Ono no Komachi (834?-900?) was a celebrated female poet in the early part of Japan's Heian Period (794-1085). Remembered as one of the Rokkasen - the six greatest poets of the early Heian - and as one of the Sanjūrokkasen - the Thirty-six Poetry Immortals of Japan's classical age, Komachi remains one of the most famous and beloved poets in all of Japanese history. She was also a legendary beauty, and to this day her name, komachi, is used as a slang term for a beautiful woman.
Komachi was one of the few women to have her poetry collected in the famous early 10th century Imperial poetry collection, the Kokin Wakashū, but almost nothing at all is known about her life, although numerous contradictory legends and stories have been told in the ensuing centuries. According to the most popular tradition, she was born in what is now Akita prefecture, the daughter of the lord of Dewa province. Textual and circumstantial evidence also suggests that she became a minor courtier in the Imperial Court in Kyoto.
Komachi's poetry can be subtly but powerfully erotic at times, and is primarily about passionate love and desperate longing for unnamed lovers. She seems to have survived to quite an old age, and some of her later poems are meditations on the aging process, for example "The gone, growing in number." Even today, and even in translation, these simple, heartfelt poems from centuries ago can still tug powerfully at one's heartstrings.
Komachi was a legend in her own time and her legacy lives on today. She is a popular character in historical anime films, and was one of the 100 poets selected for inclusion in Fujiwara no Teika's Hyakunin Isshu anthology, which became the basis for a card game, uta-garuta, still popular in Japan today. Because of her traditional association with Akita, the Akita Shinkansen is named "Komachi" in her honor, as is a strain of rice from Akita called "Akita Komachi."
Poems by Ono no Komachi noded on E2 include: