Bebe Taian: How timely!

April 12, 2012

How timely!

In the scant few moments of free-time, usually half an hour or so before bed, I've taken to reading one of the books I purchased at Christmas: "The World of the Shining Prince", which details court life and society in ancient Japan during the Heian era.

I'm only about twenty pages in, but so far, it's a fascinating read about interrelations between Japan, China, and Korea, how the cities were laid out, why the capital was moved from Nara to Kyoto (formerly Heian-kyo), etc. I haven't gotten to how interpersonal relations worked yet. What I'm finding most intriguing, and the reason I picked up the book, is that the majority of well-known writers from that era are women. From a Euro-American perspective, in a culture that even today doesn't want women to be educated at the same level as a man, a culture that forbade women from reading during much of its' history, this is a ridiculously foreign idea: the idea of an *educated* woman. Especially an educated woman in the 700s! In fact, it was a Japanese woman who wrote the worlds' first novel: Murasaki Shikibu, in her well-known classic, 'The Tale of Genji", which has several volumes.

And today, I check the Asahi Shinbun (finding myself with free time again! <3 Yay!) and there's this from April 8th! <3 Hanamatsuri was held on that day, so I'm happy to see such wonderful events like these being held! I've posted the article here to be preserved, as Asahi tends to delete older articles.

KYOTO-- Once a pleasurable outdoor pastime of the noble class a millennium ago, a poetry reading session was revived for a day at a shrine in this ancient capital.

Poets, clad in the flamboyant attire of Heian Period (794-1185) aristocrats, recited "waka" 31-syllable poems that follow the meter of 5-7-5-7-7 moras on April 8 at Kamigamojinja shrine in Kyoto's Kita Ward.

About 1,000 spectators attended the Kamo Kyokusui no En (Kamo banquet by a meandering stream) ceremony. Along with the poetry reading, incense filled the air and music was played on traditional instruments.

"This spot was a world away from everywhere else," said Kanoko Uemura, 17, of Kyoto, who attended the event with seven family members. "I was totally enchanted."

The ancient event was being held for the 19th time since its revival. The reading was canceled last year amid the mood of restraint following the Great East Japan Earthquake.

This year, six poets including Takashi Okai and Kazuhiro Nagata, who served on the selection board for the imperial court's "Utakai Hajime" new year poetry reading ceremony, assembled in the shrine's Shokeien garden and recited waka poems, all themed on the "Japanese apricot."

The poets were obliged to compose and recite a poem before a cup floated from the upstream end of a stream arrived downstream.

Nagata recited, "Ochiudo no/ Gotoki omoi ni/ Aogu kana/ Hito naki niwa no/ Shira-ume no hana"
(I feel like a straggling soldier/ As I look up/ At the white Japanese apricot flowers/ In a garden devoid of a fellow being).

It was an elegy dedicated to the poet's wife, who had died two years ago.

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