The two documents are:

I am not a reader of Japanese yet, I am more gathering some literature I can use for learning. But these have some strange formatting not being familiar with the language, and I was wondering if you could show me which part is the actual text.

In the first document, we have stuff like this:

[題詞]雜歌 / 泊瀬朝倉宮御宇天皇代 [<大>泊瀬稚武天皇] / 天皇御製歌
[原文]篭毛與 美篭母乳 布久思毛與 美夫君志持 此岳尓 菜採須兒 家吉閑名 告<紗>根 虚見津 山跡乃國者 押奈戸手 吾許曽居 師<吉>名倍手 吾己曽座 我<許>背齒 告目 家呼毛名雄母
[訓読]篭もよ み篭持ち 堀串もよ み堀串持ち この岡に 菜摘ます子 家聞かな 告らさね そらみつ 大和の国は おしなべて 我れこそ居れ しきなべて 我れこそ座せ 我れこそば 告らめ 家をも名をも
[仮名]こもよ みこもち ふくしもよ みぶくしもち このをかに なつますこ いへきかな のらさね そらみつ やまとのくには おしなべて われこそをれ しきなべて われこそませ われこそば のらめ いへをもなをも
[校異]雑歌 [元][紀] <> / 太 -> 大 [紀][冷][文] / 吉 [玉小琴](塙)(楓) 告 /沙 -> 紗 [元][類][冷] / 告 -> 吉 [玉小琴] / 許者 -> 許 [元][類][古]
[事項]雑歌 作者:雄略天皇 朝倉宮 野遊び 演劇 妻問媿 予祝 枕詞 地名 奈良

In the second, we have:


In the first, the brackets seem to be labels such as "name" and "title" and such. So those can be filtered out. But what about towards the end? Also, it looks like the 3-5 ones are the actual text, in pure Kanji, and then all the way to pure Kana, though I'm not sure.

In the second, is it just the last two lines that matter? What are the first two lines?

  • 3
    You're considering using the Man'yōshū... to learn Japanese?
    – Leebo
    Commented Oct 14, 2020 at 3:35
  • 3
    I really hope they aren’t... it’d be like using Beowulf to learn English. Commented Oct 14, 2020 at 21:00
  • 1
    Just trying to imagine doing this makes my head hurt. I'm reminded of all the hours spent painstakingly looking up kanji while trying to read 潮騒 when I knew virtually no kanji, had a very minimal vocabulary, and a still sketchy understanding of the grammar. I think there were more profitable approaches to learning Japanese than this particular approach of mine. With Man'yoshu, you're in for quite the challenge!
    – A.Ellett
    Commented Oct 15, 2020 at 3:30
  • Even if it is difficult, anyone know what the actual text is in these examples?
    – Lance
    Commented Oct 16, 2020 at 23:44
  • The actual poem text (原文) for the first document is on line three. The following lines show a modern Japanese speaker how to make sense of it. These works will teach you how to speak 1000 year old Japanese and no one will be able to understand you. Please consider finding some alternative texts. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Man%27y%C5%8Dsh%C5%AB Commented Oct 17, 2020 at 10:47

2 Answers 2


First, some context

The modern Japanese writing system consists of three types of characters. First you have the oldest type called the kanji, which literally translates to characters of Han (from the Han dynasty). As you can guess, these are Chinese characters (traditional, not simplified) that were adopted by the Japanese because they simply didn't have a writing system of their own.

Later, some of these characters were used to represent the Japanese language phonetically. Rather than representing an idea or definition, these characters would now represent specific pronunciations so that the Japanese could now write phonetically as well. While this was a useful idea, the characters themselves were still cumbersome to write repeatedly. This subset of characters were called the manyōgana (same manyō as in the name of that first text you linked).

This brings us to the remaining two types of characters: hiragana and katakana. These two types of characters both originate from the original manyōgana, but were simplified in two different ways. The hiragana were developed by cursively writing manyōgana, ultimately becoming proper characters themselves. The katakana, however, were partial manyōgana or shorthand forms of manyōgana that became proper characters.

See the Wiki pages on kanji, kana and manyōgana if you'd like to know more.

Now, to answer your question

Both texts are collections of classical Japanese poems, called waka.

For the first one「万葉集」, the actual text is shown in three different ways, each of which has its own tag: [原文], [訓読] and [仮名]. The first tag indicates the source text, written in manyōgana (i.e., phonetic kanji). The second tag indicates that the manyōgana have been replaced with their modern kana variants (if they have one). Finally, the third tag indicates that the entire source text has been re-written in kana.

For the「古今和歌集」, the number indicates the poem's index, the [詞書] tag precedes the foreword or context for the poem. Underneath the foreword is the name of the poet who wrote the poem and finally you get to the actual poem itself. The exception here is the very first subpage titled 仮名序, which itself is the preface or introduction to the collection of poems.

Hope this helps!


Poem/Song No[歌番号]01/0001 Title[題詞]misc category song雜歌 / Age/period 泊瀬朝倉宮御宇天皇代 [Auther<大>泊瀬稚武天皇] / created by emperor天皇御製歌 Original letter[原文]篭毛與 美篭母乳 布久思毛與… Translated Japanese letter [訓読]篭もよ み篭持ち 堀串もよ み堀串持ち この岡に 菜摘ます子 家聞かな 告らさね そらみつ 大和の国は おしなべて 我れこそ居れ しきなべて 我れこそ座せ 我れこそば 告らめ 家をも名をも Translated Kana(sounds) letter[仮名]こもよ みこもち ふくしもよ みぶくしもち このをかに なつますこ いへきかな のらさね そらみつ やまとのくには おしなべて われこそをれ しきなべて われこそませ われこそば のらめ いへをもなをも Tag[事項]雑歌 作者:雄略天皇 朝倉宮 野遊び 演劇 妻問媿 予祝 枕詞 地名 奈良

Please note :Manyoshu was compiled before invention of Kana letter. editors barrowed the old sound of chinese letters to describe Japanese sound that called Manyo-G(K)ana(万葉仮名). So modern scholars translated Manyo-G(k)ana to Kana

description [詞書]二条のきさきのはるのはしめの御うた(Early Spring poem that created by Empress of Nijo Emperor) Author:二条のきさき(Empress of Nijo Emperor) Original Letter :雪の内に春はきにけりうくひすのこほれる涙今やとくらむ Kana-sound letter separated - ゆきのうちに-はるはきにけり-うくひすの-こほれるなみた-いまやとくらむ

  • 1
    二条后{にじょうのきさき} wasn't the "Empress of [the] Nijo Emperor," who reigned from 1158-1165, but the Imperial Consort (女御{にょうご}) of the Seiwa Emperor (清和天皇), who reigned from 858-876.
    – Nanigashi
    Commented Oct 17, 2020 at 17:52

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