University of Hawai'i Press
  • X-Rated and Excessively Long:Ji-Amari in Hayashi Amari's Tanka

As a fixed 31-syllable form of short poetry, Japan's tanka is one of the world's oldest forms of still-practiced poetry, with examples perhaps dating back to the fifth century. In the modern periods of Meiji (1868-1912) and Taishō (1912-1926), poets radically reformed the genre, expanding diction beyond millennium-old classical limits, thereby allowing poets to write not only about cherry blossoms and tragic love but also about things like steam trains and baseball games; although today many tanka poets in practicing circles still employ classical Japanese, many modern masters innovated the genre by skillfully blending in colloquial language. Like their modern forebears, poets in the contemporary period (1945-present) continue to experiment with the metrical and time limits of this short form.

Hayashi Amari (b. 1963) is one poet who frequently and consistently violated the thirty-one-syllable count when she wrote her unabashedly frank poems about female sexuality in MARS*ANGEL (Maasu-enjeru, 1986), Scent of Nanako (Nanako no nioi, 1988), and X-Rated Couple (Futari etchi, 1999). Viewed early on as a rebel who wrote [End Page 72] "light-verse" (raito vaasu) (Hara 1990, 97), she made an impact on the world of tanka for her rule-breaking tanka, her songwriting for contemporary ballads, and her experiments with hybrid collections of tanka and illustrations, including manga. These "collaborative" works include famed manga artists and illustrators Hayashi Sei'ichi (no relation), Tōno Kazumi, and Katsu Aki. In some instances, her savvy publishers have helped market Hayashi Amari's poems to larger audiences with deluxe pictorial editions; in other cases, the artists provide images to accompany Hayashi's works; in others, as in her adaptation of Katsu Aki's manga, Hayashi fashions new poems based on Katsu's scenes and characters. "The character wrote the poems for me," she remembers (Hayashi 1998, 227). Her variegated publishing output alone demands further examination, but first and foremost one must consider how Hayashi's skill and unusual style as a poet established her as a prominent voice in tanka in the 1980s and 1990s.

Although her place in the world of tanka may have been eclipsed by the rise of Tawara Machi (b. 1962), whose Salad Anniversary (Sarada kinenbi, 1987) created a larger boom of interest in the genre, Hayashi's work—although now overlooked—still serves as a compelling reminder that the conservative world of tanka was changing in other dramatic ways before the end of the millennium. Scholars and critics (Lovitz et al. 1994; Okai et al. 1998; Okai and Michiura 1999; Homura 2015) have often commented on the content of her highly sexualized and feminist poetry, but one of Hayashi's achievements was to gain admittance to the tanka world, even though she frequently breaks the 31-syllable count that has defined the medium for over a thousand years.

In this article, I examine how Hayashi's poetic art, far from being defective, capitalizes on hypermetric verses, or ji-amari, both in order to explore female sexuality and to challenge conservative poetic norms. Her excessively long verses bring into focus what kind of freedoms women in particular began to enjoy in the tanka world of the late 1980s and 1990s. Hayashi's case indicates the limits of such agency, as she was challenged by fellow poets, critics, and the general public. Ultimately, her ji-amari-laden tanka reveal the potential for personal expression—both in terms of content and form—that a female tanka poet could expect as her star rose in the 1990s.

"Fake and Artificial": Resisting Traditional Tanka Rhythm

Writing in 1998, a decade after her debut, Hayashi describes her entry into the world of tanka as highly unlikely given that, as a high school student, she was no fan of tanka, haiku, or free verse (shi):

Poetry was something that I associated with rhythm, and rhythm could never make me feel it was something other than fake (uso-kusai) and artificial (kazarimono)…. The [End Page 73] only thing I trusted were words… and free verse seemed heretical although it consisted of words. Particularly, tanka and haiku were two genres that I really hated because their rhythm made them so stiff (rizumu no katamari)

(Hayashi 1998, 109).

Soon after high school, she was encouraged by her teacher to apply to Seikei University, where she was taught literature by tanka poet Maeda Tōru (son of tanka innovator Maeda Yūgure). Hayashi fell in love with tanka and received close guidance there from Maeda. She embraced the tanka form and began writing the poetry that would later constitute her debut collection. The poems of MARS*ANGEL typically defy the limitations of thirty-one syllables.

For clarity, hereafter I use the term mora(e) instead of syllable(s) or characters (ji) to measure the beats of the tanka, following the distinction made by Kawamoto Kōji, a professor of comparative literature at Tokyo University and scholar of Japanese poetry, in his study of Japanese prosody. In classical prosody the mora represented a unit of metrical duration, and Japanese linguistics

has come to use it to represent the actual sound which is pronounced in this 'mora's worth' of time. Thus, following the definition of a syllable mentioned above, a Japanese mora may be defined as a simple nucleus (i.e., a single short vowel), which optionally may be preceded by an onset of one consonant, and which does not take a coda (Kawamoto 2000, 293-294).

In Hayashi's MARS*ANGEL, I find that 122 of its 177 poems (70 percent) exceed the traditional count of 31 beats (miso-hito-moji), frequently having 32, 33, or 34 beats. The average morae count for the collection is 32.16. (See Table 1 for the frequency and peaks of poems loaded with ji-amari in the collection.) In her debut tanka collection, Hayashi clearly disregards the genre's limits with these hyper-metric verses.

Table 1. Graph of morae count and ji-amari excesses over the 31-mora norm of tanka in Hayashi's MARS*ANGEL (177 poems total).
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Table 1.

Graph of morae count and ji-amari excesses over the 31-mora norm of tanka in Hayashi's MARS*ANGEL (177 poems total).

[End Page 74]

Ji-amari are common both in classical Japanese waka and contemporary verse. Even though Japanese verse from the ancient period already tended to fall into 5-7 or 7-5 meter, one may find instances in which poets broke these early rules of formation. Roy Andrew Miller (1975, 67), writing about early poem inscriptions of old Japanese, notes that "regular alternation in sequence of unvaried lines of five and seven feet would surely have been too wooden and too stolid," so this prosodic system with its "potential monotony" was "compensated for, in some degree, by a system of permitted metrical irregularities (ji amari, literally 'syllable excess')." Kawamoto (2000, 259) describes in more detail how Miller's instances of collapsed-vowel ji-amari, or synaloepha, could work in a system of triplet-based groups, but he finds these techniques of vowel elision were in decline near the end of the classical age in the twelfth century when "the innovative priest-poet Saigyō was already creating ji-amari verses which can in no way be reduced through aphaeresis or elision." In the Meiji period, modern, innovating poets questioned the strict adherence to traditional meter for tanka. Masaoka Shiki (1975, 15) once challenged conservative poets for their "prejudiced views" (hekikan) and small mindedness about metrical limits. Ishikawa Takuboku (1980, 288) encouraged his young comrades to experiment with the form, telling them that if they felt the meter's restrictions to be inconvenient (fuben), then they "should go over the syllable count (ji-amari ni suru sa)!" Curiously, when these two canonical poets are promoted in textbooks or articles, their featured poems are usually their best true-to-form haiku of 17 morae or tanka of 31 morae.

By Hayashi's debut in the 1980s, the postwar wave of the avant-garde had already opened up paths for metrical experimentation with verse straddling (ji-matagari). Usually scholars and critics point to the work of Hayashi's contemporary, Tawara Machi—discussed above—for naturalizing experimental rhythms in which meaning will "straddle, not coincide exactly with, 5-7-5-7-7" morae groupings (Carpenter 2014, 138). Okai Takashi, a member of the postwar tanka avant-garde, describes Tawara's achievement in taking their gains and plying "verse-straddling" (ku-matagari) for maximum effect:

In terms of her technique, when [Salad Anniversary] first appeared, people looked at [famous poems like "Aijin de / ii no to utau /..." ("I'm okay with being/ your lover")] and many asked, "Is this tanka?" It's the way Tawara pulls off verse-straddling so easily and naturally. Until that time, colloquial-verse tanka poets strived to make their colloquial phrases fit the 5-7-5-7-7 meter. If you wonder where she got that, I think it started with Tsukamoto Kunio. Fundamentally that was what the avant-garde movement was doing

(Okai et al. 1998, 99). [End Page 75]

Unafraid to Be Bad: Breaking Tanka Rules and Finding Success

In contrast to Tawara, who has repeatedly defended her seemingly perfect 31-mora rhythms, Hayashi has never made any claims that her tanka were perfect. She has urged poets, "Don't worry (ki ni shinakute mo ii) whether or not the tanka has its 5-7-5-7-7" (Hayashi 1991b, 33). Hayashi (1991b, 23) argued against Tawara's "conservative" (hoshuteki) "Salad-style" (Sarada-, referring to Salad Anniversary), and she advised young poets instead to think of the poem's emotional "necessity" (hitsuzensei), Tawara, herself no fan of Hayashi, writes in a stinging 1988 essay, "Hayashi Amari and Me" (Hayashi Amari to watashi), that the poetic merit of Hayashi's tanka are questionable, particularly in her heavy use of "code" (kigō) elements, like her use of English words and punctuation, which Tawara feels far more reflect Hayashi's love of "jangly [literary] accessories" (akusesarii no yō ni jara jara) than their poetic merit (Tawara, 1988, 46). She concludes her essay by writing that to read Hayashi's tanka is "unbearable" (mite ite setsunai) (Tawara 1988, 46).1 The world of tanka was undergoing growing pains in the 1980s and 1990s with, for example, the widely divergent verse styles of Hayashi and Tawara. Whereas Tawara quietly experimented with ji-amari (Holt 2018), it was Hayashi who both boldly and honestly defended her poems for their highly sexual content as well as their adventurously new and expanded rhythms.

The following poem, from the second section of "Yozakura O-Shichi" (Nighttime Cherry Miss Seven) is a good example of her expanded rhythms, showing how Hayashi heavily loads the first two (6/9/5/7/7) of the five measures, which is one of the common patterns of her tanka that feature ji-amari:

さくらさくらいつまでも待っても来ぬひとと 死んだひととはおなじさ桜!

Sakura sakura / itsumade mo matte mo / konu hito to   shinda hito to wa / onaji sa sakura!

Cherry Blossoms, Cherry Blossomsno matter how long you wait for themmen who do not come anddead menare all the same, Cherry Blossoms!

In this tanka, the seventh in a ten-poem sequence (rensaku), Hayashi overdoes things by creating ji-amari both in her first measure ("sakura sakura":6, not 5 morae) and also in [End Page 76] the second measure by 2 beats ("itsu made mo matte mo": 9, not 7 morae). By necessity, the first measure has to be 6 morae, given that sakura, a 3-mora word, is repeated twice in a formulaic way that suggests it is a song snippet, perhaps overheard by the poetic speaker at a cherry-blossom festival in Edo (the city that became Tokyo in 1868).3 The second measure is quite modern, however, and one gets the sense that Hayashi prefers not to break it over the second and third measures. She caps each of the two phrases with mo in order to create a pleasant musical rhythm that perhaps the poet wishes to preserve even if it means breaking the rules of meter. Hayashi later used the full poem as the refrain for the enka (ballad) song "Yozakura O-Shichi," which she wrote for singer Sakamoto Fuyumi in 1994. The song's refrain is repeated three times in the song. This repetition reveals the poet's strong attachment to these verses, even if they break the prescribed rules for its original 31-mora form.

When Hayashi extends the verses of her poems with additional beats, she might be doing so to create a mimetic effect, as in the poem discussed below. In the poem discussed above, Hayashi intensifies the emotional power of the poem's feeling of waiting by means of its extended verses; however, in this next tanka—which was also integrated into Sakamoto's song—she plays with the repetitive image of tears that fall one after the other in the extended measure. The final image of one more tear rolling down the cheek of the poem's female protagonist is enhanced by the tanka's expanded 32-mora meter (5/7/5/7/8).

口紅をつけてティッシュをくわえたら 涙がぽろり、もうひとつぽろり

Kuchibeni o / tsukete tisshu o / kuwaetara   namida ga porori / moo hitotsu porori

When I put on rouge,holding a tissue'tween my lipsA tear breaks loose,and then, another one

The poem even plays with numbers: Hayashi counts off the tears, adding "another one" (mō hitotsu); she also repeats the onomatopoeic phrase "drip/plop" (porori) to mimetically display the emergence of multiple tears. Hayashi enhances these effects with the poem's metrical violations, which in turn emphasize the poem's strong feeling of sadness and [End Page 77] perhaps even justify the protagonist's transgressive or spectacular figure, who boldly displays her colors, her sexiness, and her tragic figure. Hayashi would later add this poem to her earlier "Yozakura O-Shichi" tanka to create a robust tragic figure for Sakamoto Fuyumi's enka song.

Another poem from her second collection, Scent of Nanako, more vividly demonstrates Hayashi's twin propensities for highly sexualized and rule-breaking verse. The following poem easily has a mora count over the 31-mora norm, particularly because Hayashi uses the Japanese pronunciation of the English word "SEX" (sekkusu,romanized in the original):

夕焼けが濃くなってゆく生理前 ゆるされるなにもつけないSEX

Yuuyake ga / koku natte yuku / seiri-mae   yurusareru nani mo / tsukenai sekkusu

Right before my period,the sunset grows ruddybut it's okay:SEXwithout a condom this time5

The first three lines follow the orthodox 5-7-5 rhythm, but the final two lines each contain 8, not 7, beats that result in the poem having 33 morae. It is possible to read Hayashi's final word here, "SEX," with the original English pronunciation (and Hayashi's use of capital letters) and thus the word may only have one beat, but doing so would result in a hypometric (ji-tarazu) line of 5 beats, which I doubt Hayashi intends. The poem is better off having the excessive beats as the persona's feeling of sexual desire and her encouragement are made stronger by the poem's elongated and heavier meter. Novelist Matsumoto Yūko (2000, 232) describes the "viscous" (nettori) quality of the poem with its combined images of the heat and weight of the woman's premenstrual body and her sense of daring to be free from the cares of contraception. Critic Oketani Hideaki (1993, 186) describes how in Scent of Nanako, Hayashi "is probably trying to express her own thoughts and feelings in pushing to the limit what is possible in their tone (kyūkyoku ni jibun no kanō no seichō no katachi)." Both Matsumoto and Oketani stress how Hayashi skillfully blends images of the female body and the voice of a woman in these poems to create new possibilities for personal expression in the tanka genre. [End Page 78]

Critics who discuss Hayashi's tanka usually focus on the hyper-sexualized content of her poems, not their hypermetric rule-breaking. For example, Hayashi (2000, 225) recalls how she upset her early dōjinshi(amateur magazines) readers who were offended that "a young unmarried woman" could experience and write about such things; when another reader demanded she "should go before the grave of [her mentor] Maeda Tōru, hands clasped and apologize," even Hayashi (2000, 225) contextualizes this scorn and shock to the content, not the technique, of her poems. This harsh criticism came while she was publishing in dōjinshi from 1985 to 1986, right before her full debut with MARS*ANGEL, but similar evaluations of her work have stayed with her since. For example, at a group discussion of six women poets in 1992, Hayashi could glibly acknowledge her reputation already as "the radical porno tanka poet," but she felt that it was better to be branded as that instead of as a generic "woman poet" (joryū kajin) (Tawara et al. 1992, 264).6 Hayashi (1998, 264) then proudly considered herself to be a feminist poet, following the paths blazed in free verse (shi) by Itō Hiromi and tanka by Akitsu Ei. Even so, she was careful to dodge fellow poet Ōta Miwa's term "radical feminism" (radikaru feminizumu) for her third, lesbian-focused tanka collection The Penultimate Kiss (Saigo kara nibanme no kissu, 1991). Hayashi (1992, 264) insisted that she does lean towards feminism but that because "there are many kinds," she felt that instead of "taking a principled stand . . . [I] want to express myself in poetry—the thing that I can do—and so that is my connection to feminism." In the long run, risking condemnation from both tanka readers and fellow poets, Hayashi continued to write tanka in her own way, experimenting with both content and form.

At a critical roundtable discussion held later in 1998, poets Okai Takashi and Michiura Motoko (1999, 193) positively evaluate Hayashi's tanka as coming from a person who is "not ideological" but "makes assertive [poetry]"; they call her a poet who "unlike other poets is not overly conscious of her expressions" and who "rather skillfully makes her poems have their own rhythm." Sociologist and literary critic Mita Munesuke, also present in the discussion, is less sympathetic of Hayashi's style, comparing her to her contemporary Tawara: "If Ms. Tawara is the serious star student (majime na yūtōsei) of the tanka world, then Ms. Hayashi is the serious rebel star student (majime na han-yūtōsei). And in terms of seriousness, Ms. Hayashi is very serious," he says, damning her with praise (194). The word "majime" has connotations of being hard-working but also can be used pejoratively to express one's disapproval of a person's nerdy, overachieving nature. Although Mita is unspecific about this quality in her work, those who then respond to his comment defend her use of rhythm (onritsu). Without specifically describing her use of ji-amari poems as defective, Hayashi's contemporaries noticed her unusual rhythms. [End Page 79]

"Okay If It Isn't Exactly 5-7-5-7-7"

After the success and criticism she received from these early collections, Hayashi wrote a series of essays for aspiring poets, which were later collected in End-of-the-Century Mademoiselle (Seiki-matsu wa madomoazeru, 1991), in which she advises them to write what they want and not worry about meter constraints: "Try to get as close as you can to your feeling, and if you get a poem that seems like 5-7-5-7-7 (5-7-5-7-7 rashiki mono), then ask yourself if you have expressed yourself the best you can" (Hayashi 1991b, 34). Hayashi (1991b, 34) adds, "When you whisper the poem to yourself, and you think, 'I get to the last 7-7 part, but it seems like I have to say it fast,' don't get hung up on that. Just remember that it is okay if the rhythm isn't exactly 5-7-5-7-7 (kanarazushimo kicchiri 5-7-5-7-7 ni natte inakutemo ii no desu). Get a rhythm that feels like your own and you can make a tanka." Thus, even in her advice on tanka composition, she encourages ji-amari as long as the extra beats help convey the poet's individuality.

As a self-professed "unstable" (yureru) poet, in a 1998 essay Hayashi admits that "my tanka always lack a fixed quality. Even now I'm still not used to using a strict 5-7-5-7-7 count, probably because I had that hatred of rhythm from high school. I'm aware I'm working in a metered form of poetry, but it doesn't weigh me down" (112). In my readings of Hayashi's poetry, her most numerous and dense ji-amari violations are found in her fifth tanka collection, X-Rated Couple, published in 1999, an adaptation of Katsu Aki's erotic manga of almost the same name, Step-Up Love Story X-Rated Couple (Step-Up Love Story futari etchi, hereafter known as X-Rated Couple, 1997-2018). Upon his debut in the manga world, Katsu Aki—the penname for Nakamura Katsuaki (b. 1961)—immediately won numerous awards before running his first full feature series in 1985 in Shōnen Sunday. An author of over eighteen extended manga series, he is best known for X-Rated Couple, which the author himself describes as inaugurating the "third" and "most challenging" phase of his manga career (Katsu 2005, 112). And it is Hayashi's tanka adaptation of this manga—more than her MARS*ANGEL or Scent of Nanako—that best demonstrates Hayashi's rule-breaking tendencies as well as her highly sexualized writing style.

X-Rated Couple is a long-running manga serial, which began in 1997 and still continues to appear monthly in Young Animal and Young Animal Arashi, published by Hakusensha. In July 2018, the publisher released the seventy-sixth collected volume of the ongoing story. By 2018, an estimated twenty-seven million copies of the manga paperbacks had been sold in Japan (Katsu 2018, 253).7 A translated English edition of the first 150 installments, published in four volumes by TokyoPop, briefly appeared in the United States as Manga Sutra from 2008 to 2009 before it was cancelled. X-Rated Couple follows the story of two virginal newlyweds, Yura and Makoto, as they learn about [End Page 80] sex, "transition[ing] from complete sexual inexperience to an arranged marriage," as they "step up" (thus the English subtitle) "to its sexual and erotic challenges" (Perper and Cornog 2007, 201). While I was reaching the material for this article, it appeared to me that Katsu planned to close the story with the birth of the first child of Makoto and Yura, but there is no indication that either the manga artist or the publisher now intend to end the series. Perper and Cornog (2007, 201) describe Katsu's original seinen (young men's) manga as "a platform to provide not only an ongoing narrative but also systematic and well-designed serious lessons in sexuality itself." However, instead of conveying the sex-manual qualities of the original manga, Hayashi's adaptation seems far more grounded in Katsu's "emotionally charged drama of arousal, hope, pain, and disappointment" (Perper and Cornog 2007, 206).

Prior to this volume, Hayashi had previously worked with two notable graphic artists on what she called "collaborations" (koraborēshon) (Hayashi 2000, 227) in which her poems were published with large illustrations in gorgeous, deluxe format books. The first such hybrid work was Scent of Nanako, where the poet published ninety-two tanka in an "accordion-style" format—the book unfolds like a screen, with text and art on both front and back sides—and illustrator Fukui Shin'ichi had fashioned various tableaus on both sides to reflect the sexy, evocative world of Hayashi's poems. Her next "collaboration" was with famous Garo manga artist Hayashi Sei'ichi for Shortcut (Shōtokatto, 1992). Hayashi Amari has used the term "picture-book" (ehon) to describe Shortcut—a series of exquisitely rendered illustrations of half-naked women, typical for the manga artist—but she has never explicitly commented on the nature of their working relationship (Hayashi 2000, 226). Hayashi Sei'ichi's illustrations were paired with poems from MARS*ANGEL for this book. Their publisher Sanrio asked them to collaborate on a follow-up book, Hey, Kiss Me (Nee, kissu shite, 1996), which again linked Hayashi Sei'ichi's images, reprinted from his Japanese Woman (Japanīzu ūman, 1990), with previously published poems, this time from the poet's third tanka collection, The Penultimate Kiss. Rather than being "collaborative" works, these books were edited or arranged for the authors; yet they are still important in understanding how Hayashi positioned her work outside of normal tanka circles.

In 1999, Hayashi published two more hybrid works that were clearly more collaborative. In contrast to the same year's X-Rated Couple, in which Hayashi responded to Katsu's previously published manga, Hayashi's collaboration with shōjo (girls') manga artist Tōno Kazumi in Girlish (Gārisshu, 1999) was clearly one in which Hayashi sent the artist new poems and Tōno responded with illustrations, which Tōno's afterword confirms: "Hayashi, thank you for these great poems. It's because they're so good that I must say sorry if, through my own lack of skill, I could not [visually] depict them" (Hayashi and Tōno 1999, 143). [End Page 81] Unlike her other four visual collaborations, for X-Rated Couple, Hayashi would respond to Katsu's images and story, which might be the first such tanka-manga collaboration in the history of these genres. One senses that Hayashi (1991b, 22) was proud of these innovative publishing efforts, whereas in an earlier essay, "Tanka Poets Who Like to Act Cute" (Burikko kajin). She had derided other young poets for producing similar tanka-art books involving other visual media, stating that they were relying too much on "their book's bright design," and so "[they lack] substance (nakami), which is a problem." In this defensive comment, Hayashi might have been referring to Tawara's early, post-Salad experimental tanka-photo book collaboration with photographer Asai Shinpei, Freshly Picked Tanka (Toretate no tanka desu, 1987). For Freshly Picked Tanka, Tawara and Asai truly collaborated on their work, taking turns providing poems to be photographed and vice versa. However, Tawara never returned to this hybrid method of composing and publishing tanka, unlike Hayashi, for whom the collaborative style has become a hallmark of her oeuvre.

Adapting X-Rated Couple Using Ji-Amari

In her skillful adaptation of X-Rated Couple, Hayashi uses her favored type of tanka with ji-amari in order to fully express the awakening sexuality of the story's female protagonist, Yura. Of the eighty-three poems in the collection, fifty-nine (71 percent) tanka have ji-amari. The poems on average have 32.2 morae. The additional length of these poems with ji-amari allows Hayashi to more fully depict Yura's dramatic growth and self-discovery. Interestingly, unlike MARS*ANGEL, Hayashi's X-Rated Couple has far less instances of regular 31-mora poems: there are only two short sections where two or three such regular tanka appear together in a sequence.8 Hayashi's adaption of X-Rated Couple is an exercise in excess both in terms of sexual exploration as well as in meter-defying poetry, where the latter serves the former.

Table 2. Graph of morae count and ji-amari excesses over the 31-mora norm of tanka in Hayashi's X-Rated Couple (83 poems total).
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Table 2.

Graph of morae count and ji-amari excesses over the 31-mora norm of tanka in Hayashi's X-Rated Couple (83 poems total).

[End Page 82]

All of the six showcase poems that preview the collection's contents—printed alongside Aki's color illustration plates—have a syllable count of over 31 beats. It is easy to conclude that the publisher Hakusensha's main selling point for Hayashi's X-Rated Couple is her tanka that can be excessively sexy: both in keeping up with Katsu's original erotic "step-up" manga and with Hayashi's poetic rule-breaking style. At the very least, one might expect Hayashi to indulge in ji-amari, overloading the beats of her tanka's measures, in order to express the titillating excitement Yura feels at each new sexual discovery she and her newlywed husband make. This is seen in the following showcase poem:

「女の子はボタンの左右が逆なんだね」  はしゃぐあなたにあふれる乳房

"Onna no ko wa / botan no sayū ga / gyaku nan da ne"   hashagu anata ni / afureru chibusa

"Girls havetheir right and left buttonsreversed, huh?"you mess around andmy breasts swell

Figure 1. Illustration plate and poem ('Girls have their...') from the opening of Hayashi's tanka adaptation of Katsu Aki's Step-Up Love Story X-Rated Couple. <br/><br/>Reprinted with permission from Hakusensha.
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Figure 1.

Illustration plate and poem ('Girls have their...') from the opening of Hayashi's tanka adaptation of Katsu Aki's Step-Up Love Story X-Rated Couple.

Reprinted with permission from Hakusensha.

It is possible to read this poem as simply having 31 morae if one views each of Hayashi's couplings of the final consonants "n" together with their preceding morae as one unit. In that case "o-n-na" (women) would have two, not three beats; similarly, "bo-ta-n" (button) would also have two, not three beats. Were that so, then one would expect Hayashi to be consistent about squeezing these nasal final consonants "n" into the preceding mora to always save one beat, but one can find exceptions where Hayashi clearly uses "n" for an individual beat in other poems. For example, the poem below is one of the few orthodox 31-mora poems in the collection; it also uses the word "botan" (button): [End Page 83]

シャツを着たままのあなたに抱かれる ボタンがひやり乳房を冷やす

Shatsu o kita / mama no anata ni / idakareru   botan ga hiyari / chibusa o hiyasu

Taken hold by you,still in your shirt,your cold buttonschillingmy breasts

By comparing the two poems, one can come to a confident count of the number of morae as well as a clear sense of how Hayashi intends a reader to parse her meter. This poem has a more somber, calmer feeling that, perhaps appropriately, does not transgress metrical limits. One would expect the moraic nasal "n" to count as a regular beat in order to produce a standard tanka, rather than one without the full 31 beats, deficient because of a hypometric (ji-tarazu) measure. Moreover, Hayashi gives the reader a rare rubi (pronunciation guide using phonetic kana written above Kanji characters) to the third-measure word idakareru (passive for "to hold"), one supposes, in order to ensure that the reader recognizes that it is a full five-beat word (instead of an alternative reading of dakareru) and thus clearly establishing that the poem has a regular tanka rhythm.

By my reckoning, the earlier "reversed buttons" poem has to have 34 morae: 6/8/6/7/7. Its strong, sexy images seem to demand a longer, stronger poem. Hayashi intersperses each of the first three measures with the moraic nasal "n," two of which are followed by a full mora of na or no, which creates a pleasing rhythm of warm nasal sounds, like the warm "buttons" her sexy manga girl has. If the moraic nasal "n" bonds or blends with the following n-mora word, only then would the morae count as 5/7/5 across the first three lines instead of 6/8/6; however, given the chaotic inversion of the poem's content, it would be unwise to try to find regular order in the first three lines. True to her "radical porno" style, Hayashi is being excessively playful with her rhythm, as well as with her poem's content. By the poem's end, order is doubly restored with a strict 7-mora count and its technique of closing on a noun––the main image of fulsome breasts in the poem. Tanka poets use this noun-ending technique, taigen-dome, and omit the predicate in order to postpone closure on the poem, encouraging the reader to fill in the blanks and imagine a larger scene.9 As she often does, Hayashi here uses taigen-dome and ji-amari techniques because the lyric feeling of the poem cannot be contained by the standard 5-7-5-7-7 verses. [End Page 84]

The second showcase poem also features two ji-amari violations (5/7/7/8/7), perhaps justly called for, given the importance of the image of her panicked confusion (midare):

指先を撫でられ肘に届く頃には 呼吸の乱れをかくしきれない

Yubisaki o / naderare hiji ni / todoku koro ni wa   kokyū no midare o / kaku-shikirenai

My fingertips fondledby you and right aroundwhen you reach my elbows—I no longer can hidemy panicked breaths

Here, Hayashi boldly breaks out of the 5-mora limit in her third line, using instead 7 beats ("todoku koro ni wa"); she follows that line with another ji-amari measure ("kokyū no midare o"), which I reckon has 8 morae. This is the work of an excessive tanka poet. Hayashi then squeezes in object-marker "o" after midare—which is certainly one of the most common ji-amari practices in tanka, as poets typically combine the vowel "o" with another vowel of the preceding noun (which typically ends in a vowel-ending sound). One wonders if the poet did not intend kokyū to be read as iki, for "breath," which would allow for a standard 7-syllable count ("i-ki no mi-da-re o"), but Hayashi typically applies rubi glossses when she wants to help readers with non-standardized readings of kanji compounds to help the reader fit the word into the standard measure length. Given the poems' powerful feeling of sexual excitement and increased physiological response, it makes sense for Hayashi to overload these two measures with a count beyond 5-7. Again, as with the "buttons" poem, the reader might be tempted to rationalize a standard 31-mora count in Hayashi's poem, but it is usually vain to do so. Hayashi's tanka invite unorthodox readings. The final line, which has a perfect 7-mora count, reinforces that sense of disrupted order, concluding her tanka with a moment of sharp dramatic tension. "Kakushi-kirenai," by which Yura cannot control or hide her breathing, actually is quite controlled and provides neat closure to this intense nureba (love) scene.

Of the eighty-three poems in X-Rated Couple, only twenty have the traditional 31-mora count. Four have fewer than the orthodox number. Instead of being deficient, their hypometric (ji-tarazu) measures mimetically and skillfully convey the poems' themes [End Page 85]

Figure 2. Example of a manga sequence interspersed in Hayashi's tanka adaptation (page 17) of Katsu's X-Rated Couple. Taken from the second installment of Katsu's manga, this scene depicts the virginal Yura beginning to desire Makoto's touch. <br/><br/>Reprinted with permission from Hakusensha.
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Figure 2.

Example of a manga sequence interspersed in Hayashi's tanka adaptation (page 17) of Katsu's X-Rated Couple. Taken from the second installment of Katsu's manga, this scene depicts the virginal Yura beginning to desire Makoto's touch.

Reprinted with permission from Hakusensha.

of inadequacy. Although some of these hypometric poems still feature ji-amari measures, Hayashi leaves other measures deficient in 5- or 7-mora length, resulting in poems that range anywhere from 28 to 30 morae. These ji-tarazu poems often do not express excess emotion or excitement but instead convey a sense of anxiety or embarrassment, as apparent in the poem below that only has 29 morae (4/4/5/8/8); here, Hayashi bookends a set of two awkward ji-tarazu measures against a set of more confident ji-amari ones. In this poem, Yura hears Makoto confess that he has masturbated, but she does not reprove her sexual partner. True to the original manga character, Hayashi's Yura exhibits a maternal tendency to accept Makoto regardless of his indulgent faults (amae):

きのうは自分でしちゃった、と恥ずかしそうに 少年の顔で

Kinō wa / jibun de / shichatta, to / hazukashisō ni shōnen no kao de

"Yesterday,I ended up masturbating,"You said lookingembarrassed withthe face of a boy

Poems like this, which either have traditional measures or insufficient (ji-tarazu) ones, generally play two roles in the collection: 1) they reflect the shyness Yura and Makoto have about their sexuality in the manga, and 2) they contrast with the otherwise ecstatic [End Page 86] tone of Hayashi's adaptation, creating a "ground" (ji) pattern next to the striking and sexier "design" (mon) poems, and thus one could argue that Hayashi uses a classical poetic practice of arranging poems within a collection or employing a rensaku (tanka section) to vary stronger, more intense poems with more standard ones.10 At the very least, the use of these poems with ji-tarazu suggests that Hayashi adjusts the pattern of meter from poem to poem both to serve the individual poem's theme or feeling, and to create variations in the larger mood of the rensaku's macro-rhythm.

Climactic Excess

Some sections, particularly the final three, exhibit more control of or respect for orthodox meter, as Hayashi strings together 31-mora tanka, maintaining a regular rhythm and demonstrating that she can write an orthodox tanka. However, she concludes the collection with a climactic spectacle of poems with ji-amari excess. Poems 73, 81 and 82 demonstrate Hayashi's skillful and appropriate use of additional syllables to boldly expand the lyrical range of the tanka to include physical as well as emotional highs. Poem 73 is one of the longest in the collection with 36 morae (5/8/5/7/11) as Yura excessively expresses her "full" satisfaction with herself, having learned how to satisfy Makoto, as seen in the final 11-mora line:

目を開けるうれしき あなたを気持ち良くさせてわたしはこんなに満ち足りている

Me o akeru / ureshiki   anata o / kimochi yoku / sasete watashi wa / konna ni michitarite iru

Making you feelso good that youopen your eyesfor me is what brings meto full satisfaction like this

Yura brings Makoto to a physical high, building him up in the first half of the poem, which already exhibits an additional beat in the second measure ("ureshiki anata"); Hayashi then splits or shares the feeling of satisfaction across the two-line poem with a longer second half, thus allowing Yura more space and time to express her own satisfaction, seemingly based on her awareness of her own greater agency in their sexual union. It is Yura, our poetic persona, who feels complete fulfillment, perhaps both physically and emotionally, [End Page 87] by the final line, which swells far beyond its expected 7-beat length to 11 morae. Nothing is held back. As Hayashi (1999, 117) writes in the afterword of the collection, it is the overlapping nature of Yura and Makoto's experiences that leads to "their two-person-three-legged race to 'step up' their sex." Thus Hayashi's tanka lyrics mimetically expand as they reflect the shared growth of the couple's experiences.

The last two poems of the collection each have 32 morae, and they suggest the powerful, "full" feeling of love shared by Yura and Makoto by subtly transgressing the metrical limits of the tanka. Like in the previous "satisfaction" poem, Hayashi uses words or phrases that describe a fulsome state ("tappuri to" [generous]) or a largish number or a jumble of items (the twin set of legs in "shiroi ashi / chairo no ashi o"), which I find are commonly used in ji-amari measures by other contemporary poets:11

たっぷりとかまわれた夜は あなたから花束が届く夢などもみる

Tappuri to[5] / kamawareta yo wa[7]anata kara[5] / hanasoku ga todoku[8] / yume nado mo miru[7]

On this nightwhen I receive yourgenerous attentionI even have a dream of gettingflowers from you

熱帯魚の水槽の下 白い脚、茶色の脚を泳がせてふたり

Nettaigyo no [6] / suisō no shita[7]shiroi ashi,[5] / chairo no ashi o[7] / oyogasete futari[8]

Tropical fishat the bottom of the tank—making you to kick your brown legsme to kick my whitethat's the two of us

[End Page 88] The final poem, ending on the word futari ("twosome" or "couple"), ends on a number, a fitting way to end this ji-amari-filled collection titled X-Rated Couple (Futari etchi). Although the number two is not excessive, Hayashi seems justified closing with it here. In order to adapt an excessive sexy manga into tanka form, she needs more syllables than normally allotted to tanka poets. X-Rated Couple, as a tanka collection, is not about the lyrical feeling of one woman, Hayashi's poetic protagonist Yura. Rather, as Hayashi (1999, 111) writes in the afterword, her tanka adaption instead embodies the larger sense of two people growing—a couple "who have become one (hitotsu ni natta)," a phrase and idea that she borrowed from the manga.


Although Hayashi has receded from the tanka world since 2004 in order to dedicate her energies to Christianity and to the theater, her poetic experiments like X-Rated Couple still remind us what an extremely fecund period the 1990s were for tanka. Certainly, her work has been overshadowed by that of Tawara Machi, whose Salad Anniversary celebrated its thirtieth anniversary with a special 2017 "mook" (mukku, a publication more substantial than a magazine but in a larger format and with more images than usual for books), Kawade Dream Mook: Tawara Machi and the Greatest 31-Character Poems in History (Kawade yume mukku: Tawara Machi, shijō saikō no miso-hito moji, compiled by Takagi Reiko). Nevertheless, because of the extreme risks taken by Hayashi, her contemporaries, like Homura Hiroshi, continue to remember her important work. Homura includes more poems by Hayashi than by Tawara in his 2015 "notebook" survey of tanka, My Tanka Notebook (Boku no tanka nōto). For example, he praises Hayashi's famous "Yozakura O-Shichi" poem for its special "variations" that exemplify the "high tension" qualities in contemporary tanka (Homura 2015, 223). In other words, he reminds us of what made Hayashi a star in her own right: her excessive and sexy style that destabilized the genre. As for her most recent turn to tanka about Christianity (Hayashi 2004), Hayashi may have shifted her focus from sex to spirit, but I argue that her excessive desire for love has not changed.

On the other hand, in her commentary on Hayashi's later career collections X-Rated Couple and Bedside (Beddosaido, 2000), Matsumoto Yūko (2000, 234) contends that in the erotic poetry Hayashi wrote ten years after her debut, "one sees her having doubts about sex." Nonetheless, the very nature of Hayashi's X-Rated Couple, with each section depicting—like the manga—the stages of a couple's discovery of the different techniques and positions of sex, indicates that, even as late as 1999, Hayashi was exploring the new possibilities for a woman's voice through her discoveries of sexual pleasure. Certainly, X-Rated Couple is not a dark, despairing collection like Bedside arguably is, and [End Page 89] Matsumoto (2000, 236) is correct in detecting "a change, where one feels gentleness and warmth" in the collection. However, I challenge Matsumoto's claim that Hayashi's later poems lack the "eagerness" (kioi) of her earlier work.

As I have demonstrated in my examination of X-Rated Couple, Hayashi's poems with ji-amari—which usually are excessively long and sexually provocative—here are quite optimistic about sex. They in no way exhibit what Matsumoto (2000, 235) describes as a "nihilistic outlook toward sex (sei e no nihirizumu)," although the X-Rated Couple tanka are not as engrossed in biological or scatological details like her earlier MARS*ANGEL and Scent of Nanako poems. "There are no more stagey lines," Matsumoto (2000, 235) writes, "no more excessive showiness (kari na sōshoku), no more speaking in loud voices. Now the poems speak in soft whispers."

Rather being a complete reversal or retreat from her earlier works in terms of content and style, this 1999 collection seems to have more in common with her earlier works. In 2000, Hayashi (227) wrote about the ease and fun she felt while writing the X-Rated Couple tanka: "I felt that Yura-san, the heroine of Katsu Aki's manga, wrote herself for me." Yet if Hayashi were retreating from her image of being a "porno" poet by the late 1990s, X-Rated Couple proves that she had not fully abandoned her theme of the formation of female identity through sexual experience; more importantly, her voice had not been tamed, regulated, or limited by the demands of the 31-mora form.

Writing in 1998 about her Christian faith (Hayashi was baptized in 1978), she considered her art and her faith in her own terms: "I discovered tanka at the same time I discovered faith in God. God, whom I could not understand except through reason (rikutsu), has come over time for me to live in reality" (Hayashi 1998, 112). Earlier, Hayashi (1991, 19-20) had defended her dual beliefs in Christianity and practice of sexual poetic expression:

People often have the image that Christians neither drink nor smoke, that they are kind to others, but if those people were to read my tanka, they would be surprised . . . There are those kind of fine Christians out there, but it is a fact that there are also Christians like me who do not do everything right, who are not simple. Being morally correct is not the most important principle for Christians. I can proudly say that even a person like me is a Christian.

Whereas she had previously searched for personal identity through the sexual experiences of her poetic protagonists, she now does so through knowing Jesus Christ. The following poem from her eleven-poem sequence "Good Morning" (Ohayō), in which Hayashi imagines meeting her savior after his resurrection, demonstrates that though Hayashi has [End Page 90] clearly moved away from her earlier X-rated sexual style, she has not changed when it comes to excessive feeling and meter:

わたくしに、まずわたくしに会いに来てくださったのですか、 このわたくしに——。

Watakushi ni, / mazu watakushi ni / ai ni kite / kudasatta no desu ka,   kono watakushi ni

To comesee me, did youfirst comeall this wayfor someone like me ——?

In 33 morae (5/7/5/9/7), not 31, Hayashi makes her tanka simultaneously embody both her own humility and the prodigious generosity of Christ precisely in the fourth robust ji-amari measure (kudasatta no desu ka), which makes the whole poem swell with love—both given and received.

In sum, despite being scorned as a "porno poet" and not gaining as much critical attention as her contemporary Tawara Machi, Hayashi doggedly defied tanka decorum with her rule-breaking ji-amari. Even her robust poems about love, redemption, and Christianity reveal how tanka, as a short lyric form, can sustain complex, even contradictory, emotions. Through her experiments with both metrical form and hybrid poetic-illustrative publishing, she interjected her own values into tanka. During the course of her poetic career, Hayashi has created a diverse body of experimental tanka, blazed new territory for sexual and spiritual expression in the genre, and generated new possibilities for the tanka in terms of metrical limits, while being a "radical" in her violation of the rule of 31 beats. [End Page 91]

Jon Holt

Jon Holt is an associate professor of Japanese at Portland State University. His research interests include modern Japanese poetry, Japanese Buddhism, and manga. Recent publications include: "Literature Short on Time: Modern Moments in Haiku and Tanka" (in Routledge Handbook of Modern Japanese Literature, 2016), "In a Senchimentaru Mood: Japanese Sentimentalism in Modern Poetry and Art" (Japanese Language and Literature, 2014), and "Ticket to Salvation: Nichiren Buddhism in Miyazawa Kenji's 'Ginga tetsudō no yoru'" (Japanese Journal of Religious Studies, 2014). He has published translations of the poetry of Hayashi Amari (Asymptote web journal, 2015), Yamanokuchi Baku, and Mabuni Chōshin (Islands of Resistance: Japanese Literature from Okinawa, 2016).


The author thanks Leith Morton, Alisa Freedman, and peer review and support from USJWJ for their suggestions and feedback. All mistakes herein are solely mine. Kind permission to use images and texts were granted by Katsu Aki (Hakusensha) and Hayashi Amari (Hakusensha; Magajin Hausu; Nihon Kirisutokyōdan Office).

Works Cited

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______. 2005. Carnival: The World of Katsu-Aki. Tokyo: Graphic-sha.
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Okai Takashi, Michiura Motoko, Mita Munesuke, Saigusa Kazuko, and Saigusa Takayuki. 1999. "Kyōdō tōgi: hyōgen" (Group Discussion: Expression). In Tanka no sōzōryoku to shōchōsei (Symbolism and Imagination of the Tanka), edited by Okai Takashi, 157-227. Tokyo: Iwanami shoten.
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Takagi Reiko. 2017. Kawade yume mukku: Tawara Machi, shijō saikō no miso-hito moji (Kawade Dream Mook: Tawara Machi and the Greatest 31-Character Poems in History). Tokyo: Kawade shobo shinsha.
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______. 1988. Yotsuba no essei (Four-Leaf Essays). Tokyo: Kawade shobō shinsha.
______. 1993. Tanka o yomu (Reading/Composing Tanka). Tokyo: Iwanami shinsho.
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1. Hayashi and Tawara first met in June 1986, around the time Hayashi debuted with her MARS*ANGEL poems and a year before Tawara published Salad Anniversary. Tawara, who usually writes with equanimity, is quite visibly vitriolic about being cast in the same light as Hayashi (see "Hayashi Amari and Me" [Hayashi Amari to watashi] in Tawara 1988). She recalls the sense of confidence Hayashi had in her personal appearance, in her relationships with other tanka poets, and in her verse, all of which Tawara (1988, 43), somewhat enviously, lacked at this stage in her own career.

2. Although tanka have traditionally been written in a single line, contemporary poets have experimented with the layout of the verses. Hayashi uses a distinctive two-line form. Leza Lovitz, Miyuki Aoyama, and Akemi Tomioka, in their collection of contemporary Japanese women's verse, A Long Rainy Season, use a four-line form to render their translations of Hayashi's verse. In this article, I use a five-line form for my English translations so readers can sense how Hayashi parses the five measures (ku) of the tanka.

3. Edward Seidensticker (1983, 132) reminds us that viewing cherry blossoms at night was popular in the Edo Period (1600-1868) and one place to often do this was in Edo's red-light district, the Yoshiwara, where O-Shichi probably belongs: "It is not surprising, though it is sad, that so many famous places of early Meiji for the things of the seasons are missing from late-Meiji lists. Gone, for instance, are the night cherries of the Yoshiwara, popular in the dim light of early Meiji." It is not hard to imagine Hayashi associating both the Yoshiwara and its (former) night-time cherry blossoms viewings with her heroine O-Shichi: the tanka rensaku straddles multiple worlds of old Edo, of Meiji Tokyo, of their shared liminal locale of the city's demimonde quarter, and of Japan in the present day.

4. Because Scent of Nanako was originally published by Magazine House in an "accordion-style" format without page numbers, I use the reprint edition found in Kawade shobō's MARS*ANGEL for citation.

5. For translations from Hayashi's Scent of Nanako collection and her short Christian poem sequence "Good Morning" (Ohayō), see Hayashi 2015.

6. See Sarah Strong's prescient article (1991) on this pigeonholing term for female tanka poets.

7. This claim appears as a blurb on the initial page for Episode 509 of X-Rated Couple in the July 27, 2018 (30, no. 15) issue of Young Animal (Yangu animaru) (page 253).

8. Poems 5 ("Hiekitta" [Gone Completely Cold]) and 6 ("Sō subete" [Yes, All the Way]) show an initial indication that there might be a normal, controlled rhythm to these songs of sexual awakening, but Hayashi soon dispenses with such restraints. The only other section where regular 31-mora poems appear in a sequence is in the "Getting Wet" (Uruotte) section with poems 49 ("Yawarakaku" [Softly]), 50, and 51. By contrast, MARS*ANGEL, which is a longer collection, has nearly ten sections where Hayashi regularly sequences together at least two or three regular 31-mora poems.

9. Robert Brower and Earl Miner (1961, 275) note that a major shift in waka poetry occurred around the twelfth century when New Collection of Waka Poems from Ages Past and Present (Shinkokinshū) poets began to rely less on verbs than on nouns, which, if placed at the end of the poem, make the poem inconclusive: "In this age nouns achieve a new importance because of their imagistic role in description and their connotative richness in a traditional poetic language. Not only do verbs grow fewer in number, but they also tend to become less conspicuous. The copula is used more widely, and often a poem is reduced almost wholly to nouns with even the copula omitted. Only fifty-two poems in the Kokinshū [Collection of Waka Poems from Ages Past and Present, 905] terminate in nouns, whereas in the Shinkokinshū the number is 456."

10. See Konishi Jin'ichi's (1984, 254) discussion of this classical practice in anthologizing waka using alternating "ground" and "design" poems, especially beginning with the Shinkonkinshū collection. Tawara Machi (1993, 151) has written that in making a rensaku sequence, it is important to have "blank spaces" between similar tanka (isshu to isshu no aida ni kūhakububun) in order to stimulate reader imagination and discovery.

11. For another discussion of how tanka poets use ji-amari to express larger moods, see Holt 2018.

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