Dragonflies and Autumn Leaves ~ Haiku of Japan

in Blockchain Poets2 months ago

Tatsuta River is famous for autumn leaves. Perhaps the most famous place in Japan for them, at least traditionally.

蜻蛉も紅葉の真ねや竜田川
tombō mo momiji no mane ya tatsuta-gawa

dragonflies
copying the red leaves—
tatsuta river
—Issa

(trans. David LaSpina[1])


"Yamato Province, Tatsuta Mountain and Tatsuta River" by Hiroshige



You can imagine a scene of red maples along the river, and dragonflies flirting here and there mixing in with the view so much that they seem to be imitating the leaves. It's a delightful image! Tatsuta River is one of the most famous places for the autumn leaves in the country.

Yesterday in my photo post (here) I mentioned a little bit about the mythology of Princess Tatsuta, the goddess of Autumn, who from her home on Mount Tatsuta dyes the leaves their autumn colors and then spreads them all over Japan.

Here is the poem about her I shared in yesterday's post, a very old one by Prince Kanemi from the Imperial anthology Kokinshū.

竜田姫たむくる神のあればこそ
秋の木の葉のぬさと散るらめ

princess tatsuta
must have offerings to make
to gods on her way:
so the autumn leaves
scatter like fragments of cloth

Flowing next to her home is the Tatsuta River. Both mountain and river are famous for the autumn leaves. Of old it was said that Yoshino Mountain was the best place for cherry blossoms in Japan and Tatsuta River and Mountain the best places for the autumn leaves.

There are a great many waka (poems) from ancient times to modern that refer to the wonderful view along this river. The most famous of these may be from the Ogura Hyakunin Isshu by Narihisa:

ちはやぶる神代も聞かず竜田川
からくれなゐに水くくるとは

unknown even by
the gods of old
such beauty:
tatsuta river in scarlet—
with blue water flowing below


Made for Narihisa's poem, by Hokusai

This is likely the poem Issa is referring to with his haiku. In his time and still today many people memorize all one hundred poems in the Ogura Hyakunin Isshu so that they can win at Uta-garuta, a popular card game where you match two halves of the poems, so having them memorized helps you win.

The season word in Issa's haiku is "dragonflies" which is a kigo (season word) for all of autumn. Tatsuta River isn't a kigo, but when we read it in a poem it immediately brings the autumn leaves to mind.




Hi there! David LaSpina is an American photographer and translator lost in Japan, trying to capture the beauty of this country one photo at a time and searching for the perfect haiku.

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    1. That is, me! If you like this translation, feel free to use it. Just credit me. Also link here if you can.

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    This is a fantasizing theme in Japan and the love letter of the Prince to the Princess...

    I love the waka...

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