Thursday, February 5, 2015






Junii Ietaka (Fujiwara no Ietaka)
Fujiwara no Ietaka, drawn  
by Kikuchi Yōsai.                

At Nara's brook
Evening comes, and rustling winds
Stir the oak-trees' leaves—

Not a sign of summer left
But the sacred bathing there.


I don't know how
to hold her; when
did she become

and so suddenly,
this woman, talking
of young men?


Fujiwara no Ietaka (1158-1237 C.E.) is included in the Shin Kokin Wakashū and also created a collection of his own tanka, Gyokuginshū. This poem is an evocation of fall as the winds fill the leaves near a Shinto shrine and the place feels somewhat lonelier, though some pilgrims are still making their way to the site to do purification rites by the river's side.

To judge by the lanterns, it is evening. Hokusai is thought to have shown himself in a self-portrait here, leaving the shrine, all wet. Possibly as well he is doing a kind of "four ages of man," with the boy showing the way for his future self, the man carrying his childhood, the mature pilgrim bowing at the shrine, and the elder self, at last turning away from life -- yet satisfied, perhaps, that he has made his mark.

Risa recalls her shock the day she discovered that her daughter, who leapt into her arms as she had always done, had nevertheless moved on into adulthood. Someone Risa had always known had suddenly vanished, and it was time to get to know someone quite new. In this there is something to celebrate, yet it includes at its core an element of mourning.