This letter is about fish and poetry, about gratitude and sorrow. Ishikawa Jozan was a prominent Samurai recluse, garden designer, and literatus but he also was a teacher. And one of his students was Tsuda Masazane, an influential statesman with a serious hobby.
I respectfully read your letter written on the eighth day of this month. And for the ten mackerels from Noto [mackerel is a signature product from Noto. As is tea from Uji or Sake from Itami, and not to mention Whale from Iki], you send me each time, I cannot thank you enough. I congratulate you on your health. Also, the old man here [i.e. Jozan himself] spends days mostly without trouble. Thus, do not worry about me.
What did Jozan have in mind when he wrote"mostly without trouble"? Probably that he had at least some trouble. And he goes on...
You have sent me some beautiful poems some of which I have corrected with red brush. This time, the good ones sounded pure and sublime. As I wrote you in my last letter, creating without idling is rare and praiseworthy. Do not give up. You may reach higher and beyond someday. Moreover, thank you for your consideration that you offered clothing to Senboku [i.e. Hirai Senboku, Jozans assistant]. I am expecting to hear from you. Sincerely yours, Jozan, May 14th.
To Sir Tsuda Kuranosuke.
As to next year, it depends on how things go. If you visit the shrine though, please visit us as well. If you do not come, you can tell me to come to Sakamoto. I would love to see you again. Time flies and I am already talking about next year. Since I miss you so much, I would like to see you in this or another year. Again, about your better poems, when I polish them, they are perfect.
From the collection of Okamoto Koseki (1812-1898). The inscription on the box is intreaguing.
"Rokurokuzanjin Letter" on the outside of the box lid. And on the inside: Master Ishikawa Jozan's "on the eight of this month's" letter... The brush is strong and clear. As one says, "a man of virtue is always bold". [a phrase taken from Konfuzius' Analects] How could one not appreciate this? - Written on an autumn day in 1867.