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|The yatate is a portable writing implement, used by cultured Japanese people until the advent of the fountain pen.
Until yatate were introduced, Samurai went into battle carrying an inkstone and other writing instruments (an inkstick and brush) in their quiver. So, the inkstone was called “The Inkstone in Arrow Case”, Yatate meaning “arrow case” in Japanese. Even when a single writing utensil evolved, it was still called the yatate.
The yatate originated in the Kamakura period (1185-1333). At first the yatate was shaped like a Hiogi (a fan made ofcypress slats).
The box had a sliding lid and contained an inkpad and writing brush. The inkpad was made of moxa or cotton, and when the ink dried up, a drop of water was added. The yatate, then, was a combination of the three Japanese writing utensils-inkstone, inkstick and writing brush. The inkstone and inkstick were combined to from an inkpad, which together with the brush, was very easy to carry.
Looking at changing types of yatate, the Hiogi-type originated in the Kamakura period and was replaced by the ladle-or inter locking-type in the Edo period.
Also at that time, around the Kansei era (1789-1801), the separate (or Inro) type yatate appeared and gained popularity.
Towards the end of the Edo period, the pocket yatate, a thin box-type, appeared. It contains a writingbrush with a short handle which can be joined end to end or extended like a radio aerial.
As we have seen, the four standard types of yatate are the Hiogi, inter locking, separate and pocket type.
Regarding materials, the most popular are brass, copper, bronze, a silver and copper alloy, other copper alloys, silver and iron.
Natural materials include ivory, horn and bone, tortoise-shell, gourd, fungus, rattan, wood and bamboo.
Many pleasant hours can be spent studying yatate and trying to guess something about the life and works of their past owners.
Tawara Art Museum Foundation
President Shoichi Tawara