A makura kotoba (literally meaning "pillow word") is a Japanese word used to describe both a relatively ancient form of poetry that was prevalent among Asian countries, particularly Japan, and a famous line or expression used in makura kotoba poetry. Writers of makura kotoba used these phrases exclusively to take up a 5-syllable line in a poem (Japanese poems almost always contained some 5 syllable and 7 syllable lines)... makura kotoba were almost used primarily when dealing with a special event or emotion. They reference other famous poems; authors would refer to the emotions of another writer when explaining their own thoughts and feelings on a subject.

This was done in many fashions: in Japanese Literature such as Journal of the Sixteenth-Night Moon, the author specifically mentions other authors, asserting that her feelings at present must be the same as the author had felt.
In other literature, such as The Confessions of Lady Nijo, the author uses some phrases nearly identical to those of the original poet. This was not an instance of plagiarism, but rather was considered a reference to the feelings of the other poet in comparison to the current writer.

The Manyoshu is reportedly one of the greatest sources of makura kotoba, but I have yet to read it. :)

Common makura kotoba: (Carter, Page 4-5)
"nights, black as leopard-flower seeds"
"Nara, where the earth is rich"
"Kara, the cape of wave-chatter like Cathay speech"
A great many more are listed at <http://www.shef.ac.uk/japan2001/makurakotoba.shtml>

Works Cited:

"2001 Waka - makura kotoba." Copyright Thomas McAuley. <http://www.shef.ac.uk/japan2001/makurakotoba.shtml?> Accessed 9/15/03

"'Aware' and Heian Poetics." Excerpted from William J. Puett, Guide to the Tale of Genji (Rutland, Vermont & Tokyo: Tuttle, 1983 <http://www.uwec.edu/beachea/teach/japanese_religion/puette2.htm> Accessed 9/14/03

Traditional Japanese Poetry - An Anthology. Translation and Introduction by Steven D. Carter. Stanford University Press, Stanford CA. Pages 1-15.

"Poetics toward Narratology." Jackson Jr, Earl. University of California, Santa Cruz. <http://www.anotherscene.com/jnarr/poetics.html> Accessed 9/14/03

Log in or register to write something here or to contact authors.