Spring peace (nodoka)

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Spring peace, mild spring weather (nodoka)

***** Location: Japan
***** Season: All Spring
***** Category: Season


The Japanese word NODOKA 長閑 and its derivates comes in many translations. It denotes a calm, mild, tranquil, serene, peaceful day of spring.

nodokeshi 長閑し / のどけし (adjective form)
nodoka hi 長閑日a peaceful spring day

nodokesa のどけさ
nodokasa 長閑さ
nodoyaka のどやか
nodoraka のどらか
nodoroka のどろ
taitoo 駘蕩(たいとう)

It goes back to a poem in the Kokinshu 古今集 (古今和歌集 kokin waka shuu) waka poetry collection :

hisakata no hikari nodokeki haru no hi ni
shizu kokoro naku hana chiruramu (ran)

"In these spring days,
when tranquil light encompasses
the four directions,
why do the blossoms scatter
with such uneasy hearts?

Ki no Tomonori 紀友則

"When the august reign is tranquil like this,
why are the flowers uneasy?"
source : Joshua S. Mostow

Nodoka has long been used in Japanese poetry and is usually uttered even the non-haiku writing population on a fine day,

nodoka na fuukei desu nee,
this is such a peaceful landscape


nodokeshi ya Miroku no yubi o mina manete

how calm and peaceful . . .
everybody tries to imitate
the fingers of Maitreya

Saeki Keiko 佐伯啓子

. Miroku Bosatsu 弥勒菩薩 and Haiku  

Worldwide use


Things found on the way

Nodoka as the Personal Name

Rainbow colors -
Is it really Seven colors?
A Child's mind



Problems with the Translation of Haiku
(a little detour from our topic at hand)

shijin ju-nin nodoka ni ikou

quiet all about them
at rest, ten poets

The Japanese translation contains a cliché for spring that means calm and implies the poets were all basking comfortably in the sun after their labors. The tenth poet was the translator himself who had been absent temporarily when the American penned his poem.
During the past decade a new growth of haiku written in English by non-native speakers of English has taken bud.
Haikuists may have grown too comfortable thinking that American and British forms of English haiku should serve as world standards for translation and original compositions.
There is something mysterious about the way the stream of haiku flows through the languages, countries and cultures of the world.
Haiku can take new directions depending on the language and culture it is created in and through the borrowing of phrases from other languages, or the coining of new words.
The English language has divided into many Englishes - American English, British English, Australian English, Indian English, Singlish, Taglish, Japlish, and so on. This has created a new diversity in the world's languages. English haiku will naturally flow in this manner too.

David McMurray


nodokasa ya nezumi no nameru Sumidagawa

peaceful spring day -
a rat licks water from
Sumida River
(Tr. Gabi Greve)

Kobayashi Issa
source : www.longtail.co.jp/

The Sumida River is nowadays spelled 隅田川.
It used to be quite a clear river flowing through old Edo. Whilst taking a walk along its riverside in spring, Issa noticed the tiny thirsty rat.
The picture is a sceene from an Old Edo Screen 国立歴史民俗博物館所蔵の江戸屏風絵. It seems to represent the "nodokasa" on the banks of the great river quiet well.


nodokasa ya kakima o nozoku yama no soo

spring peace--
a mountain monk peeks
through the hedge

Kobayashi Issa

Kaki 垣 can be translated as "fence" or "hedge."
Shinji Ogawa feels that this is a humorous reference to a scene from The Tale of Genji (Chapter 5), wherein Prince Genji peers through a brushwood hedge and catches sight of ten-year old Murasaki. Shinji notes,
"In spring, even a mountain monk becomes a Peeping Tom."
Issa plays with this same image in another comic haiku, but in this case a cat takes the place of the famous prince; search the archive for "Genji."

More of Issa translated by David Lanoue
More peaceful mild spring days haiku by ISSA !


Contribution from Christopher Drake:

how peaceful!
a monk who loves men
peeps through a hedge

nodokasa ya - tranquility, peacefulness, pleasant feeling
kakima o nozoku - peeps through a gap in a hedge or low fence
yama no sou - mountain monk
yama, "mountain," may be o-yama:
1) a kabuki actor of female roles,
2) a gay man -- the prefix o- could be omitted in either case

It is a mild, peaceful, tranquil day in spring, and a monk (sou) is peeping through a hedge fence around a house, probably in the country. Issa also has a hokku about a tomcat acting like a modern Prince Genji, but, unlike that hokku, the present hokku doesn't mention Genji, and there's no special reason for it be an allusion to Genji, though that's not impossible. The most problematic word is yama or "mountain." Strictly speaking, mountain monks (yamabushi) were semi-shamanic, semi-Buddhist ascetics who did austerities in the mountains and didn't belong to any one temple.
But Issa doesn't use the word yamabushi. With regard to ordinary Buddhist monks (sou), the term yama usually referred to Mt. Hiei, a mountain near Kyoto with many monasteries, or to one of several other famous mountains with monasteries on them. If the hedge belongs to a house in a village or town at the foot of one of these mountains, then "mountain monk" may mean "monk from a temple on the mountain nearby." Or perhaps the hedge belongs to the small house of a forester or the hermitage of a man who is doing meditation on the mountain without being affiliated with a temple.

However, peeping suggests that this is probably a love verse. For the peeping monk, love seems to be a normal activity, and his desire matches the natural peacefulness of the spring day. His natural, peacefully flowing love feelings may imply that the monk is watching a man, since the monk is presumably experienced in the male same-sex love that is widely practiced in Buddhist temples. In the Edo period same-sex love was not considered strange or sinful, and, like heterosexual love, it was generally censured only if it contradicted the social duties one had as a monk or samurai or whatever.
Jealousies and fights between lovers of any sexual orientation were strictly forbidden for samurai, since loyalty to one's lord transcended one's personal loves. And in Buddhism (except for the suppressed Tachikawa left-handed Tantric sect), sexuality was not praised, yet for most monks it was thought to be inevitable, and the most common type was same-sex love.

Therefore, to interpret Issa's hokku as "even" a monk giving in to spring madness and peeping may be looking at the situation through the wrong end of the telescope. As a group, monks were mostly quite experienced in the "Way" of male love, and many were bisexual as well, and it is probably not the weather which causes the monk in this hokku to peep. In fact, in the Reformed Pure Land sect of Buddhism to which Issa belonged, sexuality was believed to be an inescapable part of the human condition, and monks were allowed to marry if they were hetero- or bisexual. It's rather doubtful that Issa regards the monk in the hokku to be giving in to a temporary spring giddiness.

Moreover, the word o-yama or "honorable mountain" also means a male kabuki actor of female roles, and the word was also used for gay men in general. It was sometimes simplified and pronounced without the o-, but even without the prefix yama remained a polite and respectful way of referring to gay men that did not have any derogatory overtones. In this hokku Issa may be using "mountain" explicitly in the sense of a monk who loves other men, although it is impossible to be certain.
Whether the monk is peeping at a man or a woman or both, I think the main point of this hokku is that peeping and sexuality are natural and peaceful and do not deserve to be treated with sarcasm or disrespect. In my translation, I envision a gay monk, because I think this may be closest to the reality Issa is dealing with. I also think "mountain monk" is too vague in English to be used without a hefty footnote. Obviously this hokku can be translated in many different ways.

Related words

***** Bright Spring Weather
(urara、uraraka うららか麗らか)

This again can be translated in many ways as an adjective. Bright, splendid, clear weather.

uraraka 麗か うららか bright and clear spring day
urara うらら、urarakeshi うららけし、urara ni うららに
uraura うらうら

hi urara 日うらうら(ひうらら)bright and clear day
..... reijitsu 麗日(れいじつ)splendid day

see also:

. shunkoo 春光 bright scenery of spring

. . . . .

A famour race horse in Japan was named
"Haru Urara" (Fine Spring Day).

She is certainly not Seabiscuit, but a seven-year-old thoroughbred mare named Haru Urara is being heralded as a potential savior for the racing industry in Japan.
Haru Urara, which is loosely translated as a comfortable spring day, with sunshine, warm wind and blue sky, has become a Japanese cult hero.


kigo for all AUTUMN

aki urara 秋麗 (あきうらら ) bright autumn weather
..... shuurei 秋麗(しゅうれい)



Anonymous said...

spring peace--
no plum blossoms yet
this First Month

nodokeshi ya ume wa naku [to] mo o-sho^gatsu


by Issa, 1806

The throngs that will flood the countryside to view the plum blossoms have not yet arrived.

Tr. David Lanoue

Gabi Greve - WKD said...

seibyoo no saigi soboku ni uraraka ni

the rituals
at the Holy Mausoleum are simple -
bright spring weather

seibyoono koharu kenran taru ni you

I get drunk
of the gorgeous early spring day
at the Holy Mausoleum

Shimomura Hiroshi 下村ひろし
Tr. Gabi Greve

Holy Mausoleum 聖廟 (seibyoo, seibyō, Seibyo)
for Confucius or other deified persons.

Gabi Greve - Darumapedia said...

tsurukame no Daruma no kao ya haru urara

crane and tortoise
on the face of Daruma san -
a fine spring day

The tsurukame symbolism.

Gabi Greve said...

Kobayashi Issa

nodokeshi ya ugo no hatake no asa kemuri

spring peace--
the rained-on field's
morning smoke

Tr. David Lanoue

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