Izumi Shikibu

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  • Japanese: 和泉式部 (Izumi Shikibu)

Izumi Shikibu is among the most celebrated poetesses of the Heian period. She is counted among the Sanjûrokkasen, or "36 Immortals of Poetry," and was a contemporary of Murasaki Shikibu, author of the Tale of Genji, living around the year 1000.

Born the daughter of a Taira, she married members of the Tachibana and Fujiwara families. Her "name" comes from her father's post in the Department (bu) of Rituals (shiki) and from the post of her first husband, to the province of Izumi.

Shikibu served Fujiwara no Shôshi, daughter of Fujiwara no Michinaga, and was very involved in court life, her biography being a virtual who's who of major Heian era figures with whom she had contact. While married to her first husband, Tachibana no Michisada, she had an affair with an Imperial Prince, and then, after the prince's death, with the prince's half-brother.

At court, she had something of a rivalry with Murasaki Shikibu, had contact with Sei Shônagon, and earned praise for her poetry from many, including Fujiwara no Kinto.

Shikibu later married Fujiwara no Yasumasa, and went with him to Tango province, outliving their daughter, and dying around age 50-60.