Today’s post is about a very famous suiseki known as Gagyu-ishi or “An Ox Pretending to Sleep.” This true story is in the book Suiseki-II, An Art created by Nature; The Sen-En-Kyo Collection of Japanese Viewing Stones by Sen-En-Kyo. This excellent book was published on October 1, 2007. Edited by Kin-ichi Yoshimura and translated by Emi Suzuki. It was produced by Bee Books and published by Mitsumura Printing Company. The copyright is held by Sen-En-Kyo.  This article is being printed in its entire context.  The writer is Sen-En-Kyo.


“In May 2005, it was the first time I saw the famous Gagyu-ishi (An Ox Pretending to Sleep) formerly owned by Kamiya Yoanken.  Before that, I had only seen it in photographs. The stone was small, but had a dignified and massive appearance.

Gagyu-ishi. Copyright 2007 Sen-En-Kyo

Gagyu-ishi. Copyright 2007 Sen-En-Kyo (17.5 x 5.3 x 7.7cm)

There is a deep connection between the stone and Kofu-En.  The Gagyu-ishi stone cherished by Beio, the founder of Taiko-En Bonsai Garden, was first given to Yoshimura Toshiji from Hanjiro, the second generation proprietor of Taiko-En in 1924 as a memento for the opening of Toshiji’s bonsai garden.  Beio, born in the year of the ox had excessive passion for the stone.  Nombei, a master hand of creating suibans, had also made an ox figure for Beio’s birthday, but unfortunately it was burned when fire broke out during the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923.

Yoshimura Kin-ichi says that when he sits face to face with the stone, it is as if Beio was actually in front of him. Although he had never had acquaintance with Beio, the stone resembles him exactly like his father Toshiji had described to him – big, heavy, and bald with a round face. His hands were quite big.  When Toshiji was his apprentice, his fists came blowing during training and were quite painful.  The Gagyu-ishi was sold from Kofu-En several times but strangely, it always comes back like a boomerang after a while.  It presents a sense of predestined relation with the stone and Kofu-En.

In early-Showa (1926–1989) the stone was transferred to Kamiya Yoanken in Kyoto who was a suiseki enthusiast and ran a large bag shop.  For some reason, he sold all his stones on September 22, 1941 in Tokyo.  The price of the Gagyu-ishi then was 551 yen.  Toshiji’s name was listed in the list of sales agents then, so it is thought that he probably bought back the stone at that time.  In 1945, the year when the war ended, there were two renowned suiseki at Kofu-En: the Gagyu stone and a Chrysanthemum stone called “Hagoromo.” The Hagoromo stone was exchanged for rice, but Toshiji did not abandon the Gagyu-ishi. In 1965, when suiseki was at the height of boom, he was approached by Hashimoto Masukichi, an important customer to Kofu-En, and it had to be sold.  However, Toshiji dreamt about the stone that night, and in the dream the stone said that it wanted to return, so the next day Toshiji went to explain about the dream and had it returned to him.  This episode is famous. Again in 1975, the stone was transferred to Katayama Teiichi on his request, and after that, it was transferred to Chuji Sugii. The stone was included in the “Important Suiseki and Utensils Certified by the Japan Suiseki Association” as an important suiseki owned by him. (Registration No.66).

In May 2005, when Sugii was planning to sell the stone, many enthusiasts requested to buy it, so he decided to consult with Arishige Matsuura, the Chairman of the Japan Suiseki Association.  He was advised that the stone should belong to Kofu-En, and therefore, he concluded to sell it to Kofu-En.  Kini-ichi remarked after he obtained the stone, “I dreamt about my father (Toshiji) last night.  He appeared at my bedside and simply smiled.” It is as if Toshiji was content having the Gagyu stone back at Kofu-En.  Now the stone is under the care of Ikki, who is the son of Kin-ichi and now training under him.  While this book was being written in June 2006, Ikki assumed the position of director of the Japan Suiseki Association. It is as if Toshiji lead back the stone to Kofu-En to support Ikki.  I hope that the stone will remain a long-lasting treasure of Kofu-En and hope for the further development of Kofu-En.”


What a great story this is about this stone.  We believe it is easy to understand why this is classified as an important suiseki.  We hope you enjoyed this story by Sen-En-Kyo. It is our hope to see this stone in person one day.

The book containing this story is difficult to find. There are two books in this series and both should be in the library of any serious student of suiseki.  If you are interested in purchasing a copy of these books, please contact Yoshi Nakamizu at nakamizu@J-bonsai.com or Mr. Matsuura Arishige at matsuura@suiseki.jp .

Let them know we forwarded you to them.