Iroha Uta いろは歌

Chiyon
About いろはうた

 

Bulletin いろは歌
(いろはうた)

 

An Order of Kana

 

いろは歌 is an old poem said to have been written by 空海(くうかい 774~835)who was a famous Japanese monk in the early 平安時代(Heian Era 794~1185).


It uses each kana only once just like あいうえお, but it is a poem with meaning.

 

In Kana: In Kanji:

いろはにほへと
ちりぬるを
わかよたれそ
つねならむ
うゐのおくやま
けふこえて
あさきゆめみし
ゑひもせす 京(ん)

色は匂へど
散りぬるを
わが世 誰ぞ
常ならむ
宇井(有為)の奥山
今日越えて
浅き夢見し
酔いもせず 京(ん)

 

Because it is an old poem, the way to use the かな is different from now. There are also many rules that are different from modern grammar. 

  • Some don’t have 濁点(゛ - the voiced consonant mark)
  • 匂えど is written as 匂へど
  • ん is written as む
  • きょう is written as けふ
  • 酔いis written as 酔ひ
  • Some old letters are used (like ゐ, ゑ), etc.

 

A breakdown of each sentence, how to read it, and the meaning of it in Japanese and English:

 

Original 「色は匂へど散りぬるを」
(
いろはにおえど ちりぬるを)
Modern Japanese

この世にあるおもしろおかしいことは、美しく咲き、匂う花のようなものだ。なぜならそれは、いつしか散ってしまう(終わってしまうものなのだから)。

English

The colors of the flowers are so beautiful and fragrant--like a person's beauty or the interesting things in this world.

(いろ) here is the color of flowers, but it has also the meaning of the affairs of men and women, or the many events of this world.  These flowers despite their beauty today will disappear. My life is also ephemeral just like these flowers. There are many things I enjoy in my life, but they all have an end.

 

 

Original

「わが世 誰ぞ常ならむ」

(わがよ だれぞ つねならん)

Modern Japanese

私の人生もそれと同じだ。誰が、ずっと同じように変わらずあるものだと言えようか。いや、誰も言えない。いつかは終わってしまうのだ。

English

My life is like that. Who can say it won’t long last forever without change? No, nobody can. It ends at last.

Some says わが世 is "I rule my world" and the author is the one who ruled that era.

 

 

Original

「宇井(有為)の奥山今日越えて」

(ういのおくやま きょうこえて)

Modern Japanese

宇井という名の山奥を今日越えて

English

I pass over the deep mountain called 宇井(うい)in 京都(Kyoto today.

 

He was a 武士(ぶし samurai warrior) and he decided to leave his life as a 武士 to become a monk to go to the temple in 高野山(こうやさん Mt. Koya in Wakayama prefecture). He travels by foot passing over the mountain in Kyoto. He leaves behind the 武士 life because he has an unendurable angst in his life. I don’t know what it was, but I imagine it may have arisen from too much killing, or his love affairs, or the struggle for power within the 武士 system, etc.

 

有為(うい) is also the word which means to wake up to the true reality; to remove from being a slave of mutable matters in our daily life which he compared to flowers. That is to say, to attain enlightenment in Buddhism.

 

So, 'passing that mountain' means, he chose to become a pupil of Buddhism leaving his enjoyable life behind, but having sorrow, too.

 

今日 also rhymes with