Kashima :
Thank you very much for sparing your valuable time for us today. Could you tell us from the time you first encountered on of Bousai kameda’s calligraphy?
Atsumi :
I graduated from a high school called Kudan. It was one of the days on my way home while I was walking on a side street from Kudan-shita to Jinbo-cho. There was a shop handling old painting and writings where they had a wonderful calligraphy hanging displayed in the show window. Passing by that hanging, I couldn't help but feel as if my heart got stuck there and I kept looking back. The shop owner taught me the calligraphy was of Bousai Kameda and that the description was ""Suigei"". I was to leave then, though I could not make myself move and stayed to take a more thorough look. I had no knowledge about Bousai, though the feeling flowing from the calligraphy was good and there was a certain grace that you could feel. Addition to that the phrase caught my taste and I offered to buy the piece. The shop owner seemed reluctant to part with the piece though sold it to me in the end. That shop owner was you, Mr.Kashima.
Kashima :
Yes, it was such pleasure. That time in Kudan was before Kashima-Arts shop moved to Kyobashi. So it was from this ""Suigei"" piece that your research in literary figures from the Edo Kasei era had begun.
Atsumi :
Yes that is correct. As I continued my research, I started to understand the circumstances of the interaction that took place between Bousai Kameda and the literary figures of the Edo Bunka-Bunsei period. My collection of pieces created by such people grew into such that could fill a total book. You once introduced me to the magazine ""Sumi"" published from Geijitsu Newspaper Company, and ""Bousai Kameda and the literary figures from the Edo Kasei era"" published through them was the very first of mu books. From then, there were offers from here and there, all over the country. Before realizing, I became a researcher of Bousai.
Kashima :
「From the time you have acquired ""Suigeu"" to the time you published your book of Bousai went by at such speed, and having to do all research by yourself, I can imagine it could not have been easy.
Atsumi :
Well, I have been an actor for 50 years now and we are constantly taught to always carry a ""Kojiki-bukuro"" from our predecessors.
Kashima :
A "Kojiki-bukuro"?
Atsumi :
Yes. To store all kinds of knowledge in that bag and when needed take them out for use. The more you have stored in, the higher the quality of them would be preferable. Having an inquisitive mind and having speed is necessary at all times. Increasing the contents of the bag has become a part of me, a second nature to me that even now it is of great assistance even when being interviewed.
Kashima :
I see. And has anything changed since your book got published?
Atsumi :
Yes, many information came from the countrysides. At that time, the literary figures would travel to their admirers and pupils around the countryside earning considerable compensations for creating verses and writing calligraphy. It is said that when houses were bunt in the Great fire of Edo, grouping up in a number of people and setting out to make the rounds, new houses were built. In Bousai's case, he would travel from Shinshu to Echigo. That is why there are still many of Bousai's calligraphic works and paintings remaining in Niigata area, from where I received many information regarding his pieces. The reason why the people of Echigo respect Bousai so much is because he had introduced Ryokan's pieces to Edo when at the time he was little short of being a not esteemed Buddhist monk. Lifting him to recognition by praising the high spirituality in Ryokan's calligraphy along with his personal magnetism. For this reason they could have felt a gratitude towards Bousai. Therefore it seems that they brought in many pieces of Bousai from Kyoto and Edo by Edo period cargo ships. Now, regarding the issue if there were any connection between Bousai and Ryokan, although there are many views and still is not clear, I presume there was none. There is a comic tanka ""Bousai, returning from Echigo, characters curving"", though that was created in future ages. Bousai has not been mimicking Ryokan's calligraphy. In reality, it is probably that being a great scholar at that time, Bousai recognized and brought Ryokan out into the world. Still, in common they both studied Kaiso ; a calligrapher in wild cursive stlye.
Kashima :
Please tell us the appeal you find in Bousai's calligraphy.
Atsumi :
If I were to describe Bousai’s appeal in a word, I would say it is “Beauty”. A beauty with Grace. Bousai’s cursive script is especially appreciated by foreigners. The reason is, since they cannot read the Chinese characters they will look at Bousai’s calligraphy as looking at a picture. It must be interesting, to see Bousai’s calligraphy as a monotone painting. It is as if you were looking at Miro’s paingings. Japanese people will want to read the calligraphy. However for modern people, it is quite difficult to read cursive scripts of the Edo period. So eventually they give up and let go. There might be much to learn in the way of how foreign people appreciate pieces. In contrast, I presume that to understand the calligraphy created by Ryokan, who has lived in an imaginary world in a sense of way, one needs to appreciate the piece in a calmer state. You can say that people who appreciate Ryokan esteem spirituality. Bousai’s are to the utmost, wordling pieces. Excusing me for changing the subject but, it has been that the calligraphy of the literary figures of the Kasei era has been neglected as just piece’s of a confucianist. Mr.Kashima, what do you think about this?
Kashima :
This is quite disappointing. Still ever since you have taken up the topic of literary figures of the Kasei era, there has been gradual change in the evaluation. Which is a very thankful thing, I think.
Atsumi :
Calligraphy, to start with enjoying the form, is sure to present many more appealing pieces. As this piece of Bousai’s “ Suigei” hanging here, please discover beautiful and refined pieces and continue to present them to the world.
Kashima :
Encouraged by your words, I will put in great effort to find such pieces. By the way, have you found any interesting or new observations of literary figures of the Kasei era besides Bousai?
Atsumi :
Well yes. I am arranging Okubo Shibutsu exhibition at the Hitachi City Museum in March. We have set up the exhibition site uniquely to attract the interest of visitors. For example, Shibutsu and his friends; Ichikawa Kansai, Beian, Hokuzan Yamamoto, Jotei Kashiwagi,Gozan Kikuchi, and friends from the west; Sanyou Rai, and of course Bousai, Hoitsu Sakai, Buncho Tani, Rosanjin, a large number of talented people. I truly recommend to visit the exhibition. On contrary to Bousai, Shibutsu’s calligraphy is enchanting and has sensuality. Also, since Shibutsu had many acquaintances among composers of Chinese poems centered around Sanyou Rai, we will be exhibiting a number of handwritings of them as well. And there is the room to contemplate tombstones. It is a very rough time for tombstones now. The tombstones in the shrines and temples along the riverside of Sumida which Kafu Nagai loved, now due to land readjustments have been pulled out and piled up in the corners. Being already in poor condition due to air attacks and earthquake disasters,,, Regardless, we will be exhibiting as much Bokutaku (copy made by placing wet paper on an object and then putting black ink on it) of those tombstones as possible in an individual room. There will be famous tombstones from Hyakkaen as well. And in May at the Ukiyo-e Ota Memorial Museum of Art in Harajuku Tokyo, there will be an exhibition of Rosanjin Ota. Rosanjin has a very wide insight with many literary work, and within there are many stories which are suitable material to become a Rakugo story. They became particularly popular in the Meji era along with “sororishinzaemon no chiekurabe” , and many books have been published. Those books also will be exhibited. We will be receiving a Rakugo performer for our lecture meeting. Also, we have determined many of Rosanjin’s Comic Tanka’s associates. Masamochi ishikawa, Kanko Shuro, friends with interesting Comic Tanka’s will be gathered. Rosanjin must have had much pent-up emotions caused from being a low rank samurai coming from a samurai class family. There are many Comic Tanka’s that satires the society. There are also pieces collaborated with Ukiyoe artists, which are a little more soft in the touch, so I wish many people will come to see it.
Kashima :
I surely will recommend people to go and see. By the way, what do you think of the authenticity of the pieces?
Atsumi :
I have doubts about only debating the genuineness or spuriousness of the calligraphy works of the literary figures of the Kasei era. Indeed there might have been literary figures that had their pupils or someone to write for them, though such pieces should not have the same attractiveness, and if they do what counts is if the piece expresses something, anything, and that whoever sees it could feel it. I think, to have that antenna of sensitivity is the primary condition to being a collector. One must polish that sense. To enjoy competing in it as well.
Kashima :
There is still much that we will like to hear, though on account of the space, we hope we can continue this interview sometime next. As in closing to today's interview, will you kindly offer some advice to collectors that will follow in your steps?
Atsumi :
I would like the collectors to be interested, to keep interest. The continuance is everything. As a provider, to present fine pieces is important. I think that it is necessary to expand as much as one can. This I think will eventually lead to encourage material flow.
Kashima :
Thank you so much for sharing your valuable episodes and information.

*The dialogue was quoted from the third Bisai catalogue (Apr 2008).

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Kashima Morio

  • Kasima Arts Co., Ltd.
  • Kashima Morio
  • Founded Kasima Arts Co., Ltd for an art dealing company in 1988. Also established a secondhand book store. As a mail-order business, he has published a catalogue “Ochiho”.

Atsumi Kuniyasu

  • Director of Edo Minkan-calligraphy Art Museum
  • The late Mr. Atsumi Kuniyasu
  • Born in Yotsuya Tokyo 1933. Founder of the Act Aoyama acting academy. Graduated from The Open University of Japan, Human research department. Published books such as "Bousai Kameda and the literary figures from the Edo Kasei era"

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