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Yosano Akiko
(1878 - 1942) Japan

Yosano Akiko



Born into the famous Surugaya confectionery family in Kaino-cho, Sakai (near Osaka), she graduated from the Sakai School for Women where she was the foremost poet, evolving into a social critic.

Akiko was a composer of tanka (31-syllable-verse) through the Meiji, Taisho and Showa Periods. Dubbed the "Poetess of Passion," she was one of the leading figures in the history of modern literature.

Her Midare-gami was published in 1901. It was highly popular among the younger generation and is considered a masterpiece of Romanticism. As a devoted student of literature, she dedicated herself throughout her life to translating such classics as the Genji Monogatari (Tale of Genji) into modern Japanese. She also wrote countless essays on women's right and played an active role in advancing women's education.

As a pioneer in the struggle for the liberation of women, and a fearless activist in a wide variety of fields, Akiko's accomplishments seem endless.

Her first tanka teacher, the publisher of Myôjô (Morning Star) was Yosano Tekkan whom she met in Tokyo. Shortly thereafter she became his lover. This was not easy to accomplish because he was already married to another woman and at the same time having an affair with Yamakawa Tomiko with whom Akiko also became best friends and lovers.

She finally married with Yosano Tekkan. She was also the mother of 11 children. In 1912 she went to Paris along with her husband and brought more ideas to plague the government. Although others were put in jail, Akiko was not touched. She founded a woman's college, the Bunka Gakuin.

Akiko continued to write her views concerning politics, economics and women's rights until her death just after the beginning of World War II. Her children were all successful, including doctors and lawyers. Her son, Asano Shigeru, was organizational head of the 1964 Olympics held in Tokyo.


Some of her Tanka

(poem of 5 - 7 - 5 - 7 - 7 syllables)

To Kiyomizu through Gion
with the moon
above the cherries.
People I meet tonight
are all beautiful
Black hair
a thousand strands of hair,
of tangled hair.
Tangled my tangled memories
of our long nights of love making.
The girl, twenty -
through her comb
her black hair flows.
How arrogant,
how beautiful her spring
Myself to her I can give
in her dreams
her own poems whispering
in her ear
while beside me she sleeps.
Who shall I tell
of the color rouge
my blood waves?
Thoughts of spring,
life in its prime
Not even tring to touch
the hot blood-tide
under my soft skin.
Aren't you lonely,
you who teach the Way
This autumn will end -
nothing forever can last,
and fate our lives controls.
Fondle my breasts
with your strong hands.


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