Rokkasen = Six laureates of Waka poets Over View

"Rokkasen" are six "waka" poets in the early Heian period(792-1192), who were referred to by Kino Tsurayuki in the "kana" (= hirakana) preface to the "Kokinshu" as those "widely renowned in recent times". Accurately saying, it is only two persons Kakinomoto-no-Hitomaro and Yamabe-no-Akahito who gained laurels of poetry in the "Kokinshu"'s "kana" and "mana" (kanji) prefaces. So it is untrue that Kino Tsurayuki himself honored the six poets as laureates. It was later on that the appellation "Rokkasen" (Six "waka" laureates) was used. So when exactly was the "recent times" mentioned by Kino Tsurayuki? Recent studies of the historical records of these six poets suggest that this "recent times" may have been the era of or earlier than the Emperor Yozei's (876 - 884, in the early Heian period).
Kino Tsurayuku did not necessarily consider these six as the most distinguished poets of the age prior to the Yozei era. When picking exemplars "who have a profound knowledge of poetry and are able to compose poems themselves", Kino Tsurayuki announced that he had omitted those who were high in rank because to choose the work of such privileged people was so commonplace that his task might not be taken seriously. He then named these six people as having been chosen from among poets who did not enjoy such privileges.
The fact is that there were a number of prominent poets among the court nobles during and before the Yozei era. Tsurayuki however refrained from referring to these poets of high rank. Instead, he chose six officials and priests of lower rank from outside the nobility who afterwards became widely known as the six laureate poets. N.B. Nobles are defined as courtiers of or higher than the third rank or having the status of counselors.