Tag Archives: New Year Archery

Spring I: 30

Left (Tie).


momoshiki ya
ite hiku niwa no
azusa yumi
mukashi ni kaeru
haru ni au kana
Hundred fold, the palace, where
Archer draw, within the gardens
Bows of catalpa wood:
Olden times are recalled
And meet again, this springtime.

Lord Sada’ie


Right (Tie).


azusa yumi
haru no kumoi ni
keshiki kotonaru
kyô no morobito
Catalpa bows:
In springtime to the cloud-borne palace
They are brought;
How exceptional the scene:
A crowd of noble folk, this day.



The Right query why in the Left’s poem an annual festival should ‘recall olden times’, to which the Right respond that it is normal to compose poems about annual observances as if they had been discontinued and then revived. The Left make no comment about the Right’s poem.

Shunzei’s judgement is that, indeed, the Left’s poem had been composed as if an ancient rite had been revived and, furthermore with the reference to an ‘exceptional scene’ the intent had probably been to praise court festivals. Nevertheless, he has to adjudge the round a tie.

Spring I: 29

Left (Tie).


azusa yumi
ite hiku haru no
kai arite
kyō no moroya wa
yo ni hibiku nari
Catalpa bows,
Archers drawing them in springtime
Has an effect, indeed:
Today, the paired arrows
Resound throughout the world!



Right (Tie).


azusa yumi
haru kokonoe ni
chiru yuki o
kyô tachimai no
sode ni miru kana
Catalpa bows:
Drawn in the ninefold palace walls, yet
Falling snow
This day’s dancing
Sleeves do seem!



The Right team have no comments to make about the Left’s poem, but the Left remark that ‘catalpa bow’ is a makura kotoba (a conventionalised poetic image) used with ‘spring’, and it is difficult to think that it is being used appropriately if related to ‘New Year archery’. (The complaint here seems to be related to the fact that in his original Nobusada writes haru, which I’ve translated here as ‘drawn’, phonetically, rather than with a Chinese character, making it initially seem like the verb haru ‘draw (a bow)’, rather than the homophonous ‘spring’.) The Left go on to make the aside that dancing took place within the palace on many other occasions besides the New Year Archery festival.

Shunzei, however, states bluntly that both poems contain ‘unnatural associations’ of ‘catalpa bow’ with ‘springtime effects’ for the Left, and ‘drawn in the ninefold palace’ for the right, so neither can be declared a winner.

Spring I: 28

Left (Win).


momoshiki ni
azusa yumi
haru mo tomone no
mezurashiki kana
By the hundredfold palace
Catalpa bows:
Sprung in springtime, bowstring on bracer:
How rare the sound!

Lord Suetsune




toneriko ga
tomo uchinarasu
azusa yumi
ite hikiwataru
haru wa kinikeri
The guardsmen lads’
Bracers sound;
Catalpa bows,
Drawn by archers:
Springtime is here, indeed!

Lord Takanobu


Again, the Right team have no comments to make about the Left’s poem this round, but the Left say the initial line of the Right’s poem is ‘unsatisfactory’. Shunzei, once again, agrees, remarking that, ‘the initial line sounds like the name of the tree used when referring to adding water to an ink-stone. Again, the Left is the winner.’ What he means by this is that toneriko, ‘guardsmen lads’ was homophonous with the word for ‘ash tree’. The old Japanese extracted a wax from ash trees, which was used to ease the running of sliding doors and shutters, and so by association, toneriko was used in poetry to refer to adding water to an ink-stone so that the ink, produced in solid sticks, would slide over it more easily. This image is inappropriate for a poem about the New Year Archery festival, and so the poem is of inferior quality, compared to the Left’s offering.