Monthly Archives: September 2021

Sutejo, Nure iro ya

Another Sutejo hokku:

glittering with jewels —
rain drops 
on the princess azalea 

nure iro ya ame no shita teru hime tsutsuji 



Like the previous verse, this is from Kitamura Kigin’s anthology. I have been looking around for “hime tsutsuji” (what I’ve translated as Princess Azalea) but beyond descriptions of it being small and dainty, I don’t know what it’s called in English, or Latin for that matter.

There is word play here — “shita teru” to fall, as of rain or dew, can be read together with “hime” to recall the name of the divinity Shitateru-hime, who is mentioned in Kojiki.

Teimon haikai used a lot of word play, especially with homonyms. They tended to be a bit intellectual, like this one.


Sutejo, Mizu kagami

Today–a hokku by Sutejo 捨女 (1634-1698).

gazing into mirroring water,
eyebrows drawn gracefully —
riverside willow

mizu kagami mite ya mayu kaku kawa yanagi

Is the one gazing into the water a human speaker, or is it an anthropomorphized willow tree?

In Tang China, the eyebrows of beautiful women were described as having  the shape of willow leaves. Willow  trees in general were associated with desirable women, as the supple shape of their branches suggest pliability and modesty. Sutejo’s verse alludes to this analogy.

In “Song of Everlasting Regret” 長恨歌, the Bo Juyi 白居易 poem that was much admired in premodern Japan, the Emperor is reminded of his beloved by lotus blossoms and willows:

the lotus [blossoms] were like her face, the willow [leaves] were like her eyebrows

I wasn’t aware of the “willow leaf” ideal. I had heard of the “moth antennae” analogy, but the willow leaf shape is considerably different; a lot closer to modern beauty standards.