Basic Japanese : “Iroha-uta”, line by line – Part 2 –
The rest of “Iroha-uta”, line by line
From a Buddhism thought, “Free from living and dying(, by entering Nirvana)”.
The deep mountain called life,
“Ui” is also a Buddhism word.
It means “every thing and phenomenon which comes from various karma(, always lives and dies and never lasts forever)”.
Some say that “ui” is a more general word with a different Kanji character, meaning “sorrow” or “anxiety”.
I ( or we) cross it today.
“Kehu” is the old Japanese for “kyou”, meaning “today”.
I’m not sure which had been changed, its pronunciation or its spelling.
Similar to this, the present word “chou-chou” (butterfly) was spelled as “tehu-tehu” in the old times.
From a Buddhism thought, “You gain true comfort by reaching Nirvana”.
Although life on earth is filled only with pain, once you make it to Nirvana, you will be released from all the suffering or distress and be able to enjoy the peace and pleasure thoroughly.
I will not have an empty dream,
There is a manga entitled “Asaki yume mishi”.
Obviously it comes from this line.
The last character of this part is generally considered as “ji”, which makes the Japanese verb “miru” (lit. see / look / watch) negative.
Actually, I have read it as “shi”, which is one of past tenses in the old times.
So, I have thought that this phrase meant “I had an empty dream”.
“Empty dream” indicates “life on earth before entering Nirvana”.
However, my interpretation seems grammatically wrong, because the past tense with “shi” must be followed by a noun like “mishi yume” (“dream I had”, “yume” means “dream”).
I will not be intoxicated (by any wants or things of the world).
Another major interpretation of the line is:
I do not get drunk, so (I won’t have an empty dream).
Another message hidden in “Iroha-uta”
There is a well-known theory that a message is hidden in the poem.
In a Japanese poem, when you connect the first or the last characters of each line, you sometimes get a proper word (like a name of flower) or a message.
It’s called “ori-ku” in Japanese, “acrostic” in English.
In the oldest extent document with this “iroha-uta”, the poem is written in seven lines with seven characters each except the last line, regardless to the phrases as the poem.
Somebody noticed that the last characters of each line (the red characters in the image) spelled out the message saying “Toka nakute shisu” (“Die without sin”).
“Toka” can be read as “toga”, meaning “sin”.
About Jesus Christ?
The same as an English acrostic, the first characters of each line (or phrase, sentence, etc.) are commonly used in Japanese “ori-ku”.
In this poem, the first characters never seem to deliver any meaningful messages as Japanese.
But during my research for this post, I found a website saying that this is from Hebrew which means “Man (or person?) of God Yahweh”.
The website also pointed out that the first letter of the poem, the first of the last line and the last of the poem spell out “I-we-su”.
(In Japanese, Jesus is pronounced as “Iesu”, similar to English “yes”.)
It concluded that the poem was not expressing a Buddhism thought but Christian.
I personally feel this is rather non-sense, for Christianity is commonly believed to have been brought to Japan long after the poem was composed.
Latest posts by kara (see all)
- Basic Japanese : “Sumimasen” – “Thank you” in Japanese - June 24, 2015
- Basic Japanese : “Arigatou” – “Thank you” in Japanese - May 29, 2015
- Basic Japanese : “Go-chisou sama” – Phrase after meal - May 27, 2015
“Toshi densetsu” : Japanese urban legends (1) Summer in Japan is ridiculously hot and humid except in some northern areas. So, people enjoy horror stories especially in summer to feel shivering cold. There are many old and new ghost / horror stories in Japan, and I feel it would be nice to introduce some. (It’s […]
“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 […]
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 […]
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 […]
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 […]
“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 […]
Old-fashioned / historical “I” in Japanese The following “I” pronouns are well-known and can be quite often heard / seen in historical stories especially those which are set in the Edo period. But, these are rarely used in the present time. Neutral [Temae] “Temae” literally means “before hand(s)”. The near side of someone / something. […]
In Japanese, there are many ways to call yourself. Here, I’m trying to explain the differences of each word, but please note they are my own personal impressions and other Japanese may not feel the same way. The word “I” in Japanese Although we have many words for “I”, it is frequently omitted. If you […]
Sugawara no Michizane is the person who is worshipped as god of study at the shrine, “Dazaifu Tenman-guu”. “Sugawara” is the family name and “Michizane” is the first name. He is also well-known as one of the Big Three Onryou (vengeful spirit) in Japan, along with Taira no Masakado and Emperor Sutoku. Life of Sugawara […]
There are mysterious legends around Sugawara no Michizane. Most of them are episodes after he was framed by his political enemy. Michizane and the flying plum tree This legend is very well-known along with the following poem. The night before he left his home in Kyoto, the capital at that time, he composed a poem […]