Midaregami (みだれ髪)

"Midaregami" (Tangled hair) is the first poetry collection of a poet, Akiko YOSANO. On August 15, 1901, it was co-published by Tokyo Shinshisha (Tokyo New Poets Society) and Ito Bunyukan. The book's cover was designed and drawn by Takeji FUJISHIMA. Her novel style, which expressed women's feelings of love in a direct manner, aroused sharply divided reactions.

In 1973, it was reproduced by her grandson, Kaoru YOSANO (a politician and later became the 74th the Chief Cabinet Secretary) and reissued from Shufu no Tomo Co., Ltd..


The book was in 136 pages, containing 399 poems in total, 192 mm long and 84 mm wide in size, and printed in three colors.

The appearance of this book has been thoroughly designed by Takeji FUJISHIMA: the outline of the image of tangled hair on the cover is made into a heart, pierced by the arrow of love, with the flowers bursting out of the arrowhead a metaphor for the poems.'
The book has the above message on the third page. The collection consists of the following six chapters.

The first chapter: 'Enji-Murasaki' (Carmine-Purple), 98 poems

The second chapter: 'Hasu no Hanabune' (The Lotus-Flower Boat), 76 poems

The third chapter: 'Shiroyuri' (White Lily), 36 poems

The fourth chapter: 'Hatachizuma' (Twenty years old Wife), 87 poems

The fifth chapter: 'Maihime' (The Dancing Girl), 22 poems

The sixth chapter: 'Haruomoi' (Spring Thoughts), 80 poems

Outline of this poetry collection

This book was produced under the editing of Tekkan YOSANO, collecting those poems that Akiko had contributed to the magazine 'Myojo' (the morning star) and other magazines. The first edition was published under the name of 'Akiko HO' because Akiko's surname at that time was her maiden name, HO. Akiko and Tekkan married on October 1, 1901, right after "Midaregami" was published. Then she took the name Yosano as her surname.

Her passionate love for Tekkan is seen in most of the poems in "Midaregami". Tekkan, who had been editing 'Myojo', appreciated Akiko's talent and encouraged her to contribute to Myojo. Akiko had also been strongly captivated by Tekkan's works. In August 1900, Tekkan, on a trip to the Kansai area, met Akiko and found that they had much in common. They travelled around Kyoto together. Although Tekkan was already married and even had a son, he divorced his wife for Akiko. Unlike today, it was the time when people were still strongly bound by the notion of 'family'. Naturally, they became a target of criticism and slander. Bundan-Shomakyo' (The Tell-Tale Mirror: An Expose of the Literary World), a gossip story written under anonymous name was circulated around, which was later developed into a legal dispute. Akiko kept composing poems of love toward him as if brushing aside the cold eyes of the people around her by doing so; eventually Akiko left her home in Sakai and ran to Tekkan. Tekkan also sincerely faced with his love for Akiko, and he summarised their love into the poetry collection, "Midaregami".

There were many poems in this book well-known to many people, such as the following:

"That girl, now twenty, is in the spring of her life, as seen in the black hair that flows smoothly through her comb.'

On the way to Kiyomizu, the cherry blossoms at Gion is illuminated by the moonlight, and everyone I see tonight is all so beautiful.'

Never knowing the feel of soft flesh, with the warms of flowing blood beneath the skin, aren't you a little lonesome, you who preach the way?'

The clear water inside me outflowed from my heart, but it ended up getting clouded: you're a child of sin, and so am I.'

A thousand lines of black, tangled hair, tangled like my confused thoughts of love.'

I wish I could smear envenomed honey on the lips of young people who are looking for love.'

Considering the moral values of the time that approved of modest women, her expressions of love, as can be seen in the poems above, were so straight and bold that they were far beyond the limits of what people were able to accept.
As expected, "Midaregami" was thoroughly condemned as below;
As this book has many parts where indecent and shameful behaviors are written about, I feel no hesitation to judge it as something harmful to the mind of people and besmirches moral teachings.' (the September 1901 issue of 'Uta no hana' [the flowers of poetry])
However, Bin UEDA highly praised it from an artistic standpoint. It is a collection of poems which people cannot but listen to closely, the work of a person drawing nearer to the heart of poetry; it is the work of a passionate poet. However, its obfuscating manner is the cause of regret, and its lack of tranquility is a flaw. Still, it is a work of high value that should be welcomed as a forerunner in reforming the world of tanka poetry, and also as a work composed by a woman.
Those who recklessly denounce this work because they are astounded by its extremely sharp tone and uninhibited love are no friends of literature.'
He criticized such conservative critics and their point of view, and praised her work as the birth of a new literature. All this stir helped an unknown poetess from Osaka leap into literary fame, and captivated younger readers. It is also said that 'Myojo', whose circulation had fallen due to the gossip about the relationship between Tekkan and Akiko, began to increase its sales again for her popularity among young readers.

[Original Japanese]