Formerly in the collection of businessman and art collector Masuda Takashi (1848–1938), this work depicts the male protagonist of Tales of Ise—an otherwise unidentified aristocrat associated with the poet Ariwara no Narihira (active in the ninth century). Exiled to eastern Japan, the aristocrat encounters an ascetic going in the opposite direction on a treacherous pass through Mount Utsu in Suruga Province. He asks this person to deliver a poem to his beloved, whom he’d left behind in Kyoto. The poem is famous for a line that states he can meet her neither in his dreams nor in reality. The word for “reality” (utsutsu) plays upon the name of Mount Utsu. This episode has been depicted in various ways. Some artists show the moment of encounter, others the traveler writing his note. Sōtatsu’s ascetic, however, has moved away from the traveler and is heading up the incline.
Mount Utsu, Tales of Ise, episode 9
Tawaraya Sōtatsu (act. ca. 1600–40)
Japan, ca. 1634
Poetry sheet mounted as hanging scroll
Ink, colors, and gold on paper
Metropolitan Museum of Art, Mary Griggs Burke Collection,
Gift of the Mary and Jackson Burke Foundation, 2015, 2015.300.88