

Winter II: 18



shiishba wa
fuyu koso hito ni
koto tou arare
nokosu kogarashi
The brushwood,
That ‘tis winter to folk
Does tell;
Hail raising cries from leave
Left by the freezing winds.

Lord Sada’ie.


Right (Win).


yū koekureba
shiishiba no
ureba ni tsutau
tama arare kana
Just on the edge of mountain deeps,
When evening has passed by,
The brushwood’s
Leaf-tips display
Gemstone hail!

The Provisional Master of the Empress’ Household Office.


The Right state that the final section of the Left’s poem is ‘fierce’ [arashi]. The Left state that the Right’s ‘gemstone hail’ (tama arare) ‘sounds poor’ [kikiyokarazu].

Shunzei’s judgement: The Gentlemen of the Right have stated that the final section of the Left’s poem is ‘fierce’ – how can they say this? I would say that it appears perfectly pleasant [yoroshiku koso miehabere, ikaga]. However, the Right’s ‘when evening has passed by’ (yū koekureba) and ‘leaf-tips’ (ureba) seem a rather overblown style to me [kotogotoshiki fūtei ni miehaberi]. ‘Gemstone’ (tama), though, in addition to being a word used to praise something, is used in conjunction with ‘hail’, in ‘the echoes are chill as pearls falling one by one from a dragon’s jaw’ . There is nothing to criticise about it. Thus, the Right should win.

Winter II: 17



kuchiba mo shita ni
iro mo kawaranu
mine no shiishiba
Fallen, piled
Leaves underfoot
Are there none;
Unchanging are the hues
Of brushwood on the peak.

Lord Suetsune.




shiishiba no
shibashi to omoishi
yo no naka no
yosoji no fuyu ni
narikeru kana
To brushwood
Briefly turned my thoughts
Within this sad world
Forty winters
Have I reached.



The Right can find nothing to criticise in the Left’s poem. The Left say, ‘This is a personal lament, as in the previous round.’

Shunzei’s judgement: ‘The Left’s poem sounds like a congratulatory poem (shūgen) without being one, and its diction and overall conception are splendid [sugata kotoba yoroshiku]. With regard to the Right’s poem, while it is true that one does not normally compose personal laments for poetry competitions [jukkai wa uta’awase ni uchimakasenu koto], it is not the case that there are absolutely no examples of this. While it is true that I find the diction and overall conception of the poem difficult to grasp [uta no sugata kotoba koso nanigoto to wa kokoroezu nagara], it sounds tasteful [yū ni kikoete], and it’s difficult to declare a winner this round. I must make it a tie.’

The brushwood to reach Fourth Rank

Both poems this round rely on wordplay, in that the name of the tree which I have been translatiing as ‘brushwood’ the shii 椎 (actually a Japanese chinquapin – an evergreen related to the beech and oak – which is probably best known outside of Japan – in name only – from shiitake 椎茸, a mushroom which grows on its dead wood), is homophonous with shii 四位 ‘Fourth Rank’. While reaching this level was an achievement – many nobles never got any higher than Fifth Rank – if one obtained it, and was not then promoted soon, it was an indication that one’s court career had gone about as far as it was going to go – hence the poets’ laments.

Winter II: 16

Left (Win).


ikutose ni
ware narinuran
shiishiba no
shibashi wa setemo
ureshikarishi o
How many years
Has it been since I
Broke the brushwood to reach Fourth Rank?
I has been a while, and yet
I was happy then…

Lord Kanemune.




michi no shiishiba
toshi furite
koeyuku hito zo
Rank is a mountain
Trail; the brushwood I broke to reach the Fourth
Some years ago, and
Those men who cross to greater heights,
How I do envy them!

Lord Takanobu.


Both teams say that their poems are ‘no more than an expression of personal dissatisfaction’.

Shunzei’s judgement: Both poems are, indeed, similar personal laments [jukkai]. The Right’s ‘trail; the brushwood’ (michi no shiishiba) sounds more modern. The Left’s poem, though, should win.

Winter II: 15

Left (Win).


shizu no tsumaki ni
koto soite
kaze mo orikeru
mine no shiishiba
Hemmed in by winter,
Woodsmen make kindling,
Just as
The wind, too, does break
The brushwood on the peak.

Lord Ari’ie.




fuyu samumi
shii no mashiba o
yado ni wa kaze mo
In winter’s chill
Evergreen brushwood
I break to stop my door, yet
My dwelling the wind
Does naught to stop…

Lord Tsune’ie.


The Right wonder about the use of ‘just as’ (koto soite). The Left merely state that the Right’s poem is ‘commonplace’ [tsune no koto nari].

Shunzei’s judgement: In the Left’s poem, should it not be ‘to the woodsmen’s kindling/add, will you?’ (shizu no tsumaki ni/soeyo to ya)? Using ‘just as’ (koto soite) does not seem a suitable expression in that it sounds somewhat pompous [yōyōshiku kikoyuru hodo]. As for the Right’s poem, ‘in winter’s chill’ (fuyu samumi) is an ordinary expression. ‘I break to stop my door, yet’ (orisasedo), too, lacks strong feeling. The final section of the Left’s poem, though, sounds pleasant [yoroshiku kokoyu]. It should win.