Moral Teaching for Young Girls Mirrored in the Thirty-six Poets

(Sanjūrokkasen dōjo kyōkun kagami, 三十六歌仙童女教訓鏡)

Publisher: Wakasa-ya Yoichi

c. 1843


The “Thirty-Six Immortal Poets” is a collection of 36 waka (31-syllable) poems written from the 7th to the 11th centuries.  This series of prints likens beautiful women to these famous poems, and is listed as number 98 in Kuniyoshi by Basil William Robinson (Victoria and Albert Museum, London, 1961).  The subterfuge of moral teachings and classic poetry was a way of circumventing a ban on prints of beautiful women.  The prints are each about 14 by 10 inches (36 by 25 centimeters), a size known as ōban.  I am grateful to Ward Pieters for assisting with this series.



Poet: Chūnagon Yakamochi (中納言家持)

Description: Beauty with a fan and a peacock in the background


NOTE: A chūnagon (中納言) was a counselor of the second rank in the Imperial court of Japan.




Another state of the above print


Yet another state


Poet: Gon chūnagon Atsutada (権中納言 敦忠)

Description: Beauty gathering sea-shells


NOTE: A gon-chūnagon (権中納言) was an acting counselor of the second rank in the Imperial court of Japan.




Another state of the above print


Poet: Sarumaru Daiyu (猿丸太夫)

Description: Beauty struggling against an autumn breeze





Poet: Onakatomi no Yoritomo Ason (大中臣頼基朝臣)

Description: Beauty mending a paper sliding door


Another state of the above print courtesy of Terry Accola


Yet another state


Poet: Sosa Hōshi (素性法師)

Description: Enjoying the moon


Poet: Fujiwara no Takamitsu (藤原高光)

Description: Beauty looking out a window


Poet: Kinchu no Ason



Poet: Chūnagon Asatada (中納言朝忠)

Description: Beauty in a blue and white turban weaving at a loom


Poet: Saigū no Nyōgō (歳宮女御)

Description: Beauty with a koto


I am grateful to Dr. Michael M. Cohen for providing this alternative state of the above design and the following two different translations of the poem:


The sound of wind in pine trees is heard in the sound of the koto; which strings of such koto of pine tree wind were first plucked?


In the sound of my harp the music of the mountain pines seems to vibrate.  From which peak (or string*) does it issue?


*A play on words: the Japanese “o” used in the poem has the double meaning of “peak” and “string”.  This was compared by the poetess upon the theme of the wind in the pines brushing the koto (Japanese harp) at night.


Poet: Ki no Tomonori (記友則)

Description: Beauty playing with a cat


Poet: Chūnagon Kaheura (中納言兼輔)

Description: Young woman carrying a basket full of flowers on her back


Poet: Kakinomoto Hitomaru (柿本人麿)

Description: A young girl walking in blustery rain with umbrella and text book under her arm


Poet: Oshikochi Mitsune (凡河内躬恒)

Description: Woman carrying a wooden washtub


An aizuri-e version of the above design