Cherry Viewing Poetry

The mountain temple
Rises tall from Fuji’s slope
Cherry beneath snow
Arranged by the gods themselves
We watch the ceremony
Sugawara no Tokihira

Liner notes:

This poem was inspired by a photo posted to the SCA Japanese Facebook page (a reduced size version below). The photo shows a cherry tree in blossom, a to (pagoda) to the right, and snow-covered Mt Fuji in the background. There are three intertwining themes in the poem. First, four of the five lines contain references to holy themes (temple, Fuji, gods, ceremony). Second is the nature theme (mountain, Fuji, cherry, snow) which conveys a sense of season, mid-spring (keeping in mind that in Heian Japan, the middle of seasons were at the equinoxes and solstices). The third, hidden theme is flowers. “Cherry beneath the snow” is the name of a color palette worn by Heian women in the spring, meant to evoke cherry petals peeking out from under snow, accomplished by a top layer of white, and several layers of pink that progressively pale. Ikebana is the art of flower arranging. Hanami is the cherry blossom viewing festival that takes place every year from the end of March through the beginning of May. The overall theme of the poem is that hanami is best appreciated as the ikebana of the gods (with perhaps a hint of exasperation at the young rowdies using it as an excuse to party). The title translates as Waka Hanami, which contains a hidden message. Wa means Japanese, hana means flower, and kami are nature-aspected gods. So the title could also mean Japanese Gods of the Flower.

The form is waka, Japanese in origin with a 5-7-5-7-7 pattern of syllables. Composed 21st day of 2nd month, AS XLVII and published in the 2nd Quarter 2013 edition of The Gauntlet, Pentamere’s newsletter.

Cherry Fuji

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