Friday, August 31, 2012

Shunshoku Umegoyomi Vol. 1: Yonehachi & Tanjirou, Reunited (part 2)

Continuing Yonehachi and Tanjirou's conversation from the previous post:

Fig. 1: 亭主はびっくり顔
The husband seemed to show surprise on his anxious face (fig. 1).
 The first thing to note here is the nonstandard use of 「亭主」 (read as 「ていしゅ」 in modern Japanese) for 「あるじ」. Although it was relatively easy to identify the second kanji, as by itself it is the standard kanji for 「あるじ」 (and because the bottom part of the 「主」 kanji, the 「王」 radical, is frequently seen in the same form as a kuzushiji 「わ」), the first one was more challenging.

This is a situation where you really have to take the idea that kanji are about meaning first and pronunciation second to heart. 「亭主」 is another word for "husband" in modern Japanese. I was able to find it with the help (once again), of Nihongo Resources. A quick search for "?主" (making sure to change the "word start" option to "whole word") returned a manageable list of 60 possibilities. Considering the non-standard kanji usage during the Edo period, it makes sense that inconsistencies like this would exist.

Another point of interest is that my earlier statement that small kana did not exist in pre-modern Japanese is not actually universally true. Although it's difficult to definitively say so, it appears that the second kana in 「びっくり」 is actually the small version of 「つ」. As I've never seen in this practice in Heian-era literature, it's most likely something that gradually developed since that time, with it becoming standardized only after WW2.

The final point of interest is the final verb, 「うちながめ」, which appears to be the continuative form (連用形) of the verb 「打ち眺む」. Since both the imperfective (未然形) and continuative forms end in 「め」, the fact that it's continuous was determined from the context - the next sentence (fig. 2) contains a quote by Tanjirou. As for the meaning of the verb itself, my classical Japanese dictionary defines it as 「もの思いにふけり、ぼんやりと見る」, meaning "to be lost in thought/anxiety and appear absentminded". Since the idea of being lost in thought seemed to clash with the 「びっくり顔」 ("surprised face") mentioned in the quote, I went with "anxious". I still think I might be missing something here though.

Fig. 3: どふして来た。 Fig. 2: 主「米八じやアねへか。

"It's you, Yonehachi, isn't it? (fig. 2) Why have you come?" (fig. 3)
There are a few things to note about the speech pattern. First of all, note the 「じやアね」 in fig. 2 - if I'm not mistaken, this is still a feature peculiar to the Tokyo dialect, which suggests that Tamenaga tried to inject some verbal authenticity into his characters' speech styles. Second, the sentence in fig. 3 is identical to modern Japanese in pronunciation. Rather than using the classical Japanese 「来」 (pronounced 「き」) for the realis (past tense) form of the verb "to come", Tamenaga has used the form we still utilize in modern Japanese - 「来た」. Once again, despite the undeniable classical influence on the narrative style, Tamenaga appears to be making the effort to prevent that from percolating into the characters themselves.

Fig. 4: そして隠れて
"And it's also odd that you knew that I was hiding here" (fig. 4).
One of the harder parts of this sentence was figuring out the kanji for 「此所」. According to Tangorin, both 「此処」 and 「此所」 are valid for 「ここ」 (which made grammatical sense here), so I checked on an online kuzushiji database, and the second kanji looks like 「所」, though I'm not quite sure why, from examining the radicals.

「知れる」 is 「知る」 ("to know", just as in modern Japanese), a yodan verb in the realis form (已然形), followed by the auxiliary verb 「り」, in the attributive form (連体形). 「り」 has several possible meanings, but I think it has the "resultative" connotation here, meaning it refers to something that has happened and continues to be true in the present. The reason why 「り」 is in the attributive form is because it's followed by the quotative particle 「と」, which must be preceded by either a noun or the attributive form of a verb, the latter of which implies an omitted noun between that verb and 「と」.

Another difficulty I faced was deciphering the last 3 kana in the sentence, because the middle one, 「こ」, does not have a distinct upper stroke. However, I knew the sentence wouldn't make grammatical sense if it ended with 「ふしぎなと」, not to mention there was an extra stroke lying unused between 「な」 and 「と」. So I turned again to Nihongo Resources, and searched for "?と".

Fig. 5: マアヽヽこちらへ
"Well, in any case, come over here. This must be a dream," Tanjirou said, rising and sitting down (fig. 5).
Not too much to comment on here. Note the lack of a period after 「こちらへ」, even though it would have been grammatically appropriate. 「おきかへりて」 is 「起き返る」 ("to rise/sit up") in the continuative form (連用形), followed by the continuative particle 「て」, and then the verb 「座る」 in the predicative form (終止形), since it's at the end of the sentence.

I believe this is the first time we're encountering the placement of two parallel lines of text describing the action of the speaker after a quote, 「おきかへりてすはる」 in this case. I've never seen this before in any sort of Japanese writing, modern or classical, so if anyone can shed some light on the practice, I'd appreciate it. Edit: from the comments, looks like this is called togaki (ト書き), literally "stage directions" ― the term/usage originates from manuscripts for premodern Japanese plays.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Shunshoku Umegoyomi Vol. 1: Yonehachi & Tanjirou, Reunited

I couldn't find a good stopping point, so this post ended up being longer than I expected:

Fig. 1: 独わびしき門の戸に
From the single miserable door at the gate, (fig. 1) a woman said, "Excuse me, excuse me, is anyone there?" (fig. 2)
Fig. 2: 女「すこし
Note how in fig. 2, the repetition marks at the end are used to repeat the entire phrase prior to it (御免なさいまし). How much of the preceding text is repeated by the elongated repetition marks is something that must be determined by context. The first thing to check would be a repetition of 2 or 3 kana, but in this case, that wouldn't have made grammatical sense. Since the text in question was a spoken quote, repetition of a longer phrase made more sense.
The homeowner said,"Oh, who is it?" (fig. 3)
Fig. 3: あるじ「アイどなたヱ
Note the use of katakana to denote speech, particularly for interjections, like 「アイ」.

Fig. 4: 女「
The woman, while saying, "That voice is the young husband's" (fig. 4), opened the paper sliding door and hurried in through the warped threshold (fig. 5).
Only an opening bracket-style quotation mark is used - the end of the quotation is denoted by the presence of the quotative particle 「と」 .

The woman was wearing an Ueda-style thick kimono with dark gray stripes (fig. 6) and a black whale-style obi patterned with small willows, with purple oak silkmoth crape stripes (fig. 7).

Fig. 7: 黒の小柳に紫の。やままゆじまの 縮緬を鯨帯とし。 Fig. 6: 上田太織の
Fig. 5: ゆがむ
 ゝゝ と。あけて

Fig. 8: 下着はお納戸

The "whale-style obi" (鯨帯) refers to a type of women's obi that suggests the contrast between day and night (昼夜帯). Just like a killer whale, it is black on the back and white on the front.

Fig. 9: おこそ頭巾を手に
Her undergarments were grayish blue and made of medium size crape (fig. 8) She carried a headscarf in her hands, her disorderly sideburns in a Shimada-style bun (fig. 9).
I wasn't sure about the kanji for 「お」 in 「お納戸」 and 「おこそ頭巾」. It seems like it might be 「古」, but that's already used for 「こ」.

Note: as Matt noted below, it is most likely the standard kuzushiji kanji for 「お」, 「於」.

Also, the first kanji in 「島田」 looks like it should actually be 「嶋」 from the kuzushiji (due to the presence of a left radical), but Wikipedia said it was 「島」, so I went with that. Note: from the comments, the first kanji in 「しまだ」 is probably the nonstandard 「嶋」.
Fig. 10: 素顔自慢か
Whether she was proud of her unpainted face, or had showed up leaving her face as it was when she woke (fig. 10), even though she hadn't tidied herself up/put on makeup, she was beautiful (fig. 11).
Fig. 11: つくろはね
Note the use of the kana repetition mark 「〱」 near the end of fig. 10 - that isn't a 「く」 ("ku"), it's a repetition mark, so the kanji 「侭」 should be read as 「まま」.

Fig. 12: 花の笑顔に
As seen before, 「つくろはねども」 can be broken down into the imperfective form (未然形) of 「ふ」(つくろふ), meaning "to tidy up", the realis form (已然形) of 「ず」, the negative auxiliary verb, and 「ども」, the concessive particle. Note: from the comments, 「繕ふ」 can also referring to putting on makeup (「化粧する」 in modern Japanese).

On the flower's [Yonehachi's] smiling face were grieving eyes (fig. 12).

This is another place where the kanji being used wasn't clear. The meaning fits, so the kanji has to be either 「愁」 or 「憂」, but neither look like the kuzushiji kanji seen in the scan. I couldn't figure out what the kanji that the 「も」 in 「めもと」 came from was either. I figured that one out by using the wonderful search tool over at Nihongo Resources. You can do wildcard searches, using "?" for a single character and "*" for any number of characters. I knew there was one kana between 「め」 and 「と」, so I searched for "め?と", which led me to 「目元」, which I was able to confirm by comparing the handwritten 「元」 to the print one. Note: the kanji from which 「も」 comes is probably also the most common one, 「毛」.

As explained in the comments below, 「花」 could be being used as an adjective here, indicating the beauty of Yonehachi's face, rather than being a noun that refers to her (as a person).

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Shunshoku Umegoyomi Vol. 1: The Husband's Illness

Last time we found out about Tanjirou's financial difficulties, but poverty is not his only problem:
On top of that, as of recently he had been lying on a sickbed (fig. 1), his body in the control of destiny, in 
seemingly indescribable discomfort (fig. 2).
Fig. 2: 不自由いわん方もなき容体もときの吉不祥。 Fig. 1: 其うへに。
The verb at the end of fig. 1 is written with kanji as 「付す」 ("to lie down"), and is in the continuative form (連用形) because it is linked to the next sentence, despite the presence of a full stop. As pointed out in this comment, the full stop acts more like a comma in works of this period.

「いわん」 can be parsed as the imperfective form of 「言ふ」 ("to say") followed by 「ん」, the sound-shifted form of the speculatory verb 「む」, in the attributive form (連体形). The only issue is the meaning of 「む」 in this context, as it has several possible meanings, according to my textbook. I interpreted it as circumlocution (婉曲), which is the source of the word "seemingly" in the translation.

As a whole, 「いわん方もなき」 is a set phrase, as explained by Matt in the comments below and on Wiktionary.

I translated 「ときの吉不祥」 as "destiny" because I read it literally as the "good (吉) and bad luck (不祥) of time (時). Any suggestions here would be appreciated.

Fig. 3: いとゞ寒けき朝嵐。
身にしみ ゞゝとかこち顔。
What's more, the cold morning storm thoroughly penetrated his body, his face bitter (fig. 3).
Note the use of kana repetition marks here - they are not so common in modern Japanese, particularly the second one, which is used to represent the repetition of two kana in a row, with the second iteration of the first kana being voiced, a morphophonological phenomenon known as rendaku.

The word 「寒けき」 ("cold"), consists of the "ku" adjective 「寒けし」 in the attributive form (連体形), as it modifies the following noun 「朝嵐」 ("morning storm").

「かこち顔」 (written with kanji as 「託ち顔」) is a phrase that means 「恨めしそうな顔つき」 ("a bitter countenance"). The use of this word is a little puzzling to me, as it contrasts Tamenaga's previous description of Tanjirou, which was clearly intended to elicit sympathy from the reader. Perhaps the connotation behind 「託ち顔」 in classical Japanese is not the same as that behind "a bitter countenance" in modern English.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Shunshoku Umegoyomi Vol. 1: The Young Husband

Fig. 1: 中に此ごろ家移か。
Now we enter the dwelling of interest:

Fig. 2: 萬たらはぬ新世帯。
Inside, at the moment, is it someone is moving in/out? (fig. 1) It is a new household, lacking in various aspects (fig. 2).
 「萬」 is the traditional form (旧字体) of 「万」, the character for "10,000." An archaic meaning for this was "various."

There's another classical verb conjugation to study here: first, we have 「たらは」, the imperfective form (未然形) of a "ha"-form yodan verb (自ハ四), 「足らふ」. It is in that form because it is followed by the negative verb 「ず」, which is itself in the attributive form (連体形), where it changes to 「ぬ」. The attributive form is necessary because it's followed by a noun, 「新世帯」 ("new household").

Fig. 3: 主は年頃十八九。
The husband's age was 18 or 19 (fig. 3). He didn't look like a person of low birth (fig. 4),but like someone who had probably met with misfortune in the past (fig. 5), and was mired in the hardships of poverty (fig. 7).
Fig. 4: 人品賤しからねども。
Fig. 5: 薄命なる人なりけん。
Now we get some more information about the husband. Note that Tamenaga assures the reader that the husband is not of "low birth" (賤し), a "ku" adjective. 「賤しから」 is that adjective in the imperfective form, followed by the negative verb 「ず」 in the realis form (已然形). After that is 「ども」, a conjunctive particle that indicates direct concession. Once again, the verb/adjective forms are determined by the types of words that directly follow them.

We can see the classical influence here as well. Tamenaga's reference to "low birth" may have originated from a statement in the Analects of Confucius (論語), seen in fig. 6.

The sentence is in Classical Chinese, but has annotation marks (kundoku) that allow the characters to be read in an order that makes grammatical sense in (classical) Japanese. This style of writing is known as kanbun, and was used for many official documents in pre-modern Japan.

Fig. 6: 貧與賤是人之所惡也
Note how hiragana is used for the furigana and katakana is used for the okurigana. There are no foreign words in kanbun to be written in katakana anyway, so scholars decided to distinguish between furigana and okurigana, which must be written next to one another in kanbun, through this convention.

When the kundoku rules are followed, the sentence is rendered as :


This transcribed form is known as kakikudashibun (書き下し文).

The translation is:
Poverty and low birth, these are the things that people hate (fig. 6) (Analects of Confucius).

Fig. 7: 貧苦にせまる

As he is the protagonist of Umegoyomi, this clarification of Tanjirou's societal status was considered necessary by Tamenaga. Although Tanjirou might be looked down upon for his poverty, he still had his pride.

The 「けん」 seen in fig. 5 is a sound-shifted version of 「けむ」, which is an auxiliary verb that indicates speculation about the past. It is in the predicative form (終止形), as it is at the end of a sentence. The preceding verb, 「なり」, is the copular auxiliary verb of classical Japanese (analogous to 「だ」 in modern Japanese) in the continuative form, as required by 「けむ」.

The verb 「せまる」, written with kanji as 「迫る」, means 「生活に困る」 ("to face problems in one's daily life") in this context.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Shunshoku Umegoyomi Vol. 1: In The Capital

Fig. 1: 心解あふ裏借家も。
From the description of nature, we proceed to the description of the city:
Is there any place superior to even the alleyway tenements that the heart comes to a mutual understanding with? For there is no place superior to home (figs. 1 & 2).
Of interest here is another example of lack of standardization - okurigana usage is irregular. Whereas the common way of writing 「とけあう」 (for this meaning) in modern Japanese with kanji would be 「解けあう」, Tamenaga uses 「解あふ」 (with the irregular use of 「ふ」 instead of 「う」 as well).

The word for "alleyway tenement" (裏借家) refers to small, rental property, implying that the families living here are not very wealthy. I don't know if it was the case in Edo, but in Heian-era Kyoto, the wealthy would live on the main thoroughfares ("avenues"), while the poor would live in the numerous intersecting alleys.

Fig. 2: 住ば都にまさるらん。
In fig. 2 is a good example of classical-style verb endings. 「まさるらん」 can be broken down into the verb 「勝る」 ("to surpass"), in the predicative form (終止形). attributive form (連体形). 「らん」 is a sound-shifted version of 「らむ」, which indicates present speculation in this case (現在推量). Normally, 「らむ」 is followed by the predicative form of a verb, except for irregularly-conjugated "ra-hen" (ラ変) verbs, when the attributive form is used instead.

Fig. 3: 実と寔の中の郷。
I had written in my notes that 「都」 had the meaning of "home" and not "the capital" here for some reason. Either one fits when the previous sentence is taken into context, but for different reasons. If it means "capital," that would suggest that the reason for living in a small, dingy alleyway was because anything was superior to living in the countryside. If it has the meaning of "home," then that would imply that despite the tenements' poor state, because it was one's home, that could be forgiven.

That's right, it's actually Nakanogou (fig. 3).
Now we know exact name of the place in Edo where the tenements are located. From the comment by Matt below, it was "the old name for the area from modern-day Azumabashi/Higashikomagata to Honjo 4 in Sumida-ku." I searched for any Nakanogous in present-day Tokyo, but all I could find was something in Mie Prefecture, which is nowhere near Tokyo. The names of these back alley places were tenuous anyway, and it's also possible that Tamenaga pulled the name out of thin air.

Note that the size of the characters in the images are adjusted to be the same as that in the handwritten version, so they all line up. As stated previously, there are no small kana in pre-modern written Japanese.

Fig. 4: 家数もわづか五六軒。
The number of dwellings is only five or six (fig. 4).
A new kana irregularity here to point out - 「づ」 is used instead of 「ず」, something that can also be seen occasionally in modern Japanese. Although these two sounds are exactly the same in modern standard Japanese (標準語), there are dialects that still preserve differences between those two morae, and between 「じ」 and 「ぢ」, a phenomenon known as yotsugana (四つ仮名). It is possible that a distinction was still made in Tamenaga's time, although I don't know if that has been conclusively determined to be or not be the case.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Shunshoku Umegoyomi Vol. 1: The Setting

Although its title suggests the dawn of a new season, and thus new hopes, Umegoyomi opens on a rather bleak note.

Fig. 1: 野に捨た笠に用あり水仙花。
A daffodil finds use in a bamboo hat thrown away in a field (fig. 1).
Note that 「水仙花」 has the furigana 「すいせんくわ」, reflecting the historical practice of reading 「くわ」 as 「か」 in certain contexts.

Although I am fairly sure, I'm not certain that the corresponding kanji for 「に」 in this sentence is 「尓」. I first deduced that it was 「に」 from context, and then went looking for the kanji.

Even if that is not so, it is a wretched abode enough to protect the daffodil from frost (fig. 2).
Here's another example of context-based deduction. The second kana (れ) might be difficult to read, but one can be fairly sure it is a kana and not a kanji, since the first one is clearly the kana 「そ」, which is not commonly followed by a kanji.

Fig. 2: それ
From this sentence, we can see that it is not quite spring yet - the frost has not yet melted away, so the daffodil cannot survive on its own. Although this has the primary influence of setting a somber mood for the opening, the background information we have for the novel suggests that it may be a metaphor for the relationships between Tanjirou and the various women of the story. We will have to know more about the characters before drawing any further conclusions, however.

One kana I was not sure about here was the 「ま」 near the end. From this kuzushiji reference PDF, I selected 「滿」, but this image from a reference website seems to be more likely. Unfortunately, the site didn't seem to list the corresponding kanji when I searched for images of a given kuzushiji kana. Search for 「ま」 and it will appear as the last result.

The hedge of spindle trees is also sparse (fig. 3). Outside, the fields are covered in a thin layer of ice (fig. 4).

Fig. 3: 柾木の垣も間原なる。
Fig. 4: 外は田畑の薄氷。
Not much to add here - Tamenaga further paints the austere setting. I had trouble determining the kanji for the kuzushiji of the furigana 「お」 in 「うすごおり」, so any suggestions there would be helpful. One possibility is that the furigana actually read 「うすごふり」, since 「ふ」 was often used in place of 「う」 in historical kana orthography. Although 「こおり」 is the standard spelling for 「氷」 in modern Japanese, the homophonic 「こうり」 may have been used in the past (although it was not listed in my dictionary). The furigana does look very similar to the kuzushiji form of 「不」 above (in fig. 2), which can be used to represent both 「ほ」 and 「ふ」.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Shunshoku Umegoyomi Vol. 1: Title

Note: I am skipping the character introductions for now, and starting with the actual text, from image #7 in the National Diet Library's archives.

Fig. 1: 春色梅兒與美巻之一
On the first page of the text is the title (fig. 1), 「春色梅兒與美」 (Shunshoku Umegoyomi). There are a few things to note about it. First of all, the use of kana (the Japanese writing that is phonetic, as opposed to the Chinese-origin kanji, which is also used in written Japanese) was quite different at the time, and is now known as historical kana orthography (歴史的仮名遣). It did not have the small versions of kana used nowadays to indicate yōon, which are diphthongs, such as "kya" or "nyo" (note: this does not appear to be universally true, as explained in this post). It also often failed to always distinguish between voiced and non-voiced versions of kana (e.g., "ka" and "ga" or "ha" and "ba") through the use of dakuten.

Since the number of people who were literate during the Edo period was relatively small, and those who were literate could afford to spend the time to learn how to resolve written ambiguities by context, this was not a big concern. Nevertheless, Edo-period writing was a big improvement in terms of disambiguation when compared to earlier writing, such as from the Heian period (794-1185), which made liberal use of references to other texts, among other things. It was not until the post-WW2 period, however, that the urgent need for orthographic reform became apparent.

Nevertheless, the inclusion of furigana (kana that indicates the pronunciation of kanji) makes it apparent that this text was not targeted solely at readers with a high level of education. The style of writing used here is known as kuzushiji (see the linked PDF on that page for a relatively comprehensive list of kuzushiji). Kana started out as kanji that were used purely for their phonetic value. Over time, the kanji were written in increasingly simplified cursive forms, which led to the modern kana we use today. Kuzushiji consists of those cursive-kanji-used-as-kana written in various degrees of simplification.

In the title, only the first 2 furigana, and the last one, should be difficult to read for someone who knows modern (handwritten) kana (note: in all figures, I will indicate the kanji from which a kuzushiji kana is derived in parentheses if that kanji is difficult to determine or it's the first time we're running across it). The first is the kanji 「志」, used to represent the kana 「し」. Note how the 「し」 in 「しょく」 uses a different kanji (a highly simplified version of 「之」, which is very similar to the modern 「し」) - in kuzushiji, there are several kanji that can represent a single kana. The second furigana is represented by the kuzushiji form of 「由」, which in a more simplified form became the modern 「ゆ」. The last one comes from the kuzushiji form of 「三」, which came to take on the phonetic value of 「み」 and can still be seen in the modern katakana 「ミ」.

Also note the lack of standardization for kanji usage. The proper way of writing Umegoyomi in modern Japanese would be 「梅暦」, but it is written as both 「梅兒譽美」 (the official title for this work) and as 「梅兒與美」, with the 3rd kanji changing. The kanji 「兒譽美」 appear to have been used for their phonetic value here, although some significance may have also been placed on their meaning.

As for the meaning of the title, 「春色梅兒與美」 refers to the colors of spring and how they are a harbinger of that season. Although 「梅暦」 (in its various forms) literally means "plum calendar", it also refers to the plum blossoms that indicate spring's arrival. This is in line with the ever-present theme of spring as the season of renewal, new chances, and the beginning of new love. Despite penning a novel for the common man, Tamenaga cannot escape the shadow of his aristocratic forebears, who wrote poem after poem on the topic of the intertwined nature of the seasons, nature, and love.

The text 「巻之一」 (まきのいち) refers to the fact that this is Volume 1. The use of 「之」 for the possessive particle 「の」 comes from Classical Chinese, and once again demonstrates the strong classical influence on even the vernacular written Japanese of this era.

Fig. 2: 江戸 狂訓亭主人作
The subheading (fig. 2) states the setting, Edo (江戸), as well as the author, Kyoukun Teishujin (狂訓亭主人), a pen-name of Tamenaga Shunsui. At first I wasn't sure whether 「江戸」 referred to the setting or the place of publication, but (IIRC) the place of publication is indicated in a different, standardized place in books of this era.

「狂訓」 is a pun on 「教訓」, which means "lesson" or "moral instruction." By replacing the first character with the homophonic 「狂」 (insane), Tamenaga reveals the irreverent light in which he sees himself.

Fig. 3: 第一齣
The last part of the title (fig. 3) indicates that this is section 1. The third character (齣), pronouced 「こま」, is one that you might have encountered in katakana form, such as in yonkoma (4コマ).

Introduction to Shunshoku Umegoyomi (春色梅兒譽美)

The ninjōbon (人情本) genre of romance novels came to the forefront of popular Japanese literature during the Edo period (1603-1868).  As the country was under strict orders from the shogunate to isolate itself from the outside world (a policy known as sakoku) due to the belief that interaction with foreigners would lead to the destabilization, and eventual destruction, of Japan, many other forces that were thought to possess similar consequences were also opposed by the government.

The ninjōbon proved to be one such force. During the twilight years of the Tokugawa shogunate, Tamenaga Shunsui (1790-1844) published a series of romance novels that gained great popularity in the capital, Edo (the pre-Meiji Restoration name of Tokyo). The flagship novel in this genre, published in 1832-33, was Shunshoku Umegoyomi (春色梅兒譽美), or Spring Colors: The Plum Calendar. Set in Edo, Umegoyomi tells the tale of two geisha, Yonehachi (米八) and Adakichi (仇吉), who yearn for a beautiful young man (美少年) named Tanjirou (丹次郎). Tanjirou, of course, is already engaged to another woman, named Ochou (お長).

Fig. 1: A page from the character list of Umegoyomi 
in a set of scans hosted by the National Diet Library.

The reason why the ninjōbon genre caught my interest, where works from earlier periods did not, is partly because of its portrayal of the life of commoners. Whereas Heian-era (794-1185) works were written by the aristocracy, for the aristocracy, about the aristocracy, the exact opposite was true for Umegoyomi and other works like it. Tamenaga was the son of a commoner, and his works enjoyed widespread popularity, as is evidenced by the ban placed on them by the 1842 Tenpō Reforms. Whereas plenty of official government writings document the lives of the nobility throughout Japanese history, we must rely much more heavily on works of fiction, such as Umegoyomi, to glean insight into the lives of commoners.

My transcription/translation of Umegoyomi will be based on this scanned copy made available by the National Diet Library of the Japanese government. I will also be referring to this publication by classical Japanese scholar Alan S. Woodhull, although the translation will be my own. Transcription will be conducted in an in-line fashion, so that the kuzushiji (calligraphed characters) will be placed next to their corresponding print-form kana/kanji. This way, readers will hopefully be able to gain some direct insight into how to read kuzushiji, which has, to me, proved much more challenging than translating and interpreting the text (although YMMV). For some more background on the text, take a look at this blog post.

List of Translations:

Vol. 1: