May Illness

In Japanese culture there is a phrase, gogatsu-byō (5月病), which means “May Illness”. It’s a tongue-in-cheek saying that describes the feeling of haziness or lethargy that many people experience in late April/early May. In Japan’s case, this is keenly felt by students whose school year ends in April (not June),1 and new office workers whoContinue reading “May Illness”

Cherry Blossoms at the UW

In Japan, the tradition of viewing cherry blossoms, or sakura (桜), is a very popular one. Every year, we take the kids to the University of Washington for cherry blossom viewing, called o-hanami (お花見) in Japanese. It was a very lovely time with the family. Centuries ago, the brilliant, and yet failed Shogun Ashikaga YoshimasaContinue reading “Cherry Blossoms at the UW”

A Life of Pomp and Regret

In Professor Donald Keene’s biography about the life of Shogun Ashikaga Yoshimasa (足利 義政, 1436 – 1490), includes a poem composed by Yoshimasa, now retired and living in his villa, the Silver Pavilion, ruminating on his former life as the supreme military commander of Japan: Japanese Romanization Translation くやしくぞ Kuyashiku zo Today I recall 過ぎしうき世をContinue reading “A Life of Pomp and Regret”

Remembering Loved Ones

Recently, my family and I observed the 100th day memorial for “baba”, my wife’s mother in Japan, and grandmother to our kids. This had me thinking about another poem by Lady Izumi1 from The Ink Dark Moon by Jane Hirshfield and Mariko Aratani: Original Japanese Romanization Translation 跡をみて Ato wo mite Even in my dreamsContinue reading “Remembering Loved Ones”

Of Burning Houses and Rain

Here is another wonderful poem (previous posts here and here) by the 11th century Japanese poetess, Lady Izumi (izumi shikibu 和泉式部 in Japanese), that I found in The Ink Dark Moon by Jane Hirshfield and Mariko Aratani: Original Japanese Romanization Translation ものをのみ Mono o nomi Should I leave this burning house 思ひの家を Omoi no ieContinue reading “Of Burning Houses and Rain”


A while back, I talked about a famous poetess from 11th century Japan named Lady Izumi, one of several famous ladies of the court at that time, but for some reason the one I find most fascinating.1 Lady Izumi was a prolific poet, and I have been reading samples of her poetry compiled in TheContinue reading “Inattention”

Ancient Japanese Rap Battling

With all the time I have to kill while in quarantine in the den, I have been cleaning up my old blog on the Hyakunin Isshu poetry anthology. It’s been great rediscovering things, including poem 60 of the anthology, a poem composed by Lady Izumi‘s daughter, Ko-Shikibu no Naishi (小式部内侍, d. 1025). Lady Izumi byContinue reading “Ancient Japanese Rap Battling”

Lonely At The Top: Minamoto no Sanetomo

I’m still keeping up with the Japanese historical drama the Thirteen Lords of Kamakura, discussed here, which is based primarily on the Azuma Kagami (吾妻鏡) a historical text about the period, and a fascinating look at how the Shogunate, or samurai military government, of the Kamakura Period rose and fell. The rise of the KamakuraContinue reading “Lonely At The Top: Minamoto no Sanetomo”

The Original Poet-Monk: Saigyo Hoshi

Long before people like Basho or Yosa Buson, in Japan there lived a man named Saigyō Hōshi (西行法師, 1118 – 1190), who lived a privileged life in the Heian period Court, but then threw it aside to become a prolific poet while living an ascetic life as a Buddhist monk. Japanese Romanization Translation しほりせで ShioriContinue reading “The Original Poet-Monk: Saigyo Hoshi”