Saigyō (1118-1190) was born Satō Norikiyo into an aristocratic military family. He found himself unsuited to a warrior’s life and, following a religious vocation, took orders in 1140. The change in his status allowed him a degree of freedom hitherto unknown to him to mix with people from different social backgrounds and move around the country and the rest of his life was spent either on the road or at one of several sacred places near the capital.
Like any man of his time, Saigyō had often composed poetry, and in his youth he studied with Minamoto no Shunrai and Fujiwara no Shunzei, but it was the experiences that his life as a priest gave him that acted as the stimulus to his major work and cemented his reputation. Most of his best work relates to immediate experience, and in his arrangements of his own poems into accounts of his travels are the foundation stones upon which the poetic diaries of Matsuo Bashō are built.
His reputation has remained consistently high, from soon after his death when he had 94 poems selected for inclusion in the Shinkokinshū, to the present day, when he is exceeded only by Bashō in the affections of modern Japanese readers of poetry. Together with Kakinomoto no Hitomaro and Fujiwara no Teika, he is one of the four giants of waka.
Saigyō has the following poems on WakaPoetry.net:
|SKKS XVIII: 1831
SKKS XVIII: 1842
SKKS XVIII: 1844
SKKS XIX: 1877
SKKS XIX: 1878
SKKS XIX: 1879
SKKS XX: 1976
SKKS XX: 1978