Who’s Fault Is It? Poem Number 14

July 26, 2012

This poem has an intersting connection with the city and region of Fukushima as we shall see:

Spiranthes sinensis 4

みちのくの Michinoku no
しのぶもぢずり Shinobu mojizuri
誰故に Tare yue ni
乱れそめにし Midare some ni
我ならなくに Ware naranaku ni

Which Professor Mostow translates as:

Whose fault is it
that my feelings have begun to tangle
like the tangle-patterned prints
of Shinobu from the distant north?
Since it is not mine, it must be…

The author, Minamoto no Toru (822-895) who goes by the sobriquet of the “Riverbank Minister of the Left” (河原左大臣) here was renowned for his courtly elegance, and Professor Mostow thinks he may have served as a partial role-model for the famous hero of the Tale of Genji.

The poem is thought to be Toru’s defense to his wife or lover about his faithfulness, but he uses some interesting imagery to convey how upset he is that his faithfulness is questioned. Mostow points out that the poem is a subject of debate because it’s also been interpreted as an expression of secret love to someone else (i.e. “why did you make me feel this way”?).

The place referenced, Shinobu in Michinoku, is the old name for what is now the city of Fukushima in Fukushima Prefecture. Although it is now known for last year’s earthquake and nuclear disaster, the area was originally a frontier area during the time of the Nara and Heian periods, and as evinced in the poem above, famous for it’s patterned cloth called shinobu mojizuri.

The term mojizuri refers to a type of plant, pictured above. It’s also called nejibana in modern Japanese.

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