Maples and Japanese Literature (written in Aug. 1998)............................. Japanese

What has already been mentioned is related to, what we call culture and Japanese culture, and here I would like to make a few references to Japanese old literature on maples.
...... By "Kohjien", "Nihongo-daijiten" that are famous dictionaries in Japan, we can find the following words on "momiji".

to turn red, to turn yellow, maple, meat of deer, bran of barley (or wheat)
Momiji Buna: reddish crucian carp (a seasonal word showing autumn)
Momijigasane: a kind of color pairs name for Japanese clothes of old days.
Momijioroshi: radish grated with red toh-mustard
Momijigasa: an umbrella of blue paper center and white paper around
Momijiyama-Bunko: The library of the Tokugawa Shohgun
Momijigari: excursion for admiring autumn color,
....................... name of Japanese Noh Play,
....................... one of Kabuki favorite subjects,
....................... name of nagauta, jiuta which are Japanese old songs

...... In addition, there were some information on maples found in the documents of this homepage No.1, 14, such as WAKA ( Japanese traditional poem: songs without music), YOKYOKU (tunes and words of Japanese Noh play) and MAKIE ( Japanese raised lacquer). Taking out the book Hyakunin-Isshu ( a piece a person, by one hundred poets, and it's famous for a card game on New Year's holidays in Japan), I could find 6 pieces of 'waka' on maples. When young I used to read the novels by Kawabata Yasunari, so I searched for the references to maples. There did I find out some descriptions of "The Tale of Genji" and of maples. Then, I checked all books on hand. Thus, I traced back these things on maples to "Manyohshu" at last. Little did I think that I would look over the classical literature at this age. I looked over Kokin-shu, Sinkokin-shu, Sanga-shu, whose poems are translated into modern Japnese language, and from each book I would show you some pieces on maples in this homepage. I also looked over the magazine :"Taiyo" (means the Sun) on hand which is fairly well known in Japan, and could find some pictures of classical arts on maples. Natsume Soseki (Japan), Souji (old China), Shakespeare, they are my favorite writers, and I call them 3S-literature myseif. I really expected to find some mention of maples in their works, but in vain. (but there must be something).
Consequently, I chronologically arranged as follows.


...... According to the document : Yamashita Kazumi: "Haiku, Sono Kokoro", NHK Shimin Daigaku", we can see the description of momiji there.

"There seem to be 5 things in the Japanese scenes which have been respected since the age of Waka. They are the blossoms, the cuckoo, the moon, the snow and the momiji." (my translation)

Onuki Shigeru describes in his writing :"Manyo no Kachohhugetsu" as follows:

" There are 137 poems on momiji, as many numbers as amazing. In so many poems, there are only 5 pieces on red momiji for which the word "red" is used. And for all but 5 pieces are used the word "yellow" or they are used as the meaning of color changing. The fact of the many yellow and the few red seems to depend upon the circumstance that many Manyo poets lived in the district Yamatoji and its neighboring (Nara Prefecture) where such kinds of vegetation have the habit of turning yellow." (my translation)

...... I'd like to know how the natural environment such as the lay of the land had influenced on people of those days. In "Shohyohjurin Bunka" edited by Ueyama Shumpei (Ueyama, Kira & Nakao) they are speaking on the Laurel Forest, that is, on the laurel forest & the hard foliage forest, on the world of beech (Fagaceae), on the laurel forest and the deciduous broad-leaved forest, on the home of the laurel forest, on the laurel forest of the Himalayas and on the laurel forest of Japan, where appears Mt. Kasuga in Nara.
...... Adjectives used for the image of the laurel forest are deep, not so joyful, somewhat inelegant and confused and gloomy. There also appear in the laurel forest oaks and pasanias which belong to ever-green beech tree-groop ( Fagaceae), wisterias, vines and even leeches. I recommend this book for learning the old Japanese culture.
...... On the other hand, I asked my friend from Nara Prefecture how the lay of the land is in Nara. His answer was that not only Yamato-3-mountains composed of Unebi, Miminashi and Kaguyama, but also Mt. Kasuga and Mt.Wakakusa are not so high, and the lay of these districts is not uneven and is gently sloping.

...... We can see the description of the laurel forest in the book :"Shokubutsugaku no Omoshirosa" by Honda Masaji and "Zohkibayashi no Hakubutsushi" by Ashida Terukazu.

...... I can suppose that they, of course, enjoyed momiji (autumn colors) in wide meanings, but It seems to me that they did not yet lead themselves to enjoy "maples" so well as we common people do today. This theme seems to be related to the beginning of gardening or progress of garden culture.

Manyo-shu (760) Let me show one piece by Nukadano Ohkimi.

" Fuyugomori Haru sarikureba, nakazarishi Tori mo ki nakinu, sakazarishi Hana mo sakeredo, Yama wo shigemi irite mo torazu, Kusa fukami torite mo mizu. Akiyama no Konoha wo mite wa, momiji wo ba torite so shinou, aoki wo ba okite so nageku, soko si urameshi Akiyama Ware wa."

Meaning: In spring the birds sing a song , the flowers come into bloom, Hills and fields become so dense that it's difficult to go there, difficult to take and see them in hand. But in autumn, seeing the the leaves in the mountains, I would take the leaves turned yellow in hand, to realize the beauty of nature, with the green as they are. I have a taste for autumn mountains.
(Meaning may be uncertain, for this is my private feeling.)

...... This quotation is related to a matter of taste. Which do you like better spring or autumn ? This is not so serious as the well known theme of Hamlet's, that is, " To be, or not to be: that is the question: ". Both these themes seem to be on dualism or selection or preference.

This poem is frequently referred to, and can be seen in the books as follows: "Kotoba no Saijiki" by Kindaichi Haruhiko, "Zohkibayashi no Hakubutsushi" by Ashida Terukazu.

Kokin-shu (at the beginning of10th century)

"Okuyama ni Momiji fumiwake naku Shika no Koe kiku toki zo Aki wa kanasiki": composer unknown

Meaning: In the heart of mountains, On hearing the calls of deer wandering on piles of momiji,
Unconciously did I feel sadness and loneliness in autumn. ( This is also my private feeling.)

This poem is also seen In "Hyakunin Isshu", where Sarumaru Taifu is regarded as a composer. And, momiji in "Kokin-shu" is used the character "red", in "Hyakunin isshu" the character "yellow".

The Tale of Genji (the beginning of 11th century) : Murasakishikibu

...... Here can we see the word momiji in chapters called Hahakigi, Momijinoga, Agemaki, Akashi, Fujino-uraha, etc. And as mentioned in Kawabata's essay later on, the viewpoint for the beauty would be seen, which may be endemic to Japan and may be the source of such viewing in Japan. Pieces of Shikishi-e (picture on a square card) were made later by some artists, and maples are drawn in some pieces of those chapters, such as Hahakigi, Momijinoga and Agemaki.

The followings are based on the book translated into modern Japanese by Yosano Akiko. (my English)

Akashi :
...... We can see Genji play the jusan-gen (13 strings) here, and is given a description on the scene of various kinds of the young green leaves, which are mentioned, to be tasteful as well as blossoms in spring or red colored leaves in autumn.

Fujinouraha :
...... Here appear wisterias, chrysanthemums, pine trees. And momijis also come out to the colorful world.

Asagao :
...... Here can we see a Japanese traditional view point of aesthetics. " They say that they prefer spring to autumn at one time, and prefer autumn to spring at another time. And the preference of people will change like this, so I like the colorless scene where the clear moon shines upon the snow, which scene pierces me so deeply that I could imagine as far as the world which is beyond this world, and I feel as if I were at the boundaries, the acme of a human perception."


Sanga-shu (the end of12th C. ) : Saigyoh

" Natorigawa Kishi no Momiji no utsuru Kage wa onaji Nishiki wo Soko ni sae shiku"

" Kokoronaki mi nimo aware wa shirarekeri Shigi tatsu sawa no Aki no Yugure"
...... where, "shigitatsusawa" is the name of a cultivated maple.

Shinkokin-shu (the beginning of13th C.) : Fujiwara Teika

" Miwataseba Hana mo Momiji mo nakarikeri ura no Tomaya no Aki no Yugure"

This poem is fairly well known in Japan.
We can see it in " Zen to Nihon Bunka" by Suzuki Daisetsu that:

"Sohshoh noted as a devotee of tea-ceremonials for the tea ceremony treated this poem as a synonym of "Sabi" found in the season of autumn. At the same time he appreciated that "Wabi"and "Sabi" could be found more in the little light green of early spring, and showed the following poem that would represent the germination of the living power :

Hana wo nomi matsuran Hito ni Yamazato no Yuki ma no kusa no Haru wo misebaya : Fujiwara Ietaka

"Wabi"and "Sabi" are the words difficult to translate not only into English but also into modern Japanese. They seem to be related to "to be lonely", to be lonesome, solitary, deserted, desolate, "to be antique" and transcendental.

Hyakunin-isshu (the first half of13th C. )

The followings are based on "Hyakunin Isshu" by Nanba Kizo.

"Okuyama ni Momiji fumiwake naku Shika no Koe kiku toki zo Aki wa kanashiki" : Sarumaru Taifu

"Chihayaburu Kamiyo mo kikazu Tatsutagawa karakurenai ni Mizu kukuru to wa" : Ariwara Narihira

"Kono tabi wa Nusa mo toriaezu Tamukeyama Momiji no Nishiki Kami no manimani" : Kanke (Sugawara Michizane)

"Yamakawa ni Kaze no kaketaru Shigarami wa Nagare mo aenu Momiji nari keri " : Harumichi Tsuraki
...... 4 pieces above found in Kokin-shu

"Wogurayama Mine no Momijiba Kokoro araba ima hitotabi no Miyuki matanan " Teishinkoh
...... This piece above found in Shui-shu

"Arashi fuku Mimuro no Yama no Momijiba wa Tatsuta no Kawa no Nishiki nari keri " Nohin hohshi
...... This piece above found in Goshui-shu

Where, we can find out the names of the cultivated maples (cultivars) : Shigitatsusawa, Nusatoriyama, Tamukeyama, Tatsutagawa, Mimuroyama, Arashiyama, Ogurayama and so on, and these names might have come from these poems.

Next, I will give you a brief description of the Haiku. The followings are from "Haiku-Saijiki:autumn"

" Yama kurete Momiji no aka wo ubai keri" : Buson

" Irozuki ya Tohfu ni ochite usu-momiji" : Bashoh

" Hitohira no koyuki Momiji wo tamuke kana" : Tomiyasu Fusei

" Soga no Mori nanika kibishiku momijiseri": Yamaguchi Seison

" Suigen ni Momiji no hitoe Mizu hitaru" : Yamaguchi Seishi

" Iku Miyuki Momiji ni arisi Wogurayama" : Kinoshita Rakusui

...... Here, let me introduce comments on "momijigari". As mentioned above, when it comes to "momijigari", it is associated with Japanese Noh Play and an excursion for admiring autumn colors.

Yokyoku "Momijigari"

This is a Noh Play composed by Kanze Nobumitsu, who lived in the latter half of the Muromachi era, and is as well known as "Dojoji", "Funabenkei", "Rashomon".

Material : The tale of Taira Koremochi who subjugated the demon, The tale of the demon that turns himself into a beautiful woman and cajoles a samurai

Theme : Noh dance with mystery and fascination by the beautiful woman who makes a brave samurai lose his heart, The fight between the samurai and the woman who turned herself into a demon, The point is to play two parts alone, an elegant woman and a violent demon, from the first to the last, respectively.

Shite (the description of the scene) : Yama-momiji


...... Kawabata Yasunari introduced the next poem in the essay " Japan the Beautiful and Myself " (document 18v), that was translated into English by Edward G.Seidensticker, when awarded the Nobel prize. (12.10.'68)

" In the spring, cherry blossoms, in the summer the cuckoo.
In autumn the moon, in winter the snow,clear,cold." : Dogen(1200-1253)

" What shall be my legacy ? The blossoms of spring,
The cuckoo in the hills, the leaves of autumn." : the deathbed poem of Ryokan (1758-1831)

He also described that

"the Tale of Genji in particular is the highest pinnacle of Japanese literature for eight hundred years, even down to our day there has not been a piece of fiction to compare with it, and The Genji was a wide and deep source of nourishment for poetry, of course, and for the fine arts and handicrafts as well, and even for landscape gardening."

And he referred to

"the following poem of the Empress Eifuku (1271-1342), from the late Kamakura and early Muromachi periods, somewhat later than the Shinkokin-shu, and it becomes a symbol of a delicate Japanese melancholy and seemed to him more modern:

" The hagi falls, the autumn wind is piercing.
Upon the wall, the evening sun disappears." : (hagi:Lespedeza japonica)

...... Consequently, quoting the biography of Myoe by his disciple Kikai, he described the emptiness, the nothingness of the Orient, and putting himself on Dogen, he insisted that :

"his own works had been described as works of emptiness, but that it is not to be taken for the nihilism of the West, and that the spiritual foundation would seem to be quite different, and that even as he sang of the beauty of the seasons, he was deeply immersed in Zen."

And he brought his essay to finish.

The poem " The hagi falls,---" associates me with the evening scene in the temple where the faint shadows lose their contrast and seem as if they were absorbed into the wall made of clay, and it's a piece which I like.

...... As mentioned above, I showed some of literature, Noh and pictures on maples, and here let us refer to Kanshi (Chinese poetry) the last quotation on maples. Needless to say, we can imagine that Kanshi had a great influence on Japanese culture. The following poem is Chang Ji's "Feng Qiao Ye Bo" that frequently comes out in a radio Chinese course by NHK.

Yue (moon) luo (fall) wu (crow) ti (caw) shuang (frost) man (filled) tian (sky)
jiangfeng (riverside maples) yuhuo (fishing fire) dui (face to) choumian (sleeper in sorrow)

This rhyme has a beautiful tone, and I learned these passage by heart. Here, we can see the word maples. But strictly speaking I don't know if this is the real maple or Chinese sweetgum.

There are so many Kanshi (old Chinese poetry) whose materials are maples. I will show you an interesting phrase of Bai Juyi (mid.Toh Period) from the book : "Kanshi wo Yomu" (NHK) by Ishikawa Tadahisa.

linjian (among copse) nuanjiu (warm sake) shaohonye (burn red leaves)
shishang (on stone) tishi (compose poem) saolutai (sweep green moss) : Bai Juyi

This couplet is also well known in Japan. With referece to this poem, a story in "The Tale of Heike" goes as follows:

"A sweeping official was gathering and burning the red leaves to warm sake. When the Emperor Takakura arrived at the palace, the red leaves had already disappeared. The Emperor got angry, and inquired of him about the reason. He answerd and spoke the fact as it was. The Emperor recognized the official had realized the heart of this poem with admiration, and did not reproach him." (my translation)

This episode is quoted in the book : "Shokubutsugaku no Omoshirosa" by Honda Masaji.

" China and Japan are famous nations for the autumn colors in the world, ----, in particular, as regards the species of trees which change color in autumn, Japan might have a greater in number than China."

The episode is also quoted in the book : "Ki no Bunkashi" by Ashida Terukazu.

...... In maples, we can see not only the gorgeousness like flowers and the brilliance of red colored leaves but also the emptiness and the loneliness after autumn colors. And I think we can find out various kinds of realities in changing time process. In this homepage, I showed maples in autumn more, but I would insist on the splendid scene of the new green maples in spring. As regards the green, "Banryoku", that is, "all green" is also used for poems as a seasonal word for spring.

Through four seasons, Maples seem to be the existence that show us or make us realize the beautiful changes, such as new green, real green, bright yellow, brilliant red colors, moreover the colorless and the emptiness, that is to say, the Way of the Oriental and Japanese existence. The tradition of Japanese culture seems to have a conception which is to enjoy the colorful on the one hand, and to enjoy the colorless, that is, beyond the colorful on the other hand.

The deciduous broad-leaved trees containing maples, ever-green trees and the nature of Japan containing those, they might be natural factors, the very base of Japanese culture.