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 (:

 

Murasaki Shikibu and Sei Shonagon

Last summer I was watching  an episode of Hanako to Anne where there was this dialogue:

先生:「紫式部はどのような女性だと思いますか。畠山さん。」

畠山:「はい。学問に打ち込み教養にあふれたすばらしい女性です。」

先生:「はい。葉山様どう思われますか。」

蓮子:「私は全くそうは思いません。紫式部は実に意地悪な女性です。」

先生:「はっ?」

蓮子:「紫式部日記の中で同じ時代に活躍した清少納言の悪口を書き綴っています」

Teacher: “What kind of woman do you think Murasaki Shikibu was? Hatakeyama”

Hatakeyama: “An amazing woman who put her heart into study and brimmed with culture”

Teacher: “Yes. Miss Hayama, what do you think?”

Renko: “I don’t think much of her at all. Murasaki Shikibu was a really malicious woman”

Teacher: “Huh?”

Renko: “In Murasaki Shikibu’s diary, she continued to insult the life of Sei Shonagon, her court rival”

After listening to this dialogue I was curious to know what Murasaki Shikibu wrote, and yesterday I finally discovered it while I was reading her diary:

Sei Shonagon, for instance, was dreadfully conceited. She thought herself so clever and littered her writings with Chinese characters; but if you examined them closely, they left a great deal to be desired. Those who think themselves as being superior to everyone else in this way will inevitably suffer and come to a bad end, and people who have become so precious that they go out of their way to try and be sensitive in the most unpromising situations, trying to capture every moment of interest, however slight, are bound to look ridiculous and superficial. How can the future turn out well for them?

As you can read, Murasaki didn’t write positive things about Sei Shonagon, but I think that defining her malicious due to this passage is exaggerate, considering that Sei Shonagon was her rival (;

I particulary enjoyed this paragraph because here Murasaki wrote about Izumi Shikibu, Akazome Emon and Sei Shonagon, who were some of the most important writer of this period together with Murasaki, and it was interesting to know what Murasaki thought about the others ladies-in-waiting (:

Words learnt thanks historical drama

Watching the dorama Tempest, I learnt some new words related to the royal court life. They aren’t very useful, especially at my level, but I think that I should know them if I want to know Japanese well. If I know the meaning of that words in Italian and even in English, I should know that words in Japanese, too, in order to have a advanced knowledge of the language. Moreover, I have to say that I really enjoy learning these words ^^ 

So, the words are:

  • 宦官: eunuch. After watching Tempest, you will surely know this word because you will hear it hundred of times lol So now I know how to say eunuch in Japanese, while I don’t know how to say “rich” or “pour” 
  • 御内原: well… I don’t know the meaning of this word neither in English or Italian ^^; And I don’t know if it can be used only when you talk about the palace of Naha. By the way, in the drama this words is used for the part of the palace where there are the women and the subtitles translate it “inner chamberlain” (?)
  • 国母: queen mother
  • 王妃: queen. This word is the most common of the ones I learnt, I guess XD
  • 女官: court lady
  • 側室: concubine
  • 王府: royal government (especially in Ryukyu Kingdom). Probably, I won’t hear this word in future :/

This is the list of all the words I learnt about the royal court while I was watching this dorama. I hope I can learn new ones in future because it’s interesting to know this kind of words ^^

Enjoy Japanese history :)

As a high school student, one of my favourite subject is history. I’m particularly interested in ancient Middle Eastern history, Ancient Greek history, modern European history and Far Eastern history (especially Japanese one). However, in Italian textbooks, there are few pages dedicated to eastern history, so I don’t know a lot about it and the largest part of my knowledge comes from Wikipedia pages. But recently while I was surfing the net I found an NHK’s page which offers some materials about the subjects taught in Japanese high school. After reading the title of the different sections, I suddenly realized that there is a part dedicated to 日本史 Japanese history! I don’t know how I can tell you the happiness I felt in that moment 😀

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The 日本史 section consist in some short PDF documents in Japanese that explain Japanese history form the very beginning (so from Jomon Era 縄文時代). However, for now there are documents only until about 1200, so only until Heian Era 平安時代 (one of my favourites). I hope they’ll add other documents soon! I haven’t read well yet, but I think that the grammar used isn’t very difficult, but I’ll surely have problems with vocabulary, so this is an occasion to learn new words while reading something that I find very interesting ^^ The only negative aspects is that there aren’t some words because they should be put in the correct part of the text by the readers, maybe.

I’m really looking forward to enjoying myself with Japanese history and I think I’ll start from next week.