Quest For Japan Logo-Ver7

Basic Japanese : “Iroha-uta”, line by line – Part 1 –

Date Published: Last Update:2015/04/23 Others

“Iroha-uta” as a poem

Iroha

- "Iroha-uta" -

I’m going to explain the meaning of the poem in two posts.
As I wrote in the previous post, it is thought to be composed in the Heian era (794 – 1185).

In the major theory, the poem is said to express a doctrine from the Nirvana Sutra.
But the poem can be interpreted in various ways, because it is written in Japanese alphabets.
Some say it has nothing to do with Buddhism, but more common theme.
Some even think it’s from Christianity.
It is quite difficult to define the meaning without Kanji characters, as there are many homonyms in Japanese.

Also, it is assumed that pronunciations and characters were different in the old times.
In this “iroha-uta”, there are no characters with two dots or a small circle, and this makes harder to know the exact meaning.
(Its unknown composer had got no intentions to limit readers’ imaginations by making it clear, maybe?)

The following interpretations of the poem are (I suppose) general, but please note that they are just for reference.
So far (probably for ever), it is impossible to get the absolutely precise or correct explanations.

– About a character with dots or a circle –
For instance, the character for the “Ha” mora:
It is pronounced as “Ba” when it has written with two dots on the right top.
“Pa” with a small circle.

HaBaPa

Left to right:
Character "Ha"
With two dots
With a small circle

I don’t know whether there were no sounds like “ba” or “pa” in the old Japanese, or we just hadn’t got the way to write it.

“Iroha-uta”, line by line

In this post, I’m writing about the first two lines.

Line 1

This line is an interpretation of a Buddhism thought, “Nothing is permanent”.

[First half]

Iroha 3

Literal translation:
Although there are scents of colours

Meaning:
Although there are scents of blooming blossoms

[Second half]

Iroha 4

Meaning:
(The blooming blossoms) will be gone.

I myself believed that the meaning of this line is “Although there are (still) scents of blooming blossoms, the blooming blossoms HAVE already gone” because “nuru” from the second phrase is a helping verb to express the perfect tense for the verb “chiru” (“fall out” or “disperse” in English).

However, it seems that this was not a major interpretation, judging from a several websites I found.
Almost all of the websites I saw translated this phrase in the future tense.

Line 2

From a Buddhism thought, “It’s a truth that everything (every being) lives and dies”.

[First half]

Iroha 5

Meaning:
In this world, who on earth

The last part of the phrase, “dare zo” (“dare” means “who”), is generally written as “tare zo” even in the current Japanese version.
However, Kanji character for English “who” is almost always pronounced as “dare” now, so I chose it for the image rather than “tare”.

[Second half]

Iroha 6

Meaning:
Could stay the same forever?

The last character is a part of the words “na(ru)” + “ramu”, and “mu” is now pronounced as “n” in this case.
“Na(ru)ramu” indicates its user’s assumption, like “should be” or “probably”.

Next post : The rest of the poem and a hidden message

 

Related posts:
#Japanese Alphabet (1: “Gojyuu-on” and “iroha-uta”)
(2: Out-of-use characters)

#“I” in Japanese (1) (2) (3)

#Japanese honorific titles (1:Formal) (2:Casual) (3:In text) (4:Business titles)

The following two tabs change content below.

kara

A Japanese living in Okayama. A proud "Otaku"! Loves animals, snacks, manga, games (PC, iPad, Nintendo DS, PSP), foreign TV dramas, traveling and football (soccer).

Sponsored Links

  • Pocket
  • 1 follow us in feedly

Related Article/s:

Itadaki masu image

Basic Japanese : “Itadaki masu” – Phrase before meal

When I watch foreign TV dramas, I sometimes see Christian people praying before meal. It seems that the prayer is to appreciate God who have given them food. In Japan, maybe Christians do the same, but I guess most of people say certain phrases before and after dinner instead of a prayer. If you love […]

Read Article

Inogashira park

Japanese urban legends – Part 3 –

“Toshi densetsu” : Japanese urban legends (3) Mary-san (Ms. Mary) A girl had an old Western doll and called it “Mary”. When her family moved to another place, she disposed it because it was old. One night, a telephone rang at her new home. The girl got it, then heard the voice saying, “Hello, I’m […]

Read Article

Kitano Tenman-guu 2

Go west : Tenman-guu to console Michizane

“Kitano Tenman-guu” in Kyoto to console Michizane In 942, Michizane’s spirit showed up before a girl from a poor family in Kyoto and ordered to build a shrine for him in “Ukon no baba” (“hippodrome controlled by the right guard office”), the place where he often visited during his life. Of course she didn’t have […]

Read Article

On-chuu

Basic Japanese : Japanese honorific titles in text

Many of Japanese honorific titles in text are the same as ones in speech. However, “sama” or “dono” is much more often used in text, especially for address. Maybe it’s because a writer is in the distance. In a letter, use the same title as one in speech. When I write a letter to my […]

Read Article

Number List 5

Basic Japanese : Trivia about numbers in Japanese

The final post about numbers in Japanese. Number over quadrillion Numbers over “chou” (trillion to quadrillion) are quite rarely used. You may hear the following unit “kei” sometimes, but numbers over the unit “kei” won’t be seen in usual life. I’ve never seen it myself even in the news and I actually can’t name units […]

Read Article

daiso japan

Go Shopping at a 100 Yen Shop

I’m sure many of those who have been to Japan would agree that one of the places that got them spend money are 100 yen shops. These are shops that sell items that mostly cost 100 yen exclusive of tax. The items range from food to housewares to accessories, or in other words, there’s a […]

Read Article

Lady saying "Arigatou"

Basic Japanese : “Arigatou” – “Thank you” in Japanese

There are several ways of saying “Thank you” in Japanese. In this post, I am going to explain the most common phrase for “Thank you”. Arigatou (gozai masu / mashita) The phrase was derived from “Arigatashi”, which literally means “difficult to be”. The Kanji in “ari” means “there is” or “be (there)”, and another in […]

Read Article

Tsukudo shrine

Mystery tour: Taira no Masakado – Part 2 –

Barrier for Masakado? There are seven main shrines (including “Kubi-zuka”) for Masakado. They are said to have been built to seal the powerful spirit of Masakado as well as to make use of it. [1. Torigoe shrine] It is not officially admitted, but this shrine is said to be the place where Masakado’s hand(s?) is […]

Read Article

Vowing Man

Basic Japanese : “Sumimasen” – “Thank you” in Japanese

“Thank you” in Japanese other than “Arigatou” “Arigatou (gozai masu)” is the common phrase, but there are other phrases for “Thank you” in Japanese. Sumimasen The phrase is also very common and frequently heard in Japan. (Maybe more often used than “Arigatou”). This has several meanings : “I’m sorry.” “Excuse me.” “Thank you (and I’m […]

Read Article

Masakado

Mystery tour: Taira no Masakado – Part 1 –

Roll up for the mystery tour! This one can be categorized as an urban legend as well. Masakado no Kubi-zuka (The burial mound for Masakado’s head)   Quick History Taira no Masakado is said to be one of the Big Three Onryou (vengeful spirit) in Japan. There are some novels about Masakado, and “Teito Monogatari” […]

Read Article

Sponsored Links

Leave a Reply

Sponsored Links

  • Google+
    InstagramInstagram
PAGE TOP ↑