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 Kobo Daishi, as well as to Japanese language, culture, and religion. There are a number of different translations in English but much of the poem is lost in translation.
Knowledge of “iroha” has changed dramatically over time. There has even been the discovery of a hidden message within the poem that was lost for almost 1000 years. New artistic, linguistic, and religious perspectives also lead to new interpretations of the poem.
Few people can read “iroha” in the original Man’yōgana writing style and this is significant. The poem also had a much wider potential audience due to more recent translations and scholarship available online.