Tag Archives: blossom

Love I: 24

Left (Win).


wasurezu yo
honobono hito o
mishimae no
tasogare narishi
ashi no mayoi ni
Never will I forget you
Who I glimpsed faintly
In the dusk of Mishima Bay
A single reed
Causes confusion.

A Servant Girl.




hana no iro ni
utsuru kokoro wa
kasumi no ma yori
A blossom’s hue
Has caught my heart;
A mountain cherry
Through the parted mists
Has set me on the path of love.

Lord Takanobu.


The Gentlemen of the Right state: saying simply ‘dusk’ (tasogare) when it should be ‘the hour of dusk’ (tasogare toki) sounds somewhat strange. The Gentlemen of the Left state: the Right’s poem is composed to recall the Kokinshū’s ‘A mountain cherry through the drifting mists’ (yamazakura kasumi no ma yori), but is inferior to the original.

Shunzei’s judgement: in regard to the Left’s poem, it is certainly the case that, even without the ‘hour’, ‘in the dusk’ is a standard expression. The Right’s poem sounds old-fashioned. The Left, though, does not sound unpleasant, even though its mentioning of ‘never will I forget’ (wasurezu yo) recollects ‘a tiled kiln’. It should win.

Winter I: 20



tare mo miyo
kore wa mizore no
sora naran
chirikuru hana wa
ame ya majirishi
Behold, one and all!
This is a sleet-filled
Sky, indeed!
Flowers falling,
Mixed with rain?

Lord Suetsune.


Right (Win).


kaze wataru
hana no atari no
harusame wa
fuyu no sora ni mo
arikeru mono o
The breeze blows
Around the blossom
In spring showers;
The winter skies, too,
Have such things…



The Right wonder about the appropriateness of ‘mixed’ (majirishi). The Left complain that the Right’s poem ‘does not contain an expression from the topic [dai no ji]’ and wonder about the appropriateness of this in a poetry competition.

Shunzei’s judgement: ‘This is a sleet-filled sky, indeed!’ (kore wa mizore no sora naran) is charming, but the latter section of the poem, saying that blossoms fall during a shower is quite pedestrian [tsune no koto ni aran]. I also wonder about the appropriateness of ‘mixed with rain?’ (ame ya majirishi) as a choice of poetic diction [uta kotoba]. Having ‘Around the blossom in spring showers’ (hana no atari no harusame wa), and then ‘The winter skies, too, have such things…’ (fuyu no sora ni mo arikeru mono o) is extremely charming. Even without the explicit reference to the topic, one can certainly glimpse the sleet. The Right should win.

Winter I: 15



iroiro no
hana yue nobe ni
nagame made koso
Many were the shades
Of blossom in the fields
I went to see;
Even that view, now, is completely
Burned by frost.

Lord Ari’ie.


Right (Win).


fuyu fukuru
nobe o miru ni mo
kokoro no uchi wa
hana zo iroiro
In the depths of winter
Gazing o’er the fields
What I recall
Within my heart
Are the blossoms’ many hues.

The Provisional Master of the Empress’ Household Office.


The Right wonder about the appropriateness of having a ‘view’ (nagame) of frost burn. The Left suggest that ‘depths of winter’ sounds a poor expression [kikiyokarazu] [because ‘depths of night’ was a more standard usage].

Shunzei’s judgement: Both poems refer to the many colours (iroiro) of the blooms of autumn, and this is certainly not lacking in taste [yūnarazaru ni wa arazu]. When gazing over the frost-burned winter fields, saying ‘even that view’ (nagame made) is not a fault as such [toga nakarubekeredomo], but I feel it would be better to avoid encompassing everything within a ‘view’. On ‘depths of winter’ (fuyu fukuru), we have the same old opinion that it ‘sounds poor’ but, I ask you, what sounds poor about it? What is to be criticised in ‘depths of winter’? As a piece of diction, ‘depths’ (fukuru) can be used about anything. Thus, the Right must win.

Autumn III: 18

Left (Win).


kumo no ue ni
machikoshi kyō no
shiragiku wa
hito no kotoba no
hana ni zo arikeru
Above the clouds
Long have we waited for this day, when
The white chrysanthemums
Are the words in which folk
Blossom forth!

A Servant Girl.




kyō to ieba
yae saku kiku o
kokonoe ni
kasaneshi ato mo
On this day
Upon the eight-fold blooming chrysanthemums,
A nine-fold layer

Was laid – a trace of it



The Right have no criticisms to make of the Left’s poem. The Left state that the Right’s ‘Upon the eight-fold blooming chrysanthemums, a nine-fold layer’ (yae saku kiku o kokonoe ni) is lifted wholesale from an earlier famous poem.

Shunzei’s judgement: Both Left and Right charmingly express the conception [kokoro wa okashikuhaberu] of the Chrysanthemum Festival, but the Left’s ‘Are the words in which folk blossom forth!’ (hito no kotoba no hana ni zo arikeru) has a slightly better air about it at present.

Summer II: 13



katayama no
kakine no hikage
tsuyu ni zo utsuru
hana no yūgao
Facing the single mountainside
In evening sunlight upon the fence
Faintly seen,
Glistening with dew,
Is a bloom of moonflower.

A Servant Girl.


Right (Win).


orite koso
yū tsuyu ni
himo toku hana no
hikari ari to wa
Plucked, that
I might gaze upon her,
Touched with evening dew,
Her belt undoing, this blossom
Is lustrous, indeed!

The Provisional Master of the Empress’ Household Office.


The Right wonder whether the Left’s poem, ‘lacks the emotional import of the topic [dai no kokoro kasuka ni ya], despite the mention of moonflowers?’ The Left counter that, ‘The Right’s poem simplistically recalls The Tale of Genji [genji no monogatari bakari o omoeru]– is this appropriate in a poetry contest [uta’awase no akashi to nasu ni, ikaga]?’

Shunzei states, ‘The Left certainly does lack the emotional import of the topic. Moreover, it does not use the expression “moonflower blossom” (yūgao no hana), but “bloom of moonflower” (hana no yūgao). This, too, is contrary to the topic [dai no mama narade] and, I have to say, an unusual choice of expression. The Right’s poem does simply refer to The Tale of Genji, but in form it cannot be said to be anything less than superb [utazama yū narazaru ni wa arazaru]. It is superior to a “bloom of moonflower”.’

Summer I: 11

Left (Tie).


natsuyama no
kusaba no take zo
haru mishi komatsu
hito hikazu wa
Summer in the mountains, and
The grasses reach so high, that
Had they but known
In springtime, on the glimpsed pine-seedlings
Folk would have laid no hand…

Lord Sada’ie.


Right (Tie).


michi mo naki
natsuno no kusa no
iori kana
hana ni kegaruru
niwa to mishi ma ni
Within a trackless
Summer field does my grass
Hut stand now;
While on fallen blossom staining
My garden did I rest my gaze…



The Right wonder, ‘Whether summer greenery recalls the mountains as much as it does the plains? The overall point of the poem seems difficult to grasp.’ The Left have no particular comments to make.

Shunzei states, ‘The gentlemen of the Right have already questioned the suitability of greenery in relation to mountains rather than the plains. In addition, what is one to make of blossom falling round a hut, as opposed to a mountain lodge. If the topic was “Field Lodges”, then there are some autumn blooms, but cherry and plum blossom, and the like, fail to fall that much on the plains. Thus, I would agree with the Right’s comments on the Left’s poem. The Right’s poem, though, lacks logic. The round must be a tie.’

Spring III: 30

Left (Tie).


yoshino yama
hana no furusato
ato taete
munashiki eda ni
haru kaze zo fuku
Upon Mount Yoshino –
The home of blossom –
Footprints fade away;
Now purposeless, the branches,
Shudder in the winds of spring.

A Servant Girl.


Right (Tie).


yama no ha ni
nioishi hana no
kumo kiete
haru no hikazu wa
ariake no tsuki
Along the mountains’ edge
The glow of blossom
Clouds has faded;
The numbered days of Spring,
Revealed by the dawntime moon.



Both teams proclaim themselves moved by the other’s poem.

Shunzei, however, has this to say. ‘The Left’s poem contains “purposeless, the branches, shudder in the winds of spring” (munashiki eda ni harukaze zo fuku), and despite the fact that poems on Mount Yoshino have a somewhat old-fashioned air, and that one might wonder on which peaks it is such clouds of blossom remain, even these moss-covered sleeves have become thoroughly soaked with tears at the thought that the Way of poetry has not reached its end; the Right’s poem has “The numbered days of Spring, revealed by the dawntime moon” (haru no hikazu wa ariake no tsuki), and this has moved even this old heart to thoughts of such a dawning sky, so it is impossible to distinguish between the two in quality. Of old, Spring poems had style, indeed, and to think that such form and spirit still combine to torment the soul is something for which I am thoroughly grateful. Truly, these moss-covered sleeves have been drenched by both Left and Right!’

Spring III: 26

Left (Win).


hana mo mina
chirinuru haru wa
uguisu no
naku ne bakari ni
tomaru narikeri
Every blossom
Fallen: of spring
The warbler’s
Song, alone,

Lord Kanemune.




uguisu mo
koesu nari
asu bakarinaru
haru o uramite
The warbler, too,
Unable to endure
Lifts his voice in song;
That tomorrow alone
Is left of spring, he bitterly resents.

Lord Tsune’ie.


The Right suggest that the Left’s poem, ‘appears to have a great deal in common with the poem on the “dwelling does it seem,indeed!”’.

The Left indicate they have nothing to remark on in the Right’s poem.

Shunzei agrees with the Right, up to a point, ‘The beginning of the Left’s poem does, indeed, as the gentlemen of the Right say, recall the “dwelling” (Furusato), but its final section is truly marvellous. Simply ending with “spring, he bitterly resents” (haru o uramite), as does the Right’s poem, is worse than the Left’s old-fashioned beginning.’

Spring III: 25

Left (Tie).


hakanashi ya
itsu made hana no
chiraji tote
haru o tometaru
keshiki naruran
How piteous!
That the blossom should never
Fall – the words
Cling on to spring,
Or so it seems…



Right (Tie).


hana no katami to
miru haru o
ima ikuka wa
aran to suran
Never surfeited of
Blossom are my memories
Of Spring;
Now, a few days:
Do only they remain?

The Provisional Master of the Empress’ Household Office.


The Right say that the Left’s poem ‘gives the impression that Spring has passed and yet blossoms remain’ (meaning it’s unsuited to the topic, which is about the last days of spring), while the Left say the final line of the Right’s poem, ‘sounds weak.’

Shunzei disagrees, ‘The final section of the Right’s poem gives an emphatic impression. However, both ‘ should never’ (itsu made) and ‘now, a few days’ (ima ikuka wa) jointly have such a similar spirit [of spring shortly ending] that it is not possible to determine a winner or loser between the two poems.’