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Otagaki Rengetsu (1791-1875) Set of 4 poem carved pottery cups #4062 for sale

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  • sale: Otagaki Rengetsu (1791-1875) Set of 4 poem carved pottery cups
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 Product Description

Regarding the shipping of products impacted by Coronavirus

The Japan post stopped international postal service exclude a few areas.
We can ship to America via DHL
About other countries, we will operate a layaway service for a while.

For American customers
We will ship your package via DHL. Please read shipping policy of DHL. In order for me to process your order, if you need DHL insurance (2,500JPY), please buy it when you buy an item.

"Go to shipping policy of DHL and insurance page"

Up for sale is this "Otagaki Rengetsu (1791-1875) Set of 4 poem carved pottery cups #4062" If you have any questions please contact us before buy it. No reserve.

- width: approx. 7.6cm (2 63⁄64in) - 8cm (3 5⁄32in) 

- height: approx. 4.5cm (1 49⁄64in) - 4.7cm (1 27⁄32in)

- weight: total 378g

- condition: fixed, hair line crack

- can not combine shipping



Kazoure ba mitose no mukashi sashiyanagi mado utsu bakari nari ni keru kana.

Counting back— just three years since planting this willow now tall enough to beat at my window!


Saki some shi chiyo no mukashi mo yukusue no aki no kagiri mo shiragiku no hana.

When the millennial past first bloomed and the autumns of the future shall close no one knows― a white chrysanthemum.


Tsuki kiyomi kakine ni sudaku mushi no na no suzuro samushi mo yo ya fuke nu ran.

Since the moon is clear its as frigid out as the name of the bell crickets gathering and chirping at the hedgerow. Ah, the night must have deepened...


Toshigoto ni wakagaeri tsutsu iku chiyo ka yo ni Suminoe no kishi no himematsu.

Yearly refreshing their youth... how long have they lived in the world? Princess pines on the shores of Suminoe.


Saki some shi chiyo no mukashi mo yukusue no aki no kagiri mo shiragiku no hana.

When the millennial past first bloomed and the autumns of the future shall close no one knows― a white chrysanthemum.


From the end of the Tokugawa Shogunate to the Meiji Restoration

“Edo muketsu-kaijo” (meaning, ‘the Tokugawa family bloodlessly surrendered the Edo Castle’), is said to have protected the Edo castle town from the ravages of war.

There is a tale that a poem by Rengetsu influenced the decision of Saigo Takamori, the head of the expeditionary force to the Edo Castle, at that time. Nobody knows how much of an influence her songs had on Saigo, but it is true that she delivered her poems to Saigo on his way to attack Edo castle.

“Ada mikata katsu mo makuru mo awarenari onaji mikuni no hito to omoe ba”
---Foes and friends...whether they win or lose how miserable since I feel they are people of the same land. ---


Rengetsu's personal history

Rengetsu was born in the Sanbongi district of Kyoto on 8th of January, Kansei 3 (1791). She was given the name Nobu (childhood name). The great fire in Kyoto in 1782 is said to have been the catalyst for the birth of Nobu.

As a result of this fire, Kyoto was devastated like the city during the Onin War, and many people were sent to work on reconstruction projects. Her father was among those who had been dispatched to help build the palace and rebuild the Kyoto houses of the various clans. Nobu’s father was a high-ranking Samurai, named Todo Yoshikiyo.

Nobu was born in Sanbongi, in a brothel, and it is said that her mother was a geisha who later married a Samurai from the Kameoka clan. Her mother abandoned Nobu and she was adopted when she was just over 10 days old.

When Nobu was eight years old, her father, Yoshikiyo, died of illness at the young age of 32. There is an anecdote that Yoshikiyo sent a messenger to Nobu to tell her that he wanted to meet her before he died, but Nobu refused to meet him.

Nobu went to work at Kameoka Castle for about 10 years from the age of 8. This is the same clan which her mother married into, but nobody knows if Nobu met her mother.

A big part of Nobu's life was her adopted father, Yamazaki Joemon Teruhisa (later renamed Yamazaki to Otagaki). A little while before Nobu was born, at the time of the reconstruction, Yoshikiyo used Chionin temple as his quarters, and Teruhisa was a Samurai of the temple.

Teruhisa came from a poor farm family and after a lot of hard work, he finally became a retainer of the temple, but he was still poor. Teruhisa was very good at Go and often played games with Yoshikiyo. Eventually, he came to be trusted by Yoshikiyo. One day, Yoshikiyo bowed to him and asked him to adopt Nobu as his daughter, and he accepted.

When New Year's Day was over and the town returned to normal life, he got milk for his adopted daughter from a local woman. However, because he did not charge Yoshikiyo child support, he didn't have enough money to thank the woman for sharing her milk.

At the time, Teruhisa was about thirty-five years old, but he actually had a wife and a son whom he had called from his hometown. In addition, his older sister came along, so he had to support a large family with a small salary. Nonetheless, Teruhisa and his wife raised Nobu as if she were their own true child.

The story of the time of working in Kameoka Castle

Let's return to the story of the time of working in Kameoka Castle. Nobu seemed to be bright and active.

Moreover, after the age of 15, she became more and more beautiful. It was thought that she would soon be favored by a wealthy lord and happily married. However, she did have a major flaw. She was too active and a spirited woman.

She learned poetry, dance, and sewing as a woman needed to in those days. Back then, the only female martial art was Naginata, but this was not enough for her. She wielded a wooden sword, mastered the chain sickle, rode a horse, and even used a bamboo pole to climb over a 1.8-meter-high wall. There is even an anecdote that she threw a thug with her mastery of jujitsu.

The first marriage

After his work at Chionin became highly regarded and his income stabilized, Teruhisa decided to take the Otagaki surname. Yamazaki was the name he was given when he first started working at Chionin, and he originally intended to take the name Otagaki. Even more gratifyingly, when Teruhisa's son became an adult, he began working with Teruhisa at Chionin. The most joyous days for Teruhisa had arrived.Teruhisa wanted his son to marry Nobu. However, his son died of illness at the age of 21.

Tragically, his wife also passed away shortly afterwards. In order to maintain the family name, Teruhisa adopted a son and when his adopted son became an adult, he gave him the name Mochihiki. When Nobu returned home after leaving her job at the castle, Mochihiki and Nobu married. Three children were born to them, but, devastatingly, one after the other died at an early age. Mochihiki became depressed and turned to alcohol and women. The couple divorced, and Mochihiki later died of illness at his parents' house. Nobu was only 25 years old at the time.

With no successor, Teruhisa continued to work at Chionin Temple even at the age of 64. It may be because she wished to fulfill her father's wish. Nobu remarried at the age of 29. And her new husband, Shigejiro, was said to have been a kind and an ideal husband.Teruhisa happily handed over the reins to Shigejiro and retired. Then they had a girl and later, a boy. All of Teruhisa's anxiety had been rewarded. However, perhaps because of tuberculosis, Shegejiro rapidly became ill and died. It is said that Nobu fell into a coma shortly after her husband's death. On Shigejiro’s deathbed, Nobu cut off her long dark hair to become Nagisage (short hair style for nun). She was only 33 years old.

Become a Buddhist nun

Teruhisa shaved off his hair and decided to become a monk, and asked Chionin to ordain him. He became the head monk of Makuzu-an and was given the Buddhist name of Saishin. After becoming a nun, Nobu was given the Buddhist name of Rengetsu (lotus-moon). With the two children in tow, the family lived in isolated peace. The lotus flowers blooming from the deep mud in the garden pond gave Nobu peace of mind. Her father taught her to play Go, she wrote poetry and spent her days raising her children happily.
But Rengetsu’s happy days did not last long. One of her daughters passed away at the age of 35, and a son passed away at the age of 37.And, with a broken heart, her father, Saishin, passed away at the age of 78. Rengtsu was 42 years old. Chionin is not a nunnery, so they didn't allow her to live there after she lost her father. With nowhere to go, she lived in front of her father's grave, crying almost every day. One day she came to her senses when some village folk reprimanded her strongly that the grave was no place for people to live.

blishment of Rengetsu-ware

“Tsune nara nu yo wo uki mono to mitsuguri no hitori nokori te mono wo koso omoe.”
---I see this inconstant world as an unhappy thing...of three chestnuts only one remains lost in melancholy.---

They used to live together quietly, like three chestnuts in a burr. This is one of the few songs that express her feelings. Although Rengetsu was heartbroken, she seemed to be a strong and healthy woman. She rented a house in Awataguchi, but she didn’t have a stable income. Thus, she chose to teach. Although she was living in a temple, she was not practising Buddhism, so it was difficult for her to teach Buddhism. Also, even though Rengetsu was good at martial arts and dance, it was difficult for a nun to teach martial arts and dance. Eventually, she decided to teach poetry. She had to get her business off the ground before she ran out of money on hand.

She put up a sign in her rented house that said Waka poetry class, but she was a beautiful woman who was a bachelor. Men who have nothing to do with Waka came to see Rengetsu. She must have been in danger and realized how much she had been protected by her father all the time. Eventually, she consumed all her savings before the business took off, but she was able to survive thanks to her adopted daughter-in-law, who carried a small amount of rice for her.

However, she absolutely did not want to continue to bother her poor adopted child. While wandering around at a loss for what to do next, there was an event that changed her destiny. It was an encounter with an old woman who was a hani-zaiku potter (crafting vessels from pottery clay) in Awadaguchi. This place was on the eastern edge of Kyoto and was also a place where travelers traveling down to the Edo area would buy souvenirs. There, an old woman who made and sold Awata ware spoke to her. Normally, a businessman would not want to increase the number of competitors, but the old woman taught her the technique of Awata ware. But she was clumsy. It was difficult for her to improve and she had a lot of trouble.

The old woman didn't have her private kiln, so she would take her work to the kiln in Shimizu-zaka and pay money to have it fired. In those days, drinking sencha was an essential part of the culture of the people, and it was a part of the culture of the townspeople of Kyoto. The Chinese pronunciation of the teapot for sencha was "Kyusha," which was later changed to "Kibishyo" in the Kyoto style. Rengetsu was making kibishyo. However, Rengetsu's work was so poorly made that no one would buy it.

Rengetsu never gave up. As she kneaded the clay, she became fascinated by the mysterious charm of clay. From the seemingly worthless soil, she realized that there is something similar to the lotus flower that blooms from the mud, which makes a vessel for people to drink sencha with purity. She then tried to make the lid into the shape of a lotus leaf and the handle, a lotus stem. She carefully crafted the shape. And she also carved her own poem on lotus-shaped pottery with a nail. Thus, the Rengetsu-ware as you know it was born.


Yagoshi Rengetsu

The lotus-shaped pottery designed by Rengetsu became very popular. And many people came to her hut to get a glimpse of Rengetsu, who had become famous. It is said that the souvenir of Kyoto in those days was Rengetsu-ware, and the most retold story of one's travel was a meeting with Rengetsu. She became very wealthy. However, she continued to live a simple life. Perhaps Rengetsu wanted to live a quiet life. She moved away as if she was running away when many people came to visit the hut. However, Rengetsu was a popular potter and, eventually, the location of her new place became known. So she moved again. She stayed in her first hut for six years but then had to move many times, earning the nickname "Yakoshi Rengetsu (a move-addict)". A carpenter, Matsubei, was always called in when she moved. He said that he could remember her moving up to 34 times and she once moved 13 times in a year. According to the documents describing Rengetsu, the extent of the area Rengetsu moved to was limited to the area east of the Kamo River. It seems that she always used Chionin as a starting point for deciding where to move. There is a grave of the Otagaki family on the mountain behind Chionin. Perhaps Rengetsu had decided not to stray too far from the grave where her adoptive father, Seishin, her adoptive mother, her husband, Shigejiro, and her children rested. As the popularity of Rengetsu grew, forgeries began to appear. However, the ware is not easy to imitate, as her original poems are either brush-written or carved with a nail.

Some potters even imitated the Rengetsu-ware and asked her to write only poems on the ware. Rengetsu readily accepted their offers. ''Take the Rengetsu ware you made, I'll put my poem on the ware for you". She may have thought that if she could help the poor in her poetry, that would be fine. She did not receive a fee from them. It is estimated that 50,000 Rengetsu-ware pieces were produced, and since the population of Kyoto at that time was about 290,000, this means that a considerable proportion of the area, owned Rengetsu-ware.

She took care of a 14-year-old boy from about the age of 60; a 46-year difference. And he later became known as Tomioka Tessai. Although Tessai was almost deaf, he read well. His father was concerned about the fate of his son and entrusted him to Rengetsu. Tessai learned and trained in the arts from Rengetsu. To make a living, Tessai tried to sell his works, but at first, it was difficult to sell them. There was a time when Rengetsu, who had already become famous, was rooting for Tessai by creating a collaboration.

She generously shared the wealth she had gained. In the event of a famine, she had Tessai, who was helping Rengetsu with her personal affairs, deliver 30 ryo (maybe approx. 37,000 USD in today’s value) to the magistrate's office, and on other occasions, she made and distributed a large amount of porridge. And perhaps her greatest undertaking was to build a bridge over the Kamogawa river in the Marutamachi town. Before she intervened, the bridge in the town was just a layer of planks that would have been swept away if the water rose, but the bridge she built was a splendid one on which, a cart could pass.


From the end of the Tokugawa Shogunate to the Meiji Restoration

At the end of the Tokugawa Shogunate, Rengetsu, who became extremely famous as a ceramic artist, had many friends. There was a suspicion that Rengetsu's hut was a secret information base for rebels planning to overthrow the shogunate. Of course, she's not a politician and wouldn't have been interested in it. At that time, black ships (warships) from the U.S. came to Japan's shores and demanded the Japanese government open up the country, which was isolated from the rest of the world (as regards trade). While all of Japan was surprised and frightened by the presence of the Black Ships, Rengetsu left this poem

“Furi ku tomo haru no Amerika shizukani te yo no uruoi ni nara n to su ran.”
--Coming like spring rain falling, America shall be gentle as moisture on the land for the good of our people.--

She compared the situation to that of pear blossoms under the spring rain, but her true feeling is that if she had had Western medicine, neither her husband nor her children would have died. There is an interpretation that she wished the times were more advanced so as not to repeat her misfortune.

The Battle of Toba-Fushimi took place and the tragic situation of the battle became known to the people of Kyoto. Tokugawa Yoshinobu, the top of Tokugawa Shogunate, had taken up positions at Osaka Castle in order to achieve a new political balance following the restoration of imperial rule in the previous year. On the other hand, the Satsuma clan started a state of partial combat by provocatively attacking Edo. In response to this report, the Tokugawa army moved up the Fushimi Kaido road to Kyoto and started a full-scale battle with the Satsuma army at Toba-Fushimi in the south of Kyoto City. However, due to the difference between new and old equipment, the Tokugawa army was defeated and their corpses were left behind on the street.

“Kiku mama ni sode koso nurure michinobe ni sarasu kabane wa ta ga ko naru ran.”
--When I hear of it my sleeves become wet...along the roadside, bodies in the open...whose children are they?--

She was angry and turned her feelings into a poem.
“Ada mikata katsu mo makuru mo awarenari onaji mikuni no hito to omoe ba”
--Foes and friends...whether they win or lose how miserable, since I feel they are people of the same land.--

She was famous and had many acquaintances in the Satsuma clan, so she asked one of her acquaintances to give her the opportunity to deliver the poem to Saigo Takamori.
When a procession of Shimadzu's government forces leaving Kyoto for the Eastern Expedition was about to arrive at the Sanjo Ohashi Bridge, Rengetsu stepped forward and handed out a leaf of tanzaku, a strip of paper. When Saigo Takamori, who was nearby, received a tanzaku and asked for her name, she called herself "Rengetsu" and walked away.
Saigo read her poem. And, on the boat trip to Edo, would have had plenty of time to think calmly. No one knows how much Rengetsu's poem influenced Saigo's thinking. However, Saigo's idea to change Japan by burning down Edo, where a million people live, changed.

Saigo had already made up his mind and accepted “Edo muketsu-kaijo”, the Tokugawa family bloodlessly surrendered and left the castle. Because of this, the advanced urban functions of Edo remained intact, and Edo was renamed Tokyo and entered a new era. In the event of war, Katsu Kaishu was preparing to burn down Edo and fight a thorough battle in guerrilla warfare.


The late period of Rengetsu's life

In 1865, at the age of 75, Rengetsu finally settled down in a quiet place to live. It was a tea room in Jinkoin temple, which was located in Nishigamo. It is said that Rengetsu lived in a small hut attached to the side of the tea room. Rengetsu continued to make pottery at this tea room.

Rengetsu had begun preparing for her death and even prepared a coffin. However, she lived for many more years. Whenever someone died in the village, villagers would ask Rengetsu for a coffin, so she made them many times. The time finally came for Rengetsu to use it. She was 85 years old in the Meiji 8 (1875). There was a lotus and a moon painted by Tessai on the white cotton lining of the coffin. And then there's the death poem.

Negawaku wa nochi no hachisu no hana no ue ni kumora nu tsuki wo miru yoshi moga na.
---I wish to see the unclouded moonlight on a lotus flower in paradise after I have passed away.---

Tomioka Tessai said a symbolic word that describes the person who is Otagaki Rengetsu. It was said that Rengetsu was a very beautiful woman. That's why many men came to her for help, and it didn't change even after she lost her husband and became a nun by cutting her hair. So Rengetsu strapped her teeth to a scales and pulled them out herself, disfiguring her appearance to silence the men who were approaching her. It is said that they were impressed by her attitude then called her "Reppu-Rengetsu, strong-minded woman". Tomioka Tessai also praised Rengetsu's death as "congratulations on her great life".

“Yado kasa nu hito no tsurasa wo nasake ni te oborozukiyo no hana no shitabushi.”
---Turned away at the inn, I take this unkindness as grace...resting instead beneath the hazy moon and evening blossoms.---

Rengetsu's grave still stands quietly under the cherry trees in Kotani Cemetery.

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