いろは

The Iroha Poem

Learning Hiragana Using the Iroha Poem

The Iroha poem was written during the Heian period of Japanese history. (794 - 1179CE) The Heian period was a peaceful and prosperous era in Japan where great advances were made in culture, literature and the arts. The rule of good taste and beauty dictated many aspect of aristocratic life while the beliefs and teachings of Buddhism became more widespread and popular with the people.


Prior to the Heian period, Japanese was written almost exclusively through writing in traditional Chinese characters. During the Heian period, hiragana was created by female authors not as trained in classical Chinese in order to write works of literature.


The Iroha poem is also a pangram, or a grouping of words or sentences that encompass all of the characters in the writing system or letters of the alphabet.


When written, the Iroha poem contains all the modern hiragana characters in addition to the two characters that have phased out over time. This poem was used (and is still used today) to teach people how to write and remember the hiragana characters.

The Iroha Poem

Read the hiragana below that makes up the Iroha poem
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English translation

Although its scent still lingers on the form of a flower has scattered away

For whom will the glory of this world remain unchanged?

Arriving today at the yonder side of the deep mountains of evanescent existence

We shall never allow ourselves to drift away intoxicated, in the world of shallow dreams.

Let's look at the 3 Ps (products, products and perspectives) to analyze the Iroha poem.

Products

The Iroha poem contained all of the hiragana characters, while having a rhythm and underlying meaning that was well liked during Heian era Japan.


The creation and spread of the Iroha poem allowed people to learn a new poem, and also learn how to write in the hiragana writing system.

Practices

Poems were written during the Heian period to convey important information in a way that was artistic and beautiful.


The calligraphy used to write the poem was expected to be beautifully written. Hiragana style writing is more straightforward than writing complex Chinese characters, but still allowed for artistry and beauty in the text.

Perspectives

Hiragana was not as widely known in earlier parts of the Heian period. The popularity of the Iroha poem made hiragana more well known.


The meaning behind the Iroha poem is deeply rooted in Buddhism. Buddhism became more popular during the Heian period. Many works of art and literature were rooted in Buddhist themes. This helped the Iroha poem become more popular and well known during the time.

Hiragana Writing Assignment

For this week's hiragana writing assignment, practice writing the Iroha poem 3 times each. You may submit your writing via a scan or by taking a photo of the paper you wrote the poems on and uploading it to the course website.

Culture Discussion

In this week's culture discussion you will answer the following questions:


1. How did the Iroha poem impact writing in Japanese during the Heian period?

2. What elements of the poem made it popular during Heian era Japan?

3. Did you ever use poems, songs or mnemonic devices to help you learn anything new? If so, when and how did you use them? If not, why not?

4. (Bonus point) Can you think of any pangrams in English or other languages that show all of the characters in the language's writing system?


Remember to leave a comment for at least 2 of your fellow classmates' posts.

How you will be evaluated:

Writing Assignment Rubric:

Post a total of 3 separate writing of the Iroha poem using hiragana. For each set (worth 10 points each)

Characters are written correctly using correct style and evidence of correct stroke order is present (5 points)

Characters are legible and neatly written (5 points)


Maximum Score: 30 points



Culture Discussion Rubric:


Identify two ways in which the Iroha poem impacted writing in Japanese during the Heian Period (2 points)

Identify two elements of the poem that made it popular during the Heian period (2 points)

Share with the class your experience whether or not you have used poems, songs or mnemonics to help you learn something new (2 points)

(Bonus) Share a pangram in your post. (1 Bonus Point)

Leave 2 comments on other's posts (2 points x 2 comments = 4 points)


Maximum Score: 7 points