Ise (877–940)

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Ise (877–940)

Japanese court woman, known as Lady Ise, who was considered one of the most accomplished poets of her time. Name variations: Lady Ise. Pronunciation: EE-say. Born in 877 (some sources cite 875) in an unknown location; real name is not known (Ise was the Japanese province of which her father was once governor); died in 940 (some sources cite 938) in an unknown location, although most likely the capital, Kyoto; daughter of Fujiwara no Tsugikage, governor of Ise and, later, Yamamoto; lover of Prince Atsuyoshi; concubine of the Emperor Uda; children: (with Prince Atsuyoshi) daughter Nakatsukasa (a poet); (with Uda) Prince Yuki-Akari.

Lady Ise ranks with another woman poet, Ono no Komachi , as the most accomplished poet of 9th–10th century Japan. She was born in 877, the daughter of Fujiwara no Tsugikage, the governor of Ise and, later, of Yamamoto. She was the lover of Prince Atsuyoshi and then the concubine of the Emperor Uda. Ise is thought to have entered the service of Empress Onshi , consort of Emperor Uda, around 892.

Lady Ise was one of a larger group of Japanese women writers of this time, whose prominence is said to be unparalleled in world literature. More than 500 of Ise's poems were compiled in various anthologies. Her poetry was characterized by wit and her love poems reflected great passion. "If only the resemblance/ Of my fleshy body," she wrote, "As the fields/ Withered dry by weather/ Meant that the way we both are seared by fire/ Would bring me also the waited spring."


Brower, Robert H., and Earl Miner. Japanese Court Poetry. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press. 1961.

Linda L. Johnson , Professor of History, Concordia College, Moorhead, Minnesota