Chihayaburu 千早ぶる Hyakunin Isshu: poem 17 – (The Chihaya Card)

SPOILER ALERT: If you have not read up to CH 226 in Chihayafuru, everything that follows is a spoiler

CREDITS:This piece is dedicated to a Ms. Anonymous who has requested not to be identified. I was stuck on this poem and could not see how Chihayaburu could be anything but a simple Autumn poem, but she walked me through how the poem number 17, the Chihaya name card, could be read as a Romance just as Kanade says and as written and supported by Sensei.

We will use here proportional equivalences of the type A is to B as C is to D

Placed into format this would show as

In terms of the poem itself, this would show as

In Autumn, the Japanese Maple trees which line the Tatsuta river drop their leaves into the water of the Tatsuta River, and are carried away down stream by the waters’s current. This is the physical image.

which inspires the poet to write the following poem:

Hyakunin Isshu: poem 17

Chihayaburu ( 千早ぶる) by Ariwara no Narihira 有原業平 (825–880)

The poetic image exists in the very last line of the poem

水くくるとは (mizu kukuru to wa) or (mizu kuguru to wa)

The verb くくる can be read two ways, as kukuru or kuguru and these two words have very different meanings. Kukuru means to tie-dye fabric and kuguru means some movement which is hidden underneath.

Both verbs modify the water 水 of the Tatsuta River.

In modern Japanese, kuguru would be written くぐる but that was not
the case when the poem was written.

If you were a poet writing a love poem to the Empress, you would be well
advised to hide your meanings to save your neck. So the passion of
Romantic Love lies well hidden underneath.

Then the equivalence would become

This then leads to the observation that

We all know the power of Romantic love to carry us away, and if so, then
we are speaking poetically about LOVE on the surface being carried away
by PASSION hidden underneath.

Passion moves Love which yields a new equivalence

Poem 17 — Chihayaburu is how the author, Ms. Yuki Suetsugu sees her story,
and she seems to take the double reading of the last line very much to
heart. The all Kana script in her picture below is the Chihayaburu poem
number 17, and her background scene has two elements,

1) the kara-kurenai Japanese Maple leaf which would be reading the last line
as 水くくるとは mizu kukuru to wa くくる=kukuru to tie-dye; and

2) the current of the river as 水くぐるとは mizu kuguru to wa くぐる=kuguru to
movement hidden underneath.

The two symbols constantly reoccur in her manga story to such an extent that they seem to function as some sort of visual comment.

Sensei appears to use the kara-kurenai Maple leaf as a symbol for Chihaya,
and the current of the river as a symbol for Shinobu.

If this is so then a final set of equivalences could be established

*NOTE: 千 is sen (a thousand), but is pronounced chi when coupled with
other letters witch is why Chihiro becomes Sen in “Spirited Away”
*Ogino Chihiro* (荻野 千尋) → Sen (千)

Sensei has clearly stated that Chihaya saving Shinobu from being alone is her ending.

(See the following in the Manga CH204 where Chihaya makes her initial
realization that Shinobu-chan is all alone in a desolate land, and then CH209 where she
sets her determination to become Queen in order to save Shinobu-chan
“I came all the way here in order to save Shinobu-chan from being all
alone in that desolate place.”)

The endgame of Chihayafuru appears to be Shinobu. If so then we will
match the story Chihayafuru above to the poem Chihayaburu which lies
underneath as

such that the Poem moves The Story, as the current moves the leaves, as
Shinobu moves Chihaya.

In this way Chihayafuru types Chihayaburu and the story becomes not the expected Triangle Romance but rather a paired two way relationship between Chihaya and Shinobu, fully awash in the river of irony!

We will see at the end of Chihayafuru if all that is true.

Perhaps the readers and fans of Chihayafuru are the ones being carried away!

© 2020 Folcwine P. Pywackett (fpp052)

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