Intro-3 A dramatic TANKA with KAKE-KOTOBA(掛詞)

■Introduction of real TANKA(短歌):PART-III■★A dramatic TANKA with KAKE-KOTOBA(掛詞)

(AUDIO/VISUAL TUTORIAL)★A dramatic TANKA with KAKE-KOTOBA(掛詞) to enhance imagination… an example of Japanese TANKA(短歌) whose English translation can barely pick up contents while throwing away the terms and rhythms of the original verse


■Introduction of real TANKA(短歌) : Part III■

★A dramatic TANKA with KAKE-KOTOBA(掛詞) to enhance imagination… an example of Japanese TANKA(短歌) whose English translation can barely pick up contents while throwing away the terms and rhythms of the original verse

(in 5-7-5-7-7 Japanese syllables)

《Kono ma nimo michi kuru kage wa aru monowo fumi mo minu rashi hito no kayoiji》







こ【木】〔名〕<NOUN:the tree>

の【の】〔格助〕<POSTPOSITIONAL PARTICLE(POSSESSIVE):’s, of, belonging to>

ま【間】〔名〕<NOUN:space in between, opening>



…Even from the spaces between leaves of the trees



の【の】〔格助〕<POSTPOSITIONAL PARTICLE(POSSESSIVE):’s, of, belonging to>

ま【間】〔名〕<NOUN:a span of time, instant, moment>



…At this very moment [that I spend here alone]



(A)みつ【満つ】〔自タ四〕(みち=連用形)<VERB:fill up, brim>

(B)みち【道】〔名〕<NOUN:a path, road, route>


く【来】〔自カ変〕(くる=連体形)<VERB:come, visit>


(A)かげ【影】〔名〕<NOUN:the moonlight, a radiant beam>

(B)かげ【影】〔名〕<NOUN:bliss, benevolence, benefaction>

(C)かげ【影】〔名〕<NOUN:the shadow of somebody/something>




ものを【ものを】〔接助〕<POSTPOSITIONAL PARTICLE(CONCESSION):although, and yet, all the same>

…There’s benevolent moonlight coming through to me, but



ふむ【踏む】〔他マ四〕(ふみ=連用形)<VERB:tread, walk on the street>


みる【みる】〔他マ上一〕(み=未然形)<VERB:try -ing>

ず【ず】〔助動特殊型〕打消(ぬ=連体形)<AUXILIARY VERB(NEGATIVE):not>

らし【らし】〔助動特殊型〕推定(らし=終止形)<AUXILIARY VERB(SUPPOSITION):I suppose, apparently>

ひと【人】〔名〕<NOUN:a man, my lover>

…My lover would not try treading [the moonlit pavement to visit my room], it seems


ふみ【文】〔名〕<NOUN:a letter>

も【も】〔係助〕<POSTPOSITIONAL PARTICLE(ADDITION):also, too, either>

みる【見る】〔他マ上一〕(み=未然形)<VERB:see, look at>

ず【ず】〔助動特殊型〕打消(ぬ=連体形)<AUXILIARY VERB(NEGATIVE):not>

らし【らし】〔助動特殊型〕推定(らし=終止形)<AUXILIARY VERB(SUPPOSITION):I suppose, apparently>

ひと【人】〔名〕<NOUN:a man, my lover>

…My lover doesn’t seem to even take a look at my love letter, either


の【の】〔格助〕<POSTPOSITIONAL PARTICLE(POSSESSIVE):’s, of, belonging to>

かよひぢ【通ひ路】〔名〕<NOUN:a beaten path, the regular route to somebody/something>

…The [moonlit but untrod] path [to my solitary room]

(in 5-7-5-7-7 English words)

Through trees comes in moonlight

Bright enough to show him the way.

He won’t visit me, though,

Leaving moon-lit path to my room untrod,

My letters unread… and myself eventually unremembered.

●Japanese KAKE-KOTOBA(掛詞) is much richer in implications than English puns

 You must have noticed the redundant explanations above for the same letter or phrase of Japanese KANA(かな): they are what is called KAKE-KOTOBA(掛詞or懸詞). “かく【掛く・懸く】” in Japanese means “to hinge on something”, which translates in poetry into “more than one meaning hinging on the same word”. More specifically, Japanese poetic KAKE-KOTOBA(掛詞) divides into the following 2 patterns:

TYPE-1: Sound-based KAKE-KOTOBA = homonym) Different meanings of different words can be derived from the same sound;

ex.1) the same sound “このまにも(ko no ma nimo)” can be interpreted as meaning both “此の間にも(at this very moment)” and “木の間にも(even from the small spaces between leaves of the trees)”;

ex.2) the same sound “みちくる(michi kuru)” can be interpreted as meaning both “満ち来る(fill up)” and “道来る(come this way)”;

ex.3) the same sound “ふみもみぬらしひと(fumi mo minurashi hito)” can be interpreted as meaning both “踏みもみぬらし人(the one who doesn’t seem willing to try treading)” and “文も見ぬらし人(the one who doesn’t seem to take a look at my letter)”;

TYPE-2: Meaning-based KAKE-KOTOBA) Different meanings can be derived from the same word in the same context;

ex.the same word “かげ(kage)” can be interpreted as meaning either 1)”the moonlight” or 2)”bliss” or 3)”the shadow of a person”.

 By making a single word speak different meanings (sometimes in 3 different voices!), a small 31-letter world can considerably expand itself in the reader’s imagination… if the reader is imaginative enough, that is.

 Of course, English has its own version of “KAKE-KOTOBA” called “puns” which may work both phonetically and terminologically as seen in the following examples:

EXAMPLE-1: a homonymous pun(同音異義語型駄洒落) = sound-based confusion) “Do you have my address?” ― “Do I have your dress? No, as far as I can remember, I didn’t sleep with you, did I?”

EXAMPLE-2: a homographic pun(同形異義語型駄洒落) = meaning-based confusion) “I know a bum who has no nose.” ― “Really? How does he smell?” ― “Oh, he smells horrid!”

 English speaking people use these puns mostly for a joke and rarely for literary enrichment like Japanese poetic KAKE-KOTOBA(掛詞).

●Japanese KANA(かな) writing system is an inexhaustible treasury of KAKE-KOTOBA(掛詞)

 It is to be pointed out here that Japanese language is incomparably richer than English in homonyms (the same sound meaning different things)… don’t you agree?… OK, then, let’s try cultivating “agree” to see how many homonyms, source of phonetic puns, we can find:

ENGLISH) “agree”-related homonyms… well, not exactly homonymous, but somewhat similar sounding terms:

1)agree, 2)agriculture, 3)angry, 4)ugly, 5)a glee, … what else, you name it!

JAPANESE) “賛成(agree)”-related homonyms… all written and pronounced as “さんせい(SANSEI)”:

1)賛成(agree), 2)三世(the third generation), 3)三星(Samsung… a Korean company, though), 4)山棲(living in the mountains as a recluse), 5)酸性(acidity), 6)参政(political participation)… OK, game won 5-6 by Japanese, do you disagree?

●Uniquely Japanese dual writing system of KANA(かな:仮名) and KANJI(漢字or真名)

 One reason for this abundance in Japanese of homonyms (different terms with the same sound) is the duality of Japanese writing system. Japanese language first borrowed its ideographic writing symbols (characters signifying some meaning by way of its shape) from Chinese characters(漢字:KANJI) and called them 真名(MANA=true characters); out of these MANA(真名) symbols were gradually developed uniquely Japanese phonograms (phonetic symbols meant only for sound without any meaning of their own) called 仮名(かな:KANA=borrowed or fake characters) toward the end of the ninth century. The number of MANA(真名or漢字=Chinese characters) used in Japanese language today is somewhere around 6,000 but the total number of KANA(仮名orかな=Japanese phonographic writing symbols) is only 48(いろはにほへとちりぬるをわかよたれそつねならむうゐのおくやまけふこえてあさきゆめみしゑひもせす+ん:《i ro ha ni ho he to chi ri nu ru wo wa ka yo ta re so tsu ne na ra mu u [wyi] no o ku ya ma ke fu ko e te a sa ki yu me mi shi [wye] hi mo se su + n》… with [wyi]&[wye] practically unused today… would you remember them all in a memorable phrase, try reciting this : 色は匂へど散りぬるを我が世誰ぞ常ならむ有為の奥山今日越えて浅き夢見じ酔ひもせず+京:《iro wa nioedo chirinuru wo wagayo tare zo tsune naramu ui no okuyama kyou koete asaki yume miji yoi mo sezu + MIYAKO》)…Yes, perhaps you’ve guessed it right: you can safely say that KANA(かな) is a Japanese equivalent, at least a distant relative, of English alphabets (26 letters of abcdefghijklmnopqrstuvwxyz); but they are fundamentally different in that, while the 26 alphabets are the only writing symbols in English language, the 48 characters of KANA(仮名:かな) is only secondary to MANA(真名=漢字:Chinese characters) and auxiliary in its role in Japanese writing.

 In modern Japanese, KANA(かな) is used mainly for three uses:

KANA-usage 1 = OKURI-GANA:送り仮名) suffixed at the end of KANJI(漢字:Chinese characters) to show inflection(語尾変化) of a verb or to complement a phrase, as in “速やかに行って下さい(SUMIYAKANI OKONATTE KUDASAI=Please do quickly, or SUMIYAKANI ITTE KUDASAI=Please go quickly)”;

KANA-usage 2 = KANA-GAKI:かながき) used in the place of KANJI(漢字:Chinese characters), especially by illiterate or hardly literate people (or adequately literate but rather hurried or too much drunken people) when they can’t hit upon what Chinese characters to use, as in “すみやかにおこなってください”;

KANA-usage 3 = FURI-GANA:振り仮名) written at the right side of (or on the top of, in the case of horizontally written Japanese) KANJI(漢字:Chinese characters) to show how to read/pronounce them, as in 速やかに行(おこな)って下さい or 速やかに行(い)って下さい;

 Now, let us think about the fundamental difference between Japanese words written (mostly) in MANA(真名or漢字:Chinese characters) and English words written solely in alphabets. Just imagine any Chinese characters that come to your mind… in case there’s none, I’ll show you some:

る・・・kuru = come

おとずれる・・・otozureru = visit

とどまる・・・todomaru = stay

る・・・saru = leave

く・・・yuku = go

わかれる・・・wakareru = part

 Now that you’ve seen these Chinese characters with your own eyes, you can now evidently see the fact that Chinese characters are a kind of graphic icons in the sense that their meaning is visually conveyed through their own shape, while English words composed of alphabets have no such graphical message at all. Take “別れる(wakareru = part)” for example: in Japanese, a single Chinese character of “別(betsu or waka…reru)” itself will suffice to stand for its meaning of “parting” even without the following OKURIGANA(送り仮名) “れる”; but in English, you have to carefully examine the whole set of alphabets to confirm its meaning as “part”… you can’t determine its meaning just by taking a glance at “pa” or “par”, for it may mean “park” instead of “part”. In English, appearances are lacking in graphical appeal and can even be deceptive at times… that’s the destiny of phonograms; in Japanese, MANA(真名or漢字:Chinese characters) rarely deceive you by appearance… that’s what ideograms are for.

●Japanese sentences are graphically eloquent but phonetically silent

 Thanks to graphically eloquent symbols of Chinese characters, Japanese writings are easy to understand on paper… but here’s the catch; this graphical eloquence is the very reason for Japanese poverty in their spoken language. As you can easily imagine, there are so many Chinese characters that Japanese people can visually recognize on paper but can hardly understand in the form of sound in the air… so much so that Chinese characters (or combinations of them) too difficult to discern in sound are rarely used in Japanese speech, resulting in the wondrous absence of eloquent speeches in this country.

 For Japanese people, eloquence is only to be seen on paper to appeal to the eyes and not to the ears, never to be heard for being too hard to reach the heart of the listener by way of sound alone in the absence of symbolic shape. In fact, Japanese people rarely read sentences aloud; for the Japanese, sentences are there to be seen for the mere looking, just like floods of snapshots on Twitter timelines. In logical consequence, the Japanese are relatively poor at reading or writing or understanding substantially rich sentences and concepts.

 And the most serious linguistic side effect of this Japanese propensity for silent reading habits of visually eloquent characters on paper is ― yes you perhaps know it too well ― that Japanese people rarely read English sentences aloud!… hence their utter inability to properly speak English… when they refuse to utter a word of English, how could they hope to cope well with a sentence, let alone ride on the tide of rhythm and logic? For English-speaking people, sentences on paper are exactly alike musical scores ― a stream of ciphers only to be decipherable by being converted to sound, by playing on the piano or by reading aloud. For the Japanese, sentences are pictures, not music, something meant to be seen, not heard or spoken ― believe it or not, rarely do they dream of reading aloud Shakespeare’s plays!

 Thus it is that the sentences Japanese people write on paper or computers, especially when relying upon such powerful academic aids as on-line dictionaries or automatic KANA-KANJI transfer systems, tend to become too difficult or too pedantic to be becoming for the writer’s character or intelligence… all due to the great iconic power of this eloquent ideogram MANA(真名or漢字:Chinese characters).

●Graphical images are much harder to make than alphabetical codes

 Chinese characters as graphical icons are very easy to recognize but quite hard to create; you should know the difficulty if you have the experience of ever trying to create some avatar of your own from scratch on your computer screen with the aid of some graphic software… just imagine how difficult it was to create thousands of Chinese characters out of pure graphical imagination. As I told you, the number of Chinese characters used in Japanese language today is just about 6,000; this is considerably small in contrast to the possibly infinite number of English words that can be easily created as any given combination of alphabets. To get over this difficulty of genesis, Chinese characters employed modular creation system: small composing units borrowed from other Chinese characters being combined to create a new Chinese character, as seen in the following examples:

1)木(き:ki or もく:moku)…a single tree

2)林(はやし:hayashi or りん:rin)…a small group of trees, a grove

3)森(もり:mori or しん:shin)…a large group of trees, forests or woods

●Limitation in the number of MANA(真名or漢字:Chinese characters) leads straight to profusion of homonymous KANA(仮名:かな) belonging to the same sound, thence to rich poetic illusion of KAKE-KOTOBA(掛詞)

 The modular creation system of Chinese characters also meant that the same or somewhat similar sound should be used in words using the same composing unit: the sound of “淋” or “琳” or “痳” or “菻” or “霖” are all understandably “りん:rin” echoing the original pronunciation of their mother term “林(りん:rin)”. Now, you’re getting to grasp the whole picture: the limitation in creation of Chinese characters naturally meant the profusion of homonyms, different words with the same sound. The resulting confusion of meanings among similar sounding words can be quite easily avoided by writing them on paper in the form of MANA(真名or漢字:Chinese characters), as have been pointed out above.

 But wait, just avoiding confusion and mistakes is a mathematician’s business… a poet is not so much a mathematician or logician as a magician or illusion artist, whose literary business it is to invite readers into a world of calculated chaos, thence to some new meaning beyond the normal use of words or ordinary imagination of humans… here enters KANA(仮名:かな), a TANKA-creator’s magic wand. By consciously avoiding the use of MANA(真名or漢字:Chinese characters) which will appeal by their own graphical shape to lead the reader’s focus of thought to a fixed destination, Japanese TANKA(短歌) will try to create magic on the strength of the equivocal power of KANA(仮名:かな) where there can be more than one meaning generated out of those magically evasive and prolific semantic springs called KAKE-KOTOBA(掛詞). That is the fundamental reason why traditional Japanese TANKA(短歌) poems are written exclusively (or mostly) in KANA(仮名:かな) with few or no MANA(真名or漢字:Chinese characters).

 Some people mistakenly think that the predominance of HIRAGANA(ひらがな) in TANKA(短歌) is due to the historical fact that it was initially popular among HEIANESE women who had little or no knowledge of MANA(真名or漢字:Chinese characters) and solely used KANA(仮名:かな) in their writings; this idea is disproved by the fact that TANKA(短歌) of later years were still written mostly in KANA(仮名:かな) even by the hands of male poets with adequate knowledge of MANA(真名or漢字:Chinese characters).

●題詠(DAI-EI)… vicarious fun, or cheap sham?

 Apart from the abundance of KAKE-KOTOBA(掛詞), my example poem above has one more characteristic typical of traditional Japanese TANKA(短歌) poetry. Can you imagine the character (more specifically, the gender) of the dramatis personae?… the answer is ‘woman’: it’s a tale of feminine woe. Forget about the actual gender of the poet who’s writing this (male, in case you’re curious), just focus on the imaginary circumstances depicted in the poem.

 The person in the poem seems to be sitting in a room looking outside focusing his or her attention on the moonlight coming through the leaves of the trees in the garden… why? Is that person an ardent stargazer?… that’s impossible, for those interested in stars would be watching up at the night sky instead of looking vacantly at moonlight oozing through leaves of the trees in the garden. Why does the person say “even moonlight comes to me filling up the garden through small spaces between leaves of the trees,” at the same time insinuating “someone should be on the way to someone at this very moment” by the cleverly woven KAKE-KOTOBA(掛詞) of “このまにもみちくるかげはあるものを(kono ma nimo michikuru kage wa aru monowo)”? Is the person waiting for someone to come to his or her room at night?… if so, it must be an appointed visit from a sweetheart, for it’s a nightly rendezvous in his or her room, not a social lunch in a street cafe.

 Since the poem sounds rather pessimistic, the sweetheart that the person in the poem is waiting for has not arrived yet, or even doesn’t seem to arrive any more. Has he or she forgotten about the appointment?… or was there an appointment at all, did he or she promise to come and visit the person for the night? If it was not a promised visit, why is the person in the poem so wistfully waiting for the one to come? Is there any reason for the person to expect the one to come… and make love with him or her? Oh yes, he, or she, did make love with the one he or she is wistfully waiting for now… at least once in the past.

 But judging from the pensive mood of the poem, the amorous feeling does not seem to be mutual now. The sweetheart who used to come to make love with the person (at least once) in his or her room seems passionless now and doesn’t seem to pay frequent visit any more. He or she doesn’t visit the person at night as frequently as before when their love was still fresh, while the moonlight will never cease to come filling up the garden even through the small spaces between the leaves of the trees… this poem centers around the sad contrast between the constantly radiant beam of the bright moon and the cold dejected mood of a waning love affair.

 In Japanese historical contexts, it is always the woman who waits and wails, and the man who makes her at first hopeful, then wistful and hopeless in the end. That much situational awareness is required of the reader to appreciate this HEIANESE TANKA(短歌). It’s practically impossible to guess unless you have sufficient background knowledge of Japanese culture and literature. Modern readers will not take kindly to such bookish requisites of traditional Japanese TANKA(短歌).

 Besides, some people might find the poem above impure or even dishonest for reasons of fake identity: a male person impersonating a woman to invite readers to cry for her would be a provocative fraud on TV documentaries or on-line chats. But there is no rule prohibiting fake identity in the world of fiction; otherwise, the world of literature, traditionally dominated by male writers, would have been a world just like a prison or army with no woman appearing except as a coveted target of wild sexual imagination.

 Literature is a world of fancy built on pure imagination: imagine any story solely about the actual experience of its author, without regard to imagined situation of anyone else than the author… what do you see?… yes, you see and hear it regularly around you, in the form of unsolicited and unwelcome soliloquy of your colleagues or ceaseless floods of I-me-mine chants on Twitter timelines! Literary world is a fantasy haven from such suffocatingly subjective reality, where you can be something other than and much more than yourself. Why grumble over a poem of feminine woe created by an imaginative male poet who calls himself Jaugo Noto(之人冗悟… this itself is a pseudonym, I remind you), or a wonderful life-story of a perfect lady’s man called HIKARU-GENJI(光源氏) created by an anonymous woman with the alias of MURASAKI-SHIKIGU(紫式部)? Unless you are one of such unlettered claimers, you’ll be able to admit and admire DAI-EI(題詠), a poem not about actual events or feelings that the poet has experienced but about an imaginary situation not actually experienced by the poet.

 Many if not most of the great poems of the greatest poets in Japan were the products of DAI-EI(題詠), vicarious sympathy with virtual characters in imaginary situations. Ever since the MEIJI(明治) era, under the unwelcome influence of MASAOKA SHIKI(正岡子規) who devoted his life to the promotion of realistic HAIKU(俳句…5-7-5 snapshots in words, short of 5-7-5-7-7 dreamy picture of TANKA), dramatic imagination gradually lost its traditional place in Japanese TANKA(短歌)… and after that… you imagine for yourself. Should you want to dream a poetic dream, don’t look East in space but look back in time… 800 years is no barrier for you, for the world of fancy is timeless and ever fresh in the reader’s imagination. The only barrier left for you to clear ― the intangible words, grammar and cultural backgrounds of the HEIAN era Japan ― shall be intelligibly cleared by this author(Jaugo Noto) for you… beautiful dreams… for only those who would dream.