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Yatate: Japanese Portable Writing Implements from the Collection of Roland Flexner

June 22 - August 25, 2024

a collection of antique Japanese writing implements from the Yatate exhibition at the Hamm

Accompanying Programs: 

Opening Reception 

Saturday, June 22, 3-5pm 

Free with museum admission

YATATE: Artistry • Craftsmanship • Utility

Lecture by Robert DeMaria with introduction by Roland Flexner

Sunday, July 28, 3pm

Free with museum admission

In conjunction with the current exhibition Yatate: Japanese Portable Writing Implements from the Collection of Roland Flexner, this illustrated lecture by the author of a book by the same title (the only book about yatate available in English) and collector, will present the uses, historical context, and artistic creativity of these unique portable writing implements.

Goelet Gallery

Yatate: Japanese Portable Writing Implements from the Collection of Roland Flexner

Opening Reception:
Saturday, June 22, 3-5pm

The yatate is a self-contained portable writing kit in wide use in Japan from about the late thirteenth century to the early twentieth century. The yatate belongs to the unique Japanese category of sagemono, a catch-all word for items that hang from the obi, a wide belt that secures a kimono. Other sagemono include inrō, netsuke and the kiseru, a smoking pipe.


The yatate was born of necessity on the battlefield and, like so many other practical and technological advances developed during wartime, became a useful tool and benefit to civilian life. Over the centuries, as Japan moved toward unity and a distinctive national identity, yatate remained intertwined with the country’s development of its singular culture, traditions and language. As Japan’s history unfolded so did that of the yatate. With the advent of the fountain pen, the use of yatate waned but even today some artists prefer using yatate to sketch a scene.


Over the centuries yatate adapted as new styles, fads and preferences ebbed and flowed. This adaptation developed from a basic utilitarian fan shape into more intricate styles, yet it still served his owners with the same practicality and ease that made it popular at its beginnings. Yatate became essential to everyday life. The Japanese personalized yatate to depict an owner’s interest, profession or hobby. Many yatate were adorned with designs depicting animals, both real and mythical; sea life; folk tales and legends; musical instruments; professional tools and more. It was miniaturized to carry in the palm of a hand and even made to be capable of shooting a small musket ball. These are only a few examples of the customized yatate that can be enjoyed.

Yatate: Japanese Portable Writing Implement Exhibition at the Hammond Museum
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