The poetess, calligrapher and potter was born in Kyoto to a samurai family, and adopted when 10 days old by Otagaki Mitsuhisa Joemon, who worked at the Chion-in Temple. In 1798 she was sent to serve at the Kameoka Castle, Tamba, just outside Kyoto. In 1807, she returned to Kyoto to marry her first husband Mochihisa, with whom she had one son and two daughters. Tragically Mochihisa died in 1815, and none of her three children survived long after birth. In 1819, she married her second husband, with whom she had one daughter, but he died in 1823, and it appears that she also lost this daughter. Aged only 33, she shaved her head to become a nun, adopting the Buddhist name of Rengetsu (Lotus Moon). The ceremony of shaving of her hair was performed by a monk at the Chion-in Temple. In 1832 Rengetsu lost her adopted father, prompting her to move to the Okazaki quarter of Kyoto to seek tranquillity. In 1850 she was joined as a protégé by a young boy, who would later become the artist Tomioka Tessai,; they moved from place to place within Kyoto, including the Hoko-ji and Shinsho-ji temples. It appears that Rengetsu gave Tessai a dwelling at Seigo-in village, while she herself moved on to a village called Nishi-Kamo. Later on Rengetsu and Tessai were involved in many collaborative works. In 1865, Rengetsu moved to her final abode, a tea house at the Jinko-in temple, also in Nishi-Kamo.
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