Deep Among the Hills ...

It comes as a surprise to many Japanese people when they find out that many things that they consider to be fundamentally Japanese are actually quite well-known to people in other lands. Of course, all Japanese know that Ukiyo-e prints are very famous to foreigners, but just what else in Japanese culture is known overseas ...?

Would you believe 'Hyaku-nin Isshu'? This seems so basically Japanese, and so difficult for even Japanese people to understand, that how can it possibly have any meaning for foreigners?

It can indeed have meaning for people other than Japanese, not least as a window into a particular era in Japanese history. For example, when a foreigner reads one of these poems in an English translation, do you think he can catch some of the same feeling?

Deep among the hills
Pushing through fallen red leaves
I have to listen
To the voice of a lone deer
Calling for his mate, also.

I think he can. And did you notice that the English version carries the same 5-7-5-7-7 rhythm as the original?

'Hyaku-nin Isshu' may indeed have been born in Japan, but is now not only Japanese. It belongs to the world. It is not 'Nihon no bunka'. It is 'Nihon de umareta bunka'.