San’i minamoto no hirotsune ason uta’awase 7

A profusion of deutzia flowers in full bloom



shirotae ni
u no hana sakeru
kakine o ba
tsumorishi yuki to
omoikeru kana
A spread of white mulberry cloth,
The deutzias have bloomed
Along my brushwood fence
Drifting snow is piled, or
So it seems!

Minamoto no Narikata



takane no nobe no
mina shirotae ni
sakinikeru kana
When I gaze across
The high-peak meadows
A field of deutzia,
All as white as mulberry cloth,
Have bloomed there.

Ōe no Fumi’ichi

San’i minamoto no hirotsune ason uta’awase 6

Wisteria blooming by a river bank


fuku kaze nareba
ikemizu no
kishi o megurite
yosuru Fujinami
Inconstant is
The gusting wind, so
By the pondwater’s
Bank and all along it
Break wisteria waves…

Fujiwara no Munenari



fujinami no
kakaranu kishi no
nakereba ya
kogikuru fune no
yoru hima no naki
Untouched by wisteria waves
Such a bank
Is there not one?
Come rowing, the boats
Have not a moment to make shore.

Lesser Superintendant Fujiwara no Sadamitsu

San’i minamoto no hirotsune ason uta’awase 5

Summer grasses as the season wears on



muramura mieshi
wakakusa no
natsu to tomo ni zo
fukaku narikeru
Pale green and
Seeming to cluster all together
The fresh sprouting grass stalks
And the summer, too,
Have grown deeper.

Lord Kanehiro



natsu kusa wa
karihatsusaru to
shika fusu bakari
nari mo yuku kana
The summer grasses
Have started to be reaped, or
So it seems, yet
The deer simply to rest
Upon them, now make their way!

Ki no Yasumori

San’i minamoto no hirotsune uta’awase 4

Distant colours of blossom in full bloom



ka koso sode made
niou nare
hana no kozue wa
That comforting, familiar
Fragrance has reached my very sleeves
And scented them;
Though the blossom-laden treetops
Lie far away…

Minamoto no Masamitsu, Assistant Director of the Bureau of Medicine



sakisomeshi yori
akanaku ni
yoso no kozue o
oritsutsu zo miru
Since a profusion of blossom
Began to bloom,
Unable to sate myself,
Distant treetops
Will I ever break off and gaze upon.

Minamoto no Masamitsu, Assistant Director of the Bureau of Medicine

Uhyōe no kami-ke uta’awase

Shinpen kokka taikan no.140
Heian-chō uta’awase taisei no.295
Romanised TitleUhyōe no kami-ke uta’awase
Translated TitlePoetry Contest held at the House of the Captain of the Middle Palace Guards, Right Division
Alternative Title(s)右兵衛督実行歌合 Uhyōe no kami saneyuki uta’awase (‘Poetry Contest held by Saneyuki, Captain of the Middle Palace Guards, Right Division’)
Date29/6/Gen’ei 1 [19.7.1118]
Extant Poems30
SponsorFujiwara no Saneyuki 藤原実行
Identifiable ParticipantsLord [Minamoto no] Toshiyori 俊頼朝臣; A Court Lady 女房 [Fujiwara no Saneyuki]; Lord [Tokudaiji] Saneyoshi 実能朝臣 (1096-1157); Lord [Fujiwara no] Nagazane 長実朝臣; [Lady] Bizen 肥前 ; [Lady] Daishin 大進; Tachibana no Atsutaka 橘敦隆; the Monk Rinken 琳賢法師 (1074-1150); Master of the Palace Repairs Office [Fujiwara no Akisue] 修理大夫; Tamekane, the Former Emperor’s Chamberlain 為真院蔵人; Inaba 因幡; Lord [Minamoto no] Masasada 雅定朝臣; Lord [Minamoto no] Akinaka 顕仲朝臣; [Fujiwara no] Michitsune 道経; 行宗朝臣; the Monk Yōen 永縁法師 (1048-1125); Lord [Fujiwara no] Akisuke 顕輔朝臣; [Lady] Tango, from the Shijō Palace 四条宮丹後; Tsunekane 経兼
JudgementsFujiwara no Akisue 藤原顕季 (1055-1123)
Topicssummer moon (natsu no tsuki 夏月); summer breezes (natsu no kaze 夏風); cormorant fishing on the river (ukawa 鵜河); summer love (natsu no koi 夏恋); love and spring waters (izumi ni yoru koi 寄泉恋)

Shin-chūjō-ke uta’awase

Shinpen kokka taikan no.139
Heian-chō uta’awase taisei no.294
Romanised TitleShin-chūjō-ke uta’awase
Translated TitlePoetry Contest held at the House of the New Middle Captain
Alternative Title(s)右近衛中将雅定歌合 Ukonoe chūjō masasada uta’awase (‘Poetry Contest held by Masasada, Middle Captain of the Inner Palace Guards, Right Division’)
Date5/Gen’ei 1 [5.1118]
Extant Poems36
SponsorMinamoto no Masasada 源雅定 (1094-1162)
Identifiable ParticipantsMaster of the Palace Repairs Office [Fujiwara no] Akisue 修理大夫顕季 (1055-1123); Master of the Left Capital Office [Minamoto no] Akinaka 左京大夫顕仲 (1058-1138); Director of Palace Storehouses [Fujiwara no] Nagazane 内蔵頭長実 (1075-1133); Captain of the Middle Palace Guards, Right Division, [Sanjō] Saneyuki 右兵衛督実行 (1080-1162); Middle Captain of the Inner Palace Guards, Right Division, [Minamoto no] Morotoki 右近中将師時 (1077-1136); Middle Captain of the Inner Palace Guards, Right Division, [Minamoto no] Masasada 右近中将雅定; Governor of Kaga [Fujiwara no] Akisuke 賀加守顕輔 (1090-1155); Former Director of Carpentry [Minamoto no] Toshiyori 前木工頭俊頼; Former Assistant Captain of the Middle Palace Guards Akinaka 前兵衛佐顕仲; Right Minor Counsellor [Fujiwara no] Munekane 右小納言宗兼; Ranked without Office, [Fujiwara no] Michitsune 散位道経 (1060-?); Ranked without Office, Tadafusa 散位忠房; Former Governor of Izumi 和泉前司
Topicscuckoos (hototogisu 郭公); showers (samidare 五月雨); love (koi 恋)

Fujitsubo nyōgo senzai awase

Shinpen kokka taikan no.
Heian-chō uta’awase taisei no.23
Romanised TitleFujitsubo nyōgo senzai awase
Translated TitleGarden Contest held by the Fujitsubo Junior Consort
Alternative Title(s)
DateAutumn, Year unknown
Extant Poems2
Identifiable Participants
Topicsautumn; bell crickets (suzumushi 鈴虫)

There is limited concrete evidence about this contest, with even the identity of the Fujitsubo Junior Consort is uncertain, with some suggestions that this is an alternate title for the Seventh Princess, while others make the case for it being her mother – whose identity is also unclear. If either of these theories were correct, however, it suggests that the poems here may, in fact, have formed part of the Teishi-in – onna shichi no miya uta’awase rather than being part of an independent contest.

There remains the fact, however, that the first of the two poems associated with this contest was included in Shokukokinshū 続古今集 (IV: 332) and attributed to Emperor Uda with the headnote:

Composed by His Majesty when he judged he poems in the Garden Match held by the Fujitsubo Junior Consort.

So there was clearly a belief on the part of the compilers of that anthology when it was put together in 1265 that it was part of an identifiable competition.


Fana no iro Fa
konatakanata ni
aki no kokoro Fa
Fitotu narikeri
The blossoms’ hues
So varied
Do appear, and yet
The heart of autumn
Is the same in every one.



ne ni takaku
itodo narimase
suzumusi Fa
siratuyu koto ni
okitu to naraba
Their piercing cries
Grow all the louder –
Should on the bell crickets
Silver dewdrops especially


Teishi-in – onna shichi no miya uta’awase

Shinpen kokka taikan no.
Heian-chō uta’awase taisei no.22
Romanised TitleTeishi-in – onna shichi no miya uta’awase
Translated TitlePoetry Contest held by the Seventh Princess of Former Emperor Uda
Alternative Title(s)
Date13/8 Engi 13 [15.9.913]
Extant Poems2
SponsorImperial Princess Kaishi 誨子内親王 (?-953) or Imperial Princess Ishi (Yoriko) 依子内親王 (895-936)
Identifiable Participants
Topicsgarden streams (yarimizu 遣水); high crags (iwao 巌)

As can be seen from the table above there remains uncertainty about the identity of the sponsor of this contest, as both Kaishi and Ishi (Yoriko) are referred to as Uda’s ‘Seventh Princess’ (onna shichi no miya 女七宮) in different texts and thus either could have been the formal sponsor of this contest. Little else is known about it, due to the fact that only two of its’ poems have survived, although the headnote suggests that the contest took place as part of the celebrations of the princess’ mogi 裳着 (‘skirt wearing’) ceremony. This was an event which functioned as a rite-of-passage for noble women when they put on adult clothing for the first time, and was generally conducted at the same time as another ceremony, kamiage 髪上 (‘lifting of the hair’), when they unbound their hair from its childish style and allowed it to flow freely behind them. Combined, these ceremonies indicated that a girl had become an adult and was thus ready for marriage. The mogi ceremony had no fixed age, but was usually carried out between the ages of twelve and sixteen.

These poems are from the evening of the Seventh Princess mogi celebrations, when Her Highness led her gentlemen retainers as participants in the competition.

Garden streams


iFa wakete
nagaruru midu no
soko ni koso
Fisasiki kage Fa
Passing through the rocks
The flowing waters,
Indeed, hold beneath
An everlasting face which
We will behold!


High crags


kimi ga mirubeki
iFa no uFe ni
kage sashinarabe
oFuru Fimematu
Constantly count them and,
My Lady, you will surely see
Atop the crags,
Forms all arrayed,
Full grown princess pines!


Yōzei-in uta’awase (Engi jūni-nen natsu)

Shinpen kokka taikan no.11
Heian-chō uta’awase taisei no.21
Romanised TitleYōzei-in uta’awase
Translated TitleFormer Emperor Yōzei’s Poetry Contest
Alternative Title(s)
DateSummer, Engi 12-13 [912-913]
Extant Poems20
SponsorEmperor Yōzei 陽成天皇 (869-949; r. 876-884)
Identifiable Participants
JudgementsRound 1 only
TopicsLove and summer insects (natsumushi no koi 夏虫の恋)

This is a small-scale contest sponsored by Yōzei some years after he had left the throne. Other than the first round, where a ‘Tie’ is noted, there are no judgements, nor have the poets’ names been recorded. The competition’s most significant feature, therefore, is that it is the sole extant contest on the topic of ‘Love and Summer Insects’ and as such established many of the images and vocabulary usages which subsequent poets used when composing related poetry (Hagitani 1963, 183).

A man and a women dressed in kimono kneel on the verandas of separate traditional Japanese houses looking out on the gardens in late evening. Countless fireflies dance in the space between them forming a link between the two figures.
Created with Adobe Firefly.

Teiji-in uta’awase

Shinpen kokka taikan no.10
Heian-chō uta’awase taisei no.20
Romanised TitleTeiji-in uta’awase
Translated TitleFormer Emperor Uda’s Poetry Contest
Alternative Title(s)
Date13/3 Engi 13 [22.4.913]
Extant Poems70
SponsorEmperor Uda 宇多天皇
Identifiable ParticipantsIse 伊勢; (Sakanoue no) Korenori 是則; (Ōshikōchi no) Mitsune 躬恒; (Ki no) Tsurayuki 貫之; Suekata 季方; Uda 宇多; (Ōnakatomi no) Yorimoto 頼基 (886-958); (Fujiwara no) Okikaze 興風; Prince Kaneyuki 兼行王; Masakata 雅固
Topicsmid-spring; late spring; early summer; love

This is one of the most historicially significant poetry competitions because it is the first example we have of an uta’awase as a formal event, where a range of rituals and procedures took place, and poems were judges. We possess this information about it thanks to an extended preamble to the contest text, believed to have been written by Ise, describing who participated in it and how the contest was conducted.

As can be seen from the list of participants above, the majority of poems for the contest were composed by well-known and respected poets of the time. However, these poets did not, in fact, actually present their own work when the contest took place. This was done by a number of more senior nobles, as follows:

(Leader) Imperial Princess Kaishi 誨子内親王 (?-953)
Imperial Prince Atsuyoshi 敦慶親王 (888-930)
Imperial Prince Atsukata 敦固親王 (?-927)
Middle Counsellor (chūnagon 中納言) Fujiwara no Sadakata 藤原定方 (871-931)
Captain of the Outer Palace Guards, Left Division (saemon no kami 左衛門督) Fujiwara no Arizane 藤原有実 (847-914)
Minamoto no Muneyuki 源宗于 (?-939)
Taira no Yoshikaze 平好風 (dates unknown)
(Leader) Imperial Princess Ishi (Yoriko) 依子内親王 (895-936)
Imperial Prince Atsumi 敦実親王 (893-967)
Imperial Prince Sadakazu 貞数親王 (875-916)
Prince Kanemi 兼覧王
Middle Counsellor (chūnagon 中納言) Minamoto no Noboru 源昇 (848-918)
Captain of the Outer Palace Guards, Right Division (uemon no kami 右衛門督) Fujiwara no Kiyotsura 藤原清貫
Kiyomichi きよみち

The judgements on the poems were provided by Uda himself, after Fujiwara no Tadafusa 藤原忠房 (?-929), who had been asked to perform the role, failed to attend.

The contest was originally intended to have ten rounds on each of its topics for a total of eighty poems, but as a result of the performance taking longer than expected, the second two topics on Summer and Love were curtailed to five rounds each.