Teikin Ôrai 1: A Letter of the First Month

Translated by Dan Sherer, Chris Bovberg, and Kaitlin Forgash

The Teikin Ôrai is a Muromachi (1333-1573) period collection of fictional letters intended to serve as an example for students studying phrases, seasonality, terms, and calligraphy.

A New Year’s greeting card design featuring archery equipment. “Bow, Arrows, Target, and Other Outfits for Archery,”  from the Metropolitan Museum of Art.  Ca. 1814. (Creative Commons)

A New Year’s greeting card design featuring archery equipment. “Bow, Arrows, Target, and Other Outfits for Archery,” from the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Ca. 1814. (Creative Commons)

A letter of the first month (missive)

Felicitations on the beginning of the year. First of all I would like to offer my best wishes to you. I am overjoyed that you have so much fortune and prosperity. I had meant to offer my new years greetings to you in person on the first day of the year, but having been invited to various people’s Day of the Rat festivities 1 , I have sadly been delayed. Like the valley bush warbler (uguisu) that forgets the eave flowers {as the best place for it} or the little butterfly that plays in the shadows {when it should be in the sun}, this strongly goes against my true feelings. Moreover, these days, I am holding various demonstrations of martial skill, including competitions of small willow bows (yōkyū) and small sparrow bow (suzume no koyumi) 2 , meets of shooting at a straw hat from horseback (kasagaki) and paper target on a stick (kogushi), as well as games of grass-stuffed deer targets (kusajishi), round targets (marumono), three-three-nine mounted archery with arrows in hand (sansanku no tabasami) 3 , and the eight types of targets (yatsumato), one after another. If you were to decide to invite some capable archers and skilled mounted archers, {and come to this event}, it would be the fulfilment of my deepest wish. It is difficult to convey my feelings {in this letter}. I look forward to the next time we meet. My poor brush cannot express the specifics. With awe and respect,

 First month, fifth day        Third-Level Manager of the Left Gate Guards 4 Fujiwara

Humbly Submitted {to the}    Lord Governor of Iwami
A warrior shoots a straw hat target 笠懸 ( kasagaki ) from horseback in the  Illustrated Scroll of Obusuma Saburo . Ca. 13th century. (Creative Commons)

A warrior shoots a straw hat target 笠懸 (kasagaki) from horseback in the Illustrated Scroll of Obusuma Saburo. Ca. 13th century. (Creative Commons)

  1. This is a new year’s event, and is one of the 年中行事 (nenjūgyōji) celebrations.

  1. Small bow generally made with small bamboo or similar wood.

  1. A type of mounted archery (yabusame). It is uncertain whether this refers to shooting at a target from 9 (or three) shaku away, three sets of three targets, or the targets being of three shaku in height (90 centimeters)

  1. 左衛門尉 Third-level manager of the 左衛門府 (saemonfu), left gate guard headquarters/office.

Original Text 原文


 正月五日     左衛門尉藤原

謹上 石見守殿

Kundoku 訓読

正月状 ゆき

春の始めの御悦びおんよろこび貴方きほうに向かいまず祝い申し候いおわんぬ。富貴ふうき万福ばんぷく、猶以て幸甚こうじん々々。そもそも としの初めの朝拝ちょうはいは、朔日さくじつ元三がんさん之次いでを以て、急ぎ申すべき之処、人々の子日ねのひの遊びに駈りかり催さるるもよおさるる之間、思いながら延引えんいんす。谷のうぐいす檐の花を忘れ、その小蝶こちょう日影ひかげに遊ぶに似たり。頗る本意に背き候いおわんぬ。はたまた、楊弓ようきゅう雀小弓すずめのこゆみの勝負、笠懸かさがけ小串こぐしの会、草鹿くさじし円物まるものの遊び、三々九手夾さんさんくのたばさみ八的やつまと等の曲節きょくせつ、近日打ち続き、これ経営す。尋常じんじょう射手いて馳挽はせびき達者たっしゃ、少々御誘引ごゆういんありて、思し食し立ち給わば、本望なり。心事尽くしがたし。参会の次いでをさんとす。委しくはくわしくは腐毫ふごう能わず。恐々謹言きょうきょうきんげん

正月五日     左衛門の尉さえもんのじょう藤原

謹上きんじょう 石見いわみ守殿
A scene from the first letter of the year in Hokusai’s illustrated Teikin Ôrai, located in the  British National Museum collections . Meiji Period (1868-1912) copy. ( Creative Commons )

A scene from the first letter of the year in Hokusai’s illustrated Teikin Ôrai, located in the British National Museum collections. Meiji Period (1868-1912) copy. (Creative Commons)

Modern 現代語訳



 正月五日     左衛門尉藤原

謹上 石見守殿

Tsuikahô no Tsuika 560: On the collection of interest

Translated by Matthew Keller

Item: Concerning what the Board of Inquiry has inquired about {the collection of} interest from the Kamakura residents

Do not extend collection of interest on to the land owners. The subordinates {of the Board of Inquiry} will directly collect from {the debtors}. 1

Seven year of Kouan (1284), eighth month, seventeenth day

  1. It is very uncommon for the deputies of the Monchujo to directly take action.

Original Text 原文
一 問注所申鎌倉住人等利銭事



Kundoku 訓読

一つ 問注所もんちゅうじょが申す鎌倉住人等の利銭りせんの事



Modern 現代語訳

一つ 問注所が申す鎌倉に住んでいる人々の利息について



Tsuikahô no Tsuika 578: Concerning the attendant monks of Tsurugaoka Hachimangu

Translated by Matthew Keller

Item: Concerning the attendant monks of Tsurugaoka Hachimangu and the various halls of Kamakura {Kouan 8 (1285), fourth month, eighth day}

The Office of Adjudicants are to evaluate those people (the candidates), and report to the Board of Councilors. Afterwards, the local magistrates are to report to the Hojo family council.

[note] Make a note concerning how the Tokusou (the patrimonial head of the main branch of the Hojo family which monopolized the post of shogunal regent) the decisions

[note] go back and switch the earlier Hiketsuke translations

Original Text 原文

一 鶴岡八幡宮并鎌倉中諸堂供僧事〈弘安八 四 八〉 於引付勘其人、可申合評定、其後当奉行可申御寄合、

Kundoku 訓読

一つ 鶴岡八幡宮并びに鎌倉中諸堂の供僧ぐそうの事〈弘安八年四月八日〉 引付において、其の人を勘じ、評定に申し合わすべし。其後、当奉行御寄合よりあいに申すべし。

Modern 現代語訳

一つ 鶴岡八幡宮または鎌倉中諸堂の供僧について〈弘安八年(1285)四月八日〉 引付はその人(candidates 供僧)を調べて、{その結果を}評定衆へ報告するように。其後、担当の奉行人は御寄合衆へ報告するように。

Tsuikahô no Tsuika 482: Concerning the ban on the killing of living things

Translated by Emily Warren

Item: concerning the ban on the killing of living things prior to the Iwashimizu Hachimangu Hōjō-e


As for the copy of the Controller Office’s directive 2 , it is as follows: you {the military governor} are to issue an order to the stewards and housemen of Kawachi, Settsu, Shinano, Kii, and Hyūga provinces to immediately put {the ban} into effect in obedience of the council directive. By this command 3 , the directive is thus.

Kōan 3rd year (1281) 7th month, 23rd day

Governor of Sagami (cypher)

To: Lord Mutsu Hikosaburō 4

  1. A memorial service where captured fish and fowl that would normally be eaten are released. Also called a “Life Release” in contemporary Buddhism.

  1. The benkan. Usually this would refer to the Council of State (daijokan), but in this case, it is the Controller’s Office.

  1. This is a shogunal order.

  1. Also called Akahashi Hisatoki (1272-1307). He was the governor of Kawachi, Settsu, and Sagami, then the Rokuhara commissioner for the northern sector, followed by various official posts.

Original Text 原文

一 石清水放生会以前殺生禁断事、官符案如此、早守符旨、可施行之由、可被下知河内、摂津、信濃、紀伊、日向国地頭御家人等之状、依仰執達如件、

 弘安三年七月廿三日  相模守 判


Kundoku 訓読

一 石清水いわしみず放生会ほうじょうえ以前いぜん殺生せっしょう禁断きんだんの事、

官符かんぷあんかくのごとし。早くの旨を守り、施行しぎょうすべきの由、河内、摂津、信濃、紀伊、日向国の地頭御家人等に下知げちせらるべきの状、仰せに依り執達しったつ件の如し。  弘安三年(1281)七月廿三日  相模の守 判   陸奥むつ彦三郎ひこさぶろう殿〈諸国の守護人同前〉

Modern 現代語

一つ    石清水八幡宮の放生会の直前の殺生を禁断することについて


弘安三年七月廿三日  相模の守 判


Tsuikahô no Tsuika 244: Regarding the money exchanged for selling and buying people

Translated by Sachiko Kawai

Item: Regarding the money exchanged for selling and buying people 1

Concerning the {transactions} done before the law {prohibiting the selling and buying of people} 2 , the original owners must return the money {to the buyers}. For the transactions done after the law, do not return {the money to the buyers}. The money paid to the original owners should be allocated {to repair} Gion Bridge and Kiyomizu Temple Bridge. As for the people sold, they should not be returned to the original owners; they should be freed.
Original Text 原文

一 人倫売買直物事 〈寛元三 二 十六〉


Kundoku 訓読

一 人倫売買直物じきもつの事 〈寛元三 二 十六〉   御制ごせい以前の事においては、本主ほんしゅ糺返きゅうへんせらるべし。御制以後の沽却こきゃくに至りては、直物を糺返すべからず。但し、本主分の直物は、祇園・清水寺橋きよみずでらばし用途ようとけらるべし。又、其の身に於ては、本主に返給すべからず。放免ほうめんせらるべきなり。

Modern 現代語訳

一 人身売買における取引時の代金について 〈寛元三年(1245年) 二月十六日〉 


  1. 直物(じきもつ): the money exchanged for [trade]

  1. Also see Nelson, Thomas. "Slavery in Medieval Japan." Monumenta Nipponica 59, no. 4 (2004): 486. See also the notes on Tsuikahô 304.