Ono no Komachi

(c. 825—c. 900) / Japan)

Biography of Ono no Komachi

Ono no Komachi (c. 825—c. 900) was a famous Japanese waka poet, one of the Rokkasen—the Six best Waka poets of the early Heian period. She was noted as a rare beauty; Komachi is a symbol of a beautiful woman in Japan. She is also numbered as one of the Thirty-six Poetry Immortals.

Komachi sometimes features in later period literature, including five Noh plays: Sotoba Komachi, Sekidera Komachi, Komachi uta Arasoi, Komachi Sōshi and Kayo Komachi. These works tend to focus on her talent for waka and her love affairs and the vanity of a life spent indulging in romantic liaisons. Komachi's old age is also frequently portrayed: when she has lost her beauty, has been abandoned by her former lovers, and now regrets her life, wandering around as a lonely beggar woman — albeit still appreciated by young admirers of her poetry. This is a fictional description influenced by Buddhist thought and there may be no factual resemblance between this portrait and the historical reality.

In honor of her, the Akita Shinkansen is nicknamed Komachi. Also a variety of rice, Akita Komachi bears her name. One of her 31-syllable poems was chosen by Fujiwara no Teika as an entry in the very popular anthology Hyakunin Isshu.

Ono no Komachi is also the subject of a modern one-woman play, Call Me Komachi, produced by Lemon Tart Productions, written by Christie Nieman, directed by Miki Oikawa and starring Kaori Hamamoto. Call Me Komachi enjoyed successful seasons at various venues in Australia from 2003 to 2006. The play compares and parallels the lives of traditional Geisha with contemporary Japanese schoolgirls in "paid dating", known as enjo kōsai.

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Fisher folk

Fisher folk live
In villages; where
I know not, yet
Constant complaints to see the shore
Are all he seems to say.

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