Twice a year, we get to take a test to level up. Last year, I jumped two levels in kana, which kind of made me jump up and down for joy. It’s pretty damned hard to get a level when you just submit every month. Which kind of makes me wonder why you can level up relatively easily when you take the tests. Ah well, I guess that’s neither here nor there. Fact is, it’s fun. You get a little freedom. And you maybe level up.
I’m starting with the second half of the test, just because. It’s a waka poem. The wa in waka means Japanese (it also means harmony, wouldn’t you guess). The ka part means song or poem. So, literally, it means Japanese poem. More commonly, it means poetry with 5 phrases of 5-7-5-7-7 syllables. You probably know about haiku, which is 3 phrases of 5-7-5 syllables. So it’s a long haiku (sort of, I assume none of your are Japan literature scholars, so let’s roll with it).
The poem is by Kino Tsurayuki and goes like this:
誰しかも とめて折りつる 春霞 立ち隠すらむ 山の桜を
dareshikamo tometeoritsuru harukasumi tachikakusuramu yamanosakurawo
which looks even cooler if you write it vertically like below:
My understanding and translation are probably pretty poor, but here goes
who is it that seeks the mountain cherry blossoms hidden in the spring mist
The “who is it that seeks” part is likely him just expressing wonder at how beautiful it is. Like saying, “who wouldn’t find this gorgeous.”
You get to write this pretty much any way you want to for the test. I chose the following composition, with the help of my sensei, who is a peach. Check it out.