Fujiwara no Kinto (藤原公任)

FUJIWARA no Kinto (966 - February 4, 1041) was a court noble and poet of the mid-Heian period.
Acting Major Counselor, Senior Second Rank


His father FUJIWARA no Yoritada, his grandfather FUJIWARA no Saneyori and his great-grandfather FUJIWARA no Tadahira (also called Lord Teishin) served as chancellors and grand ministers of state, and his mother was Princess Genshi, the grandchild of Emperor Daigo. His wife was the daughter of Prince Akihira (and an adopted daughter of Chancellor FUJIWARA no Michikane). He was born of a family that was distinguished both politically and artistically, and had cousins such as Prince Tomohira, Minister of the Right FUJIWARA no Sanesuke and the calligrapher FUJIWARA no Sari (Sukemasa).

He showed a talent not only for waka poetry but also for poetry in Chinese as well as instrumental music; he was knowledgeable about court ceremonials, although his career ended at the post of Acting Major Counselor, Senior Second Rank, because he was pushed aside politically by FUJIWARA no Michinaga. In the episode of 'The Talent of Three Boats' where he made a show of his talents, one can see how he stood up to Michinaga in the field of art.

There is a private collection called "Dainagon Kinto Shu," "Kingyoku wakashu," an anthology of poems that he selected, and the treatises on waka poetry "Shinsen Zuino (The Essence of Poetry, Newly Selected)" and "Waka Kuhon (The Nine Levels of Poetic Excellence)"; he also edited "Wakan Roeishu" (Japanese and Chinese Poems to Sing) and the "Thirty-Six Poets' Collection," which served as the origin of the Thirty-Six Immortal Poets. Moreover, his "Hokusansho" on court ceremonials, which seems to have been written after he retired, is a valuable historical source that shows the details of ceremonies and regular annual events at court during the Regency period.

The Talent of Three Boats
An episode from "Okagami"
Once, at the Oigawa River, when Michinaga had set up boats of Chinese poetry, music and waka poetry, with the masters of each field aboard, and Kinto was asked which boat he would ride, he chose the boat of waka poetry and was praised for his composition, "As the wind blowing down Mt. Arashiyama is cold, there is no one who won't wear the fine dress of colored leaves." However, Kinto was regretful, thinking that if he had chosen the boat of Chinese poetry he would have won even more renown, reminiscing that when Michinaga told him to choose a boat he was full of pride at being thought a master of all three fields. It is also called "The Talent of Three Boats" (with a different character for 'boat').

Chakuda Kammon
In those days, the Imperial Police (kebiishi) conducted trials for the following three crimes: robbery, theft and private minting, and in November 996, in a police edict by Kinto, who was then the head of the Imperial Police, it was ordered for the first time that the length of penal servitude (zukei) should be clearly written in judgment documents (chakuda kammon). Before this, although the length of penal servitude was decided in proportion to the sum of the lost money, the actual term of imprisonment was never told to the criminals and it is said that they never knew what kind of punishment they had been sentenced to until they were released. Kinto pointed out this contradiction and reformed it. It is said that the legal scholar KOREMUNE no Tadasuke, who was serving as a clerk of the Left Gate Guards at that time, wrote an excellent chakuda kammon following Kinto's intention and thus furthered his reputation as a jurist.

Representative Poem

Although the sounds of the waterfall have long been silent, its name flows on, and can still be heard.

[Original Japanese]