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Advanced Japanese Lesson: いくたびも

いくたびも雪の深さを尋ねけり
正岡子規(まさおか しき)

今回、紹介するのは冬の俳句です。「雪」という文字が見られるので、冬の情景を詠んでいることがすぐに分かりますね。

作者の正岡子規は明治時代を代表する文学者で、俳句だけでなく、短歌や評論などにも豊かな才能を開花させた人です。

この俳句の意味は、「何回も雪の深さを尋ねていることだなぁ」。

実は、この俳句が作られた日は東京に大雪が降ったそうです。しかしそのとき、子規は病床に臥せっていました。だから、窓の外では雪が降っているのに自分の目で見にいくことができません。そこで看護にあたっていた母や妹に「今、雪はどれくらい積もっただろうか」と何度も尋ねたのだそうです。

本格的な冬の到来を告げる雪ですが、初めて降ったり久しぶりに降ったりする際には、大人も子どもも何となく心が弾むものです。そんなわくわくした感じが、病人であった子規の心にも浮かんだのでしょう。戸外で雪が降り積もる様子を想像しては、束の間、病気のつらさを忘れて心を躍らせたのかもしれません。

ちなみに、ペンネームである「子規」は「ほととぎす」とも読み、結核という病気で血を吐いていた自分を「血を吐くまで懸命に鳴く」と言われる鳥の「ほととぎす」にたとえて名づけられました。
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Today, I would like to introduce a winter Haiku. The character “snow” can be found, therefore it’s easy to tell that it is talking about winter.

Shiki Masaoka is a literary person who represents the Meiji Period, and not only did he write Haiku, but his talents also flourished in Tanka and critiques.

The Haiku means, “to ask again and again the depth of the snow.”

When this haiku was made, it snowed heavily in Tokyo. However, Shiki was in bed with an illness. Therefore, he wasn’t able to go outside and  see the falling snow.  Apparently he asked his sister and mother who were nursing him over and over again “how much snow is on the ground.”

Snow announces the arrival of full blown winter, but if it’s the first fall of the season or if it’s been a while since it snowed, both children and adults feel excited. This kind of exciting feel most likely was felt by Shiki as well. By imagining the sight of snow outside, for a brief moment, it perhaps made him forget about his illness and made his heart dance.

By the way,  Shiki being a pen name, also can be read as lesser cuckoo, and when he had tuberculosis and was coughing up blood, this name was given to him when the comparison was made to the lesser cuckoo which “sings until it coughs up blood.”

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