I’m about 90% finished my translation of the kōwakamai 幸若舞 titled Fushimi Tokiwa 伏見常盤. Kōwakamai is a medieval Japanese performance genre that has really been neglected by Western scholars–and Japanese, too! It seems to me that genres like nō 能 and kabuki 歌舞伎 get all the attention, but my research on kōwakamai has shown me that this genre is just as rich and wonderful as its close relatives nō and kabuki.
Kakinomoto no Hitomaro 柿本人麻呂 (660?-724?)
Some scholars may doubt the “literariness” of kōwakamai in favor of other more highly stylized genres, but this is very much a mistake. I’ve found that kōwakamai texts are full of allusions to classical Chinese poetry and philosophy, “ancient” and classical Japanese literature, as well as reflect the language trends of the time in which they were written (approximately late 14th century until about the early 17th century). Here’s an example.
I came across an allusion in Fushimi Tokiwa to a poem by Kakinomoto no Hitomaro 柿本人麻呂. Hitomaro was a pre-Nara era poet known for his work found in the Manyōshū 万葉集, Hyakunin Isshū 百人一首, and the Shūi wakashū 拾遺和歌集. The allusion I came across was from a waka 和歌 poem included in the Shūi wakashū in the section “Miscellaneous Love Poems” 雑恋. The waka appears in the Shin Nihon koten bungaku taikei 新日本古典文学大系, volume 7 and is waka #1243:
山科の木幡の里に馬はあれ ど徒歩よりぞ来る 君を思へば
Yamashina no Kohata no sato ni uma wa are dokachi yori zo kuru kimi wo omoeba
At first I translated it as:
Imagining you— Coming to meet me on foot instead of horseback. A hamlet in Kohata, in Yamashina province.
Kimi means “you” but has connotations of “dear,” “sweetheart,” etc. At first I interpreted the kuru kimi as though the sweatheart/lover was coming to the speaker. After discussing it with a colleague, I’ve now changed my version to:
To the village of Kohata, Yamashina—I have arrived on foot rather than on horseback Since I was thinking of you
It’s kind of the same, but my question was WHO is travelling to meet whom? Now, for grammatical reasons that I won’t go into (my 30-minute blog limit is up!) I’ve settled on the idea that it’s the speaker going to see the lover, which makes sense since it is the man going to see the woman, rather than the woman going to see the man. And, before you ask, yes, I guess it could be some man-man action, but I’m not a Hitomaro scholar, so Google it and get back to me~
Although the original waka does not strictly follow the 5-7-5-7-7 syllable pattern, I tried to follow it in my translation.
Also, the reason that the poet did not come on horseback was because he didn’t want anyone to hear the horse’s footsteps! Sneaky.