Kakinomoto no Hitomaro
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Kakinomoto no Hitomaro (柿本 人麻呂; c. 662 - 710) was a Japanese poet and aristocrat of the Nara period. He was the most prominent of the poets included in the Man'yōshū, and was particularly represented in volumes 1 and 2.
Works and fame
Hitomaro was famed for his long poems, such as "In the sea of ivy clothed Iwami", "The Bay of Tsunu", and "I loved her like the leaves" (a very dramatic poemTemplate:Fact). 19 of his chōka (or nagauta, "long poems") were included in the Man'yōshū and 75 or so tanka (or mijikauta, "short poems") were likewise selected. Many of his poems were written on the topics of public occasions; such as his "Lament for Prince Takechi", written as part of the mourning ceremonies for Takechi. Other poems were written on occasions in his life when he was particularly moved: parting from his wife, mourning for his wife, or on seeing a corpse.
In the prefatory essay to the Kokin Wakashū compilation of poetry, Ki no Tsurayuki called him Uta no Hijiri - a divine poet equal to the Yamato-era poet Yamabe no Akahito, a high regard echoed by later poets such as Fujiwara no Teika. Ikeda Munemasa wrote "Portrait of Hitomaro and His Waka Poem". The modern waka poets like Masaoka Shiki and Saito Mokichi considered him one of greatest poets in the history of Japanese literature.
In the Heian period, some anonymous waka in the Man'yōshū was attributed to Hitomaro. These include the waka attributed to Hitomaro in Fujiwara no Teika's compilation of the Hyakunin Isshu. The high regard for Hitomaro can also be gauged by his usual inclusion as one of the Thirty-six Poetry Immortals.
Details of his life are few and uncertain despite his prominence as a poet. His name doesn't appear in chronicles like the Nihon Shoki nor in Shoku Nihongi ("History of Japan" II). All biographical data about him comes from Man'yōshū. His earliest waka with a fixed date was made in 680 under the reign of the Emperor Tenji. He served the Empress Jitō and her successor Emperor Mommu. He wrote waka on occasion for emperors. When he was around 50 years old, he was appointed to a certain provincial office in Iwami Province - today the western part of Shimane Prefecture - and died there. In 700 he made a waka mourning Princess Asuka. It was the last waka with a fixed date and some supposed Hitomaro died a few years after this. In 708, Zokunihongi reports that a certain "Kakinomoto no Saru" (another member of the Kakinomoto clan) died; the Japanese thinker Umehara Takeshi has suggested that this Saru (柿本佐留) and Hitomaro were actually the same person (Saru is same as 猿, monkey at sound and it is supposed as an official blame to him).
The Kakinomoto clan into which Hitomaro was born was an aristocratic court clan of middling prestige and rank. In the clan, he was referred to as Ason, signifying that he held the third highest title of eight. In earlier years, the clan served the court mainly with holding religious ceremony with singing and reciting poems. It had a deep relation to the Sarume clan whose legendary founder was Ama-no-Uzume, the dancer goddess. It can be supposed Hitomaro grew up in an artistic atmosphere.
-  The 2001 Waka for Japan 2001 collection contains a large selection of translations of Hitomaro's poetry, mostly from the Man'yōshū
- Kenneth Rexroth's One Hundred Poems from the Japanese (New Directions, 1955, ISBN 0-8112-0181-3) contains several of Hitomaro's waka, as well as notable translations of 3 naga uta ("In the sea of ivy clothed Iwami", "The Bay of Tsyunu", and "When she was still alive")