The beauty of Japanese (:

Some days ago while watching a drama I came across a word which made me realize how much beautiful and poetic the Japanese language is. This words is 風花.

In the Japanese dictionary the word is defined in this way:

晴天に、花びらが舞うようにちらつく雪。

Snow flickering in the clear sky like fluttering petals.

❄️ 🌸 Sorry, I couldn’t help but use this two emoji ahaha 🌸❄️

I like how the word is explained too. Not only the word itself, but also the explanation is poetic ahah The beauty of the word lies in the fact that embodies the importance of nature in the Japanese culture and literature. I think that many languages don’t have words and expressions which describes the beauty of the nature with a so deep sensibility (:

Japanese makes me feel better :)

These days I’m not in my best mood \: I’m facing some uncertainties and realized some things that let me down.

Fortunately studying Japanese always makes me feel better (:

Today I read some pages of 夜行観覧車 and I’m delighted that I’m approaching to the end. And it seems that the next pages will be crucial to unveil the truth of what happened in the previous chapters 😀 I really like the Minato Kanae’s writing style. I can’t wait to start reading 花の鎖 too!

Today I’ve also looked for some tips to improve writing skills. Of course, the best thing is to practice it writing entries on Lang-8 or updating the Japanese blog more often (I can’t remember the last time I did it ahah), but I also have to analyze how to use different writing styles.

Some days ago I finished reading Traditional Japanese literature by Haruo Shirane, and in the last chapters I was impressed by the beauty of Noh drama (: I love how Noh dramatists referred to the previous tradition and the classicism which floods some verses of the tragedies, which are evidently influenced by Heian lyric. My favorite plays are Aoi no Ue and Nonomiya, both dealing with the story of Rokujo, one of main characters of Genji Monogatari.

Plum blossoms and moonlight

These days I’m enjoying  新古今集, one of the main imperial anthologies of waka poetry.

Between all the touching poems I read so far, I especially love two poems dealing with plum blossoms and written by Fujiwara no Teika, one of the compilers of the anthology.

梅の花 にほひをうつす 袖の上に 軒もる月の 影ぞあらそふ

梅が香に むかしをとへば 春の月 こたへぬ影ぞ 袖にうつれる

In the book I’m reading (which is Traditional Japanese Literature by Haruo Shirane) the two poems are translated as it follows:

On sleeves scented/ by blossoms of plum/ moonlight spilling/ through the eaves/ claims its place

When I ask of the past/ in the scent of the plum,/ the spring moon/ keeps still/ glistening on my sleeves

In the footnote the author points out the originality of the poem, in which “the spare but fluent syntax enfolds an obtrusive conceit- the prosopopeia of moonlight competing with the scent of plum blossoms- within an impeccably decorous scene of high classicism” (I’ve reported the comment of the book because I find it almost as elegant as the poems themselves xD).

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Source

The painting above portrays the fourth episode of The tales of Ise, which inspired Teika’s poems. In the episode the protagonist, Ariwara no Arihira (one of the six immortals of poetry), returns to an abandoned house to call on a woman who left the house, and after looking for her lover presence and for the past memories, in an atmosphere dominated by the moonlight and blooming plum trees he composes the poem: “Is there no moon? Is the spring not the spring of the past? I alone am as I was”.

If you want to read the episode, here you can find the original text with the translation into modern Japanese (;

Miyako Odori

This post is a translation of this article. As this month there are the dances of Miyako Odori, I’ve thought to write something about it trying to translate the content of its website. In this translation there are some gaps because I could’t find the pronounciation of some names.

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After the relocation of the capital due to Meiji Restoration, since Kyoto’s people had the impression that if things had continued to be as they were it would have been decay, when in the 4th year of Meiji period with the establishment of Kyoto prefecture Nagatani Nobuatsu was appointed as prefectural governor  and Makimura Masanao was appointed as lieutenant governor they started the activity of rehabilitation of Kyoto.

The police they adopted consisted in building a modern city adapted to the new era along with preserving Kyoto’s tradition and one of the strategies they employed to achieve this aim was to open exhibitions.

In this period the lieutenant governor Makimura, thinking to add amusement to the exhibitions, asked for the opinion of Sugiura Jiraemon (someone of high rank in Kyoto) and decided to make Gion’s geiko and maiko sing and dance with tea served as an entertainment for spring exhibitions.

So Sugiura Jiraemon, with the new dance master of Gion Katayama Haruko (Inoue Yachiyo III), using “The dance of the tortoise” as a reference, thought to hold dance events in groups instead that in tatami rooms.

They organised an extremely original event that advanced while the different scene where changed by changing the setting without closing the curtains at the beginning and at the end, and the event so organised took place in the 5th year of the Meiji period in Matsu-ya with the name “Miyako Odori” (the Dances of the Capital), inspired from the character “Miyako” (都: capital). This is the beginning of Miyako Odori (here I omitted a passage because it was full of numbers lol). In the 6th year of Meiji period the second edition of Miyako Odori was held in a new theatre in an other location, and since then it has been held every year.

Then, as it was expected that many foreigners would come to Meiji exhibitions, the 11 head of the Urasenke school of tea ceremony, for the first time in Japan, introduced the etiquette of the tea ceremony held on table and chairs, and the geiko and maiko started performing the tea ceremony sitting on chairs.

祇園精舎

After some weeks, I finally found the verses quoted by Lady Kuzuoka in 大奥 悲劇の姉妹 after her two fellows had praised the father of Ume and Uta for his fortunes (:

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祇園精舎の鐘の聲、

諸行無常の響き有り。

沙羅雙樹の花の色、

盛者必衰の理を顯す

These verses are the opening of the Heike Monogatari, a 14th century epic novel dealing with the conflicts between Taira and Minamoto families during the end of the 12th century. Lady Kuzuoka’s quote is translated:

The sound of the Gion Shoja bells

echoes the impermanence of all things;

the color of the sala flowers

reveals the truth that the prosperous must decline.

As it can be understood, she quotes the opening of The Tale of Heike to point out that the fortune of the person her fellows were taking about is bound to disappear.

I also found a recitation of the verses with the accompaniment of biwa, which creates an epic atmosphere (:

 

Two Japanese poems

So, as a result of reading the book The world of the Shining Prince I’ve switched back to Genji Monogatari/Heian period addiction again lol

Yesterday I was reading the chapter dealing with religion and its influence on classical literature and the author proposed two beautiful waka poems that embodies the connection between poetry and buddhist belief.

世の中を なになげかまし 山桜 花見る程の 心なりせば

暗きより 暗き道にぞ 入りぬべき 遥かに照らせ 山の端の月

The former is by Murasaki Shikibu, the latter by Izumi Shikibu. Personally I prefer the first one, but I have to admit that my opinion is biased xD Putting aside my preferences, I think that the one by Izumi exemplifies more accurately the influence of religion because according to the book her verses remind a passage of a buddhist text. And its pathos is emphasized by the fact that the author is thought to have written it on her death bed.

The two poems are translated in this way:

This world of ours/ Why should we lament it?/ Let us view it as we do the cherries/ That blossom on the hills

Out of the dark/ Into the dark path/ I must now enter:/ Shine on me from afar/ Moon of the mountain fringe!

The translation doesn’t preserves the beauty of Classical Japanese, but it helps to understand the meaning of the two poems (:

 

平安時代の歌

This video always make me laugh ahah The male singer dressed up like Heian period court lady is amusing!

After watching again the last episode of 源氏物語千年紀 last week, I returned in the Genji monogatari mood after a long while, so today I watched again NHK for school’s video devoted to Heian period’s culture. I really like this website’s videos, because they make you improve your Japanese listening and learn new words while learning something new and enjoying yourself (: And I love the fact that there is the script!

This time I tried to translate the song. The lyrics are quite easy, so my tranlation is better than usual lol

(Hiragana) Hiragana was born in Heian period

(Hiragana) Hiragana was used between women

(Hiragana) You can write your feeling freely with hiragana

(Shikibu Shikibu Murasaki Shikibu)

She wrote her love with hiragana

(Shikibu Shikibu Murasaki Shikibu)

The Tale of Genji is very popular

(Shonagon Sei Shonagon)

I’m Murasaki Shikibu’s rival!

(Shonagon Sei Shonagon)

The Pillow Book is really popular as well!

With the development of Hiragana (Heian!)

Women’s talent flourishes (Heian!)

Typical Japanese literature was born

Heian (Heian)

Is a magnific period