A Celebration of Women Writers

"The Sarashina Diary." by Anonymous (1009- )
Publication: Diaries of Court Ladies of Old Japan. translated by Annie Shepley Omori and Kochi Doi, with an introduction by Amy Lowell. Boston and New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1920, pp. 1-68.

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A.D. 1009-1059

I WAS brought up in a distant province 1 which lies farther than the farthest end of the Eastern Road. I am ashamed to think that inhabitants of the Royal City will think me an uncultured girl.

Somehow I came to know that there are such things as romances in the world and wished to read them. When there was nothing to do by day or at night, one tale or another was told me by my elder sister or stepmother, and I heard several chapters about the shining Prince Genji. 2 My longing for such stories increased, but how could they recite them all from memory? I became very restless and got an image of Yakushi Buddha 3 made as large as myself. When I was alone I washed my hands and went secretly before the altar and prayed to him with all my life, bowing my head down to the floor. "Please [Page 4]  let me go to the Royal City. There I can find many tales. Let me read all of them."

When thirteen years old, I was taken to the Royal City. On the third of the Long-moon month, 1 I removed [from my house] to Imataté, the old house where I had played as a child being broken up. At sunset in the foggy twilight, just as I was getting into the palanquin, I thought of the Buddha before which I had gone secretly to pray–I was sorry and secretly shed tears to leave him behind.

Outside of my new house [a rude temporary, thatched one] there is no fence nor even shutters, but we have hung curtains and sudaré. 2 From that house, standing on a low bluff, a wide plain extends towards the South. On the East and West the sea creeps close, so it is an interesting place. When fogs are falling it is so charming that I rise early every morning to see them. Sorry to leave this place.

On the fifteenth, in heavy dark rain, we crossed the boundary of the Province and lodged at Ikada in the Province of Shimofusa. Our lodging is almost submerged. I am so afraid I cannot sleep. I see only three lone trees standing on a little hill in the waste.

The next day was passed in drying our dripping clothes and waiting for the others to come up. 3 [Page 5] 

On the seventeenth, started early in the morning, and crossed a deep river. I heard that in this Province there lived in olden times a chieftain of Mano. He had thousand and ten thousand webs of cloth woven and dipped them [for bleaching] in the river which now flows over the place where his great house stood. Four of the large gate-posts remained standing in the river.

Hearing the people composing poems about this place, I in my mind:

Had I not seen erect in the river
These solid timbers of the olden time
How could I know, how could I feel
The story of that house?

That evening we lodged at the beach of Kurodo. The white sand stretched far and wide. The pinewood was dark–the moon was bright, and the soft blowing of the wind made me lonely. People were pleased and composed poems. My poem:

For this night only
The autumn moon at Kurodo beach shall shine for me,
For this night only!–I cannot sleep.

Early in the morning we left this place and came to the Futoi River 1 on the boundary between Shimofusa and Musashi. We lodged at the ferry of Matsusato 2 near Kagami's rapids,3 and all night long our luggage was being carried over. [Page 6] 

My nurse had lost her husband and gave birth to her child at the boundary of the Province, so we had to go up to the Royal City separately. I was longing for my nurse and wanted to go to see her, and was brought there by my elder brother in his arms. We, though in a temporary lodging, covered ourselves with warm cotton batting, but my nurse, as there was no man to take care of her, was lying in a wild place [and] covered only with coarse matting. She was in her red dress.

The moon came in, lighting up everything, and in the moonlight she looked transparent. I thought her very white and pure. She wept and caressed me, and I was loath to leave her. Even when I went with lingering heart, her image remained with me, and there was no interest in the changing scenes.

The next morning we crossed the river in a ferryboat in our palanquins. The persons who had come with us thus far in their own conveyances went back from this place. We, who were going up to the Royal City, stayed here for a while to follow them with our eyes; and as it was a parting for life all wept. Even my childish heart felt sorrow.

Now it is the Province of Musashi. There is no charm in this place. The sand of the beaches is not white, but like mud. People say that purple grass 1 grows in the fields of Musashi, but it is only a waste of various kinds of reeds, which grow so high that we cannot see the bows of our horsemen who are forcing their way through the tall grass. Going through [Page 7]  these reeds I saw a ruined temple called Takeshíba-dera. There were also the foundation-stones of a house with corridor.

"What place is it?" I asked; and they answered:

"Once upon a time there lived a reckless adventurer at Takeshiba. 1 He was offered to the King's palace [by the Governor] as a guard to keep the watch-fire. He was once sweeping the garden in front of a Princess's room and singing:

Ah, me! Ah, me! My weary doom to labour here in the Palace!
Seven good wine-jars have I–and three in my province.
There where they stand I have hung straight-stemmed gourds of the finest–
  They turn to the West when the East wind blows,
  They turn to the East when the West wind blows,
  They turn to the North when the South wind blows,
  They turn to the South when the North wind blows.
And there I sit watching them turning and turning forever–
  Oh, my gourds! Oh, my wine-jars!

"He was singing thus alone, but just then a Princess, the King's favourite daughter, was sitting alone behind the misu. 2 She came forward, and, leaning against the doorpost, listened to the man singing. She was very interested to think how gourds were above the wine-jars and how they were turning and wanted to see them. She became very zealous for the gourds, and pushing up the blind called the guard, saying, 'Man, come here!' The man heard it very respectfully, and [Page 8]  with great reverence drew near the balustrade. 'Let me hear once more what you have been saying.' And he sang again about his wine-jars. 'I must go and see them, I have my own reason for saying so,' said the Princess.

"He felt great awe, but he made up his mind, and went down towards the Eastern Province. He feared that men would pursue them, and that night, placing the Princess on the Seta Bridge, 1 broke a part of it away, and bounding over with the Princess on his back arrived at his native place after seven days' and seven nights' journey.

"The King and Queen were greatly surprised when they found the Princess was lost, and began to search for her. Some one said that a King's guard from the Province of Musashi, carrying something of exquisite fragrance 2 on his back, had been seen fleeing towards the East. So they sought for that guard, and he was not to be found. They said, 'Doubtless this man went back home.' The Royal Government sent messengers to pursue them, but when they got to the Seta Bridge they found it broken, and they could not go farther. In the Third month, however, the messengers arrived at Musashi Province and sought for the man. The Princess gave audience to the messengers and said:

"'I, for some reason, yearned for this man's home and bade him carry me here; so he has carried me. If [Page 9]  this man were punished and killed, what should I do? This is a very good place to live in. It must have been settled before I was born that I should leave my trace [i.e. descendants] in this Province–go back and tell the King so.' So the messenger could not refuse her, and went back to tell the King about it.

"The King said: 'It is hopeless. Though I punish the man I cannot bring back the Princess; nor is it meet to bring them back to the Royal City. As long as that man of Takeshiba lives I cannot give Musashi Province to him, but I will entrust it to the Princess.'

"In this way it happened that a palace was built there in the same style as the Royal Palace and the Princess was placed there. When she died they made it into a temple called Takeshíba-dera. 1 The descendants of the Princess received the family name of Musashi. After that the guards of the watch-fire were women." 2

We went through a waste of reeds of various kinds, forcing our way through the tall grass. There is the river Asuda along the border of Musashi and Sagami, where at the ferry Arihara Narihira had composed his famous poem. 3 In the book of his poetical works the river is called the river Sumida. [Page 10] 

We crossed it in a boat, and it is the Province of Sagami. The mountain range called Nishitomi is like folding screens with good pictures. On the left hand we saw a very beautiful beach with long-drawn curves of white waves. There was a place there called Moro-koshi-ga-Hara 1 [Chinese Field] where sands are wonderfully white. Two or three days we journeyed along that shore. A man said: "In Summer pale and deep Japanese pinks bloom there and make the field like brocade. As it is Autumn now we cannot see them." But I saw some pinks scattered about blooming pitiably. They said: "It is funny that Japanese pinks are blooming in the Chinese field."

There is a mountain called Ashigara [Hakoné] which extends for ten and more miles and is covered with thick woods even to its base. We could have only an occasional glimpse of the sky. We lodged in a hut at the foot of the mountain. It was a dark moonless [Page 11]  night. I felt myself swallowed up and lost in the darkness, when three singers came from somewhere. One was about fifty years old, the second twenty, and the third about fourteen or fifteen. We set them down in front of our lodging and a karakasa [large paper umbrella] was spread for them. My servant lighted a fire so that we saw them. They said that they were the descendants of a famous singer called Kobata. They had very long hair which hung over their foreheads; their faces were white and clean, and they seemed rather like maids serving in noblemen's families. They had clear, sweet voices, and their beautiful singing seemed to reach the heavens. All were charmed, and taking great interest made them come nearer. Some one said, "The singers of the Western Provinces are inferior to them," and at this the singers closed their song with the words, " if we are compared with those of Naniwa" [Osaka]. 1 They were pretty and neatly dressed, with voices of rare beauty, and they were wandering away into this fearful mountain. Even tears came to those eyes which followed them as far as they could be seen; and my childish heart was unwilling to leave this rude shelter frequented by these singers.

Next morning we crossed over the mountain. 2 [Page 12]  Words cannot express my fear 1 in the midst of it. Clouds rolled beneath our feet. Halfway over there was an open space with a few trees. Here we saw a few leaves of aoi 2 [Asarum caulescens ]. People praised it and thought strange that in this mountain, so far from the human world, was growing such a sacred plant. We met with three rivers in the mountain and crossed them with difficulty. That day we stopped at Sekiyama. Now we are in Suruga Province. We passed a place called Iwatsubo [rock-urn] by the barrier of Yokobashiri. There was an indescribably large square rock through a hole in which very cold water came rushing out.

Mount Fuji is in this Province. In the Province where I was brought up [from which she begins this journey] I saw that mountain far towards the West. It towers up painted with deep blue, and covered with eternal snow. It seems that it wears a dress of deep violet and a white veil over its shoulders. From the little level place of the top smoke was going up. In the evening we even saw burning fires there. 3 The Fuji River comes tumbling down from that mountain. A man of the Province came up to us and told us a story.

"Once I went on an errand. It was a very hot day, and I was resting on the bank of the stream when I [Page 13]  saw something yellow come floating down. It came to the bank of the river and stuck there. I picked it up and found it to be a scrap of yellow paper with words elegantly written on it in cinnabar. Wondering much I read it. On the paper was a prophecy of the Governors [of provinces] to be appointed next year. As to this Province there were written the names of two Governors. I wondered more and more, and drying the paper, kept it. When the day of the announcement came, this paper held no mistake, and the man who became the Governor of this Province died after three months, and the other succeeded him."

There are such things. I think that the gods assemble there on that mountain to settle the affairs of each new year.

At Kiyomigaseki, where we saw the sea on the left, there were many houses for the keepers of the barriers. Some of the palisades went even into the sea.

At Tagonoura waves were high. From there we went along by boat. We went with ease over Numajiri and came to the river Oi. Such a torrent I have never seen. Water, white as if thickened with rice flour, ran fast.

I became ill, and now it is the Province of Totomi. I had almost lost consciousness when I crossed the mountain pass of Sayo-no-Nakayama [the middle mountain of the little night]. I was quite exhausted, so when we came to the bank of the Tenryu River, we had a temporary dwelling built, and passed several days there, and I got better. As the winter was [Page 14]  already advanced, the wind from the river blew hard and it became intolerable. After crossing the river we went towards the bridge at Hamana.

When we had gone down towards the East [four years before when her father had been appointed Governor] there had been a log bridge, but this time we could not find even a trace of it, so we had to cross in a boat. The bridge had been laid across an inland bay. The waves of the outer sea were very high, and we could see them through the thick pine-trees which grew scattered over the sandy point which stretched between us and the sea. They seemed to strike across the ends of the pine branches and shone like jewels. It was an interesting sight.

We went forward and crossed over Inohana–an unspeakably weary ascent it was–and then came to Takashi shore of the Province of Mikawa. We passed a place called "Eight-Bridges," but it was only a name, no bridge and no pretty sight.

In the mountain of Futamura we made our camp under a big persimmon tree. The fruit fell down during the night over our camps and people picked it up.

We passed Mount Miyaji, where we saw red leaves still, although it was the first day of the Tenth month.

Furious mountain winds in their passing
       must spare this spot
For red maple leaves are clinging
       even yet to the branch.

There was a fort of "If-I-can" between Mikawa and Owari. It is amusing to think how difficult the [Page 15]  crossing was, indeed. We passed the Narumi [sounding-sea] shore in the Province of Owari. The evening tides were coming in, and we thought if they came higher we could not cross. So in a panic we ran as fast as we could.

At the border of Mino we crossed a ferry called Kuromata, and arrived at Nogami. There singers came again and they sang all night. Lovingly we thought of the singers of Ashigara.

Snow came, and in the storm we passed the barrier at Fuha, and over the Mount Atsumi, having no heart to look at beautiful sights. In the Province of Omi we stayed four or five days in a house at Okinaga. At the foot of Mitsusaka Mountain light rain fell night and day mixed with hail. It was so melancholy that we left there and passed by Inugami, Kanzaki, and Yasu without receiving any impressions. The lake stretched far and wide, and we caught occasional glimpses of Nadeshima and Chikubushima [islands]. It was a very pretty sight. We had great difficulty at the bridge of Seta, for it had fallen in. We stopped at Awazu, and arrived at the Royal City after dark on the second day of the Finishing month.

When we were near the barrier I saw the face of a roughly hewn Buddha sixteen feet high which towered over a rude fence. Serene and indifferent to its surroundings it stood unregarded in this deserted place; but I, passing by, received a message from it. Among so many provinces [through which I have passed] the barriers at Kiyomigata and Osaka were far better than the others. [Page 16] 

It was dark when I arrived at the residence on the west of the Princess of Sanjo's mansion. 1 Our garden was very wide and wild with great, fearful trees not inferior to those mountains I had come from. I could not feel at home, or keep a settled mind. Even then I teased mother into giving me books of stories, after which I had been yearning for so many years. Mother sent a messenger with a letter to Emon-no-Myogu, one of our relatives who served the Princess of Sanjo. She took interest in my strange passion and willingly sent me some excellent manuscripts in the lid of a writing-box, 2 saying that these copies had been given her by the Princess. My joy knew no bounds and I read them day and night; I soon began to wish for more, but as I was an utter stranger to the Royal City, who would get them for me?

My stepmother [meaning one of her father's wives] had once been a lady-in-waiting at the court, and she seemed to have been disappointed in something. She had been regretting the World [her marriage], and now she was to leave our home. She beckoned her own child, who was five years old, and said, "The time will never come when I shall forget you, dear heart"; and pointing to a huge plum-tree which grew close to the eaves, said, "When it is in flower I shall come back"; and she went away. I felt love and pity for her, and while I was secretly weeping, the year, too, went away.

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"When the plum-tree blooms I shall come back"–I pondered over these words and wondered whether it would be so. I waited and waited with my eye hung to the tree. It was all in flower 1 and yet no tidings from her. I became very anxious [and at last] broke a branch and sent it to her [of course with a poem]:

You gave me words of hope, are they not long delayed?
The plum-tree is remembered by the Spring,
Though it seemed dead with frost.

She wrote back affectionate words with a poem:

Wait on, never forsake your hope,
For when the plum-tree is in flower
Even the unpromised, the unexpected, will come to you.

During the spring [of 1022] the world was disquieted. 2 My nurse, who had filled my heart with pity on that moonlight night at the ford of Matsuzato, died on the moon-birthday of the Ever-growing month [first day of March]. I lamented hopelessly without any way to set my mind at ease, and even forgot my passion for romances.

I passed day after day weeping bitterly, and when I first looked out of doors 3 [again] I saw the evening sun on cherry-blossoms all falling in confusion [this would mean four weeks later]. [Page 18] 

Flowers are falling, yet I may see them again
     when Spring returns.
But, oh, my longing for the dear person
     who has departed from us forever!
I also heard that the daughter of the First Adviser 1 to the King was lost [dead]. I could sympathize deeply with the sorrow of her lord, the Lieutenant-General, for I still felt my own sorrow.

When I had first arrived at the Capital I had been given a book of the handwriting of this noble lady for my copy-book. In it were written several poems, among them the following:

When you see the smoke floating up the valley of
      Toribe Hill, 2
Then you will understand me, who seemed as shadow-like
      even while living.

I looked at these poems which were written in such a beautiful handwriting, and I shed more tears. I sat brooding until mother troubled herself to console me. She searched for romances and gave them to me, and I became consoled unconsciously. I read a few volumes of Genji-monogatari and longed for the rest, but as I was still a stranger here I had no way of finding them. I was all impatience and yearning, and in my mind was always praying that I might read all the books of Genji-monogatari from the very first one.

While my parents were shutting themselves up in Udzu-Masa 3 Temple, I asked them for nothing ex- [Page 19]  cept this romance, wishing to read it as soon as I could get it, but all in vain. I was inconsolable. One day I visited my aunt, who had recently come up from the country. She showed a tender interest in me and lovingly said I had grown up beautifully. On my return she said: "What shall I give you? You will not be interested in serious things: I will give you what you like best." And she gave me more than fifty volumes of Genji-monogatari put in a case, as well as Isé-monogatari, Yojimi, Serikawa, Shirara, and Asa-udzu. 1 How happy I was when I came home carrying these books in a bag! Until then I had only read a volume here and there, and was dissatisfied because I could not understand the story.

Now I could be absorbed in these stories, taking them out one by one, shutting myself in behind the kicho. 2 To be a Queen were nothing compared to this!

All day and all night, as late as I could keep my eyes open, I did nothing but look at the books, setting a lamp 3 close beside me.

Soon I learnt by heart all the names in the books, and I thought that a great thing.

Once I dreamt of a holy priest in yellow Buddhist scarf who came to me and said, "Learn the fifth book of the Hokekkyo 4 at once."

I did not tell any one about this, nor had I any [Page 20]  mind to learn it, but continued to bathe in the romances. Although I was still ugly and undeveloped [I thought to myself] the time would come when I should be beautiful beyond compare, with long, long hair. I should be like the Lady Yugao [in the romance] loved by the Shining Prince Genji, or like the Lady Ukifuné, the wife of the General of Uji [a famous beauty]. I indulged in such fancies–shallow-minded I was, indeed!

Could such a man as the Shining Prince be living in this world? How could General Kaoru [literal translation, "Fragrance"] find such a beauty as Lady Ukifuné to conceal in his secret villa at Uji? Oh! I was like a crazy girl.

While I had lived in the country, I had gone to the temple from time to time, but even then I could never pray like others, with a pure heart. In those days people learned to recite sutras and practice austerities of religious observance after the age of seventeen or eighteen, but I could scarcely even think of such matters. The only thing that I could think of was the Shining Prince who would some day come to me, as noble and beautiful as in the romance. If he came only once a year I, being hidden in a mountain villa like Lady Ukifuné, would be content. I could live as heart-dwindlingly as that lady, looking at flowers, or moonlit snowy landscape, occasionally receiving long-expected lovely letters from my Lord! I cherished such fancies and imagined that they might be realized.

On the moon-birth of the Rice-Sprout month I

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[Page 21]  saw the white petals of the Tachibana tree [a kind of orange] near the house covering the ground.

Scarce had my mind received with wonder,
  The thought of newly fallen snow–
  Seeing the ground lie white–
When the scent of Tachibana flowers
  Arose from fallen blossoms.

In our garden trees grew as thick as in the dark forest of Ashigara, and in the Gods-absent month 1 its red leaves were more beautiful than those of the surrounding mountains. A visitor said, "On my way thither I passed a place where red leaves were beautiful"; and I improvised:

No sight can be more autumnal
      than that of my garden
Tenanted by an autumnal person
      weary of the world!

I still dwelt in the romances from morning to night, and as long as I was awake.

I had another dream: a man said that he was to make a brook in the garden of the Hexagon Tower to entertain the Empress of the First Rank of Honour. I asked the reason, and the man said, "Pray to the Heaven-illuminating honoured Goddess." I did not tell any one about this dream or even think of it again. How shallow I was!

In the Spring I enjoyed the Princess's garden. Cherry-blossoms waited for!–cherry-blossoms la- [Page 22]  mented over! In Spring I love the flowers whether in her garden or in mine.

On the moon-hidden day of the Ever-growing month [March 30, 1023], I started for a certain person's house to avoid the evil influence of the earth god. 1 There I saw delightful cherry-blossoms still on the tree and the day after my return I sent this poem:

Alone, without tiring, I gazed at the cherry-blossoms of
      your garden.
The Spring was closing–they were about to fall–
Always when the flowers came and went, I could think of nothing but those days when my nurse died, and sadness descended upon me, which grew deeper when I studied the handwriting of the Honoured Daughter of the First Adviser.

Once in the Rice-Sprout month, when I was up late reading a romance, I heard a cat mewing with a long-drawn-out cry. I turned, wondering, and saw a very lovely cat. "Whence does it come?" I asked. "Sh," said my sister, "do not tell anybody. It is a darling cat and we will keep it."

The cat was very sociable and lay beside us. Some one might be looking for her [we thought], so we kept her secretly. She kept herself aloof from the vulgar servants, always sitting quietly before us. She turned her face away from unclean food, never eating it. She was tenderly cared for and caressed by us. [Page 23] 

Once sister was ill, and the family was rather upset. The cat was kept in a room facing the north [i.e. a servant's room], and never was called. She cried loudly and scoldingly, yet I thought it better to keep her away and did so. Sister, suddenly awakening, said to me, "Where is the cat kept? Bring her here." I asked why, and sister said: " In my dream the cat came to my side and said, 'I am the altered form of the late Honoured Daughter of the First Adviser to the King. There was a slight cause [for this]. Your sister has been thinking of me affectionately, so I am here for a while, but now I am among the servants. O how dreary I am!' So saying she wept bitterly. She appeared to be a noble and beautiful person and then I awoke to hear the cat crying! How pitiful!"

The story moved me deeply and after this I never sent the cat away to the north-facing room, but waited on her lovingly. Once, when I was sitting alone, she came and sat before me, and, stroking her head, I addressed her: "You are the first daughter of the Noble Adviser? I wish to let your father know of it." The cat watched my face and mewed, lengthening her voice.

It may be my fancy, but as I was watching her she seemed no common cat. She seemed to understand my words, and I pity her.

I had heard that a certain person possessed the Chogonka 1 [Song of the Long Regret] retold from [Page 24]  the original of the Chinese poet Li T'ai Po. I longed to borrow it, but was too shy to say so.

On the seventh day of the Seventh month I found a happy means to send my word [the suggestion of my wish]:

This is the night when in the ancient Past,
The Herder Star embarked to meet the Weaving One;
In its sweet remembrance the wave rises high in the River of Heaven.1
Even so swells my heart to see the famous book.

The answer was:

The star gods meet on the shore of the Heavenly River,
Like theirs full of ecstasy is my heart
And grave things of daily life are forgotten
On the night your message comes to me.

On the thirteenth day of that month the moon shone very brightly. Darkness was chased away even [Page 25]  from every corner of the heavens. It was about midnight and all were asleep.

We were sitting on the veranda. My sister, who was gazing at the sky thoughtfully, said, " If I flew away now, leaving no trace behind; what would you think of it?" She saw that her words shocked me, and she turned the conversation [lightly] to other things, and we laughed.

Then I heard a carriage with a runner before it stop near the house. The man in the carriage called out, "Ogi-no-ha! Ogi-no-ha!" [Reed-leaf, a woman's name or pet name] twice, but no woman made reply. The man cried in vain until he was tired of it, and played his flute [a reed-pipe] more and more searchingly in a very beautiful rippling melody, and [at last] drove away.

Flute music in the night,
"Autumn Wind" 1 sighing,
Why does the reed-leaf make no reply?

Thus I challenged my sister, and she took it up:

Alas! light of heart
Who could so soon give over playing!
The wind did not wait
For the response of the reed-leaf.
We sat together looking up into the firmament, and went to bed after daybreak.

At midnight of the Deutzia month [April, 1024] a fire broke out, and the cat which had been waited on as a daughter of the First Adviser was burned to death. She had been used to come mewing whenever I called [Page 26]  her by the name of that lady, as if she had understood me. My father said that he would tell the matter to the First Adviser, for it is a strange and heartfelt story. I was very, very sorry for her.

Our new temporary shelter was far narrower than the other. I was sad, for we had a very small garden and no trees. I thought with regret of the old spacious garden which was wild as a deep wood, and in time of flowers and red leaves the sight of it was never inferior to the surrounding mountains.

In the garden of the opposite house white and red plum-blossoms grew in confusion and their perfume came on the wind and filled me with thoughts of our old home.

When from the neighbouring garden the perfume-laden air
Saturates my soul with memories,
Rises the thought of the beloved plum-tree
Blooming under the eaves of the house which is gone.

On the moon-birth of the Rice-Sprout month my sister died after giving birth to a child. From childhood, even a stranger's death had touched my heart deeply. This time I lamented, filled with speechless pity and sorrow.

While mother and the others were with the dead, I lay with the memory-awakening children one on either side of me. The moonlight found its way through the cracks of the roof [perhaps of their temporary dwelling] and illumined the face of the baby. The sight gave my heart so deep a pang that I covered its face with my sleeve, and drew the other child closer to my side, mothering the unfortunate.

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After some days one of my relatives sent me a romance entitled "The Prince Yearning after the Buried," with the following note: "The late lady had asked me to find her this romance. At that time I thought it impossible, but now to add to my sorrow, some one has just sent it to me."

I answered:

What reason can there be that she
Strangely should seek a romance of the buried?
Buried now is the seeker
Deep under the mosses.

My sister's nurse said that since she had lost her, she had no reason to stay and went back to her own home weeping.

Thus death or parting separates us each from the other,
Why must we part? Oh, world too sad for me!

"For remembrance of her I wanted to write about her," began a letter from her nurse–but it stopped short with the words, "Ink seems to have frozen up, I cannot write any more." 1

How shall I gather memories of my sister?
The stream of letters is congealed.
No comfort may be found in icicles.

So I wrote, and the answer was:

Like the comfortless plover of the beach
In the sand printing characters soon to be washed away,
Unable to leave a more enduring trace in this fleeting world.
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That nurse went to see the grave and returned sobbing, saying:

I seek her in the field, but she is not there,
Nor is she in the smoke of the cremation.
Where is her last dwelling-place?
How can I find it?

The lady who had been my stepmother heard of this [and wrote]:

When we wander in search of her,
Ignorant of her last dwelling-place,
Standing before the thought
Tears must be our guide.

The person who had sent "The Prince Yearning after the Buried" wrote:

How she must have wandered seeking the unfindable
In the unfamiliar fields of bamboo grasses,
        Vainly weeping!

Reading these poems my brother, who had followed the funeral that night, composed a poem:

Before my vision
  The fire and smoke of burning
Arose and died again.
  To bamboo fields there is no more returning,
Why seek there in vain?

It snowed for many days, and I thought of the nun who lived on Mount Yoshino, to whom I wrote:

  Snow has fallen
And you cannot have
  Even the unusual sight of men
Along the precipitous path of the Peak of Yoshino.

On the Sociable month of the next year father was looking forward with happy expectation to the night [Page 29]  when he might expect an appointment as Governor of a Province. He was disappointed, and a person who might have shared our joy wrote to me, saying:

"I anxiously waited for the dawn with uncertain hope."

The temple bell roused me from dreams
And waiting for the starlit dawn
The night, alas! was long as are
One hundred autumn nights.

I wrote back:

Long was the night.
The bell called from dreams in vain,
For it did not toll our realized hopes.

Towards the moon-hidden days [last days] of the Rice-Sprout month I went for a certain reason to a temple at Higashiyama. 1 On the way the nursery beds for rice-plants were filled with water, and the fields were green all over with the young growing rice. It was a smile-presenting sight. It gave a feeling of loneliness to see the dark shadow of the mountain close before me. In the lovely evenings water-rails chattered in the fields.

The water-rails cackle as if they were knocking at the gate,
But who would be deceived into opening the door, saying,
Our friend has come along the mountain path in the dark night?

As the place was near the Reizan Temple I went there to worship. Arriving so far I was fatigued, and drank from a stone-lined well beside the mountain temple, scooping the water into the hollow of my hand.

My friend said, "I could never have enough of this [Page 30]  water." "Is it the first time," I asked, "that you have tasted the satisfying sweetness of a mountain well drunk from the hollow of your hand?" She said, "It is sweeter than to drink from a shallow spring, which becomes muddy even from the drops which fall from the hand which has scooped it up." 1 We came home from the temple in the full brightness of evening sunshine, and had a clear view of Kioto below us.

My friend, who had said that a spring becomes muddy even with drops falling into it, had to go back to the Capital.

I was sorry to part with her and sent word the next morning:

When the evening sun descends behind the mountain peak,
Will you forget that it is I who gaze with longing
Towards the place where you are?

The holy voices of the priests reciting sutras in their morning service could be heard from my house and I opened the door. It was dim early dawn; mist veiled the green forest, which was thicker and darker than in the time of flowers or red leaves. The sky seemed clouded this lovely morning. Cuckoos were singing on the near-by trees.

O for a friend–that we might see and listen together!
O the beautiful dawn in the mountain village!–
The repeated sound of cuckoos near and far away.

On that moon-hidden day cuckoos sung clamorously on trees towards the glen. "In the Royal City poets [Page 31]  may be awaiting you, cuckoos, yet you sing here carelessly from morning till night!"

One who sat near me said: "Do you think that there is one person, at least, in the Capital who is listening to cuckoos, and thinking of us at this moment?"–and then:

Many in the Royal City like to gaze on the calm moon.
But is there one who thinks of the deep mountain
Or is reminded of us hidden here?

I replied:

In the dead of night, moon-gazing,
The thought of the deep mountain affrighted,
Yet longings for the mountain village
At all other moments filled my heart.

Once, towards dawn, I heard footsteps which seemed to be those of many persons coming down the mountain. I wondered and looked out. It was a herd of deer which came close to our dwelling. They cried out. It was not pleasant to hear them near by.

It is sweet to hear the love-call of a deer to its mate,
In Autumn nights, upon the distant hills.

I heard that an acquaintance had come near my residence and gone back without calling on me. So I wrote:

Even this wandering wind among the pines of the mountain–
I've heard that it departs with murmuring sound.

[That is, you are not like it. You do not speak when going away.]

In the Leaf-Falling month [September] I saw the moon more than twenty days old. It was towards [Page 31]  dawn; the mountain-side was gloomy and the sound of the waterfall was all [I heard]. I wish that lovers [of nature] may see the after-dawn-waning moon in a mountain village at the close of an autumn night.

I went back to Kioto when the rice-fields, which had been filled with water when I came, were dried up, the rice being harvested. The young plants in their bed of water–the plants harvested–the fields dried up–so long I remained away from home.

'Twas the moon-hidden of the Gods-absent month when I went there again for temporary residence. The thick grown leaves which had cast a dark shade were all fallen. The sight was heartfelt over all. The sweet, murmuring ringlet was buried under fallen leaves and I could see only the course of it.

Even water could not live on–
So lonesome is the mountain
Of the leaf-scattering stormy wind.

[At about this time the author of this diary seems to have had some family troubles. Her father received no appointment from the King–they were probably poor, and her gentle, poetic nature did not incline her to seek useful friends at court; therefore many of the best years of her youth were spent in obscurity–a great contrast to the "Shining Prince" dreams of her childhood.]

I went back to Kioto saying that I should come again the next Spring, could I live so long, and begged the nun to send word when the flowering-time had come. [Page 33] 

It was past the nineteenth of the Ever-growing month of the next year [1026], but there were no tidings from her, so I wrote:

No word about the blooming cherry-blossoms,
Has not the Spring come for you yet?
Or does the perfume of flowers not reach you?

I made a journey, and passed many a moonlit night in a house beside a bamboo wood. Wind rustled its leaves and my sleep was disturbed.

Night after night the bamboo leaves sigh,
My dreams are broken and a vague, indefinite sadness fills my heart.

In Autumn [1026] I went to live elsewhere and sent a poem:

I am like dew on the grass–
And pitiable wherever I may be–
But especially am I oppressed with sadness
In a field with a thin growth of reeds.

After that time I was somehow restless and forgot about the romances. My mind became more sober and I passed many years without doing any remarkable thing. I neglected religious services and temple observances. Those fantastic ideas [of the romances] can they be realized in this world ? If father could win some good position I also might enter into a much nobler life. Such unreliable hopes then occupied my daily thoughts.

At last 1 father was appointed Governor of Province very far in the East. [Page 34] 

[Here the diary skips six years. The following is reminiscent.]

He [father] said: "I was always thinking that if I could win a position as Governor in the neighbourhood of the Capital I could take care of you to my heart's desire. I would wish to bring you down to see beautiful scenery of sea and mountain. Moreover, I wished that you could live attended beyond [the possibilities] of our [present] position. Our Karma relation from our former world must have been bad. Now I have to go to so distant a country after waiting so long! When I brought you, who were a little child, to the Eastern Province [at his former appointment], even a slight illness caused me much trouble of mind in thinking that should I die, you would wander helpless in that far country. There were many fears in a stranger's country, and I should have lived with an easier mind had I been alone. As I was then accompanied by all my family, I could not say or do what I wanted to say or do, and I was ashamed of it. Now you are grown up [she was twenty-five years old] and I am not sure that I can live long.

It is not so unusual a fate to be helpless in the Capital, but the saddest thing of all would be to wander in the Eastern Province like any country woman. 1 There are no relatives in the Capital upon whom we could rely to foster you, yet I cannot refuse the appointment which has been made after such long [Page 35]  waiting. So you must remain here, and I must depart for Eternity.–Oh, in what way may I provide a way for you to live in the Capital decently!

Night and day he lamented, saying these things, and I forgot all about flowers or maple leaves, grieving sadly, but there was no help for it.

He went down 1 on the thirteenth of the Seventh month, 1032.

For several days before that I could not remain still in my own room, for I thought it difficult to see him again.

On that day [the 13th] after restless hours, when the [time for] parting came, I had lifted the blind and my eye met his, from which tears dropped down. Soon he had passed by. 2 My eyes were dim with tears and soon I concealed myself in bed [tears were bad manners]. A man who had gone to see him off returned with a poem written on a bit of pocket paper.

A message from her father:

If I could do as I wish
I could acknowledge more profoundly
The sorrow of departing in Autumn.

[The last line has, of course, reference to his age and the probability of never returning.] [Page 36] 

I could not read the poem to the end.

In the happier time I had often tried to compose halting poems [literally, of broken loins], but at present I had no word to say.

–never began to think in this world even for
       a moment from you to part. Alas!

No person came to my side and I was very lonely and forlorn musing and guessing where he would be at every moment. As I knew the road he was taking [the same which is described in this journal], I thought of him the more longingly and with greater heart-shrinking. Morning and evening I looked towards the sky-line of the eastern mountains.

In the Leaf-Falling month I went to the temple at Udzumaza [Korinji] to pass many days.

We came upon two men's palanquins in the road from Ichijo, which had stopped there. They must have been waiting for some one to catch up with them. When I passed by they sent an attendant with the message: "Flower-seeing go?–we suppose."

I thought it would be awkward not to reply to such a slight matter, and answered:

                  Thousand kinds 1
To be like them in the fields of Autumn.

I stayed in the temple for seven days, but could think of nothing but the road to the East.

I prayed to the Buddha, saying: "There is no way to change the present, but grant that we may meet [Page 37]  again peacefully after this parting"–and I thought the Buddha would pity and grant my prayer.

It was midwinter. It rained all day. In the night a cloud-turning wind blew terribly and the sky cleared. The moon became exquisitely bright, and it was sad to see the tall reeds near the house broken and blown down by the wind.

Dead stalks of reeds must be reminded of good Autumn days
In midwinter depths the tempest lays them low,
Confused and broken.

["Their fate is like my own," is intangibly expressed in this poem.];

A messenger arrived from the East.

Father's letter:

"I wandered through the Province [Hitachi, now Ibarakiken] going into every Shinto shrine and saw a wide field with a beautiful river running through it. 1 There was a beautiful wood. My first thought was of you, and to make you see it, and I asked the name of that grove. 'The grove of Longing After One's Child' was the answer. I thought of the one who had first named it and was extremely sad. Alighting from my horse I stood there for two hours.

After leaving–
Like me he must have yearned
Sorrowful to see–
The forest of Longing After One's Child."

To see that letter is a sadder thing than to have seen the forest.

[The poem sent in return presents difficulties in the [Page 38]  way of translation as there is a play upon words, literally it is something like this:]

The grove of "Longing After One's Child"; left; Father-caressed 1 Mountain; [Chichibusan] hard Eastern way–

The grove of Longing After One's Child–
Hearing of it I think of the Father-caressed Mountain:
Towards it hard is the Eastern way
  For a child left [here alone].

Thus I passed days in doing nothing, and I began to think of going to temples [making pilgrimages]. Mother was a person of extremely antiquated mind. She said: "Oh, dreadful is the Hatsusé Temple! What should you do if you were caught by some one at the Nara ascent? Ishiyama too! Sekiyama Pass [near Lake Biwa] is very dreadful! Kurama-san [the famous mountain], oh, dreadful to bring you there! You may go there when father comes back."

As mother says so, I can go only to Kiyomidzu Temple. 2 My old habits of romantic indulgence were not dead yet, and I could not fix my mind on religious thoughts as I ought.

In the equinoctial week there was a great tumult [of festival], so great a noise that I was even afraid of it, and when I lay asleep I dreamt there was a priest within the enclosure before the altar, in blue garments with loose brocade hood and brocade shoes. He seemed to be the intendant of the temple: "You, being occupied with vain thoughts, are not praying for happi- [Page 39]  ness in the world to come," he said indignantly, and went behind the curtain. I awoke startled, yet neither told any one what I had dreamt, nor thought about it much.

My mother had two one-foot-in-diameter bronze mirrors cast and made a priest take them for us to the Hatsusé Temple. Mother told the priest to pass two or three days in the temple especially praying that a dream might be vouchsafed about the future state of this woman [the daughter]. For that period I was made to observe religious purity [i.e. abstain from animal food.]

The priest came back to tell the following:

"I was reluctant to return without having even a dream, and after bowing many times and performing other ceremonies I went to sleep. There came out from behind the curtain a graceful holy lady in beautiful garments. She, taking up the offered mirrors, asked me if no letters were affixed to these mirrors. I answered in the most respectful manner, 'There were no letters. I was told only to offer these.' 'Strange!' she said. 'Letters are to be added. See what is mirrored in one, it creates pity to look at it.' I saw her weep bitterly and saw appear in the mirror shadows of people rolling over in lamentation. 'To see these shadows makes one sad, but to see this makes one happy,' and she held up the other mirror. There, the misu was fresh green and many-coloured garments were revealed below the lower edge of it. Plum and cherry-blossoms were in flower. Nightingales were singing from tree to tree." [Page 40] 

I did not even listen to his story nor question him as to how things seemed in his dream. Some one said, "Pray to the Heavenly Illuminating Honoured Goddess," and my irreverent mind thought, "Where is she? Is she a Goddess or a Buddha?"

At first I said so, but afterwards grew more discreet and asked some one about her, who replied: "She is a goddess, and takes up her abode at Isé. 1 The goddess is also worshipped by the Provincial Governor of Kii. She is worshipped at the ancestor shrine in the Imperial Court."

I could not by any means get to Isé. How could I bow before the Imperial shrine? I could never be allowed to go there. The idea flowed through my mind to pray for the heavenly light.

A relative of mine became a nun, and entered the Sugaku Temple. In winter I sent her a poem:

Even tears arise for your sake
When I think of the mountain hamlet
Where snow-storms will be raging.


I seem to have a glimpse of you
Coming to me through the dark wood,
When close over head is Summer's growth of leaves.

1036. Father, who had gone down towards the East, came back at last. He settled down at Nishiyama, and we all went there. We were very happy. One moon-bright night we talked all the night through: [Page 41] 

Such nights as this exist!
As if it were for Eternity, I parted from you–
How sad was that Autumn!

At this father shed tears [of happiness] abundantly, and answered me with a poem:

That life grows dear and is lived with rejoicing
Which once was borne with hate and lamentation

My joy knew no bounds when my waiting was at an end after the supposed parting "for Eternity," yet my father said: "It is ridiculous to lead a worldly life when one is very old. I used to feel so when I saw old men, but now it is my turn to be old, so I will retire from social life." As he said it with no lingering affection for this world, I felt quite alone.

Towards the East the field stretched far and wide and I could see clearly from Mount Hiyé 1 to Mount Inari. Towards the West, the pines of the forest of Narabigaoka were sounding in my ear, and up to the tableland on which our house stood the rice-fields were cultivated in terraces, while from them came the sound of the bird-scaring clappers, giving me a homely country sentiment.

One moonlight evening I had a message from an old acquaintance who had had an opportunity to send to me, and this I sent back:

None calls upon me, or remembers me in my mountain village.
On the reeds by the thin hedge, the Autumn winds are sighing.

1037. In the Tenth month we changed our abode to the Capital. Mother had become a nun, and although [Page 42]  she lived in the same house, shut herself up in a separate chamber. Father rather treated me as an independent woman than as his child. I felt helpless to see him shunning all society and living hidden in the shade.

A person [the Princess Yuko, daughter of the Emperor Toshiyaku] who had heard about me through a distant relative called me [to her] saying it would be better [to be with her] than passing idle lonely days.

My old-fashioned parents thought the court life would be very unpleasant, and wanted me to pass my time at home, but others said: "People nowadays go out as ladies-in-waiting at the Court, and then fortunate opportunities [for marriage] are naturally numerous; why not try it?" So [at the age of twenty-six] I was sent to the Court against my will.

I went for one night the first time. I was dressed in an eight-fold uchigi of deep and pale chrysanthemum colours, and over it I wore the outer flowing robe of deep-red silk.

As I have said before, my mind was absorbed in romances, and I had no important relatives from whom I could learn distinguished manners or court customs, so except from the romances I could not know them. I had always been in the shadow of the antiquated parents, and had been accustomed not to go out but to see moon and flowers. So when I left home I felt as if I were not I nor was it the real world [to which I was going]. I started in the early morning. I had often fancied in my countrified mind that I should hear more interesting things for my heart's [Page 43]  consolation than were to be found living fixed in my parents' house.

I felt awkward in Court in everything I did, and I thought it sad, but there was no use in complaining. I remembered with grief my nieces who had lost their mother and had been cared for by me alone, even sleeping at night one on either side of me.

Days were spent in musing with a vacant mind. I felt as if some one were [always] spying upon me, and I was embarrassed. 1 After ten days or so I got leave to go out. Father and mother were waiting for me with a comfortable fire in a brazier.

Seeing me getting out of my palanquin, my nieces said: "When you were with us people came to see us, but now no one's voice is heard, no one's shadow falls before the house. We are very low-spirited; what can you do for us who must pass days like this?" It was pitiful to see them cry when they said it. The next morning they sat before me, saying: "As you are here many persons are coming and going. It seems livelier."

Tears came to my eyes to think what virtue [literally, fragrance] I could have that my little nieces made so much of me.

It would be very difficult even for a saint to dream of his prenatal life. Yet, when I was before the altar of the Kiyomidzu Temple, in a faintly dreamy state [Page 44]  of mind which was neither sleeping nor waking, I saw a man who seemed to be the head of the temple. He came out and said to me:

"You were once a priest of this temple and you were born into a better state by virtue of the many Buddhist images which you carved as a Buddhist artist. The Buddha seventeen feet high which is enthroned in the eastern side of the temple was your work. When you were in the act of covering it with gold foil you died."

"Oh, undeservedly blessed!" I said. "I will finish it, then."

The priest replied: "As you died, another man covered it and performed the ceremony of offerings."

I came to myself and thought: "If I serve with all my heart the Buddha of the Kiyomidzu Temple... by virtue of my prayers in this temple in the previous life..." 1

In the Finishing month I went again to the Court. A room was assigned for my use.

I went to the Princess's apartment every night and lay down among unknown persons, so I could not sleep at all. I was bashful and timid and wept in secret. In the morning I retired while it was still dark and passed the days in longing for home where my old and weak parents, making much of me, relied upon me as if I were worthy of it. I yearned for them and felt very lonely. Unfortunate, deplorable, and helpless mind!–That was graven into my thought and although I had to perform my duty faithfully I could

[Facing Page]

The curtains of the screen, or kicho, varied with the seasons. This is a summer one with decorations of summer grasses and flowers.

[Page 45]  not always wait upon the Princess. She seemed not to guess what was in my heart, and attributing it only to shyness favored me by summoning me often from among the other ladies. She used to say, "Call the younger ladies!" and I was dragged out in spite of myself.

Those who were familiar with the court life seemed to be at home there, but I, who was not very young, yet did not wish to be counted among the elderly, was rather neglected, and made to usher guests. However, I did not expect too much of court life, and had no envy for those who were more graceful than I. This, on the contrary, set me at ease, and I from time to time presented myself before the Princess; and talked only with congenial friends about lovely things. Even on smile-presenting, interesting occasions I shrank from intruding and becoming too popular, and did not go far into most things.

Sleeping one night before the Princess, I was awakened by cries and fluttering noises from the waterfowl in the pond.

Like us the waterfowl pass all the night in floating sleep,
They seem to be weary
With shaking away the frost from their feathers.

My companions passed their leisure time in talking over romances with the door open which separated our rooms, and they often called back one who had gone to the Princess's apartment. She sent word once, "I will go if I must" [intending to give herself the pleasure of coming]. [Page 46] 

The long leaves of the reed are easily bent,
So I will not forcibly persuade it,
But leave it to the wind.

In this way [composing poems] we passed [the hours] talking idly. Afterwards this lady separated from the Court and left us. She remembered that night and sent me word–

That moonless, flowerless winter night
It penetrates my thought and makes me dwell on it–
        I wonder why?

It touched my heart, for I also was thinking of that night:

In my dreams the tears of that cold night are still frozen.
But these I weep away secretly.

The Princess still called my stepmother by the name of Kazusa 1 –Governor's lady. Father was displeased that that name was still used after she had become another man's wife, and he made me write to her about it:

The name of Asakura in a far-off country,
The Court now hears it in a divine dance-song.–
My name also is still somewhere heard [but not honourably]. 2

One very bright night, after the full moon, I attended the Princess to the Imperial Palace. I remembered that the Heaven Illuminating Goddess was enthroned within, and wanted to take an opportunity to kneel before the altar. One moon-bright night [Page 47]  [1042 A.D.] I went in [to the shrine] privately, for I know Lady Hakasé 1 who was taking care of this shrine. The perpetual lights before the altar burned dimly. She [the Lady Hakasé] grew wondrously old and holy; she seems not like a mortal, but like a divine incarnation, yet she spoke very gracefully.

The moon was very bright on the following night and the Princess's ladies passed the time in talking and moon-gazing, opening the doors [outer shutters] of the Fujitsubo. 2 The footsteps of the Royal consort of Umetsubo going up to the King's apartment were so exquisitely graceful as to excite envy. "Had the late Queen 3 been living, she could not walk so grandly," some one said. I composed a poem:

She is like the Moon, who, opening the gate of Heaven,
    goes up over the clouds.
We, being in the same heavenly Palace, pass the night
    in remembering the footfalls of the past.

The ladies who are charged with the duty of introducing the court nobles seem to have been fixed upon, and nobody notices whether simple-hearted country-women like me exist or not. On a very dark night in the beginning of the Gods-absent month, when sweet-voiced reciters were to read sutras throughout the night, another lady and I went out towards the entrance door of the Audience Room to listen to [Page 48]  it, and after talking fell asleep, listening, leaning,... 1 when I noticed a gentleman had come to be received in audience by the Princess.

"It is awkward to run away to our apartment [to escape him]..We will remain here. Let it be as it will." So said my companion and I sat beside her listening.

He spoke gently and quietly. There was nothing about him to be regretted. "Who is the other lady?" he asked of my friend. He said nothing rude or amorous like other men, but talked delicately of the sad, sweet things of the world, and many a phrase of his with a strange power enticed me into conversation. He wondered that there should have been in the Court one who was a stranger to him, and did not seem inclined to go away soon.

There was no starlight, and a gentle shower fell in the darkness; how lovely was its sound on the leaves! "The more deeply beautiful is the night," he said; "the full moonlight would be too dazzling." Discoursing about the beauties of Spring and Autumn he continued: "Although every hour has its charm, pretty is the spring haze; then the sky being tranquil and overcast, the face of the moon is not too bright; it seems to be floating on a distant river. At such a time the calm spring melody of the lute is exquisite.

"In Autumn, on the other hand, the moon is very bright; though there are mists trailing over the horizon we can see things as clearly as if they were at hand. The sound of wind, the voices of insects, all sweet things seem to melt together. When at such a [Page 49]  time we listen to the autumnal music of the koto 1 we forget the Spring–we think that is best–

"But the winter sky frozen all over magnificently cold! The snow covering the earth and its light mingling with the moonshine! Then the notes of the hitchiriki 2 vibrate on the air and we forget Spring and Autumn." And he asked us, "Which captivates your fancy? On which stays your mind?"

My companion answered in favour of Autumn and I, not being willing to imitate her, said:

Pale green night and flowers all melting into one
    in the soft haze–
Everywhere the moon, glimmering in the Spring night.

So I replied. And he, after repeating my poem to himself over and over, said: "Then you give up Autumn? After this, as long as I live, such a spring night shall be for me a memento of your personality." The person who favoured Autumn said, "Others seem to give their hearts to Spring, and I shall be alone gazing at the autumn moon."

He was deeply interested, and being uncertain in thought said: "Even the poets of the Tang Empire 3 could not decide which to praise most, Spring or Autumn. Your decisions make me think that there must be some personal reasons when our inclination is touched or charmed. Our souls are imbued with the colours of the sky, moon, or flowers of that moment. I desire much to know how you came to know the [Page 50]  charms of Spring and Autumn. The moon of a winter night is given as an instance of dreariness, and as it is very cold I had never seen it intentionally. When I went down to Isé to be present as the messenger of the King at the ceremony 1 of installing the virgin in charge of the shrine, I wanted to come back in the early dawn, so went to take leave of the Princess [whose installation had just taken place] in a moon-bright night after many days' snow, half shrinking to think of my journey.

"Her residence was an other-worldly place awful even to the imagination, but she called me into an adequate apartment. There were persons [in that room] who had come down in the reign of the Emperor Enyu. 2 Their aspect was very holy, ancient, and mystical. They told of the things of long ago with tears. They brought out a well-tuned four-stringed lute. The music did not seem to be anything happening in this world; I regretted that day should even dawn, and was touched so deeply that I had almost forgotten about returning to the Capital. Ever since then the snowy nights of winter recall that scene, and I without fail gaze at the moon even though hugging the fire. You will surely understand me, and hereafter every dark night with gentle rain will touch my heart; I feel this has not been inferior to the snowy night at the palace of the Isé virgin."

With these words he departed and I thought he could not have known who I was. [Page 51] 

In the Eighth month of the next year [1043] we went again to the Imperial Palace, and there was in the Court an entertainment throughout the night. I did not know that he was present at it, and I passed that night in my own room. When I looked out [in early morning] opening the sliding doors on the corridor I saw the morning moon very faint and beautiful. I heard footsteps and people approached–some reciting citing sutras. One of them came to the entrance, and addressed me. I replied, and he, suddenly remembering, exclaimed, "That night of softly falling rain I do not forget, even for a moment! I yearn for it." As chance did not permit me many words I said:

What intensity of memory clings to your heart?
That gentle shower fell on the leaves–
Only for a moment [our hearts touched].

I had scarcely said so when people came up and I stole back without his answer.

That evening, after I had gone to my room, my companion came in to tell me that he had replied to my poem: "If there be such a tranquil night as that of the rain, I should like in some way to make you listen to my lute, playing all the songs I can remember."

I wanted to hear it, and waited for the fit occasion, but there was none, ever.

In the next year one tranquil evening I heard that he had come into the Princess's Palace, so I crept out of my chamber with my companion, but there were many people waiting within and without the Palace, and I turned back. He must have been of the same [Page 52]  mind with me. He had come because it was so still a night, and he returned because it was noisy.

I yearn for a tranquil moment
To be out upon the sea of harmony,
In that enchanted boat.
Oh, boatman, do you know my heart?

So I composed that poem–and there is nothing more to tell. His personality was very excellent and he was not an ordinary man, but time passed, and neither called to the other.

In Winter, though the snow had not come yet, the starlit sky was clear and cold. One whole night I talked with those who were in the Palace . 1

Like a good-for-nothing woman I retired from the Court life.

On the twenty-fifth of the End month [Christmas Day, 1043] I was summoned by the Princess to the religious service of reciting Buddha's names. I went for that night only. About forty ladies were there all dressed in deep-red dresses and also in deep-red outer robe. I sat behind the person who led me in–the most shadow-like person among them–and I retired before dawn. On my way home it snowed in fluttering flakes, and the frozen, ghostly moon was reflected in my dull-red sleeves of glossy silk. Even that reflection seemed to be wet and sad. I thought all the way: "The year comes to a close and the night also–and the moon reflected in my sleeve–all [Page 53]  passes. When one is in Court, one may become familiar with those who serve there, and know worldly things better, and if one is thought amiable one is received as a lady and favours may be bestowed"–such had been my thought, but father was now disappointed in me and kept me at home; but how could I expect that my fortunes should become dazzling in a moment? It was father's idle fancy, yet he felt that it had betrayed him.

Though a thousand times, how many! I gathered parsley 1 in the fields
        Yet my wishes were by no means fulfilled.

I grumbled so far, and no farther.

I regretted deeply the idle fancies of old days, and as my parents would not accompany me to temples [on pilgrimages] I could hardly suppress my impatience. I wish to strengthen my spirit to bring up my child who is still in the germ. Moreover, I wish to do my best to pile up virtuous deeds for the life to come, so encouraging my heart I went to the Ishiyama Temple after the twentieth day of the Frost month [1045]. It snowed and the route was lovely. On coming in sight of the barrier at Osaka Pass, I was reminded that it was also in Winter when I passed it on my way up to Kioto. Then also it was a windy tempestuous day. [Page 54] 

The sound of the Autumn wind at the barrier of Osaka!
It differs not from that heard long ago.

The temple at Seki, magnificent though it was, made me think of the old roughly hewn Buddha. The beach at Uchidé has not changed in the passing of months and years, but my own heart feels change.

Towards evening I arrived at the temple and after a bath went up to the main shrine. The mountain wind was dreadful. I took it for a good omen that, falling asleep in the temple [I heard a voice], saying: "From the inner shrine perfume has been bestowed. Tell it at once." At the words I awoke, and passed the night in prayer.

The next day the wind raged and it snowed heavily. I comforted my lonely heart with the friend of the Princess who came with me. We left after three days.

On the twenty-fifth of the Tenth month of the next year [1046] the Capital was in great excitement over the purification ceremonies before the Great Ceremony.1

For my part I wanted to set out that same day for Hasé [Temple] for my own religious purification. They stopped me, saying it was a sight to be seen only once in one reign; that even the country-people come to see the procession, and it was madness to leave the city that very day. "Your deeds will be spread abroad and people will gossip about you," said my brother angrily. "No, no, let the person have her own will"; and according to my wish he [her husband] let me start. His kindness touched me, but on [Page 55]  the other hand I pitied those who accompanied me [her retinue], who with longing hearts wanted to see the ceremony.

But what have we to do with such shows ? Buddha will be pleased with those who come at a time like this. I wanted without fail to receive the divine favour, and started before dawn. When I was crossing the great bridge of Nijo, with pine torches flaming before me, and with my attendants in pure white robes, all the men on horseback, in carriage, or on foot who encountered me on their way to the stands prepared for sight-seers said, in surprise, "What is that?" and some even laughed or scolded me. As I was passing before the gate of Yoshinori the Commander of the Bodyguard and his men were standing there before the wide-open portals. They said, laughing, "Here goes a company to the temple–there are many days and months in the world [to do that in]!" But there was one [standing by] who said: "What is it to fatten the eyes for a moment? They are firmly determined. They will surely receive Buddha's favour; we ought also to make up our minds [for the good] without sight-seeing." Thus one man spoke seriously.

I had wanted to leave the city before broad daylight, and had started in the middle of the night, but had to wait for belated persons till the very thick fog became thinner. People flowed in from the country like a river. Nobody could turn aside to make room for anybody else, and even the ill-behaved and vulgar children, who passed beside my carriage with some [Page 56]  difficulty, had words of wonder and contempt for us. I felt sorry that I had started that day, yet praying to Buddha with all my heart, I arrived at the ferry of Uji. Even there the people were coming up to the city in throngs, and the ferry-man, seeing these numberless people, was filled with his own importance, and grew proud. He, tucking up his sleeves against his face and leaning on his pole, would not bring the boat at once. He looked around whistling and assumed an indifferent air. We could not cross the river for a long time, so I looked around the place, which I had felt a curiosity to see, ever since reading Genji-monogatari which tells that the daughter of the Princess of Uji lived here. I thought it a charming spot. At last we managed to get across the river and went to see the Uji mansion. 1 I was at once reminded that the Lady Ukifuné [of the romance] had been living here.

As we had started before daybreak, my people were tired out, and rested at Hiroichi to take food. The Guard said: "Is that the famous mountain Kurikoma? It is towards evening, be ready with your armour" [to protect from robbers or evil spirits]. I listened to these words with a shudder, but we passed that mountain [without adventure] and the sun was on its summit when we arrived at the lake [Page 57]  of Nieno. They went in several directions to seek a lodging and returned saying there was no proper place, only an obscure hut; but as there was no other place we took that.

In the house there were only two men, for the rest had all gone to the Capital. Those two men did not sleep that night at all, but kept watch around the house. My maids who were in the recess [perhaps the outer part of the hut used as kitchen] asked, "Why do you walk about so?" and the men answered, "Why? we have rented our house to perfect strangers. What should we do if our kettles were stolen? Of course we cannot sleep!" I felt both dread and laughter to hear them.

In the early morning we left there and knelt before the great East Temple. 1 The temple at Iso-no-Kami was antique and on the verge of ruin. That night we lodged at Yamabé Temple. Although I was tired out, I recited sutras and went to sleep. In my dream I saw a very noble and pure woman. At her coming the wind blew deliciously. She found me out, and said, smiling, "For what purpose have you come?" I answered, "How could I help coming?" [since you are here], and she said, "You would better be in the Imperial Court, and become intimate with the Lady Hakasé." I was very much delighted and encouraged.

We crossed the river and arrived at the Hatsusé Temple at night. After purifying, I went up to the Temple. I remained three days, and slept expecting [Page 58]  to start in the morning. At midnight I dreamt that a cedar twig 1 was thrown into the room as a token bestowed by the Inari god. I was startled, but waking found it only a dream.

We began our return journey after midnight, and as we could not find a lodging, we again passed a night in a very small house, which seemed to be a very curious one somehow. "Do not sleep! Something unexpected will happen!" "Don't be frightened!" "Lie down even without breathing!" This was said and I spent the night in loneliness and dread. I felt that I lived a thousand years that night, and when the day dawned I saw that we were in a robbers' den. People said that the mistress of that house lived by a strange occupation.

We crossed the Uji River in a high wind and the ferry-boat passed very near the fishing seine.

Years have passed and only sounds of waters have come to my ears,
To-day, indeed, I may even count the ripples around the fishing net.

[This poem may seem a little obscure. It means that her own life had been lived long in a kind of dreamland of her own creating, but was gradually emerging into reality.]

If, as I am doing now, I continue to write down events four or five years after they have happened, [Page 59]  my life will seem to be that of a pilgrim, but it is not so. I am jotting down the happenings of several years. In the spring I went to Kurama Temple. It was a soft spring day, with mist trailing over the mountain-side. The mountain people brought tokoro [a kind of root] as the only food and I found it good. When I left there flowers were already gone.

In Gods-absent month I went again, and the mountain views along the way were more beautiful than before, the mountain-side brocaded with the autumn colours. The stream, rushing headlong, boiled up like molten metal and then shattered into crystals.

When I reached the monastery the maple leaves, wet with a shower, were brilliant beyond compare.

The pattern of the maple leaves in Autumn dyed with the rain–
Beautiful in the deep mountain!

After two years or so I went again to Ishiyama. It seemed to be raining, and I heard some one saying rain is disagreeable on a journey, but on opening the door I found the waning moon lighting even the depths of the ravine. What I thought rain was the stream rippling below the roots of the trees.

The sound of the mountain brook gives an illusion of rain drops,
Yet the calm of the waning moon shines over all.

The next time I went to Hasé Temple, my journey was not so solitary as before. Along the route various persons invited me to ceremonious dinners, and we made but slow progress. The autumn woods were beautiful at the Hahasono forest in Yamashiro. I [Page 60]  crossed the Hasé River. We stayed there for three days. This time we were too many to lodge in that small house on the other side of the Nara Pass, so we camped in the field. Our men passed the night lying on mukabaki 1 spread on the grass. They could not sleep for the dew which fell on their heads. The moon clear and more picturesque than elsewhere.

Even in our wandering journey,
The lonely moon accompanies us lighting us from the sky
The waning moon I used to gaze at in the Royal City.

As I could do as I liked, I went even to distant temples for worship, and my heart was consoled through both the pleasures and fatigues of the way. Though it was half diversion, yet it [her prayers] gave me hope. I had no pressing sorrow in those days and tried to bring up my boy in the manner I thought best, and was impatient of passing time. The man I depended upon [her husband] wished to attain to happiness like other people, and the future looked promising. A dear friend of mine, who used to exchange poems with me and continued to write, through many changes of situation, although not so often as of old, married the Governor of Echizen and went down to that Province. After that all communication between us ceased, so I wrote her a poem finding the means of sending it with great difficulty:

      Undying affection!
Can it end at last, overlaid with time
Even as snow covers the land in the Northern Province?
[Page 61] 

She wrote back:

Even a little pebble does not cease to be,
Though pressed under the snow of Hakusan;
So is my affection even though hidden.

I went down to a hollow of Nishiyama [in the western hills of Kioto]. There were flowers blooming in confusion. It was beautiful, yet lonely. There was no sight of man. A tranquil haze enclosed us.

Far from towns, in the heart of the mountain,
The cherry blooms, and wastes its blooms away
With none to see.

When the sorrow of the World 1 troubled my heart I made a retreat in the Uzumasa Temple. To me there arrived a letter from one who served the Princess. While I was answering it the temple bell was heard.

The outer world of many sorrows
Is not to be forgotten even here.
At the sound of the evening bell
Lonely grows my heart.

To the beautifully tranquil palace of the Princess I went one day to talk with two congenial friends. The next day, finding life rather tedious, I thought longingly of them and sent a poem: 2

Knowing the place of our meeting to be the sea of tears,
Where memories ripple, and affections flow back,
Yet we ventured into it–and my longing for you grew stronger than ever.

One wrote back:

We ventured into that sea,
To find the pearls of consolement,
No pearls, but drops of sad, sweet tears we found.
[Page 62] 

And the other:

Who would venture into the sea of tears
Seeking for the chance with zealous care,
Had not the flowers of lovely vision floated in it!

That friend being of the same mind with me, we used to talk over every joy and sorrow of the world, but she went down to the Province of Chikuzen in Kyushu [extreme southwest of old Japan]. On a moon-bright night I went to bed thinking of her with longing, for in the palace we had been wont not to sleep on such a night, but to sit up gazing into the sky. I dreamed that we were in the palace and saw each other as we had done in reality. I awoke startled; the moon was then near the western ridge of the mountain and I thought "I would I had not wakened" 1 [quoting from a famous poem].

Tell her, oh, western-going moon,
That dreaming of her I could sleep no more,
But all the night
My pillow was bedewed with loving tears.

In the Autumn [1056] I had occasion to go down to the Province of Izumi. 2 From Yodo the journey was very picturesque. We passed a night at Takahama. It was dark, and in the depths of the night I heard the sound of an oar, and was told that a singer had come. My companions called her boat to come alongside ours. She was lighted by a distant fire, her sleeves [Page 63]  were long, she shaded her face with a fan and sung. She was charming. The next evening, when the sun was still on the mountain-top, we passed the beach of Sumiyoshi. It was seen all in mist, and pine branches, the surface of the sea, and the beach where waves rolled up, combined to make a scene more beautiful than a picture.

It is an evening of Autumn
–The seashore of Sumiyoshi!
Can words describe it?
What can be compared with it?

Even after the boat was towed along, I looked back again and again, never satiated.

In the Winter I returned to Kioto. We took our boat at Oé Bay. That night a tempest raged with such fury that the very rocks seemed to be shaken. The god of Thunder 1 came roaring, and the sound of dashing waves, the tumult of the wind, the horrors of the sea, made me feel that life was coming to an end. But they dragged the boat ashore, where we spent the night. The rain stopped, but not the wind, and we could not start. We passed five or six days on these wide-stretching sands. When the wind had gone down a little, I looked out, rolling up the curtain of my cabin. The evening tide was rising swiftly and cranes called to each other in the bay.

People of the Province came in crowds to see us, and said that if the boat had been outside the bay that night it would have been seen no more. Even the thought terrified me. [Page 64] 

Off Ishitsu, in the wild sea
The boat driven before the storm
Fades away and is seen no more.

The wild gusts drive the boat–
Into the wild sea she disappears–
      Off Ishitsu!

I devoted myself in various ways for the World [her husband]. Even in serving at Court one had likewise to devote one's self unceasingly. What favor could one win by returning to the parents' home from time to time?

As I advanced in age I felt it unbecoming to behave as young couples do. While I was lamenting I grew ill, and could not go out to temples for worship. Even this rare going out was stopped, and I had no hope of living long, but I wanted to give my younger children a safer position while I was alive.

I grieved and waited for the delightful thing [an appointment] for my husband. In Autumn he got a position, 1 but not so good a one as we had hoped, and we were much disappointed. It was not so distant as the place from which he had returned, so he made up his mind to go, and we hastily made preparations. He started from the house where his daughter had recently gone to live. 2 It was after the tenth of the Gods-absent month. I could not know what had happened after he started, but all seemed happy on [Page 65]  that day. He was accompanied by our boy. My husband wore a red coat and pale purple kimono, 1 and aster-coloured hakama [divided skirt], and carried a long sword. The boy wore blue figured clothes and red hakama, and they mounted their horses beside the veranda.

When they had gone out noisily I felt very, very lonely. As I had heard the Province was not so distant I was less hopeless than I had been before.

The people who accompanied him to see him off returned the next day and told me that they had gone down with great show [of splendour] and, then continuing, said they had seen human fire 2 this morning starting [from the company] and flying towards the Capital. I tried to suppose it to be from some one of his retinue. How could I think the worst? I could think of nothing but how to bring up these younger ones.

He came back in the Deutzia month of the next year and passed the Summer and Autumn at home, and on the twenty-fifth of the Long-night month he became ill.

1058. On the fifth day of the Tenth month all became like a dream. 3 My sorrows could be compared to nothing in this world.

Now I knew that my present state had been re- [Page 66]  flected in the mirror offered to the Hasé Temple [about twenty-five years before by her mother] where some one was seen weeping in agony. The reflection of the happier one had not been realized. That could never be in the future.

On the twenty-third we burnt his remains with despairing hearts, my boy, who went down with him last Autumn, being dressed exquisitely and much attended, followed the bier weeping in black clothes with hateful things [mourning insignia] on them. My feeling when I saw him going out can never be expressed. I seemed to wander in dreams and thought that human life must soon cease here. If I had not given myself up to idle fictions [she herself had written several] and poetry, but had practiced religious austerities night and day, I would not have seen such a dream-world.

At Hasé Temple a cedar branch was cast down to me by the Inari god and this thing [the loss of her husband] would not have happened if I had visited the Inari shrine on my way home. The dreams which I had seen in these past years which bid me pray to the Heaven Illuminating Honoured Goddess meant that I should have been in the Imperial Court as a nurse, sheltered behind the favour of the King and Queen–so the dream interpreter interpreted my dream, but I could not realize this. Only the sorrowful reflection in the mirror was realized unaltered. O pitiful and sorrowful I ! Thus nothing could happen as I willed, and I wandered in this world doing no virtuous deed for the future life. [Page 67] 

Life seemed to survive sorrows, but I was uneasy at the thought that things would happen against my will, even in the future life. There was only one thing I could rely on.

Ceaseless tears–clouded mind:
Bright scene–moon-shadow.

On the thirteenth of the Tenth month [1055] I dreamed one night this dream:

There in the garden of my house at the farthest ledge stood Amitabha Buddha! He was not seen distinctly, but as if through a cloud. I could snatch a glimpse now and then when the cloud lifted. The lotus-flower pedestal was three or four feet above the ground; the Buddha was about six feet high.

Golden light shone forth; one hand was extended, the fingers of the other were bent in form of benediction. None but I could see him, yet I felt such reverence that I dared not approach the blind to see him better. None but I might hear him saying, "Then this time I will go back, and afterwards come again to receive you." I was startled and awoke into the fourteenth day. This dream only was my hope for the life to come. 1

I had lived with my husband's nephews, but after that sad event we parted not to meet again. One very dark night I was visited by the nephew who was living at Rokuhara; I could not but welcome so rare a guest. [Page 68] 

No moon, and darkness deepens
Around Obásuté. Why have you come?
It cannot be to see the moon! 1

After that time [the death of her husband] an intimate friend stopped all communication.

She may be thinking that I
Am no more in this world, yet my days
Are wasted in weeping.
Weeping, alas!

In the Tenth month I turned, my eyes full of tears, towards the intensely bright moon.

Even into the mind always clouded with grief,
There is cast the reflection of the bright moon.

Years and months passed away. Whenever I recollected the dream-like incident [of his death] my mind was troubled and my eyes filled so that I cannot think distinctly of those days.

My people went to live elsewhere and I remained alone in my solitary home. I was tired of meditation and sent a poem to one who had not called on me for a long time.

Weeds grow before my gate
And my sleeves are wet with dew,
No one calls on me,
My tears are solitary–alas!

She was a nun and she sent an answer:

The weeds before a dwelling house
  May remind you of me!
Bushes bury the hut
Where lives the world-deserted one.


Editor: Mary Mark Ockerbloom


[Page 3]

1 Her father Takasué was appointed Governor of Kazusa in 1017, and the authoress, who was then nine years old, was brought from Kioto to the Province.

2 Prince Genji: The hero of Genji-monogatari, a novel by Murasaki-Shikibu.

3 Yakushi Buddha: "The Buddha of healing," or Sanscrit, Bhaisajyaguru-Vaiduryaprabhah.

[Page 4]

1 Original, Nagatsuki, September.

2 Ancient ladies avoided men's eyes and always sat behind sudaré (finely split bamboo curtain) through which they could look out without being seen.

3 High personages, Governors of Provinces or other nobles, travelled with a great retinue, consisting of armed horsemen, foot-soldiers, and attendants of all sorts both high and low, together with the luggage necessary for prolonged existence in the wilderness. From [Page 5] Tokyo to Kioto nowadays the journey is about twelve hours. It took about three months in the year 1017.

[Page 5]

1 Futoi River is called the River Edo at present.

2 Matsusato, now called Matsudo.

3 Kagami's rapids, now perhaps Karameki-no-se.

[Page 6]

1 Common gromwell, Lithospermum.

[Page 7]

1 Takeshiba: Now called Shibaura, place-name in Tokyo near Shinagawa. Another manuscript reads: "This was the manor house of Takeshiba."

2 Misu: finer sort of sudaré used in court or in Shinto shrine. Cf. note 2, p. 4.

[Page 8]

1 Seta Bridge is across the river from Lake Biwa, some seven or eight miles from Kioto.

2 In those days noblemen's and ladies' dresses were perfumed.

[Page 9]

1 Dera or tera = temple.

2 The original text may also be understood as follows: "After that the guards of the watch-fire were allowed to live with their wives in the palace."

3 In the Isé-monogatari (a book of Narihira's poetical works) the Sumida River is said to be on the boundary between Musashi and Shimofusa. So the italicized words seem to be the authoress's mis- [Page 10] take, or more probably an insertion by a later smatterer of literary knowledge who inherited the manuscript.

Narihira's poem is addressed to a sea-gull called Miyakodori, which literally means bird of the capital. Narihira had abandoned Kioto and was wandering towards the East. Just then his heart had been yearning after the Royal City and also after his wife, and that feeling must have been intensified by the name of the bird. (Cf. The Isé-monogatari, Section 9.)

Miyakodori! alas, that word
  Fills my heart again with longing,
Even you I ask, O bird,
  Does she still live, my beloved?

[Page 10]

1 According to "Sagami-Fudoki," or "The Natural Feature of Sagami Province," this district was in ancient times inhabited by Koreans. The natives could not distinguish a Korean from a Chinese, hence the name of Chinese Field. A temple near Oiso still keeps the name of Koraiji, or the Korean temple.

[Page 11]

1 This seems to be the last line of a kind of song called Imayo, perhaps improvised by the singers; its meaning may be as follows: "You compare us with singers of the Western Provinces; we are inferior to those in the Royal City; we may justly be compared with those in Osaka."

2 Hakoné Mountain has now become a resort of tourists and a place of summer residence.

[Page 12]

1 Fear of evil spirits which probably lived in the wild, and of robbers who certainly did.

2 Aoi, or Futaba-aoi. At the great festival of the Kamo shrine in Kioto the processionists crowned their heads with the leaves of this plant, so it must have been well known.

3 Mount Fuji was then an active volcano.

[Page 16]

1 The Princess was Sadako, daughter of King Sanjo, afterwards Queen of King Goshujaku (1037-1045).

2 Lacquered boxes, sometimes of great beauty, containing india ink and inkstone, brushes, rolls of paper.

[Page 17]

1 Plum-trees bloom between the first and second months of the old calendar.

2 By pestilence. People were often attacked by contagious diseases in those days, and they, who did not know about the nature of infection, called it by the name of "world-humor" or "world-disease," attributing its cause to the ill-humor of some gods or spirits.

3 In those days windows were covered with silk and could not be seen through.

[Page 18]

1 Fujiwara-no-Yukinari: One of the three famous calligraphers of that time.

2 Place where cremation was performed.

3 It is a Buddhist custom to go into retreat from time to time.

[Page 19]

1 Some of these books are not known now.

2 A kind of screen used in upper-class houses: see illustration.

3 Her lamp was rather like an Italian one–a shallow cup for oil fixed to a tall metal stem, with a wick projecting to one side.

4 Sadharmpundarika Sutra, or Sutra of the Lotus, in Sanscrit.

[Page 21]

1 In October it was the custom for all local gods to go for a conference to the residence of the oldest native god, in the Province of Idzumo; hence, Gods-absent month. This Province of Idzumo, full of the folklore of old Japan, has become well known to the world through the writings of Lafcadio Hearn.

[Page 22]

1 According to the superstition of those days people believed that every house was presided over by an earth god, which occupied the hearth in Spring, the gate in Summer, the well in Autumn, and the garden in Winter. It was dangerous to meet him when he changed his abode. So on that day the dwellers went out from their houses.

[Page 23]

1 Readers are urged to read the delightful essay of Lafcadio Hearn called "The Romance of the Milky Way" (Chogonka). Here it must suffice to relate the story of "Tanabata-himé" and the herdsman. Tanabata-tsume was the daughter of the god of the sky. She rejoiced to weave garments for her father and had no greater pleasure [Page 24] than that, until one day Hikiboshi, a young herdsman, leading an ox, passed by her door. Divining her love for him, her father gave his daughter the young herdsman for her husband, and all went well, until the young couple grew too fond of each other and the weaving was neglected. Thereupon the great god was displeased and "they were sentenced to live apart with the Celestial River between them," but in pity of their love they were permitted to meet one night a year, on the seventh day of the Seventh month. On that night the herdsman crosses the River of Heaven where Tanabata-tsume is waiting for him on the other side, but woe betide if the night is cloudy or rainy! Then the waters of the River of Heaven rise, and the lovers must wait full another year before the boat can cross.

Many of our beautiful poems have been written on this legend; sometimes it is Tanabata-himé who is waiting for her lord, sometimes it is Hikiboshi who speaks. The festival has been celebrated for 1100 years in Japan, and there is no country village which does not sing these songs on the seventh night of the Seventh month, and make offerings to the star gods of little poems tied to the freshly cut bamboo branches.

[Page 24]

1 River of Heaven: Milky Way.

[Page 25]

1 Name of an old song.

[Page 27]

1 The continuous writing of the cursive Japanese characters is often compared to a meandering river. "Ink seems to have frozen up" means that her eyes are dim with tears, and no more she can write continuously and flowingly.

[Page 29]

1 A mountain in a suburb of Kioto.

[Page 30]

1 This conversation in the original is a play upon words which cannot be translated.

[Page 33]

1 In an old chronicle of the times one reads that it was on February 8, 1032.

[Page 34]

1 The country people of the Eastern Provinces beyond Tokyo were then called "Eastern barbarians."

[Page 35]

1 Away from the Capital where the King resides is always down; towards the capital is always up.

2 This scene will be better understood by the reader if he remembers that her father was in the street in the midst of his train of attendants–an imposing cavalcade of bow-men, warriors, and attendants of all sorts, with palanquins and luggage, prepared to make a two or three months' journey through the wilderness to the Province of Hitachi, far in the East. She, as a Japanese lady could not go out to speak to him, but unconventionally she had drawn up the blind and "her eye met his."

[Page 36]

1 To translate: As there are a thousand kinds of flowers in the autumn fields, so there are a thousand reasons for going to the fields.

[Page 37]

1 The Toné River.

[Page 38]

1 Name of mountain in eastern part of Japan.

2 In the eastern part of Kioto, now a famous spot.

[Page 40]

1 The Isé shrine was first built in the year 5 B.C. See note on Isé shrine in Murasaki Shikibu Diary.

[Page 41]

1 Mt. Hiyé: 2500 ft.

[Page 43]

1 The custom of the Court obliged the court ladies to lead a life of almost no privacy–sleeping at night together in the presence of the Queen, and sharing their apartments with each other.

[Page 44]

1 Some words are lost from this sentence.

[Page 46]

1 Kazusa: Name of Province in the East.

2 Asakura is a place-name in Kyushu. There was a song entitled "Asakura" which seems to have been popular in those days and was sung in the Court.

[Page 47]

1 Hakasé is LL.D., so she might have been daughter of a scholar.

2 Special house devoted to use of a King's wife.

3 The Princess, whom our lady served, was the daughter of King Goshijaku's Queen. The Queen died 1039. After this the Royal Consort Umetsubo won the King's favour.

[Page 48]

1 Some words lost.

[Page 49]

1 A thirteen-stringed musical instrument.

2 A pipe made of seven reeds having a very clear, piercing sound.

3 Famous period in Chinese history.

[Page 50]

1 This gentleman's name is known.

2 He ruled from 970 to 984. It was now 1045.

[Page 52]

1 Something seems to have occurred which may have been her marriage to a noble of lower rank or inferior family than her own, but one can only infer this, she does not tell it.

[Page 53]

1 There is an old fable about parsley: A country person ate parsley and thought it very fine, so he went up to the Capital to present it to the King, but the King was not so much pleased, for he could not find it good. So "to gather parsley" means to endeavour to win others' favour by offering something we care for but others do not.

[Page 54]

1 Goreizai, from 1046 to 1068.

[Page 56]

1 This is called the Byodoin and is one of the famous buildings now existing in Japan (see illustrations in Cram's Impressions of Japanese Architecture ), built upon an exquisite design, and original in character. It had been the villa of the Prime Minister, but was made into a temple in 1051, when the riches of the interior decorations were more like the gorgeousness of Indian temples than the chaster decorations of Japan.

[Page 57]

1 At Nara where the great Buddha, 160 feet high, was already standing.

[Page 58]

1 In those days it was the custom for the person who wished to be favoured by the Inari god to crown his head with a twig of cedar. The Inari god was then the god of the rice-plant. He is now confused with the fox-god whose little shrines, flanked by small stone foxes, are seen everywhere.

[Page 60]

1 A kind of leathern shield made of untanned deerskin worn hanging from the shoulder.

[Page 61]

1 The World: i.e. her husband.

2 The following poems have been found impossible of literal translation on account of play of words.

[Page 62]

1 As I slept fondly thinking of him
  He appeared to my sight–
Oh, I would I had not wakened
  To find it only a dream!

2 Her brother Sadayoshi was Governor of that Province.

[Page 63]

1 Kaminari sama.

[Page 64]

1 In 1057, as Governor of Shinano Province.

2 She was thirty-five years old and her husband forty-one years old when they were married. We may suppose that she was his second wife. This daughter must have been borne by the first wife. The cause of starting from his daughter's house is some superstitious idea, and not the coldness of their relation.

[Page 65]

1 The rank of the person determined the colour of his clothes. Red was worn by nobles of the fifth degree.

2 The Japanese believed that "human fire" or spirit can be seen leaving the body of one who is soon to die.

3 Her husband died.

[Page 67]

1 At death the Lord Buddha coming on a cloud appears to the faithful one and accompanies the soul to Heaven.

[Page 68]

1 The point of this is in the name of the place, Obásuté, which may be translated, "Aunt Casting Away," or "Cast-Away-Aunt." It is a place famous for the beauty of its scenery in moonlight.

Editor: Mary Mark Ockerbloom