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Tales of Ise Lyrical Episodes from Tenth-Century Japan / / Translated, with an Introduction and Notes, by HELEN CRAIG McCULLOUGH 1968 University of Tokyo Press Tokyo, Japan 07726292

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  • Tales of Ise Lyrical Episodes from Tenth-Century Japan


    / Translated, with an Introduction and Notes, by


    1968 University of Tokyo Press

    Tokyo, Japan


  • Tales of lse


    ONCE a man who had lately corne of age went hunting on his estate at Kasuga village, near the Nara capitaI:

    In the village there lived two beautiful young sisters. The man caught a glimpse of the sisters through a gap in their hedge. It was startling and incongruous indeed that such ladies should dwell at the ruined capital, and he wished to meet them. He tore a strip from the skirt of his hunting costume, dashed off a poem, and sent it in. The fabric of the robe was imprinted with a moss-fern design:

    Kasuganono Wakamurasaki no Surigoromo Shinobu no mid are Kagiri shirarezu.

    Like the random pattern of this robe,

    Dyed with the young purple From Kasuga Plain-Even thus is the wild disorder Of my yearning heart:

    No doubt it had occurred to him that this was an interest-ing opportunity for an adaptation of the poem that runs,

    1 Notes to the Tales will be found all pp. [99--259.

  • Michinoku no Shinobu mojizuri Tare yueni tvEdaresomenishi Ware naranaku ni.

    Tales of lse

    My thoughts have grown disordered

    As random patterns dyed on cloth Reminiscent of Shinobu in

    Michinoku-And who is to blame? Surely not I.'

    People were remarkably elegant in those days.


    Onc in the days after the move from Nara, ,vhe people were s . I not settled in the new capital. a certai man dis-covered a ady living in the western part of .1e city. She was chan11l to look at, and her dispo" ion was even more, ddightf than her appearance. S was apparently not sl11gle, but t man made love her anyway, even though he was an li orable fellow fter he had returned home his conscience .. . 1St have thered him, because he sent her this poem. (It w, ear in the Third Month and a drizzling rain was falling,

    Old mosezu Ne mo seele yoru 0 Abshite wa



    Ice a man sent a bit of seaweed' to a lady with who he vas in love. His poem:

    moi araba tv gura no yado 11i Ne 10shi11an Hijilt nona ni wa Socle 0 hitsutsu mo.

    Tales of lse

    If you love me, Let us sleep together, Though it be in a weed-c oked

    house vVith our sleeves F or mattress:

    This har )ened while the Empress \Vard' was s '11 a commoner, before s

    am the Second e entered the em-

    peror's palace.


    llpress' was ving in the eastern Fifth Ward, a certain lac 1 occupiec the western wing of her hOllse. Quite without 1 tendi '" it, a man fell deeply in love v,"ith the lady and bega to \j. sit her; but around the Tenth of the First Month she.. ed away without a word, and though he learned wher ,e had gone, it was not a place where ordinary people cou come and go. He could do nothing but brood ov the wtchedness of life. \Vhen the plum blossoms were t their he! ht in the next First Month, poignant memori ·, of the year dore drew him back to her old apartme ts. He st;red at the flowers from every conceivable sta ding and sitting po . tion, but it was quite hopeless to tr, to recapture the past. llfsting into tears, he flung hims 'f onto the floor of the bare oom and lay there until the loon sank low in the sky. As le thought of the year bet re, he composed this poem:

    Tsu I ya aranu H u ya mukashi no

    aru naranu Va ga mi hitotsu wa

    Moto no mi ni shite.

    Is not the moon the s me? The spring The spring of old? Only this body of mine Is the same body .. :


  • Nan u t01110 Sora y u tsuki no Mcguria made.

    Tales of he

    Though I am as far away As the realm of clouds, Remember me until I come again, Even as the moon returns From its celestial journ


    Once there was man who abducted so leone's daughter. He was on his wa to Musashi Plain" 1th her when some provincial oHicials rested him for eft. He had left the girl in a dump of bu es and run certain that he was on t e plain, cl prepared to set fire to it. In great agitation the 'rl re ' ed this poem:

    Musashino wa Kyo wa na yaki so Wakakusa no Tsuma 1110 komoreri Ware 1110 komoreri.

    it sashi Plain, or my doved husband

    s hidden ere, And so am 9

    They heard her, sIzed her, and marc. ed the two off to-gether:


    Once a mc 1 who was staying in Musashi wrote ) a lady in the capi I, "If I write to you frankly, r shall fe C1nhar-rassed' 1£ not, 1 shall be miserable.'" On the outsi of the letter he inscribed the phrase "Musashi stirrups.'" tha there was no further word from him. At length the la . y sent this from the capital :

    1Y ashi abumi Sasug, i kakete TanomUl' wa Towanu 1110 t rashi Tou mo urusaslll,

    Tales of he

    Loving you in spite of all, My trust still undestro . d, I think your silenv mel indeed-Yet I should [il It most

    unplcasa Were y to ask for news of me:

    The man, frantic with 1 "ty, replied,

    Toeba iu Towaneba ur u Musashi a nu Kakar rIm ya Hi · wa shinuran.

    If I write, y will be angry; If not, you wilate me. Surely it is at such ( les That men die Of broken hearts.'


    Once in the course of his wanderings, a man found himself in Michinoku. A girl of the province, who was no doubt unaccustomed to meeting people from the capital, fell head over heels in love with him and sent him a poem as countri-fied as she was:

    Nakanaka ni Koi ni shinazu wa Kuwakonizo N arubekarikeru Tama no 0 bakari.

    Better it were To be a silkworm, Though its life soon ends, Than to be tortured to death By a rash love.'

    He must have pitied her in spite of her crudity, because he went to her house and slept with her. He left in the middle or the night: ,vhereupon she sent him this:


  • Yo moakeba Kitsu ni ha1l1cnade Kutakake no Madaki ni nakite Sena 0 yaritsuru.

    Tales of Jse

    When daylight comes I shall toss him in the cistern-That miserable rooster \-Vho crows too soon And drives my lover away:

    Presently the man sent word that he was returning to the capital. His poem:

    Kurihara no Aneha no matsu no Hitonaraba Miyako no tsuto ni Iza to iwamashi o.

    If the Pine of Aneha at Kurihara Were but a person Long awaited, I would say, "Come with me as a

    souvenir To the capita1."·

    The girl was overjoyed. "He must be in love with me," she said.

    15 On in Michinoku a man began to visit the w' of a commo lace fellow, and discovered to his s rise that she was not all the ordinary sort of pe n he had ex-pected. He sent tlllS:

    Shinobuyama Shinobite kayou Michi mo gana Hito no kokoro no Oku mo mirube

    possessed a way-travel unobserved,

    Se t as unt Shinobu's name-o behold the'

    Of your heart.'

    The lac was immensely flattered. But what wo d hap-pen, s wondered, when he found that it was afte 11

    ing but the heart of a simple rustic:


    Tales of Jse

    ,6 ~ . nce there was a man named Ki no Aritsune, who rved

    tIl ee emperors.' For a time he prospered, but lat there we changes, and he found himself less well off 1an even an av' rage courtier. Aritsune was a person of 'ceptional sensibi 'ty and refinement. Despite his povert·, he retained the tastes nd attitudes of his more affiuent attention t the problems of everyday life. e and his wife of many yea s gradually drew apart, an ' at length his wife resolved to be orne a nun and go to Iiv: with her elder sis-ter, who had a eady taken holy ore rs. Though she and Aritsune had no been intimate f a long time, he was deeply moved as 5h prepared to ave, but he was too poor to give her a farewel resent. I great distress he wrote of her decision to an old iend. She is leaving forever, and I must send her off with ut a much as a trifling gift." He ended with this poem:

    Te 0 orite Aimishi koto 0 Kazoureba To to iitsutsu Y otsu wa heni .

    ether-They are four.

    found it most touching, He s nt him not only a quilt as well, with this poem:

    Tosh' 8ani mo To . te yotsu wa f nikeru 0

    utabi kimi 0 Tanomikinuran.

    In the four decades That have elapsed, How many times She must have come Seeking your aid:


  • Tales of lse

    woman, acutely embarrassed, made no reply." Thy don't you swer me?" he demanded. "I an ind and speechless wit . ars," she said. He recite ,

    Kore ya kono . ere is some e vVare ni au mi 0 Tlshed to be free Nogaretsutsu Toshitsuki fureelo Masarigao naki

    He re . vcd his cloak and gave it to her, but s 11 off-nobody knows where.

    63 Once a lonely lady longed desperately to meet a man who would love her. Since it was not something she could talk about, she pretended to have had a certain dream, which she described to her three sons. Two of the sons made non-committal replies and let the matter drop, but to her de-light the youngest said, "This means that you are going to find a good husband."

    "Most men have little capacity for honest affection. If only I could arrange for her to meet Ariwara Narihira," the third son thought. One day when Narihira was on a hunting excursion, the boy intercepted him, caught hold of his horse's bridle, and poured out the story. Narihira found it so touching that he went to the lady's house and slept with her. But afterward he failed to reappear. At Imb'th the lady went to his house and peered in. He half glimpsed her and recited,

    Momotoseni Hitotose taranu Tsukumogami '.tV are 0 kourashi Omokage 11i miyu.


    The lady with thinning hair----But a year short Of a hundred-Must be longing for me, For I seem to see her face.'

    Tales of lse

    Then he began to get ready to go out. The lady rushed home, bumping into brambles and briers, and retired to her bed. After a time Narihira arrived and began to peep in from a sheltered spot, just as she had done. She had stopped expecting him and was disconsolately composing herself for sleep. She recited,

    Samushiro ni Koromo katashiki Koyoi moya Koishiki hi to ni Awade nomi nemu.

    Must I again tonight Spread a single sleeve On the narrow mat And sleep without My beloved?'

    Moved by pity, he spent the night with her. Most men show consideration for the women they love

    and disregard the feelings of the ones who fail to interest them. Narihira made no such distinctions:

    e a man received some letters from a lady who s wed no in . lation to arrange a private meeting with m; fur-thermore e was not at all sure who she was e sent her this poem :

    Fukukazeni Wa ga mi 0 nasaba Tamasudare Hima motometsutsu lrubeki mono o.

    Her reply:

    Toritomenu Kaze ni W' ri tomo Tamas are Ta yurusaba ka

    una motomubeki.

    Were I but The whis - gwind,

    Ight I seek you out lter through a crack

    1 those egant blinds:

    Though you were e wind No hand can grasp, Who would pennit you To find a crack In these blinds?


  • Notes

    The following abbrctJi{jtions arc used in the 110tes. FOl' complete atethod names, titles, {lnd publ£cation data, see Works Cited, pp, 263-66. All im-pt11'ial anthologies of tlJ

  • ShokuSZS SIS



    Notes to PageJ 4-9

    SllOkllsenzllishii (15th im.perial antholo,\,'Y) Sllt/ishii (3d imperial anthology)

    Kuroita, Nihon s,mdai jitsuroku

    Shinkokinshii (8th imperial anthology)

    Sh.i,uellzai,·1111 (18th imperial anthology)

    Shinzokukokinshii (21St imperial anthology)

    Matsushita, ZOktt kok'\11 tllikan


    See \Valey, Thl! Tale of Genji; Bonneau; Nippon Gakujutsu hin-k6kal, The l,,!allyosllu: One Thou.

  • Notes to Pages 35-49

    27. ol(imhii contains 17 of Renja's poems and only five of Yas hide's, lfee of Kuronushi's, and one of Kiscn's. The compilers' rca n for hono ing them with special mcntion is not clear.

    28. Sac . Umetomo, pp. 337-39. 29· Ibid., . 339. 30. Ibid. 3I. The pOel} may actually be by someone else. KKS says 1y that it

    is sometimes at 'buted to Kuronushi, though the bna pr ace calls it typical of his war .

    32. Saeki Umeto 0, p. 339. 33. For an analysis, ee Sec. 25, n. 2. 34. Saeki Umetomo, . 339· 35. KKS 1030 (transla 'on from B/M, p. :::06) . 36. Sf, pp. 475-16. For details see also Vos, I, 49; Fukui, pp. 332ft;

    Oka, pp. 98fT. For inform. tion concerning co t ranks and titles, see Sansom, "Early Japanese La and Administr lOn," pp. 72-108.

    37· Sr, p. 475· 38. See Yumoto, p . 353. 39. For the Yoshitsune legend, 40. Sce Fukui, p. 342. 41. Aoki, p. 18. 42. See Saeki Ariyoshi, p. 44I. 43. As evidence of the esteem in

    note his generous representation' KolU s1,,~ (30 poems, exceeded only by the compilers and one other man), TSI ayuki's respectful references to him in the travel journal sa nil( ki, an the descri ptio11S in Ise mo-1I0gatat'i of other people's r. sponses to verse composed by the book's chief figure, the Narihira-' e "man of old." S Porter, pp. 39, II5-r6; Suzuki et al., pp .. 34> 54: M 66, 68, 85, 87, 95, a d 107.

    44. In all, 87 poems e attributed to Narihira b imperial anthologies. The tendency among pecialists is to accept the 30 a ibutions in Kokin-shii, to tentatively a ept some Of all of the II in Gos . .

  • Notes to Page 69

    daiji Tcmple and the Kofukuji Great Eastern Torii (an area now occu-picd in part by Nara Park).

    2. ''1vfoss-fern design" transhtes shinobuzrtri, a term of uncertain mean-ing. Stlri (ztlri, "rubbing") was all ancient dyeing process that original! y entailed stretching a length of cloth on a natural object, such as a rock, and rubbing it with the Rowers, ieaves, and/or stems of various plants. (During the Heiall period the old method prevailed in rural districts, but artisans in the capital devised the more sophisticated technique of laying the cloth on a carved board and rubbing with a dye plant. The design of the garmen t described in the first poem was presumably im-printed in that way, with mtlrasaki, discussed below, as the dye plant.)

    Of mUllerous theories conceming the meaning of shi1l0bu in shino-bUZ1lri (also called shinobtt mojiz/,wi), the one on which I have based the translation appears to be favored by modern 1M scholars. It explains the term as a rubbing process employing the plam shilWbu (Dflf'ollia bullata), a species of small, moss-like fern with short, thickly clustered, deep green leaves, found typically on rocks and earth in shady spots. The sftinobll is thought to have produced a tangled, highly irregular pattern when rubbecl against cloth-the "random pattern" of the poems.

    From medieval times on, Minamoto Torn's poem M.iC/;illoku no (the second below) has been cited in support of another theory concerning the origin of the term SltifiObuztJ.ri, namely, that it derives from Shinobu District in Michinoku Province (now Shinobu District, Fukushima Pre-fecture), said to have been famous in antiquity for producing this kind of cloth. Supporters of the moss-fern theory maintain that references to Shinobu District in Mid;illoku 110 and other poems are merely plays on words suggested by the identity of sound.

    For tbe moss-fern theory, see ATai, p. 7I; 0/1'., p. I88, n. 6. Muny dic-tionaries take the compromise position that the fabric was produced at Shinobn through use of the mos,-fern. See also Vos, II, 66, n. I3.. and Minnich, p. II3. For a description of the suri process, see Nagashima, PP· l05-6.

    3. KasllgallO no. KWR (ZKT 34I55), anon.; SKKS 994, Narihira. On the question of attributions to Narihira, see pp. 35, 64-65. It is most un-likely that Narihira would have composed a variation on a poem by a contemporary, since the object of the "allusive variation" (/wl1kadori) technique was to give additional depth to one's own composition by asso-ciating it with a bmolls old poem. Arai, pp. 70-7I.

    "Young purple" is a reference to the plant mum.

  • Notes to Pages 77-78

    also fa flO 111.0 ("on the surface of the ricc fields"). Kari ("wild goose" is a metaphor for the daughter.

    3. Wa ga kuta ni. KWR (ZKT 35224), nnon.; ShokuGSIS 80r, Tari-Iu .


    11m 71il yo. SIS 470. According to the SIS head no ,the poem was comp sed by a minor courtit'J', Tachibana Tudarnoto d, 955), who sent it to a ady while he was away on u journey. Its' lclusion in IM has been reg, rdcd by $()J1}e scllolars as evidence for a cut-off date of around 960. () ,p. 191, snpp, n. 23; DNS, II, I96.

    In Fujiwara S nzei's Komi Juteis!l,) (I197), an . lportant critical his-tory of classical Ja

  • Notes to Pages 79-Bo

    two gems on the string)-but the poem is damned by th~ unacceptable word l{/fu:al(o, "silkworm," OfT, p. 19J, supp, n. 25; Aral~ p. 192. Male and female silkworms were thought to live together happIly.

    2. By !caving in the middle of tbe night, a man indicated lack of in-terest.

    3. Yo mo /I,tcba. Again, deplorably inelegant. Some of the _terms in the poem afC obscure. For other possible interpretations, sec OfT, p. 192 , stipp, n. 26; Vos, II, 79, n~tcs 14-16. , ....

    4. Kurihara no. Except tor the place name, tne poem IS ldentlcal With KKS r090, anon. I~f merely substitutes a Michinok~ la,udmark fan~o~s in legend and claSSical poetry, the Pme of Aneha at Kunhara, for KKS s Ogurosaki Mitsu-no-kojima (no longer identifiable). Aneha is now a part of Kannari Township, Kurihara District, Miyagi.

    The man implies that he would like to take the girl home with him, but the poem can also mean "I don't love you; in fact, I consider you scarcely human. Naturally I won't take you with me." This rather crud farewell scarcely seems to illustrate the hero's kindly nature, but perhaps country folk were thought incapable of grasping the subtleties of city wit.

    There is a conventional pun 011 matsu ("pine tree" and "wait").

    15 1. li71obt

  • Notes to Page.)" 107-9

    is nsiderable literary evidence to suggest that demons in human fo m wer believed to frequent abandoned dwellings. ()/T, pp. 197"-98, pp. 1I.6r.

    5. Tfi· question is n coy invitation : "Come on out and we' all go back to t fields together."

    6. Uchit, Ibite. The law provided that fallen eurs were to b left in the fields for til or. Arai, p. 494.

    59 r. The Eastern tskirts of Kyoto,

    I. The Shinto shrine Usa ill KytlShtl (U Township, Usa District, Oita Prefecture) playe a role in some of the chi . political events of the Nara period and wa highly inHllcntial in later jJ riods as well. From 833 011, all imperial essenger was sent there to rep rt every new acces-sion to the throne and special messengers reported ot 'r events of major national import: ceo NRD, II, 180.

    2. SI/uul(i m lsu. KKS I39, anon.; KWR (ZKT 35098), Lady Ise.

    6r 1. Ts ushi was an old name for Kytlshu. 2. S Ilcgawa o. SIS 1234, Narihira. The Somegawa ("River o.

    flows hrough Tstlkllshi District, Fuktloka Prefecture, Kyushii e of the Mikasa) .

    the most sober! y respectable person call a void becom g


    Notes to Pages 109-II

    s lething of a gallant when he arrives in Kyushfl and gets wet cross' g this ·ver." The point of the poem is in the plays on Somegaw and /1"0 m 1"It, a phrase meaning both "to become colored" and "0 grow amorous.

    3. Na tli s . ot/Jaba. GSS I352, anoll. Tawarejima ("Flir . JOll Island") is an isolated r ·k off the coast of Uto District, Kum oto Prefecture, Kyushll, near the I uth of the Midori River. It appe . in classical poetry chiefly in acbptations f this verse. DC], I, 1707.

    wfo wear drenched g ments" (nurcgillu a ru) means to be falsely accused. The lady's poem s s, in effect, "\V t's ill a name? The 'River or Dyes' has nothing to do w' h your ch acter; that was formed long ago. Alld obviously 'Flirtation Is ld' i. ot flirtatious. Do you remember the saying about drenched garmel . r One might say that this spray-covered isla nd is wearing them, r m a distance it seems indeed to be dad in white silk. River or 0 river, y ur own clothes are quite dry; no one has falsely accused y of anything.

    e phrase I(okem kam is obscure an may be corrupt. e translation on a theory that explains' as "stripped

    branches," t ugh kara usually means "stalk" or "trunk." Ot r 1M texts offer two ternatives that are themselves pllzzling-/lJal(eru ko and kokerr lI,to, both of which perhaps mean something like "rayage cau-ty." "Where is your old allure, cherry blossoms? You have lost) ur I, . s.") OfT, p. 145, n. 19.

    63 1. ]t,,[omotose lIi. Some dictionaries denne t.>tIkumogami as "grey-

    haired." The translation follows 6fT, p. I98, supp. n. 66. 2. Sf/tnt/shiro ni. KKS 689, anon.; KWR (ZKT 33836), anon. The LM

    version differs slightly from the others. 3. This episode, the only one in which the Th{ author specifically

    names Narihira, furnishes valuable direct information about Narihira's reputation in the early Heian period. The behavior attributed to him has traditionally been regarded as a classic example of sensitivity to the feel-ings of others, one that perhaps influenced Murasaki Shikibu's descrip-tions of the collSic1cratioll Prince Genji showed to unfortunate ladies such a5 the red-nosed princess. (See Waley, Th.: Talt: of Genji, I, 122.) The poem l."iomotose ni, which hardly seems complimentary, is explained by commentators as an expression of sympathy. Arai, p. 537; Kamata, pp. 290 ,296.