A MILLION QUESTIONS
TWO MILLION MYSTERIES
Port Townsend, Washington
De thru Gen
The photo of Frank being Frank
is being used from January 1 to April 30, 2018
to mark new additions to this page.
The Wittlesbach-Graff diamond was used
from September 1 to December
The red parrot, copy of a Jakuchu
was used from May 1 to September 30.
TERMS FOUND ON THIS
Deai chaya, Degatari zu,
Dendendaiko, Dentōteki kōgeihin,
Dōbori, Dohyō, Dōkko, Dōsa,
John W. Dower,
E, Ebi, Ebisu, Ebiya, Eboshi, Edo, Edo no Hana Zukushi,
The Elements of
Emakimono, Emma, Emonzaka, Empō, Engawa,
bikuni, Enju , The Forty-seven Loyal
出会い茶屋, 出語り図, 伝統的工芸品, 胴彫,
土俵, 独鈷, 礬水, 道祖神,
絵, 蛯, 恵比須 or 蛭子, 海老屋, 烏帽子, 江戸,
易経, 絵兄弟, 絵馬, 絵巻物,
閻魔, 衣紋坂, 延宝縁側, 槐,
One more note about this
page and all of the others on this site:
If two or more sources are
cited they may be completely contradictory.
I have made no attempt to
referee these differences, but have simply
repeated them for your
edification or use. Quote anything you find here
at your own risk and with a
whole lot of salt.
Click on the yellow
to go to linked
'Rendezvous teahouse' or
love hotel: "Love hotels, or at least “adult hotels” exist in the United
States as well, but they are often seedy low-rent joints in the wrong parts
of town. By contrast, Japanese love hotels, often enveloped in blazing neon
and gaudy architecture in the style of such landmarks as the Disneyland
castle and the Statue of Liberty, are situated so that couples can quickly
dart in off the street without attracting attention. In other areas, they
are often set back from the highway to allow inconspicuous entrance through
the rubber-curtained doors that close just in time to prevent passersby from
glancing at one’s license plate. In either setting, for about $50 for two
hours or $100 for the entire night, a couple gets a fully-furnished room,
often furnished with rotating beds, mirrored ceilings, glass bathtubs, and
entertainment extras such as large-screen televisions and karaoke machines.
For a little extra, theme rooms are available, featuring everything from
traditional Japanese furnishings to Cinderella fantasies to medieval torture
chambers." Quoted from: Law in Everyday Japan: Sex, Sumo, Suicide, and
Statutes by Mark D. West, 2010. p. 146.
Later West writes: "Once
inside the hotel, customers choose a room. At smaller and older hotels, the
decision may be made through a sort of “front desk” at which a clerk,
usually shielded from the waist up to avoid exposing a customer’s identity,
simply slides the customer the key to an available room. At most hotels,
however, the system is more sophisticated. Upon entering, customers are
faced with an array of photos of the hotel’s room accompanied by a
description of the room’s amenities and the fee schedule. Available rooms
are backlit. (If no room is available, as is often the case on weekends and
holidays, many hotels have a clock that gives approximate waiting times, the
determination of which is a science in and of itself.) To choose a room, a
customer presses a button under the appropriate picture. The button triggers
a trail of lights that direct the customer from the lobby to the appropriate
room." (Ibid., p. 149)
include images of the musicians who accompanied many kabuki performances.
John Fiorillo provides a wonderful commentary about this genre. He notes
that the literal translation of this term is "pictures of narrators'
The use of such
musicians and chanters makes sense because of the early link between kabuki
and music and dance. Long before kabuki had become what we know it as today
these different art forms were all parts of a whole. In time they evolved to
musicians and a narrator on raised platform behind the actors.
The image to the
left above is by Toyokuni I (Ca. 1811-14) was sent to us by our great contributor
Eikei (英渓). Thanks Eikei! The one below that is by Kiyonaga who created this
Michener in his The Floating World translates degatari as "come out
"Kabuki borrowed from Noh and
Bunraku in creative ways and modified the received stylistic conventions.
When a play from Bunraku is being performed in Kabuki, for example, the
gidayu chanter, accompanied by samisen players, is seated on a dais on
the stage left apron. This form of narration is called degatari ('visible
narration'). In some instances, the narrators and players are placed in an
alcove set on stage left and screened from view by a bamboo blind." (Quoted
from: Japanese Classical Theater in Films by Keiko McDonald) Gidayu is the narration
for Bunraku or puppet theater. "This form of chanted narration, originated
by Takemoto Gidayu (1651-1714), is extremely strenuous, and actors study it
from an early age to develop their voices." (Quote from: Kabuki: A Pocket
Guide) Samuel L. Leiter in his Historical Dictionary of Japanese Traditional Theatre says that "Gidayū
initiates degatari convention of chanting in full view."
Kiyonaga (清長 or きよなが:
1752-1815) was the originator of the print sub-genre known as degatari zu
or "pictures featuring the accompaniment". (Source: Ukiyo-e: An
Introduction to Japanese Woodblock Prints by Tadashi Kobayashi) "It is a degatari-zu (a
print depicting a dance scene with degatari... in the background), a genre
made popular during the Tenmei era (1781-89) by Kiyonaga..." (Quoted from:
Masterpieces of Japanese Prints: Ukiyo-e from the Victoria and Albert
Museum by Rupert Faulkner)
In My Friend Hitler and
Other Plays of Yukio Mishima it states that another term for degatari
is yuka no jōruri. The yuka is a slightly raised platform at
stage left and angled toward the audience.
In Brandon and Leiter's volumes
on Kabuki degatari is translated as "onstage narrative". They also
note that the performers wear formal costumes.
"The general term for the
musicians and singers who appear on the stage is degatari, a word
written with two Chinese characters meaning to come out and to
declaim." (Quoted from: The Kabuki Theatre by Earle Ernst)
"In the Kabuki, the players of
the various schools of music are always seated on the stage in full view of
the audience. There is a great deal of formality in their arrangement, quite
unlike the happy-go-lucky placing of Chinese theatre musicians, who also sit
on the stage. The various schools by long tradition occupy special positions
during the performance. Nagauta players sit at the rear of the stage
facing the audience. Kiyomoto and tokiwazu players sit at the
left of the stage to the audience and gidayu players to the right....
¶ All stage musicians, of whatever school, wear
kamishimo, the ceremonial dress of the
samurai in former days." This costume appears to date back to the
time when Takemoto Gidayu received an honorary title from the government. ¶
"There is a strict formality about the movement of the musicians of the
stage, who sit motionless and upright when not performing. In the case of
gidayu, both musicians bow on first appearing before the audience, and
the tayu lifts the script from the small reading stand in front of
him and places it to his forehead as a mark of respect. They sit on a dais,
which is known as the degatari dai, it is built on a revolving base
divided from the backstage by a screen, against which the musicians sit. In
the middle of a play, the degatari dai can be swung round to reveal
two more musicians on the other side and this way, the performers are
relieved in the speediest fashion without interfering with the course of
drama on the stage." (Source and quotes from: The Kabuki
Theatre of Japan by Adolphe Clarence Scott)
The print to the left is an
aka-e or red picture which was often posted as a talisman in an
attempt to ward off smallpox - especially from children. These are also know
"In Japan, the
drum-on-a-stick (den-den taiko) with two thread and bead attachments
has always been one of the cheapest and most popular toys for small
children. It is shaken or twisted between the fingers and thumb so that the
beads strike the stretched paper sides of the drum. Often decorated with
lucky toys and auspicious symbols, its noise amuses children and was
believed to ward off evil spirits." Quoted from: Playthings and Pastimes
in Japanese Prints by Lea Baten, p. 99.
Dendendaiko posted at
The image to the left is
from the collection of the Naito Museum of Pharmaceutical Science and
Industry. Another copy of this print appears in Japanese Popular Prints...
by Rebecca Salter, p. 120.
On February 9, 2011 David
Parfitt wrote to say that the drum in the print published by Rebecca Salter
was a dendendaiko. Somehow that message slipped through the cracks
and I failed to follow up until today, December 13, 2017. My sincere
apologies to Mr. Parfitt and thank you for trying to bring this to my
attention so many years ago. I hope this goes a little way toward correcting
"The Ministry of Economy,
Trade & Industry has designated precisely 206 crafts as authentic Japanese
handicrafts - under a law that refers to them as Dento-teki Kogeihin...
or 'Traditional Crafts'" This requires that 1) they must be items used in
everyday life, 2) it must be handmade and beautiful in a traditional way, 3)
it must be made in a traditional way, but modern techniques may be applied
if it retains the traditional look, 4) it comes from a craft which has
existed for at least 100 years and 5) there must be at least 10 workshops
employing a minimum of 30 craftsmen.
Body carver: In the hierarchy
of carver skills this ranks below that of 'head carvers' and 'hair carvers'.
"There were two categories of
carvers, the kashirabori (literally carvers of the head) and
dōbori (carvers of the body). The kashirabori were the most
highly skilled and had overall responsibility for the blocks and would hand
out work to the dōbori in line with their abilities. At every stage
in its production the nishiki-e print was truly a team effort. In
addition to nishiki-e carvers, there were also specialists in
lettering." (Japanese Woodblock Printing by Rebecca Salter, p. 61)
Salter also notes that while d
literally means 'body carver' in general it means any area of a woodblock
not carved by the most skilled carvers. (Ibid., p. 126)
For more information see our
"...the round ring on which a
sumō bout is held. The area is surrounded by partially buried slender
straw bags filled with earth forming a circle 4.55 meters in diameter on a
5.45-meter-square mound of hardened clay. There is also a line of bags
forming a square along the edge of the mound. At the center of the rings are
two white parallel lines that serve as markers where the wrestlers place
their fists during the shikiri. Above the ring hangs a
Shinto-shrine-style roof, a legacy of the days when sumō was held
outdoors with the roof supported by pillars at he four corners of the mound.
When the sport turned professional and was moved indoors, the roof was
preserved as a symbol of sacredness which the pillars were removed to give
the spectators a better view." Quoted from Japanese-English Dictionary of
Japanese Culture by Setsuiko Kojima and Gene A. Crane.
Below is a print from the
Lyon Collection which prominently displays part of a dohyō as an
element of the design. The kabuki figure represents Otowa (おとわ) from
the play Sekitori Sen Ryō Nobori [関取千両幟] or 'Rise of the 1,000 Ryō
Wrestler'. She is the wife of famous
sumō wrestler who gets involved in a complicated intrigue. Otowa
sells herself into prostitutions so she can raise the money to get her
husband out the fix he has gotten himself into. Click on the image to go to
the page devoted to this print in the Lyon Collection and read a fuller
A single-pointed vajra. There
is a story that when a dōkko was thrown once it lodged in a pine
tree. This became the future site of Kōyasan, the center of Shingon worship.
The image to the left shows the
Danjyōgaran (壇上伽藍 or だんじょうがらん), one of the two most sacred sites at Kōyasan.
Perhaps this is where the dōkko stuck in the tree. If not here, then
somewhere nearby. This picture was posted at commons.wikimedia by Daderot.
There is a similar story about a thrown
Philip Nicoloff describes a
statue in the women's hall at Kōyasan of En no Gyōja (役行者 or えんのぎょうじゃ), the
ascetic who was said to be the founder of Shugendō. "He is sitting
stiffly upright in a rocky cave. His face is gaunt. He wears a pointed
beard. His body is thin to the point of emaciation. The right hand grips a
ringed walking staff. The left hand holds a single pointed vajra or
dōkko." The legend of his birth is that his mother swallowed a
dōkko in a dream.
The image shown above of a
healthy looking En no Gyōja was posted at commons.wikimedia by Reggaeman.
Sizing for paper
The image to the left was found
at Pinterest via delrorosco.wordpress.com. It shows a picture of
"Brushing dosa (a sizing liquid) onto the Kumohada paper."
Yoshida wrote that it seemed to him that in time the sizing disappears from
a woodblock print and that this has a positive effect. "I know for a fact
that sizing does disappear in time for sized paper may be all right for use
for a year or so, but after a longer time the paper has to be resized to be
in a proper condition for printing, showing that the sizing does disappear.
And I know also that when hōsho [奉書 or ほうしょ] paper-comes fresh from
the paper-maker, the pleasing feeling which its surface gives is almost
irresistible. Equally remarkable is that loss of that pleasing feeling,
which one cannot help noticing, when paper comes back after having been
sized prior to using it." ( Japanese Woodblock Printing by Hiroshi
Yoshida, 1939, p. 7) ¶ Yoshida stresses the use of sizing for kyōgō
or black ink keyblock
prints used for making color blocks. "Black ink keyblock
print used for making color blocks. "If a sheet of paper lacks dôsa,
it will shrink when the pigment is put on to indicate the colour, and the
colour block made from it will be smaller than it should be, and will not
agree with the others. No emphasis can be too great to stress the fact that
a kyôgo must be made right..." (p. 31) ¶ Dōsa "...gives the
paper the right surface; it is absolutely necessary..." for the proper
absorption of color during the printing process. (p. 41) "Moisture is
necessary because of dôsa, and dôsa is necessary in order to
harden the surface of the paper, both front and back. Otherwise it cannot be
rubbed, as it must be in the printing, and the paper will stick to the block
and be damaged." (Ibid.) ¶ Preparation: Sizing should be thicker in the
summer than the winter. "Dôsa is prepared by boiling glue and alum in
water in the following proportion: glue about thirty-three ounces and alum
about fourteen ounces, boiled in about four gallons of water. This is the
proportion for preparing the standard dôsa for the top side of the
hôsho paper." (p. 74) The sizing is applied to the front of the sheet of
paper by a broad brush and then hung up to dry. Then the procedure is
repeated for the back side. Dôsa should be applied during dry days
and not wet ones. ¶ "It is impossible to print on hôsho without
dôsa. The paper sticks to the block, and the baren will not move
smoothly on the back, but will damage the paper." (Ibid.)
In the Complete Printmaker:
Techniques, Traditions, Innovations (by John Ross and Clare Romano,
Simon and Schuster, 1991, pp. 39-40) another description is given for the
preparation and application of dôsa. After heating one gallon of
water an 8 ounce stick of animal glue is broken into pieces and dissolved in
it. 3 to 4 ounces of alum are mixed in. Strain this through a double
thickness of cheesecloth. Apply the sizing while still hot.
Sizing has a long tradition of
use in European art going back to at least the 12th century. It too had an
animal base and was probably produced in somewhat the same way. However, its
use was somewhat different. In Japan or anywhere else for that matter sizing
permits a far more controlled application of ink or pigment onto and into
paper. Too much size and there will be no absorption. Too little and the
ink/color will spread uncontrollably. ¶ In the West sizing served another
purpose: It protected the support, i.e., canvas, panel, etc., from the
corrosive effects of various binders or media.
"The size prevents the binder
in the subsequent layers of the painting from being absorbed into the
support, thereby weakening the painting. In addition the size prevents the
penetration into the support of binders and vehicles that may have a
deleterious effect on the support material. In the case of canvas, size also
shrinks the fabric, to a taut smooth membrane (held, of course, by the
stretcher)." A ground of gesso was placed on top of the layer of size.
"Gesso - a mixture of animal glue, chalk (calcium carbonate), and at times a
white pigment - has been used for centuries as a ground for both wooden
panels and canvas." Today's gesso is not generally made with animal glue.
Also, gesso serves another purpose dealing with the reflection of light from
the paintings surface.
Source and quotes: The
Science of Painting, by W. Stanley Taft, James W. Mayer, Richard Newman,
Dusan Stulik, Peter Kuniholm, published by Springer, 2000, pp. 3-4.
And still more about
European sizing: "The first stage was to give the whole panel, including any
attached parts of the frame, several coats of glue size. Ordinary animal
skin glues, boiled to a jelly and then dried in leaves for later
reconstitution, were probably used, but according to Cennino the best size
was made from parchment clippings soaked and boiled in water. These
parchment clippings were waste product of the cutting of sheep or goat skins
into rectangular sheets for manuscripts. The resulting glue is clear and
pure, rather like modern cooking gelatine. The first applications of size
were primarily to reduce the absorbency of the wood, preventing it from
soaking up the adhesive from the later ground layers giving it as Cennino
says 'a taste for receiving the coats of size and gesso' just as though 'you
were fasting and had a handful of sweetmeats, and drank a glass of good
wine, which is an inducement for you to eat your dinner'."
Quote from: Art in the
Making: Italian Painting Before 1400, by David Bomford, Jill Dunkerton,
Dillian Gordon and Ashok Roy, National Gallery, London, 1990, p. 17.
Question: Is there any
connection between the Japanese use of sizing and that of the West? Was it a
cultural borrowing? If anyone out there knows please contact me. Thanks.
Note that alum can in time
produce sulphuric acid which can cause either the degradation of the paper
or discoloration or both. Controlling the amount of alum used in sizing must
be precise to avoid this problem. Surely Hiroshi Yoshida must be aware of
this. In Japanese Papermaking: Traditions, Tools, and Techniques by
Timothy Barrett (note #4, p. 285) the author notes "In the past most
washi was not sized. When it was, animal glue with some alum was used as
a surface size and applied with a brush to the dry sheet. Very early
(pre-1400) sutra papers seem to show a surface size that was glazed or
pounded into the paper after application of the size. Rice paste may have
been added to the vat before sheet forming of some early Japanese papers to
act as a size or to change the paper's texture." "Internal size" is a
description of paper where the sizing was added to the vat during
papermaking. "External size" or "surface size" is dôsa applied after
an untreated sheet of paper has been made. "Surface sizes (such as starch or
gelatine) not only alter resistance to liquids but also effect surface
smoothness, erasability, strength, gloss, stiffness, and printability." (p.
"A type of deity; a guardian of
roads and village boundaries, worshipped in the form of stone images along
the roadside. Also known as sae no kami [塞の神 or さえのかみ]... an ancient
designation that suggests the function of 'obstructing' or 'keeping out' (sae)
evil spirits. The dōsojin is often identified with the god Sarudahiko,
who guided... the supposed ancestor of the imperial line, on his descent to
earth. The object of worship takes various physical forms: a pair of
figurines; male and female; an inscribed stela; or a simple stone, round or
phallic in shape." Today their function has been expanded to support
marriages, births and especially children.
Quote from: Kodansha
Encyclopedia of Japan, vol. 2, p. 132, entry by Ōtō Tokihiko.
In the The Power of
Denial: Buddhism, Purity, and Gender by Bernard Faure (published by
Princeton University Press, 2003, pp. 233-4) notes that "...those stone
statues of the bodhisattva Jizō, which originally marked the border between
this world and the other." Later Faure follows this with information about
the 'stone woman' (umazume [石女 or うまずめ]) which refers to a sterile woman,
but also has allusions "...to a certain type of lithic marker, the so-called
uba-ishi [乳母石 or うばいし], meaning in this case, stones that are endowed with
the power to bring fertility. One apparent exception is the 'Killing Stone,'
immortalized by the Nō play Sesshō seki [殺生石 or せっしょうせき] In this
case, the connotations seem quite negative. Yet one tradition claims that it
was brought to Shinnyodō in Kyoto and carved into a Jizō statue. This statue
is today part of the mizuko [水子 or みずこ] cult for aborted or stillborn
children, but is also the object of prayers for fecundity and for the health
of young children."
The photos of the dōsojin
to the left are shown courtesy of 663highland at http://commons.wikimedia.org/. The same
with the photo above.
A padded, cold weather robe or kimono.
Dotera are also called tanzen (丹前 or たんぜん).
Dictionary defines this garment as a padded bathrobe and many sites on
the Internet describe it as being worn over an ordinary yukata. There
is little verifiable information which we could find in English on this
subject under the term dotera - almost nothing, in fact, but there is
somewhat more under its alternative tanzen. Clearly from a number of
sources the tanzen is also worn after a bath.
The image to the left is by
Kuniyoshi. The one below is by Toyokuni III.
Dower, John W.
Author of The
Elements of Japanese Design
This book is a great asset to
anyone interested in traditional Japanese prints.
Born in 1938 in Rhode Island
Dr. Dower received his doctorate from Harvard in 1972 in history and Far
Eastern languages. He has taught at the U. of Wisconsin and the UC San
Diego. He has won numerous honors including Pulitzer and National Book
Picture, drawing, painting,
sketch - Hugo Munsterberg said that the term 'e' was added to 'ukiyo' in ca.
1680 and became the term used for that entire genre until 1880. Of course,
that is the term we still use today to describe the entire range of
woodblock prints from that time. Hence, Ukiyo-e.
lobster or crayfish. Ebi
is a word that has numerous uses in combination with many proper names such
as Ebizo, an actor's name.
One thing to note is
that there are quite a few variations on the kanji characters which mean ebi.
These include 蝦, 海老 and
If you are interested
in seeing more information and decorative examples of this motif then click
on The Many Uses of
Mock Joya's Things
Japanese (p. 465) it states "The ebi is regarded as a symbol of
old age, the Japanese characters for ebi meaning 'the aged of the
sea.' Thus ebi has been used on various happy occasions, not only on the
table but also as ornaments. Lobsters used in New Year decorations were
formerly preserved often as a charm for curing sickness and preventing evil
According to James Hall in his
Illustrated Dictionary of Symbols in Eastern and Western Art (1994,
pp. 34-5) by contrast, in China "...they are sometimes seen at the feet of
the Kuan-yin... and symbolizes married bliss and harmony."
In Kodansha's Dictionary of Basic Japanese Idioms by Jeff Garrison
(2002, p. 59) tells us that the phrase to "catch a sea bream with a shrimp"
(海老で蛸を釣る) means "get a lot of bang for the buck" or "make a killing". (For a
ton of stuff concerning the sea bream
one of our Toyokuni III pages.)
One of the Seven Lucky
Gods, the Shichi-fukujin. A god of fishermen and prosperity. Of the
seven he is the only one with a purely Japanese origin. His symbols are the
fishing pole and the red tai, i.e., red sea bream.
See also our entry on hiruko,
the leech child.
to footnote 778 by Ivan Morris in The Life of An Amorous Woman it says that
in the 17th century "...it was customary to offer 12 incense tapers to the
A Yoshiwara brothel
A tall lacquered
courtier's cap. The image to the left is one of several variations used as a
family crest or mon.
"In ancient days, all men,
regardless of their position or occupation wore hats. Eboshi, a
little pointed hat that was lacquered black, was usually tied on their
heads. But sometimes, those who did not possess a proper eboshi or
were too lazy to wear them, used to tie on their foreheads a piece of black
paper cut in a triangle so that it looked as if they were wearing eboshi.
From this developed the old custom of tying a triangular piece of white
paper on a dead person's forehead. ¶ Of course, later, only nobles or those
with court rank wore eboshi and commoners wore only sedge or other
kinds of kasa."
Mock Joya's Things
Japanese, pp. 26-7.
"Kammuri were gradually
replaced by the lower-ranking eboshi, a soft or hard roundish hat of
silk or gauze, later made of paper covered with lacquer. Etiquette
prescribed the wearing of a head covering when greeting another person, and eboshi, like kammuri, were such an integral part of a
nobleman's dress that, despite their lack of function, they were often worn
indoors, sometimes even while sleeping. During the Muromachi period
(1333-1568), when the chommage hairstyle... came into use, the
popularity of the eboshi declined, and it was worn thereafter only in
ceremonies or rituals of the court or shrines." Quote from: Kodansha
Encyclopedia of Japan, vol. 3, pp. 118-9, entry by Ishiyama Akira.
See also our entry on
kammuri on our
Kakuremino thru Kento index/glossary page.
"A type of black
(occasionally gold) lacquered hat in various styles worn by priests,
warriors, noblemen, shirabyōshi, and others." Shirabyōshi were
"Female entertainers of the Heian and medieval periods who wore male court
caps and while (shira) robes, danced to percussion accompaniment, and
sang songs, including imayō ["...or popular songs of the Heian and Kamakura
periods, sung professionally...or by aristocrats themselves at elite
entertainments"]. They are portrayed in many traditional plays." Quotes from the glossary
section of Traditional Japanese Theater: An Anthology of Plays,
edited by Karen Brazell, Columbia University Press, 1998.
The Utamaro print shown above
is from the Lyon Collection.
As you can see Prince
Narihira is wearing an eboshi.
Click on the image to learn
more about it.
In one example from this
book there is a photograph of an actor portraying a Shinto priest wearing an eboshi. In another an actor wears the mask of a young woman with an eboshi atop 'her' head. Variations of this type of head wear are used
in Noh, puppet and kabuki.
While looking for information
to add to this entry I glanced at The Great Japan Exhibition: Art of the
Edo Period 1600-1868 catalogue (p. 215 - item #237) which shows a
"Helmet in the form of a court cap" from the Momoyama period. The
description of item #236 describes that helmet as "Leathered covered in gold
foil and cut with conventional foliage decoration, with the character mu
picked out in black lacquer". [Mu is the character representing the
Zen Buddhist concept of 'non-existence'.] This entry continues: "Court caps
(eboshi) of various types were, like headcloths (zukin) much
imitated by Momoyama period armourers. Thsi example, said to have been used
by the warrior Uesugi Kenshin (1530-1578), was probably inteded to be
mounted on a helmet in Hineno style which is also in the Uesugi shrine."
Uesugi Kenshin is
referenced on our Yoshitaki page dealing with the theme of Yaegakihime.
Former name of Tokyo. Prior
to its selection by Tokugawa Ieyasu in 1603 as the location of the new base
for the shogunate Edo had been only a small fishing village. In time real
power emanated from Edo while the imperial capital remained in Kyōto.
Edo was originally a landed
estate or shōen -
located in the Kantō region. "Both the site and its founding family took the name
Edo 江戸, meaning 'entrance to the inlet', from the physical features of the
location - an inlet penetrating inland through the Hibiya and Marunouchi
districts of present-day Tokyo. Thus at its very foundation Edo was marked
by metonymy between the title of its principal occupants and the conditions
of its physical environment." (Quote from:
"Edo Architecture and Tokugawa
Law", by William H. Coaldrake, Monumenta Nipponica, Vol. 36, No. 3.
(Autumn, 1981), footnote 13, p. 240) ¶ By the 15th century it was a
thriving castle town or jōkamachi (城下町 or じょうかまち) under the control of Ōta
Dōkan (1432-86: 太田道灌 or おおたどうかん), a vassal of the Uesugi clan in Echigo. "By
1603, the year of the official foundation of the Tokugawa bakufu and
three years after the battle of Sekigahara which gave the Tokugawa national
supremacy, the site of Edo had been transformed from a swampy delta with a
derelict castle and a scattering of fishing and farming villages, into an
embryonic capital.'' (Ibid.) ¶ "Estimates vary, but by the 1720s the
city had a population of at least 1.3 million, making it possibly the
largest city in the world at that time. By comparison, eighty years later,
in 1801, London had a population of 864,000, Paris 547,000, and Berlin
170,000.25 In addition to its spectacular increase in size by the early
eighteenth century, Edo had also assumed a character of great
distinctiveness. " (Ibid., p. 246) ¶
For security there were 28 major gateways or mitsuke (見附 or みつけ) into
the city. "Paralleling in size and importance the monumental city gateways
of the Roman empire, the Edo mitsuke were huge, multiple-entranced
barbicans, richly decorated and massively fortified with finely finished
ashlar walls. Their distribution around major points of the moat spiral
pattern, in addition to controlling the flow of population within the city,
was carefully correlated with the twelve zodiacal signs..." (Ibid., p. 248)
Prior to the fire of 1657 Edo Castle had the largest stone foundation or
tenshukaku ( 天守閣 or てんしゅかく) in Japan. It stood 30% higher than that of
the extant Himeji Castle. Ibid., p. 249. In fact, it may have been the
largest castle ever built. Twice the size of Osaka Castle, the next largest.
The stones of the tenshukaku had to be transported from great
distances because there were no such stones to be found in the Kanto. This
alone produced a great drain on the purses and the manpower of the
daimyos. Because the daimyos were required by law to live in Edo
much of the time they built their own elegant residences. In the 17th
century these mansions were said to take up 60% of the city's land. (p. 250)
In the first three days of 1657 fires raged throughout the city. 60 to 80%
of it was burned including the tenshukaku and around 500 daimyo
residences. Over 100,000 people died. This fire was much larger than the one
which destroyed much of London in 1666. (p. 251) The overcrowding of certain
districts was greatly responsible for the conditions which caused the
destruction. By 1725 merchants and craftsmen "...comprised about 46.2% of
total population of the city but occupied only about 12.5% of the land
area." (p. 252) ¶ After the fire of 1657 streets were widened, fire brigades
were formed and many daimyos, temples and shrines were moved further away
from the castle grounds. The tenshukaku was never rebuilt on the same
scale although it had already been rebuilt once after the fire of 1639.
(Ibid.) Besides the new shogun, Ietsuna, was only 17 and much of the
power was now in the hands of a group of daimyo. (p. 253) In an
effort to enforce frugality these daimyo also banned the use of
roofing tiles. This was a recipe for disaster. In 1660 the ban was lifted
for the daimyo. However, this general prohibition wasn't lifted removed
until 1720 by Yoshimune. (p. 258) ¶ Before the Meireki Fire of 1657
many of the daimyo residences in Edo had elaborate and
expensive gateways. During earlier times only the highest ranks were allowed
to have entryways onto the main streets. This was meant as an indication of
power. In fact, the term mikado (御門
or みかど) translates literally as 'honorable gate'. However, after the great
fire the ruling daimyo forbid the building of lavish, two story gateways.
This was handed down by edict a month before they banned the use of tile
roofs. (pp. 269-70) Other restrictions were established to make sure that
the daimyo had a more obviously elevated status vis a vis the samurai
in the service of the Tokogawa shogunate or hatamoto (旗本 or
はたもと) and also that of the ordinary townsmen. "As early as 1613 an edict
addressed to the townspeople has unequivocally laid down, 'Gateways should
not be erected.'" (p. 272) ¶ However, Coaldrake points
out that in the long run the prohibitions had little effect. (p. 273)
In the early 17th century "Most of the lords built three large residences in
Edo, the more assuming holding over a hundred acres of land in the city,
with the result that daimyo residences (which included the quarters of their
retainers) took up almost half of the city's area. Most of the daimyo
maintained hundreds and some even thousands of retainers and servants,
accounting for a considerable part of the city's population." (Quote
from: 'Sumptuary Regulation and Status in Early Tokugawa Japan’ by Donald H.
Shively, Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies, Vol. 25, (1964 - 1965), p. 149)
When the castle was being built Tokugawa Ieyasu did not follow the standard
lay out of most castle towns - see our entry on jōkamachi. Instead he
built along more ancient lines using the principles of feng shui (Ch.
風水) which were meant to control the malignant and beneficial forces of the
cosmos. (Coaldrake, pp. 241-2)
"picture calendar" - a type of surimono. "...frequently
distributed among friends to bypass government control of the issuance of
official calendars as well as to serve as witty greeting cards."
Quoted from: Jewels of Japanese Printmaking: Surimono of the Bunka-Bunsei Era 1804-30
by Joan Mirviss and John Carpenter - cat. entry #13, p. 60.
"Calendar prints (egoyomi) first appeared in the early eighteenth
century. They were customarily exchanged among friends at New Year, and have
the numbers of the 'long' and 'short' months of the new lunar year hidden in
some part of the design."
Quoted from: The
Actor's Image: Print Makers of the Katsukawa School, Timothy Clark,
Osamu Ueda and Donald Jenkins, Princeton University Press, 1994, p. 76, note
We found the Harunobu print
from 1765 shown to the left at Pinterest. It qualifies as an egoyomi because
hidden within the girl's kimono is a pattern which disguises the characters
for the long months - 2, 3, 5, 6, 8 and 10.
According to the British
Museum this is the
earliest known egoyomi
dating from 1726.
Most sources believe that the restrictions on the publication of calendars
started in 1684. Previously there had been advances in astronomical
measurements which brought doubts about the calculations being used. So a
new system was put into effect in 1685. The new astronomical bureau was
called the Tenmongata and did not supercede the older one but worked in
concert with it in the production of each new calendar. "The Tenmogata took
over the astronomical calculations... while the [older bureau] retained
responsibility for the astrological elements." After 1684 privately printed
calendars were prohibited. "Thereafter, all calendars were supposed to be
calendrically and astrologically uniform." "...only recognised publishers
could engage in this trade. They were generally known as calendar makers (rekishi
暦師) and there was a fixed number in the towns where they were permitted. In
Edo there was a different system, for there was an established guild of
calendar publishers: originally there were 28 of them but, as a result of an
internal dispute, in 1697 the number was reduced to 11 and all others were
forbidden to publish calendars." In 1841 all guilds were abolished under the
Tempō reforms. ¶ Between 1697 and 1851 there were numerous edicts pronounced
in an effort to control the calendar industry. "Several of these refer to
the circulation of unauthorized calendars, presumably printed by those who
were not members of the guild." They attempted to protect the guild's
monopoly while "...they also testify to the supply of illicit calendars." ¶
There were two types of calendars considered illicit: the first were the
'abbreviated calendars' which were produced and released before the official
one was approved by the Tenmnogata; the second were single-sheet
calendars which "...were sold in shops and even hawked on the street
corners, and offenders were to be severely punished..." because
"...calendars were a 'serious matter'..." This "...almost certainly applies
to the illustrated single-sheet calendars known as egoyomi 絵暦, and to
some surimono prints which convey calendrical information."
The Japanese have long dai (大 or だい) and short shō (小 or しょう)
months "...which were cunningly concealed within the composition of the [egoyomi].
For the visually sophisticated connoisseurs who produced and exchanged the
egoyomi, deciphering the hidden signs and meanings within the print
were part of the enjoyment. The characters dai and shō appear
in many ways; in the pattern of clothing, on the walls or in objects, as
alternating large and small objects, hidden in text or as decorative letters
or numerals. They were printed privately to coincide with the New Year and
often included a suitable poem, were not for sale and were exchanged between
friends often at gatherings of poetry circles. ¶ By the early 19th century,
the tradition of exchanging egoyomi had evolved into a new type of
commissioned print, surimono (literally 'printed thing'). (Quoted
from: Japanese Popular Prints: From Votive Slips to Playing Cards by
Dan McKee wrote: "Surimono,
in fact, did not develop out of egoyomi, but rather privately made egoyomi
out of haikai surimono, and only then, kyōka surimono out of the twin
streams of egoyomi and haikai surimono. These are facts that still have not
achieved full awareness in Western-language scholarship, and even the most
recently produced books on surimono, clinging futilely to the ukiyo-e mode,
seem willfully ignorant of them."
book": One could speak volumes about this subject, but for now I want to
limit myself to two elements. The first is a general description of ehon.
On the inside flap of Ehon: The Artist and the Book in Japan by Roger
Keyes it states that ehon "...are part of an incomparable
1,230-year-old Japanese tradition. Created by artists and craftsmen, most
ehon also feature essays, poems, or other texts written in beautiful,
distinctive calligraphy. They are by nature collaborations: visual artists,
calligraphers, writers, and designers join forces with papermakers, binders,
block cutters and printers. The books they create are strikingly beautiful,
highly charged microcosms of deep feeling, sharp intensity, and
The second is based
on a comment Keyes made on page 140 which had always puzzled me: "Most
Japanese books of this period [ca. 1800 and earlier] were printed on semi-transparent
paper. Even though the sheets were printed on one side and folded in
half, faint images would often show through. Most readers simply disregarded
this, just as they overlooked the 'invisible' assistants dressed in black on
the theater stage." (See our entry on
On the left are
three illustrations contributed to this site by our great contributor E. The
top one shows the cover of volume 2 of Settei's Onna Buyu Yoso-i Kurabe
(Competition of bravery in women) of 1757.
The middle and
bottom ones clearly illustrate the point being made by Roger Keyes.
The I-ching or 'Book
of Changes' - "The I-ching, one of the most ancient classics,
probably originated as a collection of peasant omen interpretations.
Although it incorporated a mass of material used in divination, it was
eventually elaborated into a complex system of symbols adn explanations that
has no counterpart in any other civilization. ¶ Japanese military
strategists in warlike ages frequently used the I-ching in making
crucial decisions. In peacetime under the Tokugawa regime, the book
gradually lost its importance and became a handbook for unemployed samurai,
who told individual fortunes. In fact, it is still the principal tool of
Japanese street-corner soothsayers." Quoted from: A History of Japanese
Astronomy: Chinese Background and Western Impact by Shigeru Nakayama,
(e-kyōdai) are works in which a small inset picture in a
cartouche resembles the main part of the design in some way, creating an
interesting comparison between the two. This kind of pictorial device was
already used in works by Torii Kiyonaga dating from the 1780s, but the name
comes from Santō Kyōden's comic novel (kokkei-bon) E-kyōdai
(Sibling Pictures), published in 1794."
Quote from: The
Passionate Art of Kitagawa Utamaro, published by the British Museum
Press, London, 1995, text volume, p. 181.
For years viewers
have asked me what this or that cartouche means. Generally I can't tell
them, but now at least I can in a small percentage of them.
The detail from a
Yoshitoshi print to the left above shows a bijin under an umbrella in a
snowstorm mimicked by what may be a peasant walking away from us in the
cartouche above. Below that is a detail from a Kuniyoshi print of an actor
wearing a summer robe, seated on a red cloth on the grass looking down at a
turtle. The cartouche in the upper right of that print shows one of the
propitious gods accompanied also by a turtle. We have added an enlarged
detail of that section for greater clarity. (I have doctored the original
Kuniyoshi image blocking out much of the detail work so you can focus on the
more pertinent elements.)
For another example
in a print by Chikanobu click on the number one in the column to the right.
The Elements of
Japanese Design: A Handbook of Family Crests, Heraldry and Symbolism
This book by John
W. Dower published by Weatherhill originally appeared in 1971. The image to
the left is the cover of the 1991 paperback edition. Excellent volume with
tons of basic information and over 2,700 illustrations. However, it is not a
good guide for identifying the specific crests, i.e., mons of individual
Ema (also euma)
Today these are votive
plaques given to a shrine or temple in hopes of getting one's wishes
fulfilled or in thanks for a wish granted. Literally the word 'ema' means
'horse picture'. Originally horses had an ancient connection to Shinto
beliefs: Horses served both as vehicles for certain gods and as messengers
between the spiritual and temporal worlds. One of the functions of the ema
was to end drought by bringing rain. In time the plaques displayed other
hopefully propitious images, but they were still called ema. Their first
known mention comes from several 11th and 12th century manuscripts and/or
illustrated scrolls. In time the ema could be decorated with almost anything
associated with a specific god or any human condition or endeavor. For
example, if someone wanted to give up smoking, gambling or a sexual addiction
the ema might include an image of a lock. Many emas were produced as
wished for palliatives: Hemorrhoids relief might show a stingray; warts an
octopus because in Japanese those words are homonymous; sexual
dysfunction....well, I think you can guess what is shown then; etc.*
*While doing some other
research we found that the Japanese word for wart was not a homonym for the
word for octopus. Instead of wart it should have been a bunion or a callus.
emas were created and often showed off the skills of aspiring and
established artists like several members of the Kanō school, Hanabusa Itchō,
Shunshō, Hokusai, Toyokuni I and Kuniyoshi, et al. (Source: Kodansha
Encyclopedia of Japan, vol. 2, pp. 196-7, entry by Money Hickman)
The graphic to the left above was contributed to our site by David Wilcox. The
choice of a horse was mine. Thanks David! One note: often the symbolic image
is accompanied by kanji characters, but neither David nor I felt that we
were versed enough to know which terms would be the most appropriate. The
image to the left below is a detail from a Kunisada print. And the image
immediately below is from an ehon showing an artist who produced and sold
ema. Notice that most of them are of zodiac figures. The coloring is mine.
"...the mother of Kūkai, who, as we will
see, was worshipped at Jison-in (at the foot of Kōyasan) as a deity of
childbirth, received ex-votos (ema) representing female breasts.
Similar images were also offered at Mikumari Shrine in Yoshino, whose most
important icon was Tamayorihime, the mother of the mythical ruler Jinmu...
the name of the shrine, read originally as mikumari (water-dividing),
came to be read as mikomori (protecting children). "
(Quoted from: The Power of
Denial: Buddhism, Purity, and Gender, by Bernard Faure, published by
Princeton University Press, 2003, p. 160)
"...ema, or paintings of
horses, usually on a wooden board, [were] made as offerings at shrines in
lieu of real horses. Some scholars assume that ema developed in the
medieval period, but Iwai Hiromi traces their development back to at least
the mid-Heian period when 'shikishi ema' (literally, painted horses
on decorative paper) offered to Kitano Tenjin Shrine are listed in a
document dated to 1012 and 'ita ni kakitaru ema' (ema painted
on boards) are mentioned in the Konjaku monogatari shu, a
late-Heian-period collection of Buddhist didactic tales." (Quoted from:
Critical Perspectives on Classicism in Japanese Painting, 1600-1700 by
Elizabeth Lillehoj, pp. 141-2)
18th centure ema
Ema were given to both
Shintō shrines and Buddhist temples. "A large well-equipped shrine
often had a separate building as the stable for a sacred horse, such as the
one still seen at Ise Shrine. Horses were considered the favorite mounts of
the Shintō gods. ¶ A votive horse's donor usually sought some personal favor
from the gods in return for his gift to a shrine, or else assistance was
sought for a problem affecting all the people. For example, if there was not
enough rain for the crops, the gift of a black horse was appropriate., or a
white one... in case of excessive rain and flooding. Since only the
wealthiest nobleman could afford to donate real horses, the custom was
eventually altered to permit offerings of wooden horse figures instead.
Finally, pictures of horses became acceptable substitutes. The earliest
mention of a votive horse picture is in the gift record of the Kitano Shrine
in Kyoto for the year 1012." Quoted from: Mingei: Japanese Folk Art,
the Brooklyn Museum, p. 24.
Kanō Sansetsu (1589-1651) at
We found this at Wikimedia
illustrated narrative scrolls.
"The appearance of the
yamatoe coincided with the development of such vernacular narrative
prose forms as the romance, the diary, and the poem tale... It was not long
before romances and similar works began to inspire paintings, which
sometimes took the form of screen decorations but most often appeared as
booklets (sōshi) or horizontal, hand scrolls (emaki[mono])
- small treasures for highborn ladies, who gazed at them while attendants
read from related texts or told stories of their own invention. The
horizontal scrolls were made of sheets of paper pasted together and attached
to a mounting at one end and a roller at the other. Quite apart from the
aesthetic value of their paintings, they were objects of art in their own
right, with braided silk cords, richly colored mountings, rollers made of
jade, crystal, or precious wood, and textual passages inscribed in exquisite
calligraphy on paper flecked with silver and gold. That they were favored
over the plainer sōshi is suggested by the frequency of their mention
in works like The Tale of Genji, and by the fact that all the
principal surviving Heian yamatoe are in emakimono form."
Quoted from: The Cambridge History of Japan, vol. 2, p. 413.
The image to the left is a
small detail from the Jigoku-zōshi (地獄草紙)
showing one of the torments of Hell in the collection of the
Tokyo National Museum. We found it at commons.wikimedia.
Emma (also Enma)
King of Hell, i.e.,
Jigoku in Japanese
Emma rules the spirit world
and all deceased souls appear before him. "He has a bright mirror before
him. When we appear before him, we see ourselves reflected in it. It
illuminates our entire being, and we cannot hide anything from it. Good and
bad, all is reflected in it as it is. Emma-samma looks at it and knows at
once what kind of person each of us was while living in the world. Besides
this he has a book before him in which everything we did is minutely
recorded. ...there is no deceiving him. His judgment goes straight to
the core of our personality. It never errs. His penetrating eye reads not
only our consciousness but also our unconscious. He is naturally legalistic,
but he is not devoid of kindheartedness, for he is always ready to discover
in the unconscious something which may help the criminal to help himself."
(Quote from: Mysticism,
Christian and Buddhist, by Daisetz Teitaro Suzuki, published by
Forgotten Books, n.d., pp. 110-111)
"In East Asia, a figure called Enma (J. Enma Ō; Ch. Yanmo Wang), a name with
which most Japanese familiar, is believed to be the judge of the afterlife.
He examines the deeds (karma) of the deceased and decides what their reward
or punishment should be, just like an imperially appointed magistrate in a
medieval Chinese court. King Enma is a modified form of the Indian deity
Yama, but the element of bureaucratic judgment he introduces into the
theoretically impersonal workings of the law of karma may be seen as a
peculiarly Chinese interpretation of the Indian Buddhist tradition,
revealing a heavy Taoist influence. Enma also belongs to a panel of judges
known as the ten kings of hell. Each of these kings presides over his own
court, through which the newly deceased must pass, receiving judgment from
each in turn. ¶ King Enma, judge of the fifth court, is singled out in
Japan for special attention and is closely associated with
King Enma never assigns a punishment worse than the sinner deserves, but
sometimes this fearsome deity can be lenient when encouraged by Jizō."
(Quoted from: Living
Buddhist Statues in Early Medieval and Modern Japan by Sarah J. Horton,
"The famous Emonzaka (Attire
Slope or Lapel Slope) was the short, gently curving road on which Yoshiwara
patrons descended from the road along the top of the embankment to the
single great gateway into the walled enclosure of the licensed quarter. It
is said to have been so named because it was here that visitors adjusted
their attire to make themselves presentable before entering Yoshiwara."
Quoted from: Early Modern Japanese Literature: An Anthology, 1600-1900,
edited by Haruo Shirane, fn. 41, p. 642.
To the left is a Hiroshige
print of Emonzaka from ca. 1840-42.
The reign period from
1673-1681. This era "...marks a decade of cultural activity in many spheres,
Kabuki first came to feature full-length dramas, and the great Danjūrō I
appeared in Edo - where, of course, Moronobu was a work consolidating the
ukiyo-e style in his paintings and numerous illustrated books, while in
Kyoto the works of Hambei were also published widely." Quoted from:
"Historical Eras in Ukiyo-e" by Richard Lane in Ukiyo-e Studies and
Pleasures, Society for Japanese Arts and Crafts, the Hague, 1978, p. 28.
A veranda or porch
which is protected by an overhanging eave and is generally an extension of
an interior room.
The two images to
the left were
generously contributed to our site by E. Thanks E! Normally we only use one
image, but both are so good we decided that we couldn't pass up one for the
other. The top one is by Toyokuni I (豊国) and the lower one is a detail from
an Eishi (栄之) print.
The Japanese pagoda tree or
Sophora japonica: The
flowers buds were used to create a traditional yellow dye. For more about
this tree please visit out web log post at
This image was posted at
commons.wikimedia.org by Warburg
The photo to the left of the
enju tree was posted at Flickr by Joel Abroad.
Recently we were looking for new information on enju when we ran
across a rather odd reference. There is a story that, true or apocryphal -
it doesn't matter, that the last Ming dynasty emperor committed suicide by
hanging himself from one of these trees. In the spring of 1644 Beijing was
under assault. The outer wall had been breached and the Chongzhen (Ch. 崇祯)
emperor climbed the Hill of the Ten Thousand Years, the highest point in the
city, to assess the overall situation. He saw smoke rising to the south. He
went back to his compound and was said to have caused the death of much of
his family and his devoted followers and then returned to the hill. "...he
climbed the hill once more and hanged himself from the rafters of the newly
built Pavilion of Imperial Longevity (Huangshou Ting). By the time
his body was found the invaders had terrorised the court into submission. ¶
Later rumor claimed that the Chongzhen Emperor had in fact hanged himself
from a sophora tree (also known as a scholar tree) on the eastern side of
the hill. The offending tree, which was dubbed the 'criminal sophora' (zui
huai) for allowing the emperor to die, has been replaced many times. To
this day, tourists visit what is now called Prospect Hill to have their
pictures taken in front of the stele marking the spot where the last Ming
emperor is thought to have ended his days." Quoted from: The Forbidden City
by Geremie R. Barmé, p. 145. (Below is a portrait of that emperor. It seems
appropriately fitting that the main color is yellow, the imperial color, and
particularly because the enju provides a yellow dye, but not
necessarily one seen here.)
"Monks solicited alms in exchange for faith. Fund-raising and religious
proselytization went hand in hand. Kanjin fund-raisers, including
etoki hōshi (picture-deciphering monks) and told bikuni
(picture-deciphering nuns), lived as itinerant mendicants among laypeople.
Therefore the term kanjin, which originally meant an act of proselytization,
acquired a meaning of begging and beggars." Quoted from: Explaining
Pictures: Buddhist Propaganda And Etoki Storytelling in Japan by Ikumi
Kaminishi, p. 103.
"Among them developed one specific professional, etoki bikuni 絵解き比丘尼
(picture-explaining nuns), who was a female itinerant instructor utilizing
visual sources to preach Buddhist dogmas to people of different genders and
social standing, but especially targeting women audience. Asai Ryōi 浅井了意
(?-1691), the early Edo period popular literature writer, describes etoki
bikuni in his Tōkaidō meisho-ki 東海道名所記 (Record of Famus Places
Along the Tōkaidō, 1659:
[...] they painted
pictures that depicted all the hells and heavens and six realms of
sentient existence in paintings called Kumano paintings [Kumano-e]
and performed painting-recitation [etoki]. For ladies who
rarely were able to go on pilgrimages to temples and never get to
hear sermons and the like, and didn't know what to make of this
life, these nuns were able to gain access and preach to them
As a result of this
gender-oriented practice, the repertoire of etoki bikuni performance
focused on particular dogmas and featured specific iconography, which
enabled them to preach to a female audience. It was a relative novelty in
the history of Buddhism, which traditionally excluded females from
salvation." Quoted from: Visual Genesis of Japanese National Identity:
Hokusai's Hyakunin Isshu by Ewa Machotka, p. 160.
"The story of the
vendetta carried out by forty-seven
(masterless samurai) who remianed faithful to the memory of their former
Popularly known as
the Chūshingura it was originally written for the puppet theater in
1748. "At the time the major Japanese dramatists were writing their plays
for puppets rather than actors, a choice often attributed to dissatisfaction
with the liberties that Kabuki actors often took with the texts."
Source and quotes
from: Chūshingura: The Treasury of Loyal Retainers, A puppet play
translated by Donald Keene, Columbia University Press, 1971, pp. ix-x.
Its full title is Kanadehon Chūshingura. "The first word means 'a copybook of
kana,' a penmanship book for the writing of forty-seven symbols making
up the Japanese syllabary." Written in kana, "...simple Japanese,
rather than the high-flown style of the Confucian philosophers who praised
the immortal forty-seven. But only pedants now use the full title of the
Ibid., p. xi
For our entry on
click on that highlighted word.
information will be added eventually on a page devoted to print with this