Higaki no Ona (檜垣嫗)
Higaki no Ona was a female poet of the mid Heian period (tenth century); her date of birth and death is unknown. There are various legends surrounding her and her true identity remains unclear. "Collection of Higaki no Ona" is a personal collection of poetry presented as a tale of poems.
According to the notes and additional remarks of No. 1219, "Gosen Wakashu (the second of the Imperial anthologies of classical Waka poetry) Vol. 17, Miscellaneous 3," she was a 'famous, tasteful woman' who lived in Shirakawa in Tsukushi Province; when FUJIWARA no Okinari, a senior assistant governor-general of Government Headquarters in Kyushu, asked her to fetch water, she is to be said to have composed a poem which reads, 'Time has passed and my once black hair has turned white, and I have fallen so low that now I have to fetch water from the Shirakawa River myself.'
This poem expresses her now miserable position, and the person to whom this poem is composed is said to be KIYOHARA no Motosuke, the Lord of Higo Province (908 - 990) according to a personal collection of poetry, or ONO no Yoshifuru (884 - 968), an envoy with the job of pursuit and capture in FUJIWARA no Sumitomo's War according to "Yamato Monogatari" (Tales of Yamato); furthermore, the body of the poem reads,
I have aged and my hair has turned white, and now I have to fetch water from Shirakawa River myself ("Collection of Higaki no Ona")
My once black hair has turned white, and now I have to fetch water from Shirakawa River myself ("Yamato Monogatari")
thus totaling three versions.
She formed a friendship with KIYOHARA no Motosuke, and when she gave him a send-off upon his return to Kyoto after completion of his term as a Higo no kami (governor of Higo Province), she composed a poem which reads, 'I will not forget you even if the water of Shirakawa River dries up.'
Rendai-ji Temple in Kumamoto Prefecture is said to be a site where she made a thatched hut, and there remains a 'Higaki sekito' (stone pagoda) in the precincts of the shrine.