Imperial Princess Noriko (式子内親王)

Imperial Princess Noriko (also pronounced Shokushi and Shikishi) (1149 - March 1, 1201) was a member of the Imperial Family in the late Heian period, a poet. She was Emperor Goshirakawa's third Princess. Her mother was FUJIWARA no Seishi (also pronounced Shigeko) (FUJIWARA no Suenari's daughter) and her real brothers and sisters were Cloistered Imperial Prince Shukaku, Imperial Princess Ryoshi (Inbumoin) and Takakuranomiya Prince Mochihito. Her half younger brother was Emperor Takakura.
Saiin (an unmarried princess who, in former times, was sent by the emperor to serve at Kamo Shrine)
She was also called Kayanosaiin, Oi no Mikado nosaiin. Her Buddhist name was Shonyoho. She was one of the New 36 Immortal Poets.

The pronunciation of the imperial princess's name as Shokushi was derived from the yusoku-yomi (pronunciation of a person's name according to the Chinese reading [onyomi] as an expression of respect) used in kado (the art of composing waka, a genre of Japanese poetry) and a respectful way of referring to people of ancient times, according to which 定家 would be pronounced as Teika and 俊成 as Shunzei. The name Shikishi also applies as above. Of course it does not mean that the Princess herself or her close relatives called her '式子' Shokushi. The official pronunciation of this name is unknown, but it seems to be 'Noriko' in general according to the theory of Bunei TSUNODA.

A short biography

She served at Kamo Shrine as Saiin between 1159 and 1169, then after leaving this position she received the title of Jugo (one of the respectful titles for Imperial family members of court nobles during the Heian period) in 1185.
It was said that she once went to Hachijoin Imperial Princess Akiko's Palace to stay and entered into the priesthood around 1190, and during this time, various things happened around her, she was involved in the incident related to TACHIBANA no Kanenaka's wife. (The punishment for this incident was soon cancelled.)
In her later years, she was going to adopt Imperial Prince Morinari (Emperor Juntoku), but she did not have a chance to do so and she passed away when she was fifty three years old. In "Meigetsuki" (Chronicle of the Bright Moon) there was a detailed description of her health (how ill) she was just before she died. It was said the year she was born was not known for a long time, however when the record of "Heihanki," (a comment written on the back of a scroll) was found during the 1980s, it became clear that she was born in 1149.

Her poems

A well-known female kajin (waka poet) whose work was representative of the "Shin Kokin Wakashu" (New Collection of Japanese Poems of Ancient and Modern Times), she studied under FUJIWARA no Shunzei, leaving behind many famous works (it is commonly believed that FUJIWARA no Shunzei presented a copy of "Korai futeisho" [Notes on Poetic Style Through the Ages] to Imperial Princess Noriko). In the "Gotobain Gokuden" (oral instruction), it said 'The Saiin created poems as if it was very easy for her," the style of her poems were very original, they are fascinating yet had Shunzei's calm and simple style. She composed numerous excellent seasonal poems and a great many love poems that ranged in theme from melancholic poems that seemed to close herself off from the outside world, poems that recalled the unclear or emotional state that exists between reality and dream, and poems that expressed a strong resolution to protect her weak self from fate; various assumptions have been made about her life and relationships based on the content of these poems but little about her is known for certain. The titles of her poems were not original as they were decided by someone else, this also made it hard to investigate her life. There is no record of her having attended Tanka reading or matching parties other than the fact she participated as a poet in the Shodo Hyakushu (First Hundred-Poem Sequences) contest organized by Emperor Gotoba at the beginning of Shoji era (around 1199). By the way these one hundred poems were the last created by the Imperial Princess that still exist today.

Her first poem in an anthology of poems, collected by the Imperial command, was included in "Senzai Wakashu" (Collection of Japanese Poetry of Thousand Years) (ten poems).
There were about one hundred and fifty seven poems which were selected and edited by the Emperor including forty four poems selected in "New Collection of Ancient and Modern Times" as follows;
There is private collection of poems, "the collected poems of Imperial Princess Shokushi" (Ichina "Kayanosaiin poem collection"), currently there are about four hundred poems in existence. The content of a private collection of poems, "the collected poems of Imperial Princess Shokushi" was not very refined and there are many unprofessionally created poems in the collection. The poems made by the Princess seemed to have been scattered and lost earlier, three of the hundred poem collection (one of them was Shoji Hyakushu) were edited by the people in later years, and more than sixty poems selected that were not included in above three hundred poems, to edit "The collected poems of Imperial Princess Shokushi." There are only slightly more than ten poems known to be her's at present.

The relationship between Teika and the Princess

Shunzei's son, FUJIWARA no Teika occasionally presented himself to visit the Imperial Princess, from 1181. There was a theory that he worked as a kind of Keishi (house staff, a person in charge of running day to day jobs in the house) at the Imperial Palace, but there were no details about it. It is true that the relationship between the Imperial Princess and Teika was close, since there was a detailed description in Teika's diary, "Meigetsuki" of the Princess's health just before and after she died. Presumably she received some information from Teika as to the movement of the Kujo family tanka circles or on the style of FUJIWARA no Teika's tanka. Later on, there was another theory during the late Medieval period, that Teika and the Imperial Princess were in love, it created the opportunity to produce the Noh play "Teika."
Generally this theory is denied as typical theory of the Medieval poem association, however, in fact it is hard to agree or not since philologically there were not enough historical records on the Imperial Princess. (The only reason to deny this theory was that Teika was thirteen years younger than the Imperial Princess.)
There was another theory that the Imperial Princess secretly loved Honen, since it was found out in recent years there was relationship between them, however there was no definite reason for the theory, as was the Teika theory.