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Before winter’s rough seas make ferry crossings a gamble, I board a vessel at Shichirui Port in Shimane Prefecture, headed for Nakanoshima in the distant Oki Islands.

It’s not my first exploration of the islands, which offer some of the most spectacular scenery in Japan, but, this time, I’m seeking a deeper understanding of waka written by Japan’s 82nd emperor, Go-Toba (1180-1239).

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