Tokudaiji Sanesada (徳大寺実定)

Sanesada TOKUDAIJI (1139 - February 1, 1192) was a court noble and poet who lived in the closing days of the Heian period and into the Kamakura period. His father was Kinyoshi TOKUDAIJI. His mother was Goshi, the daughter of FUJIWARA no Toshitada. He was the nephew of FUJIWARA no Toshinari (Shunzei), and the cousin of FUJIWARA no Teika.


After his first court rank was conferred upon him in 1144, he received a steady stream of promotions, until in the eleventh month of 1156, he was invested with the Jusanmi (Junior Third Rank) and began to be counted a high-ranking court noble. In 1164, he reached the rank of Gon-Dainagon (Surrogate Major Counselor), and the following year resigned when he ascended to Shonii (Senior Second Rank). According to the "Chomonju" (Collected Anecdotes (Ancient and Modern)) this was in order to surpass FUJIWARA no Sanenaga, who in turn had risen beyond him in rank while working in the same department. In the third month of 1177, he was named a Dainagon (chief councilor of state), and then in the twelfth month was also made Sakonoe Daisho, or Commander of the Left Imperial Guard. Concerning these assignments, the "Heike monogatari" (Tale of the Heike) claims that Sanesada went on a pilgrimage to Itsukushima (Miyajima) Shrine at this point in order to elicit the sympathy of TAIRA no Kiyomori, but in actuality, he did not set off on his pilgrimage then but two years later, in the third month of 1179. He became Naidaijin (Grand Minister of the Center) in 1183, but as a court noble loyal to the Imperial faction, he was dismissed from his position during the coup d'etat launched by means of the battle at Hoju-ji Temple instigated in the eleventh month of 1183 by MINAMOTO no Yoshinaka. But with Yoshinaka's defeat and death in the first month of the following year, Sanesada was restored to his position. Thereafter, he showed prudence and caution in how he responded to the Imperial decree to hunt down and destroy MINAMOTO no Yoritomo requested by MINAMOTO no Yoshitsune and issued by the Cloistered Emperor Goshirakawa, so that even after Yoshitsune fled the capital, upon Yoritomo's recommendation he was pressed into service as one member of his ten-man council of nobles; in the tenth month of 1186 he was made Udaijin (Minister of the Right), and then in the seventh month of 1189 he ascended to Sadaijin (Minister of the Left), thereafter becoming popularly known as "Tokudaiji Sadaijin," and working as Kanezane KUJO's right-hand man to facilitate relations between the court and the shogunate. On the 20th day of the sixth month of 1191, he resigned his position due to illness and took the tonsure, receiving the priestly name Nyoen. He died that same year, on the sixteenth day of the intercalary twelfth month. He was fifty-three years old.

The "Azuma kagami" (Mirror of the East) describes the reaction to news of his death: 'Yoritomo in particular heaved a great sigh. He was of the Kanto lineage. He was always held in high esteem,' revealing just how much confidence MINAMOTO no Yoritomo had held in Sanesada. He also possessed considerable literary talents, as evidenced by excerpts of entries describing Imperial state visits from 1177-1185 in the diary he left behind, the "Teikaisho" (also known as the "Kairinki"). Additionally, he apparently wrote another book, the ten-volume "Shogaku hosho," but it is no longer extant. In section 129 of the "Chomonju" (Collected Anecdotes (Ancient and Modern)), he is described as being 'A man of talent who excelled at [describing] the beauty of nature,' and indeed, although he was skilled at writing Chinese poetry, he truly excelled at waka. He participated in many poetry contests and poetry gatherings, including the "Poetry Contest at Sumiyoshi Shrine" held on the ninth day of the tenth month of 1170 and the "100 verses by the family of the Udaijin (Minister of the Right) FUJIWARA no Kanezane" in 1178. Sanesada's personal poetry anthology is called "Ringashu" ([Poems] Collected under the Wood), and 73 poems of his were selected to be included in the "Senzai wakashu" (Collected Waka of a Thousand Years), the "Shin kokin wakashu" (New Collection of Ancient and Modern Waka), and the Imperially commissioned waka anthology described below.

The Hyakunin Isshu (One Poem each from 100 Poets)

As I gaze upon the cuckoo, who continues his plaintive cry, only the moon remains to light the dawn (the 161st verse in the summer section of 'Senzai wakashu' (Collected Waka of 1000 Years)).

[Original Japanese]