Category Archives: Learning

Hyakunin Isshu: My Interpretations

ONE HUNDRED POETS, ONE HUNDRED POEMS

(Note: The translations are mine, and they are heavily dosed with my own interpretation of the poems, so don’t take them too seriously.)

1

天智天皇
秋の田のかりほの庵の苫をあらみ
わが衣手は露にぬれつつ

Tenchi Tennou
Aki no ta no kariho no iho no toma wo arami
Waga koromode wa tsuyu ni nure tsutsu

Fall fields, a humble hut with a rush-mat roof, our sleeves wet from the dew.

2

持統天皇
春過ぎて夏来にけらし白妙の
衣ほすてふ天の香具山

Jitou Tennou
Haru sugite natsu ki ni kerashi shirotae no
Koromo hosu chou ama no kaguyama

Spring has ended, it seems summer has come as the silk white robes are hung to dry at Ama no Kagu Mountain

3

柿本人麿
あしびきの山鳥の尾のしだり尾の
ながながし夜をひとりかもねむ

Kakinomoto no Hitomaro
Ashibiki no yamadori no o no shidari o no
Naganagashi yo o hitori ka mo nen

Tail of a pheasant, long and drooping, like this long night I must spend alone

4

山辺赤人
田子の浦に打ち出でてみれば白妙の
富士の高嶺に雪はふりつつ

Yamabe no Akahito
Tago no ura ni uchi idete mireba shirotae no
Fuji no takane ni yuki wa furi tsutsu

Walking along the Tago coast, I can see the pure white snow falling on Fuji’s peak

5

猿丸大夫
奥山に紅葉ふみわけ鳴く鹿の
声きく時ぞ秋は悲しき

Sarumaru Dayuu
Okuyama ni momiji fumiwake naku shika no
Koe kiku toki zo aki wa kanashiki

Walking on the fall leaves in the middle of the mountains, I hear a stag calling and I think, How sad is autumn!

6

中納言家持
かささぎの渡せる橋に置く霜の
白きを見れば夜ぞふけにける

Chunagon Yakamochi
Kasasagi no wataseru hashi ni oku shimo no
Shiroki o mireba yo zo fuke ni keru

If I can see the white frost beyond the palace stairs which were named after the wings of magpies, I know that night is nearly done

7

安倍仲麿
天の原ふりさけ見れば春日なる
三笠の山に出でし月かも

Abe no Nakamaro
Ama no hara furisake mireba kasuga naru
Mikasa no yama ni ideshi tsuki kamo

When I look up into the heavens, is the moon I see the same one that I saw over Mikasa mountain in Kasuga?

8

喜撰法師
わが庵は都のたつみしかぞすむ
世をうぢ山と人はいふなり

Kisen Hoshi
Waga io wa miyako no tatsumi shika zo sumu
Yo o ujiyama to hito wa iu nari

My house is east of the capital and I live there peacefully even though some people say it is like the mountain of sorrow

9

小野小町
花の色はうつりにけりないたづらに
わが身世にふるながめせしまに

Ono no Komachi
Hana no iro wa utsuri ni keri na itazura ni
Waga mi yo ni furu nagame seshi ma ni

The colour of the flowers fade, my own life wasted in vain thoughts, sheets of raining pouring down on the world

10

蝉丸
これやこの行くも帰るも別れては
知るも知らぬも逢坂の関

Semimaru
Kore ya kono yuku mo kaeru mo wakarete wa
Shiru mo shiranu mo ousaka no seki

This is where, coming or going, friends or strangers must part ways at Ousaka barrier

11

参議篁
わたの原八十島かけてこぎ出ぬと
人には告げよあまのつり舟

Sangi Takamura
Wata no hara yasoshima kakete kogi idenu to
Hito ni wa tsugeyo ama no tsuri bune

I’m about to set sail out into the ocean, passing many islands on my way. Fishing boats, will you tell my friends in the capital that I’ve gone?

12

僧正遍昭
天つ風雲のかよひ路吹きとぢよ
乙女のすがたしばしとどめむ

Sojo Henjo
Ama tsu kaze kumo no kayoiji fuki toji yo
Otome no sugata shibashi todomen

Wind blowing in the skies, please push the clouds in front of the gates of heaven, because I want to enjoy the company of angels a little longer

13

陽成院
筑波嶺の峰より落つるみなの川
恋ぞつもりて淵となりぬる

Yozei In
Tsukuba ne no mine yori otsuru minano-gawa
Koi zo tsumorite fuchi to nari nuru

My love for you has grown deep, like the pools of water that collect from the water that flows from Tsukuba’s peak into the Minano River

14

河原左大臣
みちのくのしのぶもぢずり誰故に
乱れそめにし我ならなくに

Kawara no Sadaijin
Michinoku no shinobu moji-zuri tare yue ni
Midare some ni shi ware naranaku ni

Who has caused this unexpected confusion in my heart like the entangled patterns on Michinoku cloths?

15

光孝天皇
君がため春の野に出でて若菜つむ
わが衣手に雪はふりつつ

Koko Tenno
Kimi ga tame haru no no ni idete wakana tsumu
Waga koromode ni yuki wa furi tsutsu

For you, I go out in the spring fields and gather fresh herbs, the snow falling gently on my sleeves.

16

中納言行平
立ち別れいなばの山の峰に生ふる
まつとしきかば今かへりこむ

Chunagon Yukihira
Tachi wakare inaba no yama no mine ni oru
Matsu to shi kikaba ima kaeri kon

I must leave you now, but I will return at once, should I hear that you are waiting for me like the pines on Mount Inaba.

17

在原業平朝臣
千早ぶる神代もきかず龍田川
からくれないに水くくるとは

Ariwara no Narihira Ason
Chihayaburu kamiyo mo kikazu tatsuta-gawa
Kara kurenai ni mizu kukuru to wa

I have never heard, even in the age of the gods, of a river like Tatsuta, where the autumn leaves seem to turn the water crimson red.

18

藤原敏行朝臣
住の江の岸による波よるさへや
夢の通ひ路人目よくらむ

Fujiwara no Toshiyuki Ason
Sumi no e no kishi ni yoru nami yoru sae ya
Yume no kayoi ji hito me yoku ran L

ike the waves splashing on the shores of Sumi no E Bay,I want to go to you, to see you even in my dreams, and yet you avert your eyes.

19

伊勢
難波潟みじかき芦のふしのまも
あはでこの世を過ぐしてよとや

Ise
Naniwa gata mijikaki ashi no fushi no ma mo
Awade kono yo o sugushite yo to ya

Are you really asking me to live without ever seeing you again, not even for a short time like the space between the knots on reeds that grow in Naniwa marsh (rough waters)?

20

元良親王
わびぬれば今はた同じ難波なる
身をつくしても逢はむとぞ思ふ

Motoyoshi Shinno
Wabi nureba ima hata onaji naniwa naru
Mi o tsukushite mo awan to zo omou

Even though I feel a heavy load of guilt about what has happened, now that everyone knows, it doesn’t matter. Like a buoy in rough waters, I will sacrifice myself to see you.

21

素性法師
今来むといひしばかりに長月の
有明の月を待ち出でつるかな

Sosei Hoshi
Ima kon to iishi bakari ni nagatsuki no
Ariake no tsuki o machi idetsuru kana

You said you would come right away, so I waited. I waited for months, and now the morning moon of September has arrived.

22

文屋康秀
吹くからに秋の草木のしをるれば
むべ山風をあらしといふらむ

Fun’ya no Yasuhide
Fuku kara ni aki no kusaki no shiorureba
Mube yama kaze o arashi to iuran

When the wind blows in autumn, the trees and plants start to whither, and that is why the mountain wind is called “the destroyer”.

23

大江千里
月見れば千々に物こそ悲しけれ
わが身ひとつの秋にはあらねど

Oe no Chisato

Tsuki mireba chiji ni mono koso kanashi kere
Waga mi hitotsu no aki ni wa aranedo

When I see the moon, I think of a thousand things that make me sad. But I suppose it is not autumn for me alone.

24

菅家
このたびは幣もとりあへず手向山
紅葉のにしき神のまにまに

Kan Ke
Kono tabi wa nusa mo toriaezu tamukeyama
Momiji no nishiki kami no mani mani

For this trip, I am unable to bring a proper offering to you here at Tamuke mountain. Perhaps, you might accept this gift of crimson leaves in its place.

25

三条右大臣
名にしおはば逢坂山のさねかづら
人にしられでくるよしもがな

Sanjo Udaijin

Na ni shi owaba osakayama no sanekazura
Hito ni shirarede kuru yoshi mo gana

If you are true to your name, Sanekazura of Mt. Osaka (Sleeping vine of Mt. Meeting Hill), can’t you find a way to bring her to me without anyone knowing?

26

貞信公
小倉山峰のもみじ葉心あらば
今ひとたびのみゆきまたなむ

Teishin Ko
Ogurayama mine no momijiba kokoro araba
Ima hitotabi no miyuki matanan

Autumn leaves on the crest of Mt. Ogura, if you had a heart, you would stay just as you are for one more royal visit.

27

中納言兼輔
みかの原わきてながるる泉川
いつ見きとてか恋しかるらむ

Chunagon Kanesuke
Mika no hara wakite nagaruru izumi-gawa
Itsu mi kitote ka koishi karuran

Izumi river, which divides Mika fields, when will I see her again, and why do I love her so?

28

源宗于朝臣
山里は冬ぞさびしさまさりける
人めも草もかれぬとおもへば

Minamoto no Muneyuki Ason
Yama-zato wa fuyu zo sabishisa masari keru
Hitome mo kusa mo karenu to omoeba

Living in a mountain village can be quite lonely, especially in winter when the people stop coming to visit and the grass has withered.

29

凡河内躬恒
心あてに折らばや折らむ初霜の
おきまどはせる白菊の花

Oshikochi no Mitsune
Kokoroate ni orabaya oran hatsushimo no
Oki madowaseru shiragiku no hana

If you want to pick one, go ahead and pluck it out, but the early frost has obscured the white chrysanthemums

30

壬生忠岑
有明のつれなくみえし別れより
暁ばかりうきものはなし

Mibu no Tadamine
Ariake no tsurenaku mieshi wakare yori
Akatsuki bakari uki mono wa nashi

Ever since that cold parting under the morning moon, there is nothing harder for me than facing the dawn.

31

坂上是則
朝ぼらけ有明の月とみるまでに
吉野の里にふれる白雪

Sakanoue no Korenori
Asaborake ariake no tsuki to miru made ni
Yoshino no sato ni fureru shirayuki

32

春道列樹
山川に風のかけたるしがらみは
流れもあへぬ紅葉なりけり

Harumichi no Tsuraki
Yama kawa ni kaze no kaketaru shigarami wa
Nagare mo aenu momiji nari keri

33

紀友則
久方の光のどけき春の日に
しづ心なく花のちるらむ

Ki no Tomonori
Hisakata no hikari nodokeki haru no hi ni
Shizu-gokoro naku hana no chiruran

34

藤原興風
誰をかも知る人にせむ高砂の
松もむかしの友ならなくに

Fujiwara no Okikaze
Tare o ka mo shiru hito ni sen takasago no
Matsu mo mukashi no yomo nara naku ni

35

紀貫之
人はいさ心も知らずふるさとは
花ぞむかしの香に匂ひける

Ki no Tsurayuki
Hito wa isa kokoro mo shirazu furusato wa
Hana zo mukashi no ka ni nioi keru

36

清原深養父
夏の夜はまだ宵ながら明けぬるを
雲のいづくに月やどるらむ

Kiyohara no Fukayabu
Natsu no yo wa mada yoi nagara akenuru o
Kumo no izuko ni tsuki yadoruran

37

文屋朝康
白露を風のふきしく秋の野は
つらぬきとめぬ玉ぞちりける

Fun’ya no Asayasu
Shiratsuyu o kaze no fukishiku aki no no wa
Tsuranuki tomenu tama zo chiri keru

38

右近
忘らるる身をば思はず誓ひてし
人の命の惜しくもあるかな

Ukon
Wasuraruru mi o ba omowazu chikaite shi
Hito no inochi no oshiku mo aru kana

39

参議等
浅茅生の小野の篠原忍ぶれど
あまりてなどか人の恋しき

Sangi Hitoshi
Asajiu no ono no shinohara shinoburedo
Amarite nado ka hito no koishiki

40

平兼盛
忍ぶれど色に出でにけりわが恋は
物や思ふと人の問ふまで

Taira no Kanemori
Shinoburedo iro ni ide ni keri waga koi wa
Mono ya omou to hito no tou made

41

壬生忠見
恋すてふ我が名はまだき立ちにけり
人しれずこそ思ひそめしか

Mibu no Tadami
Koisu cho waga na wa madaki tachi ni keri
Hito shirezu koso omoi someshi ka

42

清原元輔
ちぎりきなかたみに袖をしぼりつつ
末の松山波こさじとは

Kiyohara no Motosuke
Chigiriki na katami ni sode o shibori tsutsu
Sue no matsuyama nami kosaji to wa

43

権中納言敦忠
逢ひ見ての後の心にくらぶれば
むかしは物を思はざりけり

Gon Chunagon Atsutada
Ai mite no nochi no kokoro ni kurabureba
Mukashi wa mono o omowazari keri

44

中納言朝忠
逢ふことの絶えてしなくは中々に
人をも身をも恨みざらまし

Chunagon Asatada
Au koto no taete shi nakuwa nakanaka ni
Hito o mo mi o mo urami zaramashi

45

謙徳公
あはれともいふべき人は思ほえで
身のいたづらになりぬべきかな

Kentoku Ko
Aware to mo iu beki hito wa omooede
Mi no itazura ni narinu beki kana

46

曽禰好忠
由良のとをわたる舟人かぢをたえ
行く方もしらぬ恋の道かな

Sone no Yoshitada
Yura no to o wataru funabito kaji o tae
Yukue mo shiranu koi no michi kana

47

恵慶法師
八重むぐらしげれる宿のさびしきに
人こそ見えね秋は来にけり

Egyo Hoshi
Yaemugura shigereru yado no sabishiki ni
Hito koso miene aki wa ki ni keri

48

源重之
風をいたみ岩うつ波のおのれのみ
くだけて物をおもふ頃かな

Minamoto no Shigeyuki
Kaze o itami iwa utsu nami no onore nomi
Kudakete mono o omou koro kana

49

大中臣能宣朝臣
みかき守衛士のたく火の夜はもえ
昼は消えつつ物をこそおもへ

Onakatomi no Yoshinobu Ason
Mikakimori eji no taku hi no yoru wa moe
Hiru wa kie tsutsu mono o koso omoe

50

藤原義孝
君がため惜しからざりし命さへ
ながくもがなとおもひけるかな

Fujiwara no Yoshitaka
Kimi ga tame oshi karazarishi inochi sae
Nagaku mo gana to omoi keru kana

51

藤原実方朝臣
かくとだにえやはいぶきのさしも草
さしも知らじなもゆる思ひを

Fujiwara no Sanekata Ason
Kaku to dani eyawa ibuki no sashimogusa
Sashimo shiraji na moyuru omoi o

52

藤原道信朝臣
明けぬれば暮るるものとは知りながら
なをうらめしきあさぼらけかな

Fujiwara no Michinobu Ason
Akenureba kururu mono to wa shiri nagara
Nao urameshiki asaborake kana

53

右大将道綱母
なげきつつひとりぬる夜の明くる間は
いかに久しきものとかは知る

Udaisho Michitsuna no Haha
Nageki tsutsu hitori nuru yo no akuru ma wa
Ikani hisashiki mono to ka wa shiru

54

儀同三司母
忘れじの行末までは難ければ
今日を限りの命ともがな

Gido Sanshi no Haha
Wasureji no yukusue made wa katakereba
Kyo o kagiri no inochi to mo gana

55

大納言公任
滝の音は絶えて久しくなりぬれど
名こそ流れてなほ聞えけれ

Dainagon Kinto
Taki no oto wa taete hisashiku narinuredo
Na koso nagarete nao kikoe kere

56

和泉式部
あらざらむこの世の外の思ひ出に
今ひとたびの逢ふこともがな

Izumi Shikibu
Arazaran kono yo no hoka no omoide ni
Ima hitotabi no au koto mo gana

57

紫式部
めぐりあひて見しやそれともわかぬ間に
雲がくれにし夜半の月かげ

Murasaki Shikibu
Meguri aite mishi ya sore to mo wakanu ma ni
Kumo-gakure ni shi yowa no tsuki kage

58

大弐三位
ありま山猪名の笹原風吹けば
いでそよ人を忘れやはする

Daini no Sanmi
Arimayama ina no sasawara kaze fukeba
Ide soyo hito o wasure ya wa suru

59

赤染衛門
やすらはで寝なまし物を小夜更けて
かたぶくまでの月を見しかな

Akazome Emon
Yasurawade nenamashi mono o sayo fukete
Katabuku made no tsuki o mishi kana

60

小式部内侍
大江山いく野の道のとほければ
まだふみも見ず天の橋立

Koshikibu no Naishi
Oeyama ikuno no michi no to kereba
Mada fumi mo mizu ama no Hashidate

61

伊勢大輔
いにしへの奈良の都の八重桜
今日九重に匂ひぬるかな

Ise no Osuke
Inishie no nara no miyako no yae-zakura
Kyo kokonoe ni nioi nuru kana

62

清少納言
夜をこめて鳥の空音ははかるとも
よにあふさかの関はゆるさじ

Sei Shonagon
Yo o komete tori no sorane wa hakaru tomo
Yo ni Osaka no seki wa yurusaji

63

左京大夫道雅
今はただ思ひ絶えなむとばかりを
人づてならでいふよしもがな

Sakyo no Daibu Michimasa
Ima wa tada omoi taenan to bakari wo
Hito-zute nara de iu yoshi mo gana

64

権中納言定頼
朝ぼらけ宇治の川ぎりたえだえに
あらはれわたるぜぜの網代木

GonChunagon Sadayori
Asaborake uji no kawagiri tae-dae ni
Araware wataru zeze no ajirogi

65

相模
恨みわびほさぬ袖だにあるものを
恋に朽ちなん名こそ惜しけれ

Sagami
Urami wabi hosanu sode da ni aru mono o
Koi ni kuchinan na koso oshi kere

66

大僧正行尊
もろともに哀れと思へ山桜
花より外に知る人もなし

Daisojo Gyoson
Morotomo ni aware to omoe yama-zakura
Hana yori hoka ni shiru hito mo nashi

67

周防内侍
春の夜の夢ばかりなる手枕に
かひなく立たむ名こそ惜しけれ

Suo no Naishi
Haru no yo no yume bakari naru tamakura ni
Kainaku tatan na koso oshi kere

68

三条院
心にもあらで浮世にながらへば
恋しかるべき夜半の月かな

Sanjo In
Kokoro ni mo arade ukiyo ni nagaraeba
Koishikaru beki yowa no tsuki kana

69

能因法師
あらし吹く三室の山のもみぢ葉は
龍田の川のにしきなりけり

Noin Hoshi
Arashi fuku mimuro no yama no momijiba wa
Tatsuta no kawa no nishiki nari keri

70

良暹法師
寂しさに宿を立出てながむれば
いづこもおなじ秋の夕暮

Ryosen Hoshi
Sabishisa ni yado o tachi idete nagamureba
Izuko mo onaji aki no yugure

71

大納言経信
夕されば門田の稲葉おとづれて
あしのまろやに秋風ぞふく

Dainagon Tsunenobu
Yu sareba kadota no inaba otozurete
Ashi no maroya ni akikaze zo fuku

72

祐子内親王家紀伊
音にきく高師の浜のあだ浪は
かけじや袖のぬれもこそすれ

Yushi Naishinno-ke no Kii
Oto ni kiku takashi no hama no adanami wa
Kakeji ya sode no nure mo koso sure

73

権中納言匡房
高砂の尾の上の桜咲きにけり
外山の霞たたずもあらなん

GonChunagon Masafusa
Takasago no onoe no sakura saki ni keri
Toyama no kasumi tatazu mo aranan

74

源俊頼朝臣
うかりける人をはつせの山おろしよ
はげしかれとは祈らぬものを

Minamoto no Toshiyori Ason
Ukari keru hito o hatsuse no yama oroshiyo
Hageshikare to wa inoranu mono o

75

藤原基俊
契りをきしさせもが露を命にて
あはれことしの秋もいぬめり

Fujiwara no Mototoshi
Chigiri okishi sasemo ga tsuyu o inochi ni te
Aware kotoshi no aki mo inumeri

76

法性寺入道関白太政大臣
わたの原こぎ出でて見れば久方の
雲井にまよふおきつしらなみ

Hoshoji no Nyudo Kanpaku Dajodaijin
Wata no hara kogi idete mireba hisakata no
Kumoi ni mayo okitsu shiranami

77

崇徳院御製
瀬をはやみ岩にせかるる滝川の
われても末に逢はむとぞ思ふ

Sutoku In
Se o hayami iwa ni sekaruru takigawa no
Warete mo sue ni awan to zo omou

78

源兼昌
淡路島かよふ千鳥のなく声に
いくよねざめぬすまの関守

Minamoto no Kanemasa
Awaji shima kayou chidori no naku koe ni
Ikuyo nezamenu suma no sekimori

79

左京大夫顕輔
秋風にたなびく雲のたえまより
もれ出づる月のかげのさやけさ

Sakyo no Daibu Akisuke
Akikaze ni tanabiku kumo no taema yori
More izuru tsuki no kage no sayakesa

80

待賢門院堀河
長からむ心もしらず黒髪の
みだれてけさは物をこそ思へ

Taiken Moin no Horikawa
Nagakaran kokoro mo shirazu kurokami no
Midarete kesa wa mono o koso omoe

81

後徳大寺左大臣
ほととぎす鳴きつる方を眺むれば
ただ有明の月ぞのこれる

Go Tokudaiji no Sadaijin
Hototogisu nakitsuru kata o nagamureba
Tada ariake no tsuki zo nokoreru

82

道因法師
思ひわびさても命はあるものを
憂きに堪へぬはなみだなりけり

Doin Hoshi
Omoi wabi satemo inochi wa aru mono o
Uki ni taenu wa namida nari keri

83

皇太后宮大夫俊成
世の中よ道こそなけれ思ひ入る
山のおくにも鹿ぞ鳴くなる

Kotaigogu no Daibu Toshinari
Yo no naka yo michi koso nakere omoi iru
Yama no oku ni mo shika zo naku naru

84

藤原清輔朝臣
ながらへばまたこの頃やしのばれむ
憂しと見し世ぞ今は恋しき

Fujiwara no Kiyosuke Ason
Nagaraeba mata konogoro ya shinobaren
Ushi to mishi yo zo ima wa koishiki

85

俊恵法師
夜もすがら物思ふ頃は明けやらぬ
ねやのひまさへつれなかりけり

Shun’e Hoshi
Yo mo sugara mono omou koro wa ake yaranu
Neya no hima sae tsure nakari keri

86

西行法師
なげけとて月やは物を思はする
かこちがほなるわがなみだかな

Saigyo Hoshi
Nageke tote tsuki ya wa mono o omowasuru
Kakochi gao naru waga namida kana

87

寂蓮法師
むらさめの露もまだひぬまきの葉に
霧立ちのぼる秋の夕暮

Jakuren Hoshi
Murasame no tsuyu mo mada hinu maki no ha ni
Kiri tachinoboru aki no yugure

88

皇嘉門院別当
難波江の芦のかりねの一夜ゆへ
身をつくしてや恋わたるべき

Koka Moin no Betto
Naniwae no ashi no karine no hitoyo yue
Mi o tsukushite ya koi wataru beki

89

式子内親王
玉の緒よ絶えなば絶えねながらへば
しのぶることのよはりもぞする

Shokushi Naishinno
Tama no o yo taenaba taene nagaraeba
Shinoburu koto no yowari mo zo suru

90

殷富門院大輔
見せばやな雄島のあまの袖だにも
ぬれにぞぬれし色はかはらず

Inpu Moin no Taifu
Misebaya na ojima no ama no sode dani mo
Nure ni zo nureshi iro wa kawarazu

91

後京極摂政太政大臣
きりぎりす鳴くや霜夜のさむしろに
衣かたしきひとりかも寝む

Go Kyogoku no Sessho Dajodaijin
Kirigirisu naku ya shimo yo no samushiro ni
Koromo katashiki hitori kamo nen

92

二条院讃岐
わが袖は潮干に見えぬ沖の石の
人こそしらねかはくまもなし

Nijo In no Sanuki
Waga sode wa shiohi ni mienu oki no ishi no
Hito koso shirane kawaku ma mo nashi

93

鎌倉右大臣
世の中はつねにもがもななぎさこぐ
あまの小舟の綱手かなしも

Kamakura no Udaijin
Yo no naka wa tsune ni mo ga mo na nagisa kogu
Ama no obune no tsuna de kanashi mo

94

参議雅経
みよし野の山の秋風さよふけて
ふるさとさむく衣うつなり

Sangi Masatsune
Miyoshino no yama no akikaze sayo fukete
Furusato samuku koromo utsu nari

95

前大僧正慈円
おほけなくうき世の民におほふかな
わがたつそまに墨染の袖

Saki no Daisojo Jien
Okenaku ukiyo no tami ni ou kana
Waga tatsu soma ni sumizome no sode

96

入道前太政大臣
花さそふあらしの庭の雪ならで
ふりゆくものはわが身なりけり

Nyudo Saki no Dajodaijin
Hana sasou arashi no niwa no yuki nara de
Furi yuku mono wa waga mi nari keri

97

権中納言定家
こぬ人をまつほの浦の夕なぎに
やくやもしほの身もこがれつつ

GonChunagon Sadaie
Konu hito o matsuho no ura no yunagi ni
Yaku ya moshio no mi mo kogare tsutsu

98

従二位家隆
風そよぐならの小川の夕ぐれは
みそぎぞ夏のしるしなりける

Junii Ietaka
Kaze soyogu nara no ogawa no yugure wa
Misogi zo natsu no shirushi nari keru

99

後鳥羽院御製
人も惜し人も恨めしあぢきなく
世を思ふゆゑにもの思ふ身は

Gotoba In
Hito mo oshi hito mo urameshi ajiki naku
Yo o omou yue ni mono omou mi wa

100

順徳院御製 百敷や古き軒端のしのぶにも
なほあまりあるむかしなりけり

Juntoku In
Momoshiki ya furuki nokiba no shinobu ni mo
Nao amari aru mukashi nari keri

How to Study Kanji

Prepared for the Canadian Association of Japanese Language Education in August 2001

Use Kanji Proficiency Test Materials

The Kanji Proficiency Test is based on the school years in Japan and it is recognized by Monbukagakusho. Level 10 is the lowest, representing the first grade of elementary school, and it includes 80 characters. Level 1 is the highest and it includes 6000 characters. Using these books lets students study the characters in a comprehensive, methodical, and logical way.

The student is expected to study one or two chapters per week and then come to class prepared for a quiz. To prepare, the student will need to supplement the information in the book with at least one good dictionary. (I recommend a new Wordtank and a good kanji dictionary with lots of compounds and examples.) The student is expected to learn how to write the character (including number of strokes), all readings (and whether the reading is on- or kun-yomi), the name and form of the radical, the basic meaning of the character, and the meanings of the compounds that are given in the textbook. Some students will prefer to keep a notebook with all of this information and others will just try to remember the information without writing it down. After studying the kanji, the student completes the three pages of exercises, making note of any difficult questions.

During the class, the teacher first uses flashcards to do a pre-test on the student’s knowledge of the characters. The teacher should create flash cards with the readings (or the meaning) on one side and the character on the other. It is important for the student to be able to both recognize the character and recreate it from memory.

After the pre-test, the teacher will give the student a written quiz. The teacher must prepare this quiz before the class. The quiz consists of two parts of 10 to 15 questions each. The first part (yomikata) gives the student a sentence written in kanji and hiragana. The student must write the whole sentence in hiragana. The second part (kakikata) gives the student sentences in hiragana and the student has to write the sentence using as many kanji as possible.

The teacher marks the test immediately and comments on the kinds of errors that were made. The teacher should also keep note of the sentences that caused mistakes so they can be used in future tests.

This method of studying is very student-centred, so it works best with well-motivated, self-directed students. The advantage of using these textbooks is that by following these textbooks from level 10 up, the student is slowly able to read more and more Japanese books. Studying kanji from any textbook designed for foreign students will not necessarily correspond to an ability to read a particular Japanese book.


Order the Books from Amazon.co.jp

These books are only available from the Japanese version of Amazon, so if you can’t complete a full transaction in Japanese, please get someone to help you.

Level 10 (Equivalent to Grade 1 of Elementary School)
Level 9 (ES Grade 2)
Level 8 (ES Grade 3)
Level 7 (ES Grade 4)
Level 6 (ES Grade 5)
Level 5 (ES Grade 6)
Level 4 (Equivalent to Grade 1 of Junior High School)
Level 3 (JHS Grade 2)
Level 2 (JHS Grade 3)
Pre-Level 1
Level 1

Japanese Study Tips for JET Participants

Prepared for the Toronto JET Pre-Departure Orientation (June 2001)

Why Study Japanese?

It can’t be emphasized enough that your understanding of Japan and its culture will not be complete without an understanding of the Japanese language. The better you understand the language, the better you will be able to make sense of your experiences in Japan.

If that is too nebulous a reason for you to start hunkering down to study, the most practical reason is that it will make your life easier. You are about to go from being a highly educated member of Canadian society, to an illiterate member of Japanese society (unless you have already studied Japanese). This is a difficult transition, but it can be made easier by taking a few basic steps before you leave Canada:

  1. Learn hiragana and katakana which are the two basic writing systems. They are also known as syllabaries or “kana”. Knowledge of the kana will help you to understand the sound patterns in Japanese.
  2. Learn how to introduce yourself. This includes your name, nationality, where you come from in Canada, what your hobbies are, etc.
  3. Try out your new phrases on a Japanese person. You will probably notice that Japanese people are very patient with your attempts to speak their language. This should encourage you to keep going.
  4. If you have time to learn more, start with the numbers from 1 to 100, colours, days of the week, months of the year, basic verbs/nouns/adjectives, sentence structure, verb conjugation, etc.

How to Study Japanese

There are as many ways to study Japanese as there are people in the world. Everyone uses a different system, and none is better than the other. The trick is that you have to find a way of studying that matches your learning style. If you are a methodical learner, you should find a methodical way of studying. If you are a more holistic learner, then find a holistic approach. For example, if you like to do things in order, perhaps try studying from a textbook. On the other hand, if you are more concerned with communication than grammar, find a language partner and set up exchange conversation lessons.

Ask the JETs and other foreigners in your area to recommend language schools, classes, or teachers. If you are not in a city center, there may not be any formal classes. In this case, you will have to either find a teacher or study on your own. Here are some common approaches to studying Japanese.

Private Study

If you are an extremely disciplined student, you may be able to buy a textbook, slog your way through it, and come out fluent. In my experience, this is not usually the case. Private study can kill hours in between teaching English classes, but I don’t recommend this as your only form of studying. Supplement it with at least some advice from a Japanese person. Textbook Japanese sounds as funny as textbook English.

Advantages: you decide what you want to study, and at what pace, doesn’t cost anything (other than the price of the textbook)
Disadvantages: can’t be sure that you are learning the correct forms for your gender, situation, etc., hard to stay motivated, especially if you become busy with other things in life

Language Exchange

Many JETs find success with this approach. The basic idea is that you find a compatible Japanese person and swap language lessons. For example, you teach English for an hour and the Japanese person teaches Japanese for an hour.

Advantages: you decide what you want to study, and at what pace, doesn’t cost anything
Disadvantages: your classes will only be as good as your partner (so spend the time and find a good partner/teacher), classes can become too casual for real learning

Tutor

If you are lucky, you will be able to find someone who can tutor you. I highly recommend paying this person since that reinforces the teacher/student relationship and it makes the teacher feel equally responsible for your success. One recommendation: you should choose the textbook and outline the style of teaching that suits you best. If you don’t set down the “rules” from the start, you may end up with a “repeat-after-me” kind of class. Another recommendation: strictly define the timeline of the classes (i.e. once a week, on Wednesdays, at 5pm, for 10 weeks). This will mean that you can re-assess your situation at the end of the 10 weeks and make any necessary changes (new textbook, new method, new tutor, etc.).

Advantages: keeps you on track and studying since you are the only student in the class
Disadvantages: costs some money, can become tedious if the tutor is not well-informed of your learning style

Regular Group Classes – Non-profit organizations

If you live in a city, you may find that there are regular classes held at a central location (city hall, international association, etc.). These classes are generally inexpensive and are run regularly for the benefit of newcomers.

Advantages: generally quite cheap, learning with other people can be fun and motivating
Disadvantages: can be hard to find the right level since everyone is different, sometimes the classes are not very serious

Regular Group Classes – Business

Same as above, but likely to be more expensive and proportionately more serious.

Cram Courses

There are several schools that run programmes over the school holidays (August, December-January, March-April) and during Golden Week (April-May). Popular places for JETs include Kyoto, Hokkaido, and Akita, but you should do some research before committing to any of them. The Japanese Language School Guide (http://jls-guide.com/english/index.html) is a good starting point. You can also find a list at Worldwide Classroom (www.worldwide.edu/ci/japan/index.html).

Advantages: short-term intensive programmes speed up your learning
Disadvantages: if you don’t reinforce what you learned once the programme is over, you will be right back at square one

Correspondence

Correspondence courses are offered by CLAIR (course designed for JETs, you will be sent the information), Kumon (http://www.kumon.ne.jp/jpn), JETRO (http://www.jetro.go.jp), and NHK (www.nhk.or.jp/index-e.html). They are all quite different, so you will have to look them up on the internet for details.

Advantages: generally not too expensive, good for keeping you motivated
Disadvantages: you have to be disciplined to keep up with the lessons, you must supplement the course with real interaction with Japanese people

Textbooks and Dictionaries

The number of Japanese language textbooks on the market has increased rapidly over the past few years. Some popular titles include Minna no Nihongo (or its more business-related cousin Shin Nihongo no Kiso), Japanese for Busy People, Japanese for Everyone, and a whole host of books that will help you learn hiragana, katakana, and kanji.

It’s probably best to wait until you get to Japan to buy any textbooks. The selection in Canada is quite limited, and the textbooks that you find here often use romaji (English letters) rather than kana. Once you get to Japan, you will have to make a trip to a large city with a bookstore that carries Japanese textbooks. There are three good locations in Tokyo:

If you can’t make it to a store, your best bet is to try the local international association or city hall. Often they have a small collection of textbooks in a library corner. Or ask local JETs and foreigners what books they use.

The thing to remember is that you can’t just buy (or order) any old textbook and hope that it does the trick. Language textbooks come in a variety of forms and it is best not to make any decisions until you have held the textbook in your hands and flipped through it a few times. Evaluate the book on the following criteria:

  • Level – Is the text at an appropriate level for you? Regardless of whether it is listed as beginner, intermediate, or advanced, does it suit you? Does it challenge you?
  • Language – Is the text mostly in Japanese or mostly in English? Is the Japanese written in romaji (bad) or kana (good)?
  • Tone – Is this text meant for adults, students, or children?
  • Layout – Do you care whether there are pictures? Colours? Lots of charts? No charts?
  • Organization – Does the text progress in a sensible fashion? Does the first chapter teach you what you want to learn right away, or do you have to wait until Chapter 15?
  • Target ability – Does the text focus on what you want to learn: conversation skills (speaking, listening) or more academic skills (writing, reading)?
  • Learning style – Does the text suit your learning style? Do you want it to focus on grammar? Vocabulary? Useful expressions?

It is important to remember that no text will be perfect, but you should try to find one that is as close as possible.

Once you have decided on a book, if you can’t get to a store, order the book through your local bookstore (a very common practice in Japan) or try Amazon in Japan at http://www.amazon.co.jp. The Amazon site is in Japanese only, so you will have to ask a Japanese friend to help you with it.

Tests

Once you get your Japanese up to a certain level, you may want to consider taking a test to prove that you are at that level. There are many tests, with many different criteria, so don’t rush in to the first one you hear about.

The Japanese Proficiency Test is held once a year, in December. If you miss that one, it can give you the feeling that you have missed the only opportunity to prove that you have, in fact, been studying during your time in Japan. However, there are a few other tests around to keep you on your toes the whole year round.

If this is your first time going to Japan and you have never studied Japanese, I would recommend studying for at least six months to one year before taking any tests. You have enough to worry about without having to cram Japanese sloppily into your head. Take your time and learn it right the first time around.

If you have been there for at least one year or if you studied Japanese seriously as a university-level course for at least one year, I would recommend Level 4 of the Japanese Proficiency Test, Level 10 of the Kanji Proficiency Test, or Level F of the J-TEST.

In my opinion, you shouldn’t set your sights to pass a test that you are not already almost ready to pass. Very few people actually have enough self-motivation to raise themselves up a level between the time they apply and the time they actually take the test. Try to think of the tests as a confirmation of what you already know, and not as a challenge to cram.

If you are Mr. or Ms. Mo Pera Pera, you might consider taking the Translation Test or the Interpreting Test. These tests are mainly for Japanese people, so they are probably the best tests to use as entries on your resume (if you are planning to pursue a career in translation or interpretation, that is).

If you would like to enter a Japanese university, you should climb the Japanese Proficiency Test ladder. If you would like to enter Japanese business, you should probably climb the JETRO Business Japanese Proficiency Test, JCAT or J-TEST ladder.

The Kanji Proficiency Test is a good way to give yourself small, achievable goals. The tests follow the same levels as Japanese schools (starting with the first grade of elementary school), so there are lots of level-appropriate textbooks, workbooks, readers, and dictionary to help you along the way. The same cannot be said for most of the other tests. Studying for the Kanji Test helps you learn not only kanji, but also vocabulary.

The Japanese Proficiency Test is still the most widely known and accepted test around. If you miss it this year, don’t wait until next November to start studying for the next one! There are also various speech, essay, and translation contests for foreigners throughout the year.

Nihongo Nouryoku Shiken (Japanese Proficiency Test)

Levels: 1-4 (1 is the highest)
Schedule: Offered once a year in December, applications are due in mid September
Cost: 500 yen for application form, 5000 yen to take test
Content: Kanji, Vocabulary, Listening, Reading Comprehension, Grammar
Contact: http://www.jees.or.jp/jlpt/en/ (in Japan) or http://momo.jpf.go.jp/jlpt/home.html (outside Japan)

Japanese Communication Ability Test (JCAT)

Schedule: Apply by mid-April or September, Tests in May and October
Cost: 4,200 yen
Content: Reading Test (75 min), Listening Test (45 min)
Contact: International Japanese Education Centre Tel: 03-3255-8123 Fax: 03-3255-8129 www.root.or.jp/ijec (web site in Japanese only)

JETRO Business Japanese Proficiency Test

Levels: 1 to 3 (1 is highest) + Oral Communication
Schedule: Apply by mid-April, Test in June
Content: Levels 1-3 = Listening and Reading Comprehension
Contact: www.jetro.go.jp/it/e/bj/test.html

JETRO Oral Communication Test (JOCT)

You must pass Level 1 of the Business Proficiency Test before you can take the JOCT.
Contact: www.jetro.go.jp/it/e/bj/test.html

Nihon Kanji Nouryoku Kentei (Kanji Proficiency Test)

Levels: 1-10 with 1 as the highest, 10 is elementary school 1st grade
Schedule: Offered three times a year
Cost: Level 1 = 6000 yen, Pre-Level-1 = 5000 yen, Level 2 = 4000 yen, Levels 3 to 7 = 2000 yen, Levels 8 to 10 = 1500 yen
Content: Reading, writing kanji, identifying radicals, etc.
Contact: Nihon Kanji Nouryoku Kentei Kyoukai 075-391-7110 www.kentei.co.jp (web site in Japanese only)
Notes: Your Board of Education may know of a school that is holding the test in your area

JTEST Nikken (Test of Practical Japanese)

Levels: A to F (A is highest, F is equivalent of Japanese Proficiency Test Level 4)
Schedule: Offered 4 times a year
Cost: Levels A-D = 1900 yen, Levels E-F = 1100 yen
Content: Listening Comprehension (45 min), Reading Comprehension (70 min)
Contact: J-TEST Niken Jimukyoku / Nihongo Kentei Kyoukai Tel: 03-3368-8106 Fax: 03-3368-8107 www.jtest.org/jtest

Nihongo Tsuuyakusha Shiken (Interpretation Test)

Levels: 1-2
Schedule: Offered twice a year
Cost: 4,400 yen (2,500 yen for people who have already taken and passed the A test [J-TEST])
Content: A = Information about the Japanese Language — J-TEST (Test of Practical Japanese), B = Information about Japan — history, social studies, culture, C = Translation
Contact: J-TEST Nikken Jimukyoku / Nihongo Kentei Kyoukai Tel: 03-3368-8106 Fax: 03-3368-8107 www.jtest.org/jtest
Notes: Includes J-TEST

Tsuuyaku Ginou Test (Tsuuken) (Interpreting Test)

Levels: Professional Levels 1-2 (1 is highest), Volunteer Levels A-B (A is highest)
Schedule: Twice a year
Cost: Level 1 = 14000 yen, Level 2 = 10000 yen, Level A = 5500 yen, Level B = 3500 yen
Content: Step 1 = Writing, Common Knowledge, Current Events, Step 2 = Interpret an English speech, writing test
Contact: Nihongo Seishounen Ikusei Kyoukai 03-3209-4741

General Tips

No matter what method you choose to study Japanese, there are some basic truths that will help you along the way.

  • Start with learning the syllabaries (hiragana and katakana, known as “kana”). Do not rely on romaji (Japanese written with the English alphabet) as it will only impair your future learning potential. Do not use textbooks that use only romaji.
  • Get a good Japanese-English dictionary. Resist the urge to buy a romaji dictionary (one where the Japanese words are written in English letters). Initially it is harder to use the kana dictionaries, but it will do you good in the long run to get used to seeing Japanese in Japanese. For this reason, it is probably better to purchase the dictionary in Japan.
  • Surround yourself with Japanese even when you are not studying. Watch TV, listen to the radio, buy Japanese CDs, make Japanese friends, do a homestay, keep a small notebook for writing down new words, learn a Japanese song for karaoke, take up a hobby as much for the language as for the craft (ikebana, tea ceremony, pottery, martial arts, cooking)
  • DO NOT spend all your time with other foreigners! This is a direct route to having sloppy Japanese and lazy study methods.
  • Don’t be so anxious to “communicate” that you skip out on learning grammar properly. Getting a good foundation in grammar is the best way to start.
  • Set yourself a time limit for learning hiragana, katakana or kanji. If you study properly every day, you should be able to master both syllabaries within two weeks. Then all you have to do is practise!
  • All languages have systematic patterns. If you look for the patterns in a language, rather than trying to memorize chunks of distinct expressions, you will increase your learning speed and flexibility.
  • Most of us only have a chance to practise foreign languages in a classroom. While you are in Japan, you have the opportunity to practise every single day. Don’t waste this opportunity. Swallow your pride and just start talking.
  • If you progress to the stage where you want to learn kanji (characters that represent sounds and meanings), look for a systematic study method. Buy or make flash cards. If you are serious about learning kanji, buy an electronic dictionary (Canon Wordtank, Sony Data Diskman). They are quite expensive, so be sure you have to drive to study before you go out and buy a flashy piece of equipment to clutter up your desk. Attend Japanese calligraphy classes to practise writing.

Final Note

There is no magic way to learn languages. It doesn’t matter whether you are in a city or a village, whether you have studied Japanese before or not. The basic truth is that you have to study in some way to improve. It is hard work, and it will get frustrating at times, but if you keep at it, you will improve.

Expressions that You Need to Learn for Level 4 of the Japanese Language Proficiency Test

sou desu that is right
chigaimasu that is wrong
sumimasen excuse me, I am sorry
arigatou gozaimasu thank you
dou itashimashite you are welcome
mou ichido itte kudasai please say it one more time
minna de itte kudasai please say it together
douzo please, go ahead
ohayou gozaimasu good morning
konnichi wa good afternoon, hello
konban wa good evening (greeting)
sayoonara good bye
onamae wa nan desu ka what is your name?
imi wa nan desu ka what does that mean?
shukudai-o dashite kudasai please hand in the homework
wakarimasu ka do you understand?
ii desu ka is this okay?
yoku dekimashita good job
oyasuminasai good night
shitsurei shimasu I’ll lose courtesy, please excuse me, good-bye, I humbly leave
onegai shimasu excuse me (to get attention at store), thank-you in advance
gomen kudasai hello?! (to get attention at store, house)
ojama shimasu I will make an interruption, I humbly come in
ojama shimashita I have made an interruption, I humbly take my leave, I’m sorry to have bothered you
doumo sumimasen thank-you very much for your trouble, I am very sorry
(kono X), arigatoo gozaimashita thank you for what you have done, thank you for lending me X
hajimemashite how do you do (only when meeting for the first time)
douzo yoroshiku glad to meet you, lit. please be good to me
sou desu nee let me think…
Xsan-o onegai shimasu can I speak to X please
osoku natte sumimasen sorry for being late
wakarimashita understood
arimashita here it is! found it!
aa, soo soo now I remember
dou shitan desu ka what happened, what’s the matter, what’s up
jitsu wa … n desu actually, the fact is…
shikata-ga arimasen, (shouganai) nothing can be done
okagesamade thanks to whoever is responsible

Irregular Verbs in English

Here is a handy list of irregular verbs for ESL learners.

Present Past Past Participle
be was, were been
become became become
begin began begun
blow blew blown
break broke broken
bring brought brought
build built built
burst burst burst
buy bought bought
catch caught caught
choose chose chosen
come came come
cut cut cut
deal dealt dealt
do did done
drink drank drunk
drive drove driven
eat ate eaten
fall fell fallen
feed fed fed
feel felt felt
fight fought fought
find found found
fly flew flown
forbid forbade forbidden
forget forgot forgotten
forgive forgave forgiven
freeze froze frozen
get got gotten
give gave given
go went gone
grow grew grown
have had had
hear heard heard
hide hid hidden
hold held held
hurt hurt hurt
keep kept kept
know knew known
lay laid laid
lead led led
leave left left
let let let
lie lay lain
lose lost lost
make made made
meet met met
pay paid paid
quit quit quit
read read read
ride rode ridden
ring rang rung
rise rose risen
run ran run
say said said
see saw seen
seek sought sought
sell sold sold
send sent sent
shake shook shaken
shine shone shone
sing sang sung
sit sat sat
sleep slept slept
speak spoke spoken
spend spent spent
spring sprang sprung
stand stood stood
steal stole stolen
swim swam swum
swing swung swung
take took taken
teach taught taught
tear tore torn
tell told told
think thought thought
throw threw thrown
understand understood understood
wake woke (waked) woken (waked)
wear wore worn
win won won
write wrote written