Onono Komachi

September 18, 2012

by Kato Hideaki

Who was Onono Komachi?

Onono Komachi was a great female poet in Japan. It is unknown when she was born exactly, but it is said that she was born in Akita prefecture. She played an active part in the Heian era (around 800 to 1400 A.D.), and she left behind a lot of Japanese poems on the theme of love. She was very well educated and as a result, she served at the Imperial Court. She was also famous for being a very beautiful woman, and she was considered to be one of the three most beautiful women in the world. A lot of men made advances to Onono Komachi, but she turned them all down. After serving at the Imperial Court, she traveled all over Japan. It is not known when she died. Her Japanese poems were recorded in some anthologies of waka poems such as “Kokinnwakasyu”. “Kokinnwakasyu” was an anthology of many Japanese poems which was commissioned by the Emperor. This anthology of Japanese poems was written in kanji and hiragana scripts. Kanji is originally from China and it is used in Korea too, while hiragana is an original Japanese script derived from the kanji characters.

Stone Monument in Komachi Street
Stone Monument in Komachi Street

Her Connections with Kyoto

The Ono clan lived in Zuisin-in, a temple which was located in Yamashina in Kyoto. Onono Komachi‘s house was located around Zuisin-in , but this temple was destroyed by fire in the Onin War which broke out in 1467 and continued for over ten years in Kyoto. After the war, Zuisin-in was built again in 1599.There are some historic spots in the precincts which are connected to Onono Komachi`s beauty. For example, there are some sentences which were written by many men who loved Onono Komachi. Zuisin-in holds a beauty contest every year called the “Ms.Onono Komachi contest”. The Ms. Onono Komachi is selected in this beauty contest. This contest started in 2006 and only women who are aged from 18 to 30 years old can enter. The prize winners play an active part in official events such as volunteer work at Zuisin-in and so on. In addition, there are a fewlegends of Onono Komachi in Kyoto. For example, there is a street named “Komachi Street” in Kyoto City. Once, Onono Komachi composed some poems in the area with Otomono Kuronusi who was himself a great poet .His poetic ability was as good as Onono Komachi’s, and he was jealous of her because he took pride in his poetic ability . One day he played a trick on her poem and he damaged her reputation. However, she spotted it because the poem was written by him. After causing this trouble he wanted to commit suicide but she forgave him. This legend is called “Sousiarai”. This was how the street came to be called “Komachi Street”. There is a stone monument commemorating this legend in this street.

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