A piece of the Hajiki pottery unearthed at the Saiku ruins in Meiwa, Mie Prefecture
Photo courtesy of the Saiku Historical Museum

The oldest known version of the hiragana Iroha Uta (a poem written in one of Japan’s two phonetic scripts) has been discovered on pieces of ancient Hajiki pottery in Meiwa, Mie Prefecture, Japan. An article in The Mainichi Daily News on Thursday, 19 January reports that –

The Saiku Historical Museum said Jan. 17 that pieces of old “Hajiki” pottery, excavated from the Saiku ruins in Meiwa, Mie Prefecture, and dating back to the late Heian Period (from the late 11th century through the early 12th century), bore handwritten hiragana characters from the Iroha poem on their surfaces. Saiku was the palace of the sacred Saio princesses who served at Ise Shrine.

“It’s valuable material showing that court culture, in which hiragana was taught using the Iroha poem, had already spread through the area,” said an official at the museum.

According to the museum, four pieces of dish-shaped Hajiki pottery were unearthed in a survey of the area between June and November 2010. The pottery pieces, measuring 6.7 centimeters by 4.3 centimeters when combined, bore part of the Iroha poem — “nu ru o wa ka” on the top and “tsu ne na ra” on the bottom. The hiragana characters were written in ink.

The pottery pieces will be on display at the Saiku Historical Museum from 21 January 2012 – 11 March 2012.

Full article here.