Yamabe no Akahito

Like Hitomaro, little is known of Akahito’s life or personal circumstances – all we can say for certain is that he was poetically active for about 13 years, between 724 and 737. He has 13 nagauta (‘long poems’) and 37 tanka (‘short poems’)in the Man’yôshû, and it is upon these that his reputation rests.

His poems tell us that he, too, seems to have served as a court poet on occasion, accompanying the emperor on visits to places such as Yoshino and Ki and composing poems to commemorate them. He also travelled widely for a man of his time, as his poems mention locations in eastern Japan, far from the area where most Man’yô poets roamed. His poem on Mt. Fuji is one of the earliest descriptions of the peak, and must have been composed while on his travels.

Akahito’s poems capture the image of a scene by mentioning a few pure, simple elements – his poem on a visit to the Naniwa Palace or the envoy to his poem on Fuji are a good examples – and this means he is usually at is best in his tanka. Indeed, the ninth century poet and critic Ki no Tsurayuki found it difficult to decide between him and Hitomaro.

Today, he is reckoned to be one of the four great Man’yô poets and admired for the Shintō-influenced of his work.

On WakaPoetry.net, the following poems are by Akahito:

MYS III: 317
MYS III: 318
MYS III: 322
MYS III: 357
MYS III: 358
MYS III: 359
MYS III: 360
MYS III: 361
MYS III: 362
MYS III: 378
MYS III: 384
MYS III: 433
MYS VI: 923
MYS VI: 924
MYS VI: 925
MYS VI: 926
MYS VI: 927
MYS VI: 917
MYS VI: 918
MYS VI: 919
MYS VI: 1001
MYS VIII: 1424
MYS VIII: 1425
MYS VIII: 1426
MYS VIII: 1427

'Simply moving and elegant'