Episode 76 – The Ten-Thousand Leaves

We’re turning our attention this week to Japan’s first classic of poetry: the Man’yoshu, or the Collection of Ten-Thousand Leaves. We’ll trace the origins of the work as well as its cultural impact through the ages, and talk about why it is we should care about a bunch of poems some of which date back to times contemporary with the Roman Empire.

Listen to the episode here.

Sources

R.R. Honda, The Manyoshu: A New and Complete Translation

Man’yogana – The Language of the Man’yoshu (Courtesy of the Japanese Text Initiative of the Virginia Library Electronic Text Center)

Poem 85

Man’yogana

君之行 /氣長成奴/ 山多都祢/ 迎加将行/ 待尓可将待

Modern Japanese

君が行き日長くなりぬ山尋ね迎へか行かむ待ちにか待たむ

Hiragana (Phoenetic)

きみがゆき,けながくなりぬ,やまたづね,むかへかゆかむ,まちにかまたむ

English

How many days and months have passed/ since you, my Lord, left me to roam!/ Now to the mountains should I go/ or wait and wait for you at home!

Poem 2187

Man’yogana

妹之袖/ 巻来乃山之/ 朝露尓/ 仁寶布黄葉之/ 散巻惜裳

Modern Japanese

妹が袖巻来の山の朝露ににほふ黄葉の散らまく惜しも

Hiragana (Phoenetic)

いもがそで,まききのやまの,あさつゆに,にほふもみちの,ちらまくをしも

English

How fair the maple leaves on Mt. Makiki/ colored by dews of morning!/ I shall grieve to see them fall.

Media

An original section of the Man'yoshu. Courtesy of the Tokyo National Museum.
An original section of the Man’yoshu. Courtesy of the Tokyo National Museum.
An original section of the Man'yoshu (volume 9, specifically). Courtesy of the Wikimedia Foundation.
An original section of the Man’yoshu (volume 9, specifically). Courtesy of the Wikimedia Foundation.
Otomo no Yakamochi, the (likely) compiler of the Man'yoshu.
Otomo no Yakamochi, the (likely) compiler of the Man’yoshu.
This table shows you the man'yogana equivalents of some sounds in phoenetic Japanese. Courtesy of the Wikimedia Foundation.
This table shows you the man’yogana equivalents of some sounds in phoenetic Japanese. Courtesy of the Wikimedia Foundation.
Man'yogana provided the roots of modern Japanese kana -- here you can see the evolutionary process by which the characters took on their present forms. Courtesy of the Wikimedia Foundation.
Man’yogana provided the roots of modern Japanese kana — here you can see the evolutionary process by which the characters took on their present forms. Courtesy of the Wikimedia Foundation.
The Manyoshu Botanical Garden at Kasuga Shrine. Courtesy of Japan Guide.org
The Manyoshu Botanical Garden at Kasuga Shrine. Courtesy of Japan Guide.org
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