Oto ni nomi kiku
is the name of a rather neat poem I found in my classical Japanese
textbook. It's from the Kokin Wakashu
collection of wakas.
The prime reason for its coolness is its very neat use of kakekotoba, or ambiguity in order to change the meaning of the sentence, and occasionaly, the whole poem. You can also use it to construct strange sentences (with artistic license of course). They are written without kanji to preserve the ambiguity of meaning.
Oto ni nomi, kiku no shiratsuyu, yoru wa okite, hiru wa omohi ni aezu kenubeshi
(the commas are mine)
The word kiku can be read both as the verb "to hear" or the "chrysanthemum", the flower. Oto ni nomi kiku means "I hear of you only in what other people say", but kiku no shiratsuyu, means "white dew on the chrysanthemum".
The next kakekotoba is in okite, which can be read as "getting/staying up (from bed)", or as "settling down". So yoru wa okite can mean staying up at night, but shiratsuyu yoru wa okite means "the white dew settles in at night".
Finally, the hi, in omohi can be read as "i" due to differences in Classical Japanese orthography, and thus can be read as part of "omoi": feelings, or "hi", meaning sun. The last line can read: "In the daytime, my longing is unbearable and I must surely die", or "In the daytime (the white dew) will surely disappear because of the sun".
Hard to read but interesting double meanings, no?
Of you, from other people only, I hear
(Chrysanthemum's white dew,
settling in at night)
I stay up all night, and in the day, my longing becomes
(and in the day, from the sun
unbearable, and I must surely die