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

春始御悦、向貴方先祝申候畢、富貴万福、猶以幸甚々々、抑歳初朝拝者、以朔日元三之次、急可申之処、被駈催人々子日遊之間、乍思延引、似谷鶯忘檐花、薗小蝶遊日影、頗背本意候畢、将又、楊弓、雀小弓勝負、笠懸、小串之会、草鹿、円物遊、三々九手夾、八的等曲節、近日打続、経営之、尋常射手、馳挽達者、少々有御誘引、思食立給者、本望也、心事難尽、為期参会之次、委不能腐毫、恐々謹言、

 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

正月の手紙(往き)

一年の始めの喜び、あなたさまに向かって、まずお祝い申し上げます。あなたが富み栄えているようですので、非常に目出度いです。本来、年の始めの挨拶は、正月一日のチャンスに、早く参るべきですが、色々な人の子の日の遊びに誘われて、思っていながら遅延してしまいました。谷の鶯が檐の花(一番いい所)を忘れ、蝶々が日陰にいることに似ています。非常に本心に背くことになりました。さらにまた、楊弓、雀小弓の勝負、笠懸、小串の会、草鹿、円物の遊び、三々九の手夾、八的の遊びなどいろいろな技術を披露する会を、最近連続で開催しています。もし、あなた様が上手な射手、馬に乗って弓を引く名人をお誘いになってお出でになる気になれば、うれしく思います。私の気持は(手紙では)伝え難いです。次回お目にかかる機会を期待します。委しくは、私の拙い手紙では書けません。恐れ入りながら申し上げます。

 正月五日     左衛門尉藤原

謹上 石見守殿