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Japanese Women in Tanka Poetry Hisashi Nakamura & Ria Ulleri Anglo-Japanese Tanka Society.

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Presentation on theme: "Japanese Women in Tanka Poetry Hisashi Nakamura & Ria Ulleri Anglo-Japanese Tanka Society."— Presentation transcript:

1 Japanese Women in Tanka Poetry Hisashi Nakamura & Ria Ulleri Anglo-Japanese Tanka Society

2 What is Tanka? Empress Iwa no Hime (d.347) Ono no Komachi (ca. 850) Izumi Shikibu (ca. 970 - 1030) Princess Shikishi (1149 - 1201)

3 Tanka 短 歌 Short Poem 5 7 5 7 7 syllabic units 57575757

4 The far meeting point Of the sea and the pale sky Trembles in the haze. The warm sleeping dunes exhale The remains of summer.

5 Stifled by the air Laden with the rusty dust Of the passing years The dead cranes in the shipyard Idly dangle their cables.

6 Year No. of poems First Anthology after 759 4,500 1 st Imperial Anthology 905 1,111 8 th Imperial Anthology 1205 1,978

7 Influence of Tanka No Theatre The Tea Ceremony Ceramic Art Haiku British & American Imagist Poets

8 Yugen Subtle and profound atmosphere Infinite tranquil space with lingering suggestiveness Avoiding detailed description

9 Monk Saigyo (1118 – 1190) Even a body without a heart Can feel this sad beauty; Snipe take wing from the marsh In the autumn dusk.

10 Monk Jakuren (1139? – 1202) Cormorant fishing – Maybe they are poling Through the shallows. Swinging and tangling The brazier flares.



13 No Theatre



16 The Traditional Sense of Beauty Cherry Blossoms & Crimson Leaves



19 Golden Tea Room (Hideyoshi 1537 – 1598)

20 As far as one can see, No cherry blossoms Or crimson leaves- A thatched hut by a bay In the autumn dusk. Fujiwara no Teika (1162 – 1241)

21 The Tea Ceremony Less is More


23 Tea Bowl

24 A bamboo vase for one flower

25 Empress Iwa no Hime Wife of Emperor Nintoku Proclaimed Empress314 AD Left Emperor Nintoku342 AD Died347 AD

26 Burial Place of Empress Iwa no Hime

27 Burial place of Iwa no Hime

28 Burial place of Emperor Nintoku


30 Exchanges of Poems in January 334 AD Empress Iwa no Hime Emperor Nintoku

31 On my oath as a noble I’d like to place A spare alongside In case my bowstring should snap.

32 Empress Iwa no Hime If it were clothes It would be fine To put on one over another. But your idea is terrifying Of laying futon side by side.

33 Four Famous Tanka Poems By Empress Iwa no Hime

34 My Lord has departed And the days have passed. Shall I search the mountains, Going forth to meet him, Or wait and wait for him?

35 No! I would not live, Longing for you. Rather, high on the mountain, A rock for my pillow, I prefer to die.

36 Just as I am I shall wait for my lord Till on my black hair, Trailing unconfined, The frost shall fall.

37 As the morning mist trails Over the ears of rice In the autumn field, I know not when or where My love will clear away.

38 21 September 342 While Empress Iwa no Hime was away Emperor Nintoku brought Princess Yata into the palace as his consort. Empress Iwa no Hime left Emperor Nintoku in 342. She died in 347. Princess Yata became the Empress.

39 Empress Iwa no Hime A jealous woman? A woman of pride?

40 Ono no Komachi ( ca. 850 )

41 Komachi

42 Was it because I went to sleep Thinking always of him That I caught a glimpse of him? Had I known it a dream I would not have awoken.

43 When I cannot meet him On a moonless night Passion rises within me; A flame running through my breast Sets my heart on fire.

44 Without showing a change in colour The thing that fades In this world Is the flower Called the human heart.

45 The colour of the cherry blossom Has faded vainly In the long rain While in idle thoughts I have spent my life.

46 Alas! How sad to think That my body will end in pale green; After all, A mist over the fields.

47 Smoke by Catherine Scriven York St John University College Alas! How sad to think That my body will end in pale green; After all, A mist over the fields. Ono no Komachi









56 Gender Formation in Poetry The First Imperial Anthology – 905 Some flowering plants were indirectly compared to women Only male poets wrote poems which included these plants






62 The Image of Komachi in the First Imperial Anthology Beautiful Pitiable Not strong Like a noble lady who is suffering from a sickness

63 Komachi The first female image created by male poets as part of the gender formation in Japanese poetry.

64 Akita Tokyo Akita

65 Komachi Festival





70 Komachi

71 Izumi Shikibu ( ca. 970 – 1030 )

72 Izumi Shikibu one of the ladies-in-waiting of Empress Akiko notorious for her love affairs the author of The Diary of Izumi Shikibu considered to be the finest poet of the time

73 First marriage First child An affair with Prince Tametaka starts June1002 Prince Tametaka dies at the age of 26 April1003 An affair with Prince Atsumichi starts 1007 Prince Atsumichi dies at the age of 27 Writes the Diary of Izumi Shikibu Second marriage Loss of her first child

74 The Diary of Izumi Shikibu based on her affair with Prince Atsumichi between April 1003 and January 1004 depicts the inner solitude and aching void of a female heart

75 Without a thought For my black hair’s disarray I throw myself down, Already longing for the one Who ran his fingers through it.

76 Since even my pillow does not know, I shall not speak. Tell no one What you truly saw- A spring night’s dream.

77 On the bamboo leaves A fine ice fall Patters and patters. How bitter To try to sleep alone!

78 From one dark path Into another Again I may stray. Light the long way, Moon on the mountain rim.

79 In the evening, Just glimpsing the lonely clouds, The feeling rises in me Never to gaze For too long.

80 Tormented by my thoughts My soul struggles And escapes: A firefly Over the marsh.

81 Although I’ve heard The dead return tonight, You are not here. Is the place where I live A homeland without a soul?

82 In my loneliness, Not to let even the smoke die down I break twigs And feed the flames In this winter mountain home.

83 Laura Morgan York St John University College






89 Izumi Shikibu A highly professional career woman Respected by both men and women as the finest poet of the time Taken into Empress Akiko’s confidence

90 Izumi Shikibu To writeTo write Life Love Tanka

91 Princess Shikishi 1149 - 1201 Art Work Susan Kruse York St John

92 Princess Shikishi 1149 - 1201 A daughter of Emperor Goshirakawa Sent to Kamo Shrine in Kyoto to serve as a virgin, consecrated for 10 years till she was 21 years old Remained unmarried all though her life Became a nun in 1190 Died at the age of 53





97 Political & Social Background Princess Shikishi was born in 1149 1156Civil War 1159Civil War 1192Samurai Government was established Princess Shikishi died in 1201

98 The Transient Nature of Human Existence Civil wars Earthquakes Huge fires Devastating storms Starvation

99 Beating Clothes Clothes were made soft or shiny by beating them on a wooden or stone block.

100 Boxwood Pillow Boxwood was often used to make a support on which a small pillow was placed

101 Cord of my soul It was believed that a cord tied the soul to the body. Therefore, “cord of my soul” in effect means life itself since the separation of the soul and body means death.

102 The long night’s sleep In Buddhist teaching the “long night’s sleep” is the same as the “long night’s darkness” which is a spiritual darkness caused by earthly desires.

103 Deep in the mountains The pine branch door Does not feel the coming of spring; Only the slow dropping of gems From the melting snow.

104 From somewhere in the clouds, A voice- The cuckoo is sobbing. Are his tears still falling? A passing shower in the early evening.

105 The night has worn away. The clear moon shines cold Near the mountain edge. And faintly from the far village of Toochi, Someone beating clothes.

106 As the wind blows cold Leafy shadows clear up Night by night. There is no corner left unlit; The moonlight in the garden.

107 When this day Spent gazing at your blossoms Is long past, You, at least, do not forget me, Plum tree by the eaves.

108 Of this love of mine There’s not one who knows. Do not let my pent up tears overflow As I lie here, My dear boxwood pillow.

109 Guide me over As I row my boat, Not knowing where I am bound, For there is no wake to follow, Breeze on the boundless ocean.

110 Forgetting that the days are passing With my heart concealed, Unaware, I sigh As the night falls.

111 Cord of my soul! If you must break, break now. For if I live on My power to keep this hidden May not endure.

112 I know I cannot live Until tomorrow Grieving that you are cold-hearted. If you come, let it be Before this night falls.

113 The crowing of the rooster at dawn Pierces me to the heart, Here on my pillow, Heavy with thoughts Of the long night’s sleep.

114 Looking afar In the stillness of each dawn I am filled with sadness That the world has not awoken From the long night’s sleep.

115 Broken by the sound of the breeze That plays on the bamboo leaves Near the window, A dream even shorter Than my fleeting sleep.

116 The Tempest Shakespeare 1611 We are such stuff as dreams are made on, And our little life is rounded with a sleep.

117 Anglo-Japanese Tanka Society

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