★the lifetime of a woman… and love ― Sayaka shows Jaugo how maturer she has grown (poetically)★
Jaugo: Another womanly TANKA, three in a row, and possibly the most difficult one to interpret. What’s your impression, Sayaka-san?
Sayaka: 小町風味（Komachi-taste）, 秋味（aki-aji = Autumn flavor）.
Jaugo: Mm… tasty comment. You are right in calling it “小町-taste（tasting like rhymes by 小野小町：Ono-no-Komachi）”. And I’m curious what “Autumn flavor” tastes like.
Sayaka: It’s a very sad flavor.
Jaugo: A very sad Autumn flavor?… If I remember correctly, you never feel sad in Autumn because Winter is approaching near inviting you to skiing resorts… is my memory bank at fault?
Sayaka: Yes, it needs updating ― I’m older now.
Jaugo: How old, eighteen?
Sayaka: I’m 28-poem older now, thanks to you, Jaugo-san.
Jaugo: Those 28 小町歌（Komachi-related rhymes） have made you mentally maturer, you mean?
Sayaka: I’m now well aware how sad Autumn can be for a woman in her late twenties… who is about to lose her youthful charm in the eyes of men.
Jaugo: So, Autumn is no longer a hopeful season for coming Winter in skiing resorts for you?
Sayaka: I don’t know about that personally. Just ask me again at the beginning of December. Anyway, Autumn can be a very sad season for a woman who is getting past her prime… if not for men.
Jaugo: And not for you right now, Sayaka-san.
Sayaka: I admit I can’t yet feel how sad Autumn can be. But if you say that, I believe you can never feel it personally, Jaugo-san, unless you are a woman.
Jaugo: Makes sense. So, we are both tasting that “Autumn feminine flavor” on imaginary basis. Still, this TANKA is full of terms and phrases that make even men or young girls feel sad in their imagination, right?
Sayaka: Yes, it reminds me of the tantalizing feeling at the end of Summer when I’m tied up indoors doing homework and all that even though I know there’s something interesting going on out there. I’m simply left out of all the fun going past through me… a very sad, very frustrating feeling of loneliness.
Jaugo: Mm… you feel more sad when your Summer vacation is about to be over.
Sayaka: I know I sound childish, but that’s as far as I can go near this “Autumn feminine flavor” in my personal imagination.
Jaugo: I’m not saying you are childish; I’m envying you your youth.
Sayaka: You don’t envy me my youth, Jaugo-san, you are just ageless and timeless. You don’t want to rejuvenate to be 17 again, do you?
Jaugo: No, it’s just a figure of speech. But it’s true that there used to be a time when I felt irresistibly and insanely sad and lonely inside in late August and early September, so much so that I took a ride on a bike or a train to go somewhere, just anywhere, to say good-bye to the fading Summer.
Sayaka: In your late twenties?
Jaugo: Through 16 to the greater part of my thirties.
Sayaka: So long!?
Jaugo: Call me childish if you will. It’s an old story anyway ― so long, my long-past youth.
Sayaka: I feel a little closer to you now, Jaugo-san.
Jaugo: Good. OK, then, how about getting a little closer to that “Autumn feminine flavor” together? Let us pick out all the terms and phrases that make us feel particularly sad, or sound particularly like “小町（Komachi）”.
Jaugo: Now, tell me, Sayaka-san, what term or phrase in this TANKA reminds you of 小野小町（Ono-no-Komachi）?
Sayaka: First, “よにふる（yo ni furu）”, then, “はつしぐれ（hatsu shigure）”.
Jaugo: Oh… interesting. I knew you would refer to “よにふる（yo ni furu）” as the obvious example of 本歌取り（honka-dori = homage to the original） from that famous TANKA by 小野小町（Ono-no-Komachi）: 『古今集（Kokin-shuu）』春（Spring） No.113《はなのいろはうつりにけりないたづらに わがみよにふるながめせしまに：hana no iro wa utsuri nikerina itazurani wa ga mi yo ni furu nagame seshi ma ni》花の色は移りにけりな徒らに我が身世に経る眺めせしまに(flowery beauty has faded away while I dreamt my time away idly looking at life pass me by to no purpose) ・・・But you took me by surprise by referring to “はつしぐれ（hatsu shigure）”. Was there any TANKA by 小町（Komachi） including “はつしぐれ（hatsu shigure = scattering rain in late Autumn to early Winter）”?
Sayaka: Yes. Look here: 『古今集（Kokin-shuu）』恋（Love） No.782《いまはとてわがみしぐれにふりぬれば ことのはさへにうつろひにけり：ima wa tote wa ga mi shigure ni furinureba kotonoha sae ni utsuroi nikeri》今はとて我が身時雨に降／古りぬれば言の葉さへに移ろひにけり(Spring, Summer, even Autumn have already gone; here comes scattering rain, signaling the end of lonely Autumn, tinging leaves with yellow and red, depriving this old woman of her once legendary beauty and phenomenal amount of letters craving for her youthful love).・・・Am I barking up the wrong tree?
Jaugo: No, you’re right on target. There does fall “時雨（shigure = scattering rain）”, though not exactly “初時雨（hatsu shigure = the first scattering rain）”. You are very keen in pointing it out, Sayaka-san.
Sayaka: That’s why I called this TANKA “Komachi-taste, Autumn flavor”. By referring to “初時雨（hatsu shigure）”, the author of this TANKA, possibly a woman in her middle to late twenties, is declaring “it’s not late Spring when cherry blossom is about to fade; it’s not even towards the end of August when Summer vacation is about to end; it’s already late Autumn when leaves of yellow and red are about to fall… and soon it’ll be Winter, what’re you gonna do in the season of total desertion?”… that kind of feeling.
Jaugo: Bravo! Wonderful! Perfect! Your explanation is impeccable, Sayaka-san.
Sayaka: Not quite perfect or impeccable: I’m still puzzled at the phrase of “槇の屋（maki no ya）”… what does it mean?
Jaugo: We once met the tree “槇（maki）”, do you remember?
Sayaka: “All green” ― cypress trees unchanged all the year round… in 寂蓮法師（Jakuren-houshi）’s Autumnal TANKA.
Jaugo: Your memory bank is always perfect!
Sayaka: But my poetic sense is not; why does the “屋（ya = house or roof）” have to be made of “槇（maki = cypress trees）”? Is she saying “it’s all green, the color of the lowest ranking official at the Imperial Court”?
Jaugo: Of course not.
Sayaka: Is she saying “though the color of my house is all green, the leaves of the trees are turning yellow and red”?
Jaugo: Not correct, either. You know the color of cypress trees are green only on the leaves, not on the trees.
Sayaka: Then, I’m at my wit’s end… time for the answer, Jaugo-san.
Jaugo: OK. Do you remember the phrase “浦の苫屋（ura no toma-ya = a shabby hut on the beach）”?
Sayaka: Yes. It appeared in 藤原定家（Fujiwara-no-Teika）’s esoteric TANKA.
Jaugo: A “苫屋（toma-ya）” is a hut, whose roof is not made of wood… then, made of what?
Sayaka: Made of thatch.
Jaugo: What happens when “時雨（shigure = scattering rain）” falls down on such thatched roofs?
Sayaka: The rain permeates and drips inside the hut.
Jaugo: Correct, but not quite the right answer here. OK, then, let’s see it from a different angle… or should I say, let’s hear it on different roofs? ― When “時雨（shigure = scattering rain）” falls down, what difference will it make on the roof made of thatch and that made of “槇（maki = cypress trees）”, aside from permeation and dripping?
Sayaka: Oh, I understand, it’s sound ― a thatched roof absorbs the sound of rain, but “槇の屋（maki no ya = cypress rooftop）” functions as a soundboard ― “hey, listen, here’s rain tapping on the roof”.
Jaugo: You are keen in understanding as in your hearing, Sayaka-san. Now, the time is ripe for you to completely make out this “小町風味（Komachi-taste）・秋味（Autumn feminine flavor）” TANKA. Are you gonna try it for yourself?
Sayaka: Yes. Hey, this scattering rain in early Winter, do you know how tough it is for a woman to get past her Autumn of life? How can you come down on my rooftop so easily and so nastily declare “Autumn is over now; prepare for lonely Winter”?… What do you say, Jaugo-san?
Jaugo: Mm… you have certainly become 28-KOMACHI-SONG older, Sayaka-san. It’s a perfect translation for a girl of 17.
Sayaka: Thank you.
Jaugo: I think you could even aspire for something higher if you paid attention to two more details… Do you want to go higher together?
Jaugo: First, let’s re-examine the opening phrase “よにふる（yo ni furu）”. You took it as a 本歌取り（honka-dori） taken from 小野小町（Ono-no-Komachi）’s 《花の色は移りにけりな徒らに 我が身＜世に経る＞眺めせし間に：hana no iro wa utsuri nikeri na itazurani wa ga mi ＜yo ni furu＞ nagame seshi ma ni》 and interpreted it as “getting old in this world”, didn’t you?
Sayaka: I did.
Jaugo: Didn’t you think that “よにふる（yo ni furu）” might also mean “夜に降る（yo ni furu = rain falls at night）”?
Sayaka: Uh… I did at first, but I gave it up, since it made no sense.
Jaugo: OK. Now, let’s turn our focus of attention to another rain-related point ― “安くも過ぐる初時雨（yasuku mo suguru hatsu shigure = the scattering rain in early Winter that comes and goes so easily）”: you took that “初時雨（hatsu shigure）” as the metaphor of a woman going from the latest stage of Autumn to the early stage of Winter in her life, didn’t you?
Sayaka: I did.
Jaugo: Now, let’s look closer: why is she saying “安くも過ぐる（yasuku mo suguru = comes and goes so easily）”?
Sayaka: The woman feels the scattering rain, the harbinger of Winter, is too cold and cruel. The coming of scattering rain in late Autumn is the sign of coming Winter. That’s a very, very cruel change for the woman, because it’s a solemn declaration that her life as “a woman” is over now. Such a solemn declaration should be made with decent solemnity. But the scattering rain just came and went in passing, as if it didn’t care at all about her sad and lonely situation. She is “苦しきものを（kurushiki mono wo = feeling so painful）”, while the scattering rain “安くも過ぐる（yasuku mo suguru = came and went too easily）” ― this cruel contrast is the difference in mental temperature between a woman who is about to get past her prime and the rest of the world, including scattering rain, fleeting affection of men, and perhaps young girls like me. That’s my interpretation.
Jaugo: Impressive! You’ve come a long way, Sayaka-san, since you made a strip-tease of our first TANKA by 紀貫之（Ki-no-Tsurayuki）…
Sayaka: Are you proud of your achievement?
Jaugo: I’m proud of our joint achievement, which will get even better with one more perspective into the world of this TANKA.
Sayaka: What is it?
Jaugo: Yes, “love” in addition to “life”. Your interpretation of this TANKA is perfect as a life story of a woman at the end of her prime. But I’d guess you didn’t think, Sayaka-san, that the woman in this TANKA was in love with a man, did you?
Sayaka: No. Was she?
Jaugo: Yes. There’s a hint in the poem that suggests she is in love… or should I say, she is “月の明き夜、人を待ちて居り（tsuki no akaki yo hito wo machite ori = waiting for her lover to visit her in her room at night when the moon is bright in the sky to show him the way）”… ring a bell?
Sayaka: (…) ?
Jaugo: Can’t you also see there’s “身を知る雨（mi wo shiru ame = the rain to measure the depth of love）” raining in the poem?
Sayaka: Are you referring to “初時雨（hatsu shigure = the first scattering rain in Winter）”?
Jaugo: Yes. But the rain in this TANKA is not so heavy as in the happy story of 『伊勢物語（Ise-monogatari）』, where 藤原敏行（Fujiwara-no-Toshiyuki） gladly came in torrential rain without an umbrella to show how deep in love he was with the fortunate woman. The unfortunate woman in this TANKA, however, is waiting in vain for her lover to come, while vaguely convinced that he wouldn’t come… still, she keeps hoping… do you remember why?
Sayaka: Because the moon is shining bright upon her.
Jaugo: Yes. And do you remember how she would feel about the moon?
Sayaka: This nasty bright MOON! I wish it were totally dark tonight.
Jaugo: In fact, the moon is bright, bright enough for her lover to come and visit her in her room. But there’s one more thing in Nature that may be “beneficial” to her ― rain. You could completely give up your hope that your lover might come, if it was raining cats and dogs outside. You even begin to wish it rained in torrents, so that you could convince yourself that he would never come tonight in such rough weather. And if it rains so heavily, even if he doesn’t come, it’s because of the rain, not because of his lack of affection, that he doesn’t come. It’s the rain that is to blame, not him. It is not that he doesn’t love you, it’s simply that the rain is too heavy for him to come to love you… What a benevolent situation it would be ― if it rained in torrents, don’t you think?
Sayaka: Yes… in fact, “初時雨（hatsu shigure = the first scattering rain in Winter）” just “安くも過ぐる（yasuku mo suguru = came and went so easily）” ― this nasty easy RAIN! Just rain as heavily as you can, if you come at all, why do you come and go so easily?… Yes, I’m getting to grasp the whole picture!
Jaugo: I’m glad you came to the scene II of this poem. It depicts not only “the lifetime of a woman ― Autumn to Winter” but also “the lifetime of a love affair ― Autumn to Winter”… very sad scenes anyway, don’t you think, Sayaka-san?
Sayaka: (…) This is a phenomenal TANKA! So many implications, so dramatic, so sad… and yet so beautiful. Who wrote this? 和泉式部（Izumi-shikibu）?
Jaugo: No, a woman poet called 二条院讃岐（Nijouin-no-Sanuki）.
Sayaka: Was she famous?
Jaugo: In her days, yes… at the very end of Heian period. In the light of dramatic representation, I believe it’s one of the most exquisite TANKA throughout its history.
Sayaka: Thank you for introducing me to such a beauty, Jaugo-san.
Jaugo: Thank you for sharing the artistic delight in it, Sayaka-san. There are very few people in this prosaic world with whom I could really share it. I’d like you to appreciate the exquisite taste of this TANKA once again at night all alone in your room.
Sayaka: I will… good night, Jaugo-san.
Jaugo: Good night, Sayaka-san. See you again next time on the other side of love…
『何となく煮え切らない思いにいじいじしている間に、私の花の色ももう移ろってしまったのかしら・・・この頃、あの人、私に会いに来てくれない・・・えっ？ あら、なに、戸口を叩くこの音は、もしかして彼、来てくれたの？・・・あらやだ、なぁーんだ、時雨が屋根を叩く音か・・・いやだわ、もう、紛らわしいったらありゃしない・・・どうせなら昼間のうちに降って。夜はやめて。あの人の足がますます遠のくじゃないの・・・でも、まぁ、降っても降らなくても同じかな、どのみち今の私はもう「世に経る花の色」、色褪せた昔の恋人なんて、あの人は最初から訪ねて来る気もなさそうだから・・・そうよ、いっそ、盛大に降ってよね、時雨さん、「これだけ降られれば、もう絶対無理、あの人が来てくれるはずがない」と諦めがつくぐらい、土砂降りの雨、降らせて頂戴・・・え、何、もう終わりなの？ もう降らないの？・・・そう、それなら、もしかしてあの人、来てくれるかしら？ 時雨さんみたいに軽くさーっと来て、さっさとまた去って行くだけでも私としては嬉しいんだけど・・・無理かな、やっぱり・・・はぁ・・・苦しい。来てくれるんだか来ないんだか、愛してくれるんだかくれないんだか、待ってていいんだか諦めて忘れるべきなんだか、何が何だかもう、わかんなくなってきちゃった・・・それもこれもみんな、そもそもあなたが悪いのよ、時雨さん、どうせなら夜通し激しく降り続けてくれれば、こんな宙ぶらりんな気持ち抱えて悶々と過ごす夜もないはずなのに・・・そうよ、あの人だって、そう、激しく愛し続けてくれないなら、いっそきっぱり忘れさせてくれればいいのに・・・あぁ、もう嫌い、あの人も、時雨も・・・はっきりさせて、お願い、この恋に未来はあるの、それともないの？ 今はまだ秋なの、それとももう冬なの？ これからずっとこんな調子で煮え切らない時雨模様、続いちゃうの？・・・』
(a song on Winter in the 1,500 TANKA competition)
Rainfall at night prevents my love from visiting
This crestfallen flower sadly aware of its wane.
Suddenly I hear it coming, I hear him knock on the door…
Oh no, not on the door… on the roof taps the mischievous rain.
Scatter as much as you may so as to drown my hope
And get me down to sleep this reasonably mateless night…
But alas, it seems it’s gone… you too, this fleeting rain?
Rain gone, will he come, shall I hope once more?
Is it still fall… or lonely winter already?
ふる【降る】〔自ラ四〕（ふる＝連体形）＜VERB:fall down, rain＞
…for the rain to fall at night
ふ【経】〔自ハ下二〕（ふる＝連体形）＜VERB:live long, get stale, grow old＞
…for a woman to stay single so long as to feel stale [to the eyes of men and to my own consciousness]
くるし【苦し】〔形シク〕（くるしき＝連体形）＜ADJECTIVE:be painful, ill at ease, pensive＞
…it’s hard to bear indeed; and yet
まき【槇】〔名〕＜NOUN:a cypress tree/wood＞
の【の】〔格助〕＜POSTPOSITIONAL PARTICLE(POSSESSIVE):’s, of, belonging to＞
に【に】〔格助〕＜POSTPOSITIONAL PARTICLE(PLACE):on, onto＞
…on the roof of my house made of solid cypress wood [not of sound-absorbing thatch]
やすし【易し】〔形ク〕（やすく＝連用形）＜ADVERB:with ease, without any feeling＞
すぐ【過ぐ】〔自ガ上二〕（すぐる＝連体形）＜VERB:visit in passing, come and go quickly＞
…how it comes and goes away with so much ease [without regard to my feelings]
はつしぐれ【初時雨】〔名〕＜NOUN:the first scattering shower of late autumn to early winter＞
…this scattering shower at the threshold of long cold lonely winter [I would have to bear alone]
《yo ni furu wa kurushiki mono wo makino ya ni yasuku mo suguru hatsushigure kana》
■a giant dwarf standing on traditional shoulders■
A TANKA as exquisite as this could never come out of nowhere, even out of the unparalleled poetic imagination of 紀貫之（Ki-no-Tsurayuki）, 『古今集（Kokin-shu：A.D.905）』’s main editor. Aside from the borrowed imagery from 小野小町（Ono-no-Komachi） pointed out above, this masterpiece in 『新古今集（Shin-Kokinshuu：1210-1216）』 owes its material on the roof (artificial and natural) to the following poems:
《おとにだにたもとをぬらすしぐれかな まきのいたやのよるのねざめに：oto ni dani tamoto wo nurasu shigure kana maki no ita-ya no yoru no nezame ni》『金葉集（Kin-you-shuu：1126）』（二度本：unofficial second edition）冬（Winter） No.277 by 源定信（Minamoto-no-Sadanobu）音にだに袂を濡らす時雨かな(my sleeves get wet by the sound, not the drops, of scattering rain)槇の板屋(tapping on the roof made of cypress trees)の夜の寝覚に(which wakes me up at night to notify me of coming Winter)
・・・This TANKA seems to have inspired 藤原俊成（Fujiwara-no-Shunzei：1114-1204） so much that he adopted it again in 『千載集（Senzai-shuu：1188）』 with a simple alteration of “音にだに（oto ni dani）” to “音にさへ（oto ni sae）”; he even remodeled it into a new TANKA of his own, this time changing the very nature of “時雨（shigure = scattering rain）” itself in quite a “新古今（Shin-Kokin）” fashion:
《まばらなるまきのいたやにおとはして もらぬしぐれやこのはなるらむ：mabara naru maki no ita-ya ni oto wa shite moranu shigure ya konoha naru ramu》『千載集（Senzai-shuu）』冬（Winter） No.404 疎らなる真木の板屋に(on the cypress-roof not so tight)音はして(I hear something tapping)漏らぬ(though nothing leaks and drips)時雨や(at first I thought it was scattering rain)木の葉なるらむ(I now see it’s fallen leaves rustling on the roof)
・・・As if 俊成（Shunzei）’s alteration is not quite enough, 藤原実房（Fujiwara-no-Sanefusa） made yet another TANKA in which “actual 時雨（shigure = scattering rain）” and “virtual 時雨（= fallen leaves）” collaborate in sound on the same “真木(槇)の屋（maki no ya = cypress rooftop）”:
《まきのやにしぐれのおとのかはるかな もみぢやふかくちりつもるらむ：maki no ya ni shigure no oto no kawaru kana momiji ya fukaku chiri tsumoru ramu》『新古今集（Sin-Kokin-shuu）』冬（Winter） No.589 真木の屋に(on the roof made of cypress wood)時雨の音の変はるかな(scattering rain now sounds different)紅葉や深く散り積もるらむ(as the layer of fallen leaves becomes thicker)
・・・As the layer of literary tradition became thicker, the sound of Heianese TANKA naturally became different. To some people, it sounded exquisite, so thick in implications and associations; to others, it was just simply esoteric, too thick in blood as a result of pedantic inbreeding. To most modern Japanese who are totally ignorant of and indifferent to the rich literary treasury of Heianese TANKA, the bulk of tradition-strewn poems in 『新古今集（Shin-Kokin-shuu）』 would sound just intangible and irrelevant, but this exquisite masterpiece by 二条院讃岐（Nijouin-no-Sanuki） will never fail to enchant everyone ― female or male, young or old ― with its 小町風味・秋味（Komachi-taste, Autumn female flavor）, although the depth of their love of this song will differ according to the thickness of their literary layer within.
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)