Culture of Japan
New Year (Shohgatsu)
Doll's Festival (Girl's Day)
Children's Day
(Tango no sekku)
Star Festival (Tanabata)
Moon Viewing (Tsukimi)
Japanese Christmas
(St. Valentine's Day)
Name of Month
Japanese letters
Iroha Uta
Write your name in Japanese
Write your name in kanji (chinese letter)
Write your name in Japanese
Find kanji for your name.
Japanese Alphabet
(Iroha Uta)
Japanese Numbers
How many I's do you have?
How many You's are you?
How do you call your wife?

How do you call
How do you call
brother and sister?
How Japanese laugh?
Why Japan is Japan?
How Japan became Japan?
Iroha Uta: A traditional Japanese Alphabet


    First of all, I must tell you. The content here is no use for learning japanese language unless you are interested in japanese ancient literatures. But I think it help understanding the peculiarity of japanese culture.

    Japanese alphabet forms a poem with deep meaning. The picture left side above shows the so-called "iroha" the japanese alphabet in the brush pen handwritten style. In older days before late 1800's, brush pens were the only tool of writing. Every learned parsons in older days wrote this elegant style of letters. There are forty-eight letters as shown at the page of Japanese letters.
    The picture right side above shows it using "kanji" (Chinese chracters) according to the meaning thus making the meaning a bit clearer.

    The reading is as below.

letter-wise reading meaning-wise reading

    In meaning-wise reading, some irregularities are seen. is given the sound of "e". In modern japanese too, there are the case should be pronounced as "e". But in this case should be used in modern japanese. is given the sound of "kyoh". This is the typical of the peculiarity of so-called "historical kana usage". There are some others. is given the sound of "shoh", is given the sound of "choh". is given the sound of "i". This "historical kana usage" was the standard until 1946. One more to add, "" was not used in more old time. The reading should be judged from the context.
    Now, what is the meaning? I am convinced you can not understand it. That is not your fault. No japanese can tell the meaning exactly. Now I will try translating according to my realization.

As any beauties go away as flowers fall.

Who can be eternal in this world?

Today, I went through difficulties in the real world,

and enjoyed a bit of happiness that does not last long.

Direct translation is as follows

As colors smell but fall.

Who are eternal in our world?

Today, I went through deep mountain of existing form,

and saw a shallow dream without being drunken.

    Color sometimes means beauty or attractiveness in poem. Even nowadays, "kanojo wa iro ke ga aru" means "She is sexy". The first two lines are rather easy to understand and explanations by others do not differ much. The latter two lines are difficult to realize and others explain otherwise. I thought existing form is this realistic world. Going through deep mountain is difficult. Dreams are expected to be happy one. Do you have expression "drunken in happiness". Happiness is fairy similar to wines. Isn't it?

05/Jun/28 Today I found a German site telling the meaning of "iroha uta". It tells the meaning as follows.

Die Blüen duften zwar, doch sind sie abgefallen.
Wer denn in unserer Welt wird unvergänglich sein?
Die Berge fernab von den Wechselfällen (des Lebens) heute überschreitend, werde ich keine seichten Träme mehr trämen bin auch nicht berauscht.

I translated it in english.

Bloom (jeunesse) savors but they are to fall.
Who in our world can be immortal.
Today, I went through the deep mountain (up-and-down-life) and I no longer see shallow dream nor be drunken.

This is another style of explanation seen also in Japan. "yumemishi" was taken as negative expression "yumemiji". My explanation take it as positive expression.