Arakawa Hirokazu, Kindai Nihon no shikkogei (Japanese lacquer art of recent times) (Kyoto: Kyoto Shoin, 1985), pl. 53
The poet-monk Saigyo (1118-1190) is shown reclining on the ground in a casual pose beneath falling cherry petals. He wears a monk's traveling gear of a simple black robe, silver-colored underrobe and straw sandals, and he has removed his wide sedge hat and bamboo backpack. The look on his face suggests great contentment. The poem he composed for the occasion is inscribed on the interior of the lid in chirashigaki (scattered writing) style:
Ki no moto ni
tabine o sureba
hana no fusuma o kisuru
When I pass a night of my journey
under the trees
on Mount Yoshino
I look forward to a sliding door of blossoms--
the spring breeze
As this image suggests, Saigyo was a free spirit known for his semireclusive life and his deep love of beauty. He often made walking tours to famous scenic spots and pilgrimage centers where he composed poems describing his feelings. He is regarded as one of the three most important poets of the late twelfth century.
Mount Yoshino, south of Nara, where Saigyo withdrew to a small hermitage for fasting and meditation, is noted for the beauty of its thousands of cherry trees. Cherry blossoms were Saigyo's favorite flower and are a frequent subject of his poems.
The lacquer artist Uematsu Homin, active in Tokyo, came from a long line of lacquerers and worked in a conservative, traditional style.