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The poem reads, “Though it is called the ‘Land Beneath the Sun,’ surely it must also rain here.” “Land Beneath the Sun” is rendered hinomoto, a nickname for Japan.
During a severe drought the Emperor Junna (786–840) asked the court lady Ono no Komachi to pray for rain. She wrote this poem on a slip of paper and threw it into the pond of the Shinsen-en Garden. Three days of heavy rain ensued.
Komachi, one of Japan’s “36 Immortal Poets,” was reputedly beautiful, heartless, and doomed to tragic loneliness in her old age. Komachi became a synonym for “beauty” in the Edo period.
Purchased for the John Herron Art Institute, now the Indianapolis Museum of Art, in 1931.