Minamoto no Shitagō (911-983) was the son of Assistant Director of the Bureau of Horses, Left Division (sama no suke 左馬助), Minamoto no Kozoru 源挙. He known to have remained a student at the imperial university until passing his exams at the age of 43 and beginning his court career, which accounts for the fact that many of his exant poems lament his lack of rank and official posts. Subsequently he progressed through the positions of Secretary of the Office of Investigators of the Records of Outgoing Officials (kageyu no jō 勘解由判官), Chamberlain in the Crown Prince’s Office (tōgū kurōdo 東宮蔵人), Secretary in the Ministry of Popular Affairs (minbu no jō 民部丞), Provisional Governor of Shimōsa (shimōsa gon-kami 下総権守), Governor of Izumi (izumi no kami 和泉守) and finally Governor of Noto (noto no kami 能登守) at the rank of Junior Fifth, Upper Grade.
His lengthy academic career, however, made him known for his erudition in both Chinese and Japanese, and in his mid-twenties he compiled the Wamyō Ruijū Shō 倭名類聚抄, a combination dictionary and encyclopedia and the first such work in Japan. Along with Ōnakatomi no Yoshinobu 大中臣能宣, Kiyowara no Motosuke 清原元輔, Ki no Tokibumi 紀時文 and Sakanoe no Mochiki 坂上望城, he was one of the ‘Five Men of the Pear-JarRoom’(nashitsubo no gonin 梨壷五人) and with his colleagues a pioneering scholar of the Man’yōshū and a compiler of the Gosenshū.
His own poems first appear in the Shūishū and with 27 poems included he is accounted one of its principal poets. Today his poems are remembered for their flamboyant wordplay and he is judged to be one of the ‘36 Poetic Sages’(sanjū rokkasen 三十六歌仙) of his time.
The following poems by Shitagō are on WakaPoetry.net:
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