Ukiyo-e Prints


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 used

from September 1 to December 31, 2017.

The copy of the Jakuchu parrot was used

 between May 1 and September 30.







Hakama, Hakkan jigoku, Hakke, Hako-makura,

Hakoseko, Hakuuchigami, Hama,

Hana, Hanabishi, Hanabi, Hanagami

Hanagatsuo, Hanamachi, Hanami, Hanamichi,

Han-eri, Hanetsuki, Hanezu,

Hangon Haniwa, Hanji-e,  Hanmoto,

Hannya, Hanshita, Hanshitagaki,

Hara Budaya, Haraegushi,

Hariko, Harimaze, Harimise, Hashika-e, Hashira-e,

Hatamoto, Hayagawari, Hebi,  Hechima, Heian Period,

Heike-gani, Heishi, Heko-iwai,

 Hentaigana, Hi, Hibukuro, Hikimaku


袴, 八寒地獄, 八卦, 箱枕, 筥迫, 箔打紙,

濱 or 浜, 破魔矢, 花, 花菱,

花火, 花紙 or 鼻紙, 花鰹,

花街 or 花町, 花見,  花道,

半衿, 羽根突き, 朱華, 反魂香,

埴輪判じ絵, 版元, 般若,

 版下, 版下書き, 祓串, 張子, 張交図,

張り見世, 麻疹絵, 柱絵, 旗本, 鳩笛,

早替り,  蛇, 糸瓜, 平安時代, 平家蟹,

瓶子,  変体仮名, 日,  火袋, 引幕





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 numbers

to go to linked pages.



Wide legged trousers: Some sources describe it as a "man's formal divided skirt".  Reading The Pillow 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 (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 nagabakama.


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.

Hakkan jigoku


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 arranged in
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.


Eventually these 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. 1




"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 1


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. 1




A Shinto ceremonial arrow used to drive away evil.


The image below was posted at 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 1




A flower shaped family crest







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.


Thanks E!


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." (Ibid.)

Hanagami is often seen in Japanese pornographic imagery. Below is a detail from a detail from a print in 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 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. 274)


See also our entry on katsuo.





花街 or 花町


Red-light district: 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 1830s.


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." (Source: The Shogun Age Exhibition, cat. entry #268, p. 259)


Hane (羽根) means 'feather'.

Tan Taigi (炭太祇: 1709-1771) wrote:


playing hanetsuki

unaware of the ways of the world

they run boisterously


hanetsuku ya

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.

Hangon kō



"...incense which supposedly allows the spirit of a departed loved one to be seen in the smoke".




"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 here.


The Encyclopedia 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 [themselves]..."


Quote from: 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."


"The hannya 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.


A puzzling 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".


Properly speaking 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.

Haraegushi (or haraigushi)



"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 We are grateful for the chance to use it. This haragushi is from Nikko.


The paper strips are called shide.




Papier mâché


The image to the left was posted at 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. 1 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 uncommon."


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. 97.


"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.)


(See also magaki.)


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 inadvisable." (Ibid.)


The 1862 Yoshifuji hashika-e print to the left comes from the collection of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.




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 nineteenth century."


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)




Pigeon-whistle: "Structurally, 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 article 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 March-June 1981):


"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,, 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 Flickr.

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.)


Hechima saite
tan no tsumarishi
hotoke kan


The loofah blooms and
I, full of phlegm
become a Buddha


This image was posted at Flickr by adar.que.


Tan itto
hechima no mizu mo
ma ni awazu

A barrelful of phlegm -
even loofah water
will not avail me now.




Heian Period



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 states.


Source and quotes from: Kodansha Encyclopedia of Japan, vol. 3, p. 165, entry by G. Cameron Hurst III.





Heike-gani or Heike crabs were " 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 enemies.


"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 illegible."


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 from: The 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 curtain.


"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)





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