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Edo Pop Pick: Mitate of the Poet Øta Døkan

Posted on by Minneapolis Institute of Arts

In celebration of our newest show, Edo Pop, each week, we are giving you a taste of the sensuality, fashion, and decadent entertainment of young urban sophisticates of Japan’s pre-modern era. If you haven’t experienced Edo Pop yet (or even if you already have), stop on by the MIA!  Read more about the exhibition here.

We hope all apologies given to you are this heartfelt and thoughtful!

Suzuki Harunobu, 1724/25–70, Mitate of the Poet Øta Døkan, 1766–67. Color woodblock print (nishiki-e).

Once while on a hawking expedition, the warrior Døkan was caught in a rainstorm. He stopped at a small house and asked to borrow a mino, a traditional straw raincoat. The young woman to whom he spoke responded by giving him a spray of yamabuki (kerria rose). Later, when he reported the strange encounter to others, he was informed that the girl had actually made a clever pun by alluding to a well-known poem.

Nanae yae
hana wa sake domo
yamabuki no
mi no hitotsu da ni
nakizo kanashiki
 
Though a many-petaled
flower
the yamabuki,
lamentably,
is without a single seed.

In the poem, “mi no hitotsu da ni nakizo” (without a single seed) might also be read “mino hitotsu da ni nakizo” (without a raincoat). Thus the girl did more than report that the household lacked a raincoat; her gift of yamabuki was a supremely elegant apology laden with poetic associations.

Read more about this print!

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