Sunday, May 22, 2011





(Empress) Jito Tenno

Spring, it seems, has passed,
And the summer come again;
For the silk-white robes,

So 'tis said, are spread to dry
On the "Mount of Heaven's Perfume."


She moves in spring
as one who
has carried herself

all winter among
famous people.
Yet she does

her own housework;
knows, as her
ancestors knew,

to spread white wash
over rhododendrons
in bright sun, like

remnants of snow —
glimpses, which some
have seen, of

the mountain, robed
in blue ice.


There is said to be a hint here that the robes need to be washed and aired out because of discreet encounters over the course of the winter, a regular feature of life at Court. The empress may or may not have seen, in the year in which she is writing, the robes drying on Kaguyama. This might obliquely express a regret that, as Empress, she has fewer options in some ways than her ladies. Or she may simply be thinking of the beauty of spring tasks, in contrast to the enclosed life of winter.

Hokusai's Old Nurse sees fabric being brought to the sea by the laundry workers for washing, and carried by them from the sea for drying.

Risa is thinking of a time when she washed and hung out her laundry when snow was still on the mountains, and observed the white of the household sheets against the white of the skyline. No one else was around, and she was stirred with melancholy that the moment could not be shared.