Satirical Shibamata Senryuu

The elections are again upon us here in Japan, and the satirists are hard at work writing Senryuu (川柳) poems about the subject. Senryuu are like Haiku in that they have the well-known 5-7-5 sound structure, but they differ in that they are not so much about mother nature as about human nature.

You can see some Senryuu from my post about the annual Salary-man Senryuu competition held by Dai-ichi Life Insurance, about the trials of the typical salaried worker (meaning, most of Japan’s population). This time, the buzz is about the upcoming House of Representatives election, and there are several humorous Senyruu decorating the Shibamata Taishakuten (柴又帝釈天) Temple in Katsushika Ward, Tokyo. These will remain on display until around early September.

Let’s take a look at some of the Shibamata Senryuu, with my translations:

手袋の

Tebukuro no

白さに隠す

Shirosa ni kakusu

腹の中

Hara no naka


White gloves

Seem to be hiding

Your real intentions [1]

大風呂敷

Oo furoshiki

にまどわされて

ni madowasarete

票を入れ

hyo wo ire


Stunned by your

Impressive large furoshiki

I vote for you [2]

バラの花

Bara no hana

咲くと公約

Saku to kouyaku

枯れてくる

Karetekuru


As the roses bloom

Your campaign promises

Wilt away [3]

字が読めず

Ji ga yomezu

末は首相と

Otto wa souri to

おだてられ

Odaterare


Can’t read the kanji!

With the Prime Minister

My husband freaks [4]

マンガ好き

Manga zuki

末は首相と

Otto wa souri to

息子言う

Musuko iu


The manga freak

My husband, gripes about

The PM and our son [5]

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[1] The phrase “hara no naka” is a common Japanese use of the hara or “gut”, or “inside your gut”, your dirty intentions.

[2] Oo furoshiki means “big talk”.

[3] They put out roses when counting votes. This implies as soon as the roses are in bloom, or the votes are being counted, politicians’ promises die away.

[4] PM Aso is infamous for making mistakes in reading kanji, which are not really so hard to read either (even I could read some of them.) The PM’s and the husband’s “freaking” here is for opposite reasons and the original “odateru” is more like “to become agitated”.

[5] PM Aso is a big manga-lover. The writer’s husband loves manga, but does not hesitate to criticize his son or the PM.

There is considerable humor in Japanese life, so it would be shortsighted to think Japan does not enjoy it. Enjoy!