Now Reports

The Man’yōshū in Fukuoka

Reiwa, Japan’s newest era, has just begun and the name which means “beautiful harmony” was derived from a passage in the Man’yōshū, Japan’s oldest anthology of lyrical poetry. One of the places mentioned in the Man’yōshū is Dazaifu, which is now a popular tourist destination. The Man’yōshū is a collection of poems written by people from all walks of life, from emperors to common farmers. It contains several poems from Chikushi (the old name of Fukuoka), including but not limited to Dazaifu. The following are just a few examples.

ちはやぶる 鐘の岬を過ぎぬとも 我は忘れじ志賀の皇神
I passed already
The raging Cape of Kane,
Yet I shall never
Forget the Imperial God
Of Shika, god of the sea.

Shikanoshima is another location that appears many times in the anthology. This poem is about praying at Shikaumi Shrine after passing through the dangerous waters around Cape Kanezaki in what is now Munakata. Today, there is a stone monument engraved with this poem on the shrine grounds.

神さぶる 荒津の崎に寄する波 間なくや妹に恋ひ渡りなむ
Just like the surges
Coming to the Aratsu Cape
As ancient as gods,
I long for my dearest maid
Restlessly and without cease.

This poem was written by one of the envoys dispatched to the Kingdom of Silla on the Korean peninsula as he left port in 736. According to this poem, the envoys departed from Cape Aratsu, which refers to the promontory where Nishi Park is now located. There is a stone monument engraved with this poem on the grounds of Nishi Park.

沖つ鳥 鴨とふ小舟の帰り来ば 也良の崎守早く告げこそ
When from the far sea
The ship called Kamo, Wild Drake,
Has at last returned,
Oh, watchers of Cape Yara,
Pray tell us quickly.

This poem is by Yamanoue no Okura, a poet closely associated with the Man’yōshū, about fishermen from Shikanoshima who were lost at sea. Yara refers to a promontory on Nokonoshima where sakimori (soldiers; lit., “cape-watchers”) were stationed. In total, Fukuoka is home to around 20 stone monuments with engravings of Man’yōshū poems. History and literature buffs might enjoy visiting them all to find their favorite one.

Originally published in Fukuoka Now Magazine (fn246, Jun. 2019)

Fukuoka City
Published: May 29, 2019 / Last Updated: May 29, 2019

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.