Come See the Fall Leaves: Poem Number 26

The Togetsukyo Bridge near the Ōi River near Kyoto. Photo by MSades from Arashiyama, Kyoto, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Now that fall is full swing this poem seemed fitting:

小倉山OgurayamaO autumn leaves
峰のもみじ葉Mine no mojijibaon the peak of Ogura Hill,
心あらばKokoro arabaif you have a heart,
今ひとたびのIma hitotabi noI would that you would wait
みゆきまたなむMiyuki matananfor one more royal progress.
Translation by Dr Joshua Mostow

The author of this poem is Fujiwara no Tadahira, a scion of the Fujiwara clan, whose descendants grew increasingly powerful and ultimately monopolized the government during the Heian Period through intermarriage with the Imperial Family.

As Mostow notes, this poem seems to describe an excursion to the Ōi River by retired emperor (上皇, jōkō), Emperor Uda. The retired emperor comments that his son the reigning emperor (天皇, tennō), Emperor Daigo, should visit too. Hence the author is beseeching the fall leaves to wait for Daigo’s arrival. This visit seems to have led to a seasonal tradition of visiting the Ōi River yearly by the Imperial Family, though I am not aware if that tradition still continues or not. Further, compare this poem to a similar fall (poem 24), when Uda was still the reigning emperor.

Side note: there are in fact two Oi Rivers in Japan, one near Kyoto the old capitol, and another in modern Shizuoka Prefecture. Due to location of the Imperial Court, the Emperor and his retinue almost certain visited the near Kyoto. It is, as the photo above helps illustrate, a very scenic and venerable of Japan.

One other note: the term miyuki in the poem refers to an imperial outing. Such an outing is, naturally, an important occasion and so it has its own term in Japanese. According to the Hyakunin Isshu Daijiten, the “kanji” Chinese characters for miyuki differ if a retired emperor has an outing (御幸), or the current reigning emperor has an outing (行幸).

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