Tokyo Notebook

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Posted by Kinakinw | --:-- | Comment [0] | TrackBack [0] | スポンサー広告

08 2010

Cherry Blossoms and Saigyo


Now, the falling cherry blossom petals flutter down like snowflakes in Tokyo.
That's my favorite sight in spring.

Somewhere down the line, I always remember the most famous Saigyo’s Waka poem from the sight. “Saigyo” (1118?1190) was born of a clan that dominated Japanese politics during the Heian period and became a Buddhist monk at age of 23.

ねかはくは はなのもとにて 春しなん そのきさらきの 望月の比 (続古今和歌集)

I wish to die under the cherry blossoms in spring, around the time of full moon of February.
Translated by Kinakinw

Saigyo wrote just the flower (not the cherry blossoms), but in Heial period it meant a cherry tree or cherry blossoms. The time of full moon of February meant the anniversary of the death of Buddha, ‘February 15th in the lunar calendar’. ‘February 15th’ was March 30th (2010), March 11th (2009), and March 22nd (2008) in a new calendar. Sometimes it would be the beginning of March or April. Thus it isn’t so easy to see cherry trees in full bloom on ‘February 15th‘.

He wished to die around the same time as the Buddha’s anniversary under the petals fluttering down. Did he get his desire? He passed away on ‘February 16th‘ (just perfect!) in1190. The day was March 30th in a new calendar, so I hope he made it.

The poem was about Saigyo’s conception of life and death. The way its petals fall while still at the height of their beauty was often associated with Samurai aesthetics at the point of death. However, traditionally speaking, I think, the relationships between the cherry blossoms and death came from the conception like this - living and dying in perfect harmony with nature.

Many modern Japanese feel empathy for the conception if it seems like we are just partying loudly under the cherry blossoms.


Posted by Kinakinw | 18:11 | Comment [0] | TrackBack [0] | Cultural Issue (Japan)

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