Episode 446 – In Days of Old, There Was a Man

This week, we’re unpacking a rather odd classic of Japanese literature: the Ise Monogatari, a collection of short tales that are probably about a famously seductive aristocrat, but which were in large part not written by him–and which have oddly political meanings given their often lascivious nature. What are the tales about? And what can we glean from reading them today?


Tyler, Royall, and Josh Mostow. The Ise Stories: Ise Monogatari

Newhard, Jamie L. Knowing the Amorous Man: A History of Scholarship on the Tales of Ise.


A marker at the reputed site of Ariwara no Narihira’s mansion, now near Karasuma Oike station in Kyoto.
Early Edo period painting of Ariwara no Narihira. The bow references Narihira’s proclivity for hunting, as depicted in the first chapter.
Tsukioka Yoshitoshi’s rendition of Ariwara no Narihira and Empress Nijo together at the Fuji River.
Another Yoshitoshi, this one depicting Narihira waiting for the ghost of Ono no Komachi to visit him.
An illustration of Ariwara no Narihira combined with one of his poems, included in the Hyakunin Isshu.


1 thought on “Episode 446 – In Days of Old, There Was a Man”

  1. So you’re going to do every famous collection of Japanese poetry before you finally get to Ogura Hyakunin Isshu?

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