Koshikibu no Naishi (小式部内侍)

Koshikibu no Naishi (ca. 999-November, 1025) was a female poet who lived during the Heian period. She was Naishi no jo (a woman officer who carried the Emperor's sword when he went out). Her father was TACHIBANA no Michisada, and her mother was Izumi Shikibu. Together with her mother, Izumi Shikibu, she served FUJIWARA no Shoshi, the second consort of the Emperor Ichijo. Therefore she came to be called 'Koshikibu' (literally little Shikibu) in order to be distinguished from her mother Shikibu.


Just like her mother, she was known as a female poet who fell in love with many noble men such as FUJIWARA no Norimichi, FUJIWARA no Sadayori, and FUJIWARA no Norinaga. She bore Norimichi Joen, and had a daughter between her and Norinaga. In 1025, when she gave birth to the child of FUJIWARA no Kinnari (Yorishinobu Ajari, a master in esoteric Buddhism), she passed away in her twenties, and people around her mourned for her. The poem composed by her mother, Izumi Shikibu, upon her death is a well known masterpiece of elegy.

Anecdotes concerning Koshikibu no Naishi were collected in many collections of anecdotes such as; "Jikkinsho" (A Miscellany of Ten Maxims) and "Kokon Chomon ju" (A collection of Tales Heard, Past and Present).
Most of the anecdotes are related to the love between her and Norimichi, or the following poem of 'Mt. Oe.'
"Mumyozoshi" (critique of tales) also contains descriptions about her, and she was praised as an ideal woman in the book.

Poems composed by Koshikibu no Naishi

This poem was also collected in "Kinyo Wakashu" (Kinyo Collection of Japanese Poems), but the word order of this poem ('fumi mo mada mizu') is different from the one collected in Hyakunin Isshu (one hundred waka poems by one hundred poets).

This poem means that 'it takes many days to cross Mt. Oe and go to Ikuno (a place-name in Tango), so I have never been to Amano Hashidate, where my mother lives, and I have not received a letter from her yet, either.'
When she was to present a poem, Shijo Chunagon (vice-councilor of state - FUJIWARA no Sadayori) asked her maliciously 'if she had already sent a messenger to her mother in Tango (Izumi Shikibu lived in Tango, where her husband was working) in order to ask her to compose a poem instead, and if the messenger had already come back yet,' so it is said that she composed a poem on the spot.

In those days, there was a rumor that the poems by Koshikibu no Naishi were in fact composed by her mother, so Shijo Chunagon made fun of Koshikibu no Naishi, but she replied to him with an excellent poem. On the contrary, Shijo Chunagon, who was so upset that he left without making a reply poem, disgraced himself in public, because it was against etiquette or custom in those days not to make a reply poem for the person who first composed a poem.

Her witty reply poem using plays on words such as 'ikuno' (literally a field to go, and Ikuno, the place-name) and 'fumi' (literally a letter, and to step) was set at a high value, and since then she had gained in her reputation as a poet. Fumi' is also Engo (associated word) with 'hashi' (a bridge) and 'michi' (a path).

[Original Japanese]