Ausaka often being pronounced as Ōsaka is a meisho, a famous site that appears in many waka poems in Japan. However, this famous site is not the city of Ōsaka. Instead, it is a border barrier between Yamashiro and the old capital Heiankyo. In the Heian and Edo periods, barriers were commonly seen in between cities on highways for the purpose of governing the changing amount of people. To pass through, travelers were often required to provide travel documentation. The function of these barriers also includes bringing profits to the Imperial court or for the shogunate through the collecting of tolls. The exact location of Ōsaka Barrier today is unknown, but it is in the modern day Ōtsu City, in Mie prefecture.

The Ōsaka Barrier is one of the most famous barriers out of many barriers in the Edo period. It was the outermost boundary of the capital area, passengers usually went on their journeys from here and returned to the capital at this barrier. The Ōsaka Barrier is associated with different literary works, especially in poems.  It is a pillow word that has a hidden meaning of “meeting hill” used by many poets in poems.  The origin of the name, meeting hill, remains mysterious. According to The Legend of Semimaru, Blind Musician of Japan by Susan Matisoff. The mountain god lovers used to meet at Ausaka Barrier on the slope of the meeting. Furthermore, men also tended to meet Gods at Ausaka Barrier by practicing praying rituals to bring good luck to travelers. People depart and meet again at Ausaka.

Monument at the site of the ancient Osaka Barrier

Ausaka appears in a poem for the first time by poet, Semimaru:


Kore ya kono                          This, now this!
Yuku mo kaeru mo               Where people come and people go
Wakaretsutsu                        Exchanging farewells
Shiru mo shiranu mo            For friends and strangers alike
Ausaka no seki                       This is Meeting Barrier.

Semimaru was a famous poet who lived around the Ōsaka Barrier, and he composed this poem when he saw passengers passing through the Ōsaka Barrier.

Another example is in the Diary of the Sixteenth Night by Izayoi Nikki, when Nun Abutsu left her family and went on her long journey to Kamakura. The hardship of travelling and the homesickness weakened her mind. She created the following poem when she passed by Ōsaka Barrier.

Sadamenaki                          As life itself
inochi wa shiranu               is uncertain,
tabi naredo                           what lies ahead on this journey is unknown
mata Ôsaka to                     I depart, trusting
tanomete zo yuku              that we will meet again at Ōsaka, Meeting Hill


Works Cited

Carter, Steven D. Traditional Japanese Poetry: An Anthology. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1991. (P,480)

“The Ausaka Barrier – Semimaru (Walking Waka Tracks).” Japan Navigator:. Accessed March 06, 2016.

Vaporis, Constantine Nomikos. Voices of Early Modern Japan: Contemporary Accounts of Daily Life during the Age of the Shoguns. Santa Barbara, CA: Greenwood, 2012. (P,166)

“Sekisho.” – SamuraiWiki. Accessed March 06, 2016.

Matisoff, Susan. The Legend of Semimaru, Blind Musician of Japan. New York: Columbia University Press, 1978. (P,10)


Image Sources


Contributor: Cherry Yan
(Edited by Elle Marsh)