Kohitsu Ryosa (古筆了佐)

Ryosa KOHITSU (January 28, 1572-March 18, 1662) was born in Omi Province and was an appraiser of old writings. His real family name was Hirasawa, his common name, Yashiro, and his imina (real name), Norisuke and he became a priest and changed his name to Ryosa. Later, he changed his family name to KOHITSU by command of Hidetsugu TOYOTOMI, the chief adviser to the Emperor, to devote himself to appraisal of old writings.

Old writings

Fragment' of "Shitagoshu (MINAMOTO no Shitago's Poetry Book)" in "Nishi-Honganji-bon Sanju-rokunin-kashu (The Nishi-Honganji Collection of Thirty-Six Anthologies)"
There are two editions called 'Kasujishiki' and "Okaderagire" (Okadera edition) (descended to Oka-dera Temple); the former was made by joining together two or more sheets of paper of different color and/or quality with glue to create decorative effects on writing paper, but the latter was not.

Old writings refer to excellent handwritings of Japanese calligraphic style, which were made in the Heian and Kamakura periods. They may be narrowed down to 'old writings in kana'. It does not mean just ancient writings.

When the world became more peaceful in the Azuchi-Momoyama period, intellectuals wanted to 'have beautiful handwritings for practice in penmanship' or 'obtain them for appreciation'. In addition, old writings came to be loved by masters of the tea ceremony since Joo TAKENO used "Ogura Shikishi (waka poetry)" by FUJIWARA no Teika as a hanging scroll in a tea room. Old writings became popular among townspeople and were prized.

Pieces of excellent classical calligraphy

Old writings were mainly stored and appreciated as books or rolls in their entirety with care in the aristocratic culture. However, as a craze for old writings increased and the number of old writings became insufficient, some parts were cut off from them. Cuttings were called 'fragments', and pieces of excellent classical calligraphy and utagire (poem fragments) came into the world. Since it was inconvenient to store and appreciate pieces of excellent classical calligraphy, copybooks (collections of calligraphy) were made to do so. A "story book written in kana" said that they also gained popularity among townspeople in the early Edo period or in the middle of the 17th century. A "tea ceremony report" said that pieces of excellent classical calligraphy began to be used as hanging scrolls for decoration of alcoves in tea rooms.

Appraisal of old writings

When appreciation of pieces of excellent classical calligraphy as copybooks or hanging rolls in tea rooms gained popularity, it became important to know who wrote them. People asked for appraisal, and appraisers of old writings appeared to authenticate them. Many people, such as Yuko OMURA, Josho HORIN, and Mitsuhiro KARASUMARU, were engaged in appraisal, and Ryosa KOHITSU became a professional appraiser of old writings.

Ryosa KOHITSU (Yashiro HIRASAWA)

He was born in Nishikawa in Omi Province as a descendant of Omi-Genji (Minamoto clan) in 1572. When he was young, he left for Kyoto with his father, Sokyu HIRASAWA, and they became disciples of Mitsuhiro KARASUMARU to learn 31-syllable Japanese poems. Mitsuhiro was excellent at 31-syllable Japanese poems and calligraphy, especially skilled at appraisal of old writings and collected them by himself. Under his influence, Yashiro HIRASAWA studied and mastered art of appraisal of old writings. He was advised by Mitsuhiro to devote himself to appraisal of old writings, he made a decision to do so, and he got an order to change his family name to KOHITSU from Hidetsugu TOYOTOMI. He was given a pure-gold appraisal stamp, named 'Kinzan', which was ordered by Hidetsugu himself, because authority was required for appraisal. Yashiro had already retired into religion and had a priest's name of Ryosa, but he changed his family name to KOHITSU to establish a KOHITSU family, called himself Ryosa KOHITSU, and became a leading appraiser of old writings.

KOHITSU family/branch family

Ryosa had four sons and one daughter. The third son, Saburobe, succeeded Ryosa and bore the name of Ryoei. The KOHITSU family transmitted the secrets of the art of appraisal of old writings from father to only one child until Ryoshin of the 13th generation and were engaged in the appraisal until the Pacific War. The second son of Ryosa, Kanbe, went to Edo, and a son of Kanbe, Morimura, succeeded to the professional name of Kanbe and called himself Ryonin KOHITSU. Ryonin set up a new branch of the KOHITSU family independently of the original house in Kyoto, served the shogunate and devoted himself to appraisal. He came under the umbrella of a commissioner of shrines and temples in the shogunate organization and was given an official title of Kohitumi. In addition, his disciples also prospered and appraisal of old writings was put on a commercial basis.

Relationship with the KARASUMARU family

It is not known exactly when the relationship between Mitsuhiro KARASUMARU and Ryosa began, but it is clear from "Otekagami (a collection of calligraphy, imperial correspondence, and other works dating from the Heian through the Muromachi periods)", "kohitsumeiyo shu (collection of pieces of old writings)" and "Meikanshu (collection of Meikan)" that Ryosa learned the art of appraisal of old writings from Mitsuhiro.

The disciple Ryosa was seven years older than Mitsuhiro, and Ryosa was 67 when Mitsuhiro died at the age of 60 in 1638. The relationship between Ryosa and the KARASUMARU family continued long after that, until the generation of the son of Mitsutaka, Sukeyoshi KARASUMARU. Sukeyoshi was familiar with 31-syllable Japanese poems and skillful at calligraphy, and the works of old masters of calligraphy were printed on the folded book handed down from generation to generation in the KARASUMARU family. A 31-syllable Japanese poem which Sukeyoshi sent to Ryosa together with a priest's robe for the celebration of his ninetieth birthday in 1661 still remains.

At this time, Sukeyoshi held the position of the junior grade of the second (court) rank/chief councilor of state and was 40 years old. Ryosa died at the age of 91 next year. In addition, there are some letters from Mitsuhiro to Ryosa and some notes written by Ryosa, which were given to Shigemi KOMATSU by a direct descendent of Ryosa KOHITSU in the KOHITSU family.

Appraisal

(Attributed to ONO no Michikaze) This name was given because Koetsu HONAMI treasured it.

The appraisers of old writings conjectured the unknown authors of pieces of excellent classical calligraphy, named them, and put a small tag called a Kiwame fuda (certificate of authenticity) on each of them. Then he put an appraisal mark on the tag, stuck it to the right side of the piece of excellent classical calligraphy, and pasted pieces of excellent calligraphy in a given order to make an album of exemplary calligraphy. This album was also used as a reference for appraisal.

Appraisal stamp

The appraisal stamp 'Kinzan' given from Hidetsugu TOYOTOMI was made of pure gold, but Shigemi KOMATSU saw only wooden stamps in the house of a descendent of the KOHITSU family. But 'Kinzan' was engraved in the face of each seal and all of them were smeared with ink, therefore, he thought that they were used to issue Kiwame fudas.

Kohitsugire meyasu (reference of ancient paper sheets with elegant calligraphy)

The book titled "Kohitsugire meyasu" which was said to be written by an disciple of Ryosa, Ryoin FUJIMOTO (Kizan KASAHARA), is valuable because it described a method of appraisal of old writings.

Possible author

This name was given because the 17 lines at the opening part of the ninth scroll attributed to KI no Tsurayuki were originally descended to Koyasan.

The old writings that remain now have the names of possible authors assigned by appraisers of old writings at a later time.
But many possible authors have been denied now
For example, the possible author of "Koyagire (Fragment from Kokin Waka Shu Poetry Anthology), Second Class" was believed to be KI no Tsuyayuki, but it has become clear that it was written by MINAMOTO no Kaneyuki. This is partly because the art of appraisal of old writings was not scientific, but also because some authors hid the fact that they wrote them.

KI no Tsurayuki wrote "Tosa Nikki (The Tosa Diary)" in the guise of a woman because men kept diaries in the Chinese language in the middle of the Heian period and he had to pretend to be a woman to write a diary in kana. The year (934) when he began his diary was expressed as 'that year' (some year) in kana.

There was serious discrimination against women and they were forbidden to learn Kanji in those days. Kana was called Onnade and regarded as characters for women, and Kanji was called Otokode. The reason why the authors of most existing pieces of excellent classical calligraphy are unknown may be related with the attitude of Tsurayuki.

Names of old writings

Fragment' of "Tsurayuki shu ge (KI no Tsurayuki 's poetry collection volume II)" in "Nishi-Honganji-bon Sanju-rokunin-kashu (The Nishi-Honganji Collection of Thirty-Six Anthologies)"
This fragment was cut off together with "Ise shu (The Diary of Lady Ise)" in 1929. This name was given because Nishi-Honganji Temple was originally located in Osaka-Ishiyama.

Each old writing has a name, and the names of old writings derive from the following:

Names of storage locations

"Koyagire (Fragment from Kokin Waka Shu Poetry Anthology)", "Honnoji-Gire (Fragment from Kokin Waka Shu Poetry Anthology, A section of Honnoji-Gire)", "Sanshikishi sunshouan shikisi (Segments from the Poetry-Anthology Kokin Wakashu)", "Ishiyamagire (Fragment of Tsurayukishu no ge (Ki no Tsurayuki 's Anthology) or Ise shu (The Diary of Lady Ise)", "Kameyamagire (Segments from the Poetry-Anthology Kokin Wakashu)", "Okaderagire (Fragment of the Okadera Edition)", etc.

Names of owners

"Honami-gire (Manuscript of Kokin Waka Shu)", "Sekidobon Kokinshu (Collection of Ancient and Modern)", "Kyukaigire (Fragment from Kokin Waka Shu Poetry Anthology)", "Minbugire (Fragment from Kokin Waka Shu Poetry Anthology)", "Ryosagire (Fragment from Kokin Waka Shu Poetry Anthology)", "Arakigire (Fragment from Kokin Waka Shu Poetry Anthology)", "Oegire", "Oiegire (Fragment from Kokin Waka Shu Poetry Anthology)", "Uemongire (Fragment from Kokin Waka Shu Poetry Anthology)", "Nakayamagire (Fragment from Kokin Waka Shu Poetry Anthology)", "Imakigire (Fragment from Kokin Waka Shu Poetry Anthology)", "Sumikuragire (Fragment from Kokin Waka Shu Poetry Anthology)", etc.

Characteristics of writing paper

"San-shikishi, tsugi shikishi (fine articles of Japanese Calligraphy, Fragment of a poem anthology)", "San-shikishi, masu shikishi (fine articles of Japanese Calligraphy, Fragment of a poem anthology)", "Aigamibon manyoshu (book of dark blue paper, Japan's oldest anthology of poems)", "Ayaji Utagire", "Sujigire", "Toshigire", "Oshikishi (big colored paper)", "Shoshikishi (small coloured paper)", "Kasujiikishi", "Ashide Utagire (Poem fragments)", "Uzuragire (Fragment of the Uzura Edition of the Collection of Ancient and Modern Japanese Poems)", "Koigire (Fragment of the Koi Edition of the Collection of Ancient and Modern Japanese Poems)", etc.

Style of calligraphy

"Hari-gire (Fragment of the Hari Edition of the Collection of Ancient and Modern Japanese Poems)", "Koyorigire (Fragment of the Koyori Edition of the Collection of Ancient and Modern Japanese Poems)", etc.

Date of transcription by handwriting

"Genryaku-bon Manyoshu", "Tentoku utaawase (Poetry contest of Tentoku)", etc.

Date of cutting

"Showagire (Fragment of the Showa Edition of the Collection of Ancient and Modern Japanese Poems)", "Boshingire (Fragment of the Boshin Edition of the Collection of Ancient and Modern Japanese Poems)", etc.

The first character of a poem

"Fushinjo (the letters Kukai wrote to Saicho)", "ONO no Michikaze Akihagi-jo (Collection of poems by ONO no Michikaze)", etc.