Little is known of this poet – even her dates are uncertain (?877-?940) – beyond the fact that she wrote passionate and witty poetry, and has a number of poems in the Kokinshū, later imperial anthologies and produced her own collection of poetry, the Ise Shû, ‘Ise Collection’. Sources suggest that she was the daughter of Fujiwara no Tsugukage, who held among other positions that of Governor of Ise, from whence she takes her name. Tsugukage was the grandson of Fujiwara no Manatsu （藤原真夏）(774-830), the elder brother of Fujiwara no Fuyutsugu （藤原冬嗣 ）(775-826), who had held the position of Minster of the Left. By Tsugukage’s time, however, his branch of the Fujiwara family had declined in status, becoming mainly known for its scholarly achievements and rising no higher in the court hierarchy than the position of provincial governor.
Ise herself entered the service of Fujiwara no Atsuko （藤原温子）(Onshi), the consort of Emperor Uda (867-931; r. 887-897), at about the age of 15, where she caught the eye of Atsuko’s younger brother, Fujiwara no Nakahira （藤原仲平）(875-945) and had a relationship with him. He, however, eventually decided to marry elsewhere and abandoned her, after which she was courted by his elder brother, Tokihira （時平）, whom she rejected. She is then reputed to have borne a son to Uda, though the child died in infancy. After Atsuko’s death in 907, Ise remained in service to her daughter, Princess Kinshi (均子内親王), who had become consort to an imperial prince, Prince Atsuyoshi （敦慶親王） and, while living in the Prince’s house, bore him a daughter, around 912. As far as we know, she remained in the Prince’s household after his death in 930, when he was 44, and Ise about 56.
She is the most highly regarded woman poet in the Kokinshū, as is evidenced by the large number of poems she has included in it, and it appears that her contemporaries regarded her as at least equal in ability to Ki no Tsurayuki.
Together with Ono no Komachi, she is one of the premier woman poets of the early classical canon.
On WakaPoetry.net, the following poems are by Ise: