Poetry Friday: Poetry of the Emperor Meiji and the Emperess Shoken


Last year my partner and I went for a whirlwind trip to Tokyo, and while we were there we visited more temples than I can remember, each one more beautiful and inspiring than the last. At one of the temples we had the opportunity to purchase, for a nominal donation, a randomly-selected poem that was meant to act as a sort of fortune.


To quote the poem envelope:

Omikujij (Poem Drawing)

This poem was composed, in the traditional 31-syllable form, by either the Emperor Meiji or the Empress Shoken. It is hoped that the poem’s message will have particular meaning for you.

The Emperor Meiji was especially fond of composing poems in the traditional waka (31 syllable) form, and left a collection of 100,000 of them to his people. The Empress Shoken joined the Emperor in this art, and is said to have composed 30,000 herself. Many of these Imperial poems, such as the present one, express explicit or implicit ethical admonitions in the Shinto tradition.

Now, on to the poem I randomly selected!


How lovely! But what does it mean??

The mirror is a simile for the human heart which, reflecting as it does all man’s emotions and appetites, should be as clear and as honestly responsive as the mirror itself.

And there you have it – my Omikuji from the Empress Shoken.

May your hearts ever be spotlessly clear!

Happy Poetry Friday, everyone!

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  • Reply Tabatha

    This post was fascinating! I love the idea of giving out poems randomly with the intention that you will get the one suited to you.

    December 2, 2016 at 7:42 am
  • Reply jama

    So beautiful. I feel calm and cleansed. Thanks so much for sharing (love Tokyo too!).

    December 2, 2016 at 4:56 pm
  • Reply Bridget Magee

    Yes, “hearts that are spotlessly clear” – this is what the world needs now. Funny an Empress for the distant past reminds us of it today. Thanks for sharing, Jane. =)

    December 2, 2016 at 8:22 pm
  • Reply KatApel

    I haven’t come across this form of poetry before. There surely is a style of poetry for every occasion!

    December 2, 2016 at 11:16 pm
  • Reply Linda Baie

    What a beautiful thing to do this for those who pass by and choose a poem, Jane. It’s lovely, and a nice thing to read here at the end of the week. Thank you!

    December 2, 2016 at 11:56 pm
  • Reply Mary Lee Hahn

    My mirror and my heart — both hopelessly, joyously, ramdomly…spotted!! (I’m a big fan of “Pied Beauty” by GM Hopkins!!)

    December 3, 2016 at 1:30 pm
  • Reply Diane Mayr

    Pick a poem! How random and delightful. That’s one tourist draw I could whole-heartedly get behind!

    December 3, 2016 at 5:38 pm
  • Reply Brenda Harsham

    I like that better than the fortune cookie tradition. I’d love to get a poem at a temple. What a lovely thought. Thanks for sharing. Your random selection is very deep.

    December 4, 2016 at 1:33 am
  • Reply Michelle Heidenrich Barnes

    This is one for the bucket list! Now where’s my Windex…?! Thanks, Jane!

    December 7, 2016 at 3:21 am
  • Reply Myra from GatheringBooks

    Ooohlala, here’s wishing for a spotless heart. Out damn spot, out! 🙂

    December 9, 2016 at 7:11 am
    • Reply janekwhittingham@gmail.com

      I might have to do a bit of extra scrubbing! ?

      December 9, 2016 at 9:00 am

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