NEW:【あらすじ・解説】「羅生門」芥川龍之介 未知の世界に飛び込む勇気

“Bungo” Akiko Yosano, tanka poet : Young woman with black hair

Cover of Midaregami by Akiko Yosano, Cover of Bungo Stray Dogsbungo
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Akiko Yosano (1878-1942) was a Japanese poet and critic. Recently, she is also known as a character in the manga “Bungo Stray Dogs”.

She was probably best known for her tanka poems. Tanka is a fixed form poem consisting of five phrases and 31 syllables(5-7-5-7-7). It is allowed to increase or decrease the number of syllables. Tanka is also called “uta” for short. She wrote more than 17,000 tanka poems and published more than 20 tanka collection books in her lifetime.

In this article, I would like to write a commentary on two representative uta in her first tanka collection, “みだれ髪(Midaregami)”.In English, “Midareigami” means disordered hair or tangled hair.


Book cover of “Midaregami” Amazon(japan)

The girl has rich black hair

The first uta

その子二十櫛にながるる黒髪のおごりの春のうつくしきかな

みだれ髪(midaregami)

The reading of this uta is as follows.
sonokohatachi / kushininagaruru / kurokamino / ogorinoharuno / utsukushikikana.
I added “/” to separate the five clauses.

The meaning of this uta is as follows. The girl is twenty years old. She has rich black hair that flows when she combs it. Because of her hair, people around her may look at her as if she is arrogant. On the other hand, how beautiful she is in the midst of her youth, full of confidence.

A uta tries to say a lot in a few words. Therefore, in order to interpret them, we need to understand the context of the uta and use our imagination to fill in the omitted words.

The narrator of the uta seems to be writing about someone else, but she is actually talking about the narrator herself. In other words, she is aware of her own self-importance, but calls it “beautiful”. This is an expression of intense self-love.

Looking at herself objectively in the mirror

Young people always seem to be full of life and shine. Those who are no longer young are dazzled by their appearance and look at them with envy. When young people are aware of the envy that is poured on them, their words and actions show their arrogance.

The narrator of the uta is probably sitting in front of a mirror, running a comb through his hair. The way she says “the girl” is because she is looking at herself objectively in the mirror. 

Maybe she was getting her hair done for her upcoming trip to town. I wondered if she had an appointment with a man. The way she naturally ruffled her hair showed a hint of sexiness.

The rich black hair of a young woman is a symbol of active life. As she watches herself combing her hair in the mirror, she feels a sense of arrogance, but she doesn’t think it’s a bad thing. She thinks it’s natural for someone so young and beautiful to be arrogant. This is expressed in her self-affirming words, “Utsukushiki ka na(how beautiful she is)”.

soft skin and hot blood

The second uta.

やは肌のあつき血汐にふれも見でさびしからずや道を説く君

みだれ髪(midaregami)

The reading of this uta is as follows.
yawahadano / atsukichisihoni / furemomide/sabishikarazuya / michiwotokukimi.
The meaning of this uta is as follows.

Are you not lonely as you explain morality without even touching the soft skin and hot blood of a woman’s body?

This uta is easier to interpret than the previously quoted uta. If we were to translate this scene into the present day, it would be easy to understand it as a scene where a girl who is used to playing around is making fun of a boy who is only studying. This is a common scene in high school classes, isn’t it? From her point of view, male students who only study and don’t know women are pitiful and pitiable. She looks down on them and snickers at them.

Akiko was an uninhibited woman. She was 22 years old when she published “Midaregami” and was in a relationship with her future husband, Tekkan Yosano. He had a wife. So there must have been a number of men who wanted to teach Akiko morals. This uta is a sharp criticism of such men.

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