Sugawara Michizane Poem in Exile

This poem came from the excellent biography about Sugawara no Michizane (later deified in Shinto as Tenjin), Sugawara no Michizane and the early Heian Court. Inspired by a nice visit to Yushima Tenmangu in Tokyo a few months ago, I wanted to pass it along:

東風吹かば Kochi fukaba
匂ひおこせよ nioi okoseyo
梅の花 ume no hana
主なしとて aruji nashi tote
春な忘るな haruna wasuruna

According to the book, this can be translated as:

When the east wind blows,
Let it send your fragrance.
Oh plum blossoms,
Although your master is gone,
Do not forget the spring.

This is one of Michizane’s most iconic poems, or waka (和歌), as it was written in his last years, after he was exiled to faraway Dazaifu as a result of political intrigue. Michizane was never able to return to the capitol, sadly. According to popular stories later, the plum tree uprooted itself and flew to Dazaifu to be with its “master”, but Borgen’s excellent research shows how this story came about many centuries later in the Edo Period (1600-1868) after Michizane had already been deified as the Shinto Kami, Tenjin. Nevertheless, one is certainly moved by Michizane’s feelings of exile in this poem, being far-removed from everyone he loved and appreciated.

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Author: Doug

A fellow who dwells upon the Pale Blue Dot who spends his days obsessing over things like Buddhism, KPop music, foreign languages, BSD UNIX and science fiction.

2 thoughts on “Sugawara Michizane Poem in Exile”

  1. Just an add on… he was exiled to the Dazaifu in the west leaving his children behind. If remember correctly, his son became an excellent scholar, answering his father’s call to blossom and send his scent from the west.
    The plum tree at Dazaifu is one of the most popular photo shots at Dazaifu. I don’t think anybody really believes it flew, but it is great to notice a scholar found the spare time to prove it a myth. Look forwards to showing you around one day Doug!
    Stephen

    Like

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