Waka Poem: “Across the fields and hills…”

Ōtagaki Rengetsu Japanese

Not on view

Otagaki Rengetsu took vows as a Buddhist nun, but is better remembered as one of the foremost waka poets of the nineteenth century, an ink painter, a skilled calligrapher in a refreshingly simple and elegant style, and a prolific potter who inscribed poems into ceramic teaware. A daughter of a courtesan of the licensed brothel quarters and wealthy samurai, she was adopted at a young age into the Ōtagaki clan, and became a lady-in-waiting at Kameoka Castle. She married twice and had five children, but after the death of her second husband in 1823 and the tragic death of all her children she became a nun, taking the Buddhist sobriquet Rengetsu (“Lotus Moon”). She lived in huts in various temple precincts until 1865, when she settled at the Jinkō’in temple, where she lived as nun and created art for the remainder of her life. She became an intimate friend of and mentor to the great Literati artist Tomioka Tessai, and they often collaborated on works.

Here the poem, calligraphy and painting are all by Rengetsu. The poem reads:


No ni yama ni
ukare ukarete
kaerusa o
neya made okuru
aki no yo no tsuki

Across the fields and hills
my spirits buoyed with joy—
Making my way back,
accompanied to my bedroom,
by this autumn’s night moon.
(Trans. John T. Carpenter)

Waka Poem: “Across the fields and hills…”, Ōtagaki Rengetsu (Japanese, 1791–1875), Hanging scroll; ink on paper, Japan

Due to rights restrictions, this image cannot be enlarged, viewed at full screen, or downloaded.

Open Access

As part of the Met's Open Access policy, you can freely copy, modify and distribute this image, even for commercial purposes.


Public domain data for this object can also be accessed using the Met's Open Access API.