A Writer's Handbook



What is a sedoka?

John Daleiden

Sedoka is a Japanese verse form written by a single author. The classical sedoka is found in Manyoshu: Collection of 10,000 Leaves. This collection of poems was compiled late in the 8th century; it contains only 60 examples of sedoka among the more than 4,000 poems written by members of the Imperial family, court ladies and nobles, frontier guards (sakimon), etc. The available English translation is called The Ten Thousand Leaves.

Sedoka is a 6 line poem containing two units called katauta. A sedoka has 5-7-7-5-7-7 onji; each katauta contains a turn, or change of direction. The turn at the end of line 3 is sharp, and the turn at the end of line 5 is gentle. Generally, the two halves of the poem focus on variations of the same subject but offer different perspectives. Sedoka are often composed as folk ballads. They can be mood poems, similar to tanka, or they can tell stories in the manner of a song.  The sedoka is written by a single author, unlike the mondo which is written by two authors.




top of page