Fujiwara no Teika (1162-1241) is considered one of the greatest and most influential Japan
of the Kamakura era
He was born into a lower ranking Fujiwara clan, and his father, Fujiwara no Shunzei, was a major figure in courtly life and poetry writing. Shunzei edited many of the court pieces and trained many famous poets, including his son.
Teika showed promise very early in life and his father's position allowed him the opportunity to become a talented poet. However, his ascent through court positions was slow due to his relatively low status in the Fujiwara. Once his talent and poetic prowess were discovered though, prestige came quickly. His main supporter, the cloistered Emperor Gotoba, played a key role in Teika's success.
In his early years he was a stylistic innovator, and under the tutelage of his father, Teika made much progress. He was, however, well known as being arrogant and highly opinionated. His volatile personality brought him in direct conflict with emperor Gotoba.
He was besieged by Go-Kyogoku Yoshitsune to write poems for the Shin Kokinshu, a famous compilation. His father was an editor and compiler, and out of the thirty-four poems, many of Teika's were selected. After the publication of the Shin Kokinshu, he wrote a poem which broke his patronage from Gotoba.
In 1232 he became middle counselor and, like his father before him, edited and compiled poetry for Japan. His greatest compilation was the Hyakunin Isshu or One Hundred Poets, One Poem Each, which was completed in 1235 and was composed of 100 tanka. One of his own verses appears in it here.
Fujiwara no Teika typified the Middle Ages in Japan by becoming the most influential writer, critic, compiler, and editor of poetry and his influence was felt for centuries. His presence typified the Japanese commitment to the arts that was predominate during the medieval era.
His journal, the Meigutsuki, while it cannot be compared to such works of the Heian era as The Pillow Book, presents a window into court life of the Kamakura.