What is a mondo?
consists of two parts: a question part and an answer part, each
of which is a Katauta of 5-7-7 onji (syllables), making
the total poem length 38 onji, structured 5-7-7-5-7-7 onji per
line. A distinct rhythm break occurs in the middle of this
structure where the question and answer join; however, it is
common for rhythm changes to occur at the end of the 12th onji
of the first (question) part of the poem, and occasionally at
the end of the 31st as well.
Katauta was a specific form of Japanese poetry of 3 lines of 19
onji in length that was written in three lines of 5-7-7 onji
(approximately one breath length) each with a specific rhythm
and in the form of either a question or an answer. Once thought
to represent primitive songs, the Katauta is now believed to
have been a means of conveying a question and an answer between
The unique part of the Katauta is that "it is a poem consisting
19 onji/syllables in 3 lines; one short (5 onji/syllables), one
long (7 onji/syllables) and a third line equal in length to the
second, used primarily as a prop to 'help harmonize the
rhythm'." This has been described by recorders in the ancient
books, and by researchers studying Japanese poetry, as the
'basic unit of poetry'. Other characteristics found within the
Katauta are the use of ellipsis, condensation of thought or
image, spontaneity or intuitive intonations and/or a nakedness
of treatment in general.
These Katauta are believed to have developed as part of spring
festivals similar to the fertility rites and planting/harvesting
rituals of other primitive societies and cultures. However,
while Katauta by themselves may be interesting, when placed
together with an answer following a question, they become even
more interesting poetically.