A MILLION QUESTIONS
Port Townsend, Washington
Hotoke thru Ichō mon
The copy of the Jakuchu parrot was used
as a marker to note additions made
May 1 and September 30, 2017.
TERMS FOUND ON THIS PAGE:
Ichibamachi, Ichikawa Danjūrō VIII, Ichikawa Danjūrō IX,
Ichikawa Ebizō V,
Ichikawa Kodanji IV,
Ichikawa Monnosuke III, Ichikawa Omezō I,
Ichikawa Sadanji I, Ichimai-e,
Ichinotani futaba gunki, Ichirō,
Ichirō Gafu, Ichō and Ichō
俵, 拍子木, 瓢箪, 井, 市場町, 市川団十郎,
市川小団次, 市川門之助, 市川男女蔵, 一枚絵,
一谷嫩軍記, 一老, 一老画譜, 銀杏, 銀杏紋
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
Buddha (or the dead): When I
set out to add an entry for the Japanese name for a buddha - there are a
myriad of buddhas - I started with the image to the left. Little did I know
what I would find: hotoke also means 'the dead.' I am laying bare my
ignorance of Japanese culture here for all to see, but I don't care because
I love the adventure this project has opened before me. That said, now on to
the word itself.
"During the Tokugawa period,
many people knew what hotoke meant. After receiving a posthumous
Buddhist name and after one's funeral was performed, it was believed that a
deceased person was transformed into a deity. In addition, many people
started calling the dead hotoke which is still heard in horror movies
or TV detective stories in Japan nowadays. The religious feelings once found
in this word have now completely disappeared. ¶ As long as Buddhist funeral
and memorial services were properly held, anyone could become a hotoke
after death; in this way, it was unnecessary for people to seek spiritual
peace through religion." (Quoted from: Why are the
Japanese Non-religious?: Japanese Spirituality : Being Non-religious in a
Religious Culture, by Toshimaro Ama, published by the University Press
of America, 2004, p. 23)
Toshimaro Ama, quoted above,
notes that the Chinese used the character 仏 for Buddha. Butsu is the native
Japanese pronunciation, but hotoke is based on an approximation of
the Chinese one which sounds like 'hoto'. "Since ke means figure,
hotoke means figure of the Buddha though this theory has yet to be
confirmed. According to Yanagita, hotoke means 'an enshrined spirit,' in
front of which an offering of food was placed in a container called hotoki."
(Ibid., pp. 22-3) Aruga Kizaemon (有賀喜左衛門 or あるが.きざえもん) disagreed with
Yanagita's interpretation "...since the word hotoke was found in the Nihonshoki [日本書紀 or にほんしょき], which was compiled in the early eighth
century, it was already widely used in society. According to Aruga,
hotoke came from the word futoki, meaning 'the branch used in the
ceremony to worship ancestors to bring their spirits back,' and that when
Buddhist rituals were adopted, the name continued to be used." (Ibid., p.
The image below is a
detail from a print by Toyohiro. Clearly the large central figure is
the Buddha surrounded in his halo by smaller figures of
buddhas. Initially I thought these smaller images were bosatsu (菩薩 or ぼさつ)
or bodhisattvas, but on closer observation I think I was wrong. Also, ignore the fighting figure below.
I was led on this quest because
of the odd nature of the use of such a sacred word like hotoke for
such disparate meanings. However, it wasn't hotoke used for Buddha
and dead people that got me going, but rather the use of hotoke for
the name of a courtesan in the Heike monogatari (平家物語 or へいけものがたり)
first recounted in the early 14th century. In the 12th century shirabyōshi
(白拍子 or しらびょうし) dancing became popular. It got its name from the long white
overshirt worn during their performances. While both men and women
participated they all wore men's clothes. Oh, and don't forget, the women
also frequently acted as prostitutes. ¶ At the time when Taira no Kiyomori
(1118-81: 平清盛 or たいらのきよもり) ruled his actions were both extravagant and
capricious. He lavished gifts on one family of shirabyoshi dancers
and one, Giō (祇王 or ぎお), in particular. She had his attention for
three years and much envied by her peers. That is until one day when a
sixteen year old beauty named Hotoke arrived from Kaga Province. "High and
low in the city praised her to the skies. 'There have been many
shirabyōshi from the old days on, but never have we witnessed such
dancing,' the people said." Frustrated by not being invited to perform
before Kiyomori she presented herself at his residence. " 'What is this?
Entertainers like her are not supposed to present themselves without being
summoned. What makes her think she can simply show up like this? Besides,
god or Buddha, she has no business coming to a place where Giō is staying.
Throw her out at once,' Kiyomori said." AT this point Giō argued that the
girl was young and inexperienced and that the shogun should at least listen
to her sing. So, Kiyomori relented an asked her to sing him an imayō (今様 or
いまよう), a modern song. Hotoke sang beautifully so a drummer was called and
she was to dance too. "Kiyomori was dazzled and swept off his feet by the
brilliance of her performance, which revealed a skill quite beyond
imagination." Ostensibly embarrassed, Hotoke asked to be allowed to leave
when she found out that Giō had requested the performance. She stated this
several times [The lady doth protest too much, methinks.], but by now
Kiyomori had decided to make Hotoke his mistress and ordered that Giō be
expelled. All of the gifts of rice and money which Kiyomori had given to Giō
and her family were now transferred to Hotoke. Insult to injury, but it
didn't stop there. ¶ Sometime later Kiyomori basically ordered Giō to
come back to court to perform for Hotoke because she seemed bored. Giō
didn't want to go, but her mother pointed out the hardship which would
befall the family if she didn't. So... with great reluctance Giō
returned to court. However, when she did perform it was an imayō
which she sang through her tears:
In days of old, the Buddha
was but a mortal;
in the end we ourselves
will be Buddhas, too.
How grievous that
must separate those
who are alike in sharing
the Buddha nature.
While others were moved
Kiyomori's reaction was to order Giō to return often to entertain his
new lover. On the verge of suicide Giō's mother argued against it.
Instead the mother and her two daughters shaved their heads becoming
Buddhist nuns, went to live in humble seclusion in the Saga mountains and
prayed for salvation murmuring Buddha-invocations. At least a year later
someone knocked at their door startling them. Even more startling was who
the visitor was. It was Hotoke who - in her own way - begged their
forgiveness. She cried "A woman is a poor, weak thing, incapable of
controlling her destiny." The message of Giō's performance had touched
her and she asked Kiyomori to let her go, but he refused. Hotoke had come to
realize that all was illusion and that temporal joys were completely
transitory. She knew that at some point Kiyomori would replace her with a
younger beauty like he had her predecessor. She also felt that she was
encumbering her soul to such a degree that it would be eons after her death
before she would ever be saved from the torments of hell. Then she removed
her hood for her hosts to see that she too had shaved her head and become a
nun. Then Hotoke pled: "...please forgive my past offenses... I want to
recite Buddha-invocations with you and be reborn on the same lotus petal."
Source and quotes from: The Tale of the Heike, by Helen Craig McCullough, published by Stanford
University Press, 1988, pp. 31-7.
[Note: Fritz von Papen urged
Hindenburg to name Hitler as Chancellor of Germany assuring the aged
President that he could control the Nazi leader and we all know how that
came out. But that is history while in a cinematic vein there is always the
story of Margo Channing, a woman at the top of her game, who lets young,
sycophantic Eve Harrington into her life only to loose her men, his
theatrical roles and her pride. That was in "All About Eve". The pattern
In Ancestor Worship in
Japan by Robert John Smith (published by Stanford University Press,
1975, p. 50) the author states: "When the Japanese speak of the individual
or collective dead, they most commonly use the word hotoke (buddha). The
source of this uniquely Japanese notion that all men become buddhas merely
by dying is by no means clear. Certainly nothing in orthodox Buddhism
suggests such a happy automatic fate, nor does the idea square with the
concept of rebirth. Even the wandering spirits are a kind of hotoke. It may
well be that the explanation lies in a fundamental misunderstanding of the
idea of nirvana (Japanese nehan [涅槃 or ねはん]) dating from a very early
period of Japanese history..." Smith continues: "In some senses, then,
hotoke has come to mean simply the spirit of the dead, and to say that a man
has become a buddha is only to day that he has died. The household altar
quite commonly contains no representation of a buddha, but only the memorial
tablets for the dead of the house." (Ibid., p. 52) Ronald P. Dore took a
survey of some of the Japanese citizens of one district in Tokyo. He asked
them if hotoke and Hotoke were the same thing. 51% said they
are different. (City Life in Japan: A Study of a Tokyo Ward,
published by the University of California Press, 1958,)
A type of wild, bushy wig (鬘)
worn by villains meant to indicate a head of hair uncut for at least 100
days. It is also called a daibyaku. There is also a 50 day look in
the gojūnichi. "Long hair stands up bristle-like from the crown. The
wig's name is highly conventional as no one's hair could grow this long in
100 days.... The main version, the hyakunichi no tare, includes a long pony
tail bound near the bottom with a gold rope...." The "...softness of the top
hair also suggests that the character is not well, perhaps due to an excess
of fear and anger." (Quote from: New Kabuki Encyclopedia by Samuel L.
Leiter, p. 179)
The figure on the left (with
the red ground which we added) is of Kagekiyo by Kuniyoshi. Both fellows
shown above are from prints by Kunichika. The one on the left represents
Omatsu and the one on the right Yamanaka Tōtarō.
Bale of rice - There is a very
early publication in French, 1728, Ceremonies et Coutumes Religieuses des
Peuples Idolatres, which describes Daikoku seated on a bale of rice. "Le
bale de ris est chez les Orientaux l'emblême de l'abondance."
In 1732 Englebert Kaempfer
published his Histoire naturelle, civile et ecclésiastique de l'Empire du
Japon, originally written in German, in which he referred to Daikoku as
the god of merchants and one of his symbols of wealth was rice.
The image to the left, from
the Lyon Collection, is an image isolated from a print by Toyokuni I. It
shows a woman who is a stand-in for the god Daikoku, the god of prosperity,
who is often seen with his mallet and occasionally bales, too. Click on the
image to see the full, unadulterated print.
Below is a print by Shunzan
in the Rijksmuseum. It shows Daikoku leaning again a bale of rice, with his
mallet in his right hand and his left hand on a rat, another symbol of
prosperity. We found this image at commons.wikimedia.
In The Scheming World by Ihara Saikaku it says: "When New Year's Day
dawns, men sell pictures of Saikoku, the god of wealth, calling out, 'Get
your lucky fortune! Get your bales of luck!' "
Wooden clappers used
in kabuki theater "...for sound effects such as running feet and clashing
swords." (Quoted from:
Actor's Image: Print Makers of the Katsukawa School, Timothy Clark,
Osamu Ueda and Donald Jenkins, Princeton University Press, 1994, p. 264.)
characteristic kabuki sound that may be classified with ceremonial music is
the wooden clappers known as hyōshigi (or simply as ki).
These not only mark the beginning of a play, but at times - as wehn they are
beaten while the curtain is being drawn - become almost an integral part of
the production... [or]...to point up the moment when an actor strikes a
mie." (Quote from: Kabuki, by Masakatsu Gunji, published by Kodansha International, 1985, p. 51.)
This humorous Kuniteru image
by Tobosha at
"Wooden clappers (hyōshigi)
are one of the things peculiar to Kabuki. It is simply a matter of banging
together two sticks of white oak, but one side of each is carved so that it
has a convex shape. These two sides are banged together, and the accepted
view is that the best sound is only produced if they are cut back form the
same piece of wood." (Quote from: Japan
on Stage: Japanese Concepts of Beauty as Shown in the Traditional Theatre,
by Kawatake Toshio, published by 3A Corporation, Tokyo, 1990, p. 115.)
The image to the
left of the fan is a detail from a print by Kunisada from ca. 1826.
A Popular Dictionary of
Buddhism by Christmas Humphreys says: "Two solid pieces of hard wood
used as clappers in Rinzai Zen monasteries to mark periods in the
meditation. The blocks may be six inchest [sic] to twelve inches long; the
noise made is startling."
"In kabuki, the drawing of a
hikimaku [draw curtain] was accompanied by the bangs of hyōshigi
(wooden sticks) that were clapped against each other in various sound
patterns to signal opening and closing of scenes."
We found the lower image to
the left at commons.wikimedia.
Gourd: Dower tell us that no
family adopted the gourd as a crest because it of its baseness since it was
often used to carry saké and saké led to licentiousness. (Source: The Elements of Japanese Design,
by John W. Dower, pp. 54-5)
Despite what Dower says
about the humble gourd Hideyoshi took it as one of his signifying crests. Of
lowly birth his family was well below the level of families which would use
a crest or mon. "...when, in 1575, [Hideyoshi]... obtained a
command, he adopted a water gourd as his emblem, and added another one for
every victory he gained, until the number grew into a large bunch, and he
was called The Lord of the Golden Water Gourds." (Quoted from: The Story of
Japan, by R. Van Bergen, published by American Book Company, 1897, p.
Nikolai Gogol tells us in
"The Diary of a Madman" that "There are plenty of instances in history when
somebody quite ordinary, not necessarily an aristocrat, some middle-class
person or even a peasant, suddenly turns out to be a public figure and
perhaps even the ruler of a country." So the story of the peasant Hideyoshi
rising to top and unifying Japan on the way is not absolutely unique. The
first Han emperor was said to have been born a peasant. And while Napoleon
wasn't born of common stock he wasn't in line to rule an empire until he
crowned himself. Since then many madmen have thought they were Napoleons or
at least the movies would make us believe so. Gogol's madman was a lowly
clerk but he believed himself to be the King of Spain. Perhaps that is why we could
say he was out of his gourd. (The madman also thought dogs could talk and
that he read
their written correspondences.)
Below is a beautiful photograph of
a gourd taken by Pixeltoo. This person was placed in the public domain at
Timothy Clark tells us that
Kuniyoshi used the gourd as a hidden, veiled reference to Hideyoshi. It was
illegal to portray Hideyoshi directly so the gourd acted as a symbolic
substitute which Kuniyoshi's contemporaries would recognize.
The above image is a detail
from a Kuniyoshi fan print design.
Notice the head, arms, legs,
torso and gourd are all created from gourds.
Pretty darned amazing. Even the
gourd man's member is the top of a gourd inverted.
Makes me laugh.
Not only was the figure on
the fan print created wholly out of gourds,
but Kuniyoshi placed his
signature within this device -seen in red cartouche shown above -
while the publisher, Iba-ya
Senzaburō, and date seal appear in the yellow gourd almost as though it were
Maybe it was simply an
agreement made by like minds.
Other publishers in both
Osaka and Edo also used the gourd to frame their logos.
I (pronounced ē)
A well motif used in
fabric designs and family crests or mons. This pattern is also referred to
as an igeta (井桁 or いげた) or well-curb, i.e., the border around the mouth of a
well. John W. Dower also notes that it can be called an izutsu (井筒 of いづつ).
He added: "The well crib was one of the most popular motifs in Japanese
heraldry and stands as an excellent example of the virtuosity of Japanese
artists in elaborating upon a simple basic theme. Unlike many other motifs,
it does not appear to have conveyed several layers of meaning, but was
selected primarily for its simple beauty, and for denotative purposes. The
latter function derived from the fact that a great variety of Japanese
surnames contain the ideograph for i..." (Quoted from: The
Elements of Japanese Design, p. 128)
Some of the
families that used the i as their crest or mon: the Inoue (井上 or
いのうえ) as daimyō at Hamamatsu in Totomi, at Shimotsuma in Hitachi and
at Takaoka in Shimosa; the Ii (井伊 or いい) as daimyō at Yoita in Echigo
and Omi in Hikone; the Sakai (酒井 or さかい) as daimyō at Katsuyama in
Awa, at Obama in Wakasa; the Imai (今井 or いまい); the Mizoguchi (溝口 or みぞぐち) as
daimyō at Shibata in Echigo; the Nagai (長井 or ながい); Wakabayashi (若林
or わかばやし); Niinomi (新家 or にいのみ); Demura (出村 or でむら); Ide (井出 or いで); Orii
(折井 or おりい); Usui (臼井 or うすい); Tamei (爲井 or ためい); Kawashima (川島 or
かわしま); Komai (駒井 or こまい); Yamashita (山下 or やました); Miyazaki (宮崎 or みやざき); and
Kamei (亀井 or かめい) as daimyō at Tsuwano in Iwami. (Source: Mon:
The Japanese Family Crest by Kei Kaneda Chappelear and W. M.
Hawley, p. 79)
"Market towns (ichiba machi)
originated in the Kamakura period as areas the government authorized to sell
produce and other goods on certain days of the month." (Quoted from: Handbook to Life in Medieval and Early Modern Japan by William Deal, p.
VII (cf. Ichikawa Ebizō V)
Ichikawa Danjūrō VIII
Popular Kabuki actor
(1823-54) who committed suicide at the height of his popularity. The son of
This portrait was created a
number of years after Danjūrō VIII had died. To see why this
seems credible please click
on the image above.
Ichikawa Danjūrō IX
Actor 1839-1903: One of the
greatest actors of the Meiji period (1868-1912). The fifth son of Danjūrō
VIII and one of his concubines. "He was soon adopted by actor manager
Kawarazaki Gonnosuke VI and raised by him. His upbringing was then
extraordinary, Gonnosuke's wife, determined that the boy should become
important, made him train intensively in acting and dancing, as well as in
classical Japanese art and learning, including the tea ceremony, Chinese
literature , painting and calligraphy."
The image of Danjūrō tweezing in a mirror
shown to the left is by Kunichika and dates from 1871. To see the full print
click on the image.
For his connection with the
dramatist Mokuami and for a discussion of the actor's influence on the
theater click on the #1.
Some time back we received an email from Dan in Nebraska asking about a
postcard he had just acquired. This led to a short correspondence and an
wonderful series of discoveries - due mainly to the diligent research of
Dan. What he found was remarkable. (Below is the image of the card itself.)
¶ In A Hundred Years of Japanese Film: A Concise History, with a
Selective Guide to Videos and DVDs by Donald Ritchie and Paul Schrader
(published by Kodansha in 2001, p. 18) it states clearly that Danjūrō
took a dim view of the new field of cinematography. "Originally the leading
kabuki actor Ichikawa Danjuro IX was against the idea of motion pictures,
dismissing them as (apparently unlike kabuki) merely vulgar amusement. In
fact, kabuki actors - thought not Danjuro himself - had already appeared
before the Lumière cameramen when they visited Japan, but this apparent
contradiction was acceptable since those performances were for export.
However, Danjuro was eventually won over by the argument that his
appearance would be a gift for posterity." ¶ In 1899 Shibata Tsunekichi
"...decided to shoot in a small outdoor stage reserved for tea parties
behind the Kabuki-za, but that morning there was a strong wind. Stagehands
had to hold the backdrop, and the winds carried away one of the fans Danjuro
was tossing..." ¶ The theatrical setting was for Maple Viewing or
Momiji-gari. Here Danjūrō IX, on the right, is paired with
Onoe Kikugorō V. Sure the card shown below is a product of this session -
this historically fascinating session.
We want to thank Dan of
Nebraska for bringing this card to our attention and for letting us post it.
He has said that he is interested in selling this card.
wants to purchase this postcard they should contact us at email@example.com and we will put you in touch with Dan directly.
Ichikawa Ebizō V
Actor 1791-1859. He
also performed under the name Danjūrō VII. The father of Danjūrō VIII - see
Kabuki actor 1812-66.
Kabuki actor 1794-1824.
Ichikawa Omezō I
Omezō I was said to have
been overshadowed in Edo by the arrival of Utaemon III. "A critical work of
the period quoted in Kabuki Nenpyō (Kabuki chronology) says, "
A great ball of fire has come to Edo from Osaka. [Ichikawa] Omezō [I] has
been quite burned out, [Bandō] Mitsugorō [III] is in danger from the
accompanying gale, [Matsumoto] Kōshirō [V] was quite disposed of." Quoted
from: A Kabuki Reader: History and Performance edited by Samuel L.
Leiter, article by Charles J. Dunn, p. 79.
Ichikawa Sadanji I
A single, stand-alone,
woodblock print. (See also nimaitsuzuki and sanmaitsuzuki.)
Ichi (一), of course,
is the word for 'one', while mai (枚) is the counter word for sheets
This is also referred to as
an ichimaizuri (一枚摺).
A checkered pattern.
Also referred to as ishi-datami (石畳 or いしだたみ) which literally means
There are other words which
mean plaid: benkeijima (弁慶縞 or べんけいじま) is one of them and could
be translated somewhat like 'strong man's stripe'; and benkeigoushi
(弁慶格子 or べんけいごうし) which would substitute 'grid' or 'lattice work' at the
end. I have no idea about the origin of this phrase, but will let you know
if I find out.
One English-Japanese dictionary
from 1876 states that benkeijima is composed of 3 shades while
ichimatsu is made up of only two. I have no way of confirming this, but it
seems reasonable. (Source: An English-Japanese
Dictionary of the Spoken Language, by E.M. Satow and Ishibashi Masakata,
Trübner & Co. and Lane, Crawford & Co., p. 229)
Ichimura Uzaemon XVII
Actor - Born 1916
"Chronicle of the battle of Ichinotani"
One of Gakutei's art
Album" (see listing above)
The double page sheets shown
above come from this publication come from the Lyon Collection. Click on it
to learn more.
Ginko: The leaf of
this tree is often related to female fertility. It's "...golden colour
brings good fortune, and... is therefore kept in a woman's
chest of drawers."
But the most
remarkable feature of the gingko tree and hence its association with female
fecundity is due to a rather strange aspect of its growth. "Trunk and
branches produce queer pendent overgrowths which look like woman's breasts;
it is, therefore,
a 'milk-tree', a tree of progeny."
Quotes from: U. A. Casal,
"Lore of the Japanese Fan", Monumenta
Nipponica, vol. 16, no. 1/2, 1960, pp. 84-85.
The images shown to
the left and below are used courtesy of Shu Suehiro at
Ginko crest: Often used as a
decorative motif. Brought to Japan from China this tree dates back several
hundred million years. For whatever reasons, symbolic or because of its
beauty and uniqueness, it can frequently be found at temples and shrines and
was selected to border the moat surrounding the Imperial Palace in Tokyo.
Long before there
was that famous Superman question - you know, the one about a bird or a
plane - there was the ginko/bird. The crest shown to the left at the top of
this section is a wonderful example of Japanese creativity. Someone, i.e., a
Japanese 'designer' must have watched a ginko leaf falling and thought - in
Japanese of course - "That looks a lot like a swooping bird." Ergo this