Fujiwara no Sanekata

Hear about Fujiwara no Sanetaka on Episode 13 of our Podcast, the Japan Archives.

Fujiwara no Sanekata
Fujiwara no Sanetaka.


Fujiwara no Sanekata

Fujiwara no Sanekata (藤原 実方) was a member of the Fujiwara Clan, more specifically the Hokke Branch of this clan. He was the great-grandson of the poet Fujiwara no Tadahira. He was a renowned poet during his lifetime with 68 of his poems appearing in imperial waka anthologies. In addition he had a private collection of poetry and during his life he served as the Commander of the Imperial Guard. There are those who cite him as the lover of Sei Shonagon.

In 995AD it is said that he was appointed as the Governor of Mutsu Province. However, there are other documents which give a different story. One such document is the Kojidan (Reminiscing on Old Times, 1215-15) where it says that Emperor Ichijo exiled him to this province after he argued with Fujiwara no Yukinari.

It is said in that document that the Emperor said ‘go and visit some poetic locations,’ before exiling him.1

Other tales relates that he then turning into a form of Yōkai known as the Nyūnai-Suzume (入内雀 Palace Sparrows), such was his anger and longing to return home.

Nyunai Suzume in the Konjaku Gazu Zoku Hyakki.
Nyunai Suzume in the Konjaku Gazu Zoku Hyakki.

As a flock of sparrows, he is said to have ravaged the kitchens of the Imperial Palace. This creature is depicted in the Konjaku Gazu Zoku Hyakki.3

He died in Mutsu Province in 998AD.1

One of his poems is included in the Ogura Hyakunin Isshu, his is the 51st in the sequence and reads:

Japanese text2
Romanized Japanese1
English translation1
Kaku to dani
e ya wa ibuki no
sa shimo shiraji na
moyuru omoi wo
Because my feelings
are too great to put into words,
my heart blazes like the moxa of Mount Ibuki,
with a love you cannot know.


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: over Publications, Inc.

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