This remarkable Japanese portable writing set contains the instruments of sublime artistic expression. Also known as a yatate, this Meiji-period set includes a low writing table, an ink stone, or suzuri and water dropper, or mizusashi, in a compact or silk-covered saturation pad, and a set of five metal implements. Incredible lacquer decoration of tree-lined, rolling hills distinguish the larger items, and all of these are held inside a finely crafted box of bare wood, which is marked with a Japanese inscription and bound with a ribbon handle.
Yatate, which means “arrow stand,” were first invented during the Kamakura period (1185-1333). Before they were invented, whenever anyone wanted to write or draw in ink, he had to make his own by grinding the ink stick in water on the grinding stone. Samurai warriors often had to write letters and reports from the field, and therefore carried their writing tools with them, including a small grinding stone set in a drawer at the bottom of their arrow quiver. This grinding stone became known as the yatate no suzuri (arrow stand's grinding stone), then simply “yatate.” As it was burdensome to have to pull out one’s writing implements every time one needed to write, the idea of saturating a piece of cotton or silk in liquid ink was born. This could be carried about in a simple container without any worry of spills. If a dispatch was required, the warrior need simply to slide open the lid and press his brush into the cotton.
9" wide x 1 1/2" deep x 10 3/4" high
Japanese writing is considered by many to be an art form. However, for all its beauty, this elaborate process involves only four simple writing instruments, known as the “four treasures.” These are the ink stick, ink stone, calligraphy brush, or fude and rice paper, or hanshi.. Felt (shitajiki) for absorbing excess ink, paperweights, (bunchin) and the water pot or dropper (mizusashi), though not considered among the four treasures, are also essential. The art of writing is also very spiritual and meditative in nature. The traditional method of preparing ink is connected to preparing one's self spiritually and mentally for writing. And because the ink stone is the only tool that does not have to be replaced because of wear and use, the Japanese consider it to be the continuous link in the writing process, like the spirit or soul.