Ōtomo no Yakamochi
- Period: Nara Period
- Occupation: Waka Poet, Minister of Military Affairs, Governor of Etchū Province
- Family: Ōtomo no Tabito (father) Sakanoue no Iratsume (aunt) Ōiratsume (cousin and wife)
- Birth: 718?
- Death: 785
Ōtomo no Yakamochi
When his father died, Yakamochi found himself in the care of his aunt (who was also a poet). He is known to have exchange many love poems to women at court, including his cousin who he eventually married. When he reached the age of thirty he was made the Governor of Etchū Province and whilst there he is known to have spent many days on excursions so he could write poetry. Many of these can be found in books 17 and 19 of the Man’yōshū. It is said the poems from book 19 are his greatest, on the subject of nature. His poetry used both traditional and old fashioned forms and language.
After Etchū he retured to the capital in Nara and there served as Minister of Military Affairs and during this time he collected poems written by drafted frontier guards. We are not sure if he continued with poetry after this as known are known. It may be that they did not survive.4
Due to his prowess in poetry he is thought as one of the four best poets of the Man’yōshū Period and he has the largest number of poems of any poet within the Man’yōshū. In total this amounts to 479. 46 choka, 431 tanka and 1 in kanshi (Chinese).
There are some who believed he compiled the last four parts of the Man’yōshū as it reads almost like a poetic diary.1 Other sources cite Yakamochi as taking a leading role in the compilation of the Man’yōshū, not only providing his poems, but also giving access from the Otomo Families collections of earlier poetic compilations as well as related documents and textual sources.5
|Japanese text2||Romanized Japanese1||English translation1|
Wataseru hashi ni
Oku shimo no
Shiroki o mireba
Yo zo fukenikeru
|How the night deepens.|
A ribbon of the whitest frost
Is stretched across
The bridge of magpie wings
The lovers will cross.
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. Louis Frederic, translated by Kathe Roth (2002) “Japan Encyclopedia”. London: Harvard University Press.
4. Kodansha. (1993) ”Japan: An Illustrated Encyclopedia”. Tokyo: Kodansha Ltd.
5. Miller, R. A.. (1981) “The Lost Poetic Sequence of the Priest Manzei”. Monumenta Nipponica. Vol.36 No.2 pp.133-172
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