Sedoka (A poem where the head is repeated) (旋頭歌)

Sedoka (A poem where the head is repeated) is a type of waka (Japanese poem) from the Nara Period. This type of waka can be found in "Kojiki" (The Records of Ancient Matters), "Nihonshoki" (Chronicles of Japan), and "Manyoshu" (The oldest anthology of tanka).

The Sedoka consists of six lines where the pattern of five/seven/seven syllables is repeated twice, and the first three lines and the last three lines were often written by different people. It is called Sedoka (A poem where the head is repeated) because the head line (the first line) is repeated. It is believed that Sedoka started as two people reciting half poems in five/seven/seven form in chorus, or reading them in the style of question-and-answer.

A scholar of Japanese literature Senichi HISAMATSU argued in his book "Jodai Nihon bungaku no kenkyu " (Study on premodern Japanese literature) that the true nature of Sedoka is the recitation of a poem in the style of question-and-answer, and other scholars support this theory. Although some Sedoka poems were composed in a style to be recited by a single person, it is said that this style of composition was created by KAKINOMOTO no Hitomaro.

62 Sedoka poems were included in "Manyoshu," and 35 of those were selected from 'KAKINOMOTO no Hitomaro's Collection.'
After "Manyoshu" the style of Sedoka declined rapidly, and few Sedoka can be found in anthologies of poetry compiled by Imperial command such as "Kokin Wakashu" (A Collection of Ancient and Modern Japanese Poetry).

Examples of Sedoka

"Kojiki" includes the following poem of question and answer between Hime tatara isuzuhime (Isukeyorihime) and Okume no mikoto:

Ametsutsu Chidorimashitoto Nadosakerutome (18)
Ametsutsu Chidorimashitoto Nadosakerutome (18)
Otomeni Tadaniawanto wagasakerutome (19)
Otomeni Tadaniawanto wagasakerutome (19)

The following are examples from "Manyoshu." The next poem is in the question-and-answer style of recitation of the original Sedoka.

Suminoe no Oda wo karasu ko Yakko kamonaki Yakko aredo Imo ga mitameni Watakushida karu (1275)
(Translation) Hey, young man reaping small rice field in Sumiyoshi, Isn't that guy there?
Oh yes he is there, but he is reaping his own rice field for a girl he loves.

The poem below is not a Sedoka, but it is believed it was recited due to its third and sixth lines being identical.

Arare furi Tohotsuafumi no Atokawa yanagi Karedomo Matamo Outoiu Atokawa yanagi
(Translation) A willow by the Atokawa river in Totomi. You are cut down again and again but you grow luxuriantly; A willow by the Atokawa river in Totomi.

[Original Japanese]