Waka (和歌, "Japanese poem") is a type of poetry in classical Japanese literature. Waka are composed in Japanese, and are contrasted with poetry composed by Japanese poets in Classical Chinese, which are known as kanshi. Although waka in modern Japanese is written as 和歌, in the past it was also written as 倭歌 (see Wa (Japan)), and a variant name is yamato-uta (大和歌).
The word waka has two different but related meanings: the original meaning was "poetry in Japanese" and encompassed several genres such as chōka and sedōka (discussed below); the later, more common definition refers to poetry in a 5-7-5-7-7 metre. Up to and during the compilation of the Man'yōshū in the eighth century, the word waka was a general term for poetry composed in Japanese, and included several genres such as tanka (短歌, "short poem"), chōka (長歌, "long poem"), bussokusekika (仏足石歌, "Buddha footprint poem") and sedōka (旋頭歌, "repeating-the-first-part poem"). However, by the time of the Kokinshū's compilation at the beginning of the tenth century, all of these forms except for the tanka and chōka had effectively gone extinct, and chōka had significantly diminished in prominence. As a result, the word waka became effectively synonymous with tanka, and the word tanka fell out of use until it was revived at the end of the nineteenth century (see Tanka).
Tanka (hereafter referred to as waka) consist of five lines (句 ku, literally "phrases") of 5-7-5-7-7 on or syllabic units. Therefore, tanka is sometimes called Misohitomoji (三十一文字), meaning it contains 31 syllables in total.
The term waka originally encompassed a number of differing forms, principally tanka (短歌 "short poem") and chōka (長歌 "long poem"), but also including bussokusekika, sedōka (旋頭歌 "memorized poem") and katauta (片歌 "poem fragment"). These last three forms, however, fell into disuse at the beginning of the Heian period, and chōka vanished soon afterwards. Thus, the term waka came in time to refer only to tanka.
|Katauta||5-7-7||One half of an exchange of two poems; the shortest type of waka|
|Chōka||5-7-5-7-5-7...5-7-7||Repetition of 5 and 7 on phrases, with a last phrase containing 7 on. Mainly composed to commemorate public events, and often followed by a hanka or envoi.|
Numerous chōka appear prominently in the Man'yōshū, but only 5 in the Kokinshū.
|Tanka||5-7-5-7-7||The most widely-composed type of waka throughout history|
|Sedōka||5-7-7-5-7-7||Composed of two sets of 5-7-7 (similar to two katauta). Frequently in the form of mondōka (問答歌 "dialogue poem") or an exchange between lovers (sōmonka).|
|Bussokusekika||5-7-5-7-7-7||A tanka with an extra phrase of 7 on added to the end|
Chōka consist of 5-7 on phrases repeated at least twice, and conclude with a 5-7-7 ending
|瓜食めば||Uri hameba||When I eat melons|
|子ども思ほゆ||Kodomo omohoyu||My children come to my mind;|
|栗食めば||Kuri hameba||When I eat chestnuts|
|まして偲はゆ||Mashite shinowayu||The longing is even worse.|
|何処より||Izuku yori||Where do they come from,|
|来りしものそ||Kitarishi monoso||Flickering before my eyes.|
|眼交に||Manakai ni||Making me helpless|
|もとな懸りて||Motona kakarite||Endlessly night after night.|
|安眠し寝さぬ||Yasui shi nasanu||Not letting me sleep in peace?|
The chōka above is followed by an envoi (反歌 hanka) in tanka form, also written by Okura:
|銀も||Shirokane mo||What are they to me,|
|金も玉も||Kugane mo tama mo||Silver, or gold, or jewels?|
|何せむに||Nanisemu ni||How could they ever|
|まされる宝||Masareru takara||Equal the greater treasure|
|子にしかめやも||Koni shikame yamo||That is a child? They can not.|
[English translation by Edwin Cranston]
In the early Heian period (at the beginning of the 10th century), chōka was seldom written and tanka became the main form of waka. Since then, the generic term waka came to be almost synonymous with tanka. Famous examples of such works are the diaries of Ki no Tsurayuki and Izumi Shikibu, as well as such collections of poem tales as The Tales of Ise and The Tales of Yamato.
Lesser forms of waka featured in the Man'yōshū and other ancient sources exist. Besides that, there were many other forms like:
Waka has a long history, first recorded in the early 8th century in the Kojiki and Man'yōshū. Under influence from other genres such as kanshi, novels and stories such as Tale of Genji and even Western poetry, it developed gradually, broadening its repertoire of expression and topics.
In literary historian Donald Keene's books, he uses four large categories:
The most ancient waka were recorded in the historical record the Kojiki and the 20 volumes of the Man'yōshū, the oldest surviving waka anthology. The editor of the Man'yōshū is anonymous, but it is believed that the final editor was Ōtomo no Yakamochi. He was a waka poet who belonged to the youngest generation represented in the anthology; indeed, the last volume is dominated by his poems. The first waka of volume 1 was by Emperor Ōjin. Nukata no Ōkimi, Kakinomoto no Hitomaro, Yamabe no Akahito, Yamanoue no Okura, Ōtomo no Tabito and his son Yakamochi were the greatest poets in this anthology. The Man'yōshū recorded not only the works of the royalty and nobility, but also works of soldiers and farmers whose names were not recorded. The main topics of the Man'yōshū were love, sadness (especially on the occasion of someone's death), and other miscellaneous topics.
During the Nara period and the early Heian period, the court favored Chinese-style poetry (kanshi) and the waka art form largely fell out of official favor. But in the 9th century, Japan stopped sending official envoys to Tang dynasty China. This severing of ties, combined with Japan's geographic isolation, essentially forced the court to cultivate native talent and look inward, synthesizing Chinese poetic styles and techniques with local traditions. The waka form again began flourishing and Emperor Daigo ordered the creation of an anthology of waka. where the waka of ancient poets and their contemporaries were collected and the anthology named "Kokin Wakashū", meaning Collection of Ancient and Modern Japanese Poems. It was presented to the emperor in 905. This was the first waka anthology edited and issued under imperial auspices, and it commenced a long and distinguished tradition of imperial anthologies of waka that continued up to the Muromachi period.
The first three imperially-commissioned waka anthologies (三代集 Sandai-shū) were the Kokin Wakashū, the Gosen Wakashū and the Shūi Wakashū. The Kokinshū was compiled by Ki no Tsurayuki, Ki no Tomonori, Ōshikōchi no Mitsune and Mibu no Tadamine on the orders of Emperor Daigo in 905. It collected roughly 1,100 waka that had not appeared in the Man'yōshū into 20 volumes, arranged by theme. The Kokinshū poems are generally considered to be reflective and idealistic.
Roughly half a century after the compilation of the Kokinshū, in 951, Emperor Murakami commanded the Five Men of the Pear Chamber to compile the Gosen Wakashū, in addition to preparing kundoku readings for the Man'yōshū, which by that time was already difficult for even educated Japanese to read.
In 1005 Emperor Ichijō commanded the compilation of the Shūishū.
The above three court anthologies, in addition to the five following anthologies, are known as the "Collections of Eight Ages" (八代集 Hachidai-shū), and were all compiled during the Heian period.
After the Heian period, during the Kamakura period and later, renga, a form of collaborative linked poetry, began to develop. In the late Heian period, three of the last great waka poets appeared: Fujiwara no Shunzei, his son Fujiwara no Teika, and Emperor Go-Toba. Emperor Go-Toba ordered the creation of a new anthology and joined in editing it. The anthology was named Shin Kokin Wakashū. He edited it again and again until he died in 1239. Teika made copies of ancient books and wrote on the theory of waka. His descendants, and indeed almost all subsequent poets, such as Shōtetsu, taught his methods and studied his poems. The courtly poetry scenes were historically dominated by a few noble clans and allies, each of which staked out a position.
By this period, a number of clans had fallen by the wayside, leaving the Reizei and the Nijō families; the former stood for "progressive" approaches, the varied use of the "ten styles" and novelty, while the latter conservatively hewed to already established norms and the "ushin" (deep feelings) style that dominated courtly poetry. Eventually, the Nijo family became defunct, leading to the ascendancy of the "liberal" Reizei family. Their innovative reign was soon deposed by the Asukai family, aided by the Ashikaga shōgun, Ashikaga Yoshinori.
In the Muromachi period, renga became popular in the court and people around it. It spread to the priestly classes and thence to wealthy commoners. In much the same way as waka, renga anthologies were produced under the imperial aegis. As momentum and popular interest shifted to the renga form, the tanka style was left to the Imperial court. Conservative tendencies exacerbated the loss of life and flexibility. A tradition named Kokin-denju, the heritage of Kokin Wakashū, was developed. It was a system on how to analyze the Kokin Wakashū and included the secret (or precisely lost) meaning of words. Studying waka degenerated into learning the many intricate rules, allusions, theories, and secrets, so as to produce tanka that would be accepted by the court.
There were comical waka already in the Kojiki and the Man'yōshū, but the noble style of waka in the court inhibited and scorned such aspects of waka. Renga was soon in the same position with many codes and strictures reflecting literary tradition. Haikai no renga (also called just haikai (playful renga)) and kyōka, comical waka, were a reaction to this seriousness. But in the Edo-period waka itself lost almost all of its flexibility and began to echo and repeat old poems and themes.
In the early Edo period, waka was not a fashionable genre. Newly created haikai no renga (of whose hokku, or opening verse, haiku was a late 19th-century revision) was the favored genre. This tendency was kept during this period, but in the late Edo period waka faced new trends from beyond the court. Motoori Norinaga, the great reviver of the traditional Japanese literature, attempted to revive waka as a way of providing "traditional feeling expressed in genuine Japanese way". He wrote waka, and waka became an important form to his followers, the Kokugaku scholars.
In Echigo Province a Buddhist priest, Ryōkan, composed many waka in a naïve style intentionally avoiding complex rules and the traditional way of waka. He belonged to another great tradition of waka: waka for expressing religious feeling. His frank expression of his feeling found many admirers, then and now. In the cities, a comical, ironic and satiric form of waka emerged. It was called kyōka (狂歌), mad poem, and was loved by intellectual people in big cities like Edo and Osaka. It was not precisely a new form; satirical waka was a style known since ancient times. But it was in the Edo period that this aspect of waka developed and reached an artistic peak. Still, most waka poets kept to ancient tradition or made those reformation another stereotype, and waka was not a vibrant genre in general at the end of this period.
|makura-kotoba||枕詞||Literally, "pillow word". Poetic epithets generally not used for their literal meaning but to "connect" with the word (often a place name) that follows|
|jokotoba||序詞||Literally, "preface words". Longer versions of makura-kotoba|
|kakekotoba||掛詞||Literally, "hanging word". A word deliberately used to convey two meanings, due the existence of separate homophonic words. An example is matsu, which can mean either "a pine tree" (松 matsu) or "to wait" (待つ matsu).|
|engo||縁語||Literally, "linked words". Semantically related words used on different positions of a waka|
|tsuiku||対句||Literally, "paired phrases". Similar to parallelism.|
|kugire||句切れ||Literally, "phrase gap". The most significant semantic gap in a waka.|
|honkadori||本歌取り||Literally, "taking from the main poem". Allusion to or quoting one or more lines from a poem written by someone else.|
|taigen-dome||体言止め||Ending a poem with a noun or noun phrase. Since Japanese is a subject–object–verb language, complete grammatical sentences typically end with the verb, but in waka composition this is not necessarily the case.|
The chokusen wakashū (勅撰和歌集), also shortened to chokusenshū (勅撰集), were imperially-commissioned Japanese anthologies of waka poetry. They numbered 21 in total (the so-called nijūichidaishū).Kashū (poetry)
A kashū (家集), also called a shikashū (私家集) or ie-no-shū (家の集), is a private collection of waka poems compiled by the author of the poems included. The term is used in contrast to chokusenshū, imperially-commissioned collections both written and compiled by multiple people, and shisenshū (私撰集), anthologies of poems by multiple poets privately compiled by a single editor.Kokin Wakashū
The Kokin Wakashū (古今和歌集, "Collection of Japanese Poems of Ancient and Modern Times"), commonly abbreviated as Kokinshū (古今集), is an early anthology of the waka form of Japanese poetry, dating from the Heian period. It is an Imperial anthology, conceived of by Emperor Uda (r. 887–897) and published by order of his son Emperor Daigo (r. 897–930), in about 905. Its finished form dates to c. 920, though according to several historical accounts the last poem was added to the collection in 914. The compilers of the anthology were four court poets, led by Ki no Tsurayuki and also including Ki no Tomonori (who died before its completion), Ōshikōchi no Mitsune, and Mibu no Tadamine.Kyōka
Kyōka (狂歌, "wild" or "mad poetry") is a popular, parodic subgenre of the tanka form of Japanese poetry with a metre of 5-7-5-7-7. The form flourish during the Edo period (17th–18th centuries) and reached its zenith during the Tenmei era (1781–89).Nijō poetic school
The Nijō poetic school (二条, Nijō) refers to descendants of Fujiwara no Tameie's eldest son, Nijō Tameuji (1222–86). The family name took after Nijō district of Kyoto where the family had resided. This hereditary house of Japanese waka poetry is generally known for its conservative slant toward the politics and poetics aimed at preserving the ideals of Fujiwara no Shunzei and Fujiwara no Teika. The members of the family are credited for the compilation of eleven out of thirteen later imperial anthologies, i.e., Jūsandaishū (十三代集) :
Shinchokusen Wakashū (新勅撰和歌集);
Shokugosen Wakashū (続後撰和歌集);
Shokukokin Wakashū (続古今和歌集);
Shokushūi Wakashū (続拾遺和歌集);
Shingosen Wakashū (新後撰和歌集);
Shokusenzai Wakashū (続千載和歌集);
Shokugoshūi Wakashū (続後拾遺和歌集);
Shinsenzai Wakashū (新千載和歌集);
Shinshūi Wakashū (新拾遺和歌集);
Shingoshūi Wakashū (新後拾遺和歌集), and
Shinshokukokin Wakashū (新続古今和歌集).(listed in chronological order)
The rivals of Nijō school, the Kyōgoku and Reizei families are known for their innovative approach to poetic composition. The Kyōgoku family compiled the following two imperial anthologies:
Gyokuyō Wakashū (玉葉和歌集) and
Fūga Wakashū (風雅和歌集).Rokkasen
The Rokkasen (六歌仙, "six poetry immortals") are six Japanese poets of the mid-ninth century who were named by Ki no Tsurayuki in the kana and mana prefaces to the poetry anthology Kokin wakashū (c. 905–14) as notable poets of the generation before its compilers.Senzai Wakashū
The Senzai Wakashū (千載和歌集, "Collection of a Thousand Years"), often abbreviated as Senzaishū, is an imperial anthology of Japanese waka poetry. It was compiled in 1187 by Fujiwara no Shunzei at the behest of the Retired Emperor Go-Shirakawa, who ordered it in 1183. It consists of twenty volumes containing 1,285 poems.Shingosen Wakashū
The Shingosen Wakashū (新後撰和歌集, "New Later Collection of Waka"), often abbreviated as Shingosenshū, is an imperial anthology of Japanese waka poetry. The title is in opposition to the previous Gosen Wakashū. It was completed in 1303, two years after the Retired Emperor Go-Uda first ordered. It was compiled by Fujiwara no Tameyo and consists of twenty volumes containing 1,606 poems.Shinshūi Wakashū
Shinshūi Wakashū (新拾遺和歌集, "New Waka Collection of Gleanings"), occasionally abbreviated as Shinshūishū, a title which recollects the Shūi Wakashū, is the 19th imperial anthology of Japanese waka poetry. It was finished late in 1364 CE, a year after Emperor Go-Kōgon first ordered it in 1363 at the request of the Ashikaga Shōgun Ashikaga Yoshiakira. It was compiled by Fujiwara no Tameaki, a member of the older conservative Nijō house, who died in 1363 and was unable to complete his task; the priest Ton'a finished it. It consists of twenty volumes containing 1,920 poems.Shokugosen Wakashū
The Shokugosen Wakashū (続後撰和歌集) ("Later Collection Continued") was an imperial anthology of Japanese waka poetry. It was finished in 1251 CE, three years after the Retired Emperor Go-Saga first ordered it in 1248. It was compiled by Fujiwara no Tameie, son of Fujiwara no Teika. It consists of twenty volumes containing 1,368 poems. It is characterized by the conservative taste and general competency (but not excellence) of the Nijō faction that would be founded by Tameie's son.Shokugoshūi Wakashū
The Shokugoshūi Wakashū (続後拾遺和歌集, "Later Collection of Gleanings of Japanese Poems Continued", a title which recollects the Shokushūi Wakashū), is a Japanese imperial anthology of waka poetry. It was finished somewhere around 1325 or 1326 CE, two or three years after the Retired Emperor Go-Daigo first ordered it in 1323. It was compiled initially by Fujiwara no Tamefuji, but had to be finished by Fujiwara no Tamesada (both members of the older conservative Nijō). It consists of twenty volumes containing 1,347 poems.Shokusenzai Wakashū
The Shokusenzai Wakashū (続千載和歌集, "Waka Collection of a Thousand Years Continued", a title which recollects the Senzai Wakashū) is a Japanese imperial anthology of waka poetry. It was finished somewhere around 1320 CE, two years after the Retired Emperor Go-Uda first ordered it in 1318. It was compiled by Fujiwara no Tameyo (who also compiled the Shingosen Wakashū, and was a member of the older conservative Nijō). It consists of twenty volumes containing 2,159 poems.Shokushūi Wakashū
The Shokushūi Wakashū (続拾遺和歌集, "Collection of Gleanings of Japanese Poems Continued", a title which recollects the Goshūi Wakashū) is a Japanese imperial anthology of waka poetry. It was finished in about 1278 CE, two years after the Retired Emperor Kameyama first ordered it around 1276. It was compiled by Fujiwara no Tameuji (grandson of Fujiwara no Teika, and eldest son of Fujiwara no Tameie; he founded the Nijō poetic clan). It consists of twenty volumes containing 1,461 poems.Suma-ku, Kobe
Suma (須磨区, Suma-ku) is one of 9 wards of Kobe City in Japan. As of February 1, 2012, it has an area of 30.0 km², and a population of 166,324, with 71,745 households.
There is a white sandy beach in this ward, which attracts tourists to the Kansai region for sun bathing and popular events during the summer season. The same beach has appeared in the classic epics Genji monogatari, Heike monogatari, and Ise monogatari. Thus Suma is often referred as an utamakura or meisho, referenced frequently in waka poetry, Noh theatre, kabuki and jōruri.Tanka
Tanka (短歌, "short poem") is a genre of classical Japanese poetry and one of the major genres of Japanese literature.Tanka in English
The composition and translation of tanka in English begins at the end of the nineteenth century in England and the United States. Translations into English of classic Japanese tanka (traditionally known as waka) date back at least to the 1865 translation of the classic Ogura Hyakunin Isshu (c. early 13th century); an early publication of originally English tanka dates to 1899. In the United States, the publication of tanka in Japanese and in English translation acquires extra impetus after World War II, and is followed by a rise of the genre's popularity among native speakers of English.Thirty-Six Immortals of Poetry
The Thirty-Six Immortals of Poetry (三十六歌仙, Sanjūrokkasen) are a group of Japanese poets of the Asuka, Nara, and Heian periods selected by Fujiwara no Kintō as exemplars of Japanese poetic ability. The eldest surviving collection of the 36 poets' works is Nishi Honganji Sanjū-rokunin Kashu ("Nishi Honganji 36 poets collection") of 1113. Similar groups of Japanese poets include the Kamakura period Nyōbō Sanjūrokkasen (女房三十六歌仙), composed by court ladies exclusively, and the Chūko Sanjūrokkasen (中古三十六歌仙), or Thirty-Six Heian-era Immortals of Poetry, selected by Fujiwara no Norikane (1107–1165). This list superseded an older group called the Six Immortals of Poetry.
Sets of portraits (essentially imaginary) of the group were popular in Japanese painting and later woodblock prints, and often hung in temples.Uta monogatari
Uta monogatari (歌物語, literally "poem-tale") is a literary subgenre of the monogatari. It is characterized by an emphasis on waka poetry, with prose sections interspersed. While most other monogatari of the Heian period and later contain waka, the uta monogatari feature poetry as the core of successive narrative episodes, with the prose sections sometimes limited to a brief note about the composition of the poetry.Utakai Hajime
The Utakai Hajime (歌会始, First poetry reading) is an annual gathering, convened by the Emperor of Japan, in which participants read traditional Japanese poetry on a common theme before a wider audience. It is held on 1 January at the Tokyo Imperial Palace, and is broadcast live on the national television network, NHK.
|Poetry works and collections|
|Individuals and groups of Japanese poets|
Articles with poems