Tomotari Otagaki / 太田垣知足 (Introduction)
Eighteen letters to Tomotari Otagaki (太田垣知足), a distant relative of Rengetsu’s on her father’s side, were once kept by Kenji Otagaki (太田垣健治) in Tottori. Rengetsu wrote about her ancestors and genealogy of her father. You can feel clearly her affection for her family and its descendants. Gimon (宜門) in the letters referes to Gimon Nakajima(中島宜門) who was a scholar and a waka teacher to Tomotari from the Tottori Clan.
Thank you for your letter. Although I haven’t seen you yet, I’m happy to hear you are fine. Thank you for giving advice. I have been reading your letter again and again. The waka are interesting and it was a first time I had read Inabashu (a volume of poems). I’m very happy to read it every day. I can’t thank you enough. I realized we have the same family name when I read Kamogawashu (another volume of poems) last year. I want to meet you, but have missed any chances since I have been busy.
My father was a son of 仁平治行てる who was a young brother of 徳右衛門正古 who was a son of かぶと山九右衛門正重. I guess the person who you heard of was 九右衛門. My parents were born around the Anei period (in the 1850s) and wanted to have a boy to perpetuate the family line, but alas, I was a girl. I don’t have any natural children, and my current son is an adopted child. He is works for Chion-in and received 10 measures of rice (jukkoku) as a salary. He doesn’t have children either so my grandchildren are also adopted. Since we have the same family name I’ll tell you everything. I’m 75 now… my life is going to the end, so I spend my days praying to the Buddha. Since our family name is not common, I feel connected with you. The vestige of Otagaki someone-or-other’s castle still exists.
Tenmin Tajima (但馬天民) lives in Osaka. His son is Saiji Tayuinosho (田結庄さい治). Everyone used to be vassals of the Yamana clan. I can’t write everything well since I’ve became old. The pupils of Chitate (千楯), Fukui and Yamada have passed away. Their houses were inherited by Hirokazu Shimizu (清水寛和). He lived on Shinmachi, but after a fire last year, I don’t know his whereabouts. A vesitige of Chitate’s house remained on Teramachi, but it burnt down. This is my private affair, but I have lived in Nishigamo since the year before last. Since retreating to Nishigamo, I don’t I’m not current on the happenings of world, including (the latest) volumes of waka (Japanese poems).
When I heard people talking about that world, I wrote:
And when the roof leaked, I wrote:
It’s getting hotter day by day so please take care of yourself. I’m afraid I will be laughed at, but I enclose one of my works.
Postscript: Thank you for giving me many waka [hand written on poem cards], I enjoy reading them every day. Sorry for not reciprocating well.
I read your letter, sent March first. Mr. Koizumi gave it to me on the twenty-seventh. I’m glad to hear you are fine. I’m fine as well. Thank you for the seaweed from your hometown. I remember that my parents used to put it in front of our family’s Buddhist altar. I enjoy eating it every day. Yoichiro Amano (天野与一郎) hasn’t visited me yet. His house being at a distance (c. 8 km) from mine is probably the reason he doesn’t come. I have been living here for 2 or 3 years [and am relatively settled], so many people I know come to visit often. Tomorrow, I will move to Okurama Temple (奥山寺) for a while. I dislike noting the time since I have become old, but the longer I stay here, the more people waylay me. I just like making pottery and writing waka, and people misunderstand [this wish]. Since I’m an old nun, it is difficult to meet and talk with people often. I want to spend the rest of my life peacefully on praying to the Buddha in a quiet place. I haven’t written waka for a while and I have stopped making pottery last year. I’m going to die soon but people still chase me, such a useless person. You are my kin, so I always desire to visit you and I’m happy to receive your letters, but please excuse my long silences.
I have read your waka… they are interesting. I haven’t written waka for a long time, so I always write the same waka for visitors. Perhaps they laugh at me. I want to write something from my heart, but I spend days in a house in the mountains without working.
Thank you for the presents from your hometown, but you don’t have to do so. Since I found your name in Kamoshu [a volume of poems], I have felt familiar with you since we share our family name. After we met, we have corresponded for a long time. I have been lucky to know you. As I wrote, I will move within a few days. If you give me any letters, please send them to Seibei Matsunoya (松のや清平) at Tohokudume, Shinmonzen-nakabashi, Chion-in Temple. It will get hotter so please take care of yourself. Please say hello to everybody.
Thirty-five letters sent to Tessai Tomioka were documented by Sodo Murakami in the Collected Works of Otagaki Rengetsu, who said that the relationship between the nun and Tessai was stronger than the one between parent and child. Tessai was the person who gave the world the most insight into Rengetsu’s inner life, and it was Rengetsu, in turn, who was most responsible for Tessai’s success. They did many collaborative works, which remain highly sought after.
Please take care of yourself in your travels. When you arrive at Nagasaki, you will probably meet Chinese people and hear many interesting stories. You should write down what you hear. I’m looking forward to seeing you and hearing your stories.
I am enclosing 200 hiki [an old currency], so that you can buy paper.
Please apologize for me to Okinu, since I didn’t write her letter of thanks. I have read your letter. I’m happy to hear you are fine. It is natural, but I have become old and can’t see very well nowadays. Please excuse my long silence. When I requested some of your calligraphy the other day, you gave me so much, thank you. I can’t thank you enough. I’m happy to hear you went traveling, something you have wanted to do for a long time. I hope that you will be happy and successful. Have a long life.
I refused everything this year and spend my days praying to the Buddha, so please don’t worry about me. These are awkward, but I’d like to give you some teapots and teacups, if you’ll send somebody here. Please apologize to Okinu, since she gave me many things the other day, but I have not written a letter of thanks. I’d like to give something to Otoku as well, but I have nothing to give now, so please apologize to her for me. I’m happy that she is also fine.
I don’t know what will happen in the future, but I hope the battles will stop. I’d like to object to you coming here, since it’s really far from your place. When I [am preparing to] die and want to meet you one last time, I will write, so please imagine that I’m fine if you don’t receive any letters. Please take care of yourself.
The retired man in Wakasa may say many things to you, but I think a wife is necessary. Single is easy, but there is nothing better than wife to support you. You have already become thirty, so it is a good time to take a wife. Please think about it again, since everything has a good time.
Rengetsu To Tessai, the twentieth day of the seventh month.
These 26 letters are kept by Yoshiyasu Murakami (村上義保) in Takaoka village Oumigun Aichi prefecture and were sent to Yoshiyasu’s father Tadamasa Murakami (村上忠順) who had familiarity with the nun since she was about 60. Tadanori was a samurai of the Kariya Clan and served the prince Arisugawa in the first year of Meiji. Since then he was trusted by the prince. He was the principle of reverence for the Emperor with his son Tada’aki (忠明) and son-in-law Atsuyoshi(篤慶). He was also a great scholar of ancient Japanese thought and culture. He wrote about twenty-five thousands books and all books are read and became textbooks. The prince gave him calligraphy and he hanged it in his study. We can know he was very close to her from these letters. He wrote about Waka books of Roan Ozawa and Kagawa in the letters which tells us how the nun started writing Waka.
I feel sick very often nowadays and spend days on sleeping mostly. This summer was very hot so I was always in the bed in June and July but the wind became cool without notice and I heard the cries of wild goose. I wanted to write letters but kept silent until now. By the way,
I started living in a temple from this summer to avoide the heat. I found there that the letters written by Roan are kept in the warehouse of the prince. I wanted to see them for a long time so I asked a monk and saw them secretly in midnight. I thought I would be here until this May but I don’t have many more years to live. I watched the moon alone,
In June, the priest passed away and everything became sorrowful.
In the night of August,in my mind.
When I heard the sound of hitting clothing,
I just scribbled what I thought. I can’t show some of them but I can’t hide my true heart. If you have a chance to come here, please visit my poor house in the season of flowers. I became old and forget things easily. Please forgive me. Thank you for giving two Akasumi. I always put them beside me and boast to my friend. I think many things but I can’t do what I want freely. I shouldn’t give this oblong card but please receive it.
Rengetsu To Mr. Murakami September 2nd
It’s still cold please take care of yourself. Although it’s spring, it is still cold and sometimes we have snow. Because I’m old, I can’t leave from a fireplace. I neglect to answer to Mr. Ozawa and spend days without any job. My hermitage is good to live in summer but it’s too cold to stay in winter so I moved in Chion-in again. When the season of flower comes, I’d like to go back here or move into a hermitage near Kitashirakawa. I’m very happy this summer since you send me many letters. I’m sorry for taking a time to tell you my gratitude. You also gave me many Waka, they are very interesting and I always read them with smile. You told me to choose my Waka so I’d like to send some Waka until the seasonal festival in March. It is ashamed to show my poor Waka but I think it will be the last time so I will send them. I made these Waka this spring.
Rokujoeiso by Ozawa is 50 volumes and Waka by Ban, Chiyojo, Akinari, Yuren, Chikage, Haruni and so on are appeared in it. There are also books in 20 volumes but unfortunately, there are many worm-eaten inside. The condition of Waka books in 50 volumes is very good. Since they wrote poems what they felt, all Waka is very interesting. When they gathered in the temple in the time the late prince were alive, they draw footprints of deer and two maple trees in the painting of autumn,
This is appreared in Rokujoeiso so I’d like to show it to you.
And the next is Koukei Ban,
Being with Jien,
When I read their Waka, I feel as if I’m meeting old people but since I came back here in hurry, I couldn’t write any Waka. I’d like to tell you more but I can’t write everything.
I walked 20 or 24 km recently but I didn’t feel tough so I’d like to visit Mt. Fuji after the season become calm. I wanted visit there for a long time so I’m planning to stay at Arai. Please forgive me as I’m old. I always travel to Kinshu(近州) and from there, I wish you good luck secretly. I wish I could visit you but it is fate,
I resigned myself to my fate. Please forgive me for everything since I’m old.
The end of year,
These 27 letters were sent to Kuroda Mitsuyoshi, a skilled potter and Rengetsu’s kiln assistant, who fired and glazed some portion of her works, and in later years did collaborative works in which he made the pottery and she inscribed the pieces with her poems. He was made heir to Rengetsu’s name, becoming Rengetsu II.
It became cool in morning and evening. I’m happy that you are fine. Thank you for visiting me from a long distance and giving many good souvenirs. I enjoy eating them every day. I sent you pottery which I told you before so please kiln them. I sent 6 large teapots, 50 small teapots and 50 as the charges for your work. Please ask me if it is not enough. Thank you for your effort every time. Please say hello to the teacher. I’m always including portage and tips but if it is a problem to you, please let me know. Sincerely,
Please take care of yourself.
Rengetsu To Ms. Kuroda21st
It is cold please take care of yourself.
It is cold nowadays. I’m happy that your mother and everybody are fine. I also stay fine so please don’t worry about me. Everything was busy this year. Thank you for your work. Matsubee and Otoku brought pottery the other day. I wanted to send the rest of 21 today, but the condition of road was bad so I will send it within a few days. I don’t mind if I receive them in spring so please take your time. I’m happy New Year will come soon so I wrote some poems. I think it is nice to write them on teapots.
I’d like to talk to you when I meet you next time. But we must be busy during winter so please visit me in spring. I’d like to show you something but since I’m living in the mountains, everything is inconvenient. Please receive this as drinking money. Please say hello to everybody.
You don’t have to visit me when you are busy. I was relieved when I heard about you from Otoku. I’d like to meet you in spring.
Rengetsu To Mr. Kuroda December 17
Markuz, please use the English text from this letter (which is in the art section of the site, the center snowball of the Album mandala.
Other Recipients (Letter 2: To an Old Man)
Markuz, please use the English text from this letter (which is in the archive), which I have attached below under the file name 3a Kokinshu Letter English. Tomotari Otagaki / 太田垣知足 (Introduction)