A working space for my notes on Ogura Hyakunin Isshu - a classical Japanese anthology of 100 poems by 100 poets. My thanks to Jane Reichhold and fellow members of the AHApoetry Forum for their encouragement, advice and participation; and also to my fellow fellow members of Eratosphere for their comments and suggestions.

Monday, 14 May 2012

#013 筑波嶺の


Tsukuba ne no mine yori otsuru Minano-gawa koi zo tsumorite fuchi to nari nuru

Emperor Yozei

named Man and Woman
Minano River rushes
from Tsukaba's peaks
my love grows ever fuller
its deep pools overflowing

(trans. Köy Deli)
Mount Tsukuba
from its peaks flows
Man-woman River
love gathers together
to become a deep pool 

(trans. Jane Reichhold)


Tsukubane no

Mount Tsukaba | of
Mine yori otsuru
Peak(s) | from | fall
Minano gawa
Minano | river
Koi zo tsumorite
Love | ! | accumulates/grows
Fuchi to nari nuru
Deep pool | is | become


The twin peaks from which the Minano River flow are said to represent a Man and a Woman and the characters of the river's name (Minano) are those for Man and Woman. Nuru maybe read as an auxiliary verb completion of nari (existence), has become : but nuru also means to be wet, to get damp, lovemaking - so may be read to become wet/damp (we may be expected to suppose with/through lovemaking). The deep pool collecting at the bottom of the rivers flow is used as a simile for the depth of the poet's love; or the stream that starts at the top to form a torrential river at the bottom as a metaphor for love growing in strength from its first beginnings.

In Wild Azaleas (1676) Buddhist Kitamura Kigin quotes this waka in reference to Buddha advocated homosexuality over heterosexuality for priests:

"It has been the nature of men's hearts to take pleasure in a beautiful woman since the age of male and female gods, but to become intoxicated by the blossom of a handsome youth ... would seem to be both wrong and unusual. Nevertheless, the Buddha preached that [Mount] Imose was a place to be avoided and the priests of the law entered this Way as an outlet for their feelings, since their hearts were, after all, made of neither stone nor wood. Like water that plunges from the peak of Tsukubane to form the deep pools of the Minano River, this love has surpassed in depth the love between women and men in these latter days. It plagues the heart not only of courtier and aristocrat but also of brave warriors. Even the mountain dwellers who cut brush for fuel have learned to take pleasure in the shade of young saplings."


The mountain and its twin peaks are famous in Japan with a fullness of cultural and mythological allusions and is a popular subject of poetry:

Tsukuba -ne
Place name – Mount Tsukuba
 Its two peaks are called Nantai 男体山 (Male mountain) and Nyotai 女体山  (Female mountain)
Peak, summit, ridge,

Genitive particle
Summit, peak

Case particle (along which/from; down from; from which)
To fall, drop, come down (tsuru – act of; emphatic)

[ 男女川 ]
Place name
Word play on everybody, man, woman.

River, stream,

Love, passion, yearning,

Case particle, emphatic end of phrase marker (!)
To accumulate, grow big(ger), deep(er), full(er)
-te conjunctive particle, completion of an action (the action of that which is falling, oto-tsuru).
Deep pool, abyss, edge, the depths

Case particle; copula aux verb;
nari (nuru)
Nari (existence) nuru may be read a completion of ‘to be’ (existence) of nari (ie, nari – to be/ narinuru =has become); but nuru may also be read:
To make love, become damp, get wet

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