The inspiration for this set of six hashioki is more high brow than most. They depict the “six poetry immortals” who were named as being notable in the mid-9th. century in Japan.
Ono no Komachi (top row, left) is probably the most famous of the group. She is almost as famous for her legendary beauty as she is for her melancholy poems. Komachi apparently had a string of lovers during her lifetime, and many of her poems are about being separated or enduring the pain after an affair has ended. One of Komachi’s lovers was reportedly the poet Ariwara no Narihira (top row, right). The other poets in the group include Fun’ya no Yasuhide (top row, middle),
Sōjō Henjō (bottom row, left), Ōtomo Kuronushi (bottom row, middle), and Kisen Hōshi (bottom row, right).
This set seems very unusual to me; in fact, it’s hard to hypothesize why this set was created and marketed. While these poets may be immortal, with the possible exceptions of Komachi and Narihira they’re not famous among the general Japanese population. People would be more likely to recognize them from a poem than from a portrait; the vendor in Japan who sold me this set had to contact the manufacturer to match each figure with the right name. It seems to me that this set would only be valued by someone who was an academic or extremely knowledgeable about Heian period poetry, or by a fanatical hashioki collector.
Which obviously explains why I bought it.