Showing posts with label - - - ISSA - Kobayashi Issa in Edo. Show all posts
Showing posts with label - - - ISSA - Kobayashi Issa in Edo. Show all posts


teppo guns

. Edo bakufu 江戸幕府 The Edo Government .

teppoo, teppô 鉄砲 Teppo, gun, musket, matchlock, Gewehr
hinawajuu, hinawajū 火縄銃 Hinawaju

teppo ashigaru  鉄砲足軽 matchlockmen
tanegashima 種子島, also hinawajū 火縄銃 Tanegashima matchlock

source : kotobank

- quote -
Tanegashima (種子島), also hinawajū (火縄銃), was a type of matchlock configured arquebusfirearm introduced to Japan through the Portuguese in 1543.Tanegashima were used by the samurai class and their foot soldiers (ashigaru) and within a few years the introduction of the tanegashima in battle changed the way war was fought in Japan forever.

1 History
1.1 Origins

The tanegashima seems to have been based on snap matchlocks that were produced in Portuguese India, at the armory of Goa (a colony of Portugal since 1510). The name tanegashima came from the Japanese island (Tanegashima) where a Chinese junk with Portuguese adventurers on board was driven to anchor by a storm in 1543.
The lord of the Japanese island, Tanegashima Tokitaka (1528–1579), purchased two matchlock muskets from the Portuguese and put a swordsmith to work copying the matchlock barrel and firing mechanism. The smith (Yaita) did not have much of a problem with most of the gun but "drilling the barrel helically so that the screw (bisen bolt) could be tightly inserted" was a major problem as this "technique did apparently not exist in Japan until this time." The Portuguese fixed their ship and left the island and only in the next year when a Portuguese blacksmith was brought back to Japan was the problem solved.
Within ten years of its introduction, over 300,000 tanegashima firearms were reported to have been manufactured.
1.2 Sengoku period
1.3 Edo period
1.4 Modern use
2 Parts of the tanegashima
3 Gallery
- source : wikipedia -


- quote
Teppô is the Japanese term for arquebuses, or matchlocks, the first European firearm to be introduced to Japan. Though some forms of gunpowder weapons existed in Japan earlier, having been introduced from China via Korea or the Ryukyus, European firearms made a major impact upon Sengoku period samurai warfare.
While the term teppô might literally be translated as "iron cannon," or "metal gun," the term hinawajû is sometimes also used, meaning literally "fire rope gun," and referring to the matchlock mechanism.

Introduction to Japan

The introduction of the European matchlock began in 1543, during the Sengoku period. In that year, two or three Portuguese arrived aboard a Chinese junk off the coast of Tanegashima, south of Kyushu. Though the account by Fernao Mendes Pinto is oft-cited, that by Antonio Galvano, governor of Malacca from 1536-1540, is considered by some scholars more reliable. According to his account, published posthumously in 1557, the three Portuguese were Christopher Antonio da Mota, Francis Zimoro, and Antonio Perota, who had abandoned their Portuguese compatriots in Siam and found passage aboard this Chinese junk.

After trying out the arquebuses the Portuguese had with them, the lord of the island, Tanegashima Tokitaka, purchased from the strangers two examples of the firearms for his family treasury and is said to have occupied himself ceaselessly with learning to use them. He instructed a retainer to learn to make the gunpowder, and another, the swordsmith Yasuita Kinbei Kiyosada, to reproduce the weapon itself. According to some accounts, Tokitaka gave his daughter to the Portuguese in exchange for the weapons, and/or for instruction in their production. Kiyosada encountered difficulties, however, in reproducing the spring mechanism, and also in properly sealing the end of the barrel. Fortunately the next year a Portuguese ship arrived (by some accounts bearing the same Portuguese men), and a smith on board was able to teach Kiyosada about the spring mechanism, and how to close the barrel. This discovery led to the production of several tens of firearms in a period of a little over a year. Tokitaka instructed his retainers to practice on the new weapon, and many beccame proficient. Later, the Sakai merchant Tachibana Iemonzaburô, later known as Teppô-mata, came and stayed on the island for one or two years and learned the craft. From him, the knowledge spread throughout the country.

After that the Portuguese had begun to openly trade with other cities in Japan. Nagasaki had become a major trade port for trade between the Japanese and Portuguese, and the traders brought a variety of novelties including wool, velvet, tobacco, clocks and eyeglasses. But the most popular and less novel item brought to Japan by Europe, was the matchlock arquebus.

Many of the daimyô were impressed after seeing the European matchlock; by 1549 many daimyô ordered their weaponsmiths to copy and mass-produce this advanced weapon. One daimyô in particular who saw potential in this weapon was Oda Nobunaga; he placed an order for 500 arquebuses, the largest order to date...

Soon the Japanese demonstrated not only their ability to quickly assimilate objects from other cultures, but also their ability to improve upon it. Many metalsmiths went to work and even improved the teppô. This weapon was found to be more powerful then the bow, and easier to use. Eventually the teppô replaced many archer units in battle.

A look at the Teppô
The First 30 Years

1549 - Oda Nobunaga's father placed an order for 500 arquebuses.
1570 - Oda Nobunaga's army of 30,000 were forced to withdraw by a fierce counter attack of the Ikko-ikki of Ishiyama Honganji. 3,000 Ikko-ikki matchlockmen used controlled volley firing against Nobunaga's men. .....

- - - - - Edo Period
Firearms continued to be used by both samurai authorities and by peasants & commoners in the Edo period. Sakai and Kunitomo continued to be the chief sites of production, and matchlocks continued to be the dominant form of firearms used; firearms technology did not advance much within Japan over the course of the 17th to mid-19th centuries. Flintlocks, which had replaced the matchlock in Europe, were known and occasionally produced, but the matchlock remained dominant in Japan, possibly in part because they produced less recoil. These sorts of muskets were by far the most common form of firearm in the country, with some estimates claiming that roughly 150,000 to 200,000 firearms were in circulation at any given time in Tokugawa Japan. Peasants' weapons generally fired shot two to three monme in weight, equivalent to .440 to .495 caliber, in today's terminology. At the request of the shogunate, gunsmiths also on occasion produced handguns and small cannon.
David Howell argues that over the course of the period, within the countryside at least, firearms came to be seen less as weapons (i.e. for military purposes) and more as essential agricultural equipment. Peasants maintained possession of their guns after Toyotomi Hideyoshi's Sword Hunts in the 1580s-90s, which specifically targeted swords, and not firearms. It was only in 1657 that regulations on peasant ownership of weapons began to be put into place; even then, hunters, and farmers who claimed they needed guns to help defend themselves and their crops against wild boar and other such threats, were permitted to continue to own firearms. .....
..... A series of edicts issued in the 1720s not only permitted the use of weapons by peasants year-round, but actually encouraged their use, and the borrowing of weapons, for the purposes of scaring away animals.
..... In the early 19th century, the shogunate began to worry about the amorphous imagined threat of "bad guys" - including rônin, jobless commoners, and the like - hoarding weapons and planning violence or other criminal activities. Numerous edicts banned peasants from engaging in martial activities, including firing practice.
- - - - - Bakumatsu
Meiji Period

- source :

Tanegashima / Teppo / Hinawaju ... Japanese Matchlock Guns
source :


Teppo-machi, teppoochoo 鉄砲町 Teppocho, Gunsmith's village
now 日本橋本町3・4 - - - Nihonbashi

Teppokaji 鉄砲鍛冶 Craftsmen producing guns were only allowed to work in this district.

. teppoo kaji 鉄砲鍛冶 gunsmith producing Teppo matchlocks .
- Introduction -

There is also a Teppo-machi in other cities of Japan.

Not far from Shimabara Castle in Nagasaki's Shimabara City sits the town's well-preserved samurai district. Known as "teppo-machi" or "gun town", this district once housed foot soldiers of the local clan who were skilled in firearms use.
Today, the neighborhood is a quiet place. The single main street boasts a small canal running through its center; on either side, many of the imposing gates of old samurai mansions still stand. Three of the old samurai houses are open to the public and admission to all of the properties is free.
Low-class samurais lived in Teppo-machi (what is called 'Samurai-house zone')
- source : -

- - - - - List of Teppo-Cho in Japan
- reference : wikipedia -


. Legends and Tales from Japan 伝説 - Introduction .

O-Teppo Matsuri お鉄砲まつり Teppo Festival

In 宮城県 Miyagi, Kurihara District at 花山村 Hanayama village after the festival when all guns are shot, if there was one that did not fire properly, the family of this man will have bad luck. Therefore they all keep the weapons very clean and free of ritual impurities.

Gunma 群馬県 勢多郡 横野村

daija 大蛇 huge serpent

Ibaraki 茨城県 水戸市 Mito

mujina ムジナ Badger

Kochi 高知県 幡多郡 黒潮町

tanuki 狸

土佐山村 Tosayama

Nara 奈良県 添上郡 月ヶ瀬村 石打 Tsukigase Ishiuchi

Toosuke Jizoo 藤助地蔵 Tosuke Jizo

source :
The mountain path toward Tosuke Jizo at Tukigaseishiuchi

Once upon a time,
a hunter named Tosuke took his beloved dog and went hunting in the mountains. He waited in his mountain hut for a prey. Suddenly he heard a loud noise and run outside, but he did not see anything. His dog seemed to see or sense something, but he trembled in fear.
Tosuke became afraid, took the last bullet and shot his gun into the dark. But out of his gun came a ball of fire toward himself and he died almost on the spot. His dog pulled him inside the hut and watched over him.
But then the hut burned down in the fire in no time and the body of Tosuke became a 黒仏 "Black Buddha".
The villagers built a small sanctuary for him, Tosuke Jizo, and came here to pray every year on the 6th day of the 8th month.
Many years later when his descendants tried to re-built the hut, they found a hinawaju 縄銃 gun in the straw roof of the building.
This is near 小字 堂山 Shoji Doyama. There are actually two stone statues, one of 不動明王Fudo Myo-O and one of 藤助地蔵 Tosuke Jizo.

source :

- - - - - 上北山村 - - - - - ippon datara イッポンダタラ

. Ippondatara, Ippon-datara 一本ダタラ - Ippon tatara .
Yoshitsune and his horses 義経の馬 .

Saitama 埼玉県 秩父郡 Chichibu district

daija 大蛇 huge serpent


- reference : nichibun yokai database -
222 to explore
火縄銃 OK


source :
Woodblock prints with matchlocks!


- - - - - H A I K U and S E N R Y U - - - - -

- source : Kobayashi Issa - David Lanoue -

teppô no san jaku saki no ko chô kana

three feet
from the musket's barrel...
little butterfly

Susumu Takiguchi points out that guns were "brought to Japan for the first time by the shipwrecked Portuguese in 1543 (some say 1542), and revolutionised the way battles were fought and castles were designed. They were initially 'hinawa-ju' (matchlock or firelock) and this must be the type of 'teppo' which Issa was talking about."

eppô no saki ni tachitari ominaeshi

in the musket's
line of fire...
a maiden flower

kogarashi ya teppô katsugite ko wakizashi

winter wind--
he shoulders a musket
and a short sword

amagoi ni kara teppô no kigen kana

after praying for rain
in a mood
to shoot the musket

. Kobayashi Issa 小林一茶 in Edo .


sugideppo 杉鉄砲 blowing toy for children made from Sugi wood








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. Edo bakufu 江戸幕府 The Edo Government .

. Famous Places and Powerspots of Edo 江戸の名所 .

. Doing Business in Edo - 商売 - Introduction .

. shokunin 職人 craftsman, craftsmen, artisan, Handwerker .

. senryu, senryū 川柳 Senryu poems in Edo .

. Japanese Architecture - Interior Design - The Japanese Home .

. Legends and Tales from Japan 伝説 - Introduction .

[ . BACK to WORLDKIGO . TOP . ]- - - - - #teppoguns #gunsteppo #hinawaju #tanegashima #matchlock - - - -


Issa - kasen 1827


. Kobayashi Issa 小林一茶 in Edo .

. WKD : New Year (shin-nen, shinnen 新年) .


The beginning of a kasen renku written on lunar New Year's Day in 1827:

New Year's Day --
we, too, bloom in our
blossoming world

ganjitsu ya warera-gurume ni hana no shaba - Issa

this our guest book
for all three to sign

sannin-mae o tsukeru reichou - Baijin

an east wind
cools the hot sake

sake samasu kagen-gokochi ni kochi fuite - Ranchou

sideways I swing up
onto the horse

hirari to uma ni yokozama ni noru - Issa

These are the the first four verses of a 36-verse kasen renku written by Issa, his follower Baijin, and Baijin's father Ranchou, also a haikai poet. Issa was staying with them in Nakano, a few miles from his hometown, at lunar New Year's in 1827 -- what turned out to be the last lunar year of Issa's life. Baijin, head of a firm that produced soy sauce and soybean paste, was one of Issa's closest followers in his final years and helped publish a collection of his hokku after his death.

As the visitor, Issa writes the hokku. In it he expresses his warm, ebullient regards and his deep friendship with Baijin. He mentions blossoms, and since this is New Year's, before the cherries have begun to bloom, he must be referring to the friendship and love of haikai that is blossoming and bringing all three people together. And Issa goes farther. He feels they are also part of the larger wave of blossoming humanity that is now enjoying New Year's celebrations and good feelings across the land or perhaps all over the world. Issa writes "blossoming world," but the world (shaba) here refers mainly to the world of humans, to society or humanity.

The word shaba began as a Buddhist term for the samsaric world of imperfect and delusion-filled human life as opposed to other modes of existence, such as animals, fierce shura demons, or hungry ghosts. It is the world into which Buddhas and bodhisattvas are born and teach and the world in which human beings are able to achieve enlightenment and freedom from suffering. Gradually the word also became an ordinary secular Japanese word meaning this world, the human world, the everyday world, this life, human relations, society, the material world, and it came to resemble the phrase "floating world," which had both positive and negative meanings. When Issa writes about suffering in the human world he often uses ku no shaba, the world of suffering, and when he wants to praise the world, he uses a phrase like the blossoming world, as he does here.

Issa's reference in the hokku to the world being filled with blossoming people at New Year's is an expression of praise for his hosts and for all the people in the human world who are trying to find happiness at New Year's. It is not related, however, to the separate concept of the "degenerate latter days of the Dharma" (masse, mappou). This was a belief that became widespread in the medieval period in Japan according to which Buddhism had entered its third and most degenerate age after beginning with the appearance of Buddha in the Age of Correct Dharma, followed by the Age of Semblance Dharma. In the contemporary degenerate age, it was believed, monks and ordinary people were too weak and confused to be able to follow Buddha's original teachings, and society had become thoroughly corrupt. Honen and Shinran, who founded the two main schools of Pure Land Buddhism in Japan, used the doctrine of the age of degenerate Dharma above all as justification for founding their new schools.

The high-ranking clerics of the older Tendai school declared chanting the Buddha's name to be a heresy and exiled both of them, so Honen and Shinran needed the degenerate age doctrine in order to establish their new, simpler schools of Buddhism for ordinary commoners. According to their argument, ordinary humans, including farmers and fishers, were too weak to understand sutras and to do difficult meditation or rituals, and therefore deep, sincere belief in Amida Buddha, the chanting of Buddha's name, and the simplification of Buddhism itself were all necessary in order to give ordinary people access to salvation. Shinran even allowed priests to marry and declared chanting Amida Buddha's name was not necessary but only an expression of thanks. Issa's age was more peaceful and more world-affirming than was Shinran's, and the degenerate age doctrine was mainly quoted not to condemn the contemporary world but to state the basic reason why the Pure Land schools were necessary. Issa's hokku, however, does not refer to degeneration but to the ordinary concept of the impure samsaric human world in general, a world that was believed, following Book 16 of the Lotus Sutra, to be non-separate from and thus overlapped with the Pure Land. Issa seems to imply that at New Year's people's hearts and minds blossom in a way that is reminiscent of Amida Buddha's love, and the world may thus suggest the temporary blossoming of the Pure Land itself in this world.

In verse 2, the wakiku, Baijin responds to Issa's friendly praise and says that all three members writing the renku have signed the visitor's book -- the book of the world. New Year's Day was a busy day, and people went around to other people's homes for brief visits during which they offered their best regards to their friends, relatives, and neighbors and signed the visitor's book at each house they visited. In Baijin's version, the three poets give their best regards not only to each other but to the whole world and to everyone alive. In the verse the visitor's book seems to be the thick paper on which the kasen is being written, which the poets sign (tsukeru) by linking (tsukeru) verses.

In verse 3, the daisan, Ranchou evokes sake drunk to greet a visitor to his house. The sake has been heated and is still too hot to drink, but a fresh spring breeze from the east blows on the sake and cols it until the people are able to toast each other. The verse says that it seems as if the breeze has kindly blown into the house in order to cool the sake for the humans.

In verse 4, the yonku-me, Issa seems to be making a scent link. The sake has been drunk in order to say farewell to someone. After exchanging cups of warm sake, the traveler seems to put one foot in a stirrup and then swings his body upward and sideways over the horse in order to sit on it. His swinging motion is very light, according to the language used, so perhaps, helped by the sake, he feels as if the wind is helping him up onto the horse. From this upward swinging motion begin all the wide-ranging images that fill the kasen, which Issa literally imagines as a journey. It seems possible that Issa's image of leaping sideways up onto a horse is a reference to one of Shinran's most important teachings called ouchou 横超, to pass or cross over sideways -- what The Collected Works of Shinran calls "to transcend crosswise." Simply put, this means that it is possible for some believers, if their trust in and reliance on Amida is total and complete, to rapidly pass over all minor stages and enter directly into the Pure Land with Amida's help. Is the rider in verse 4 setting out for the Pure Land? If so, then the renku paper itself is a sudden opening onto the Pure Land that keeps blossoming with each new verse. There are no commentaries on this kasen, however, and this remains just an hypothesis.

Chris Drake

. shaba 娑婆 / しゃば / シャバ this world of Samsara .
more haiku by Issa on this subject

Shaba and Jodo 娑婆と浄土 the Defiled World and the Pure Land
samsara - the cycle of suffering in this world


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. WKD : Kobayashi Issa 小林一茶 - Introduction .




Edo Cherry Blossoms ISSA


. Kobayashi Issa 小林一茶 in Edo .

. WKD : Cherry Blossoms (sakura 桜) .


edo sakura hana mo zeni dake hikaru kana

Edo Cherries --
glittering coins outshine
their blossoms

Tr. Chris Drake

This hokku is from the second month (March) in 1820, when Issa was in and around his hometown. "Edo Cherries" (edo-zakura) in the first line is one name for "Somei-Yoshino Cherries," a type of cherry tree artificially created by gardeners in Somei, a village on the edge of Edo, who crossed two traditional types of cherry trees. The Somei nurseries also produced other kinds of new flowers and trees and actively marketed them. Some of these creations became very popular with samurai lords, who generally had very large gardens, and with Edo's merchants, most of whom sought to imitate the warrior class. In Issa's time various nurseries competed to see which could create the most striking or unusual new varieties of flowers and trees. Flower contests became common in the city, and Issa has several hokku about the unnatural shapes of the artificially large and fancy chrysanthemums that became popular in Edo, where the flowers could be amazingly expensive.

Edo Cherries became a choice commodity not long before Issa was sent by his father to Edo to find a job, so he has no doubt seen them in bloom and has compared them with other, more traditional types, such as the wild mountain cherries growing in profusion at Mt. Yoshino. Edo Cherries have bowl-like blossoms that are a strong red at the center when they first bloom, though they gradually turn to a very light pink before they fall, and the blossoms grow fairly close together, covering the whole tree and giving it a rather ostentatious look that many Edoites preferred.

Issa, however, isn't overly impressed by either the blossoms or the tree. He says "even" (mo) the blossoms, so he may refer to the fact that the tree is mainly for show: only very sour cherries or no cherries at all grow on it. And he may feel the overall shape of the tree is a bit unbalanced, since the blossoms bloom before the leaves appear. The tree's main value is commercial, he feels, and in a narrow sense he seems to have been right, since this ornamental type of cherry became even more popular during the period when Japan was modernizing and today is regarded as "traditional," at least in urban areas. It is also popular around the world.

Chris Drake


Edo Sakura Renaissance

- source : /


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. WKD : Kobayashi Issa 小林一茶 - Introduction .




furugi old robes


furugi 古着 old robes

The most common robes and cloths of the Edo period
. Kimono, Yukata, Nagajuban and more .

When they got old, they joined the marked for used and second-hand clothes and robes.

furugiya 古着屋 a second-hand clothing store

They belonged to a group if eight recycle businesses in Edo

happinshoo 八品商
. Recycling and Reuse in Edo .
The government kept an eye on them, because sometimes their merchandise was stolen.

. shitateya 仕立屋 / 仕立て屋 tailor, seamstress .
They were also part of the recycle business of old robes.
kogire 古裂れ old pieces of cloth, size did not matter, small pieces were also available.
kamawanu - 構わぬ never mind (the size), became kamawanu 鎌わぬ.

kogireya 古裂れ屋 / 端切れ屋 dealer in old pieces of cloth, ready to be re-sewn.
tsugihagi, tsugi-hagi 継ぎ接ぎ patching and darning was also popular.

for mitaoshiya 見倒し屋 second-hand dealer, see below

furugi kai 古着買い buyer of old cloths

They were the beginning of the shops dealing with old and used robes. The government kept an eye on them, because sometimes the merchandise was stolen.
Many stores started at Tomizawa-cho 富沢町 close to Nihonbashi.
One of the first known dealers was
Tobisawa Jinnai 鳶沢甚内. He was a samurai of the Odawara clan and became the boss of a thieve's group, after his domaine was abolished. When peace returned to Japan, he settled as a cloth merchant. Soon many followed him and one small quarter was named after him, Tobisawa cho 鳶沢町.

Some buyers even got the old robes from poor people who had died. They had to wait until the funeral was well over, to make sure the dead had reached Paradise and would not come back to claim his robes before they could sell this merchandise.

When the dealers walked through town, there were usually two of them. The beginning of this custom is legend:
Once there was a dealer who became too ill to carry the pole with the merchandise himself, so he had his son follow him to carry the burden. This was well observed and soon imitated by others.

Tomizawachoo 富沢町 Tomizawa Cho district
中央区 Chuo ward.

. Place names of Edo - Introduction .


furugiya, furugi-ya 古着屋 dealer in old cloths

source :

Around 1723 there were more than 1180 stores in Edo, most of them members of a special guild 同業組合.
Most kept their merchandise in a shop, others employes had peddlers to offer them in a wider area of Edo. Some sold complete kimono and robes,

others had them taken apart (furugire 古切れ)and sold the material separate.

source :
 「柳原土手に並ぶ古着屋」 Yanagiwara Dote  江戸東京博物館蔵

Many shops were along the river Kandagawa from Manseibashi bridge to Asakusabashi bridge, an area called the 柳原土手 Yanagiwara dote river bank.

. Recycling and Reuse in Edo .


In Osaka and Kyoto, the shops were called
furuteya, furute-ya 古手屋

They were even the subject of rakugo comic stories, for example "Kanjo Ita 勘定板".
The shop at Sakasuri jinja 大坂船場の坐摩神社 is especially famous.

古手屋喜十 為事覚え by 宇江佐真理 Ueza Mari



takeuma furugi uri 竹馬古着売り / 竹馬古着屋 selling old cloths hanging on a "bamboo horse" (takeuma) carried over the shoulder

In the year 1629 a certain 家城太郎治 prepared a hanger with four legs from bamboo, like stilts (takeuma 竹馬) to carry his merchandise of old robes around town. He started from Tokiwabashi 常盤橋.
First the front part of the hanger was high and looked like the head of a horse, with the merchandise covered by a large furoshiki cloth when walking around. Later front and bottom became the same hight, but it was still a "bamboo horse".
The ladies came soon to buy, because his ware was cheap, even if the material was faded or torn.

Other stores at Tomizawa-cho 富沢町 and Tachibana-cho 橘町 soon followed.

The town government soon produced some laws for dealing with
kobutsu shoo 古物商 "dealing with old things" .
古物商 へ売買定法再令

furumono kai 古物買い to buy old things
shoku akindo 職商人(しょくあきんど) they bought old things and repaired them.

in our modern times they are sometimes called
risaikuru shoppu リサイクルショップ recycle shop


mitaoshiya 見倒し屋 / 見倒屋 second-hand dealer

source :

An important recycle business in Edo for used things, including all kobutsu shoo 古物商 dealers in "old things".

mitaosu, mi-taosu 見倒す means to "look down", to underrate, under-value.

The dealers would take a look down at the shoes of the new client to judge his status, then at the things he brought to the shop, and underrate them quite a bit accordingly to make a good deal.
Therefore many Edokko 江戸っ子 "true men of Edo" took great care to have expensive-looking footware.

mitaoshi wa katana o sashite nabe o sage

things get under-valued -
be it a sword
be it a cooking pot

and on his way home

 the mitaoshiya
wears a sword
and dangles a cooking pot

The mitaoshiya could not afford to feel sorry for his clients, even if they brought the valuables and mementos of a deceased family member -
and yet sometimes this happens -

mitaoshiya tsuide ni goke mo nakoodo shi

the mitaoshiya
in the course of time finds a husband
for the widow . . .

nakoodo 仲人 is a go-between for a couple.

隠れ岡っ引 見倒し屋鬼助事件控
by 喜安 幸夫 (著), ヤマモト マサアキ (イラスト)


- - - - - H A I K U and S E N R Y U - - - - -

yuku haru ya ware o mitaosu furugigai

spring departs -
the old clothes buyer
undervalues my things

. Kobayashi Issa 小林一茶 in Edo .


- - - To join me on facebook, click the image !


. - Doing Business in Edo - 商売 - Introduction .

. senryu, senryū 川柳 Senryu poems in Edo .

. Japanese Architecture - cultural keywords used in haiku .




Criminal Punishment

. hanzai 犯罪 crime and punishment - Glossary .

Criminal Punishment in Edo
Strafe, Bestrafung, Gericht - Todesstrafe in Edo

gokei 五刑 five judicial penalties
keibatsu 刑罰 punishment
keijoo, keijō 刑場 execution ground
Kodenma-choo, Kodenma-chō 小伝馬町 Kodenma-cho prison in Edo
rooya 牢屋 Roya, prison, jail / rooyashiki 牢屋敷 prison compound
shokei 処刑 execution

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. Kodenmachō 小伝馬町 Kodenmacho .
Denma-chō Rōyashiki 伝馬町牢屋敷 Denma-chō Prison

under construction

- quote
During the Edo period,
Japan used various punishments against criminals. These can be categorized as follows:

Death penalty
Incarceration and Exile
Penal labor
Confiscation of property
Corporal punishment

Death penalty
Serious crimes such as murder and arson were punished by death. The shogunate maintained execution grounds for Edo at Kozukappara, Suzugamori, and Itabashi.
Kozukappara, also known as Kotsukappara or Kozukahara, is currently located near the southwest exit of Tokyo's Minami-Senju Station. It is estimated that between 100,000 and 200,000 people were executed here. Only part of the site remains, located next to Emmeiji temple, partly buried under the rail tracks and under a more-recent burial ground. Archaeological and morphological research was done by Tokyo University on the skulls found buried here which confirmed the execution methods. Another notable one was located at Suzugamori in Shinagawa. Both sites are still sparsely commemorated in situ with memorial plaques and tombstones.

The shogunate executed criminals in various ways:
Crucifixion for killing a parent, husband etc.
Decapitation by sword
Waist-cutting (cutting the person in half). The Kanazawa han coupled this with decapitation.

The death penalty often carried collateral punishments. One was parading the criminal around town prior to execution. A similar one was public display of the criminal prior to execution. A third was public display of the severed head.

Samurai were often sentenced to commit seppuku in lieu of these forms of punishment. Seppuku is a term of suicide for the samurai.

Incarceration and exile
Depending on the severity of the crime, magistrates could sentence convicts to incarceration in various forms:

- Exile to an island. Criminals in Edo were often confined on Hachijōjima or Miyakejima. Criminals so punished received tattoos.
- Imprisonment. The government of Edo maintained a jail at Kodenma-chō.
- Exclusion from the location of the crime was a penalty for both commoners and samurai.
- Tokoro-barai, banishment to a certain distance, was common for non-samurai.
- Kōfu kinban, assignment to the post of Kōfu in the mountains west of Edo, is an example of rustication of samurai.

Penal labor
For crimes requiring moderate punishment, convicts could be sent to work at labor camps such as the one on Ishikawa-jima in Edo Bay. More serious acts could result in being sent to work in the gold mine on the island of Sado. In 1590, Hideyoshi had banned "unfree labor" or slavery; but forms of contract and indentured labor persisted alongside the period penal codes' forced labor. For example, the Edo period penal laws prescribed "non-free labor" for the immediate family of executed criminals in Article 17 of the Gotōke reijō (Tokugawa House Laws), but the practice never became common. The 1711 Gotōke reijō was compiled from over 600 statutes promulgated between 1597 and 1696.

It was also common for female convicts to be sentenced to serve terms working as slaves and prostitutes in walled Red Light Districts, most notably Yoshiwara.

A penalty that targeted merchants especially was kesshō, the confiscation of a business.

Corporal punishment
Handcuffing allowed the government to punish a criminal while he was under house arrest. Depending on the severity of the crime, the sentence might last 30, 50, or 100 days.

Flagellation was a common penalty for crimes such as theft and fighting. Amputation of the nose or ears replaced flogging as penalty early in the Edo period. The 8th Shogun of Edo, Tokugawa Yoshimune introduced judicial Flogging Penalty, or tataki, in 1720. A convicted criminal could be sentenced to a maximum of 100 lashes. Samurai and priests were exempt from flogging, and the penalty was applied only to commoners. The convict was stripped of all outer clothing and struck about the buttocks and back. The flogging penalty was used until 1867, though it fell out of favor from 1747 to 1795 intermittently. Both men and women could be sentenced to a flogging, though during one segment of the mid-Edo period, women were imprisoned rather than flogged.

Origin of flogging penalty
In 757 A.D., the Chinese-influenced Yoro Ritsuryo (養老律令) legal system was enacted and introduced Five Judicial Penalties (五刑). Two of the Five Judicial Penalties involved Flogging. Light Flogging provided for 10 to 50 lashes, while Heavy Flogging stipulated 60 to 100 strokes. However, a slave could be sentenced to up a maximum of 200 lashes. These flogging penalties only applied to male commoners. Convicts of the nobility, along with female commoners, might be sentenced to the imposition of handcuffs or a fine. When a convicted criminal was flogged, half the number of lashes were typically applied to the back, half to the buttocks. At times, if the convict's request to change the lash target was sanctioned then the lashes would be applied only to the back or to the buttocks. By the Age of Warring States, flogging had been largely replaced by decapitation.
- source : wikipedia

source :

槍で突く刑罰 death by piercing with a spear


Kozukappara keijō 小塚原刑場 Kozukappara execution grounds
The Kozukappara execution grounds were one of the three sites in the vicinity of Edo (the forerunner of present-day Tokyo, Japan) where the Tokugawa shogunate executed criminals in the Edo period.
Alternate romanized spellings are Kozukahara and Kotsukappara.

kubikiri Jizoo 首切り地蔵 Jiso Bosatsu to help the beheaded

The site is located in modern Minami Senju, Arakawa, Tokyo, a three-minute walk away from Minami-Senju Station. Located next to Enmeiji Temple, a large part of the grounds are now covered by railway tracks.

It is estimated that between 100,000 and 200,000 people were executed here.[citation needed] Those executed include Hashimoto Sanai and Yoshida Shōin, who were executed as a result of the Ansei Purge.

Sugita Genpaku, Nakagawa Jun'an, Katsuragawa Hoshū and their colleagues studied anatomy by conducting dissections at Kozukappara.

Kozukappara began operation in 1651, and continued until the Meiji period. Executions were stopped in an attempt to convince Western powers to end the unequal treaties with Japan.
- source : wikipedia


Suzugamori keijoo 鈴ヶ森刑場 Suzugamori execution grounds 

- quote
Note: The remains of the Execution Ground lie in a pleasant suburban area between Shinagawa in Tokyo Prefecture and Kawasaki in Kanagawa Prefecture, which are Stations #1 and 2 respectively (from Nihombashi in Tokyo) on the Old Tokaido Highway.

This is just a little street corner near a highway and Shinagawa Aquarium--but heavy with atmosphere. It commemorates Edo's former execution ground, but all that's left are some statues and grave stones, some of which also came from Daikyouji Temple. My friend and translator Naoko told me that rents in the area tend to be cheaper--to entice people to move here despite their fear of ghosts. The site contains signs of active reverence--live flower offerings, etc.
- source and more photos :

- - - More in the WIKIPEDIA !


. Kubizuka 首塚 memorial stone pagodas and mounds for the beheaded .


source :

Aosasa Fudo 青笹不動尊
at the execution ground near mount Aosasa in Sendai

. Fudō Myō-ō, Fudoo Myoo-Oo 不動明王 Fudo Myo-O
Acala Vidyârâja - Vidyaraja - Fudo Myoo .


- - - - - H A I K U and S E N R Y U - - - - -

rooya kara detari ittari suzume no ko

in and out
of prison they go ...
baby sparrows

Tr. David Lanoue

Or: "he goes.../ baby sparrow."
In my earlier translation, I began with "flying in and out of prison," but Shinji Ogawa thinks that the word "flying" spoils Issa's surprise. Someone is going in and out of prison, and we must wait until Issa's punch line to discover the identity of that someone: baby sparrows!
The little birds know nothing about human law and punishment. They fly easily back and forth between the carefully demarcated human realms of "prison" and "freedom." Such categories mean nothing to them.
David Lanoue

. Kobayashi Issa 小林一茶 in Edo .


- Tanka by Yoshida Shoin

夢路にも、かへらぬ関を 打ち越えて
今をかぎりと 渡る小瀬川

yumeji ni mo kaeranu seki o uchi koete
ima o kagiri to wataru ozegawa

Even in my dream,
Never shall I return to the Pass
That did I come over;
Now this is the very last
I cross the Ozegawa River.

A tanka poem of Yoshida Shoin

While being sent to a prison in Edo (present-day Tokyo) under guard, as one of the most dangerous insurgents of Choshu Domain, Yoshida Shoin composed a tanka poem in crossing the Ozegawa River, the provincial border between Aki(present-day Hiroshima Prefecture) and Suo(present-day Yamasguchi Prefecture). You will see the Monument inscribed with his tanka on the Ozegawa riverbank.

- - - - - Notes (by Hokuto 77):
(1) The Ozegawa River, rising in Mt. Onigashiro (鬼ヶ城山 ) in Hiroshima Prefecture, flows as the Hiroshima-Yamaguchi prefectural border. In the Edo Period(1603-1868), too, the river played the part of the border between Aki (安芸), present-day Hiroshima Prefecture) and Suo (周防, present-day Yamaguchi Prefecture) provinces.

(2) Seki (関) in the tanka means the Oze Pass, not a barrier station.

(3) Yoshida Shōin 吉田松陰 Yoshida Shoin
( 20.09.1830-21.11.1859)
was one of the most distinguished intellectuals in the closing days of the Tokugawa shogunate. He devoted to developing many Ishin Shishi who made an outstanding contribution to the Meiji Restoration. Born in Choshu Domain to a samurai family, at age five this child prodigy began to study tactics, at age eight he attended college, at age nine he taught in college, and at age ten he impressed the Mori daimyo family with a military lecture he had delivered. “---” When it was Yoshida's turn, he was composed - his executioner said he died a noble death. He was 29 years old.    
(From Wikipedia free encyclopedia)

* Shoin was one of the victims beheaded in the Ansei Purge (in 1858 and 1859), which was carried out
by Ii Naosuke (井伊直弼).

(4) Self-praise (by Hokuto77, 2010):
‘I’ is used three times in the short tanka poem, my intention is to stress his resignation, or readiness to die he cherished in producing the tanka poem, and ‘Now’ may sound redundant or predictable. In my private dictionary, ‘Now’ indicates that it can’t be helped. I feel sorry for offending your ears by three ‘Is and Now.’ 
- source :


- More vocabulary -

bakkin 罰金 penal fine

chōeki 懲役 imprisonment with labor

hansokukin 反則金 administrative fine for minor traffic violations
haren chizai 破廉恥罪 “infamous” crime
hogo kansatsu 保護観察 probation

jukeisha 受刑者 inmate, lit. “person receiving punishment”

kari shakuhō 仮釈放 parole
keibatsu 刑罰 punishment (keijibatsu 刑事罰)
keimusho 刑務所 prison
kei no genbatsuka 刑の厳罰化 harsher punishment
kinko 禁固 / 禁錮 imprisonment without labor

kōryū 拘留 short-term detention
kōryū 勾留 pretrial detention

kōsei hogo 更生保護 rehabilitation and protection
kōshukei 絞首刑 death by hanging
kyokkei 極刑 “ultimate punishment” (death penalty)
kyōsei shisetsu 矯正施設 correctional facility

muki chōeki 無期懲役 imprisonment with labor for an undefined term

ryūkei 流刑 Ryukei, punishment by exile

. seppuku 切腹 -- harakiri 腹切り ritual suicide .

shikei 死刑 death penalty
shikkō yūyo 執行猶予 suspension of a sentence
shūshinkei 終身刑 “punishment until the body is finished”

tsuichōkin 追徴金 financial penaltiy

zenka 前科 criminal record


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. hanzai 犯罪 crime and punishment - Glossary .

. Japanese Architecture - cultural keywords used in haiku .

. - Doing Business in Edo - 商売 - Introduction .

. senryu, senryū 川柳 Senryu poems in Edo .

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Issa and Animals


. Kobayashi Issa 小林一茶 in Edo .

Issa and Animals


Tr. anc comment by Chris Drake

saoshika ya eishite nameru kesa no shimo

stags stand close
licking morning frost
off each other

This hokku is from the ninth lunar month (October) in 1819, and it is also found toward the end of Year of My Life, Issa's haibun evocation of that year. In the hokku it is late autumn, the mating season, when stags have grown their antlers again and male hormones are flowing. In autumn stags tend to become competitive and assertive, often fighting and sometimes seriously injuring themselves in their desire to imitate the local alpha male, and they also also spend hour after hour plaintively crying out to does. All this assertion and exhibitionism causes the stags to lose many pounds of body weight, and often they are quite haggard, so Issa seems deeply moved by a scene of cooperation, closeness, and friendliness between them early in the morning, before they have become preoccupied with separateness and mating rituals. Frost comes early to the mountainous plateau on which Issa's hometown is located, and for the moment the stags have put away their defenses as they warm up their fellow stags with their tongues.

This harmony and warm spirit of cooperation shown in the midst of fierce competition, even though it is during a temporary period of rest, is obviously important to Issa, who as usual feels animals have much to teach humans. The two hokku preceding this hokku in Year of My Life make this even clearer:

when I was completely lost

night bitterly cold
a neighing horse guides me
to the piss ditch

shoubenjo koko to uma yobu yosamu kana

hey, migrating birds,
no squabbling -- you'll never
make it home alone

kenka su na aimi-tagai no watari-dori

Together the three hokku form a short sequence of related poems that make a strong impression and ask human readers to take them seriously. In the hokku about the horse, Issa seems to have become disoriented after waking up in the middle of the night. Still half asleep and shivering, he has completely forgotten where the ditch for pissing (used by both men and women) is, and he can't see anything in the dark. At that moment a horse in a stall inside one end of the farmhouse hears him moving and makes neighing sounds, allowing Issa to orient himself, since the ditch is just outside the end of the house in which the stall is located.

Issa seems to feel the horse deliberately neighed because it sought to communicate or at least to be harmoniously together with another creature, so he is extremely grateful to the horse for its kind help. Even if the horse was not consciously telling Issa where the ditch was, Issa says the horse 'calls out' (yobu) to him, so he assumes that horses and humans share a basic desire to communicate with each other, even if they do not possess a formal common language. On the other hand, in Issa's time farm horses lived inside the same house the farming family lived in, and Issa may make midnight trips from time to time, so he may feel the horse, a family member, was consciously guiding him.

In the last hokku, some migratory birds who winter in Japan seem to have stopped briefly in Issa's hometown on their way south. They are having a loud quarrel about something, worrying Issa and causing him to offer some advice. He speaks to them as a fellow life-traveler and reminds them they shouldn't quarrel with those they are closest to and on whom they are most dependent for their very survival. In Issa's diary, the hokku before and after this hokku are about singing Amida Buddha's name, so Issa seems to be treating birds and humans in a parallel way, and he surely considers chanting or singing Amida's name in both human and bird languages to be a good way of ending dissension and increasing mutual sympathy.

Following this hokku about birds in Year of My Life is the first hokku translated above about stags. By creating a series consisting of three separately written hokku, in Year of My Life Issa more effectively overcomes superficial conceptual distinctions between humans and other animals, and he may be hinting at Amida's presence as well.

Chris Drake


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. WKD : Kobayashi Issa 小林一茶 - Introduction .




ISSA - Kyoto


. Kobayashi Issa 小林一茶 in Edo .

degawari ya yama koshite miru Kyoo no sora

hatsu yume no fuji no yama uru miyako kana

hototogisu hana no o-edo o hito nomi ni

ka-bashira no ana kara miyuru miyako kana

karabito to zakone mo suran onna kana

miyakobe ya fuyugomori sae isogashiki

norakura ya hana no miyako mo aki no kaze

shimogyoo no mado kazoe keri haru no kure

yuku aki ya sude ni o-shaka wa kyoo no sora

- - - - -Read the discussions here :
. Kyoto - Hana no Miyako 花の都 .


yoru-yoru wa hon no miyako zo kado suzumi

night after night
people cool off outside --
it is truly the capital

Tr. Chris Drake

This hokku is from the sixth month (July) of 1813, about five months after Issa finally reached an agreement with his brother and returned to live in his half of his father's house in his hometown. It is also the last hokku in a series of four (or perhaps five) in Issa's diary about the Gion Festival in faraway Kyoto, a festival that is taking place as he writes his hokku. Apparently just imagining the Gion Festival makes Issa feel cooler. When he traveled in western Honshu many years earlier, Issa probably saw at least part of the long Gion Festival, which lasts for a month and is one of the three most famous festivals in Japan. Night after night and day after day different groups of dancers, musicians, actors, Shinto priests, and ordinary citizens from different parts of Kyoto carry out ceremonies and performances in various neighborhoods and parade through the streets at various times. When they do, people go outside to wave or urge on those in the processions as they pass by. On 6/7 and 6/14, very tall floats on large wagons were pulled through the streets of the main parts of the city, and Issa's other Kyoto hokku in this part of his diary for the sixth month evoke those large floats. During the month-long festival, benches were set up in the streets, stalls selling food or charms proliferated, and low platforms were placed in the almost dry riverbed of the Kamo River near the route of the processions, allowing people to cool off in the night air as they watched from the riverbed. It is this festival which Issa evokes in four consecutive hokku, and the only emperor he mentions is Gozu Tennou, the Ox Head Emperor, a syncretic Buddhist and Shinto deity who is the main god at the Gion Shrine.

In Issa's time the nominal capital of Japan was Kyoto, but the emperor was close to being a mere figurehead, and the actual administrative capital was Edo, where the shogunate held real power and acted as the nation's government, although much power was also held by feudal samurai lords in their rural domains. To Issa, however, in the sixth month Kyoto stops being the nominal capital of Japan and actually becomes the real capital. This change is not due to the old aristocracy but to the economic power of Kyoto's merchants and craftspeople, who support the Gion Festival and keep alive the communal commoner networks, guilds, and self-help organizations that developed through the centuries after the aristocracy lost most of its power. The Gion Festival takes place throughout the city, and each local neighborhood joins in. Much of the commoner population of Kyoto participates in this festival, and those who don't pull floats around or perform in the streets stand beside the streets near their homes, enjoying the cool air, conversation, and the festival. When Issa says people "cool off by/near their doors and gates," he seems to be referring mainly to the commoners in Kyoto.

This kind of great outdoor urban festival could take place in Kyoto because of its traditions of commoner independence and pride and because commoners made up the majority of the population of the city. By contrast, in Edo, where Issa came of age after being sent there as a boy, warriors owned about two-thirds of the land, with only about 15% being owned by commoners. Edo began as a castle town and administrative center, and most of the early commoners who came to live there did jobs that were in some way related to supporting the warrior population. By Issa's time commoners had developed their own unique culture, but in Edo there was never any doubt about which class ruled and which classes had to obey. In Kyoto, however, warriors had to keep a very low profile and hesitated to interfere in daily city affairs, while the aristocrats were weak and ineffectual. During the Gion Festival, at least, Kyoto people enjoyed living outside together, and it must have almost seemed as if commoners temporarily ran the city. To Issa, Kyoto during the Gion Festival truly deserved the name of capital of Japan.

After leaving Edo and returning to live in his hometown in 1813, Issa, happy at being home, seems to have partially overlapped in his mind his native area of Shinano with Kyoto. In another hokku in Issa's diary placed soon before the four about the Gion Festival is a hokku about the "mountain people" in his area having "Kyoto-sized" rooms in their houses. In Kyoto, tatami floor mat sizes were slightly bigger than in Edo, where people had to squeeze together. An eight-mat room was thus perceptibly larger in Kyoto and Shinano than in Edo. And more generally, Issa feels Shinano is a much better place than it's said to be by outsiders. In fact, when it comes to summer coolness Shinano is the capital of cool in Japan, as Issa suggests in this hokku, which is also placed near the four hokku about Kyoto:

bathing at a hot springs in the depths of Shinano --

gege mo gege gege mo gekoku no suzushisa yo

ah, how cool
the lowest of the lowest
of the low provinces

In ancient Japan Shinano was officially ranked among the "low provinces" in terms of value, and in Issa's time city people in Edo continued to look down on the province. However, Issa knows from experience that those who underestimate Shinano are forgetting something, and the repetition of ge suggests their inability to think and speak clearly. In Shinano the cool summer air is surely, he believes, as refreshing as it gets in Japan. The coolness in Shinano comes from nature, while the coolness in Kyoto comes from its convivial outdoor street culture, especially during the colorful and dramatic Gion Festival, but Issa seems to feel that both Shinano and Kyoto must be equal in terms of sheer coolness. His hometown has no great annual midsummer festival to transform and cool daily life, but it does have magic melons. In Issa's diary, placed between the "lowest of the low" hokku and the "night after night" hokku are these:

hito kitara kaeru to nare yo hiyashi-uri

hey, melons cooling
in the creek, if someone comes
turn into frogs!

ishikawa ya ariake-zuki to hiyashi-uri

rocky stream --
dawn moon,
cooling melons

In the first hokku, Issa plays the part of magician, while in the second it is the moon's cool light and its shape reflected on the surface of the rippling stream that urge the melons to think big and to cool people's minds and imaginations as well as their mouths, just as the moon does. Also, as Issa surely knows, Rocky Stream is also one of the alternate names of the Kamo River in Kyoto, and the next two hokku in his diary evoke the representation of a cool crescent moon at the top of a pole high above the moon float at the Gion Festival, a float dedicated to the main god of the Gion Shrine, so the hokku about the rocky stream may be overlapping a stream in Issa's hometown with the Kamo River in Kyoto, where large numbers of people go at night to catch some cool air and eat cool food after enjoying the festival. Issa seems to have actually witnessed people immersing melons in the Kamo River for cooling, since several years earlier he wrote a hokku about it, so it seems possible that, in Issa's imagination, the melons in the rocky stream hokku are cooling both in Issa's hometown and in the Kamo River in faraway Kyoto.

During his first summer back in his hometown, Issa seems to have had utopian visions of his native region. After leaving behind the cramped rooms of warrior-ruled Edo, he may have felt that in some ways his hometown was the equal of Kyoto, at least if he could use his imagination to make it into something equaling Kyoto. Surely he was beginning to understand the type of haikai he wanted to write from now on in his new life environment.

Issa's mental overlapping of his hometown with Kyoto is a bit complex.

Chris Drake

. Gion matsuri 祇園祭り Gion Festival in Kyoto .


hototogisu kyoo ni shite miru tsukiyo kana

go see this moon
in the old capital

This hokku is from lunar 4/19 (May 26) of 1807, when Issa was in Edo. On the nineteenth the moon is slightly past full and is still fairly bright though waning. In the hokku Issa seems to be especially impressed by the singing of one nightingale, and he tries to persuade the bird to visit the old capital, Kyoto, if it really wants to see tonight's moon as it should be seen, with the moonlit city spread out below in its full beauty. Since Edo was a city on the move twenty-four hours a day, city lights presumably made the moon harder to see and enjoy, and in Kyoto, where waka poems about nightingales have been written for centuries, people will appreciate the bird's voice more deeply than they do in Edo. And Kyoto, still the nominal capital, is simply a more elegant city than utilitarian Edo, the actual administrative capital. In the previous hokku in his diary Issa urges a nightingale not to dawdle or it will never get to Kyoto, and in the present hokku he may be hoping the bird can fly all the way to Kyoto in a single night.

In another hokku written on the same day, Issa tells a nightingale that has just returned from the south to get ready to look at creepers and other high-growing weeds on and around the humble houses of commoners in Edo. However, that hokku is followed by:

at night even weeds
are beautiful

hototogisu yoru wa mugura mo utsukushiki

Still, nothing in Edo compares with moonlit Kyoto, so Issa urges the bird to gaze at the moon there. By implication, he may be suggesting the bird will be recognized in Kyoto for its outstanding voice.

There is no perfect English translation for the bird hototogisu. It is literally the "lesser" cuckoo, since it is smaller than the larger common cuckoo (Cuculus canorus - kakkou, kankodori), which is commonly found in Europe and sings with cuckoo-clock-like cries. The lesser cuckoo is found only in Africa and Asia, so its cry and its habits are not part of common bird folklore or experience in English. The song of the lesser cuckoo is rather different from that of the common cuckoo and is closer to the song of the uguisu (bush warbler). In fact, the songs of the lesser cuckoo and bush warbler were and to some extent still remain the two most prized bird songs in Japan, and people wrote many waka and hokku about hearing the first song of the year of both birds. Since the lesser cuckoo, unlike the common cuckoo, is fond of singing at night as well as in the day, the sound of its voice in the darkness is said to be especially moving, and people often stayed up all night in early summer waiting to hear its soulful, emotional-sounding song. The bird is therefore often associated with night and the moon as well as with souls in the other world and with mountain gods, for whom it acts as a messenger.

It is also thought to be a messenger for Buddhas, and its song is said to make the sound of Japanese words meaning, "Have you hung up your Buddha image?" The inside of its mouth is red, and the lesser cuckoo is also called the bird that coughs blood, a reference to legendary king Duyu in China who died in exile and whose soul became a lesser cuckoo that sang so sadly about wanting to return home that it coughed up blood. This legend influenced Masaoka Shiki when he chose his writing name (Shiki, in Sino-Japanese, means Lesser Cuckoo), since he, too, was a singer in spite of coughing up blood from his tubercular lungs, and the literary magazine he founded, Hototogisu, bears the name Lesser Cuckoo. Many other legends and images are associated with the bird.

Unfortunately, to most English speakers, the word cuckoo suggests the common cuckoo and not the mysterious, otherworldly lesser cuckoo with its sad, emotional voice. There is no consensus on what English name might suggest the beauty and suggestiveness of the bird's song, which is quite different from that of the common cuckoo, but I use "nightingale" in order to suggest some of the spiritual and cultural ambiance of the hototogisu. In Greek myth the nightingale sings the mournful song of the soul of a woman who has been wronged, and in English poetry the nightingale has often been evoked as the spirit of song or poetry or the imagination. However, nightingales are not found in Japan, so my translation is based on cultural similarities and the nocturnal singing habits of both the nightingale and the lesser cuckoo.

Chris Drake

. hototogisu ホトトギス, 時鳥 Little Cuckoo, Cuculus poliocephalis .


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. WKD : Kobayashi Issa 小林一茶 - Introduction .