Ariwara no Narihira (在原業平)

ARIWARA no Narihira (825 - July 13, 880) was an aristocrat who lived in the early Heian period. He was a poet, being a member of Rokkasen (Six best Waka poets) and Sanjurokkasen (Thirty-six immortal poets), and he is also considered to be the main character of Ise Monogatari (The Tales of Ise).

His father was Imperial Prince Abo who was the eldest son of Emperor Heijo and his mother, Imperial Princess Ito, was a daughter of Emperor Kanmu, meaning Narihira was a grandson of Emperor Heijo and a great grandson of Emperor Kanmu in terms of his paternal lineage and a grandson of Emperor Kanmu in terms of his maternal lineage. In terms of his lineage, it appears he should have had a better claim to the throne than the Emperor but he had been made a civilian after his father and grandfather had lost power struggles. Narihira was also called Zaigo-chujo (literally Ariwara Five Captain) because he was the fifth son of the Ariwara clan and held the post of Ukone no Gon no chujo (Deputy Middle Captain of the Right Division of Inner Palace Guards).

Narihira was a direct-line descendent of the Imperial Family, but entered civillian life and took the clan name of Ariwara with his older brother, ARIWARA no Yukihira, after his grandfather and father had been defeated in power struggles. He became a kurodo (chamberlain) of Emperor Ninmyo and was promoted to the Jugoinoge (Junior Fifth Rank, Lower Grade) in 849; however, he suffered a 13-year period without being promoted during the reign of Emperor Montoku. During the reign of Emperor Seiwa, he was again promoted to the Jugoinojo (Junior Fifth Rank, Upper Grade), Umanokami (Head of the Right Division of the Stables), Ukone no Gon no chujo, and Kurodo no to (Head Chamberlain). He served Imperial Prince Koretaka, the son of Emperor Montoku, writing waka poems for him. Being descendants of Emperor Kanmu, who was an avid falconer, both Narihira and his older brother, ARIWARA no Yukihira, are said to have been skilled falconers.

Narihira married the daughter of KI no Aritsune (a cousin of Imperial Prince Koretaka) and was therefore related to the Ki clan. His children, ARIWARA no Muneyana and ARIWARA no Shigeharu, and his grandchild, Muneyana's son, ARIWARA no Motokata, are well-known as poets. "Nihon Sandai Jitsuroku" (The True History of Three Reigns of Japan) described Narihira as 'beautiful and graceful, and casual and easy,' the epitome of handsomeness. From early on, Narihira was identified with the main character of "Ise Monogatari," the so-called 'Mukashi-Otoko' (the man from long ago). Ise Monogatari includes episodes of forbidden love with FUJIWARA no Takaiko, also as known as Nijo no kisaki, and also the younger sister of Imperial Prince Koretaka, Imperial Princess Yasuiko, who was a Saigu (a female relative of the Emperor sent to serve at Ise-Jingu Shrine).

There is a theory that Narihira and Imperial Princess Yasuiko had an affair resulting in the birth of Moronao who was later to be adopted by Shigenori TAKASHINA, resulting in rumors that the Takashina clan were descendants of Narihira.

As for his career as a poet, he had 30 of his poems selected for "Kokin Wakashu" (A Collection of Ancient and Modern Japanese Poetry).


845: He was appointed Sakone no shogen (Lieutenant in the Left Division of Inner Palace Guards).

February 5, 847: He was appointed Kurodo.

February 7, 849: He was appointed to the Jugoinoge rank.

April 13, 862: He was promoted to the Jugoinojo rank.

March 7, 863: He was appointed Sahyoe no gon no suke (Provisional Assistant Captain of the Left Division of Middle Palace Guards).

April 21, 864: He was reassigned as Sakone gon no shosho (Provisional Minor Captain of the Left Division of Inner Palace Guards).

March 9, 865: He was transferred to the post of Umanokami.

February 25, 869: He was promoted to the Shogoinoge rank (Senior Fifth Rank, Lower Grade) while still holding the Umanokami post.

February 12, 873: He was promoted to the Jushiinoge rank (Junior Fourth Rank, Lower Grade) while still holding the Umanokami post.

February 26, 875: He was reassigned as Ukone no Gon no chujo.

January 2, 878: He was promoted to the Jushiinojo rank (Junior Fourth Rank, Upper Grade) while remaining Ukone no Gon no chujo.

February 20, 878: He was concurrently appointed Deputy Governor of Sagami Province.

October, 879: He was appointed Kurodo no to. He was concurrently appointed Deputy Governor of Mino Province. He resigned as Deputy Governor of Sagami Province.

July 13, 880: He died. He was 56 years old. When he died, he held the Jushiinojo rank, was Ukone no Gon no chujo, and concurrently was Deputy Governor of Mino Province.

Areas associated with him
Narihira himself or characters modeled after Narihira appear in many stories or literary works.
Legends featuring Narihira have spread across Japan, and there is even a place called 'Narihira.'

Nara City, Nara Prefecture
The Futai-ji Temple in Horen-cho, Nara City, was founded by ARIWARA no Narihira at the request of Emperor Ninmyo. According to the temple history, the Futai-ji Temple was originally called 'Kaya no Gosho' (Thatched-Roofed Imperial Palace) where his grandfather, Emperor Heijo, took the tonsure and then retired to as a result of the Kusuko Incident. It is believed that Imperial Prince Abo, who was the son of Emperor Heijo, and Narihira also lived in this palace.

Tenri City and Ikaruga-cho in Nara Prefecture, and Yao City in Osaka Prefecture

Ariwara-jinja Shrine in Ichinomoto-cho, Tenri City, is believed to be Narihira's birth place. In the shrine, there is a well curb that is mentioned in Ise Monogatari. Narihira-do (Narihara road), also known as Nara-kaido and Tatsuta-do, leads west from Ariwara-jinja Shrine. It is believed that Narihira used this road to visit a woman living in Takayasu. There are two theories regarding the location of Takayasu, one claiming it is Takayasu, Ikaruga-cho, Ikoma-gun, Nara Prefecture, and the other claiming it is Takayasu, Yao City, Osaka Prefecture. Also, on his way from Tatsuta to Takayasu County in Kawachi Province, one theory claims that he went through Ogata, Kashiwara City, Osaka Prefecture, and another claims that he went over the Jusan-toge Pass in Heguri-cho.

Yatsuhashi, Chiryu City, Aichi Prefecture
This name appears in Ise Monogatari. It is believed that it refers to Yatsuhashi in Chiryu City and surrounding cities (Anjo and Toyota Cities).

Excerpts from Kaido-ki (diary of a journey): So I arrived in Mikawa Province. On my horse I passed Chiryu and went on for a few miles, and there I found a bridge called Yatsuhashi.

Sumida Ward, Tokyo; Kasukabe City, Saitama Prefecture; Ashiya City and Ikaruga-cho, Hyogo Prefecture
There is a place called Narihira in Sumida Ward, and the bridge over Asakusa-dori Street, where the Oyoko-gawa River used to be, is called the Narihira-bashi Bridge. This is also apparently another name for Azuma-bashi Bridge that leads to the west bank of Sumida-gawa River. The Furusumida-gawa River in Kasukabe City, the Ashiya-gawa River in Ashiya City, and the Tomio-gawa River in Ikaruga-cho also have bridges called the Narihira-bashi Bridge.

Kyoto City, Kyoto Prefecture
The Jurin-ji Temple in Nishikyo Ward, Kyoto City, is also known as the Narihira-dera Temple, where ARIWARA no Narihira spent the last days of his life.

Takashima City, Shiga Prefecture
There is a legend that ARIWARA no Narihira in his last years retired to the Arihara area of Makino-cho in Takashima City, and there is a tower that is said to be Narihira's grave. There is also a restaurant, 'Narihira noodle,' in this area.

[Original Japanese]