Tag Archives: makura

MYS V: 810

Poems respectfully presented by Ōtomo no Tabito, to accompany a Japanese zither made from wood taken from the top of a parasol tree growing on Yuishi in Tsushima:

I dreamed this zither transformed into a maiden who said to me, ‘I placed my roots in the care of the sacrd heights of a distant island; my trunk was dried by the peaceful light of the ninefold sun. Ever was I enveloped by the smoky haze drifting from the mountain streams, and beheld from afar the winds and the waves, finding myself between a tree and a goose. Yet, after a hundred years, I was afraid I would simply be left to rot away in a moat or a ditch somewhere, but by good fortune I met a talented craftsman, who shaped my wood into this meagre zither. My form may be coarse, and my sound grating, but I hope that I may rest, as my Lord’s zither, at his left hand.’ Then, she composed.


ika ni aramu
pi no toki ni kamo
kowe siramu
pito no piza no pe
wa ga makurakamu
When will
The day come that
I shall sing
With his lap
For my pillow?

Love IV: 25


yodoko wa toga mo
naki mono o
konu hito yue ni
utoku narinuru
I swept clean
My bed tonight, and faults
Has it none, but
Because he has failed to come
I hate it now!



koi kanuru
ware o ba okite
tare ni sa wa
makura kawashite
imo ga nenuran
Unable to bear this love
Am I, abandoned;
With whom, I wonder,
Does she swap pillows,
When my darling sleeps now?

The Provisional Master of the Empress’ Household Office.

The Right state: we wonder about the use of ‘faults’ (toga). The Left state: this style of poem is commonplace.

In judgement: both Left and Right are the same level, and there is no difference between them.

Autumn II: 19



komo makura
takase no yodo ni
tatsu shigi no
haoto mo soso ya
aware kaku nari
Pillowed on a mat of rush
Where the Yodo meets Takase
The starting snipe
With rustling wingbeats
Draw in my melancholy.



Right (Win).


awaresa wa
hagi fuku kaze no
oto nomi ka
ariake no tsuki ni
shigi mo nakunari
Melancholy is not
In the wind upon the bush clover’s
Sigh alone but
With the moon at break of dawn
The snipe a’crying.

The Provisional Master of the Empress Household Office.


The Right state that the Left’s poem is based on a misinterpretation of the song ‘The Spreading Moon Rises’, and this has led to the usage of ‘mat of rush’. Furthermore, in the absence of expressions such as ‘bush clover’ or ‘new grown rice’, ‘rustling’ lacks a context. The Left merely state that the initial section of the Right’s poem ‘does not sound attractive’.

Shunzei’s judgement: The gentlemen of the Right have already stated the issue with ‘rush mat’. As for ‘rustling’, I have already suggested that it was unsuitable in the earlier poem on bush clover in the topic of ‘Autumn Evenings’, and it is unfeasible to think that one could go so far as to use it in reference to ‘wing beats’. In regard to the Right’s poem, the initial line, indeed, sounds poor, and the central ‘alone but’ is also regrettable, but even so, it wins the round.

Autumn II: 3



aki no yo wa
mado utsu ame ni
yume samete
nokiba ni masaru
sode no tamamizu
On an autumn night
Rain beating ‘gainst my widow
Wakes me from my dreams,
Falling from the eaves,
Yet many more are the droplets on my sleeves.

Lord Ari’ie.




miru yume mo
mado utsu ame ni
makura ni aki no
aware o zo shiru
Rain beating ‘gainst my window
Starts me awake;
Upon my lonely pillow, autumn’s
Sharp sadness do I feel.

The Provisional Master of the Empress’ Household Office.


Neither team has any criticisms of the other’s poem this round.

Shunzei agrees: ‘Both poems are superb in both style and form and, in addition, the initial sections are generally similar, but in terms of the concluding sections, the Left’s is slightly deeper. Thus, the Left wins.’

Summer I: 30

Left (Win).


natsu no yo wa
naruru shimizu no
musubu hodo naki
utatane no yume
On a summer night
Trickling water cools
Beside my drifting pillow;
No time to dip it
In a brief dozy dream.

Lord Sada’ie.




natsu no yo no
kazu ni mo ireji
kinakanu saki ni
akuru shinonome
Among summer nights’
Number I’ll not count this one:
Before the cuckoo
Can come calling
Comes the dark before bright dawn.



The Right wonder ‘whether “Trickling water beside my drifting pillow” (shimizu no ukimakura) is something that’s likely to occur?’ while the Right counter, ‘and what of “Among summer nights’ number I’ll not count this one” (natsu no yo no kazu ni mo ireji) – it seems somewhat excessive an expression.’ Shunzei states testily, ‘The gentlemen of the Right’s questioning of “drifting pillow” (ukimakura) is absurd, for has there not long been the image of pillowing on a flow? The Right’s “Among summer nights’ number I’ll not count this one”, unavoidably incurs criticism from the gentlemen of the Left. In addition, the Left’s final line is most fine. It should win.’