Yamabe no Akahito

Hear about Yamabe no Akahito on Episode 14B of our Podcast, the Japan Archives.

Yamabe no Akahito
Yamabe no Akahito by Utagawa Kuniyoshi.
  • Period: Nara Period
  • Occupation: Waka Poet, Courtier, Bureaucrat, Ason
  • Family: –
  • Birth: 1st half 8th century
  • Death: –

Yamabe no Akahito

Yamabe no Akahito (山部 赤人 / 山邊 赤人) lived during the first half of the 8th century. During his life he acted as a courtier as well as bureaucrat giving his service to the Emperor Shomu.1

Miller (1981) cites two Kanji in his name [朝臣], but does not elaborate upon them. However, these Kanji translate as Ason. This was a high level rank given to people under the Kabane System.3

He and Kasa Kanamura are ranked on the same level for their poetry.3

Not much else is really known about his life. We know he was ranked as one of the Four Great Poets of the Man’yōshū Period and was listed by Kinto as one of the the Thirty-Six Poetic Geniuses. All together he has 13 chōka poems and 37 tanka poems in the Man’yōshū, He also has a poem in the Ogura Hyakunin Isshu (No.4) which goes as follows:1

Japanese text2
Romanized Japanese1
English translation1
Tago no ura ni
uchiidete mireba
shirotae no
fuji no takane ni
yuki wa furitsutsu
Coming out on the Bay of Tago.
there before me,
Mount Fuji-
snow still falling on her peak,
a splendid cloak of white.


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. Miller, R. A.. (1981) “The Lost Poetic Sequence of the Priest Manzei”. Monumenta Nipponica. Vol.36 No.2 pp.133-172

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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