Port Townsend, Washington
Hakama thru Hikimaku
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 wa
from September 1 to December
The copy of the Jakuchu parrot was used
between May 1 and September
TERMS FOUND ON THIS
Hakama, Hakkan jigoku,
Hanabishi, Hanabi, Hanagami
Hanagatsuo, Hanamachi, Hanami, Hanamichi,
Hangon Haniwa, Hanji-e, Hanmoto,
Hara Budaya, Haraegushi,
Heike-gani, Heishi, Heko-iwai,
濱 or 浜, 破魔矢, 花, 花菱,
花火, 花紙 or 鼻紙,
花街 or 花町, 花見, 花道,
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
trousers: Some sources describe it as a "man's formal divided skirt". Reading
Book of Sei Shōnagon finally answers for me the question of which
sex wore these garments. Ivan Morris in footnote 336, p. 331, "Hakama
(trouser-skirt or divided skirt worn by men and women..." Now we know. In a
book review written by S. Yoshitake of Wilfrid Whitehouse's Ochikubo
Monogatari or the Tale of the Lady Ochikubo we learn that "...both men
and women began to wear [these] at an early age ..."
In kendo the hakama has
seven pleats, five in the front and two in the back. "These pleats have been
assigned a symbolic meaning, with each pleat standing for a particular
samurai virtue." Those virtues are jin (仁 or じん) or
benevolence/humanity, gi (義 or ぎ) or honor/justice, rei (礼 or
れい) or gratitude, chi (智 or ち) or wisdom, shin (信 or しん) or
truth/sincerity, chū (忠 or ちゅう) or loyalty, and kō (孝 or
こう) or filial piety, but often referred to as simply piety. (Quote and list
based loosely on Kendo by Jeff Broderick.) This list corresponds to
the seven Confucian virtues.
See also our entry on
We found the image to the
left at commons.wikimedia. It shows hakama from the Barbier-Mueller
collection, shown at the Musée du Quai Branly.
The Eight Cold Hells
"The Eight Freezing Hells (hakkan-jigoku)
and the Eight Burning Hells (hachinetsu-jigoku) were thought to be at the
bottom of the continent south of Mt. Sumeru. The Hell of Incessant Suffering
(abi) was considered the worst of all hells" Quoted from: The Tale of the
Soga Brothers, translated by Thomas Cogan, p. 318.
The 8 Trigrams: The Book of
Changes summarizes the Ommyōdō formulation of both time and space. It
depicts yin as two broken lines and yang as a whole line and identifies
sixty-four hexagrams (arrangements of six yin and/or yang lines) considered
to depict all possible combinations of the two forces in the universe. These
sixty-four are formed by using cominations of eight basic trigrams
(arrangement of three yin and/or yang lines), that are called the Eight
Trigrams (Mandarin: pa kua; Japanese: hakke). (Quoted from: Spirit Tree: Origins of Cosmology in Shintô Ritual at Hakozaki by E.
Leslie Williams, p. 70)
"The best known of the many
line ornaments found in Chinese arts and crafts is the pa-kua
八卦 consisting of eight trigrams
a circular pattern around the t'ai chi t'u
太極圖, the graphic representation of the origin of all from the Absolute. This
design forms an
often seen symbol of Good Omen above the doors of Chinese houses." (Quoted
from: Chinese Flower Symbolism by Alfred Koehn)
To the left is a detail from a
Kuniyoshi print. To see that page click on the image.
Box pillow: The
evolution of the pillow must be a common trait among all groups. In ancient
Japan it was said to be bundles of straw or wooden blocks. Large families
were said to use a single log. The same was true for workers and
apprentices. In the morning "...the father or employer would strike one end
with a hammer to wake them up..." In time the hako-makura was
invented and a small padded pillow was added to the top.
box pillows became more elegant and delicate and were raised in height since
the were set just beyond the futon. "This type of makura was used
because the people, both male and female, dressed their hair elaborately in
olden times and they did not wish to spoil the coiffure while sleeping. They
rested their neck on the hako-makura wile their head would be free." Quote from:
Mock Joya's Things Japanese, p. 42.
"Women have never followed
the male fashion of wearing the inrō, etc., suspended from the obi
by a netsuke. Instead they have contented themselves with carrying a
hakoseko..., or ornamental oblong wallet of specially woven silk or
velvet, thrust into, but not entirely concealed by, the left bosom of the
robe. This would contain the usual supply of soft paper handkerchiefs (hanagami),
a small metal mirror, a powder-puff (mayuhake) and other small
'vanity' paraphernalia. Men carry pocket-books (kamiire) of quieter
appearance... which they do not consider it necessary to display as in
the case of the other sex ; these are also of flatter form and are not
supplied with miniature toilet-sets." Quoted from: Publication: Victoria
and Albert Museum, 1920, pp. 13-14.
"Both men and women
sometimes wore a decorated cloth pouch (hako-seko) to hold sheets of
paper (tatō-gami)." Quoted from: Japan Encyclopedia by Louis
Frédéric, p. 5.
A special paper
used in the preparation of gold and silver foil
濱 or 浜
Censor whose seals
were used in the 1840s & early 1850s. Full name Hama Yahei - 浜弥兵衛 or はまやへえ.
A Shinto ceremonial arrow
used to drive away evil.
The image below was posted
at commons.wikimedia.org by Katoris.
It can also be described as
a demon-quelling arrow. Here 魔 means demon or evil spirit. E. Leslie
Williams in Spirit Tree: Origins of Cosmology in Shinto Ritual at
Hakozaki notes on p. 155 that "The popular idea exists that amulets and
talismans are only effective for the year in which they are bought. At the
end of the old year, these ritual items must be returned to the shrine to be
burned..." and new ones must be purchased to replace them.
The hamaya is the
most commonly purchased amulet at New Years which is then taken home and
displayed to absorb evil spirits throughout the year.
Louis Frédéric in the Japan
Encyclopedia (p. 283) says that after purchasing the arrows the visitor
to a shrine places them "...between the backs of their necks and their
collars." Later he adds that "Hamaya, adorned with white feathers and
with a kabura ('turnip-shaped' whistle) in their heads, are still
placed on rooftops of newly built houses to ward off bad luck."
A hamayumi or small bow
is given to a new born male at his first New Years celebration.
Japanese term for
flower or a beautiful woman
A flower shaped
Thanks to our
generous correspondent E. we are able to show you two very different images
illustrating the Japanese enjoyment of fireworks. The top one is a detail
from a print by Kuniyoshi of a public viewing whereby boatloads of
spectators are out on the water oooing and aaahing - in Japanese, of
course. The second image on the left is a detail from a book illustrations
by Utamaro showing a boy lighting a 'pinwheel'. Look closely and you will
notice the flame he is using to ignite the fuse. This is the more private
experience. Close up and personal.
花紙 or 鼻紙
Tissue paper, paper
handkerchief: "Handkerchiefs were introduced to Japan only in the early
Meiji days. The people have always used paper for blowing their nose or
wiping their hands and mouth. The use of paper in this way is quite old. As
it si recorded that the Chinese were already using paper in this way in the
sixth century, the custom must have come to Japan about the same time. ¶ It
has become etiquette for the Japanese to carry neatly folded hanagami
(tissue paper) in one's bosom or sleeve." Quoted from: Mock Joya's
Things Japanese, by Mock Joya, The Japan Times, Ltd., 1985, p. 15.
"The hanagami used by
Toyotomi Hideyoshi, the 16th century administrator, is still preserved at
the Myoho-in Temple, Kyoto. It is interesting to note that at the Vatican
Museum there is displayed hanagami carried by Hasekura Rokuemon, who
ws sent to see the Pope by Lord Date Masamune in 1615. The paper carried by
the envoy must have greatly interested the Romans and is still preserved
there. ¶ anagami is
originally meant for toilet purposes, but it also has many other uses. It
often takes the place of little dishes for placiong sweets."
Hanagami is often seen
in Japanese pornographic imagery. Below is a detail from a detail from a
the Lyon Collection. To see the whole image
click on the picture below, but be FOREWARNED - not only is it a shunga
image, i.e., pornographic, but it is a homosexual theme, too.
Dried bonito shavings:
You can find it under hanakatsuo (flower bonito) or
katsuobushi (鰹節 or かつおぶし), too.
To the left is a wreath made of dried bonito just waiting to be flaked. This
comes from a Hiroshige illustration. Above is a block of dried bonito which
was posted at commons.wikimedia.org by Andy King50.
The Connoisseur's Guide to Fish & Seafood by Wendy Sweetser (p. 202)
it says of bonito flakes: "Produced in Japan by steaming, drying, smoking
and curing fresh bonito until it becomes hard enough to be shaved into
flakes, a process that takes six months. The shaved flakes are an essential
ingredient in the Japanese soup stock, daishi."
In 1,001 Foods to Die For it notes that when serving wafer-thin
sashimi shaved bonito flakes are included in the ponzu sauce (ポン酢醤油 or
ポンずしょうゆ) which also includes soy, lemon juice and a light rice wine. "Now
largely sold in packets, bonito flakes used to be literally shaved off a
curved block of the fish and bear a strong resemblance to wood shavings. (In
Chinese they are known by the name that traslates as 'firewood fish'.)" (p.
See also our entry on
花街 or 花町
Literally 'flower street' or 'flower town'. The term itself is a euphemism
for the term 'pleasure district' which in its turn is a euphemism for... We
are sure you know the grittier expressions.
To the left is a detail from a print by Hokusai from a series of 36 views of
Fuji. In the middle ground is an enclosure with structures. Those are the
'pleasure houses' of Senju, its hanamachi. It dates from the early
Most Western references to hanamachi are centered around geisha.
Other than that there is little solid informatin to be found on the Internet
using this term.
Cherry blossom viewing
(or the viewing of any other flower)
A raised walkway through an
audience to a stage
A replaceable neck piece or
collar - "When the ceremonial kimono is worn, the han-eri
(neck band) must always be white; thus the phrase shiro-eri mon-tsuki (white
collar and crest) has much the same meaning for us as 'black tie' has in the
West." Quote from: Japanese Etiquette an Introduction, pp. 68-69.
In The Kimono
Inspiration: Art and Art-To-Wear in America han-eri is described
as "A decorative neckband that covers the juban's collar." (p. 192)
The juban is an undergarment.
The New Nelson
Japanese-English Character Dictionary defines 'han'eri' as "a
quality collar for an under kimono".
The image to the left was
posted at commons.wikimedia by Hazel88. Below is an Ito Shinsui print from
1929 called A Neck Collar.
"The collar (han-yeri) which protects beyond
the outer dress or kimono is attached to the shita-juban and is
almost always of a richer material than the body of that inner garment."
Quoted from a 1922 publication of the Field Museum of Natural History,
Chicago, pp. 43-44.
"The The under-kimono (shi- tagi) is
occasionally of light color, but the collar (han- yeri) which
projects beyond the outer garment as in the case of the woman's costume, is
always of black for winter and of white silk for summer wear." Ibid., p. 52.
"Sometimes a chemisette, or han-yeri, of
delicately worked or embroidered silk is worn under the kimono to
show a pretty edge round the open neck and to keep the chest warmer as
well." Quoted from: The Real Japan:
Studies of Contemporary Japanese Manners, Morals, Administration, and
Politics by Henry Norman, 1892, p. 193.
"...a game played by
women at New Year's and is similar to the Western game of badminton. Hanetsuki is played without a net, however, and can be played alone."
Shogun Age Exhibition, cat. entry #268, p. 259)
Hane (羽根) means 'feather'.
Tan Taigi (炭太祇: 1709-1771)
unaware of the ways of the
they run boisterously
yo gokoro shiranu
This is quoted from Haikai
Poet Yosa Buson and the Bashō Revival by Cheryl A. Crowley, p. 83.
According to Michiko and James Vardaman in their Japan from A to Z:
Mysteries of Everyday Life Explained: "The original meaning of the game
concerned enabling its player(s) to avoid the bite of the mosquito in the
year to come. The shuttlecock resembles a dragonfly, and everyone knows that
dragonflies are helpful in decreasing the mosquito population. Therefore,
one's protection from the troublesome insect grows in proportion to the
length of time that the shuttlecock stays in the air."
A color which is the
combination of kuchinashi and benibana. This color was
mentioned in the Man'yōshū. In the Nihon Shoki it is mentioned
as an imperial color worn by the emperor and by princes. It was listed in
the kinjiki (禁色), the codified code of the Heian period as one of the
colors worn at court. Others were forbidden to wear it. In fact,
kinjiki literally means 'forbidden colors.'
Ōtomo Sakanoe no Iratsume
(大伴坂上郎女: born between 695 to 701 - died in ca. 750) composed 84 poems which
were included in the Man'yōshū. One of them mentions hanezu,
which was a difficult color to capture and to hold.
I swore not to love you,
but my heart is as changeable
as cloth of hanezu dye.
supposedly allows the spirit of a departed loved one to be seen in the
"Haniwa are ritual objects that
were made during the Kofun period (3rd to 6th century A.D.) for burial in
tombs. Haniwa take many forms, with some, like this fine example, showing
detailed representations of the equipment of armored warriors of the
period." This is a quote from the curatorial files at the Metropolitan
Museum of Art in reference to one of their pieces but is also applicable
Britannica says: "Haniwa, (Japanese: “circle of clay”) unglazed
terra-cotta cylinders and hollow sculptures arranged on and around the
mounded tombs (kofun) of the Japanese elite dating from the Tumulus
period (c. 250–552 ce). The first and most common haniwa were
barrel-shaped cylinders used to mark the borders of a burial ground. Later,
in the early 4th century, the cylinders were surmounted by sculptural forms
such as figures of warriors, female attendants, dancers, birds, animals,
boats, military equipment, and even houses. It is believed that the figures
symbolized continued service to the deceased in the other world.
The image to the left is
from the collection of the Tokyo National Museum. It was posted at
commons.wikimedia by Daderot.
A rebus: When I was
small I remember playing with books filled with picture puzzles. Clearly
they were created for my age group and skill level and were probably a very
good learning tool. Even as I grew older the rebus continued to show up in
everyday life. For example, "I (heart) New York" is known and understood by
all. Or, nearly all. However, sometimes the rebus plays a more significant
role - be it political or sinister or politically sinister. Timothy Clark
notes in the Utamaro catalogue that "Although the use of picture-riddles in
various series was certainly a playful pictorial device, it also started
out as a necessary response to the edicts of 1793 forbidding the inclusion
in prints of the names of women other than Yoshiwara courtesans. By another
edict of the 8th month, 1796, these picture-riddles were forbidden
The Passionate Art
of Kitagawa Utamaro, published by the British Museum Press, London,
1995, text volume, p. 167.
The image to the
left is a detail from a print by Kuniyoshi created decades later.
A female demon most
poignantly portrayed by a frightening mask worn in certain Noh dramas.
In an entry
on hannya masks Mock Joya states: "As to the origin of this fierce
female mask, it is traditionally said that there was once a very jealous
woman, and in his attempt to cure her of evil, a Buddhist priest named
Hannya-bo (般若坊 or はんにゃぼう) carved out such a mask to
impress upon her how ugly she was at heart."
mask also seems to have some connection with the hannya sutra of
Buddhism [the kanji is the same]. In the Noh play named Aoi-no-ue, the
vindictive ghost of a woman causes the suffering of many persons, and a
priest prays for her salvation, chanting the hannya-kyo sutra, and
then the evil spirit disappears."
Quotes from: Mock Joya's Things Japanese (p. 403)
The demonization of
women as everyone knows is not limited to the Japanese. One woman's weakness
causes the Fall. To be fair the man was weak too and deserve much of the
credit. Pandora opens the box, Helen causes the war - although in both cases
there were underlying circumstances well beyond their control. But still,
even with the advancements women have made in the last century old bigotries
die hard. Perhaps that is one of the reasons why an anagram for
mother-in-law can be so bitingly witty: Woman Hitler.
connection: As noted above the kanji for hannya has two diametrically
opposed meanings. However, this is not completely inscrutable. Remember that
the fierce and daunting image of Fudō
Myōō which to the unaccustomed eye would seem evil is actually
just the opposite. He saves souls where it would look likes he would be
punishing them. There are other such examples within East Asian traditions
and this should serve as an object lesson that appearances can most
certainly be deceiving.
The top image to
the left is a detail from a print by Hokusai while the one below that is
isolated from a print by Yoshitoshi.
A noh mask from the
Tokyo National Museum.
"A vampiric demon from Japan,
the hannya (“empty”) feeds exclusively off truly beautiful women and
infants. It is described as having a large chin, long fangs and and horns,
green scales, a snakelike forked tongue, and eyes that burn like twin
flames. ¶ Normally, the hannya lives near the sea or wells but it is never
too far from humans, as it can sneak unseen into any house that has a
potential victim (a sleeping woman) inside. Just before it attacks, the
hannya lets loose with a horrible shriek. While the woman is in a state of
being startled, the vampire possesses her, slowly driving her insane,
physically altering her body into that of a hideous monster. Eventually it
drives her to attack a child, drink its blood, and eat its flesh." Quoted
from: Encyclopedia of Demons in World Religions and Cultures by
Theresa Bane, p. 157.
Line drawing laid down
on the keyblock for carving. The example shown here is attributed to
Hokusai. It is illustrated in an article in "Andon" by Richard Illing
entitled "Hokusai drawings - from draft to finished print".
for this drawing to be a true hanshita it would have been destroyed in the
publishing process. But since it wasn't it gives us a superb example of what
a hanshita would have looked like.
A hanshita is a traced
drawing made for cutting the keyblock. A
sen-gakii is an outline drawing.
"How did the block-printing
process turn a manuscript text into a printed book in the Tokugawa period?
Firstly, the manuscript was passed to a copyist, called hanshitagaki
版下書き or hikkō 筆耕, who wrote out a clean copy or hanshita, in
cases where the publisher set store by the calligraphic quality of the
finished product, an able calligrapher might be asked to do this, but in
other cases, particularly the cheaper genres of fiction in the nineteenth
century, it is clear that calligraphic quality was not a consideration and
the task might be carried out in-house. In some cases authors prepared their
own hanshita, or had one of their pupils do this. It is only in very
rare instances that the hanshita survives, for it was normally used
at once to prepare the printing blocks, but in some cases the author's own
manuscript does survive, such as Bakin's manuscript of his Keisei
suikoden, showing red corrections to the text and his outline sketches
of the illustrations he wanted the artist to provide." Quoted from: The
Book in Japan: A Cultural History from the Beginnings to the Nineteenth
Century by Peter Kornicki, pp. 47-48.
"Purification wand. A wooden
stick up to a metre long with streamers of white paper and/or flax attached
to the end. It is normally kept in a stand. In a movement known as sa-yu-sa
(left-right-left) the priest waves and flourishes the haraigushi
horizontally over the object, place or people to be purified. An alternative
is a branch of evergreen (e.g. sakaki) with strips of paper attached (o-nusa);
the smaller version for personal use is called ko-nusa."
Quoted from: A Popular
Dictionary of Shinto, by Brian Bocking, NTC Publishing Group, 1997, p.
45. (Bocking spells this differently: haraigushi.)
To the left is a cropped photo
placed in the public domain by Fg2 at http://commons.wikimedia.org/. We are
grateful for the chance to use it. This haragushi is from Nikko.
The paper strips are called
The image to the left was
posted at commons.wikimedia.org by Kuribo. It shows hariko inu or
paper maché dogs for sell.
A composite print with
several separate images in various motifs. Often this type of print was cut
by the owner into its component parts.
Note that occasionally these
single sheets include images by more than one artist.
"Sheets of two or more subjects
or designs printed on the one sheet and intended to be cut afterwards; very
Quote from: A Guide to
Japanese Prints and Their Subject Matter, by Basil Stewart, Courier
Dover Publiscations, 1979, p. xv
The term harimaze
is also a description used for folding screen - harimaze byōbu (貼交屏風 or
はりまぜ.びょうぶ) to which various cut-outs have
been applied for decoration. These additions might be from old sections of
painted scrolls, fans, religious tokens such as stamped images of the
Buddha, etc. Not only that but these screens were popular before the creation of this genre of Japanese woodblock prints
and were probably the inspiration for this style among publishers.
Scrapbooks could be called
harimaze-cho (貼雑帖 or はりまぜちょう) - literally a 'paste and mix book'. [Note
that the kanji is not the same as that used for the prints.]
We know that Hiroshige,
Kuniyoshi, Toyokuni III, Sadanobu, Gengyo, Gekko, Yasuji and Kyōsai worked in this
genre. We will add other names as we come across them.
The lattice work of a
brothels "display window."
"Establishments had a grill or
cage front, behind which the women were on display. Some of the most famous
print artists depicted these street scenes. Large lattice houses were the
most costly, and the lowest houses had horizontal bars instead of vertical
one, so a man - no matter how befuddled by sake - could not mistake
the cost and class of the woman he was seeking." Quote from: Yoshiwara:
The Pleasure Quarters of Old Tokyo, by Stephen and Ethel Longstreet,
Yenbooks, 1989, p. 32.
"Symbolic of the system's
general dehumanization of the women was the practice of harimise, or
displaying prostitutes behind gratings in rooms fronting upon the
thoroughfares of Yoshiwara and other big city quarters. The keepers used
these 'cages' to entice customers who would then make their selections. The
displays also attracted gawkers and the general public." Quoted from: Molding
Japanese Minds, by Sheldon Garon, Princeton University Press, 1997, p.
"Many former prostitutes recalled feeling like animals in a zoo. Writing in
a noted women's journal, one summed up her five years of sitting inside the
grating as 'the greatest humiliation a woman can suffer.' Bowing in large
part to foreign criticism, the authorities in Tokyo, Osaka, and other cities
banned the harimise in 1916." (Ibid.)
The image to the left is
from an ehon in the Lyon Collection.
"Symbolic of the system's general dehumanization of the women was the
practice of harimise, or displaying prostitutes behind gratings in
rooms fronting upon the thoroughfares of Yoshiwara and other big-city
quarters. The keepers used these 'cages' to entice customers, who would then
make their selections... The displays also attracted gawkers and the general
public. Regulationists in nineteenth-century Europe generally strove to make
'visible invisible.' Italian laws prohibited brothel prostitutes from
standing in windows or doors, and the windows of brothels had to be covered
with smoked glass. Yet in Yoshiwara, as one Western lawyer observed at the
turn of the century, 'To Europeans and Americans it is a strange sight to
see family parties, including modest young girls, wending their ways through
the crowded streets on the night of the Tori-no-machi [festival],
buying various knick-knacks and gazing at the painted beauties in their
gorgeous dresses of glossy brocade and glittering gold.' Many of the
prostitutes recalled feeling like an animal in a zoo. Writing in a noted
women's journal, one summed up her five years of sitting inside the grating
as 'the greatest humiliation a woman can suffer.' Bowing in large part to
foreign criticism, the authorities in Tokyo, Osaka, and other cities banned
the harimise in 1916." Quoted from: Molding Japanese Minds: The
State in Everyday Life by Sheldon Garon, p. 97.
Early photo of courtesans on
display in the Yoshiwara.
We found this at Pinterest.
Measles prints - "The measles
kami was not deemed to have the same liking for red [as smallpox
did], so measles prints tend to have the appearance of normal multicoloured
prints usually combining text and image. Most of the measles prints were
produced in response to the terrible epidemic of 1862 which claimed many
lives. At its summer peak, Edo coffin-makers could hardly with a daily rate
of about 200 funerals." Quoted from: Japanese Popular Prints: From Votive
Slips to Playing Cards by Rebecca Salter, p. 122.
"Homophonous Japanese linked
hashika (measles) with hashika (the beard on wheat) so wheat
features in the symbolism of the illness. As prevention a holly leaf (a
protector against evil spirits) was inscribed with a poem about wheat, plus
the name and age of the child not yet affected and thrown into the river. As
an alternative, a print might include a holly leaf and the purchaser was
invited to cut out the leaf and cast it into the river instead. Legendary
heroes and Shinto deities were also called upon for protection, but if the
illness had already struck, the prints contained endless lists of things
considered good and bad for the patient. Remedies such as the ground horn of
the black rhinoceros were prohibitively expensive, so good nutrition was the
only alternative. Foods considered beneficial included beans, lotus root,
kumquat, abalone and apples, bad foods included eggs, aubergines, river
fish, spinach and noodles. There were of course many contradictions in the
list. ¶ A huge number of activities were also advised against including
taking baths, sexual relations and going to the barbers; all these
prohibitions had economic consequences, particularly in the pleasure
quarters. More esoteric prohibitions included the smell of burnt hair, garlic,
armpits, sewers, situations where people are angry or agitated and rather
strangely, the sight of a woman dressing her hair. The exhalation of a
drunken person who had eaten leeks and tuna was also considered
The 1862 Yoshifuji hashika-e
print to the left comes from the collection of the Museum of Fine Arts,
Pillar print: Roger
Keyes stated in the catalogue of prints at Oberlin College that: "They were
sold in paper mounts as hand-scrolls and were hung on the narrow support
posts on the walls of rooms in houses." Later he added that: "Jacob Pins has
pointed out that the early pillar prints were printed on a single sheet of
paper, but that from the 1790s on they were printed on two sheets joined
around the middle. The vogue for pillar prints diminished in the early
Quote from: Japanese Woodblock Prints: A Catalogue of the Mary A. Ainsworth Collection,
Roger Keyes, Allen Memorial Art Museum, Oberlin College, 1984, p. 100.
In the introduction to
Pins catalogue Keyes wrote: "This is the first book in any language devoted
to those miracles of grace and ingenuity, the hashira-e... The pillar
print is an improbable shape, half a person's height, yet narrower than the
palm of a hand."
Keyes points out the
Japanese had a "...tradition of hanging long decorated strips of wood,
bamboo, textile, ceramic, or paper on the hashira of buildings.... So
it was natural and even inevitable that woodblock prints would eventually be
designed and used as pillar coverings." Keyes goes on to tell us that Pins
"...shows, the first long narrow prints appeared by accident."
Source and quotes
from: The Japanese Pillar Print: Hashira-e, by Jacob Pins, Robert G.
Sawers Publishing, 1982, p. 9.
Binyon referred to "...Masanobu’s
magnificent hashira-ye produced about 1740 and in the following
years.... One of these bears an inscription in which Masanobu calls himself
the originator of the hashira-ye." Quoted from: Japanese Colour
Prints by Laurence Binyon, p. 35.
To see a larger
version of the print to the left click on the image.
"Swashbuckling and potentially
violent gangs of hatamoto (banner men), young samurai who worked
directly for the shogunate, were a common feature of life during the early
days of Edo. Short of money, they would refuse to pay their bills; when
flush, they became violent at an imagined slight when a shopkeeper might
offer change for a bill paid. The 'White Hilt Gang' was typical of this
unstable element on the streets of the city. Their longer than average
swords were decorated like their obi (sashes) with white fittings. In
summer they chose - perversely - to wear long kimonos, in winter short ones,
placing lead in the bottom hems and edges of their cloths [sic] to make them
swing, an effect intended to lend a swagger to their movements." (Quoted
from: Tokyo: A Cultural History by Stephen Mansfield, p. 20)
a folk-toy such as the 'pigeon-whistle'... a local product of the town of
Usa (Oita prefecture), is a well-functioning wind instrument, but its
primary purpose lies in the multiple layers of symbolic meaning associated
with it: the pigeon is the emblematic animal of the god Hachiman (whose main
sanctuary is Usa) and functions as his messenger and means of communication;
the sound of the whistle, a strikingly close imitation of the bird's cooing,
is, by a tangle of associations too complicated to unravel here, deemed to
be highly auspicious; and the whistle itself is thought to possess a magical
efficacy against children's choking..." according to Josef Kyburz in his
Omocha: Things to Play (or not to Play) With.
According to Samuel L. Leiter
in the New Kabuki Encyclopedia: " 'Quick-change technique,' used when
actors playing more than one role in the same scene, or expressing sudden
reversal of character, make quick costume and makeup changes. Also called
hayagoshirae. It is one of the main categories of stage tricks (keren).
Characters make radical alterations in age, sex, social status, occupation,
and morality. The costumes are specially rigged by such devices as havign
the obi sash sewn on the kimono itself. Occasionally, a stand-in (fukikae)
is used as a means of heightening the effect. ¶ The quick-change idea had
been around since early in the eighteenth century... but it began to take on
special importance when two late eighteenth-century actors popularized it.
The lead was taken by Asao Tamejūrō I of Osaka. In 1776, for example,
Tamejūrō acted in a play in which, using a sheaf of freshly cut rice and a
stalk of rice straw, he had a big hit acting both a murderer and his
victim." There was a boom in hayagawari in the early 19th century.
Earle Ernst in The Kabuki
Theatre wrote: "The quick-change (hayagawari) , unlike the
others, does not take place before the eyes of the audience but is done
offstage, and it is for this reason regarded as somewhat vulgar trick by
Kabuki purists..." One actor's abilities at this technique were so startling
that he was called on by the authorities to answer for his actions. Some
felt he used magic, while others accused him of secretly being a Christian.
Snake or serpent: The snake is
one of the 12 zodiac signs. W. Michael Kelsey wrote in an article,
'Salvation of the Snake, The Snake of Salvation: Buddhist-Shinto Conflict
and Resolution', in the Japanese Journal of Religious Studies (8/1-2
"The malevolent reptilian deity
existed in Japan before the introduction of Buddhism, and it is
initially regarded by the Buddhists, as well as by other Japanese, as being
an evil creature. As Buddhism took a deeper hold on the Japanese
consciousness, however, the image of the violent snake—which never
completely died out—came to be supplemented by that of a snake of salvation.
The movement is from the image of a snake that terrorizes the populace
at the one extreme to the image of a snake that is none other than a
manifestation of Buddha at the other."
To the left is a picture of
a Japanese rat snake. We found it posted by Yasunori Koide. It is known as
an aodaishō (アオダイショウ - 青大将) in Japan.
Sponge gourd, dishcloth gourd,
loofah - Shu Suehiro's site, botanic.jp, says: "Loofah (Luffa cylindrica)
belongs to the family Cucurbitaceae (the Gourd family). It is an annual herb
that is native to West Asia. It was introduced into Japan in early Edo Era
(about 350 years ago). The stems is a trailing vine, and the tendrils are
alternate with the leaves. The yellow female and male flowers bloom in
August to September. The cylindrical, 30-60 cm long fruits are borne
following bloom. Its juice is used as a skin toner and its fruit is also
eaten as a green vegetable. The dried fruit is also the source of the loofah
or plant sponge." The image seen below is from that site.
Eliza Scidmore wrote in her
Jinrikisha Days in Japan from 1891, pp. 9-10: "The waraji, or
sandals, worn by these coolies are woven of rice straw, and cost less than
half a cent a pair. In the good old days they were much cheaper. Every
village and farm-house make them, and every shop sells them. In their
manufacture the big toe is a great assistance, as this highly trained member
catches and holds the strings while the hands weave. On country roads wrecks
of old waraji lie scattered where the wearer stepped out of them and ran on,
while ruts and mud-holes are filled with them. For long tramps the foreigner
finds the waraji and the tabi, or digitated stocking, much better
than his own clumsy boots, and he ties them on as overshoes when he has
rocky paths to climb. Coolies often dispense with waraji and wear heavy tabi,
with a strip of the almost indestructible hechima fibre for the
soles. The hechima is the gourd which furnishes the vegetable washrag, or
looffa sponge of commerce."
The images to the left
(above) are by Querren at commons.wikimedia and (below) by Arbyreed at
Hechima sap has been
referred to as 'loofah water' and was said to have several salubrious
properties. It was thought to be a cough remedy even for patients with
tuberculosis, while the sap was used by women as a skin lotion and the dried
plant used for scrubbing. This is significant since the great haiku poet Shiki,
who had tuberculosis, died on September 19, 1902 had written several death
poems in the days before the end. All of them made references to hechima.
(This information and poems below are provided by Yoel Hoffmann in his
book Japanese Death Poems: Written by Zen Monks and Haiku Poets on the
Verge of Death.)
tan no tsumarishi
The loofah blooms and
I, full of phlegm
become a Buddha
This image was posted at
Flickr by adar.que.
hechima no mizu mo
ma ni awazu
A barrelful of phlegm -
even loofah water
will not avail me now.
One of the greatest
ages of cultural flowering in Japan (794-1185).
Named after the newly constructed city of Heiankyō which is now known as
Kyōto. Literally "Capital of Peace and Ease." Seat of the imperial court.
"...the Heian period has long been an established division of history, seen
by the Japanese as the apogee of the nation's aristocratic age, when some of
its finest literary works were produced and one of the world's most
exquisitely refined cultural styles flourished."
It was during this
period that what had been the slavish adoption of Chinese influences were
assimilated and became much more truly Japanese. The reason for the original
move to Heiankyō is unclear, but it may have had something to do with the
court's wish to get away from the Buddhist influences on the civil service.
A second reason may have been due to a struggle for power between various
aristocratic factions. Superstition also played a role: The living were
eager to move away from the vengeful spirits of deceased nobles.
What followed the
Heian period were the feudal states of the Kamakura period - from a
centralized power run by a civil aristocracy to one of dispersed militarized
Source and quotes
Kodansha Encyclopedia of Japan, vol. 3, p. 165, entry by G. Cameron
Heike-gani or Heike crabs were
"...so-called because the patterns on their shells resemble transmogrified
human faces of the Heike warriors who perished at Dannoura", a sea-battle
fought in 1185.
The image to the left is from a
detail of a Kuniyoshi print showing the Heike trying to get revenge on their
"Another interesting Japanese
crab, the Doryppe Japonica, comes more often from the Inland Sea. A
man's face is distinctly marked on the back of the shell, and, as the legend
avers, these creatures incarnate the souls of the faithful samurai, who,
following the fortunes of the Tairo [sic?] clan, were driven into the sea by
the victorious Minamoto. At certain anniversary seasons, well known to true
believers, the spirits of these dead warriors come up from the sea by
thousands and meet together on a moonlit beach." Quoted from:
Jinrikisha Days in Japan by Eliza Scidmore, 1891, p. 42.
The image shown above was
posted at Flickr
by Héctor García.
Saké bottle motif:
Dower in his The
Elements of Japanese Design says next to nothing about this item used as
a family crest. It would be hard to imagine that anyone other than a brew
master would want to wear such an image. However, wrapped saké bottles were
often presented as gifts to the gods and therefore would have an auspicious
aura connected to them.
The ceremony when a boy is
seven and receives his first loincloth or fundoshi (褌 or ふんどし).
An obsolete form or kana script
- It "...was derived from the fast-written grass-script style of
characters." "Hentaigana-character mixed script ultimately became the norm
in later periods and is the basis of modern Japanese writing. However, some
other combinations still occurred in relatively recent times." These quotes
are from: The Languages of Japan and Korea by Nicolas Tranter.
Hentaigana had variant
forms and it would seem that it was up to the author and the moment which of
those variants would be chosen. Therefore, it is very difficult to be sure
how passages written in this form are to be read. It wasn't until 1900 that
kana was standardized by law.
According to one source this
confusion in the reading of the characters might sometimes be intentional.
Hokusai may have been one artist who used this to his advantage.
Donald Richie in Viewed
Sideways: Writings on Culture and Style in Contemporary Japan describes
the development of four different types of script in Japan. "The fourth is
the fluid sosho, from which came hiragana (or, as it was once
called, hentaigana). It is so loose that it is often difficult to
read and the Japanese say that anything more flowing than sosho is
Sun motif crest or
mon: "The circular red 'rising sun' first appeared as a popular decorative
pattern on fans in the early Heian period. It was not adopted as a national
emblem until 1854..." and wasn't put on the flag until 1870.
Source and quote
Elements of Japanese Design, by John W. Dower, p. 44.
The light chamber on a Japanese
lantern. The kanji characters translate literally as 'fire' (火) 'bag' (袋).
Draw curtain in kabuki theater.
"Unlike the Noh stage, which has remained practically unchanged since its
inception, the Kabuki playhouse has undergone five major developments. ¶ The
first occurred in the latter part of the seventeenth century with the
addition of a draw-curtain (hikimaku) and the hanamichi."
(Quoted from: Kabuki: A Pocket Guide by Ronald Cavaye)
The hikimaku can also
be a jōshiki maku (定式 幕 or じょうしきまく) or a vertically striped traveling
"While the major theatres
boasted a pull curtain (hikimaku), the minor theatres only were
allowed a drop curtain (donchō). The legal distinction between the
'grand' and 'minor' theatres was repealed in 1895, but the social
distinction between the two theatre classes did not fade, and the nonlegal
usage of terms such as 'minor' and 'major' theatre remained. Even today
small-town theatres and actors are referred to pejoratively as drop-curtain
theatres (donchō shibai) or drop- curtain actors (donchō yakusha),
respectively. Unfortunately, using such derogatory terms fails to
encapsulate the spirit of this type of kabuki." (Quoted from: Danjuro's
Girls: Women on the Kabuki Stage by Loren Edelson)