Ōtomo no Yakamochi (大伴 家持) 718? to 785 and his poetry – kasasagi no wataseru hashi ni oku shimo no shiroki o mireba yo zo fukenikeru

Published by Hiromi Nishiwaki on

kasasagi no
wataseru hashi ni
oku shimo no

shiroki o mireba
yo zo fukenikeru

When I see the frost

lying white on a staircase

so like the arched bridge formed by the magpies' outstretched wings,

I know the night has grown deep.

-- Middle Counselor Yakamochi (718?-785)




This waka appears in the "Winter" section of the Shinkokinshū. Ōtomo no Yakamochi (718?-785), the son of Ōtomo no Tabito, was one of the compilers of the Man'yōshū.

That anthology contains more poems by him than by any other poet.

The poem relies for its effect on an implied metaphor signaled by a pun on the word hashi, which, depending on the Chinese character used, can mean either "bridge" or "(palace) staircase." In the former sense, the allusion is to the Chinese legend in which a bridge across the Milky Way is formed each year by magpies to allow the Herder to meet the Weaver (the Tanabata legend). In the latter interpretation (which is actually only conventional), the reference is to a staircase in the royal palace, no less "lofty" than the Milky Way by virtue of its association with the imperial court.


Handwriting by Noriko Nishiwaki


Noriko Nishiwaki

百人一首 乳母か縁説 中納言家持Poem by Chūnagon Yakamochi (Ōtomo no Yakamochi), from the series One Hundred Poems Explained by the Nurse (Hyakunin isshu uba ga etoki),1760–1849

Artist: Katsushika Hokusai (Japanese, Tokyo (Edo) 1760–1849 Tokyo (Edo))

Period: Edo period (1615–1868)
Date: 1760–1849 Culture: Japan
Medium: Polychrome woodblock print; ink and color on paper
Dimensions: 9 3/4 x 14 3/8 in. (24.8 x 36.5 cm) Classification: Prints
Credit Line: Henry L. Phillips Collection, Bequest of Henry L. Phillips, 1939

Ōtomo no Yakamochi Ōtomo no Yakamochi (大伴 家持, c. 718 – October 5, 785) was a Japanese statesman and waka poet in the Nara period.

He is a member of the Thirty-six Poetry Immortals (三十六歌仙 sanjūrokkasen).

He was born into the prestigious Ōtomo clan; his grandfather was Ōtomo no Yasumaro and his father was Ōtomo no Tabito.

Ōtomo no Sakanoue no Iratsume was his aunt.



Source: Special Thanks!



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