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Karen M. Gerhart

[Ōtagaki Nobu]

(b Kyoto, 1791; d Kyoto, 1875).

Japanese poet, calligrapher, potter and painter. Shortly after her birth, she was adopted by Ōtagaki Mitsuhisa who worked at Chion’in, an important Jōdo (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 ...