Tag Archives: diver girl

Love X: 14

Left (Win)

wa ga koi wa
ama no sakate o
omoi tokite ya
yo o mo uramin
My love:
With my diver girl’s hands raised to heaven
I cast back
Knowing of these pains of love
The world is all despair!

Lord Kanemune


koromode wa
mirume o ba
kazukanu ama to
narinikeru kana
Though my sleeves
Are drenched, as
Unable to catch a glimpse of seaweed
Like a hapless diver-girl
Have I become.

Lord Tsune’ie

The Right state: there are various possible interpretations for ama no sakate. In addition, is it appropriate to compose a poem from the diver-girl’s perspective? The Left state: there is nothing to mention in the Right’s poem.

In judgement: the Left’s ama no sakate is not a particularly good expression, but I see no fault in composing from the diver-girl’s perspective. In recent times, people have come up with alternate interpretations for the phrase, but I see no reason for them. This old fool long ago composed a poem in this way. So I wonder, should I criticise my own composition? There is evidence for this in the Tales of Ise, and other texts, too. However, in poetry competitions, ama no sakate fails to sound appropriate. The Right’s diver-girl with sleeves drenched by the tide and unable to harvest seaweed seems incapable. She cannot be a genuine diver-girl. The Left’s sakate is not that elegant, but the girl is genuine. It wins.


Sent to a woman without much sentiment, when he had not visited her for a long time:


ise no umi no
ama no madekata
itoma nami
mi wozo uramuru
By the sea at Ise
A diver-girl does work
Without surcease
I hate myself!

Minamoto no Hide’aki

The latest scholarship suggests that the expression should be read madekata (classical Japanese was written without voicing indicators, so there was no orthographic distiction between te and de – both would have been written て) and utilises a Man’yō expression meaning ‘left and right’ referring to the constant side-to-side movement of the ama girls’ hands and shoulders as they worked – hence the translation above – but it is unlikely that the Roppyaku-ban Uta’awase poets would have had this understanding of it. Matekata did not just cause controversy in this competition – it was discussed extensively in many other premodern critical works, none of which came to a definitive conclusion.