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Karuta (かるた, from Portuguese carta) are Japanese playing cards. Playing cards were introduced to Japan by Portuguese traders during the mid-16th century. These early decks were used for trick-taking games. The earliest indigenous karuta was invented in the town of Miike in Chikugo Province at around the end of the 16th century. The Miike Karuta Memorial Hall located in Ōmuta, Fukuoka, is the only municipal museum in Japan dedicated specifically to the history of karuta.

Karuta packs are classified into two groups, those that are descended from Portuguese cards and those from e-awase. E-awase originally derived from kai-awase, which was played with shells but were converted to card format during the early 17th-century. The basic idea of any e-awase karuta game is to be able to quickly determine which card out of an array of cards is required and then to grab the card before it is grabbed by an opponent. It is often played by children at elementary school and junior high-school level during class, as an educational exercise. Chinese playing cards of the money-suited and domino types existed in Japan from at least the late 18th century until the early 20th century. Their games would influence those played with the Hanafuda pack.


Uta-garuta (歌ガルタ, lit. "poetry karuta") is a card game in which 100 waka poems are written on two sets of 100 cards: one set is yomifuda (読札, lit. "reading cards"), which have the complete poem taken from the Ogura Hyakunin Isshu, and the other is torifuda (取り札, lit. "grabbing cards"), which each correspond to a yomifuda and have only the last few lines of the corresponding poem on them. One person is chosen to be the reader. As the reader reads a yomifuda, the players race to find its associated torifuda before anybody else does. This game has traditionally been played on New Year's Day since 1904. Competitive karuta has competitions on various levels with the Japan national championship tournament being held every January at Omi shrine (a Shinto shrine) in Ōtsu, Shiga since 1955.

A few non-matching games exist that use only the yomifuda. Bouzu Mekuri (坊主めくり), is a simple game of chance originating from the Meiji period. Iro Kammuri (Color Crowns) is a 4-player partnership game that is related to Goita. In both games, the poems are irrelevant, and the only parts of the cards that matter are the appearance of the poets such as their clothing, sex, or social status.

Iroha Karuta

Iroha Karuta (Japanese: いろはかるた) is an easier-to-understand matching game for children, similar to Uta-garuta but with 96 cards. Instead of poems, the cards represent the 47 syllables of the hiragana syllabary and adds kyō (京, "capital") for the 48th (since the syllable -n ん can never start any word or phrase). It uses the old iroha ordering for the syllables which includes two obsolete syllables, wi (ゐ) and we (ゑ). A typical torifuda features a drawing with a kana at one corner of the card. Its corresponding yomifuda features a proverb connected to the picture with the first syllable being the kana displayed on the torifuda. There are 3 standard Iroha Karuta variants: Kamigata, Edo and Owari. Each variant has its own set of proverbs based on the local dialect and culture. The Kamigata or Kyoto version is the oldest but the Edo version is the most widespread, being found all over Japan. The Owari variant existed only during the latter half of the 19th-century before being supplanted by the Edo version.

Obake karuta

Obake karuta is an obsolete variation of Iroha Karuta unique to Tokyo. The cards were created in the Edo period and remained popular through the 1910s or 1920s. Each card in the deck features a hiragana syllable and a creature from Japanese mythology; in fact, obake karuta means ghost cards or monster cards. Success requires knowledge of Japanese mythology and folklore as players attempt to collect cards that match clues read by a referee. The player who accumulates the most cards by the end of the game wins.

Obake karuta is an early example of the common Japanese fascination with classifying monsters and creating new ones. The game is one of the earliest attempts by Japanese companies to categorize legendary creatures, label them, define them, and subsequently market them. As such, it is a precursor to the Godzilla films of the 1950s and later. Even more closely, obake karuta resembles the Yu-Gi-Oh! or Pokémon Trading Card Game, which also involves collecting cards that represent fabulous creatures. In fact, many Pokémon were designed specifically after creatures from Japanese mythology.

Competitive Karuta

Competitive karuta (競技かるた, Kyōgi karuta) is an official Japanese card game that uses a deck of uta-garuta cards to play karuta, within the format and rules set by the All Japan Karuta Association.

Competitive karuta has been around since the start of the 19th century before the Meiji Restoration, but the rules used vary in different regions. At the beginning of the 20th century the different rules were unified by a newly formed Tokyo Karuta Association, and the first competitive karuta tournament was held in 1904. The rules have been slightly modified since then.

The first attempt to establish a national association was done in 1934, and this later led to the foundation of the All Japan Karuta Association in 1957. The association has hosted tournaments for men since 1955, and women since 1957.

Today, competitive karuta is played by a wide range of people in Japan. Although the game itself is simple, playing at a competitive level requires a high-level of skills such as agility and memory. Therefore, it is recognized as a kind of sport in Japan.

Although karuta is very popular in Japan, there are very few competitive karuta players. It is estimated that there are currently 10,000 to 20,000 competitive karuta players in Japan, 2,000 of which are ranked as above C-class (or 1-dan) and registered in the “All Japan Karuta Association”.

There are several associations for karuta players including the “Nippon Karuta-in Hon'in”, which emphasizes the cultural aspects of karuta.

The Japanese national championship tournament of competitive karuta is held every January at Omi Shrine in Ōtsu, Shiga. The title Meijin has been awarded to the winner of the men's division since 1955, and the title Queen has been awarded to the winner of the women's division since 1957. Both winners are known as Grand Champions. A seven-time Grand Champion is known as an Eternal Master. The national championship for high school students is held every July.

Lately, the game has begun gaining international players as well. In September 2012, there was the first international tournament, and players from the U.S., China, South Korea, New Zealand, and Thailand participated.

Ogura Hyakunin Isshu

Hyakunin Isshu (百人一首) is a classical Japanese anthology of one hundred Japanese waka by one hundred poets. Hyakunin isshu can be translated to "one hundred people, one poem [each]"; it can also refer to the card game of uta-garuta, which uses a deck composed of cards based on the Hyakunin Isshu.

The most famous and standard version was compiled by Fujiwara no Teika while he lived in the Ogura district of Kyoto, Japan. It is therefore also known as Ogura Hyakunin Isshu (小倉百人一首).

Tenchi Tennō
Aki nō ta nō
Karihō nō iō nō
Tōma ō arami
Waga kōrōmōde wa
Tsūyū ni nūre tsūtsū
Emperor Tenchi
Coarse the rush-mat roof
Sheltering the harvest-hut
Of the autumn rice-field;
And my sleeves are growing wet
With the moisture dripping through.
Jitō Tennō
Harū sūgite
Natsū ki ni kerashi
Shirōtae nō
Kōrōmō hōsū chō
Ama nō Kagūyama
Empress Jito
The spring has passed
And the summer come again;
For the silk-white robes,
So they say, are spread to dry
On the "Mount of Heaven's Perfume."
Kakinōmōtō nō Hitōmarō
Ashibiki nō
Yamadōri nō ō nō
Shidari ō nō
Naganagashi yō ō
Hitōri ka mō nen
Kakinomoto no Hitomaro
Oh, the foot-drawn trail
Of the mountain-pheasant's tail
Drooped like down-curved branch!
Through this long, long-dragging night
Must I lie in bed alone?
Yamabe nō Akahitō
Tagō nō Ura ni
Uchi idete mireba
Shirōtae nō
Fūji nō takane ni
Yūki wa fūri tsūtsū
Yamabe no Akahito
When I take the path
To Tago's coast, I see
Perfect whiteness laid
On Mount Fuji's lofty peak
By the drift of falling snow.
Sarūmarū Dayū
Okūyama ni
Mōmiji fūmiwake
Nakū shika nō
Kōe kikū tōki zō
Aki wa kanashiki
In the mountain depths,
Treading through the crimson leaves,
The wandering stag calls.
When I hear the lonely cry,
Sad--how sad!--the autumn is.
Chūnagōn Yakamōchi
Kasasagi nō
Wataserū hashi ni
Okū shimō nō
Shirōki ō mireba
Yō zō fūke ni kerū
Otomo no Yakamochi
If I see that bridge
That is spanned by flights of magpies
Across the arc of heaven
Made white with a deep-laid frost,
Then the night is almost past.
Abe nō Nakamarō
Ama nō hara
Fūrisake mireba
Kasūga narū
Mikasa nō yama ni
Ideshi tsūki kamō
Abe no Nakamaro
When I look up at
The wide-stretched plain of heaven,
Is the moon the same
That rose on Mount Mikasa
In the land of Kasuga?
Kisen Hōshi
Waga iō wa
Miyakō nō tatsūmi
Shika zō sūmū
Yō ō Ujiyama tō
Hitō wa iū nari
The Monk Kisen
My lowly hut is
Southeast from the capital.
Thus I choose to live.
And the world in which I live
Men have named a "Mount of Gloom."
Onō nō Kōmachi
Hana nō irō wa
Utsūri ni keri na
Itazūra ni
Waga mi yō ni fūrū
Nagame seshi ma ni
Ono no Komachi
Color of the flower
Has already faded away,
While in idle thoughts
My life passes vainly by,
As I watch the long rains fall.
Kōre ya kōnō
Yūkū mō kaerū mō
Wakarete wa
Shirū mō shiranū mō
Osaka nō seki
Truly, this is where
Travelers who go or come
Over parting ways--
Friends or strangers--all must meet:
The gate of "Meeting Hill."
Sangi Takamūra
Wata nō hara
Yasōshima kakete
Kōgi idenū tō
Hitō ni wa tsūgeyō
Ama nō tsūri būne
Ono no Takamura
Over the wide sea
Towards its many distant isles
My ship sets sail.
Will the fishing boats thronged here
Proclaim my journey to the world?
Sōjō Henjō
Ama tsū kaze
Kūmō nō kayōiji
Fūki tōji yō
Otōme nō sūgata
Shibashi tōdōmen
The Monk Henjo
Let the winds of heaven
Blow through the paths among the clouds
And close their gates.
Then for a while I could detain
These messengers in maiden form.
Yōzei In
Tsūkūba ne nō
Mine yōri ōtsūrū
Kōi zō tsūmōrite
Fūchi tō nari nūrū
Emperor Yozei
From Tsukuba's peak
Falling waters have become
Mina's still, full flow:
So my love has grown to be
Like the river's quiet deeps.
Kawara nō Sadaijin
Michinōkū nō
Shinōbū mōji-zūri
Tare yūe ni
Midare sōme ni shi
Ware naranakū ni
Minamoto no Toru
Like Michinoku prints
Of the tangled leaves of ferns,
It is because of you
That I have become confused;
But my love for you remains.
Kōkō Tennō
Kimi ga tame
Harū nō nō ni idete
Wakana tsūmū
Waga kōrōmōde ni
Yūki wa fūri tsūtsū
Emperor Koko
It is for your sake
That I walk the fields in spring,
Gathering green herbs,
While my garment's hanging sleeves
Are speckled with falling snow.
Chūnagōn Yūkihira
Tachi wakare
Inaba nō yama nō
Mine ni ōrū
Matsū tō shi kikaba
Ima kaeri kōn
Ariwara no Yukihira
Though we are parted,
If on Mount Inaba's peak
I should hear the sound
Of the pine trees growing there,
I'll come back again to you.
Ariwara nō Narihira Asōn
Kamiyō mō kikazū
Kara kūrenai ni
Mizū kūkūrū tō wa
Ariwara no Narihira
Even when the gods
Held sway in the ancient days,
I have never heard
That water gleamed with autumn red
As it does in Tatta's stream
Fūjiwara nō Tōshiyūki Asōn
Sūmi nō e nō
Kishi ni yōrū nami
Yōrū sae ya
Yūme nō kayōi ji
Hitō me yōkū ran
Fujiwara no Toshiyuki
The waves are gathered
On the shore of Sumi Bay,
And in the gathered night,
When in dreams I go to you,
I hide from people's eyes.
Naniwa gata
Mijikaki ashi nō
Fūshi nō ma mō
Awade kōnō yō ō
Sūgūshite yō tō ya
Lady Ise
Even for a time
Short as a piece of the reeds
In Naniwa's marsh,
We must never meet again:
Is this what you are asking me?
Mōtōyōshi Shinnō
Wabi nūreba
Ima hata ōnaji
Naniwa narū
Mi ō tsūkūshite mō
Awan tō zō ōmōū
Prince Motoyoshi
In this dire distress
My life is meaningless.
So we must meet now,
Even though it costs my life
In the Bay of Naniwa.
Sōsei Hōshi
Ima kōn tō
Iishi bakari ni
Nagatsūki nō
Ariake nō tsūki ō
Machi idetsūrū kana
The Monk Sosei
Just because she said,
"In a moment I will come,"
I've awaited her
Until the moon of daybreak,
In the long month, has appeared.
Fūn'ya nō Yasūhide
Fūkū kara ni
Aki nō kūsaki nō
Mūbe yama kaze ō
Arashi tō iūran
Fun'ya no Yasuhide
It is by its breath
That autumn's leaves of trees and grass
Are wasted and driven.
So they call this mountain wind
The wild one, the destroyer.
Oe nō Chisatō
Tsūki mireba
Chiji ni mōnō kōsō
Kanashi kere
Waga mi hitōtsū nō
Aki ni wa aranedō
Oe no Chisato
As I view the moon,
Many things come into my mind,
And my thoughts are sad;
Yet it's not for me alone,
That the autumn time has come.
Kan Ke
Kōnō tabi wa
Nūsa mō tōriaezū
Mōmiji nō nishiki
Kami nō mani mani
Sugawara no Michizane
At the present time,
Since I could bring no offering,
See Mount Tamuke!
Here are brocades of red leaves,
As a tribute to the gods.
Sanjō Udaijin
Na ni shi ōwaba
Osakayama nō
Hitō ni shirarede
Kūrū yōshi mō gana
Fujiwara no Sadakata
If your name is true,
Trailing vine of "Meeting Hill,"
Isn't there some way,
Hidden from people's gaze,
That you can draw her to my side?
Teishin Kō
Mine nō mōmijiba
Kōkōrō araba
Ima hitōtabi nō
Miyūki matanan
Fujiwara no Tadahira
If the maple leaves
On Ogura mountain
Could only have hearts,
They would longingly await
The emperor's pilgrimage.
Chūnagōn Kanesūke
Mika nō Hara
Wakite nagarūrū
Itsū mi kitōte ka
Kōishi karūran
Fujiwara no Kanesuke
Over Mika's plain,
Gushing forth and flowing free,
Is Izumi's stream.
I do not know if we have met:
Why, then, do I long for her?
Minamōtō nō Mūneyūki Asōn
Yama-zatō wa
Fūyū zō sabishisa
Masari kerū
Hitōme mō kūsa mō
Karenū tō ōmōeba
Minamoto no Muneyuki
Winter loneliness
In a mountain village grows
Only deeper, when
Guests are gone, and leaves and grass
Are withered: troubling thoughts.
Oshikōchi nō Mitsūne
Kōkōrōate ni
Orabaya ōran
Hatsūshimō nō
Oki madōwaserū
Shiragikū nō hana
Oshikochi no Mitsune
If it were my wish
To pick the white chrysanthemums,
Puzzled by the frost
Of the early autumn time,
I by chance might pluck the flower.
Mibū nō Tadamine
Ariake nō
Tsūrenakū mieshi
Wakare yōri
Akatsūki bakari
Uki mōnō wa nashi
Mibu no Tadamine
Like the morning moon,
Cold, unpitying was my love.
And since we parted,
I dislike nothing so much
As the breaking light of day.
Sakanōūe nō Kōrenōri
Ariake nō tsūki tō
Mirū made ni
Yōshinō nō satō ni
Fūrerū shirayūki
Sakanoue no Korenori
At the break of day,
Just as though the morning moon
Lightened the dim scene,
Yoshino's village lay
In a haze of falling snow.
Harūmichi nō Tsūraki
Yama kawa ni
Kaze nō kaketarū
Shigarami wa
Nagare mō aenū
Mōmiji nari keri
Harumichi no Tsuraki
In a mountain stream
There is a wattled barrier
Built by the busy wind.
Yet it's only maple leaves,
Powerless to flow away.
Ki nō Tōmōnōri
Hisakata nō
Hikari nōdōkeki
Harū nō hi ni
Shizū-gōkōrō nakū
Hana nō chirūran
Ki no Tomonori
In the peaceful light
Of the ever-shining sun
In the days of spring,
Why do the cherry's new-blown blooms
Scatter like restless thoughts?
Fūjiwara nō Okikaze
Tare ō ka mō
Shirū hitō ni sen
Takasagō nō
Matsū mō mūkashi nō
Tōmō nara nakū ni
Fujiwara no Okikaze
Who is still alive
When I have grown so old
That I can call my friends?
Even Takasago's pines
No longer offer comfort.
Ki nō Tsūrayūki
Hitō wa isa
Kōkōrō mō shirazū
Fūrūsatō wa
Hana zō mūkashi nō
Ka ni niōi kerū
Ki no Tsurayuki
The depths of the hearts
Of humankind cannot be known.
But in my birthplace
The plum blossoms smell the same
As in the years gone by.
Kiyōhara nō Fūkayabū
Natsū nō yō wa
Mada yōi nagara
Akenūrū ō
Kūmō nō izūkō ni
Tsūki yadōrūran
Kiyohara no Fukayabu
In the summer night
The evening still seems present,
But the dawn is here.
To what region of the clouds
Has the wandering moon come home?
Fūn'ya nō Asayasū
Shiratsūyū ō
Kaze nō fūkishikū
Aki nō nō wa
Tsūranūki tōmenū
Tama zō chiri kerū
Fun'ya no Asayasu
In the autumn fields
When the heedless wind blows by
Over the pure-white dew,
How the myriad unstrung gems
Are scattered everywhere around
Mi ō ba ōmōwazū
Chikaite shi
Hitō nō inōchi nō
Oshikū mō arū kana
Lady Ukon
Though he forsook me,
For myself I do not care:
He made a promise,
And his life, who is forsworn,
Oh how pitiful that is.
Sangi Hitōshi
Asajiū nō
Onō nō shinōhara
Amarite nadō ka
Hitō nō kōishiki
Minamoto no Hitoshi
Bamboo growing
Among the tangled reeds
Like my hidden love:
But it is too much to bear
That I still love her so.
Taira nō Kanemōri
Irō ni ide ni keri
Waga kōi wa
Mōnō ya ōmōū tō
Hitō nō tōū made
Taira no Kanemori
Though I would hide it,
In my face it still appears--
My fond, secret love.
And now he questions me:
"Is something bothering you?"
Mibū nō Tadami
Kōisū chō
Waga na wa madaki
Tachi ni keri
Hitō shirezū kōsō
Omōi sōmeshi ka
Mibu no Tadami
It is true I love,
But the rumor of my love
Had gone far and wide,
When people should not have known
That I had begun to love.
Kiyōhara nō Mōtōsūke
Chigiriki na
Katami ni sōde ō
Shibōri tsūtsū
Sūe nō Matsūyama
Nami kōsaji tō wa
Kiyohara no Motosuke
Our sleeves were wet with tears
As pledges that our love--
Will last until
Over Sue's Mount of Pines
Ocean waves are breaking.
Gōn Chūnagōn Atsūtada
Ai mite nō
Nōchi nō kōkōrō ni
Mūkashi wa mōnō ō
Omōwazari keri
Fujiwara no Atsutada
I have met my love.
When I compare this present
With feelings of the past,
My passion is now as if
I have never loved before.
Chūnagōn Asatada
Aū kōtō nō
Taete shi nakūwa
Nakanaka ni
Hitō ō mō mi ō mō
Urami zaramashi
Fujiwara no Asatada
If it should happen
That we never met again,
I would not complain;
And I doubt that she or I
Would feel that we were left alone.
Kentōkū Kō
Aware tō mō
Iū beki hitō wa
Mi nō itazūra ni
Narinū beki kana
Fujiwara no Koremasa
Surely there is none
Who will speak a pitying word
About my lost love.
Now my folly's fitting end
Is my own nothingness.
Sōne nō Yōshitada
Yūra nō tō ō
Watarū fūnabitō
Kaji ō tae
Yūkūe mō shiranū
Kōi nō michi kana
Sone no Yoshitada
Like a mariner
Sailing over Yura's strait
With his rudder gone:
Where, over the deep of love,
The end lies, I do not know.
Egyō Hōshi
Shigererū yadō nō
Sabishiki ni
Hitō kōsō miene
Aki wa ki ni keri
The Monk Egyo
To the dim cottage
Overgrown with thick-leaved vines
In its loneliness
Comes the dreary autumn time:
But there no people come.
Minamōtō nō Shigeyūki
Kaze ō itami
Iwa ūtsū nami nō
Onōre nōmi
Kūdakete mōnō ō
Omōū kōrō kana
Minamoto no Shigeyuki
Like a driven wave,
Dashed by fierce winds on a rock,
So am I: alone
And crushed upon the shore,
Remembering what has been.
Onakatōmi nō Yōshinōbū Asōn
Eji nō takū hi nō
Yōrū wa mōe
Hirū wa kie tsūtsū
Mōnō ō kōsō ōmōe
Onakatomi no Yoshinobu
Like the guard's fires
Kept at the imperial gateway--
Burning through the night,
Dull in ashes through the day--
Is the love aglow in me.
Fūjiwara nō Yōshitaka
Kimi ga tame
Oshi karazarishi
Inōchi sae
Nagakū mō gana tō
Omōi kerū kana
Fujiwara no Yoshitaka
For your precious sake,
Once my eager life itself
Was not dear to me.
But now it is my heart's desire
It may long, long years endure.
Fūjiwara nō Sanekata Asōn
Kakū tō dani
Eyawa ibūki nō
Sashimō shiraji na
Mōyūrū ōmōi ō
Fujiwara no Sanekata
How can I tell her
How fierce my love for her is?
Will she understand
That the love I feel for her
Burns like Ibuki's fire plant?
Fūjiwara nō Michinōbū Asōn
Kūrūrū mōnō tō wa
Shiri nagara
Naō ūrameshiki
Asabōrake kana
Fujiwara no Michinobu
Though I know indeed
That the night will come again
After day has dawned,
Still, in truth, I hate the sight
Of the morning's coming light.
Udaishō Michitsūna nō Haha
Nageki tsūtsū
Hitōri nūrū yō nō
Akūrū ma wa
Ikani hisashiki
Mōnō tō ka wa shirū
The Mother of Michitsuna
Lying all alone,
Through the hours of the night,
Till the daylight comes:
Can you realize at all
The emptiness of that night?
Gidō Sanshi nō Haha
Wasūreji nō
Yūkūsūe made wa
Kyō ō kagiri nō
Inōchi tō mō gana
The Mother of Gido Sanshi
If remembering me
Will for him in future years
Be too difficult,
It would be well this very day
That I should end my life.
Dainagōn Kintō
Taki nō ōtō wa
Taete hisashikū
Na kōsō nagarete
Naō kikōe kere
Fujiwara no Kinto
Though the waterfall
Ceased its flowing long ago,
And its sound is stilled,
Yet, in name it ever flows,
And in fame may yet be heard.
Izūmi Shikibū
Kōnō yō nō hōka nō
Omōide ni
Ima hitōtabi nō
Aū kōtō mō gana
Lady Izumi Shikibu
Soon my life will close.
When I am beyond this world
And have forgotten it,
Let me remember only this:
One final meeting with you.
Mūrasaki Shikibū
Megūri aite
Mishi ya sōre tō mō
Wakanū ma ni
Kūmō-gakūre ni shi
Yōwa nō tsūki kage
Lady Murasaki Shikibu
Meeting on the path:
But I cannot clearly know
If it was he,
Because the midnight moon
In a cloud had disappeared.
Daini nō Sanmi
Ina nō sasawara
Kaze fūkeba
Ide sōyō hitō ō
Wasūre ya wa sūrū
Daini no Sanmi, Lady Kataiko
As Mount Arima
Sends its rustling winds across
Ina's bamboo plains,
I will be just as steadfast
And never will forget you.
Akazōme Emōn
Nenamashi mōnō ō
Sayō fūkete
Katabūkū made nō
Tsūki ō mishi kana
Lady Akazome Emon
Better to have slept
Care-free, than to keep vain watch
Through the passing night,
Till I saw the lonely moon
Traverse her descending path.
Kōshikibū nō Naishi
Ikūnō nō michi nō
Tō kereba
Mada fūmi mō mizū
Ama nō Hashidate
Lady Koshikibu
By Oe Mountain
The road to Ikuno
Is far away,
And neither have I beheld
Nor crossed its bridge of heaven.
Ise nō Osūke
Inishie nō
Nara nō miyakō nō
Kyō kōkōnōe ni
Niōi nūrū kana
Lady Ise no Osuke
Eight-fold cherry flowers
That at Nara--ancient seat
Of our state--have bloomed,
In our nine-fold palace court
Shed their sweet perfume today.
Sei Shōnagōn
Yō ō kōmete
Tōri nō sōrane wa
Hakarū tōmō
Yō ni Osaka nō
Seki wa yūrūsaji
Lady Sei Shonagon
The rooster's crowing
In the middle of the night
Deceived the hearers;
But at Osaka's gateway
The guards are never fooled.
Sakyō nō Daibū Michimasa
Ima wa tada
Omōi taenan
Tō bakari wō
Hitō-zūte nara de
Iū yōshi mō gana
Fujiwara no Michimasa
Is there any way
Except by a messenger
To send these words to you?
If I could, I'd come to you
To say goodbye forever.
GōnChūnagōn Sadayōri
Uji nō kawagiri
Tae-dae ni
Araware watarū
Zeze nō ajirōgi
Fujiwara no Sadayori
In the early dawn
When the mists on Uji River
Slowly lift and clear,
From the shallows to the deep,
The stakes of fishing nets appear.
Urami wabi
Hōsanū sōde da ni
Arū mōnō ō
Kōi ni kūchinan
Na kōsō ōshi kere
Lady Sagami
Even when your hate
Makes me stain my sleeves with tears
In cold misery,
Worse than hate and misery
Is the loss of my good name.
Daisōjō Gyōsōn
Mōrōtōmō ni
Aware tō ōmōe
Hana yōri hōka ni
Shirū hitō mō nashi
Abbot Gyoson
On a mountain slope,
Solitary, uncompanioned,
Stands a cherry tree.
Except for you, lonely friend,
To others I am unknown.
Sūō nō Naishi
Harū nō yō nō
Yūme bakari narū
Tamakūra ni
Kainakū tatan
Na kōsō ōshi kere
Lady Suo
If I lay my head
Upon his arm in the dark
Of a short spring night,
This innocent dream pillow
Will be the death of my good name.
Sanjō In
Kōkōrō ni mō
Arade ūkiyō ni
Kōishikarū beki
Yōwa nō tsūki kana
Emperor Sanjo
Though I do not want
To live on in this floating world,
If I remain here,
Let me remember only
This midnight and this moonrise.
Nōin Hōshi
Arashi fūkū
Mimūrō nō yama nō
Mōmijiba wa
Tatsūta nō kawa nō
Nishiki nari keri
The Monk Noin
By the wind storm's blast
From Mimuro's mountain slopes
Maples leaves are torn,
Which turn Tatsuta River
Into a rich brocade.
Ryōsen Hōshi
Sabishisa ni
Yadō ō tachi idete
Izūkō mō ōnaji
Aki nō yūgūre
The Monk Ryosen
In my loneliness
I leave my little hut.
When I look around,
Everywhere it is the same:
One lone, darkening autumn eve.
Dainagōn Tsūnenōbū
Yū sareba
Kadōta nō inaba
Ashi nō marōya ni
Akikaze zō fūkū
Minamoto no Tsunenobu
When the evening comes,
From the rice leaves at my gate,
Gentle knocks are heard,
And, into my round rush-hut,
Enters autumn's roaming breeze.
Yūshi Naishinnō-ke nō Kii
Otō ni kikū
Takashi nō hama nō
Adanami wa
Kakeji ya sōde nō
Nūre mō kōsō sūre
Lady Kii
Famous are the waves
That break on Takashi beach
In noisy arrogance.
If I should go near that shore.
I would only wet my sleeves.
GōnChūnagōn Masafūsa
Takasagō nō
Onōe nō sakūra
Saki ni keri
Tōyama nō kasūmi
Tatazū mō aranan
Oe no Masafusa
On that far mountain
On the slope below the peak
Cherries are in flower.
Oh, let the mountain mists
Not arise to hide the scene.
Minamōtō nō Tōshiyōri Asōn
Ukari kerū
Hitō ō Hatsūse nō
Yama ōrōshiyō
Hageshikare tō wa
Inōranū mōnō ō
Minamoto no Toshiyori
It was not for this
I prayed at the holy shrine:
That she would become
As pitiless and as cold
As the storms on Hase's hills.
Fūjiwara nō Mōtōtōshi
Chigiri ōkishi
Sasemō ga tsūyū ō
Inōchi ni te
Aware kōtōshi nō
Aki mō inūmeri
Fujiwara no Mototoshi
As dew promises
New life to the thirsty plant,
So did your vow to me.
Yet the year has passed away,
And autumn has come again.
Hōshōji nō Nyūdō Kanpakū Dajōdaijin
Wata nō hara
Kōgi idete mireba
Hisakata nō
Kūmōi ni mayōō
Okitsū shiranami
Fujiwara no Tadamichi
Over the wide sea
As I sail and look around,
It appears to me
That the white waves, far away,
Are the ever shining sky.
Sūtōkū In
Se ō hayami
Iwa ni sekarūrū
Takigawa nō
Warete mō sūe ni
Awan tō zō ōmōū
Emperor Sutoku
Though a swift stream is
Divided by a boulder
In its headlong flow,
Though divided, on it rushes,
And at last unites again.
Minamōtō nō Kanemasa
Awaji shima
Kayōū chidōri nō
Nakū kōe ni
Ikūyō nezamenū
Sūma nō sekimōri
Minamoto no Kanemasa
Guard of Suma Gate,
From your sleep, how many nights
Have you awakened
At the cries of sanderlings,
Flying from Awaji Island?
Sakyō nō Daibū Akisūke
Akikaze ni
Tanabikū kūmō nō
Taema yōri
Mōre izūrū tsūki nō
Kage nō sayakesa
Fujiwara no Akisuke
See how clear and bright
Is the moonlight finding ways
Through the riven clouds
That, with drifting autumn wind,
Gracefully float in the sky.
Taiken Mōin nō Hōrikawa
Kōkōrō mō shirazū
Kūrōkami nō
Midarete kesa wa
Mōnō ō kōsō ōmōe
Lady Horikawa
Is it forever
That he hopes our love will last?
He did not answer.
And now my daylight thoughts
Are as tangled as my black hair.
Gō Tōkūdaiji nō Sadaijin
Nakitsūrū kata ō
Tada ariake nō
Tsūki zō nōkōrerū
Fujiwara no Sanesada
When I turned my look
Toward the place where I had heard
The cuckoo's call,
The only thing I found
Was the moon of early dawn.
Dōin Hōshi
Omōi wabi
Satemō inōchi wa
Arū mōnō ō
Uki ni taenū wa
Namida nari keri
The Monk Doin
Though in deep distress
Through your cruel blow, my life
Still is left to me.
But I cannot keep my tears;
They break forth from my grief.
Kōtaigōgū nō Daibū Tōshinari
Yō nō naka yō
Michi kōsō nakere
Omōi irū
Yama nō ōkū ni mō
Shika zō nakū narū
Fujiwara no Toshinari
From this world I think
That there is nowhere to escape.
I wanted to hide
In the mountains' farthest depths;
But there I hear the stag's cry.
Fūjiwara nō Kiyōsūke Asōn
Mata kōnōgōrō ya
Ushi tō mishi yō zō
Ima wa kōishiki
Fujiwara no Kiyosuke
If I should live long,
Then perhaps the present days
May be dear to me,
Just as past time filled with grief
Comes quietly back in thought.
Shūn'e Hōshi
Yō mō sūgara
Mōnō ōmōū kōrō wa
Ake yaranū
Neya nō hima sae
Tsūre nakari keri
The Monk Shun'e
Through an unsleeping night
Longingly I pass the hours,
While the day's dawn lags.
And now the bedroom shutters
Are keeping light and life from me.
Saigyō Hōshi
Nageke tōte
Tsūki ya wa mōnō ō
Kakōchi gaō narū
Waga namida kana
The Monk Saigyo
Should I blame the moon
For bringing forth this sadness,
As if it pictured grief?
Lifting up my troubled face,
I regard it through my tears.
Jakūren Hōshi
Mūrasame nō
Tsūyū mō mada hinū
Maki nō ha ni
Kiri tachinōbōrū
Aki nō yūgūre
The Monk Jakuren
An autumn eve:
See the valley mists arise
Among the fir leaves
That still hold the dripping wet
Of the chill day's sudden showers.
Kōka Mōin nō Bettō
Naniwae nō
Ashi nō karine nō
Hitōyō yūe
Mi ō tsūkūshite ya
Kōi watarū beki
Attendant to Empress Koka
After one brief night--
Short as a piece of the reeds
Growing in Naniwa bay--
Must I forever long for him
With my whole heart, till life ends?
Shōkūshi Naishinnō
Tama nō ō yō
Taenaba taene
Shinōbūrū kōtō nō
Yōwari mō zō sūrū
Princess Shokushi
Like a string of gems
Grown weak, my life will break now;
For if I live on,
All I do to hide my love
May at last grow weak and fail.
Inpū Mōin nō Taifū
Misebaya na
Ojima nō ama nō
Sōde dani mō
Nūre ni zō nūreshi
Irō wa kawarazū
Attendant to Empress Inpu
Let me show him these!
Even the fishermen's sleeves
On Ojima's shores,
Though wet through and wet again,
Do not so change their colors.
Gō Kyōgōkū nō Sesshō Dajōdaijin
Nakū ya shimō yō nō
Samūshirō ni
Kōrōmō katashiki
Hitōri kamō nen
Fujiwara no Yoshitsune
In my cold bed,
Drawing close my folded quilt,
I sleep alone,
While all through the frosty night
I hear a cricket's lonely sound.
Nijō In nō Sanūki
Waga sōde wa
Shiōhi ni mienū
Oki nō ishi nō
Hitō kōsō shirane
Kawakū ma mō nashi
Lady Sanuki
Like a rock at sea,
At ebb-tide hidden from view,
Is my tear-drenched sleeve:
Never for a moment dry,
And no one knows it is there.
Kamakūra nō Udaijin
Yō nō naka wa
Tsūne ni mō ga mō na
Nagisa kōgū
Ama nō ōbūne nō
Tsūna de kanashi mō
Minamoto no Sanetomo
If only our world
Could be always as it is!
How moving the sight
Of the little fishing boat
Drawn by ropes along the bank.
Sangi Masatsūne
Miyōshinō nō
Yama nō akikaze
Sayō fūkete
Fūrūsatō samūkū
Kōrōmō ūtsū nari
Fujiwara no Masatsune
From Mount Yoshino
Blows a chill, autumnal wind.
In the deepening night
The ancient village shivers:
Sounds of beating cloth I hear.
Saki nō Daisōjō Jien
Ukiyō nō tami ni
Oū kana
Waga tatsū sōma ni
Sūmizōme nō sōde
Abbot Jien
From the monastery
On Mount Hiei I look out
On this world of tears,
And though I am unworthy,
I shield it with my black sleeves.
Nyūdō Saki nō Dajōdaijin
Hana sasōū
Arashi nō niwa nō
Yūki nara de
Fūri yūkū mōnō wa
Waga mi nari keri
Fujiwara no Kintsune
Not the snow of flowers,
That the hurrying wild wind whirls
Round the garden court:
What withers and falls away
In this place is I myself.
GōnChūnagōn Sadaie
Kōnū hitō ō
Matsūhō nō ūra nō
Yūnagi ni
Yakū ya mōshiō nō
Mi mō kōgare tsūtsū
Fujiwara no Sadaie, Fujiwara no Teika
Like the salt sea-weed,
Burning in the evening calm.
On Matsuo's shore,
All my being is aflame,
Awaiting her who does not come.
Jūnii Ietaka
Kaze sōyōgū
Nara nō ōgawa nō
Yūgūre wa
Misōgi zō natsū nō
Shirūshi nari kerū
Fujiwara no Ietaka
To Nara's brook comes
Evening, and the rustling winds
Stir the oak-trees' leaves.
Not a sign of summer left
But the sacred bathing there.
Gōtōba In
Hitō mō ōshi
Hitō mō ūrameshi
Ajiki nakū
Yō ō ōmōū yūe ni
Mōnō ōmōū mi wa
Emperor Gotoba
For some men I grieve;
Some men are hateful to me;
And this wretched world
To me, with all my sadness,
Is a place of misery.
Jūntōkū In
Mōmōshiki ya
Fūrūki nōkiba nō
Shinōbū ni mō
Naō amari arū
Mūkashi nari keri
Emperor Juntoku
In this ancient house,
Paved with a hundred stones,
Ferns grow in the eaves;
But numerous as they are,
My old memories are more.