Ariwara no Narihira

Ariwara no Narihira
Ariwara no Narihira by Kanō Tan’yū.

Ariwara no Narihira

Ariwara no Narihira (在原 業平) was a renowed poet and painter from the early Heian Period living from 825 to 880.4

Many stories have grown up around him saying that he was an rather legendary lover, the Tales of Ise account many tales both historical and ficitional about him.1 Some also credit him as the author of the Tales of Ise45 and in addition his poems used in this book were used as a manual for the study of poetry.5

His ancestry can trace back to the Imperial family, as a son of Prince Abo, he was the grandson of Emperor Heizei on his father side, and of Kanmu on his mothers.1 He was father of Ariwara no Munehari and brother of Ariwara no Yukihira.4

He is listed as one of the Six Poetic Geniuses as well as one of the Thirty-Six Poetic Geniuses and 87 of his poems can be found in the Imperial Anthologies.15 These include the Gosenshū, Kokinshū, Shuishū and Shinkokinshū.4

He also has a personal collection of poetry known as the Narihirashū.5

We can find a criticism of him in the preface of the Kokinshū written by Ki no Tsurayuki which states:

    • His feelings are too strong; his words, insufficient. His poetry is, so to speak, a faded flower in which a fragrance lingers.5

One of his poems (No.17) can be found in the Ogura Hyakunin Isshu and goes as follows:1

Japanese text2
Romanized Japanese1
English translation1
kamiyo mo kikazu
karakurenai ni
mizu kukuru to wa
Such beauty unheard of
Even in the age of the raging gods-
The Tatsuta River
Tie-dyeing its waters
In autumnal colours.

Another of his poems talks of a now lost temple, and serves as one of the few references we have of the Temple of Nodera, a temple with connections to the Yōkai known as the Noderabō.3


1. MacMillan, P. (2018) ”One Hundred Poets, One Poem Each: A Treasury of Classical Japanese Verse”. St. Ives: Penguin Classics.
2. Suzuki, H. et al. (1997) ”Genshoku: Ogura Hyakunin Isshu”. Tokyo: Bun’eidō.
3. Yoda, H. and Alt, M. (2016) “Japandemonium: Illustrated: The Yokai Encyclopaedia of Toriyama Sekien.”. New York: Dover Publications, Inc.
4. Louis Frederic, translated by Kathe Roth (2002) “Japan Encyclopedia”. London: Harvard University Press.
5. Kodansha. (1993) ”Japan: An Illustrated Encyclopedia”. Tokyo: Kodansha Ltd.

Six Poetic Geniuses
Otomo Kuronushi * Priest Kisen * Ono no Komachi * Archbishop Henjo * Ariwara no Narihira * Fun'ya no Yasuhide

Thirty Six Poetic Geniuses
Lady Ise * Yamabe no Akahito * Ariwara no Narihira * Ki no Tomonori * Sarumaru Taifu * Ono no Komachi * Fujiwara no Kanesuke * Fujiwara no Atsutada * Fujiwara no Toshiyuki * Minamoto no Muneyuki * Minamoto no Shitagō * Kiyohara no Motosuke * Sakanoue no Korenori * Ōnakatomi no Yoshinobu * Fujiwara no Okikaze * Fujiwara no Asatada

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