Ōtagaki Rengetsu 大田垣蓮月 (1791-1875)

Autumn Rain at Ama-no-hashidate

Inv. Nr. #20.001
Date Late Edo/Early Meiji period
Material Ink and light colors on silk
Dimensions H 37 x W 37 cm

Price: EUR 2,500

Ōtagaki Rengetsu is possibly the most famous female poet of 19th Century and also known for her excellent skills in calligraphy and pottery. She was born as illegitimate daughter of a samurai from the Tōdō family. Soon after her birth, she was adopted by Ōtagaki Mitsuhasa who worked at Chion’in, an important Jōdo (Pure Land) school temple in Kyōto. In 1798, having lost her mother and brother, she was sent to serve as a lady-in-waiting at Kameoka castle in Tanba where she was taught classical poetry, calligraphy and martial arts.


With only 33 years, she already went through some fateful years of her life with the loss of two husbands and all of her five children. After that, she decided to shave her hair and take vows, adopting the name Rengetsu (Lotus Moon). She lived together with her stepfather near Chion’in temple. After his death in 1832 Rengetsu began to make her extraordinary pottery, which she usually inscribed with her own waka (31-syllable classical poetry) and sold to support herself. With her unique combination of pottery, calligraphy and poetry, Rengetsu already gained large recognition during her lifetime far beyond the borders of Kyōto.


This square painting by Rengetsu depicts a famous Japanese landscape known as Ama-no-hashidate in a beautiful autumn setting. Ama-no-hashidate or "Heavenly Bridge" is part of the Japanese city of Miyazu in the north of Kyōto Prefecture. One of Japan's "Three Beautiful Landscapes," the 3.6-kilometer-long natural sandbank covered with pine trees has long been known as an utamakura (lit. "poetry pillow"), a famous place of immense beauty from which poets and artists draw inspiration. In her poem, which Rengetsu has arranged freely around the painting in her fluid, elegant handwriting, she describes a rainy scene in which the sandbank is not visible at first, but suddenly appears in the mist like a bridge from heaven itself:








At Yosa-no-umi

a moment of

recurring autumn rain

let it suddenly appear -

the bridge from heaven




Black Robe, White Mist: Art of the Japanese Buddhist Nun Rengetsu, National Gallery of Australia, 2007.



Tokyo National Museum, Metropolitan Museum, Harvard Art Museum, National Gallery of Australia, Miho Museum, LACMA Museum, Philadelphia Museum of Art, and many more...