Vol. 8, No. 14, Summer 2011

Haruo Shirane: Beyond the Haiku Moment: Basho, Buson and Modern Haiku myths

Geert Verbeke: Haiku Study & Photo Haibun

David Burleigh: In and Out of Japan: The Contours of Haiku

Robert D. Wilson: Kigo – The Heathbeat of Haiku

Michael Dylan Welch: Haiku Form and Content

Richard Gilbert: Kigo and Seasonal Reference: Cross-cultural Issues in Anglo-American Haiku

Robert D. Wilson: Study of Japanese Aesthetics: Part I: The Importance of Ma

Matthew M. Carriello: The Contiguous Image: Mapping Metaphor in Haiku

Richard Gilbert: The Disjunctive Dragonfly: A Study of Disjunctive Method and Definitions in Contemporary English-
language Haiku

Bruce Ross: The Essence of Haiku

Robert D. Wilson: Study of Japanese Aesthetics: Part II: Reinventing The Wheel: The Fly Who Thought He Was a Carabao

Anatoly Kudryavitsky: Vera Markova’s “Ten Haiku Lessons”

Anatoly Kudryavitsky: Tranströmer and his Haikudikter

Anatoly Kudryavitsky: Haiku Poets' Last Line of Defence

Robert D. Wilson: Simply Haiku Winter 2011 issue's Featured Poet: Slavko Sedlar



Michael F. Marra (1956-2011)




The compound “yūgen” 幽玄 (lit., depth and mystery) is made of two Chinese characters: “” means “faint, dim,” and also “deep;” “gen” indicates the black color, the color of heaven, something far away, something quiet, and an occult principle. We find the character “gen” used in the Tao te ching (Classic of the Way and Integrity) to describe the “Way:”

These two—the nameless and what is named—emerge from the same source yet are referred to differently. Together they are called obscure (Ch. xuan; Jpn. gen), the obscurest of the obscure, they are the swinging gateway of the manifold mysteries.1

Thus, “yūgen” is something well beyond the reach of man’s immediate perception and understanding, since it is too deep and too far for humans to reach, even conceptually. In ancient China, yūgen came to indicate the other world, as well as the Taoist Way and Buddhist enlightenment.2

Already in the twelfth century the aristocrat Fujiwara no Munetada (1062-1141) described yūgen in his diary, Chūyūki (The Diary of the Minister of the Right from the Nakamikado Family, 1087-1138), as “something difficult to grasp, something so deep that it cannot be stated in words.”3 Munetada also authored Sakumon Daitai (Principles of Composition, 1108), in which he mentions a poetic style known as “yojō yūgen-tei” (style of surplus of feelings, mystery and depth). As a representative poem in this style he quotes a Chinese verse by Yoshishige no Yasutane (d. 1002) on “where the cool breeze hides itself:”

Common people wait arranging their mats,
Lieh Tzu goes without the help of a cart.4

In this poem Yasutane referred to the chapter “Free and Easy Wandering” from the Chuang Tzu: “Lieh Tzu could ride the wind and go soaring around with cool and breezy skill, but after fifteen days he came back to earth. As far as the search for good fortune went, he didn’t fret and worry.”5 Apparently, the yūgen style was reserved for the description of a wondrous event that no one could explain rationally, and that escaped any other explanation aside from a poetic one—an explanation as free as the cool wind on which the Taoist philosopher rode. The style of yūgen was not limited to poetry alone. As Munetada recorded in several entries of his diary, music as well “entered the realm of the deep and mysterious” (yūgen).6

Texts of poetics are an excellent source of information for understanding yūgen.7 In the Chinese preface to the Kokinshū, Ki no Yoshimochi praised the depth of poetry because of its ability to “enter the realm of the mysterious and supernatural” (yūgen)—a depth which poets like Kakinomoto no Hitomaro mastered because of their “miraculously divine imagination.”8 The Wakatai Jisshu (The Ten Waka Styles, ca. 1000), an apocryphal treatise on poetry attributed to Mibu no Tadamine (10th century), but most probably by Minamoto no Michinari (d.1019), lists five poems under the heading, “style of lofty feelings” (kōjō-tai). A note follows these poems indicating that songs in this style “penetrate mystery and depth (yūgen).”9 The following are the poems that penetrate the realm of yūgen:

1) Fuyu nagara
Sora yori hana no
Chirikuru wa
Kumo no anata wa
Haru ni ya aruramu

Though it is winter,
The flowers come scattering
From the sky--
Has spring come
On the other side of the clouds?10


2) Yukiyarade
Yamaji kurashitsu
Ima hitokoe no
Kikamahoshisa ni

Unable to proceed,
Twilight has come on my mountain path--
Now I want to hear
Once again the voice
Of the warbler.11


3) Chiri chirazu
Kikamahoshiki o
Furusato no
Hana mite kaeru
Hito mo awanamu

I want to ask
Whether they have scattered or not, but…
I only wish I would meet the people
Who come back after seeing the blossoms
In my native village.12


4) Yama takami
Warete mo tsuki no
Miyuru ka na
Hikari o wakete
Tare ni misuramu

Since the mountain is high
One sees the moon
Divided in half!
To whom should I show
The split light?13


5) Ukikusa no
Ike no omote o
Futatsu zo mimashi
Aki no yo no tsuki

If the surface of the pond
By the floating weeds
Were not hidden,
I would be seeing two of them:
Moon in an autumn night.14

In these poems yūgen refers to whatever is obstructed from the sight or the hearing of the poet: The cherry blossoms appearing as snowflakes in winter; the absent voice of the warbler; the blooming of the cherry trees in the ancient capital Nara; the moon hidden behind the mountains; the surface of the pond hidden by the floating weeds. Poets explain “the obscurest of the obscure” by using images of nature, and by striving to give a positive form to topics related to the negative--topics of absence and concealment.

The literary historian Konishi Jin’ichi has counted fourteen instances in which Fujiwara no Shunzei (1114-1204) used the word “yūgen” in his judgments during poetic matches (utaawase). This is a relatively small number of cases compared to the two hundred eighty seven times he used the word “graceful” (), and the eighty four times he called a poem “charming” (en).15 And yet, Shunzei contributed to making the concept of “yūgen” relevant to poetic composition. He associated yūgen with images of a wide open sea so hard for the eye to reach;16 a distant past that only survives in a dream;17 the imaginary view of a distant place brought about through a metaphorical process;18 the image of an absent capital during a winter storm in the countryside;19 the disclosure of the moon from behind layers of clouds;20 and the process of disclosure and concealment enacted by the wind blowing from the mountains.21

Fujiwara no Teika (1162-1241), Shunzei’s gifted son, listed the “style of mystery and depth” (yūgen-tai) among the ten poetic styles that he presented at the beginning of his poetic treatise Maigetsushō (Monthly Notes, ca. 1219).22 In his selection of outstanding poems of modern times, Kindai Shūka (Superior Poems of Our Time, 1209), Teika mentioned two songs in relation to the yūgen style. Both poems are by Minamoto no Shunrai (1055?-1129?), who presented the first to the Retired Emperor Horikawa (1079-1107) together with a stalk of pampas grass:

Uzura naku
Mano no irie no
Hamakaze ni
Obana nami yoru
Aki no yūgure

The wind comes blowing
From the shore of the Cove of Mano
Where quail raise their cries,
Making waves of tussled plume grass
Ripple in the autumn dusk.23

In the second poem, Shunrai sang a painting on a sliding paper door which portrayed maples leaves falling over a dilapidated house:

Furusato wa
Chiru momijiba ni
Noki no shinobu ni
Akikaze zo fuku

My former home
Lies buried under crimson leaves
Fallen in the garden,
And in the sedge grass on the eaves,
The melancholic autumn wind.24

It comes as no surprise that Teika’s association of yūgen with the melancholic autumnal poetry of Minamoto no Shunrai corresponds to the idea of yūgen espoused by Teika’s fellow poet and friend Kamo no Chōmei (1155?-1216). Chōmei had studied poetry with Shunrai’s son, Shun’e (b. 1113). Chōmei gave an explanation of yūgen which has become a locus classicus in any treatment of this subject. The passage in question appears in the Mumyōshō (The Nameless Treatise, 1211-1216), in which Chōmei associated the yūgen style with the modern poetry of the Shinkokin Waka Shū (New Collection of Ancient and Modern Times, 1205). Chōmei’s explanation is based on the development of clusters of negative statements: yūgen is what words cannot convey and poetic form cannot adequately catch; it is the absence of color and sound, and yet it has the power to move the human soul, as well as Gods and spirits; it is suffering in silence rather than the exposure of one’s grief; it is a view hampered by mist. The silence of dusk in autumn became the privileged site for yūgen.25

Although its attribution to Teika has been questioned by scholars,26 the poetic treatise Teika Jittai (Teika’s Ten Styles) lists several poems under the stylistic headings given by Teika in Maigetsushō. Of the fifty-eight poems recorded in the “yūgen style” (yūgen-yō), one poem is by Teika himself—a poem composed in the house of his family in the Fifth Ward of Kyoto, in the autumn his mother had died. In this poem, the theme of the absence of a loved one is underscored by a series of negatives which try to bring into being something that can only be recalled in memory:

Tamayura no
Tsuyu mo namida mo
Nakihito kouru
Yado no akikaze

Neither the dew, nor the tears
Not even for a short while:
The autumn wind through the house
Where I long for the one who is no more.27

By the early fourteenth century yūgen was associated with the culture of the Heian aristocracy to whose creation poets such as Shunzei and Teika had contributed with their idealizations of The Tale of Genji. This world was increasingly becoming a memory of a past that was imagined as an age of grace and refinement. The poet Kenkō (ca. 1283-after 1352) summarized it best when he stated in his essay Tsurezuregusa (Essays in Idleness, 1310-1331) that “the way of yūgen” (yūgen no michi) was made of “poetic skill and the mysteries of strings and pipes,” referring to the instruments of koto and flute. Nothing more than music and poetry succeeded in characterizing the refinements of courtly life (miyabi). Poetry being chanted and often accompanied by instrumental music, the arts par excellence of the Heian period came to be grouped as the cultural path of yūgen. Kenkō compared this path to gold in an age which tended to privilege more and more the pragmatic usages of iron.28

The Heian nobility was the model for the “style of yūgen” (yūgen no fūtei) which the playwright Zeami (1363?-1443?) considered to be “the highest ideal of perfection in many arts.” actors were required to master this style in their performances, as Zeami pointed out in his treatise Kakyō (Mirror Held to the Flower, 1424). The actor must look like a dignified nobleman whose yūgen assures him proper respect; he must reproduce the grace of the nobleman’s speech and action. Even when impersonating a fearsome demon, the actor must strive to preserve a graceful appearance in order to be able to manifest the “yūgen of a demon’s role” (oni no yūgen). The highest danger for an actor is to appear vulgar on stage—a vulgarity that disappears once he has entered the realm of yūgen.29 In other words, yūgen is the reproduction on stage of a world long gone, and of a world that the poetics of yūgen had contributed creating.

When, in the early twentieth century Japanese scholars confronted the issue of the cultural aspect of the formation of nations, the yūgen style became one of the most promising candidates for inclusion in aesthetic explanations of Japan. With the philosopher Ō nishi Yohinori (1888-1959) yūgen became one of the leading aesthetic categories (biteki hanchū) that contemporary and later scholars of Japanese thought and Japanese literature would use to explain the sensitivity and sensibility of the Japanese nation. In 1939 Ōnishi wrote the book that put yūgen at the center of all aesthetic discourses on Japan—a book titled after two of Japan’s major aesthetics categories, Yūgen to Aware (Yūgen and Aware).30 Yūgen became part of an “ethnic aesthetic consciousness” (minzokuteki bi ishiki) which Ōnishi purported to uncover by analyzing waka poetry in terms of the relationship between intuition (chokkan; Ger., Anschauung) and affection (kandō; Ger., Rührung). Ōnishi saw in yūgen the counterpart of Western interiority, as he attempted to explain this concept in terms of the German notion of “Tiefe” (depth)—not just a temporal and spatial one, but a depth in the “spiritual” (seishinteki) sense of the word. However, he hurried to add, yūgen was a graceful and quiet depth, not a depth informed by the darkness and fears of the Western Christian world. For Ōnishi, yūgen was a metaphysical depth, a “cosmic feeling” produced by what he called, deep “feelings for nature” (shizen kanjō). In other words, the realization that man is part and parcel of nature and not a simple observer reduces the amount of anxiety that, otherwise, the violence of nature is bound to inspire. Ōnishi’s aesthetic approach led to an interpretation of Literary historians found in aesthetic categories handy shortcuts to explain the Japanese “classics,” inasmuch as general labels such as makoto, yūgen, okashi, aware, wabi, sabi, and so on, allowed scholars to find in them the alleged “essence” of the Japanese classics. Such trends became particularly evident at times when the Japanese intellectuals were urged to contribute to the nation’s formation of a strong subject, as one can see from issues of the literary magazine Kokubungaku: Kaishaku to Kanshō (National Literature: Interpretation and Appreciation) published during the Pacific War. In June 1940 a special issue appeared on “The Essence of Japanese Literature,” in which Oka Kazuo (1900-1981) stated that the first reference to yūgen appears in the Chinese Preface of the Kokinshū in relation to the Tominoogawa poem—an exchange between Japan’s cultural hero, Prince Shōtoku Taishi (574-622), and a starving traveler whom the Prince helps on the way and who eventually turns out to be a Buddha.32 In 1942, the same journal dedicated the September issue to the “beauty of Japanese literature.” Nose Asaji (1894-1955), who was in charge of the section on the Middle Ages, began his discussion of yūgen from the eighth imperial poetic collection, the Shinkokin Waka Shū (New Collection of Ancient and Modern Times).33 This choice was undoubtedly inspired by debates on the Shinkokinshū during the 1920s and 30s that took the poems of this collection to be the Japanese counterpart of Western symbolic poetry.34


1 English translation by Roger T. Ames and David L. Hall, Dao De Jing “Making This Life Significant:” A Philosophical Translation (New York: Ballantine Books, 2003), p. 77. D. C. Lau translates the same passage as follows: “These two [the named and the nameless] are the same/But diverge in name as they issue forth./Being the same they are called mysteries,/Mystery upon mystery--/The gateway of the manifold secrets.” Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching (Harmonsworth, Middlesex: Penguin Books, 1963), p. 57.

2 For an exhaustive study of the Chinese source of yūgen, see, Nose Asaji, “Yūgen Ron,” in Nose Asaji Chosaku Shū, Vol. 2: Chūsei Bungaku Kenkyū (Tokyo: Shibunkaku, 1981), pp. 208-218.

3 Quoted in Itō Hiroyuki, “Yūgen,” in Kuriyama Riichi, Nihon Bungaku ni Okeru Bi no Kōzō, p. 105.

4 Nose Asaji, “Yūgen Ron,” p. 228.

5 English translation by Burton Watson, The Complete Works of Chuang Tzu (New York: Columbia University Press, 1968), p. 32.

6 Entries 8/15/1094, 4/28/1096, and 12/16/1106 from Chūyūki. Nose Asaji, “Yūgen Ron,” p. 230.

7 See the essay by Ueda Juzō, “Tanka ni okeru Take, Sabi, Yūgen” (Take, Sabi, and Yūgen in Japanese Short Poems, 1944), in Ueda Juzō, Geijutsuron Senshū: Tōzai no Taiwa, KTS 14. Ed. by Iwaki Ken’ichi ( Kyoto : Tōkeisha, 2001), pp. 213-226. The entire essay is translated in this volume.

8 Okumura Tsuneya, Kokin Wakashū, p. 385. English translation by Helen Craig McCullough, Kokin Wakashū: The First Imperial Anthology of Japanese Poetry, p. 257.

9 Minegishi Yoshiaki, Karon Utaawase Shū, pp. 21-22.

10 Kokinshū 6:330, by Kiyohara no Fukayabu, “on falling snow.” Okumura Tsuneya, Kokin Wakashū, p. 127. See also Helen Craig McCullough, Kokin Wakashū, p. 80: “That blossoms should come/fluttering down from heaven/despite the winter--/might it be because springtime/has arrived beyond the clouds?”

11 Shūishū 2:106, by Minamoto no Kintada, “composed for her folding screen when the Princess of the Northern Wing performed the Putting on of the Train.” Komachiya Teruhiko, ed., Shūi Wakashū, SNKBT7 (Tokyo: Iwanami Shoten, 1990), p. 32.

12 Shūi Wakashū 1:49, by Lady Ise, “composed for a screen of the Kamo Priestess, on a place where someone was going though the mountains.” Komachiya Teruhiko, Shūi Wakashū, p. 16. By “native village” the poet means the ancient capital Nara.

13 The source of this poem is unidentified.

14 The source of this poem is unidentified.

15 Konishi Jin’ichi, Michi: Chūsei no Rinen, KGS 420 (Tokyo: Kōdansha, 1975), p. 48.

16 Kogiidete
Mioki unabara
Kumoi no kishi ni
Kakuru shiranami

When I look afar
Over the offing of the vast sea,
Coming out rowing,
White waves reaching
A shore of clouds.

Hirota-sha Utaawase (Poetry Match at the Hirota Shrine, 1172), Round Eight, right poem. Minegishi Yoshiaki, ed., Utaawase Shū, NKZ 58 (Tokyo: Asahi Shinbunsha, 1947), p. 304.

17 Tsu no kuni no
Naniwa no haru wa
Yume nare ya
Ashi no kareha ni
Kaze wataru nari

Spring in Naniwa
In the province of Tsu,
Was that a dream?
The wind blows through
The withered leaves of the reeds.

Mimosusogawa Utaawase (The Poetry Match at the Mimosuso River, 1187), Round Twenty-nine, right poem. Minegishi Yoshiaki, Utaawase Shū, p. 354. This poem by Saigyō (1118-1190) is also included in Shinkokinshū 6:625. Kubota Jun, ed., Shinkokin Wakashū, , SNKS 24 (Tokyo: Shinchōsha, 1979), p. 213.

18 Uchiyosuru
Isobe no nami no
Shirayū wa
Hana chiru sato no
Tōme narikeri

A white barken cloth,
Waves drawing near
To the shore,
A view seen from afar
Of my village where the blossoms scatter.

Chūgūnosuke Shigeie-ke Utaawase (Poetry Match at the Household of Shigeie, the Assistant Master of the Empress, 1166), Round Two, left poem, by Fujiwara no Takasue (1127-1185). According to Minegishi Yoshiaki, this is the first instance in which Shunzei used the word “yūgen.” Minegishi Yoshiaki, ed., Utaawase Shū, IB 1762-1765 (Tokyo: Iwanami Shoten, 1938), pp. 276-277.

19 Uchishigure
Ashi no ya no
Koya no nezame ni
Miyako koishi mo

As I wake up at night in this little dwelling--
A straw-thatched hut
So sad
In the winter storm,
How much I yearn for the capital!

Sumiyoshi-sha Utaawase (Poetry Match at the Sumiyoshi Shrine, 1170), Round Twenty-five, left poem, by Fujiwara no Sanesada (1139-1191). Hagitani Boku, ed., Heianchō Utaawase Taisei, 7 (Kyoto: Dōhōsha, 1979), p. 2198.

20 Kaze fukeba
Hana no shirakumo
Yaya kiete
Yonayona haruru
Yoshino no tsuki

When the wind blows,
The white clouds, like cherry blossoms,
Vanish little by little,
Night after night it clears,
The moon over Yoshino.

Sengohyakuban Utaawase (Poetry Match in One Thousand Five Hundred Rounds, 1201), Round Two-hundred-seventy-one, left poem, by Retired Emperor Go-Toba (1180-1239). Hagitani Boku and Taniyama Shigeru, eds., Utaawase Shū, NKBT 74 (Tokyo: Iwanami Shoten, 1965), p. 486.

21 Fuyugare no
Kozue ni ataru
Yamakaze no
Mata fuku tabi wa
Yuki no amagiru

The wind blows from the mountain
Over the winter-wasted
When it blows once again
The snow makes a curtain over the sky.

22 The ten styles in question are the style of mystery and depth (yūgen-yō), the style of precise description (koto shikarubeki-yōi), the style of elegant beauty (uruwashiki-yō), and the style of deep feeling (ushin-tai), the lofty style (taketakaki-yō), the visual style (miru-yō), the clever style (omoshiroki-yō), the novel style (hitofushi aru-yō), and the style of exquisite detail (komayaka naru-yō), and the demon-quelling style (kiratsu no tai). Hashimoto Fumio, Ariyoshi Tamotsu, and Fujihira Haruo, Karonshū, pp. 514-515. See also Robert H. Brower, “Fujiwara Teika’s Maigetsushō,” Monumenta Nipponica 40:4 (Winter 1985), pp. 410-412.

23 Hisamatsu Sen’ichi and Nishio Minoru, eds., Wakaronshū, Nōgakuronshū, p. 110. English translation by Robert H. Brower, “Fujiwara Teika’s Maigetsushō,” p. 410, n. 25. This poem also appears in Kin’yō Shū 3:239. Kawamura Teruo, Kashiwagi Yoshio, and Kudō Shigenori, eds., Kin’yō Wakashū, Shika Wakashū, p. 67.

24 Hisamatsu Sen’ichi and Nishio Minoru, eds., Wakaronshū, Nōgakuronshū, p. 110. English translation by Robert H. Brower, “Fujiwara Teika’s Maigetsushō,” p. 410, n. 25. This poem also appears in Shinkokinshū 5:533. Kubota Jun, Shinkokin Wakashū, , p. 185. This section from Teika’s Kindai Shūka does not appear in the English translation of Robert H. Brower and Earl Miner, Fujiwara Teika’s Superior Poems of Our Time: A Thirteenth- Century Poetic Treatise and Sequence (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1967).

25 “Question: I have followed your line of explanation so far, but when it comes to the so-called style of yūgen, I find it very difficult to know just how to go about it. I would like you to teach me.

Answer: All aspects of form in poetry are difficult to understand. Although the old collections of oral tradition and guides to composition teach the reader thoroughly in difficult points by leading him along, when it comes to formal aspects we find nothing at all precise. This is particularly true of the style of yūgen, whose very name is enough to confuse one. Since I do not understand it very well myself, I am at a loss to describe it in a satisfactory manner, but according to the views of those who have penetrated into the realm of yūgen, the importance lies in yojō, which is not stated in words and an atmosphere that is not revealed through the form of the poem. When the content rests on a sound basis and the diction excels in lavish beauty, these other virtues will be supplied naturally. On an autumn evening, for example, there is no color in the sky, no any sound, and although we cannot give a definite reason for it, we are somehow moved to tears. A person lacking in sensitivity finds nothing particular in such a sight, he just admires the cherry blossoms and scarlet autumn leaves that he can see with his own eyes. Again it may be likened to the looks and bearings of a fine lady who has some grievance, does not however, express it in words, but suffers secretly and gives only a faint clue as to her situation; this has a stronger appeal to one’s compassion than if she were exhausting her vocabulary with complaints and made a show of herself wringing out her sleeves. A child, on the other hand—how could it understand this just by seeing her looks and bearing, unless the meaning is explained in detail in proper words?... Again, if you look at the autumn hills through a rift in the mist, you catch only a glimpse, and, unsatisfied, try to figure out freely in your imagination how pleasing it might be to see the whole of those scarlet leaves—this is almost better than seeing it clearly. Completely to displa

26 Paul S. Atkins, “The Demon-Quelling Style in Medieval Japanese Poetic and Dramatic Theory,” Monumenta Nipponica 58:3 (Autumn 2003), p. 322, n. 12.

27 Sasaki Nobutsuna, ed., Nihon Kagaku Taikei, 4 (Tokyo: Kazama Shobō, 1956), p. 362. The poem also appears in Shinkokinshū 8:788. Kubota Jun, Shinkokin Wakashū, , p. 268.

28 “Proficiency in poetry and music, both noble (yūgen) arts, has always been esteemed by rulers and subjects alike, but it would seem that nowadays they are neglected as a means of governing the country. Gold is the finest of the metals but it cannot compare to iron in its many uses.” Tsurezuregusa, Chapter 122. Kidō Saizō, ed., Tsurezuregusa, SNKS 10 (Tokyo: Shinchōsha, 1977), p. 139. English translation by Donald Keene, Essays in Idleness: The Tsurezuregusa of Kenkō (New York: Columbia University Press, 1967), p. 105.

29 “Particularly in the , yūgen can be regarded as the highest principle. However, although the quality of yūgen is manifested in performance and audiences give it high appreciation, there are very few actors who in fact possess that quality. This is because they have never had a taste of the real yūgen themselves. So it is that few actors have entered this world. What kind of realm is represented by what is termed yūgen? For example, if we take the general appearance of the world and observe the various sorts of people who live there, it might be said that yūgen is best represented in the character of the nobility, whose deportment is of such a high quality and who receive the affection and respect not given to others in society. If such is the case, then their dignified and mild appearance represents the essence of yūgen. Therefore, the stage appearance of yūgen is best indicated by their refined and elegant carriage. If an actor examines closely the nobility’s beautiful way of speaking and studies the words and habitual means of expression that such elevated persons use, even to observing their tasteful choice of language when saying the smallest things, such can be taken to represent the yūgen of speech.” Tanaka Yutaka, ed., Zeami Geijutsu Ronshū, SNKS 4 (Tokyo: Shinchōsha, 1976), pp. 139-140. English translation by J. Thomas Rimer and Yamazaki Masakazu, On the Art of the Nō Drama: The Major Treatises of Zeami (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1984), pp. 92-93.

30 Ōnishi Yoshinori, Yūgen to Aware (Tokyo: Iwanami Shoten, 1939). See, also, my chapters “Ōnishi Yoshinori and the Category of the Aesthetic” and “The Creation of Aesthetic Categories,” in Michele Marra, Modern Japanese Aesthetics: A Reader, pp. 115-167. For the impact of aesthetics on the formation of the literary field in Japan, see Michael F. Marra, “Fields of Contention: Philology (Bunkengaku) and the Philosophy of Literature (Bungeigaku),” in Joshua A. Fogel and James C. Baxter, eds., Historiography and Japanese Consciousness of Values and Norms: International Symposium in North America, pp. 197-221.

31 Ōnishi Yoshinori, Yūgen to Aware, pp. 85-102. On Ōnishi’s method see, Otabe Tanehisa, “Representations of ‘Japaneseness’ in Modern Japanese Aesthetics: An Introduction to the Critique of Comparative Reason,” in Michael F. Marra, ed., Japanese Hermeneutics: Current Debates on Aesthetics and Interpretation (Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press, 2002), pp. 153-162, and Michael F. Marra, “Coincidentia Oppositorum: Ōnishi Yoshinori’s Greek Genealogies of Japan,” Ibidem, pp. 142-152.

32 Oka Kazuo, “Yūgen Ron,” Kokubungaku: Kaishaku to Kanshō (Nihon Bungaku no Tokushitsu), 6:1940, p. 42.

33 Nose Asaji, “Chūsei Bungaku Bi,” Kokubungaku: Kaishaku to Kanshō (Nihon Bungaku no Bi), 9:1942, p. 25.

34 Iwai Shigeki, “Yūgen to Shōchō: Shinkokin Waka Shū no Hyōka o Megutte,” in Suzuki Sadami and Iwai Shigeki, eds., Wabi, Sabi, Yūgen: ‘Nihontekinaru mono’ e no Dōtei (Tokyo: Suiseisha, 2006), pp. 337-339.



Reprinted from Simply Haiku, Vol. 8, No. 3, Winter 2011.