Kōgō for Ro

Kōgō for Ro

Sen no Rikyū suggested that when using the fu–ro, 風炉, wind-hearth, the incense should be byaku-dan, with a kō-gō, 香合, incense-gather, made of wood and lacquered, and when using the sunken hearth, ro, 炉, the incense should be neri-kō, 練香, knead-incense, and a ceramic kōgō.  There is no end to the variety of containers for incense for the furo and the ro.


Kō-gō, 香合, incense-gather: “Buri-buri kō-gō, ぶりぶり香合, Full-full incense-gather; octagonal wood form cut in half, with designs of Taka-sago, 高砂, High-sand; L. 5.5 sun kane-jaku. Most often used for the New Year’s and Hatsu-gama, 初釜, First-kettle, Teas. Form is modeled on a mallet head. Dashi bu-kusa, 出帛紗, out cloth-gauze; green and gold silk, for Za-bō-sai, 坐忘斎, Sit-forget-abstain, becoming Waka Sō-shō, 若宗匠, Young Sect-master.



Kō-gō, 香合, incense-gather: “Bu-sshu-kan,” 仏手柑, Buddha-hand citrus; ceramic form, Raku-yaki, 楽焼, Pleasure-fired, with yellow and green glazes; L. 2 sun kane. Rikyū advised to open the ro when the yuzu turns yellow. I use this kōgō in place of a yuzu. This curious citrus has several to many “fingers” that are likened to the hand of the Buddha, suggesting that nothing or no-one will ever be released from his grasp.
Kō-gō, 香合, incense-gather: square, porcelain, covered container with pyramidal lid in the form of tsuji-dō, 辻堂, crossroad-shrine, with blue underglaze blue design of leaves and pine needles, Kyō yaki, 京焼, Capital fired, by Nishi-mura Toku-sen, 西村徳泉, West-town Virtue-spring; H. 2 sun kane-jaku. This is a copy of one of the most famous kōgō in Japan; the original was the top favorite in a kōgō appreciation contest held in the Edō period.
The piece can be used as a futa-oki, 蓋置, lid-place, with the lid inverted.




Kō-gō, 香合, incense-gather: round, covered, ceramic container with relief design of a dragon and Chinese ‘phoenix,’ with turquoise glaze, China. The dragon is symbolic of the emperor, and the phoenix is symbolic of the empress. Ostensibly created as an ink-paste container. The dragon, although extremely powerful, is the stuff of myth, non-corporeal, and therefore an aspect of the positive, , principle, whereas, the ‘phoenix,’ is based on a real bird and manifests the negative, In, principle. Their relationship suggests the combined In, 陰, and , 陽, symbol of Tai-gyoku, 太極, Great-extremes.
Kō-gō, 香合, incense-gather: soft paste ceramic in the form of a bon-shō, 梵鐘, buddhist-bell, with handle in the form of a snake, cold-painted gold. The motif is inspired by the theater work “Dō-jō-ji,” 道成寺, Way-become-temple, and “Musume Dō-jō-ji,” 娘道成寺, Girl Way-become-temple, in which a young woman in jealousy transforms into a snake clinging to the temple bell.
Kō-gō, 香合, incense-gather: pentagonal, porcelain, covered box with relief design of five tigers, made by Palmer, and fired by Steven Murphy, Boston. The tiger motifs were molded from Japanese dry sweets, raku-gan, 落雁, alighting-goose. In 1998, a Tora-doshi, 寅年, Tiger-year, I turned 60, and, with the great help of friend and potter, Steven Murphy, created sixty kō-gō to observe my 60th birthday. That age begins again the sixty-year zodiac cycle, called Kan-reki, 還暦, Return-calendar. The five tigers represent me and four of my dear Tiger friends, and the Tiger sign comes around five times. For the celebration, one wears a red beret and jacket: men can use a red fukusa.
Kō-gō, 香合, incense-gather: stoneware, covered container in the form of Fu-ji-san, 富士山, Noble-samurai-mountain, with white glaze, beni-Shi-no-yaki, 紅志野焼, red-Aspire-ricefield-fired, by Richard Milgrim, Kyōto.
Kō-gō, 香合, incense-gather: porcelain, covered container in the form of an hitsuji, 羊, ram, with clear glaze; L. 2.3 sun kane. The true animal of the zodiac sign is the ya-gi, 山羊, mountain goat, that is sure-footed and nimble in treacherous places. The zodiac sign of the hitsuji, 未, is identified with the south southwest, and is the guardian of Dai-nichi Nyo-rai, 大日如来, Great-sun Like-become. This location in the yojōhan is where the tei-shu, 亭主, house-master, enters the Tearoom, Sa-dō guchi, 茶道口, Tea-way-opening. At the start of a Tea gathering, the teishu sits outside, opens the door, and is asked by the shō-kyaku, 正客, first-guest, to enter the room. The teishu slides into the room, rather than walks. After exchange of greetings, the host slides back out of the room, and closes the door. When presenting the Tea, the teishu walks into and out of the Tearoom, and sits during the presentation. One of the manifestations of Dainichi is Fudō Myō-ō, 不動明王, Un-move Bright-king, who would be located in the place of the teishu. It may be that the teishu represents both Dainichi and Fudō.
Kō-gō, 香合, incense-gather: hō-ju, 宝珠, treasure-jewel; round, ceramic covered container in the form of a wish-granting jewel, ki-Seto, 黄瀬戸焼, yellow-Rapids-door fired; diam. 2 sun kane-jaku. Perhaps it was made for the year of the dragon or the snake, both of which are closely associated with the hōju. One of the earliest and most prized kōgō is similar to this piece.
Sumi dōgu for ro, perhaps representing aspects of the Go-rin-tō, 五輪塔, Five-ring-tower: square sumi-tori, 炭斗, charcoal-measure – Earth, round kan, 鐶, metal rings – Water, (triangle) hi-bashi, 火箸, fire-rods – Fire, ha-bōki, 羽箒, feather-broom – Wind, hō-ju, 宝珠, treasure-jewel, kō-gō, 香合, incense-gather – Void.
Kō-gō, 香合, incense-gather: “Ho-tei,” 布袋, Cloth-bag; ceramic figure of seated, rotund man with uchiwa, 団扇, round-fan, and large bag, from which he gets his name; Raku yaki, 楽焼, Pleasure fired, signature illegible; width 1.8 sun kane. Hotei, a much beloved person throughout the world, was a real person who was most pious and thought by some to be an incarnation of Mi-roku Bo-satsu, 弥勒菩薩, Increase-reign Sacred tree-buddha, the Buddha of the future, Maitreya. Hotei is depicted in the last of the Jū-gyū-zu, 十牛図, Ten-ox-pictures, which is a serial depiction of the progress of Buddhist enlightenment.
Kō-gō, 香合, incense-gather: round, ceramic, covered container in the form of an inverted chrysanthemum, ura-giku, 裏菊, back-chrysanthemum, with celadon glaze called sei-ji, 青磁, blue-porcelain, stamped EWHA; diam. 2 sun kane-jaku. The kōgō was made for and stamped EWHA, for Ewha Womans University in Seoul, Korea. Founded in 1886 by Mary F. Scranton, under the aegis of Emperor Gojong, it is the first university founded in South Korea. Its name, “Ewha,” 梨花, means Peach flower. Gift of Na-ya Yoshi-hara, 納屋嘉治, Store-house Esteem-reign, younger brother of Hōunsai, and who had extensive connections with South Korea. Mr. Naya was founder of Tan-kō-sha, 淡交社, Light-association-company, one of the leading publishing companies in the fields of Tea and culture.
Kō-gō, 香合, incense-gather: “I-do guruma,” 井戸車, well-door wheel; ceramic, covered container with a square depression, Kyō- yaki, 京焼, Capital fired, in the style of ki-Seto, 黄瀬戸, yellow-Rapids-door, un-signed; diam. 2 sun kane. Modeled after a pulley for raising and lowering a bucket into a well. It is thought that Japan has had such a glorious history of culture and creativity because fresh and pure water is readily available almost everywhere, and is easily gotten from the multitude of wells. The actual, old and traditional well wheel is often made of Seto and Oribe wares. Interesting to compare the round object with the square hole.
Kō-gō, 香合, incense-gather: “Inoshishi,” 猪, wild boar; porcelain, covered container in the form of boar, with clear glaze and gilt ornamentation, un-signed, L. 2.4 sun kane. Gift of Shio-tsuki Ya-e-ko, 塩月弥栄子, Salt-moon Increase-splendor-child. Shiotsuki Sama’s younger brother Hōunsai who became Iemoto, was born in a year of the Wild Boar. ‘I no shishi’ may evoke wordplay on i no shishi, 井の獅子, well’s lion-of. The word ‘porcelain’ comes from Italian ‘young sow’ with its smooth skin.
Kō-gō, 香合, incense-gather: “Kome dawara,” 米俵, rice bale; stoneware, covered container in the form of a rice bale with a tiny rat on top, with mottled glaze, Se-to yaki, 瀬戸焼, Rapids-door fired, by Watanabe Roku-rō, 渡辺六郎, Cross-boundary Six-son, L. 2.5 sun kane-jaku. Gift of Mori Akiko Sensei. This kōgō was probably made for a Ne-doshi, 子年, Rat-year. The rat is a surprising symbol of wealth – if one has rice, then one may have rats. Having rice, means that one is wealthy.
Kō-gō, 香合, incense-gather: brown ceramic, pentagonal, covered container in the form of an e-bō-shi, 烏帽子, crow-hat-of, with a cluster of spherical bells on a handle, Bi-zen yaki, 備前焼, Provide-fore fired, illegible signature; width 2 sun kane-jaku. The distinctive hat is worn by certain Shintō persons who also dance and shake the cluster of bells called kagura suzu, 神楽鈴, god-music bell. The original hat was made of sik, cloth or paper, and was worn by court nobles in ancient Japan. It is lacquered black, which gave it the name of crow for its black color. The pictured kōgō is based on a variation which in actuality is yellow with black stripes and a red ‘sun’. The ancient music played at Shintō shrines is called kagura as well as saru-gaku, 猿楽, monkey-music, which popular in from the 11th to 14th century. The hat is worn by the lead character in the play, San-ba-sō, 三番叟, Three-number-old man. The name sanbasō is derived from its being the last of three plays performed at the New Year. This character is often portrayed by a monkey, who wears the hat and holds the bells. A familiar image is a monkey wearing the hat and holding the bell cluster. With such a history, the pictured kōgō was undoubtedly created for the zodiac Monkey year, Saru-doshi, 申年.
Kō-gō, 香合, incense-gather; stoneware, covered container in the figure of a tanuki, 狸, raccoon dog, I-ga yaki, 伊賀焼, That-joy fired, unsigned; H. 1.5 sun kane-jaku.

The tanuki is identified as a Japanese raccoon dog (Nyctereutes viverrinus), and is seen in the wild. Its name may be derived from ta-nuki, 田抜, rice field-plunder, appears to come from its damaging rice fields and crops. Japanese people see the tanuki as mischievous, and have put him as a welcomer to bars where figures of him are holding a tokkuri and tally of charges. Males are believed to be endowed with procreational prowess and images of him reveal his generative characteristics: however, the tanuki’s scrotum, kin-bukuro, 金袋, gold-bags, was a symbol of good luck and wealth, rather than sexual potency.

One of the most popular stories in Japan, is a folk tale titled, “Bun-buku Cha-gama,” 分福茶釜, Divide-fortune Tea-kettle. It is story of a tanuki transforming itself into various things, including a girl, a monk, a tea kettle, and a crowd-pleasing tightrope walker. There are countless versions, but there have been a multitude of kettles that have tanuki attributes. The scene was set at the Zen temple of Mo-rin-ji, 茂林寺, Luxuriant-forest-temple, established in 1426, is north of Tōkyō in a town called Bun-buku-chō, 分福町, Divide-fortune-town. As expected, the area is filled with thousands of ceramic statues of tanuki, and shops to purchase them. Many of the tanuki were and are made in Shiga-raki, 信楽, Faith-pleasure. The pictured tanuki was made in Iga, which neighbors Shigaraki.

Ceramic figure of a tanuki, Shigaraki yaki; H. 5 sun kane-jaku: gift of the proprietor of “Taro Snack” in Nara.
Kō-gō, 香合, incense-gather: porcelain, nine-sided, covered container with a rabbit on the lid, with different geometric patterns in blue and white some-tsuke, 染付, dye-attach, in the style called Shon-zui, 祥瑞, Auspicious-omen, Kiyo-mizu yaki, 清水焼, Pure-water fired, by Taka-no Shō-a-mi, 高野昭阿弥, High-field Shine-flatter-increase; W. 2 sun kane-jaku. Made for U-doshi, 卯年, Hare-year.

Such objects that are made for a particular zodiac sign are called E-to kō-gō, 干支香合, incense-gather. E-to is the combined aspects of twelve signs of the Asian zodiac and the ten variations of the Go-gyō, 五行, Five-transitions, elements, which is called a sexagenary cycle of sixty years. The five elements are augmented by two, first and second, a kind of In and , classified as older and younger brother. For example, the year I was born, 1938, was marked with Tsuchi-no-e Tora, 戊寅, Earth-’s older brother Tiger.

Shonzui was a 17th century Japanese potter, Go-ro-dai-yu Go Shon-zui, 五良大甫呉祥瑞, Five-good-great-first [Wu – area of China] Auspicious-omen, who took the name of a Chinese potter, Xián-gruì, 祥瑞, who had settled in I-se, 伊勢, That-energy. Such style called Shonzui were Chinese porcelain wares made for export to Japan. One observable difference between the styles of blue and white porcelains is that Shonzui style has more blue coloring.

Kō-gō, 香合, incense-gather: square, porcelain, covered container with printed blue glaze design, with a scene of Mount Fuji, geometric designs, and the words Vantine’s JAPAN, GEISHA, and NAIL STONE – on the bottom of the base is a printed glaze label: A A Vantine & Co, TRADE MARK EASTERN PERFUMES, with pennants: 2-3/8” square. Vantine’s was one of the first retailers of Japanese and far east goods in America. Their store was located on Fifth Avenue and 38th Street in New York City, and was in business from 1895 to 1920.