https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/a/ae/Portrait_of_Kobo_Daishi_%28Kukai%29%2C_14th_century_Art_Institute_of_Chicago.jpg

Iroha is a Japanese poem that is roughly 1000 years old. It was originally written in an older writing system (Man’yōgana) that many Japanese people now cannot read. The poem has deep and complex links to Japanese language, culture, and religion. There are a number of different translations in English but much of the poem is lost in translation.

The original “producer” of this poem (i.e. the writer) is unclear; some credit it to Kukai and others believe his disciples may have written it.

“Users” reading it in the original Man’yōgana, in modern Japanese, or in another language will not quite gain exactly the same knowledge from it.

Since many of the ideas in the poem cannot be carried over in translation there are definitely issues with “accuracy.” The meanings and connotations in kanji often do not translate well into English, for example.

One (hotly debated) artistic perspective is that the experience of the reader is as important as whatever the author(s) originally intended. From this view the “accuracy” of an interpretation is not that important.


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