★bliss of innocence, treasure of reminiscence ― Sayaka’s investment in future★
Jaugo: I’m rather curious what you make of this poem, Sayaka-san.
Sayaka: I’m sorry to confess ― I don’t know what it’s trying to say.
Jaugo: Do you understand its grammatical composition?
Sayaka: Um… doubtful: especially the last phrase “命なりけり（inochi narikeri = it was life）” puzzles me. If it was “相見む＜物＞は命なりけり（ai mimu ＜mono(= object)＞ wa inochi narikeri）”, it would simply mean “it was life that both of us ― we humans and they flowers ― are looking at as our common object”… still, it would sound intangible. In fact, it is “相見む＜事＞は命なりけり（ai mimu ＜koto＞(= the fact that we see each other) wa inochi narikeri）”… I don’t know how to interpret it… “it was life that we see each other”? Is that grammatically correct?
Jaugo: A little addition or alteration will make it sound correct: try interpreting it as “it was ＜thanks to life＞ that we see each other” or “it was ＜because we are alive＞ that we see each other.”
Sayaka: I see… still, the poem just doesn’t sound right to me.
Jaugo: I’m glad to hear you say that ― you are still too young to see what it says ― that’s wonderful.
Sayaka: …Is it?…
Jaugo: Yes, it sure is ― being too young to see how precious Springtime is ― that’s quite a scene to see.
Sayaka: You’re not trying to tease me, Jaugo-san?
Jaugo: Not teasing you, but envying you… or missing me.
Sayaka: Missing YOU?… Jaugo-san, you’re losing me, what do you mean “missing you”?
Jaugo: It means that there used to be a time when I didn’t know how precious Springtime was ― when I didn’t know how young I was, or I didn’t even know that I was young at all… it was only in later years, after I saw many, many Springs come and go by, some precious friends pass away from my life for ever, that I knew I was not young any more, and that my life would never be the same again ― without my youth, without some people, without something beyond recovery for good and all. You don’t know what you’ve got until you lose it ― when you have lost it, you miss it for the first time from the bottom of your heart. You cry over it although you know no amount of tears could ever get it back… or you may cry BECAUSE you know you could never get it back, for there’s nothing left for you but to cry over it…
Sayaka: I didn’t know it was such a sad poem.
Jaugo: No, this poem is not so sad, I was just remembering how it used to be with my own life… getting a little too weepy on the way, I’m afraid. Believe me, I’m not really that sentimental.
Sayaka: All right… but I think there’s nothing wrong with being sentimental.
Jaugo: To myself, no; before others, yes.
Sayaka: Is it bad to cry before others?
Jaugo: For me, yes; if it was you, no… tears make women attractive, but weeping makes men merely weak: men should cry inside, not before others.
Sayaka: I didn’t know you were something of a sexist.
Jaugo: In some matters, yes. There ought to be some lines drawn between men and women beyond which they should never go.
Sayaka: So, you are critical of gender equality?
Jaugo: I’m in favor of equal opportunity for all, men or women, young or old, black or white, Japanese or otherwise. But whatever opportunity is given, people will end up being different: trying to make them all equal without regard to their respective difference is just sheer nonsense. Can a man bear a child like a woman does?
Sayaka: No. But a husband can bring up a child like his wife, don’t you think?
Jaugo: Yes… although I’m not sure whether I can wake up every time a baby cries at night and change diapers or give it milk or lull it into sleep and wake up next morning to prepare breakfast for the whole family…
Sayaka: Is that what your wife does?
Jaugo: No, I’m a single man, always have been… and always will be.
Sayaka: (…) Are you trying to say… your wife must be able to do the majority of housework the way old Japanese housewives did?
Jaugo: I don’t know. Things will be different with different person beside you… although I can’t imagine myself being coupled with a wife or children.
Sayaka: If I remember correctly, you asked ME to imagine myself being married to some man… now you confess YOURSELF incapable of such imagination?
Jaugo: Now you see: people are different, you and I.
Sayaka: All right, you say, I can cry before you, I can get married some day… and I can remain ignorant of what this particular poem is trying to say?
Jaugo: For the present, yes… there will come a time when you really know what it says.
Sayaka: If you say so, I think I should be patient; I will patiently wait… until I grow… more mature in life.
Jaugo: Good girl, you have learnt to be patient!
Sayaka: I have grown since the first time I met you.
Jaugo: All right, then… let us just look forward to the time when you have grown old, me still older…
Sayaka: No, grown more mature, both of us… wouldn’t it sound better?
Jaugo: Yes, thank you for your correction, Sayaka-san. Let’s keep hoping that we will meet each other some day after we have grown maturer in years, in experience, in sentiments, and in many other things… and then we will remember this poem and what we talked about it today… and will start talking about it as a fresh topic of conversation… or maybe simply refer to it as a precious gem of our memories in the past… and just smile to each other, wouldn’t it be nice?
Sayaka: It would be wonderful…
Jaugo: Yes. All such things will be possible because we are still alive to find ourselves at the same time, same place… and hopefully with the same gentle feelings toward our common precious memories.
Sayaka: Beautiful… how precious they will be, we will find out only then.
Jaugo: Yes. If you want to find out what will await you in future, you must stay alive.
Sayaka: That’s right! That’s life ― “命なりけり（inochi narikeri = it was LIFE after all）” ― eureka, I found out!
Jaugo: Don’t be too impatient, young girl… you don’t know how much more may be in store for you… Anyway, so much for today. Thanks for another piece of precious memory, my precious friend… See you.
Sayaka: Thank YOU. See you… and see you in future again, Jaugo-san.
Flowers bloom and fall each and every Spring,
From budding to shining to fading day by day.
This year again I exult in seeing them go by.
Thank God I’m alive to feel the passage of time.
はる【春】〔名〕＜NOUN:Spring, vernal season＞
の【の】〔格助〕＜POSTPOSITIONAL PARTICLE(POSSESSIVE):’s, of, belonging to＞
む【む】〔助動マ四型〕推量（め＝已然形）＜AUXILIARY VERB(SUPPOSITION):will, may＞
ど【ど】〔接助〕＜POSTPOSITIONAL PARTICLE(CONJUNCTION):although, but＞
…there may be good times and bad times for [watching] each flower every Spring, and yet
む【む】〔助動マ四型〕推量（め＝已然形）＜AUXILIARY VERB(SUPPOSITION):will, may＞
こと【事】〔代名〕＜PRONOUN:the act of -ing, the fact that…＞
いのち【命】〔名〕＜NOUN:life, the act of living＞
けり【けり】〔助動ラ変型〕過去（けり＝終止形）＜AUXILIARY VERB(DISCOVERY):I found out＞
…the fact that we [flowers and viewers] can meet each other [again this year] is the proof that we are both alive [although we don’t know for how many more years]
《haru gotoni hana no sakari wa arinamedo ai mimu koto wa inochi narikeri》
■an invisible poem to those who are too busy being delighted and dejected at ups and downs in life■
Some poems appeal to the heart of everyone, others will consciously appeal to none but the selected few like quite a few 新古今(Shin-Kokin) TANKA; still others may leave you behind in your youth, and you also leave them behind as simply intangible and irrelevant to you… only to reappear before you later in life to be greeted as old friends with wholly new yet strangely familiar faces ― this is such a kind of poem. Although it is not for young ones to attempt (in vain) to truly understand it, early incomprehension may add to the renewed appreciation of its true meaning in later years… so, you might as well recite it often enough to have it inscribed somewhere in your memories for future re-encounter with it.
To most people (not only the young but also to most older ones) the former part of this poem seems to be a truism ― 春毎に花の盛りは有りなめど（haru goto ni hana no sakari wa arinamedo）― literal interpretation of it sounds too plain to mention even in prose: “although there is the prime of flowers every year”… yes, of course, so what?
Then, the poem says “相見むことは（ai mimu koto wa = the act of seeing each other）”: now, you wonder who is meant by “each other”? It could possibly be “花と我（hana to ware = flowers and I）”; it could also be “花見る我等（hana miru warera = you and I who enjoy viewing flowers）”… OK, so far, so good.
Finally, the abrupt phrase of “命なりけり（inochi narikeri = it was life after all）” will finish it up, leaving you totally bewildered. You’ll be at a loss how to connect this final phrase “inochi narikeri” with the previous “ai mimu koto wa” in a logically plausible chain… “the act of flowers and I seeing each other… is life”?… “that you and I enjoy seeing flowers… is life”?… both seem implausible. Does the poem try to say “meeting with flowers, people, events ― that is life”? Or is it saying “watching flowers along with good friends, you and I ― that is life”?
At this point of bewilderment, most readers will simply give up their efforts to make out this strangely inconsistent poem. Only very persistent ones will try to seek out some hint to logically make out the mysterious phrase “命なりけり(inochi narikeri = it was life after all)”. Since no clue was to be found in the latter part, it is time they re-examined the truism mentioned in the former part ― “春毎に花の盛りは有りなめど（haru goto ni hana no sakari wa arinamedo = although there is the prime of flowers every year）”.
Why does the poet refer to “花の盛り（hana no sakari = the prime of flowers）”, and not to “花（hana = flowers）” themselves? Just ask yourself ― when do you become conscious of “the prime of flowers”? The answer is “after the prime is over”… but this is a truth only known to those “who have seen better days”: those people who are themselves in the prime of their lives simply do not know it. Yes, the poet has seen better days ― he or she has already passed his/her prime in life, and the scene spreading before the poet is also late Spring when cherry flowers are beginning to fall or possibly flying in the wind or covering the ground in white snowy carpet.
So, the poet laments over the passage of the prime of flowers… but the poet also knows that the prime of flowers will come back again next Spring ― the hopefully recycling phrase “春毎（haru goto = each and every Spring）” is there to prove it. Although the cherry flowers of this year have already gone, they will bloom again and feast the poet’s eyes next year when the new Spring comes… and if the poet is still alive then to greet the new Spring along with the new flowers… The key, now you see, is “命なりけり（inochi narikeri = it was life after all）”. Because we, flowers and I, are both alive, we are able to see each other this year. So long as we are still alive, we will be able to see each other again next year… and in the next one…. and next and next, again and again, so long as we are both alive in this world… but not for ever more ― only so long as we are alive: “命なりけり（inochi narikeri = life is the key）”.
The sight of falling flowers naturally makes us sad, but the thought of recycling Spring makes us hopeful of new encounter in future and, of course, thankful for old encounter that was made possible because we were both alive in this world. This thought, I repeat, is a stranger to those who are too busy enjoying their prime to realize that they are at the height of their lives (and that they will some day fall down from the height) and to those who are too busy with the business of living to be aware that they can’t go on living like that for ever. Only those who have seen better days ― who know their lives would get worse on the whole as they advance in years ― have the capacity to correctly appreciate this poem and to really enjoy meeting new flowers each and every Spring with renewed enthusiasm… craze for cherry blossom and growing yearning for Spring is the surest sign of getting old: young ones simply get crazy under cherry trees over too many cups of drink under the influence of alcohol, not fussing over the fate of flowers or impressed with recycling Spring.
With the passage of time, flowers will wither, human watchers will also grow older; it’s a sad thing, of course, but both gladness to meet flowers and sadness to see them go away are the result and proof of the fact that WE ARE ALIVE… for those of you who are TOO MUCH ALIVE to require such proof, this poem might as well remain a stranger… until you grow old enough to really encounter this poem once again as a strangely familiar new friend some day.
We provide you not with actual conversation partners, but we enable you to engage in intellectually enticing conversation with Sayaka-san/Jaugo-san(…no mean feat, isn’t it?)
WEB lessons by ZUBARAIE LLC. are currently for JAPANESE students only, conducted in Japanese language (…sorry for English speakers)