Saturday, July 23, 2011






Sojo Henjo (monk)

Winds of Heaven!
In the paths among the clouds
Blow, and close up the ways,

That we may these virgin forms
Yet a little while detain.


When first we came
to the country fair,
strange players wove

their spell round us
in lazing noon:
no one thought to leave

or that the day
should end — had we
all turned into crows,

who would have been


A ceremonial occasion such as that attended by the monk Henjo, or an entertainment, such as that given by a famous magician, which Risa attended, can be transformative. Henjo was impressed by the dancing of the young women, and Risa was amazed when an audience member became a crow and flew away into the trees.

Sojo Henjo, a member of the royal family, served as an officer of the Court and, upon the death of the emperor, became a monk. He was active in the 800s CE and is regarded as one of the Thirty-Six Poetry Immortals. He is said to have been one of the lovers of Ono no Komachi.

Hokusai shows A quite literal rendering of the scene as Henjo might have remembered it. Two young women of high rank are performing the "heavenly" dance, and one of the courtiers, presumably Henjo, instead of looking stolidly ahead of him like the other ranking men present, is rather slyly peeking.  This dance is influential in Japanese dance and music to this day.