The world of “Waka fortune-telling” revived in modern times (Part 1)


What is ``Waka fortune-telling'' that speaks to people's doubts and worries both now and in the past?

``Utaura'' is, as the name suggests, fortune-telling using songs (Japanese poetry).


The Noh work ``Uta-divin'' from the Muromachi period depicts a male priestess from Ise, a priestess, who travels around the country performing poetry-divining. The reason why when you draw fortunes at shrines, waka poems are written to indicate good or bad luck has its roots in ``uta fortune-telling''. Now that the Reiwa era has entered the Reiwa era, the ancient style of ``uta-divining'' is once again being called ``waka divination.'' We spoke to Tae Hirano, a professor at Seikei University's Faculty of Letters, who is the driving force behind this.

Although it has a deep history, it is a new field in which research has just begun.


Fortune telling has a long history. More than 3000 years ago, in China, shells and bones were burned and the cracks used to tell fortunes, and the ``t'' in the word ``fortune'' comes from the shape of the cracks.


``Japanese people have been familiar with fortune-telling for a long time. Japan's oldest collection of Japanese poems, Manyoshu, contains ten poems related to love fortune-telling. Onmyoji divined the causes of natural disasters and disasters, and there are records at the national level that aristocrats during the Heian period had monks called Sukuyoji create horoscopes. There are various forms of fortune-telling, from the personal level to the personal level.”


Among these, poetry fortune-telling (Japanese poetry fortune-telling) is a type of popular culture. It has so far been little researched.



``It wasn't thought to be worth researching. No one else was doing it, so I'm at the cutting edge of research (lol). I'm collecting old poetry-divination books one by one. However, it is fun to see things that have never been considered before being given meaning through research.For some people, an ``old fortune-telling book'' may be insignificant, but for me, it is a valuable new book. Materials. Sometimes we find items at online auctions.

"Uta-divine Yaegaki of Hagi" "Uta-divine Yaegaki of Hagi"

In ``Uta Fortune-telling Hagi no Yaegaki,'' once you have decided what you want to fortune-tell, you chant a spell song to concentrate, roll nine dice, and the resulting song is chosen based on the outcome of the dice. Interpret the song according to what you want to fortune-tell. You can see the gameplay similar to Sugoroku, and you can see how the women were enjoying themselves to their heart's content.

Through fortune-telling, learn about the ancient heart as expressed in waka poems.


Mr. Hirano originally focused on researching medieval literature.


``I was researching a monk from the Kamakura period called Myoe Shonin. Myoe Shonin kept a record of his dreams for 40 years, and you can still read them today. He was reciting waka poems and drawing fortunes in front of the shrines and Buddhas.One day, when he was wondering whether he should go to India to see Buddha, he said, ``I should go'' in front of the main image of Buddha. He left behind a fortune telling him that he should not go.The message was that he should not go, so he gave up on going to India and lived in Kyoto for the rest of his life. The seeds of the current research may all be found within Myoe Shonin."


“After that, I started working at a women's junior college and teaching Japanese literature to students.When I thought about what I could do to get them interested, I realized that most girls like fortune-telling, so I decided to do it. I decided to use fortune telling as an introduction to learning Japanese poetry."


The class led me to research on waka fortune telling, and my supervisor at graduate school advised me, ``Don't limit your research to one genre, it's better to have sub-themes as well,'' so I started researching Myoe Shonin. His main field of study was omikuji (fortune-telling fortune telling) and Japanese poetry fortune-telling.

``Ise Sangu Shrine Famous Places Book Volume 5''. He is depicted doing fortune-telling. ``Ise Sangu Shrine Famous Places Book Volume 5''. He is depicted doing fortune-telling.

``Ise Sangu Shrine Famous Places Book Volume 5''. He is depicted doing fortune-telling.

Fortune telling is the act of searching one's own heart and deepening understanding through words.


Fortune-telling is said to be an opportunity to learn and understand people's hearts.


``The word ``ura'' in fortune-telling has the meaning of ``heart.'' Things have a front and a back, and what is on the back cannot be seen. ``Uranau'' is the act of bringing out what is hidden and making the invisible visible.''


What's interesting is that the words of waka poems composed long ago transcend time and resonate in our hearts today.


For example, let's say you tried fortune-telling and asked, ``What should I do to develop a relationship with someone I'm interested in?'' If the famous Hyakunin Isshu poem were to come up, this is how you would interpret it.


Mr. Hirano collects fortunes from various shrines. I realized once again that it is based on waka. Mr. Hirano collects fortunes from various shrines. I realized once again that it is based on waka.

Mr. Hirano collects fortunes from various shrines. I realized once again that it is based on waka.

I believe that even if I run away from the waterfall of the river, which slows down the rapids and rises against the rocks, I will be met in the end (Sutoku-in Temple)

--The river flows quickly, so just like a rapid that is dammed up by a rock splits into two and becomes one again, I'm sure I'll meet that person even if I'm separated.


``The above verse can be read as saying that you should try to run into it with a strong desire to hit and break like a torrent.If you do, you will hit a rock and split into two, so it may not go well at first.However, the two of you... If you want your relationship to progress, it is essential to have a strong determination, ``We will meet in the end, no matter what happens.''


In addition, the words used in waka poetry have a variety of images accumulated in each word.


``As there is the word ``Aise,'' ``Se'' is also used to mean meeting a lover. Also, in Japanese poetry, ``Se'' is used as the place where Orihime and Hikoboshi cross to meet once a year. Therefore, in this case, it can be interpreted as advice to ``make the most of the opportunities that come your way.''


Will I be so passionate about this love, and will I have the courage to take advantage of this opportunity? Carefully reading the words of waka poems leads to exploring one's own heart.

Tae Hirano Tae Hirano

Tae Hirano has found her own field of waka fortune-telling. In the second part, I would like to report on the various activities that Mr. Hirano engages in with his students, positioning Waka fortune-telling as training for active learning, bridging the two worlds of research and education.


Tae Hirano

Graduated from Ochanomizu University and completed doctoral course at the University of Tokyo Graduate School. She is a Ph.D. (literature). She is a professor at Seikei University's Faculty of Letters. Her specialties are Japanese medieval literature, Japanese poetry literature, and Buddhist literature. She practices active learning of classical literature through waka fortune-telling. She created ``Tenso Shrine Poetry Fortune Telling'' as a joint project between the shrine and the university.


Text by Junko Morita
Photography by Natsuko Okada (Studio Mug)

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