Category Archives: Poetry Competition in Six Hundred Rounds

Spring I: 8

Left (Tie).


haru kitemo
nao shimikōru
yamazato wa
kakehi no mizu no
otozure mo nashi
Though spring has come,
Yet chill seeps within
My mountain home:
Water from the pipes
Makes no sound at all…

Lord Kanemune


Right (Tie).


haru kitemo
yuki furu sora o
kasumi mo sayuru
kokochi koso sure
Though spring has come
When on the sky, full of falling snow,
I gaze,
Even the haze of spring is clearly cold
I feel.



The Right team here disapprove of the Left’s use of shimikōru, calling it, ‘grating on the ear’ – Shunzei disagrees, saying that neither component, shimi or kōru, is ‘vulgar’. Both poems, he feels, start well, and the fourth line of the Right poem, kasumi mo sayuru, is particularly fine, but, once again, the round must be adjudged a tie.

Spring I: 7

Left (Tie).


nao sayuru
keshiki ni shirushi
mada fuyugomoru
kozue naruran
Still so clear
Is the scene: it must be a sign that
Mountain cherries are
Yet sealed in winter,
Outstanding on the treetops…

Lord Suetsune


Right (Tie).


fuyu ni wa yuki no
haru tomo iwazu
How it must long for
Winter – the snow
Though ‘tis spring, needless to say:
That is clear, indeed!

The Provisional Assistant Master of the Empress’ Household Office


The Right state that as the entirety of the topic is expressed in the first line of the Left’s poem, it lack care [nen nashi]. The Left respond that saying that the characters of the topic appear in the first line of our poem suggest the Right is unable to count correctly! As for the Right’s poem, we find no particular faults, but it is ordinary [mezurashiki ni arazu].

Shunzei’s judgement: The form of both poems is splendid [sugata wa yū ni koso haberumere]. In general, the mass of modern composition, whether or not it shows understanding of the form and diction of poetry [kinrai no utayomi no tomogara, sugata kotoba wa shireru ka shirazaru ka], also frequently fails to show enough attention to details of techique [bimyō no fūjō] and that I have cause to say this is certainly not laudable [kanshin serezaru koto]. However, the Right’s ‘the snow remains’ (yuki no okureite), seems somewhat contrived [sukoshi omoubeku], though the final one is excellent [yoroshikuhaberu]. Thus, it’s impossible to distinguish between the two poems.

Spring I: 6

Left (Win).


sode kawasu
mihashi no kiwa ni
toshi furite
ikutabi haru o
yoso ni mukaetsu
Sleeve brushes sleeve
On the palace walkways’ edge
Year on top of year;
How many springtimes
Have I but distantly seen it in?

Lord Kanemune




itsushika to
mihashi no kiwa ni
sechi ni au
ōmiyabito ya
haru o shiruran
Soon, indeed,
On the palace walkways’ edge
The season-greeting banquet will come
Upon the palace-folk; is that how
They know it’s spring?

The Provisional Master of the Empress’ Household Office


Shunzei awards victory to Kanemune’s poem for its fine use of ‘palace walkways’ (mihashi) and ‘how many springtimes’ (ikutabi haru), while finding the Right team’s poem ‘splendidly constructed, but insufficiently clear’, as it doesn’t explicitly mention ‘sechie’ – a particular palace New Year banquet – although it does contain all the relevant characters.

Spring I: 5

Left (Tie).


mutsuki tatsu
kyô no matoi ya
momoshiki no
toyo no akari no
On the year’s turn
Today, with a congenial gathering
At the hundredfold palace,
Do the banquets – rubicund faces all –
Perhaps, begin?



Right (Tie).


momoshiki ya
sode o tsuranuru
sakazuki ni
ei o susumuru
haru no hatsukaze
At the hundredfold palace,
Arrayed sleeves and
Wine cups are
Pressed to a pleasant drunkenness by
The first breeze of spring.




The Right state that ‘on the year’s turn’ (mutsuki tatsu) is an expression they ‘are not accustomed to hearing’ [kikinarezu oboyu]. The Left, in response, say that this expression occurs in the Man’yōshū. The Right then state that ‘rubicund faces all’ (toyo no akari) is unclear. The Left reply that the various Imperial seasonal banquets are referred to as such in Imperial proclamations. The Left have no criticisms of the Right’s poem.

Shunzei’s judgement: The gentlemen of the Right have stated that mutsuki tatsu is something particularly worthy of criticism, but I do not feel this to be the case at all [makoto ni oboehaberazu]. I definitely recall seeing poems containing mutsuki tatsu in the Man’yōshū. However, even if something occurs in the Man’yōshū, I do not feel either Left or Right should cite it in support [sayū naku shōko to subeshi to mo oboehaberazu]. Someone now dead once told me that we should pick the tasteful sections of the Man’yōshū [man’yōshū wa yūnaru koto o toru beki]. Meaning that in that anthology there are many poems which sound unpleasant [kikinikuki], such as ‘Dig it from Lord Yamada’s nose!‘ and ‘Drinking wine, weeping drunkenly‘ which it would be difficult to select now. To the time of that anthology, they did not avoid poetic faults [uta no yamai]. Therefore, such poems should definitely not be used as sources for poetry competitions [kanarazushimo uta’awase no toki wa rei to nasubekarazaru]. This is not the case with the poem in question, but it needs to be said. Moreover, in Imperial Proclamations,toyo no akari (豊明) appears to be written 豊楽. Both Left and Right have already given their opinions on the poem’s overall conception [fūtei]. In terms of its sense, in one area alone is it surprising: instead of ‘custom’ (narai wa) which is normal in poetry in these situations, it uses ‘congenial gathering’ (matoi), which evokes the plucking of a catalpa bow; when one uses toyo no akari, one would normally then continue with expressions such as “cloudless world” (kumori naki yo ). In the present poem, however, there is nothing for it to connect to. The Right’s poem simply concludes ‘first breeze of spring’ (haru no hatsukaze), and while one can hear the New Year in this, the scenery of ‘Pressed to a pleasant drunkenness’ (ei o susumuru) is more that of the Twisting Waters banquet (gokusui no en) or of composition on ‘peach blossom skies‘. In sum, then, the poem fails to sound elegant in style [uta no tei mo yū ni shi mo kikoehaberazarubeshi]. The Left’s matoi, too, has no links within the poem. Neither is worthy of a win I feel. Thus, this round is, again, a tie.

Spring I: 4



haru kureba
hoshi no kurai ni
kage miete
kumoi no hashi ni
izuru taoyame
When spring is come
A sprinkling of star
Light seems
Upon the walkways of the cloud-borne palace
To emerge: gentle maidens.



Right (Win).


itsushika to
sode o tsuranuru
momoshiki ni
yorozuyo meguru
haru no sakazuki
How swiftly,
Sleeves overlapping at the
Hundredfold palace;
For ten thousand generations will we pass round
The wine cups in springtime.

Lord Takanobu


The Right state that the ‘form of the Left’s poem does not match the emotional tone’. The Left have no criticisms of the Right’s poem.

Shunzei’s judgement: ‘A mismatch of form and emotion in the Left’s poem has been suggested by the gentlemen of the Right. I am not certain whether I agree with this suggestion or not [yuki, yukazu no jō wa, mata ekokoroehaberanedo], but the final line of the second poem sounds splendid [yoroshiku kikoehaberi] and hence it must win.

Spring I: 3

Left (Win).


hatsu haru no
kyō wa kashikoki
nobeyo to chiyo no
shirushi zo oku
At the start of spring
Today, the awesome
Imperial Word
Announce! For a thousand generations
The signs are placed.

Lord Ari’ie



morobito no
tachi’iru niwa no
sakazuki ni
hikari mo shirushi
chiyo no hatsuharu
Where the courtier crowds
Sit and stand within the gardens,
Upon the wine cups
Light is e’en a sign, of
A thousand generations, at the start of spring.


Neither team finds any fault in the other’s poem this round.

Shunzei’s judgement: The conception [kokoro] of the Left’s ‘Announce! For a thousand generations the signs are placed’ (nobeyo to chiyo no shirushi zo oku) is fine [yoroshiku haberubeshi]. The configuration of the Right’s poem, too, is splendid [sugata wa yū ni haberu], but ‘wine cups’ (sakazuki) seems rather abrupt. ‘Light’ (hikari) could beimagined as coming from the moon, but its origin is not entirely clear. Thus, as a result, the Left must win.

Spring I: 2



toshi no hajime wa
toyo miki ni
kasanete tamau
hirohata no kinu
Newly arrived is
The year, and at its head,
A goodly draught of wine,
Once more, bestowed with
A broad bolt of silken cloth!

Lord Suetsune

Right (Win).


taenu himuro ni
suberaki no
chiyo ni tameshi o
kyō zo tatekeru
In Matsugasaki,
Unenduring ice-houses: within,
Of His Majesty’s
Thousand ages, a sign
Stands there this day.

Lord Tsune’ie

The Right state that there is not doubting the conception of the Left’s poem as a Festival poem [sechie no kokoro wa utagainashi]. The final section, though, does not fit this [kokoro yukazu]. The Left state that the first five syllables of the Right’s poem are grating to hear [mimi ni tachite kikoyu].

Shunzei’s judgement: The Left’s poem is truly completely in keeping with the conception of the topic [dai no kokoro wa makoto ni kagirinaku], but ‘A broad bolt of silken cloth!’ (hirohata no kinu) really does seem unsuited. The Right’s poem concerns the Ice Testing on New Year’s Day, and so does have the conception of a festival poem, but [en no kokoro mo habaramedo] on the face of it the poem feels more like one on the topic of Ice-Houses. However, it is still the case that hirohata sounds poor [yoshikarazu kikoe]. I will make ‘Ice Houses’ the winner.

Spring I: 1

Left (Tie).


aratama no
toshi o kumoi ni
mukau tote
kyô morobito ni
miki tamau nari
To the fresh-jewelled
Year does the cloud-borne Palace
This day, on many folk
Will the esteemed draught be bestowed!

A Servant Girl

Right (Tie).


momoshiki ya
haru o mukauru
sakazuki ni
kimi ga chitose no
kage zo utsureru
Hundred-fold, the Palace, to
Spring does turn!
Within the wine cups,
His Majesty’s one thousand years
Does show its form!


The Right find no faults in the Left’s poem this round. The Left state that the conception [kokoro] of the Right’s poem is incorrect for the topic of Festivals on New Year’s Day. It suggests, rather, the Migusuri rites.

Shunzei’s judgement: The Left’s poem starts with ‘To the fresh-jewelled’ (aratama no) which is approprate for the first poem in the first round, but concludes with ‘Will the esteemed draught be bestowed!’ (miki tamau nari), which is extremely pedestrian diction [muge ni tada kotoba ni haberan]. The Left have stated that the Right’s poem lacks the conception of the festivals [en no kokoro naki]. That may be the case, but still I wonder if it is lacking as a festival poem? It does refer to celebration. The round should tie.