Japanese Poetry: Waka (和歌)

Most of the Western world is familiar with the Japanese haiku. What many Americans and Europeans don’t know, however, is that the haiku’s 5/7/5 structure is derived from an older form of Japanese poetry: waka, or “Japanese poem.” Waka is written in single stanzas with syllable count 5/7/5/7/7, although the format is not always maintained after translation.

Below are some examples of waka poetry, which I discovered yesterday through Ono No Komachi.


mirume naki

wa ga mi o ura to

shiraneba ya

karenade ama no

ashi tayuku kuru


There is no seaweed

to be gathered in this bay.

Does he not know it—

the fisher who comes and comes

until his legs grow weary?

by Ono No Komachi


aki no no ni

sasa wakeshi asa no

sode yori mo

awade koshi yo zo



My sleeves are wetter

that night when we failed to meet

than when of a moon

I have parted bamboo grass

traversing autumnal fields.

by Narihira no Ason


akikaze ni

au tanomi koso


wa ga mi munashiku

narinu to omoeba


Because I trusted

someone who grew tired of me,

my life, alas, must be

 as empty as a rice ear

blasted by harsh autumn winds.

by Ono no Komaji


* Note: by Monday I hope to post some waka poetry of my own. *


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s