Ono no Komachi (小野小町)

ONO no Komachi (circa 809 - circa 901) was a female poet in around the first half of the Heian period, in the ninth century.
ISN'T IT "great" poets?

She is said to have been a daughter of ONO no Yoshizane (son of ONO no Takamura), Dewa no Gunji. She seems to have been a koi (a court lady) of Emperor Nimmyo. It is also said that she was in service during or around the reign of Emperor Montoku. The character 'Machi (町)' is used for the name of the women who served Kokyu (the inner palace). She was also well known for her beauty, and there are many anecdotes such as Nanakomachi, which are often used as the subject matter of Noh and Joruri (dramatic ballad).
The works that deal with ONO no Komachi are generically called 'Komachimono.'

Her poems reflect passionate amorous feelings, and they are elegant, sensitively beautiful, tender and ornate. In the preface of 'Kokinwakashu (Collection of Ancient and Modern Poetry),' KI no Tsurayuki praised her poems for their purity, which reminded him of the period of 'Manyoshu (Collection of Ten Thousand Leaves)' and delicate dynastic romanticism. There were some zotoka (poetry exchanged between a man and a woman) exchanged with FUNYA no Yasuhide and Sojo-Henjo.

The following poem also suggests that she was a beautiful woman.

There are many different conjectures about her birthplace, but the present Ono, Yuzawa City, Akita Prefecture (Ono, Old Ogachi-machi, Ogachi-gun, Akita Prefecture) is considered to be most likely, and a local tradition says that she also spent her later years in the same area (however, one tradition holds that says she was born in Echizen City, Fukui Prefecture). The names 'Akitakomachi,' a kind of rice, and 'Komachi (Train),' a nickname for the Akita Shinkansen bullet train, are derived from her name. The city has a building of 'Komachido,' which was named after ONO no Komachi and has become a tourist spot. Old Ogachi-machi holds 'Komachi Festival' annually on the second Sunday of June as part of the Machiokoshi (to activate the economy and culture of a district).

However, there is no evidence that ONO no Komachi was born in Ono, Yuzawa City, Akita Prefecture. There are many different local traditions throughout Japan that say this is the place where ONO no Komachi was born, like Onomachi, Fukushima Prefecture, and Oaza Ono, Nihari Town, Nihari-gun, Ibaraki Prefecture. A tradition handed down in the Tohoku region is perhaps based on the description of 'a daughter of Dewa no Kuni Gunji' in the catalogue of poets in "Kokinwakashu," but it is also considered that somebody set her birthplace as far away as possible Japan in order to enhance the mystique of ONO no Komachi; therefore, it is difficult to validate such a description.

Ono, in Kyoto City's Yamashina Ward, is said to be a place where the ONO clan flourished, and there is conjecture that Komachi spent her later years in this area. Historic relics such as the Statue of Sotoba Komachi and Fumizuka (mound to commemoration of drafts) remain in Zuishinin, here in this city. The poem mentioned above, 'The flowers lost their colors …,' is considered to reflect her lamentation of aging, like the fading of flowers.

There is a centuries-old portrait of ONO no Komachi in the Gesshin-ji Temple, at Otani, Otsu City, Shiga Prefecture. Additionally, Komachi Dera (Fudaraku-ji Temple) has a portrait of a decrepit ONO no Komachi and the Commemoration Tower of Komachi.

There is a grave of ONO no Komachi in Onodera, Iwafune-machi, Shimotuga-gun, Tochigi Prefecture.

Komachi's Poetry Book

Works having to do with ONO no Komachi

Komachimono' in Noh contains 'Soshiarai Komachi, 'Kayoi Komachi,' ' Omukomachi,' 'Sekidera Komachi,' 'Sotoba Komachi,' and so on. These are classified into the following three groups: the one which praises ONO no Komachi for her excellent waka poem; the one which deals with FUKAKUSA no SHOSHO's come-and-go in a hundred nights; the one which deals with ONO no Komachi who has become a beggar in her later years. The last group was widely spread in the medieval society as 'Decrepit and Go-down Story,' which had been gradually formed by Noh writers.


Another name for the Kusoshi Emaki (picture roll of poetry that describes the nine steps of backing a dead body into the ground) is 'ONO no Komachi's Kusozu (a painting that describes the nine steps of backing Komachi's dead body into the ground),' which was made during the Kamakura period and depicts the dead body of a once-beautiful woman, exposed to the rain and wind, eaten away by animals and infested with maggots, being rotten and weathered.
Another likely model of the picture is Empress Danrin, and both of them are considered to have composed the poem, 'When I die, please don't burn or bury me. Leave me in the field to ease the hunger of starving dogs.'

Sewing equipment
It is popularly believed that the name of 'Machibari (marking pin)' for sewing came from ONO no Komachi.
It is based on the tradition that ONO no Komachi was rumored not to have a 'hole (vagina)' because she didn't give her heart to the men who made approaches to her, so a pin without a hole is called 'Komachibari.'

Evening Party' Vol. 5 (1993) (a play by Miyuki NAKAJIMA)
The title was 'The flowers lost their colors, while I set myself in this life and became lost in thought as time went by in vain; during spring the rain continually fell down.'
Miyuki NAKAJIMA appeared in the poster wearing a 12-layer ceremonial kimono, pretending to be ONO no Komachi and showing her back. The story borrowed motifs from a tradition of ONO no Komachi and an asaji ga yado (a squalid house covered with cogon) in "Ugetsu Monogatari (Tales of Moonlight and Rain)," written by Akinari UEDA.

The musical "Onono Komachi" was presented by Warabi-za in 2007, written by Makiko UCHIDATE and starring Chiyo TSUBAKI.

It depicts Komachi as a strong woman who was not just beautiful but lived according to her own terms, being based on her poem, 'When I die, please don't burn or bury me. Leave me in the field to ease the hunger of starving dogs.'

[Original Japanese]