Sakai Hoitsu

Kikkoten poem


Sakai Hoitsu, (1761-1828) kakemono

Kikkoten (Tanabata Ceremony)

hanging scroll, ink and color on paper, signed Hoitsu ga Heidai with one artist's seal Bunsen; with poem by Hoitsu above with the title Kikkoten in bold kanji, sealed Keikyokan

painting 32 1/8 by 8 1/4 in., 81.5 by 20.8 cm
overall: 62 1/4 by 12 in., 158 by 30.5 cm

The poem references the Kikkoten, an ancient ceremony associated with the Tanabata Festival:

sode furu ha
kuruwa no noki ya
hoshi no take

Star Festival
as waving sleeve
seeing bamboo decorated for stars
under the eaves of the pleasure court

The Kikkoten (or Star Festival), held on the seventh day of the seventh lunar month, originated from the Chinese Qixi Festival, and was adopted by the Kyoto Imperial Palace during the Heian Period (794-1185). By the Edo Period the festival had evolved with the Obon (or 'Bon') festivals which honor ancestral spirits, often during the same lunar month, and became known as the Tanabata.

The Tanabata Festival is based on a legend associated with a celestial event- the meeting of the Vega star and the Altair star across the Milky Way, described in the legend of the married lovers, Orihime (the Weaving Princess, or the Vega star), and Hikoboshi (the Herdsman, or the Altair star). The pair were separated by Orihime's father, Tentei ('heavenly king') after they married because he was angry the Princess had stopped weaving her beautiful silks and Hikoboshi was neglecting his cows. He placed the Amanogawa River (a river of stars, ie. the Milky Way) between them and forbade the two to meet. He was eventually moved by his daughter's tears and relented, allowing them to reunite once a year on the seventh day of the seventh month.

During Heian Period, the Kikkoten Ceremony celebrated the lovers in a combination of rituals which involved music and the exchange of poetry between couples. Later traditions evolved where wishes, in the form of poems, are inscribed on poem slips (usually the long tanzaku paper) and tied to trees.


Hoitsu poem


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site last updated
January 31, 2023

Scholten Japanese Art
145 West 58th Street, suite 6D
New York, New York 10019
ph: (212) 585-0474
fx: (212) 585-0475