Gyokuyo wakashu (Collection of Jeweled Leaves) (玉葉和歌集)

Gyokuyo wakashu is an imperial anthology from the Kamakura period. It is the fourteenth of the imperial anthologies. It is the largest among the imperial anthologies, with twenty volumes, including 2,801waka. The structure of the categories was, in order: spring (two volumes), summer, autumn (two volumes), winter, felicitations, travel, love (5 volumes), miscellaneous (5 volumes), Buddhism, and Shinto.

By order of the Retired Emperor Fushimi, Tamekane KYOGOKU (1254-1332)compiled the collection and presented it. It was submitted to the emperor for inspection on May 5, 1312 ("Masukagami" (The Clear Mirror)), and completed in October 1313 after some further editing.

Its compilation was difficult and took nearly 20 years from planning to final selection, involving the political dispute between the Jimyo-in line and the Daikakuji line, and the conflict between the poetic houses they supported, Kyogoku and Nijo. In the reign of Emperor Fushimi in 1293, Tameyo NIJO, Tamekane KYOGOKU, Masaari ASUKAI and Takahiro KUJO were selected as compilers for an imperial anthology by order of the Emperor. However, various arguments about, among other things, the policy for selecting waka between Tameyo and Tamekane became heated, and an enraged Tameyo resigned as compiler, on top of which followed the deaths of Takahiro KUJO in 1298 and Masaari ASUKAI in 1301. During that period in 1298, there was no choice but to stop the compilation of the imperial anthology because Tamekane KYOGOKU was exiled to Sado Province by the bakufu and Emperor Fushimi was forced to abdicate the throne. After that, Tamekane was recalled in 1303, and in accordance with the start of cloistered government by Retired Emperor Fushimi, the project of compiling the imperial anthology was finally able to be continued. In spite of Tameyo's strong opposition, on May 21, 1311, it was ordered that Tamekane should compile the collection and present it alone ("Petition by Two Nobles of the Enkei Era").

"Gyokuyo wakashu" was compiled in such a way as to prioritize the Jimyo-in line and the Kyogoku faction throughout, treating the Daikakuji line and the Nijo faction almost too coldly, including only a token amount their poems, with no more than 16 even for Tameuji NIJO. It also took a policy of placing emphasis on contemporary works, so although famous medieval poets like FUJIWARA no Teika, FUJIWARA no Shunzei, Saigyo, and FUJIWARA no Tameie had over fifty poems included, among the 180 poets in the collection, 113 appeared for the first time, over half of which were women, a rather large number for the time. Among contemporary poets, Fushimi-in led the group with 93 poems,followed by Sanekane SAIONJI and Tamenori KYOGOKU's daughter Tameko KYOGOKU (60 poems each), Shoshi SAIONJI (49), and Tamekane KYOGOKU (36), gathering all the major poets of the early Kyogoku faction.

Although the title "Gyokuyoshu" is reminiscent of "Manyoshu" (Ten Thousand Poems), and similarly includes a number of older poems, including a poem by KI no Tsurayuki starting off the collection, its most salient characteristic was not in following tradition, but in boldly incorporating new techniques of expression, and creating a free and fresh new poetic style. Contrasting movement and stillness, describing the passage of time, and with frequent use of gitaigo (mimetic words), parallelism, and sound repetition, even while using the traditional vocabulary, it was a revolutionary effort that makes a vivid impression on anyone more familiar with the flat style of the Nijo faction. Furthermore, restricting the number of uncreative poetic topics, it aimed for poems with a fine sensitivity, a detailed observation of nature, and an expression of pure feeling. However, because it insisted on poetic technique, and did not allow poems with extra syllables, it left behind the traces of artificial polishing, so that many poems failed to achieve true beauty.

Although Gyokuyo wakashu was an extraordinary work that ushered in a new phase in the world of waka, which had reached a dead end with the Shinkokinshu, it was followed only by "Fuga waka shu" (Collection of Elegance) and was long regarded as heretical because the conservative Nijo faction led waka circles for many centuries. In modern times, after a close study by the poet Zenmaro TOKI (1885-1980) and his reevaluation of the Kyogoku faction, "Gyokuyo wakashu" began to receive attention again. With the publication of a complete commentary by Miyoko IWASA, research on it has flourished in recent years.

[Original Japanese]