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Translation Assistance For Inscribed Kozuka

kokyo jin

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A theme of the Kozuka is "Fujimi-Saigyo"(Priest Saigyo seeing Mt. Fuji).


The waka poem is Priest Saigyo's poem.

I can read the Waka poem of the Kozuka,but English translation is difficult to me.




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Good morning all.,


If it helps,  I make it out as:


 いつとなき、Itsu to naki, 


思ひは富士の、omohi wa Fuji no,


 烟にて、 kemuri nite,


 おきふす床や、oki fusu yuka ya, 


うき島が原 uki shima ga Hara


Any thoughts Piers or Steve M?

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My thoughts? You have done a sterling job, Malcolm!

To translate something like this with no cultural background would be more foolhardy than daring.

On the face of it:

Of a sudden
Thoughts of Fuji (arise)
In the smoke
Awake or asleep,
And Uki-Shima-ga-Hara swamps below

*Nowadays the salty swamps at the foot of Mt Fuji have largely been drained, apparently.

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Just a thought, the waka poem is called Fujimi Saigyo.


No 9 of Hokusai's 36 view of mt Fuji is called 尾州不二見原 Bishu Fujimi ga - Hara


Could this be the likely viewing point for Saigyo?


Also, Piers' sterling translation aside, there are two further treatments of Saigyo's works


Saigyô, Poems of a Mountain Home, translated by Burton Watson, Columbia University Press, 1991  


Saigyô, Mirror for the Moon: A Selection of Poems by Saigyô (1118-1190), translated by William R. LaFleur, New Directions 1978.

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Its a love poem,


My feelings continue, like the never ending smoke from Mt. Fuji

My restless room, like Ukishimagahara


The person is neither asleep nor awake, restless and unsettled. The thoughts of a lost love continue to drift into his mind, like the smoke that continues to rise from Mt. Fuji. And the bedroom is likened to Ukishimagahara, wetlands (marshes, swamps, although I think swamps would not evoke the right image) which stretch out to the foothills of Mt. Fuji. At play here is the word and image of uki-shima (浮き島)or "floating island", a physical location, but also an allusion to the bed floating on tears shed for the lost love, and the tears creating a marshland. And interesting again because we can imagine it was written before Saigyō became a priest, and so there is an added pathos of the priest in the image on the kozuka, looking back on not only Mt. Fuji, but also looking back on his thoughts and emotions as a young man. An interesting theme for a kozuka. 


Standing on the shoulders of a couple of giants here, including the following

No way I would have been able to figure that out on my own. 

(Note this poem is part of the "Poems of a Mountain Home" that Malcom mentions above.)

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