Fujiwara no Narimichi (藤原成通)

FUJIWARA no Narimichi (1097 - 1162) was a court noble who lived in the latter half of the Heian period. He was the fourth son of Gon Dainagon (Provisional Chief Councilor of State) FUJIWARA no Munemichi. His mother was a daughter of FUJIWARA no Akisue. His elder brothers by the same mother were FUJIWARA no Koremichi, who became Grand Minister of State, and FUJIWARA no Suemichi, who became Sashosho (Minor Captain of the Left Division of Inner Palace Guards). He was initially named Munefusa. He took the name Seiren on entering the priesthood. He adopted Koremichi's grandchild, FUJIWARA no Yasumichi. He was known as a master of kemari (ancient Japanese Imperial court game similar to football) and imayo (a popular style of song in the Heian period). Particularly in kemari, he was known by later generations as 'Saint Kicker' and long regarded as the standard for kemari players.

Both FUJIWARA no Yorimune, his great-grandfather, and FUJIWARA no Toshiie, his grandfather, advanced to the post of Minister of the Right. However after his father, though a close aide to Cloistered Emperor Goshirakawa, failed to become a minister and died at the age of 50. Narimichi's family line seemed to be on the decline, losing ground to the Sekkan-ke (families who provided regents) and the Murakami-Genji branch of the Minamoto clan.

He was ennobled at the age of eight and was made a jiju (chamberlain) at the age of ten when Emperor Toba was enthroned. He was an eloquent speaker, and was good at kemari, imayo and the fue (Japanese flute) but, according to the "Kojidan" (Talks on the Past), it seems he made many faux pas. Therefore, even when Cloistered Emperor Goshirakawa recommended he be made a court noble in 1129, the Retired Emperor Gotoba opposed it and it came to nothing. In addition, he was unable to gain the post of Kurodo no to (Head Chamberlain), a position necessary to have held in order to become a minister. This also hindered his career. He became a Sangi (councilor) in 1131, was awarded the rank of Shonii (Senior Second Rank) in 1143, and was promoted to Dainagon (Chief Councilor of State) in 1156. But then in 1159, with his hopes for further promotions fading, he joined the priesthood. Ironically enough, however, almost immediately afterwards, members of his family began to be promoted, becoming ministers one after another.

He was particularly known by later generations as an expert kemari player, being praised as 'Saint Kicker,' and legends about him include the following.
He kicked the mari (ball) while standing on a table, but no sound was heard'
He kicked the mari while standing on the shoulders of a samurai, but the samurai did not notice'
The ball Narimichi kicked reached the clouds'
Naturally, he describes in his diary, "Narimichi-kyo Kuden Nikki" (an anecdote of FUJIWARA no Narimichi), to what extent he practiced to improve his kemari skills. In addition, together with Emperor Goshirakawa, he was known as an expert of imayo, and a story in the "Jikkinsho" (Miscellany of Ten Maxims) tells how, by dedicating an imayo to Yakushi Nyorai (the Healing Buddha), he cured a sick person. Furthermore, Jakucho and Saigyo, before they became priests, were his bosses. It is known that because of this, he remained friendly with Saigyo in particular and maintained an interest in waka poetry throughout his life. His waka poems are included in "Kinyo Wakashu" (Collection of Golden Leaves) and "Senzai Wakashu" (Collection of a Thousand Years), as well as the "Narimichishu" collection of his poems.

In "Imakagami" (literally, The Mirror of the Present) supposedly written by Jakucho, Narimichi is described favorably as a cultured person, full of kindness and it was extremely regretful that he failed to become a minister and entered the priesthood.

[Original Japanese]