1791 - 1875
Also known as: Nobu
Japanese poet, calligrapher, potter and painter. Shortly after her birth, she was adopted by Otagaki Mitsuhisa who worked at Chion’in, an important Jodo (Pure Land) sect temple in Kyoto. In 1798 she was sent to serve at Kameoka Castle in Tanba, where she studied poetry, calligraphy and martial arts. She returned to Kyoto in 1807 and was married to a young samurai named Mochihisa. They had three children, all of whom died shortly after birth; in 1815 Mochihisa also died. In 1819 Nobu remarried, but her second husband died in 1823. After enduring the tragic loss of two husbands and all her children, Nobu, only 33 years old, cut her hair off and became a nun, at which time she adopted the name Rengetsu ('lotus moon'). She lived with her stepfather, who had also taken vows, near Chion’in. After his death in 1832 Rengetsu began to make pottery, which she then inscribed with her own waka (31-syllable classical poetry) and sold to support herself. The delicate hand-built tea utensils that she inscribed with hauntingly beautiful poems are unique combinations of poetry, calligraphy and pottery; they were as highly prized in her own lifetime as they are now. Rengetsu also inscribed her poems on utensils made by other Kyoto potters. In her lifetime, Rengetsu produced thousands of pieces of art--pottery, calligraphies, paintings, and joint works with different kinds of artists. She was friends to many of the important literary, artistic, political, and religious figures of the day, and she was an important figure herself in the cultural life of Kyoto.