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I am a bit lost understanding and translating elements of this text from the 1840s, even after persevering for a couple of days.

enter image description here enter image description here

Two versions (with reasonable detail when viewed at actual scale).

My best attempt so far regarding transcription/translation is:

治{ぢ}承{しょう}四{よ}年{ねん}八月中{なか}句{ば}右{う}兵{ひょう}衞{えの}佐{すけ}頼{より}朝{とも}公{こう}源{げん}家{け}再{さい}興{こう}を思{おぼし}召{めし}給{たま}ひ所{しよ}々[/\]の源{げん}氏{じ}をかたしひ手{て}始{はじめ}に先{まづ}當{とう}國{ごく}の目{もく}代{だい}山{やま}木{き}判{はん}官{がん}兼隆{かねたか}を打{..た}んとて北{ほく}條{じょう}時{とき}政{まさ}を大{たい}将{しょう}と/\山{やま}木{き}ろ舘{たて}に乱{らん}入{にゅう}大{おう}合戦{かっせん}の圖{づ}

Jishō yonen hachigatsu naka [ba] Uhyōe-no-suke Yoritomo-kō Genke saikō o oboshimeshi tama hi shosho no Genji o katashi hi tehajime ni [mazu] tōgoku no mokudai Yamaki Hangan Kanetaka o [..n?] tote Hōjō Tokimasa o taishō toto Yamaki ro tate ni ran'nyū ō-kassen no zu

Picture of the intrusion at the Yamaki palace during the great battle in the eighth month of the fourth year of the Jishō era [September 1180], when Lord Yoritomo the Assistant Captain of the ‘Right Division of the Middle Palace Guards’ of the Genke thought to restore the Genji [......] during the reign of Yamaki Hangan Kanetaka [......] general and father Hōjō Tokimasa.

Forgive the errors so far, it's a work in progress!

I have confusion or queries with:

Line 1: 句 looks like it is read as ば (ba), despite 句 having readings of く (ku), こう (kō) or すく (suku). Any thoughts?

Line 3: 源, the furigana looks like けん instead of げん. Genke 源家 is an alternative name for Genji. Is it occasional practice to omit the 'dakuten' in earlier texts?

Line 3: unsure of use/meaning of 給 (たま, tama) and ひ (hi).

Line 4: Is it a fair call to say that 所 (しょ, sho) is followed by 々 (with furigana /\ kunojiten) rather than a く (ku); thus しょしょ(shosho); “here and there/several places”? If so, I can't make sense of the expression in relation to the rest of the text.

Line 4: Not certain if this is supposed to be かたみ (katami) or かたし (katashi), but presume the latter; “difficult, hard.” Used with ひ (hi)?

Line 5: 手(て)始(はじめ)に (tehajime ni), “at first/at the outset/to begin with?”

Further, I think the 4th character is 先... the furigana seems to suggest a reading of まづ (mazu)/まず, certainly not せん (sen). But what does it mean?—先ず, まず, “first (of all), to start with, about, almost, anyway, well, now, hardly (with neg. verb)”—especially in the context of the preceding characters?

Line 5: 當國 = tōgoku, “a country”?... I can see the two characters used together on some Chinese websites but putting it into online Japanese dictionaries doesn’t get me very far.

Line 5: 目代 (もくだい) = mokudai. Moku = a counter for ‘go’ pieces? Dai = “generation/reign.” Meaning?

Line 7: 打 (...た, ...ta): I can’t make sense of this if the kanji is right!

Line 8: 大将 (たいしょう, Taishō), the furigana しょ in front of the う doesn’t correspond to any reference I have, it looks like one character. Also, the furigana き in Yamaki 山木 (やまき) looks like a za ざ. Again, can’t find any parallels.

Line 8: Is this ろ (ro)? If so, would it attach to the Yamaki (Yamaki-ro), and why?

Line 9: 入(にゅう) looks as if the furigana is truncated to にう omitting the ゅ. Again, assuming the character is correct, is this possible/common for this period?


Notes: Regarding Minamoto Yoritomo’s official appellation Uhyōe-no-suke: Uhyōe (右兵衛) is composed of the characters for “right,” “soldier/army,” and “defence/protection,” literally “right army defence,” or “right military guards,” and to my knowledge suke (佐) can be translated as “Vice-“ or “Assistant Captain.” Yoritomo’s rank within the Uhyōe-fu (右兵衛府), the “Right Division of the Middle Palace Guards,” was part of the Ritsuryō (律令) system that defined a system of ranks (kan’i, 官位) and positions within the government. The word Genke is also used (...Uhyōe-no-suke Yoritomo-kō Genke...): the names Taira and Minamoto were known by alternatives, used interchangeably, even though Taira and Minamoto were essentially family names. The Heike and Genke names were normally associated with the Genpei War: Heishi and Heike for the Taira, and Genji and Genke for the Minamoto.

Useful references: http://hikog.gokenin.com/hiraganagojuonjun.html https://wakancambridge.files.wordpress.com/2017/05/hentaigana-chart.jpg http://naruhodo.weebly.com/uploads/9/7/3/4/9734434/kuzushikana.pdf


Any observations/suggestions appreciated. Cheers.

enter image description here

  • It'd help us if you told us where you found this image and why you're trying to understand it. Also I dont know where you got that ば from for 句... (same for なか) – user32204 Dec 18 '18 at 22:10
  • 1. Added full print image. 2. Understanding characters for a novice is a brain-frying activity, a puzzle. To look at the kanji (possible readings) and furigana and extrapolate from these texts is hard. How else does one skill-up/ be sensitive to language? No doubt there are wrong interpretations here. You mention 'naka', the links give eg.'s of what な and か might look like in kuzushikana. 中 only has a few readings なか, うち, ちゅう. Re: the 'ba' furigana–1. it looks like kuzushikana 'ha' 2. with a dakuten, the kana must begin with g, z, d, b. Yet 'ba' is not a 'kun'/'on' reading, hence my sighs :-( – musha Dec 19 '18 at 8:23
  • 2
    Two notes: (1), this is not consequential as you've substituted the "correct" equivalents to represent the necessary word, but you have some kanji transcription errors if keeping faithful to the original text: 承 should be 羕, and 隆 should be 隆. 隆 is a bit difficult to correct due to Han unification issues. (2) If you want to search Japanese words on specifically Japanese websites, you need to use Shinjitai; to find 當國 you need to search 当国 and add a kana, otherwise you'll end up with Chinese results. – droooze Dec 19 '18 at 9:24
  • Thanks for these notes. You have me well pegged in terms of preferring to transcribe the characters as accurately as I can (though my inexperience shows). I couldn't find 羕 in Jisho (tried to assemble it using their radicals, it's now obvious why that failed). I had to default to 承, though the expanded search of 承 at clioapi.hi.u-tokyo.ac.jp/ships/ZClient/W34/z_srchDo.php gave clear examples of 羕. I admit to having missed the extra stroke in 隆, but your explanation led me back to en.wiktionary.org/wiki/隆 where their explanation under the Translingual section made perfect sense. – musha Dec 19 '18 at 16:26
  • 1
    Apologies, I made a mistake - it should be 𣴎 rather than 羕. Anyway, 当国 is the official form of the characters of both PRC and Japan, so adding a kana like the common particles は or の is a quick and dirty way of filtering Japanese-only results from Chinese ones. The more reliable method is to go into Google settings directly and filter results by language. Finally, handwriting recognition apps are more reliable and less tiresome than character lookup using components, and apps for Chinese-language are generally better than those for Japanese as they encompass more character variants. – droooze Dec 19 '18 at 20:10
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Questions and Answers

I'll answer your questions in order.

Line 1: 句 looks like it is read as ば (ba), despite 句 having readings of く (ku), こう (kō) or すく (suku). Any thoughts?

The kanji are used here as a kind of 熟字訓【じゅくじくん】 for the word nakaba, commonly spelled in the modern language as 半ば. Even then, I'd expect to see 中 instead; I wonder if the author is being poetic by using 句 ("verse, stanza, phrase") instead of the similarly shaped 旬 ("ten-day period, portion of a month").

Line 3: 源, the furigana looks like けん instead of げん. Genke 源家 is an alternative name for Genji. Is it occasional practice to omit the 'dakuten' in earlier texts?

The use of 濁点【だくてん】 was only standardized some time after the end of WWII, with earlier texts apparently using the 〃 and ゜ marks as a kind of optional indicator. See also the Japanese Wikipedia article.

Line 3: unsure of use/meaning of 給 (たま, tama) and ひ (hi).

給【たま】ひ is the 連用形【れんようけい】 of the verb 給【たま】ふ, used as a kind of auxiliary to indicate respect for the agent of the main verb.

Line 4: Is it a fair call to say that 所 (しょ, sho) is followed by 々 (with furigana /\ kunojiten) rather than a く (ku); thus しょしょ(shosho); “here and there/several places”?

That's sure what it looks like to me.

If so, I can't make sense of the expression in relation to the rest of the text.

Presumably, 所々の源氏 would mean "the Genji [households, family members] in various places".

Line 4: Not certain if this is supposed to be かたみ (katami) or かたし (katashi), but presume the latter; “difficult, hard.” Used with ひ (hi)?

The 崩【くず】し字【じ】 are certainly hard to read. In this case, I think this isn't katashi hi, but rather katarahi, the 連用形【れんようけい】 of verb かたらふ, modern 語【かた】らう, "to be telling [continously, repetitively]; to consult with; [in this context especially] to make an ally of; etc.".

Line 5: 手(て)始(はじめ)に (tehajime ni), “at first/at the outset/to begin with?”

Can't think what else this would be.

Further, I think the 4th character is 先... the furigana seems to suggest a reading of まづ (mazu)/まず, certainly not せん (sen). But what does it mean?—先ず, まず, “first (of all), to start with, about, almost, anyway, well, now, hardly (with neg. verb)”—especially in the context of the preceding characters?

まづ is the historical kana spelling for 先【ま】ず, as you note. Grammatically, this does make sense here, emphasizing the 手始【てはじ】め that comes just before. We could just as well swap the word order and say 先ず手始めに.

Line 5: 當國 = tōgoku, “a country”?... I can see the two characters used together on some Chinese websites but putting it into online Japanese dictionaries doesn’t get me very far.

當 is the 旧字体【きゅうじたい】 for 当, just as 國 is the 旧字体【きゅうじたい】 for 国. Note also that 国 in the context of pre-Meiji Japan internal geography often referred to a province rather than a country. So 當國 = 当国 = "the province in question, the aforementioned province", which in this context would be Izu Province, where Yamagi no Munetaka held the post of 目代【もくだい】.

Line 5: 目代 (もくだい) = mokudai. Moku = a counter for ‘go’ pieces? Dai = “generation/reign.” Meaning?

According to Shogakukan, a 目代【もくだい】 was a government position starting from the late-Heian, essentially serving as a representative or agent of the 国【くに】の守【かみ】.

Line 7: 打 (...た, ...ta): I can’t make sense of this if the kanji is right!

It's definitely the correct kanji. 打つ = "to strike, to crush, to conquer, to subjugate" etc. etc. The conjugation here is うたむ, where む is the volitional that became う and then merged with the preceding //a// sound to become the うとう form in modern Japanese. In certain cases, the む instead becomes ん, such as in the set phrase ~[未然形]んとする meaning "about to do X", from ~[未然形]むとする. In the text in the images, 打たんとて or 打たんとし seem like they might fit, as these would be appropriate in expressing the intent of Minamoto no Yoritomo. See also the writeup of the battle on the Japanese Wikipedia, where the first line of the linked paragraph looks like a modern rendering of part of your same quoted text.

Line 8: 大将 (たいしょう, Taishō), the furigana しょ in front of the う doesn’t correspond to any reference I have, it looks like one character.

This looks to me like せ. せ was apparently pronounced as //ɕe// up through at least 1603, as seen here in the 日葡辞書 where ⟨xe⟩ is the Portuguese spelling of the time for せ, and where the Portuguese ⟨x⟩ is pronounced as //ʃ//. This is how せう in historical kana orthography came to be pronounced as しょう. The 将 kanji itself has an historical kana orthography of しやう, but if the writer was only aware of this as the reading //ɕoː//, they might not have differentiated しやう and せう, and thus might have picked the "wrong" one for the furigana.

In fact, we see this same furigana at the very beginning, where 治承 is given the kana ぢう instead of the "correct" spelling of ぢしよう.

Also, the furigana き in Yamaki 山木 (やまき) looks like a za ざ. Again, can’t find any parallels.

It's a ぎ. If you zoom in a bit in both images, you can see that the top horizontal stroke is there -- it's just faint.

Line 8: Is this ろ (ro)? If so, would it attach to the Yamaki (Yamaki-ro), and why?

I believe this is a slightly distorted の. Referring to your two charts for hentaigana and kuzushi kana seems to reinforce my hunch. In both charts, the diagonal top-to-left-bottom stroke in the ろ is very pronounced, while it is nearly missing from the character in the text. Meanwhile, the の in the charts sometimes shows the stroke beginning by poking out a bit above the rest of the character, and this is also the only kana with such a top portion where the tail could reasonably curl so far to the left, as seen in the text. This also fits grammatically.

Line 9: 入(にゅう) looks as if the furigana is truncated to にう omitting the ゅ. Again, assuming the character is correct, is this possible/common for this period?

The historical kana for 入 are にふ. Due to phonetic changes in the language, medial (mid-word) //f// sounds tended to either drift towards //w// or disappear altogether, so the ふ here would have been pronounced as う. We know that the にふ from 入 was already pronounced as にゅう as early as 1603, as noted here in the 日葡辞書 (left-hand column). So here too, it's possible that the writer spelled based on their own understanding, using the furigana にう, which would also be read as にゅう.

→ Separately, I also note that 舘 is given the furigana たち in the text, not たて as in your draft. The former reading is more specifically about a redoubt or other defensible position, and fits this context a bit better.

Alternative Rendering

Here's my take on a reading:

治{ぢ}承{せう}四{よ}年{ねん}八月‍中{なか}句{ば}

右{う}兵{ひよう}衞{えの}佐{すけ}頼{より}朝{とも}公{こう}

源{けん}家{け}再{さい}興{こう}を思{おぼし}召{めし}給{たま}ひ

所{しよ}々[/\]の源{げん}氏{じ}をかたらひ

手{て}始{はじめ}に先{まづ}當{とう}國{ごく}の目{もく}代{だい}

山{やま}木{き}判{はん}官{ぐわん}兼隆{かねたか}を

打{うた}んとて北{ほう}條{じよう}時{とき}政{まさ}を

大{たい}将{せう}とし山{やま}木{ぎ}の館{たち}

に乱{らん}入{にう}大{おう}合戦{かっせん}の圖{づ}

See if the above makes things make more sense for you, and post or comment with any further questions.

  • Eirikr, I've been going through your answers methodically (still to finish a few). As is my habit, making copious notes: your answers lead to more research. Can't express my gratitude enough. I'd like to make a few observations / ask a few questions (progressively rolled out). 1. In general, it is often hard to trust your first instincts without good resources; hypotheses about characters etc often appear far-fetched. E.g. with @droooze, I had found quite early the 𣴎 character in 治𣴎 (ぢせう/ぢしょう), but defaulted to 治承 because jisho/wiki/etc (quick 'go-to' online resources) gave me no anchor. – musha Dec 21 '18 at 8:06
  • ... Likewise, an alternative せ in jishō 治𣴎 (ぢせう/ぢしょう) and せ in taishō 大将(たいせう / たいしょう) kept me ‘in my box’. Looking at the furigana せ in kassen 合戦 (かっせん), there was an undeniably strong visual link with the furigana せ in 治𣴎 and 大将 , but I convinced myself this was a furphy. I defaulted to the しょう (even if it kept needling me) because I simply had no other context/filter. Your reference to “how せう in historical kana orthography came to be pronounced as しょう” is simply out of my league, pointing to an idiosyncratic (almost frightening) historical complexity that is overwhelming to contemplate. – musha Dec 21 '18 at 8:09
  • Regarding the word Jishō (治𣴎, ぢせう/ぢしょう) as it is written here (1st and 2nd characters, 1st line), as notes by @droooze bring to light, there is a link between the kanji 𣴎 and 羕, since 𣴎 is a variant of the Han character 羕 (“flowing water”); and then 𣴎 is being used as an equivalent for the kanji 承 (with a stand-alone meaning of “acquiesce”). 治承 (ぢしょう) is the standard form used for the Jishō era name (August 1177—July 1181). That said, I can't find anything to suggest why the character 𣴎 would be used: what is its link with 承? – musha Dec 21 '18 at 8:16
  • OK, nakaba is commonly spelled 半ば (“middle, half, semi, halfway, partly”). As you say, chūjun, 中旬 (ちゅうじゅん, “middle of a month; second third of a month; 11th to 20th day of a month”) would have been a more expected kanji selection, rather than 中句, read as chūku (ちゅうく, “middle part of the verse”). The attack on Yamaki occurred on the seventeenth of the eighth month (September) 1180, so the reference to the middle of the month is logical. Chūjun 中旬 would have been the perfect choice. I agree this must be poetic licence... So far, I've had no success finding references to 中句 in other prints. – musha Dec 21 '18 at 8:26
  • End of the 5th line: there is the word mokudai (目代, もくだい), which I had trouble finding info' on. You made notes that a mokudai is “an agent or executor of a lord starting from the late Heian period; an on-site official or deputy starting from the Kamakura period; a local administrator in the Edo period.” Jeffrey Mass (Antiquity and Anachronism in Japanese History) mentions that mokudai can be translated as a governor; more specifically an "acting governor," yet also "deputy governor" and "provisional governor." Most texts refer to Yamaki Hangan Kanetaka as deputy governor of Izu. – musha Dec 21 '18 at 8:52

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