Ishikawa no Uchimyobu (石川内命婦)

Ishikawa no Uchimyobu (date of birth and death unknown) was a poet of Manyoshu (Collection of Ten Thousand Leaves). She was a wife of OTOMO no Yasumaro, and the mother of OTOMO no Sakanoue no Iratsume and OTOMO no Inakimi. Her name can also be written as Ishikawa no Myobu. There is also a person called Ishikawa no Iratsume (石川郎女) in the "Manyoshu," also described as Ishikawa no Iratsume (石川女郎) Onako. There is a debate on whether Ishikawa no Uchimyobu and Iratsume are the same person, but there is no established theory.

Among them, Ishikawa no Iratsume left poems which suggested she had affairs with multiple men, and some in the old days like Tachibana no Moribe viewed her as a prostitute by writing as such, but today, it is widely accepted that she was a woman from the Ishikawa clan, an ancient local ruling family. The Ishikawa clan was a lateral branch of the Soga clan, based in Ishikawa, Takaichi Country, Yamato Province. She had relationships with Prince Otsu and Prince Kusakabe, which was supposedly because these two had contact with the Ishikawa clan on the mother's side (their mothers were daughters of Soganokura-Yamada no Ishikawamaro). Her father is believed to be one of the grandchildren of SOGA no Umako-- Soganokura-Yamada no Ishikawamaro, SOGA no Akae, SOGA no Murajiko, or SOGA no Hatayasu--however, as 'Iratsume' is a title for noblewomen, there is no clue to identify her farther.

It is believed that in her younger years she became a handmaid (described as 'Makatachi (handmaid) of the prince' in the caption for the 129th poem in Vol. 2 of the "Manyoshu") of Prince Otsu, and had a love triangle involving Prince Kusakabe. However, this interpretation is simply based on the assumption that the description in "Manyoshu" was a historical fact. If this description in the "Manyoshu" was a fact, the word 'secretly' in the caption for the 108th poem 'Prince Otsu secretly interacted with Ishikawa no Iratsume,' means that her relationship with Prince Otsu was adultery. She was most likely a woman, who served Prince Kusakabe. There are contained three romantic exchange of poems with Prince Otsu in "Manyoshu."

Additionally, there is a poetry exchanged between man and woman with an unknown person called Kume no Zenji, described from the era of Emperor Tenchi, which means they were written before the relationships with Prince Otsu and Prince Kusakabe. Kusakabe and Otsu were around ten years old when Emperor Tenchi passed away; therefore, the difference in their ages with Iratsume makes it somewhat difficult to believe these two Iratsume were the same person. Furthermore, as this Iratsume had romantic exchange of poems with OTOMO no Tanushi and OTOMO no Sukunamaro, the length would be extremely unnatural for love affairs if these were all actual love of one Iratsume. It is generally accepted in the academic arena (according to Mizue ASO, etc.) that Ishikawa no Iratsume simply means 'a young lady from the Ishikawa clan,' and there were several people with the same name, based on these points. Additionally, the 126th poem in Vol. 2 for OTOMO no Tanushi has a caption on the left with a story in Sino-Japanese, and it is believed that other poems related to the Otomo family were also playful instead.

On the other hand, with regard to Ishikawa no Uchimyobu, not much is known other than the fact that she married Yasumaro and gave birth to Inakimi and Sakanoue no Iratsume. Yasumaro died in 714; thereafter, it is believed that she was in charge of the Otomo family as the female head of family. The caption on the left for the poem of Sakanoue no Iratsume ("Manyoshu" Vol. 3-461) states 'distinguished Ishikawa no Uchimyobu went to the Arima Hot spring for her health' which notes she went to a hot spring to treat her illness, and a poem responding to an imperial edict by Emperor Gensho in 735 is left ("Manyoshu" Vol. 20-4493). If these can be considered by the same person, she was alive at least until this point.

In short, Ishikawa no Iratsume and Uchimyobu appear from the era of Emperor Tenchi to the era of Emperor Gensho's era for about seventy years, and it is almost impossible to see them as the same person.

Manyoshu poems regarding Ishikawa no Iratsume and Uchimyobu
The five poems below are exchange of poems with Kume no Zenji.

Five poems composed at the time when Kume no Zenji proposed to Ishikawa no Iratsume
If I try to pull you towards me as if pulling a bow made in Shinano, you will probably reject it like the nobility (Zenji) (Vol. 2-95)
Since you have never pulled me toward you as if pulling a bow made in Shinano, how can I suppose to say I know how you feel toward me (Itsurame) (Vol. 2-96)
If you pull me as if pulling an azusayumi (a bow made of Japanese cherry birch), I will follow you, but I do not know how you will feel in the future (Iratsume) (Vol. 2-97)
Those who attach a string and pull an asusayumi do so because they know how they would feel in the future (Zenji) (Vol. 2-98)
Like the string used by the Eastern people to tie their Nosaki (first crop paid as a tribute), you have captured my heart (Zenji) (Vol. 2-99)

The following four poems are famous romantic exchange of poems with Prince Otsu with a poem sent to Iratsume by Prince Kusakabe. Notably, as the term 'secretly' in the caption for the 109th poem indicates adultery (Tsunetaka KAWAGUCHI etc.), it is believed that these were poems of a love triangular with Iratsume as a concubine of Kusakabe, and Otsu also becoming involved.

A poem for Ishikawa no Iratsume by Prince Otsu
Waiting for my love, I stood getting wet with mountain dew (Vol. 2-107)
Poem by Ishikawa no Iratsume in response
The mountain dew that made you wet, how I wish I could be the dew (Vol. 2-108)
A poem by Prince Otsu when he secretly married ISHIKAWA no Iratsume and TSUMORI no Muraji Toru revealed it through fortune telling.

I slept with you knowing very well that Tsumori will reveal our relationship with his fortune-telling (Vol. 2-109)
A poem for Ishikawa no Iratsume by Prince Kusakabe
Onako, like the small bundle of grass being mowed in a far away field, I cannot forget you even for a very short time (Vol. 2-110)

Below is a poem she wrote, under the order of Emperor Gensho, for Minushi no himemiko, who became ill, during her later years when she was called Ishikawa no Uchimyobu.

A poem about snow that Uchimyobu Ishikawa Ason with personal name '邑婆' composed under imperial edict during a visit to Mii of Yukei on a winter day.
The snow is falling so heavily that the branch of the pine tree is touching the ground, My dear woman is secluded in her room unable to enjoy this (Vol. 20-4439)

[Original Japanese]