Is love sweet? In contemporary English, that may often be the case, but in classical Japanese poetry (waka), love had no flavor. In fact, foods, eating, and drinking hardly appear in waka of the tenth and eleventh centuries. This essay examines a number of poems featuring food by Ōe no Masahira and Akazome Emon, two esteemed writers of the Heian period (794–1185 CE). First scrutinizing the unusual poems from their courtship, the essay then examines all of Akazome’s verses featuring food. Taking these eighteen poems from her poetry collection, I assert that in Heian poetry, foods appear only sporadically, but when they do, their gustatory tastes are disregarded in favor of cultivating aesthetic taste tied to their appearances, anecdotal associations, and verbal play.

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