Ōtomo no Yakamochi

As the compiler of the Man’yōshū, Ōtomo no Yakamochi (ca. 716 – 785) is possibly the most important literary figure of his day. He has 46 nagauta and 432 tanka in the anthology, comprising over ten per cent of its contents.

The son of Ōtomo no Tabito, Yakamochi went with his father to Kyûshû and, no doubt, was exposed to the literary circle Tabito formed there. He became head of head of his clan on his father’s death in 731 and, while he held a number of official positions, ended his career as a mere Middle Councillor, a lesser post than that held be Tabito. This was due partially to the decline in the fortunes of the Ôtomo family, and partially to the fact that, in the latter part of his life, Yakamochi became increasingly involved in the intrigues surrounding the throne and failed to back the winning side. Perhaps as a result of this, he seems to have abandoned poetry after 759 – or at least we have no poems by him from after that year.

Nevertheless, during his productive period of just over twenty years, Yakamochi showed himself to be a poet of great versatility, as at home with nagauta as he was with tanka: his poems mourning his concubine showed his human side, as did his many love poems to his wife, the Elder Maiden of Sakanoue. He was as capable of humour, advising a man who had lost weight to eat eels, as he was of empathy, writing on the sorrows of the frontier guards. It is, of course, also due to his efforts as a compiler that we have so many sakimori uta in the Man’yôshû.

On WakaPoetry.net, Yakamochi has the following poems:

MYS III: 462
MYS III: 463
MYS III: 464
MYS III: 465
MYS III: 466
MYS III: 467
MYS III: 468
MYS III: 469
MYS IV: 680
MYS IV: 681
MYS IV: 682
MYS IV: 700
MYS IV: 741
MYS IV: 742
MYS IV: 743
MYS IV: 744
MYS IV: 745
MYS IV: 746
MYS IV: 747
MYS IV: 748
MYS IV: 749
MYS IV: 750
MYS IV: 751
MYS IV: 752
MYS IV: 753
MYS IV: 754
MYS IV: 755
MYS XVI: 3853
MYS XVI: 3854
MYS XIX: 4139
MYS XIX: 4140
MYS XIX: 4143
MYS XIX: 4214
MYS XIX: 4215
MYS XIX: 4216
MYS XIX: 4290
MYS XIX: 4291
MYS XIX: 4292
MYS XX: 4360
MYS XX: 4361
MYS XX: 4362
MYS XX: 4398
MYS XX: 4399
MYS XX: 4400
MYS XX: 4408
MYS XX: 4409
MYS XX: 4410
MYS XX: 4411
MYS XX: 4412
MYS XX: 4468
MYS XX: 4469

'Simply moving and elegant'