Tuesday, September 3, 2013






Udaisho Michitsuna no Haha (Michitsuna's mother)

Sighing all alone,
Through the long watch of the night,
Till the break of day –

Can you realize at all
What a tedious thing it is?


When you have
been journeying,
life in the house

slows to a crawl.
I go to the window.
I go to the window



Ascribed only to one who is only named as an important man's mother (he was the leader of the armed forces), we are told she was a Fujiwara and one of the three most beautiful women of her time. Her husband seems to have exercised his noble prerogative to be gone at all hours and come home, if at all, perhaps smelling of another woman. She is said to have finally locked him out and, when he demanded to be let in, have thrown this poem over the wall to him.

The Nurse does not fool around with this story. Women understand one another concerning this kind of vigil. Hokusai has depicted the lady in a crushed kimono (indicating sleeplessness) holding a lamp against the darkness. Behind her, his pipe and bed await him in vain. 

Only the drawing may exist (if it does, it is in a private collection); there are no prints. Reproduced here is a very old Gillotype of the original (Morse, p.118).

Risa's situation, decades ago, was like that of Michitsuna's mother. She well remembers the wretchedness of those times, and is thankful that her life took, quite some time ago, a turn for the better.