A MILLION QUESTIONS
TWO MILLION MYSTERIES
Port Townsend, Washington
Fu thru Gen
The photo of the 'dead end'
sign was taken by
our friend Ben Peyronnin. We then altered it for
our own purposes. Our bad! It is being used
to mark additions made from May thru August 2013.
The ferris wheel image was also
taken by Ben. All we did
with that one was
crop it for our own selfish reasons.
It was used in October thru December 2012.
TERMS FOUND ON THIS
Fūkei-ga, Fukinuki yatai,
Fukurokuju, Fundō, Fūrin,
Fusuma, Futame jigoku,
Futatsu-tomoe, Ga, Gagō, Gaikotsu, Gama,
Gandō, Ganpi (also gampi), Ganpishi,
Gehō no hashigozori, Genga, Genji kuruma,
Genjina, Genpei and
Genpei Nunobiki no
吹抜屋台, 吹輪, 福寿草, 福禄寿, 分銅, 風鈴,
襖, 両婦地獄, 画,
雅号, 骸骨, 蝦蟇, 蝦蟇仙人,
雁皮, 雁皮紙, 合作, 原画, 源氏車, 源氏物語,
ふじ, ふうけいが, ふきぬきやたい,
ふくろくじゅ, ふんどう, ふうりん, ふすま,
ふためじごく, が, がご, がいこつ, がま,
げほうの梯子剃り, げんが, げんじ.くるま,
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
Fú (a Chinese word)
(But with a rising
tone in Chinese unlike Japanese)
rising tone, for bat
The Japanese for bat is kōmori (蝙蝠 or こうもり).
There is a Chinese herbal from the 16th century which stated that some bats
live to be one thousand years old. "...white as silver [they] are believed
to feed on stalactites, and if eaten will insure longevity and good sight."
(Source and quote: Chinese Symbolism and Art Motifs by C. A. S.
Williams, p. 61, 2006 edition) We mention this because of the similarity to
stalactite eating in our entry on
Go there and you will see what we mean.
Below is a picture of
Honduran white bats posted at commons.wikimedia.org by Leyo. We couldn't
find any stalactite eating 1,000 year old Chinese bats so we are using the
next best thing. They don't look very old, do they?
One definition of this term
is "charm/talisman". Below is a detail from a Hiroshi Yoshida print,
Utagahama (歌ヶ浜 or うたがはま), from 1937 showing fuda applied to
the beams and posts of the structure.
See also our entries on
Fuda were originally
applied to columns and beams at temples and shrines by pilgrims using
niwaka, a kind of gelatin glue. "The act of visiting temples and shrines
to paste fuda appeared to be more fun than devotional, and became
particularly unpopular with those in charge of the buildings who saw it as a
form of vandalism akin to grafitti nowadays. This is an even greater problem
today, when fuda are mass-produced as sticky seals which can damage
buildings; the original paste was at least the relatively harmless nori
(rice paste). Many shrines and temples now outlaw the activity, although
this can act as encouragement to renegade pasters who try it anyway. [¶] The
art of pasting the fuda underwent technical development too.
Originally they were stuck by hand, in low places, but it then came to be
seen as a challenge to paste them as high up as possible. An extraordinary
early technique was called nagebari; a pasted fuda was placed
on a damp towel and hurled high up at a beam or the ceiling. This may have
been effective, but it lacked the control over position and placement which
was important for the Edoite competitive spirit inherent in pasting. The
preference was for a prominent spot where everyone could see and appreciate
not only the design of the fuda but also acknowledge that the person
had visited. These spots were called hitomi (literally 'seen by
people')..." but had the disadvantages of being exposed to the natural
elements or removal by others and might last at most only a few years.
Another method was called 'secret pasting' or kakushibari where they
were hidden away from the wind and rain and other humans and therefore might
last for 50 to 60 years undisturbed. ¶ In time someone invented a long
extension pole of bamboo to which could be attached two brushes, the
meotobake or 'husband and wife brush.' One brush would dust a spot clean
and the other brush would moisten the area before the fuda would be
applied. (Source and quotes from: Japanese Popular Prints: From Votive
Slips to Playing Cards by Rebecca Salter, pp. 96-97)
Originating in the
Hindu pantheon he came to be regarded as one of the five wise kings who
despite his stern countenance is a saver of souls. His attributes are the
sword with which he fights evil and the rope which he uses to lasso
individuals who can be saved.
Myōō knows that he is always accompanied by flames. Daisetz T.
Suzuki tells us why: "Acala's [the ancient Indian name for Fudō
Myōō] anger burns like a fire and will not be put down until it
burns up the last camp of the enemy: he will then assume his original
features as the Vairocana Buddha, whose servant and manifestation he is. The
Vairocana holds no sword, he is the sword itself, sitting alone with all the
worlds within himself."
Quote from: Zen and
Japanese Culture, Daisetz T. Suzuki, Bolingen Series LXIV, Princeton
University Press, 1993, p. 90.
Patricia Graham in her paper Naritasan Shinshōji and Commoner Patronage
During the Edo Period notes some of the prominent iconographic features
of Fudō. "He either stands or sits on a rock with his body framed by a
aura of fire. His facial expression is fierce, with one eye peering up and
the other down and two fangs, also pointing in opposite directions. He
usually holds a sword in his right hand to slash demons and a cord in his
left to bind them and also to capture devotees and lead them into Paradise."
The detail shown above is from
a print by Toyokuni III portraying an actor as Fudō.
Notice the fangs - one pointing
up and one down. The eyes are not following true to form.
Instead one eye is crossed - a
dramatic technique invented by one of this actors predecessors.
The image below is a detail of
a photo posted at commons.wikimedia.org by Kenpei.
It is of a sculpture of Fudō of
indeterminate age but clearly modern. But that is not the point -
the fangs are pointing in
different directions. Again the eyes are not so easily read.
Blowfish, pufferfish -
"There was a good trade in aphrodisiacs for those who could afford them.
Extracts and drinks were made from Chinese and Korean ginseng roots mixed
with local herbs that could still be found along the banks of Edo's rivers,
tiger balm and pulverized rhinoceros horn. Fugu, the Japanese blowfish,
purportedly another aphrodisiac, was a favourite among courtesans and
wealthy guests, though the poison from the fish, if not properly extracted,
could be fatal. The risk seems only to have increased the thrill of sampling
the tissue thin slices of fish." Quoted from:
Tokyo A Cultural History by
Stephen Mansfield, p. 35.
The image to the left was
posted at Flickr by furibund. The image shown above was also posted at
Flickr, but this one was put there by tsuda.
"Blowfish is a generic name for
several members of the fish family tetraodontidae, a fish that can swell
itself to several times its normal size by swallowing air or water. The
tetraodontidae family has 187 known species, of which about fifty can be
found in Japan, and about ten of which are regularly eaten there. The most
common blowfish served in Japan is torafugu (Takifugu rubripes), or tiger
blowfish, the largest among Japan’s species. It is also one of the most
poisonous. ¶ The poison, tetrodotoxin, is highly concentrated in the organs,
especially the liver and the ovaries. Generated by bacteria that live in the
fish, the poison is 1250 times deadlier than cyanide and 160,000 times more
potent than cocaine. One fish can kill thirty adults. ¶ A small amount of
poison creates a stinging numbness in the lips, tongue, and extremities. A
bit more produces the same effect, and eventually paralysis, in the lungs,
which leads to death. There is no known antidote; the treatment usually
consists of pumping the patient’s stomach, placing him on artificial
respiration and intravenous hydration, and feeding him activated charcoal to
bind the toxin." Quoted from: 'Haley and the Blowfish' by Mark West in the
Washington University Global Studies Law Review, p. 429.
"The folk story holds that when
Hideyoshi Toyotomi sought to conquer Korea in 1592, he amassed a force of
158,800 troops on Kyushu, where blowfish was a favorite dish, for the task.
Many men died of blowfish poisoning before they reached Korea, and as a
result, Hideyoshi banned consumption.... The story is often told, but I find
no evidence of it in primary or secondary academic sources. ¶ A ban appears
to have been in place during the Tokugawa period (1603–1868), but its scope
and enforcement is questionable. Englebert Kaempfer, physician to the Dutch
embassy in Nagasaki from 1690 to 1693, noted that 'Soldiers only and
military men, are by special command of the Emperor forbid to buy and to eat
this fish. If any one dies of it, his son forfeits the succession to his
father’s post, which otherwise he would have been entitled to.'.... ¶
The standard account holds that the blowfish ban was lifted during the Meiji
period (1896–1912) but reinstated by the legislature in either 1882 or 1885
pursuant to the Order for the Disposition of Petty Crimes... The standard
account further holds that in 1888, Prime Minister Hirobumi Ito traveled to
his hometown in Yamaguchi prefecture, Japan’s blowfish capital, and sampled
the dish. He immediately lifted the ban—but only in Yamaguchi prefecture....
I find no evidence for this often-told story. The Order for the Disposition
of Petty Crimes was enacted in 1885, but it is a general statute that
contains no mention of blowfish or anything resembling blowfish....
But Prime Minister Itō had no authority to legislate or otherwise dictate
policy in the Yamaguchi prefecture, and there is no primary source evidence
that he did so." (Ibid., fn. 36, pp. 432-3)
The image shown above was posted at Flickr by Kojach.
On August 21, 2010 Laura
Roberts wrote an article for The Telegraph about deaths which shocked
the Japanese: "In 1975 Bandō Mitsugorō VIII, a Japanese kabuki actor, died
of severe poisoning when he ate four fugu livers (also known as pufferfish).
The liver is considered one of the most poisonous parts of the fish, but
Mitsugorō claimed to be immune to the poison. The fugu chef felt he could
not refuse Mitsugorō and lost his license as a result."
Today fugu can be farm raised
to be poison free. One can even eat its liver.
a wild mountain plant that twined itself around trees....was domesticated at
an early date, and by the late Heian period was celebrated at parties
sponsored by Japanese aristocrats. [Its]...trailing racemes of purple
flowers, among the most popular of family crest and general decorative
"The Fujiwara, whose
name contains the ideograph for wisteria, was the most prominent court
family in the Nara and Heian periods and had a tutelary relationship with
those two religious institutions." (Quoted from: Symbols
of Japan: Thematic Motifs in Art and Design, by Merrily Baird, p. 67)
While this mon was used
mainly by 97 different branches of the Fujiwara clan there were others who
used it as well.
Above is a detail from a May
1932 print of
the wisteria at Kameido.
"Transcribed literally, the
Fujiwara surname means 'field of wisteria,' and in both their textile and
landscape design, the clan made prominent display of the wisteria. Despite
this natural association, however, Japanese genealogies reveal that in the
later centuries only a small percentage of the families descended from the
greatest of Japanese aristocratic lineages actually used the wisteria as
their main family crest. Families with 'fuji' as aprt of their name
sometimes combined calligraphy and design, as in the crest of the Kato
family... where the character for ka was enclosed in a circular
wisteria pattern (to is the Chinese reading for wisteria). Families
expressing devotion to the Kumano Shrine also used wisteria, one of the
plants associated with it." (Quoted from: The
Elements of Japanese Design
by John W. Dower, p. 82)
Above is the same scene as the
Hasui, but from a
somewhat perspective. This
one is by Hiroshige
and the original is in
the Brooklyn Museum of Art.
The Kameido (亀井戸 or かめいど)
Shrine is a popular spot in the Edo/Tokyo area devoted to Sugawara no
Michizane. In 1908 Florence Du Cane wrote: "Perhaps the most popular haunt
of the pleasure-seeker in the month of May is the celebrated Kameido Temple
in Tokyo. Words fail me to describe the beauty of the scene: it is a real
feast of fuji; the long purple trails cover the large trellises, the
wide rustic galleries, and connect the little matted restaurants, where
hosts of people throughout the day sit feasting under the purple roof and
feeding the goldfish in the lake. The matted benches are set out on a thick
mauve carpet of fallen blossoms, and the little maids seem to have a
never-ending task in sweeping away great heaps of freshly fallen flowers, as
though fearing that their guests will be smothered by them.... I sat
surrounded... by the blossoms, inhaling their delicious scent and listening
to the droning of bees, I could graze across the water at the reflection of
a never-ending vista of mauve blossoms reaching on one side to the
celebrated round wooden bridge, the delight of children, who seemed to cross
it in one endless stream, and on the other to the fine old temple, where a
few ancient pines are placed just where they will best harmonise with the
long purple blossoms. The late sweet-scented white variety will prolong the
fuji season by a few days; their glory is but short-lived, a few days
and then the colour begins to fade.... I turned away sadly, not forgetting
the Japanese theory that the wistaria loves saké. So strong is their
belief, that I was told if you set a jar under the plant, its spray will
grow longer from its desire to reach the jar; so I ordered my little cup of
saké, sipped it, and then emptied the cup on the roots, according to
their custom, hoping that I might help to contribute to its great size and
beauty." (Quoted from: The Flowers And Gardens Of Japan by Florence
Du Cane, pp. 147-9)
Some of the individuals and
families that used the fuji as their crest or mon: the Noda (野田 or
のだ); the Kitagawa (喜多川 or きたがわ); the Kubo (久保 or くぼ); the Sugiyama (杉山 or
すぎやま); Katō Yoshiaki (加藤嘉明 or かとうよしあき) as daimyō at Minakuchi in Omi;
Gotō Matabei (後藤又兵衛 or ごとうまたべえ); Natsuka Masaie (長束正家 or なつかまさいえ); the Naitō
(内藤 or ないとう) as daimyō at Nobeoka in Hyuga, as daimyō at
Murakami in Echigo; as daimyō at Takato in Shinano, as daimyō
at Unagaya in Mutsu, as daimyō at Korano in Mikawa, as daimyō
at Iwamurata in Shanano; the Naruse (成瀬 or なるせ) as daimyō at Inuyama
in Owari; the Andō (安藤 or あんどう) as daimyō at Iwakidaira in Mutsu; Itō
(伊藤 or いとう); the Katō (加藤) as daimyō at Osu in Iyo; the Tōyama (遠山 or
とうやま) as daimyō at Naeki in Mino; Naitō Masanari (内藤正成 or ないとうまさなり)
as daimyō at Murakami in Echigo and also at Nobeoka in Hyuga;
(柴田 or しばた); and Andō Naotsugu (安藤直次 or あんどうなおつぐ) as daimyō at Tanabe in Kii.
(Source: Mon: The Japanese Family Crest by Kei Kaneda Chappelear and W. M.
Hawley, p. 9) And more families and
individuals who used a wisteria crest: the Fukatsu (深津 or ふかつ); the Kawai
(川井 or かわい); the Tsubouchi (坪内 or つぼうち); the Kamiya (神谷 or かみや); the Masaki
(正木 or まさき); the Nigao (仁賀保); Hasegawa (長谷川 or はせがわ); Ōkubo (大久保 or おおくぼ);
Shinjo (新庄 or しんじょ) as daimyō at Aso in Hirachi; Uchida (内田 or
うちだ); Kuroda Nagamasa (黒田長政 or くろだながまさ) as daimyō at Fukuoka
in Chikuzen and as daimyō at Akizuki in Chikuzen; the Shitatei
(下田丁); the Uratsuji (裏辻 or うらつじ); Ōmikado (大炊御門); Konagaya (小長谷 or こながや):
Higashirokujō (東六條 or ひがしろくじょう); Kujō (九條 or くじょう); Nagai (長井 or ながい); Chiba
(千葉 or ちば); Kawamura (川村 or かわむら); Tsuji (辻 or つじ); Ōkubo Hikozaemon
(大久保彦左衛門 or おおくぼひこざえもん) as daimyō at Karasuyama in Shimotsuke;
the Itami (伊丹 or いたみ); the Hosoda (細田 or ほそだ); the Suzuki (鈴木 or すずき); the
Makita (蒔田 or まきた); the Nijō (二條 or にじょう); Ichijō (一條 or いちじょう); Nishirokujō
(西六條 or にしろくじょう); the Daigo (醍醐 or だいご); the Sagara (相良 or さがら); the
Tominokōji (富小路 or とみのこうじ); the Matsuzono (松園 or まつぞの); the Tōyama (とうやま);
the Andō as daimyō at Taira in Mutsu; and Ōkubo Tadayo as daimyō at
Odawara in Sagami. (Ibid., pp. 10-11)
In the Japan Encyclopedia
by Louis Frédéric (p. 196) it says: "Wisteria (Wisteria floribunda),
climbing leguminous plant with showy purplish flowers. There are many
varieties: cultivated (kushakufuji, shirobanafuji, with white
flowers; akabonofu, with pink flowers), which climbs in a clockwise
direction, and wild (yamafuji, Wisteria brachybotrys), which
Below is a haiku by
I'll make them my poetry
with the blossoms gone
fuji no mi wa/ haikai ni
sen/ hana no ato
In the Man'yōshū is a
poem by Yakamochi (718? - 785). Part of it reads
I love the wisteria that
At the brush of the
I pluck the petals off
And tuck them in my
If they stain they stain.
Yakamochi went rowing on Lake
Fuse and wrote
Waves of wisteria
Reflect on the clear sea
The pebbles on the bottom
Are like jewels.
The Wisteria Maiden - "The
Wisteria Maiden was originally one of five dances performed one after the
other in rapid sequence by the same dancer who effected multiple quick
changes of costume, wig, and makeup. These transformation dances (hengemono)
were very popular in nineteenth-century kabuki and exhibited the
virtuosity of the actor- dancers. The entire dance from which Wisteria
Maiden derives was known as Ōtsu of the Ever-Returning Farewells
(Kaesu Gaesu Nagori no Ōtsu). It featured characters that appeared in
the popular, naive folk pictures known as Ōtsu-e (Ōtsu pictures),
which were sold in the Ōtsu region to tourists visiting the area around Lake
Biwa. In the original dance, Seki Sanjūrō II (1786-1839) performed as five
different characters: the wisteria maiden, the god of calligraphy, a footman
(yakko), a boatman, and a blind man. The only dance that has survived
is the first, Wisteria Maiden." Quoted from:
Kabuki Plays on Stage:
Darkness and desire, 1804 - 1864, volume 3, p. 166.
The image shown above of the
Fuji musume was posted at Flickr by cheran.
In "....1937, when Onoe
Kikugorō VI (1885-1949), known as 'the god of the dance,' changed the entire
format of Wisteria Maiden. It is not known in exactly what setting
the first dance was performed; perhaps it was in front of panels
representing the five Ōtsu pictures, which came alive as the actor stepped
out of the panels to dance. Kikugorō changed the decor to the brilliant
one used today used today: the trunk of a pine tree from which bright purple
wisteria blossoms fall in dazzling profusion. He also replaced the 'Itako
Dejima' section with a newly composed 'Fuji Ondo' (Wisteria
Dance), based on a folk song and dance. It stresses the more mature,
experienced, womanly feelings of the wisteria maiden and is danced twice,
the second time in slightly inebriated fashion, since during the first round
the maiden has partaken of sake. The skill of the dancer is revealed in his
ability to express drunkenness without vulgarity." (Ibid.)
"The lyrics of Wisteria
Maiden are a tissue of allusions, esoteric references, and plays on
words, thus making ready comprehension virtually impossible, even for the
scholar. Because the meaning is somewhat tenuous, the movement patterns
(furi) are often less realistic than those in more down-to-earth
dances. Instead, they tend to suggest emotions, character, and attitudes in
a general way. The lyrics pile meaning on meaning..." (Ibid., p. 167)
Landscape print or picture
The image to the left by
Hokusai was posted at Flickr by Cea.
Bird's-eye-view used in
Japanese art where the roof has been removed to allow views of interiors.
"Paintings of indoor scenes depict them from an aerial perspective of modest
elevation, famously 'blowing off' the roofs (fukinuki yatai) and the
architectural cross-beams to provide unobstructed views of the interior."
Quoted from: Envisioning the Tale of Genji: Media, Gender, and Cultural
Production by Haruo Shirane, p. 66.
Louis Frederic in his
Japan Encyclopedia (p. 214) gives basically the same definition of
fukinuki yatai: " 'Houses with blown-off roofs,' an artistic convention
used in paintings in the Yamato-e style, in which houses, seen from above,
were drawn without a roof so that the interior could be seen."
The image shown above is a detail from a hand scroll in the Kyoto
An elaborate headdress
worn by a princess.
Professor Samuel Leiter translates fukiwa as literally meaning "blow
circle." A "...beautiful wig worn mainly by princesses (hime or
himesama) in jidaimono. The large, round topknot (mage)
contains a red hand drum-like ornament inserted horizontally through it,
with a red bow and decorative starched paper strips (takenaga)
hanging from beneath the topknot. Flower combs with silver plum blossoms and
butterflies are inserted at the front."
Quoted from: New Kabuki
Encyclopedia: A Revised Adaptation of kabuki jiten, compiled by Samuel
L. Leiter, 1997, p. 99.
The floral comb at the front of
the wig is referred to as a hanagushi (花櫛 or はなぐし). The entire
wig is called a mage-fukuwa.
Literally "the grass
of luck and longevity" and also referred to as the "pheasant's
eye". This is the Adonis flower a symbol of the New Year and prosperity.
Hokusai included it in more than one surimono.
The image to the
left is a detail from a print by Yoshitoshi where a woman is trying to
decide between the purchase of two different Adonis flower selections.
In Mock Joya's Things
Japanese (pp. 193-4) it states that the "Fukuju-so (Adonis amurensis)
has bright little golden blossoms. Its buds are silver gray, the leaves are
green, but its blossoms are bright gold. Its name in Japanese means
'wealth-long-life-plant.' Because of its golden blossoms and also its lucky
name, the flower is much admired by the people who use it especially for
decorating their homes for the New Year celebration." This plant prospers in
colder climes and is said to have originated in Hokkaido which was called
Ezo-ga-shima. There is a story that says that "Once there lived in Ezo
a beautiful goddess called Kunau. Her father betrothed her to the god of the
earth-mole. But she did not care for the groom-elect selected by her father.
Her refusal to marry the god of the earth-mole so angered her father that
she was reduced to becoming a common wild blossom as punishment for
disobeying her father. ¶ Thus she turned into a blossom which came to be
known as Kunau or Kunau-nonnon. ¶ By the Ainu people, fukuju-so is
still called Kunau. The tale of the Goddess Kunau is related by Ainu parents
to their little daughters as a lesson teaching them the duty of obeying
their parents. But if they were sure to be transformed into such beautiful
blossoms, Ainu maidens might oppose the command of their parents to marry
and follow the example of the Goddess Kunau."
These photos are
shown courtesy of Shu Suehiro at
One of the Seven
Propitious Gods. He is the god of wealth and longevity.
A weight or
counterweight: One of the symbolic lucky treasures.
To the left
(above) is an image of a fundō from the robe of a beautiful woman or
bijin in a print by Eishō. Her kimono is covered with this and other
treasure symbols. Often seen along with other treasures as decorations
on ceramics, fabrics and other items.
The image on the
bottom left is another variation on the fundō motif - also found on an Eishō
In Japanese Art Motives
(1917, p. 155) Maude Rex Allen wrote: "The fundo is a weight used by
tradesmen. It is symbolic of commerce."
Wind chimes which are
considered a sign of summer. The two kanji characters mean 'wind' 'bell'.
The top example to
the left is from a print by Toyokuni III in combination with Hiroshige. The
one at the bottom is a detail from a Chikanobu print. Click on the numbers
to the right to see the full prints.
The Japan Encyclopedia of Louis
Frédéric (2005, p. 221) says "Small bronze or porcelain bell to the clapper
of which is attached a long strip of paper (tanzaku), bearing a poem
or prayer, which flutters in the wind. The clear sound of these bells is
said to freshen the air and ward off insects. They are usually hung in tree
branches or along the eaves, mainly in summertime."
Sliding screen used as
a room partition
"Rooms in houses
rarely have more than one solid wall.... The other sides are closed off with
sliding windows and doors, which move on double runners at the top and the
bottom. At the bottom is a groove level with the floor or the mats, at the
top a rafter one or two ells below the ceiling so that panels can be opened
up and taken away as one pleases."
Tokugawa Culture Observed, edited and translated by Beatrice M. Bodart-Bailey,
University of Hawaii Press, 1999, p. 263.
U. A. Casal
in his "Lore of the Japanese Fan", Monumenta Nipponica, vol.
16, no. 1/2, 1960, p. 82 tells the story of Araki Murashige (荒木村茂 or
あらきむらしげ) who is summoned for an audience with Oda Nobunaga (織田信長 or おだのぶなが),
but suspects that this could be dangerous. In those days "In lordly mansions
the sliding doors (fusuma) were not of paper, but of heavy, wooden panels in
even heavier frames. They moved in shallow grooves, as the paper fusuma (or
karakami) still do. It was just outside of the open fusuma that the vassal
had to make his first kowtow which would bring his neck right above the
grooves..." Suspecting that this was the moment he feared he whipped out his
long metal-based war fan and held it right below his chin. Suddenly the
wooden panels were propelled toward his head, but stopped short with a loud
There were similar
scenes akin to this loads of movies: Star Wars, Flash Gordon. Not exactly
the same, but similar where the walls were closing in until the heroes
figured out a way to stop their progress.
Cool as a cucumber
Murashige acted as though nothing had happened. Nobunaga was so impressed he
forgave him whatever it was that had angered him in the first place. Their
detente didn't last forever, but that is another story.
Fusumashōji (襖障子 or
ふすましょうじ) were opaque sliding panels as opposed to akarishōji (明障子 or
あかりしょうじ) which are lighter weight and translucent. First employed during the
Muromachi period (室町時代 or むろまちじだい: 1392-1568).
Two-wives hell: Generally it is
represented by a man with two snakes with the heads of women entwined around
his body. The jealousy of the first wife has transformed the women into
Literally this means
picture or drawing, but following a signature it means "drawn by" or "did
(also called a gō)
An art name.
In the West
we have Christian names, surnames, nicknames, noms de plume, stage
names, etc., but we have nothing quite like the assortment of names the
Japanese have. Not only that but they are often changed and this makes it
difficult for a novice to the field to know who is who. "You can't tell the
players without a scorecard."
Richard Lane, who
actually calls the gō a nom de plume, notes: "Indeed, of the thirty
or more alternative names that Hokusai employed during his seventy-year
career, about half were passing fancies. Most were used with the previous
name for some time, so as not to confuse his public..."
Hokusai: Life and Work, published by E. P. Dutton, 1989, p. 23.
It is interesting
that a quick search on the term gagō can also mean refined diction or
polite expression. Gō by itself means word or language.
To the left is a
detail from a print by Kyōsai.
For much more about
skeletons in Japanese art go to our web log at
http://printsofjapan.wordpress.com/. Today is June 19, 2010. As
of now we have two posts devoted to skeletons, skulls and bones and will be
adding a third post soon.
Toad: In The Animal in Far
Eastern Art... by T. Volker it says on page 167 "Besides the hare and
the white tiger, gama, the toad is said to inhabit the moon, an idea
that originated in ancient Chine. When once it looked as if the clouds would
would capture the moon, the Archer-Lord... freed her with his shots. He was
rewarded with an elixir of life but his Consort... stole it from it and with
it fled to the moon. For punishment she was there changed into a toad." ¶
Demon toads fed on snakes, had poisonous spittle and could bring death to an
entire countryside by spitting into the air. However, some had good
qualities and could bring rain when it was needed. (Ibid., p. 168)
The Bufo japonicus shown
to the left was posted at commons.wikimedia.org by Yasunori Koide.
Toads are also referred to as
hikigaeru (蟇蛙 or ひきがえる) or simply as hiki.
The Toad Hermit: This Taoist
tale came to Japan from China. He "...was a seller of magic herbs. He lived
in the mountains in company with a giant toad. A legend tells us that when
he went bathing he was in the habit of changing into a four-legged toad. A
different legend has it that once, he was going to bath [sic] in the river,
a certain man... followed him and that Gama sennin gave this person a
magic pill that changed him into a toad. Gama sennin feeding a pill to his
toad is a frequent image. It is also said that once he found a sick toad,
took it home and nursed it back to health. After it regained its health the
animal turned out to be a demon, skilled in the magic arts, and instructed
his benefactor in the secrets of his science. [He] is depicted as a very
ugly fellow without eyelashes and a skin studded with pimples and warts."
The toad is always nearby or on him or in some cases he is riding it.
(Source and quote from: The Animal in Far Eastern Art... by T.
Volker, p. 168)
The image to the left was
posted at commoms.wikimedia.org by Tobosha. It is from a painting by Kyōsai.
Above is a detail from a Hiroshige print from ca. 1820. The red background
Gama senin is also called Kō
sensei (侯先生 or こうせんせい). The Chinese version is referred to as Hou
WARNING: Do not be fooled into
believing that every figure you see with a toad or toads (or frogs) is Gama
senin. One is Tenjiku Tokubei (天竺徳兵衛 or Tenjiku Tokubei) who can often be
seen astride a gigantic toad. Or,
Jiraiya, another fictional character much
loved in the early 19th century.
A handheld lantern
which directs a light very much like a flashlight does. Individually the characters
in gandō mean 龕 'alcove for an image' and 灯 'lamp'.
The image to the
left is a detail from a print by Ashiyuki. To see the full print and much
more info click on this link:
Ashiyuki print page
Ganpi (also gampi)
A rare type of
paper made from the wikstroemia plant
A single work of art
produced by two or more artists, i.e., a collaboration. In the example to the
left the figures are by Toyokuni III and the flowers are by Hiroshige. There
are many such examples in ukiyo prints and paintings.
There is a very
informative and interesting article on this topic by Jan de Jong originally
published in "Andon". Below is a link to that article in pdf form. I would
encourage everyone to read this.
Separately the kanji
characters which make up this term, 合 'join' and 作 'make', form
'cooperation', 'collaboration' or 'coauthorship'.
In an essay, 'Meiji Response
to Bunjinga', by Catherine Guth she discusses the aesthetic world
around Kido Takayoshi (1833-77): "Calligraphy, painting, and poetry were
among the pleasurable pastimes Kido and fellow literati enjoyed at
teahouses, often practiced in a state of jovial inebriation. Friends
collaborated to create compositions in which the process was as important as
the finished product, and individual contributions were subordinated to to
the ensemble creation. The crazy-quilt compositions, combining word and
image, that resulted from such spontaneous joint efforts, known as
gassaku, were valued less for their aesthetic qualities than as
confirmations of friendship - something akin to the modern-day group photo."
Quote from: Challenging Past And Present: The Metamorphosis of
Nineteenth-Century Japanese Art
Professor Leiter in his
Historical Dictionary of Japanese Traditional Theatre defines gassaku
as "The practice of multiple bunraku or kabuki playwrights
collaborating on a play. It may have originated in kabuki in the late
17th century when actor Ichikawa Danjûrô I (writing as Mimasuya Hyôgo)
worked with Nakamura Akashiseisaburô. Bunraku does not seem to have
used it until late in Chikamatsu Monzaemon's career when he revised other
playwrights' work in 1722 and 1723. After his death, puppet plays were
increasingly written by hierarchically organized collaborative groups of two
or more, and as many as 12 or 13 on rare occasions. Each act was assigned to
a separate author. ¶ The results were increasingly complex dramas that
permitted a wide diversity of styles and materials. But gassaku also
led to a weakening of the relationship between the contents of one act and
another and a loss of overall unity."
Gehō no hashigozori
Gehō is another name for
Fukurokuju, one of the seven
propitious gods. Gehō no hashigozori is the name of the motif of
Daikoku shaving the tall -headed Fukurokuju. This was a common image sold at
Otsu as a positive and protective amulet.
This is the initial sketch, the
first thoughts, for what will eventually be transformed into a woodblock
print. But that is several stages down the road. "Drawings have served very
different purposes for the Japanese and Western artist. In Japan, there has
never been any real tradition of drawing purely for the sake of drawing.
Students practiced drawing in order to learn it and use it as a preparatory
stage in the process of making a painting or woodblock print." (Drawings
by Utagawa Kuniyoshi from the collection of the National Museum of
Ethnology, Leiden, by Matthi Forrer, 1988, p. 9) The exceptions are the
Zenga, Shijō and Nanga schools among others. The first drawing precedes the hanshita which were used to carve the key block. As seen in many
surviving examples genga can be very free form only hinting at the
finished printed product. Lines may swirling flourishes and calligraphic
brushwork which will never appear in the ukiyo print, but which, to my mind,
show the true artistry involved in creating. The genga can be
'corrected', 'emended', added to, subtracted from and generally used as a
working model. Eventually a more precise drawing will be made from this
first form and from this an exact drawing will be worked up for pasting down
onto the surface of a woodblock for carving by the master carver. In the
process this final drawing is sacrificed to the knife.
Richard Kruml in Ukiyo-e to
Shin Hanga: The Art of Japanese Woodblock Prints (p. 31) uses the term gakō (画稿 or がこう) for genga. "...a preparatory sketch (gakō)
had to be drawn using a deer's fur brush and sumi on high-quality
PLEASE: If anyone out there has
a genga which they could let us reproduce here we would be extremely
grateful. Your privacy will be respected.
A decorative pattern
of interlocking wheels --- probably of an ox cart which was a traditional
means of transportation for the nobility.
"The Tale of Genji" -
Japan's first great novel written in the 11th century by Murasaki Shikibu
(紫式部 or むらさきしきぶ).
Professional name taken by a
prostitute, hostess or geisha.
A term which means
both the Genji and Heike clans or the two opposing sides
Genpei Nunobiki no
Kabuki play: "The
Genji and Heike at Nunobiki Waterfall"
Genshoku Ukiyoe Daihyakka Jiten
11 volume ukiyo-e encyclopedia.
In a syllabus for
an art history class at Columbia University the Genshoku Ukiyoe Daihyakka
Jiten is described as "the single most important and useful reference
work in this area." Abundantly illustrated it offers visually more than any
other source material on ukiyo-e subject matter that I know of. The text is
entirely in Japanese and although my understanding of that language is
somewhere to the far side of miserable these volumes still offer me a wealth
of information. (Remember: every picture is worth a thousand....) Hours of
struggling often end in epiphanies.
Volume 3 alone has
been invaluable. At the back of that volume are two lists unlike any others
I have seen anywhere: 1) A critical listing of more than 1,000 publishers'
seals - far from comprehensive, but better than anything else I have ever
seen. Each illustrated entry is accompanied by detailed information about
that particular publishing house. And 2) what I believe is the most
extensive list of date and censor seals that can be found anywhere.
I am not uncritical
of encyclopedias in general whether they are written in English or any other
language, but I have to admit that they are almost always the best starting
point for a research project. Anyone interested in ukiyo-e who has access to
this set should seriously consider spending the time it takes to get to know
it well. It is rich and you will surely reap the benefits.
The photograph of the
hummingbird on this page
was taken by our friend Angela.
While it is not
a Japanese hummingbird, but
rather one from
Arizona, we felt it was too
beautiful not to use.