Otomo no Sakanoue no Iratsume (大伴坂上郎女)

OTOMO no Sakanoue no Iratsume (year of birth and death unknown) is one of the most famous Tanka (31 syllables' poem) poets in "Manyoshu" (Collection of Ten Thousand Leaves). She was a daughter of OTOMO no Yasumaro and ISHIKAWA no Uchimyobu.

She was an older sister of OTOMO no Inakimi and younger paternal half-sister of OTOMO no Tabito. She was also an aunt and mother-in-law of OTOMO no Yakamochi. Her 84 choka (long poem) and tanka (31 syllables' poem) in "Manyoshu" made her the major female poet after NUKATA no Okimi.

When she was around 13, she married Imperial Prince Hozumi, but he died in 715. A theory states that she stayed in the Imperial court to serve as a court lady. In this period she seemed to be on friendly terms with Prince Obito (Emperor Shomu) to whom later she dedicated her poems personally.

After that she felt in love with FUJIWARA no Maro. He also died early, however, and around the last days of the Yoro period, she married her older paternal half-brother OTOMO no Sukunamaro by whom she had two daughters, SAKANOUE no Oiratsume and SAKANOUE no Otoiratsume. She lost her husband again around the time she was 33. After Sukunamaro's death, she followed Tabito to Dazai-fu (local government office in Kyushu region). After she returned to the capital, she remained at the Saho residence and took on the role of toji (wife) to lead the Otomo clan and manage the household. She was a poet of great skill, but her style of poetry also had profound lyricism. Although she left Somonka (romantic exchange of poems) in the form of question and answer with many men, such poems may be just an expression of her intimacy with them in the style of love poems, or these poems may not be based on her actual experiences.

She was called SAKANOUE no Iratsume because she lived in Sakanoue no sato (present-day Horencho-kitamachi, Nara City).

[Original Japanese]