Port Townsend, Washington
Tomoe thru Tsuzumi
The photo of the geese on the lawn
at the Bloedel Reserve will be
as a marker from January 1 to
April 30, 2017.
TERMS FOUND ON THIS
Tōmyō, Tōmyōdai, Tonda chagama, Torii, Torimono, Tori no ichi,
Tori no matsuri, Tōrōbin, Toshidama, Toshikoshi soba, Tōuchiwa,
Tōyōrin jigoku, Tsuba, Tsubaki, Tsubone mise, Tsuchigumo,
Tsuitate, Tsuji-gimi, Tsuka,
Tsuka, Tsukimi, Tsukioka
Tsukumo-gami, Tsumugi, Tsuno, Tsunokakushi, Tsurezugegusa,
Tsuru, Tsuru, Tsuru-bishi, Tsurugi, Tsurukusa, Tsuruya Kokei,
Tsuruya Namboku V, Tsuyukusa and Tsuzumi
灯明, 灯明台, とんだ茶釜, 鳥居, 採物, 酉の市, 酉の祭,
燈籠鬢, 年玉, 年越蕎麦, 唐団扇, 豊原国周,
刀葉林地 獄, 鍔, 椿, 局見世,
槌紋, 衝立, 辻君, 柄,
月見, 月岡芳年, 付喪神, 紬, 角, 角隠し, 徒然草, 吊り枝,
鶴, 弦, 鶴菱,
蔓草, 弦屋光渓, 鶴屋南北, 艶墨, 露草and 鼓
とうみょう, とうみょうだい, とんだ茶釜, とりい, とりもの,
とりのいち, とりのまつり, とうろうびん, としだま,
とうようりんじごく, つば, つばき, つぼねみせ,
つちぐも, つちもん, ついたて, つじぎみ, つか,
つか, つきみ, つきおか.よしとし,
つくもがみ, つむぎ, つの, つのかくし, つれづれぐさ,
つる, つるびし, つるぎ, つるくさ, つるや.こうけい,
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 light
to go to linked
The origin of this
motif is obscure and unknowable. Was it borrowed from another culture or did
it spring up independently? Some forms seem a little to simple not to have
occurred to different peoples in different times. Translated by several
sources as a 'huge comma design'. Dower says Yorisuke Numata, an expert on
Japanese heraldry "...emerged...as a design...being a picture (e) of a
leather guard worn on the left wrist by archers to receive the impact of the
bowstring after it had been released..." In fact the wrist guard is called a
tomo but is written with a differnt character altogether, 鞆. (Source and quote:
The Elements of Japanese Design,
by John W. Dower, p. 145)
The use of color is my
own. If I have broken some kind of taboo I apologize. Just let me know.
"Tile fragments excavated from the site of Oda Nobunaga's Azuchi Castle,
constructed 1576-1579, include eave-edge tiles with tornoe 巴, or
comma, motif antefixes inlaid with gold." [An antefix is a "carved ornament
at the eaves of a tile roof concealing the joints between tiles".] (Quoted from: "Edo Architecture
and Tokugawa Law", by William H. Coaldrake, Monumenta Nipponica, Vol.
36, No. 3. (Autumn, 1981), footnote 55, p. 255)
Gold inlay on eaves and ridge tiles was a typical feature of Momoyama and
early Edo-period architecture, used as a means of enhancing the splendor of
buildings by highlighting the profile of the roof." (Ibid.)
A tomo-e with two commas is called a "futatsu-tomoe" while one
with three is a "mitsu
A light offered to a god or
Buddha; a votive light.
Literally a stand
for the light offered to the gods
or Buddha. A special type of temple lighting.
Hepburn defined this as a 'light-house'.
from 1931 gives both definitions as acceptable.
The photo to the left was
posted at commons.wikimedia by Kansai explorer. The one below which appears
to decorate a ceramic plaque was placed at Pinterest by Hitomi Fujiwara.
teakettle ceremony: Because of punning words plays the flying teakettle
became an allusion to a sexually attractive woman. "...Ota Nampo relates a
saying current in Edo about the second month of 1770: 'The tea ceremony
kettle flew away and turned into a common teakettle' (Tonda chagama ga
yakan nito baketa)." This may have been a reference to the elopement of
Osen, a great teahouse beauty, who left her father to run his business
without her. (Quoted from: The
Actor's Image: Print Makers of the Katsukawa School, Timothy Clark,
Osamu Ueda and Donald Jenkins, Princeton University Press, 1994, p. 78)
The image to the left is a
detail from a Bunchō print from ca. 1770.
The Shinto shrine
archway found at the entrance. Torii is one of those words which has entered
the English language as is. There are words which you might look up in a
dictionary and you find the word itself in the definition. Well, torii is
one of those words.
one of the best known early myths is the story of Amaterasu, the Sun
Goddess, who shut herself up within a cave depriving the world of light.
"...a cock sat outside crowing for her to come forth. According to some
scholars, the distinctive Shinto gateway represents the perch on which the
cock sat, while the straw rope often strung across the gateway was used to
keep the goddess from reentering the cave once she had been enticed forth...
The ideographs with which torii is written literally mean 'bird
reside,' which seems to lend etymological support to this theory."
Source and quote
from: The Elements of Japanese Design,
by John W. Dower, p. 124.
"Things held. Items borne in
the hand by performers of kagura and by shinshoku and miko in shrine
performances, possession of which indicates that the holder is a suitable
channel for communication with the kami. There are traditionally nine tori-mono:
the sakaki sacred branch, the mitegura (cloth offering), the tsue (staff),
sasa (bamboo grass), yumi (bow), tsurugi (sword), hoko (halberd), hisago
(gourd) and kazura (vine)." (Quoted from:
A Popular Dictionary of
Shinto by Brian Bocking, p. 208.)
Tori no ichi
"An annual fair
held at Ōtori shrines during November on the days of the cock (one of the 12
signs of the zodiac.)" These shrines "...are dedicated to Yamato Takeru no
Mikoto, a deity of war; today the shrines are worshiped by merchants praying
for good fortune. The chief feature of the fair is the sale of bamboo rakes
decorated with good-luck symbols: ornaments representing gold coins, cranes
and tortoises, pine trees, figures of the Seven Gods of Good Fortune...etc.
The rakes are believed to rake in good forturne."(Source and quotes:
Dictionary Japanese Culture, by Setsuko Kojima and Gene A. Crane,
Heian International, Inc., 1991, p. 364.)
Yamato Takeru no
Mikoto is one of the gods mentioned in the Kojiki
(古事記 or こじき: 712), Japanese oldest
work of written literature.
The rakes sold at
the shrines are called kumade (熊手 or くまで). Mock Joya says that "Once
you buy kunmade you have to buy it every year to ensure your good
fortune. Not only this, but the kumade you get must be larger every
year." This was a practice started by merchants in the Edo region. Since it
was unseemly for members of the samurai class to purchase such items they
sent others to do it for them.
The tori no ichi
celebrations take place at least twice every November, but sometimes three
'cock days' can fall within a month. Having three such propitious days meant
that there would be greater prosperity, but also a greater number of fires
"...because prosperity makes the people careless." (Source and quotes:
Mock Joya's Things Japanese, p. 402-3)
Japanese word for rake, is made up of two characters meaning 'bear' and
'hand' - 熊 and 手.
The two detailed
images to the left and below are from a print by Toyokuni III showing a fellow
carrying a decorated kumade in a procession wending its way to
an Ōtori shrine.
Tori no matsuri
Also referred to as tori no
machi (酉の待・酉の町 or とりのまち). "The Tori-no-Matsuri, or Fęte of the Cock, is
celebrated on the cock days in November... As a rule, on those fęte days all
the prostitute-quarters open every gate and receive the visitors, who also
see the occasion to see their loving objects - beautifully dressed harlots."
(Quoted from: The Yoshiwara From Within)
On this day all access routes
into the Yoshiwara district were thrown open and anyone of either sex could
enter freely. This was known as a monbi (紋日 or もんび) or holiday when each
prostitute was expected to take a customer or at least pay a fee as though
they had generated the same amount of income.
A hair style
"...called lantern locks (tōrōbin), in which the side locks were
combed outward to resemble the silhouette of a paper lantern, had just
become the rage [in ca. 1775]."
Quote from: The
Actor's Image: Print Makers of the Katsukawa School, Timothy Clark,
Osamu Ueda and Donald Jenkins, Princeton University Press, 1994, p. 214.
This style of sweeping the hair back and out from the bottom of the ear
originated in the Kansai district which includes the areas around Osaka and
Actor's Image: Print Makers of the Katsukawa School, Timothy Clark,
Osamu Ueda and Donald Jenkins, Princeton University Press, 1994, p. `229,
This style remained
popular for decades and can often be seen in prints by Utamaro, Toyokuni I
and others. This detail is from a print by Eishi.
New Year's gift: For much more
about this topic please go to our web log posting on the otoshidama at
of the noodles seems to have a relationship with the wish for propsperity in
the coming year. Some sources say it is to promote a long life and a smooth
transition from one year to another. This is also part of the Shinto
celebration of greeting the New Year.
"On New Year's Eve, soba
(buckwheat noodles) is served in a clear broth. Soba served on the
eve is called toshikoshi soba (year-crossing soba). It is said that
long ago in Japan, goldsmiths and silversmiths used soba dough to collect
scraps of gold and silver. Therefore, soba is associated with earning money
and is eaten as a lucky charm ensuring a prosperous New Year. The noodles
are also a symbol of longevity." Quoted from: Ethnic Foods of Hawaii by Ann
Kondo Corum, p. 61.
Rick LaPointe in The
Japan Times of December 30, 2001 stated that the practice of eating
these noodles on New Year's Eve is at least 200 years old.
The image to the left was
posted at Flick by Ted Kanakubo. We have trimmed it ever so slightly.
Yanagata (1970) observes, the Japanese normally conceived of a day from
evening to evening rather than morning to morning, and so the first meal of
the New Year is actually taken on New Year's Eve. The period before the meal
is one of strict abstinence until the first sounds of the temple bell at
eleven o'clock could be heard around the town. When they were younger, the
children of the household had then paid their respects to their grandparents
and received sweets in return called toshi dama. The family then ate
a meal of Japanese noodles (toshikoshi soba)" and a large stew of the
usual winter fare: potato-starch noodles, fried bean curd, eggs, tofu,
daikon and shiitake mushroom flavouring." Quoted from: Ceremony and Symbolism in the Japanese Home by Michael Jeremy and
Michael Ernest Robinson, 75.
A T'ang Dynasty fan
shape. Very similar in shape to the gumbai (軍配 or ぐんばい) or war paddle which
was also carried in sumo by the umpire.
The example to the left is from a print by Shigenobu.
Above is a detail from a print by
To see this image in context
click on his name. As yet we do not know what the text says.
Sword-leaf hell where a man
driven by lust for a beautiful woman is condemned to jump up and down on a
tree with leaves which are swords.
Sword guard. The hole
in the center is referred to as a nakagoana (茎孔 or なかごあな) because it holds
the tang (茎) of the sword. Tsuba were generally made of steel, but other
metals and alloys were used too. The tsuba prevents the users hand from
slipping onto the blade and offers some protection in combat. "The
weight of the guard also functions to bring the sword's center of gravity
closer to the handle of the sword, adding 'balance' and force to a blow, and
reducing fatigue to the wrist." The earliest known tsubas date from the Nara
period (奈良時代 or ならじだい) of 710-794.
Quoted from: Kodansha Encyclopedia of Japan, vol. 8, p. 108, entry by Walter Ames
Lafcadio Hearn tells us that the Japanese "...believed in trees inhabited by
malevolent beings,—goblin trees. Among other weird trees, the beautiful
tsubaki (Camellia Japonica) was said to be an unlucky tree;—this was said,
at least, of the red-flowering variety, the white-flowering kind having a
better reputation and being prized as a rarity. The large fleshy crimson
flowers have this curious habit: they detach themselves bodily from the
stem, when they begin to fade; and they fall with an audible thud. To old
Japanese fancy the falling of these heavy red flowers was like the falling
of human heads under the sword; and the dull sound of their dropping was
said to be like the thud made by a severed head striking the ground.
Nevertheless the tsubaki seems to have been a favorite in Japanese gardens
because of the beauty of its glossy foliage; and its flowers were used for
the decoration of alcoves. But in samurai homes it was a rule never to place
tsubaki-flowers in an alcove during war-time."
Hearn translated a poem as "When
the night-storm is shaken the blood-crowned and ancient tsubaki-tree, then
one by one fall the gory heads of the flowers, (with the sound of) hota-hota!"
A goblin tsubaki is
known as a furu tsubaki (古椿 or ふるつばき)or
"Old tsubaki". Young tsubaki start out innocent. These is true
of other goblin trees like the willow and énoki, too.
The severed head seen above was
contributed by Yoshitoshi. I added the pool of blood. The tsubaki
flower is shown courtesy of the site run by Shu Suehiro
A site well worth visiting. This particular camellia is from the yabu
tsubaki (藪椿 or やぶつばき).
Above is a detail from a
Hiroshige print of
sparrows and camellia in
"The image of a camellia
appears frequently in classical Japanese poetry. Although camellias bloom in
different colors, it is the red camellia that has become part of the
conventional hon'i ['the true purpose': 本意 or ほんい] of the poetic
motif." (Quote from: Basho And The Dao: The Zhuangzi And The
Transformation Of Haikai by Peipei Qui, pp. 57-8)
Above is another detail from a
Hiroshige tsubaki print,
but somewhat altered.
Tsubaki mochi (椿餅 or
つばき.もち) are rice cakes filled with bean paste jam wrapped in camellia
leaves. "Strained bean jam is
wrapped up with dōmyōji [a rice pastry] and flattened for sandwiching
between two leaves of tsubaki (camellia). This cake has a long
history even going back to The Tale of Genji, where it appears in the
chapter 'Wakana' as tsubai-mochihi. However, bean jam was not made in
those days." (Quoted from Chado: The Way of Tea, p. 136)
The elegant faint scent
of tsubaki-mochi reminds one of the real things.
Royall Tyler in his brilliant translation of The Tale of Genji gives the
setting for the eating of tsubaki mochi in chapter 34, 'Wakana' (vol.
2, p. 621): "The privy gentlemen had round mats put out for them on the
veranda. Camellia cakes, nashi, tangerines, and other such things
then appeared quite informally mixed together in box lids, and the young men
ate them merrily. Then there was wine, accompanied by the appropriate dried
seafood." Tyler then gave an extremely informative footnote: "Camellia cakes
(tsubaimochii) were normally served after a kickball game. Cakes of
powdered glutinous rice and powdered cloves, sweetened with syrup from the
amachazuru vine, were wrapped in camellia leaves. The fruit known as
is round and crisp like an apple but in color and taste more like a pear."
These photos are also posted at
In Joseph Dautremer's The Japanese Empire and Its Economic Conditions
from 1910 describes the tsubaki: "It clothes the Japanese
hills, and it often obtains a height of 33 feet. Its wood is hard and used
in carpentering. The berries are used for the making of oil, with which the
women freely plaster their hair."
Robin Gill translated and commented on the writings of Luís Fróis said
in Topsy-turvy 1585. Fróis referring to hair: "Japanese women go
around reeking of the oil with which it is anointed." Gill: "European women
who rarely bathed smelled good thanks to perfume., while Japanese women who
bathed regularly stunk of oil. I doubt, however, that noblewomen reeked. I
do not know if cloves - worth their weight in gold - were still added to
their hair oil, i.e., mizu-abura, (literally 'water-oil') were still
used in the sixteenth-century, as they were hundreds of years earlier, but
Okada cites a work of literature where a woman is advised to trade in her
sesame oil for the less smelly walnut oil if she would get into the good
graces of her master, and this suggests to me that not all women
smelled. I suspect also that this was a period when more and more common
folk began to copy upper-class hair-styles that required oil. As few could
afford the best oils, they had to settle for the somewhat cloying camellia (tsubaki),
itself not cheap, or the pungent sesame (these oils, like olive smell
wonderful fresh but turn smelly almost immediately in contact with the
body). But it is a fact that smells are a very subjective matter." (pp.
Constantine N. Vaporis in his article "Samurai and the World of Goods: the
Diaries of the Toyama Family of Hachinohe" notes that "...the Toyama
household purchased hair oil (binzuke) in Hachinohe for everyday use,
but acquired more high-quality types, scented tsubaki abura [椿油 and
つばきあぶら] and oil for dyeing hair black (kuro abura) in Edo."
Binzuke is 鬢付け油 or びんつけあぶら.
"The vegetable oil used in
the old Japanese lamps used to be obtained from the nuts of the tsubaki."
(Lafcadio Hearn) Just for contrast we are
adding a quote from Heian Japan, Centers and Peripheries (p. 317) "The
provinces generally pressed oil from sesame seeds, perilla seeds, hemp
seeds, walnuts (kurumi), viburnum (hemi, yabudemari),
camellia (tsubaki), and an unidentified plant called hosoki.
Sesame and hosoki oils were the main lamp fuels, and all oils were
used in the court's kitchens."
In Mansfeld's Encyclopedia
of Agricultural and Horticultural Crops it states on page 1338 that the
tsubaki was "Cultivated as an oil crop and ornamental. Seeds contain an
oleic-rich, non-drying oil, which is used as watchmaker-, hair-, and
vegetable oil, and also medicinally. In the past it was used as an antirust
agent for swords. Dried flowers are used as a vegetable and leaves serve as
a substitute for tobacco and tea."
In 1889 The Industries of
Japan: Together with an Account of its Agriculture, Forestry, Arts and
Commerce J. J. Rein describes comb making using tsubaki wood:
"Ginger, or Ukon, is often used to give camellia wood the yellow colour of
box, but cannot impart to it the more important qualities, equal fineness of
grain, hardness and toughness."
For much more about ukon go
to our web log page at
Lower down this page is an
entry for tsuchigumo or "The Earth Spider" which is thought to be a
metaphor for a band of thugs who terrorized parts of ancient Japan. In the
earliest sources they are said to have been killed by a band of warriors who
carried clubs made of tsubaki wood. This can be found in the
surely holds the first place among the flowers for tea during the time of
ro." [Ro (炉 or ろ) is the word for the sunken hearth used between
November and April in much of Japan.] (Quoted from Chado: The Way of Tea,
p. 111) Tsubaki leaves were used to polish wood. (p. 112)
was the first species to be brought into cultivation m the West, and
although it was described on the basis of material from Japan, probably all
the early introductions during the late Eighteenth Century and early
Nineteenth Century were from China. Linnaeus named the species in 1753 on
the basis of the illustration and description in Engelbert Kaempfer’s
Amoenitatum Exoticarum Politico-Physico-Medicarum, published in 1712."
The first illustration of this plant to appear in the West was drawn by
James Petiver, an English apothecary. It was published in 1701. (Quoted
from: "The Chinese Species of Camellia in Cultivation" by Bruce Bartholomew)
In China the character used
by the Japanese for the camellia, 椿, did not stand for the same
plant. In China it represented the Cedrela sinensis. [Below is a
detail of that plant supplied by the site run by Shu Suehiro.]
In Japan it combined the
element for tree, 木, plus the element for spring, 春. Combined together they
came to mean camellia. "It should be noted that traditional Japanese
scholars not only knew that the name 海石榴 for camellia had been borrowed from
T'ang China, but also recognized the fact that in China from Sung times on
this name for camellia had become obsolete (having been replaced by shan
ch'a) and was commonly misunderstood by Chinese readers of T'ang
literature." This was the term used in the
まんようしゅう). ¶ In 777 the
Japanese emperor gave the Chinese envoy a container of camellia oil. (Source
and quotes from: Flowers in T'ang Poetry: Pomegranate, Sea Pomegranate,
and Mountain Pomegranate by Donald Harper. Published in the Journal of
the American Oriental Society, Vol. 106, No. 1, Jan-March, 1986, p. 144.)
There is a brief remark in the Color Trade Journal, vol. III, for
July to December 1918, that says "Camellia Japonica (Tsuboki); the
leaves when pressed give a green coloring matter used for the dyeing of
cheap mosquito nets." The '(Tsuboki)' mentioned above appears to be a
A low class brothel.
I have eaten in four
star restaurants and I have eaten in dives. I have even eaten at MacDonald's
a time or two or three or more. I mention this because most people will
understand the distinctions between these establishments. They are enormous.
The differences between a dish with truffles and armagnac and MacDonald's
secret sauce are like the differences between a sip of Chateau Yquem and a
swig of Ripple.
This is a truism even
for the Japanese pleasure seekers in the 18th and 19th centuries. There were
high class brothels and there were low class ones like the tsubone mise.
The qualities between the women who served in these houses could not have
been greater. If one wanted a four star treatment one had to pay for it. But
one could even go a little lower than the woman of the tsubone mise.
"One important factor
in the Yoshiwara's transformation of the first half of the eighteenth
century was the competition imposed by neighboring Edo. The city of Edo was
host to hordes of prostitutes ranging from relatively expensive 'gold cats,'
'silver cats,' and 'singing nuns,' to the low-class 'boat tarts'....and
finally the 'night hawks' who operated in the open air." (Quoted from:
Yoshiwara: The Glittering World of the Japanese Courtesan, by Cecilia Segawa
Seigle, University of Hawaii Press, 1993, p. 128)
One last note: Year
ago I saw the low caste prostitutes Seigle calls 'boat tarts' referred to as
'boat dumplings'. Either term conveys the idea nicely except that the latter
sounds more W.C. Fieldish.
"The Earth Spider" - a subject of Noh and Kabuki
Mallet crest or mon:
The mallet as a family crest holds two nearly contradictory roles. In the
example to the left you see
Daikoku's mallet, the
no kozuchi, in a white circle representing wealth and prosperity.
On the other hand, it could also be used as a military crest because
symbolically it represents the owner potential for pummeling his enemies.
Another point of interest is
the inclusion of the 'celestial' or 'sacred jewel' clearly seen in left hand
flattened side of the mallet shown to the left. More can be found about this
motif in our entries for both
The image to the
left is print by Koryusai from the 1770s. It shows a mother (?) and child
playing by running around a tsuitate.
To see a clearer
and larger image of this print click on the number to the right.
The lowest class of
The image to the left is an
Eisen from the Lyon Collection. It has the term tsujigimi in the
title. To see more information about this print click on the one shown here.
Timothy Clark in the great Utamaro catalogue says that
tsuji-gimi literally means "crossroads girl." This confounds me. Clark's
understanding of Japanese is light years beyond anything I would ever hope
to reach, but my reading of these two characters would be - using Nelson -
"crossroads mister." ('Crossroads' could also be read as 'street corners.')
Perhaps this is completely explicable in the same sense as a beckoner who
says 'Hey sailor.' The 'mister' here is a reference to the 'john' and not
the whore herself.
can also be referred to as yotaka (夜鷹 or よたか) which
translates as nighthawk or street walker.
Years ago, many
years ago, I read that the lowest rank of unlicensed prostitutes were often
called 'boat dumplings.' Often women who had outlived their prime as
courtesans - and that could be a very few short years - were lost as to what
to do. Many of them tried to eke out a living by the only thing they really
knew how to do well. Since traditionally many red-light districts were
located near waterways hence the appellation 'boat dumplings.'
The hilt (
haft) or handgrip
of a sword,
dagger or knife.
Below is the front and back
of a tsuka we found at commons.wikimedia. It is from the collection
of the Walters Art Museum in Baltimore. It was designed by Ishiguro Masaaki
(1813-37) and illustrates scenes from the story of Kamatari and Tamatori.
Their curatorial files describe it thus:
"Fujiwara Kamatari was a
historical figure who died in 669, but this episode is from a legend. His
daughter had become the empress of China and sent a boatload of treasures,
including an important jewel, back to Japan to be used for a temple. The
Dragon King of the sea stole the jewel and hid it in his temple. Kamatari
retrieved it with the help of his second wife, named Tamatori who sacrificed
herself to ensure the jewel was returned to Kamatari. On the front of the
tsuka, Tamatori is depicted with the jewel in her left hand. In her right
hand is a dagger she uses to defend herself from an octopus. On the reverse
of the tsuka, the Dragon King's palace can be seen amidst waves."
A mound, heap, tumulus, tomb,
barrow: tsuka sometimes is pronounced -duka or -zuka.
Above is a detail from a
Toyokuni III/Hiroshige print from 1855.
Traditionally this was celebrated on jūgoya (十五夜 or じゅうごや) or the
15th day of the eighth month.
adopted the Chinese custom of setting out melons, green soybeans, and fruits
in the garden as offering to the moon on this day. Jūgoya is considered to
be the 'harvest moon' and is an occasion for thanksgiving and partying.
Sprays of susuki (eulalia) are displayed on the veranda and tiny
skewered dumplings (dango) and vegetables are offered to the moon. It
is said that displaying susuki, which resembles the rice plant, will
ensure a good harvest."
"Moon viewing is a
common theme in Japanese poetry... It ranks with snow viewing and hanami
(cherry-blossom viewing) as the three most favored settings for declarations
of love and poetic outpourings of the soul." Quotes from: Kodansha Encyclopedia of Japan, vol. 5, p. 248, entry by Inokuchi Shōji.
Inanimate domestic utensils
possessed with spirits. "Around the fourteenth century... [the] Japanese
began to believe that spiritual entities reside not only in nature but also
in the objects that people make..." A spoon could place a curse on someone,
a pot could change itself into an oni and if venerated and shown
proper respect all such items could become kami in time. "By the
middle of the sixteenth century, however, phantom household objects were
beginning to swagger through the streets at night." Of course, this existed
only in the minds of the most superstitious - which included just about
everyone - and artists who portrayed them.
"Around the sixteenth
century, the general name for specters of utensils was tsukumo-gami.
Tsukumo means ninety-nine, and tsukumo-gami can be taken to
mean literally 'the spirit... of a utensil that is ninety-nine years old.' "
"From the Kamakura period
(1185-1333) onward, one prevalent image of mono-no-ke was the tsukumogami,
common household objects with arms and legs and an animated — even riotous —
life of their own. According to 'Tsukumogami-ki,' a Muromachi-period (c.
1336-1573) otogi- zōshi ('companion book') tale, 'When an object
reaches one hundred years, it transforms, obtaining a spirit [seirei],
and deceiving [taburakasu] people's hearts; this is called
tsukumogami.' The word is thought to be a play on tsukumo-gami,
with tsukumo indicating the number ninety-nine and gami (kami)
denoting hair; the phrase can refer to the white hair of an old woman and,
by extension, old age. The premise is that, when any normal entity — a
person, animal, or object — exists for long enough, a spirit takes up
residence within the form." Quoted from: Pandemonium and Parade: Japanese
Monsters and the Culture of Yokai, by Michael Dylan Foster, p. 7.
Pongee - a soft, thin cloth
woven from rough silk.
The image shown above is an
early Song Dynasty copy of an even earlier painting. It is from the
collection of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, but we found it at
commons.wikimedia. It shows a group of ladies examining a newly created silk
cloth which looks very much like pongee and may even be in that form.
The detail of the Harunobu to
the left shows "A young man attired as a date kommusō... The young
man carries a shakuhachi and a deep basket hat (tengai), and
wears a friar's robes of pongee silk (tsumugai), together with a
black kesa (Zen stole)." The quote is from the catalogue of David
Waterhouse of the Harunobu collection at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston,
vol. 1, p. 313.
Click on the image to the left
to go to the page devoted to the full print and to see what else Waterhouse
said about it.
"The parts of the
cocoon that are unsuited to reeling (beginning and end) are often hand spun
to form noil (tsumugi), or second-class cocoon pulled and stretched
to form batting (mawata) for lining clothes or stuffing comforters. A
rural textile style adopted by some modern artists is pongee (tsumugi),
which has reeled, partially de-gummed warps and hand-spun wefts." Quoted
from: Encyclopedia of Contemporary Japanese Culture, text by Monica
Bethe, p. 460.
Antlers or horn
motif: Dower believed that antlers were chosen for designs originally
because of their symmetry. However, during the period of feudal
warfare they were adopted by various families as their crest or mon because
of their martial nature.
Source: The Elements of Japanese Design,
by John W. Dower, p. 88.
A bridal headdress.
Literally a 'horn cover' it is meant to cover the horns of jealousy. Jealous
women were said to grow horns and become devils. Hence the headdress is said
to remind women to fight off feelings. Timothy Clark notes that the
tsunokakushi was worn "...to protect [a woman's] hair from the dust of
travel..." during a bridal journey.
"Essays in Idleness (Tsurezuregusa)
is a collection of essays... It has exercised an influence out of all
proportion to its bulk, and would surely be included in any list of the ten
most important works of Japanese literature." The birth and death dates of
its author's life are unknown, but believed to be 1283 to 1350. Known to us
as by his Buddhist priestly name as Kenkō he can also found under his lay
names Urabe no Kaneyoshi and Yoshida no Kaneyoshi. "His family were
hereditary Shintō priests of modest rank..." (p. xiii) ¶ "Kenkō was able,
thanks to his abilities as a poet, to secure a place at the court. Kenkō's
poetry is likely to strike us as conservative or even dull, but these
qualities were precisely those most esteemed by the reigning school of
poetry, which frowned on innovation and originality as betrayal of
tradition." (p. xiv)
"...decorative borders of artificial flowers or branches suspended over the
stage (from the hiōi) in dance plays..." Sometimes cherry
blossoms are displayed. At other times it is maple leaves or pine branches.
Source and quote: New Kabuki
Encyclopedia: A Revised Adaptation of kabuki jiten, compiled by Samuel
L. Leiter, 1997, p. 669.
There are numerous
prints which have sold or are presently offering which prominently display
tsurieda. The image detail to the left is from a diptych by Kunitsuna. To
see the full print click on the number one to the right. For other examples
click on the other numbers.
The crane has a
rich history among the Japanese and Chinese. Often associated with the pine,
bamboo and tortoise the crane has come to symbolize longevity. It also was a
vehicle for certain Taoist immortals.
On the left are two
of many variations of the crane motif used for both family crests or, as in
the case of the origami example on the bottom, merely decorative design. If
you look carefully you will occasionally find origami birds decorating the
kimonos of women and children in ukiyo prints.
Source: The Elements of Japanese Design,
by John W. Dower, p. 88.
Tsuru is an
In "The Tale of Genji" in chapter 4 the prince has taken
his most recent infatuation away from her lodgings to a dilapidated and
eerie structure. Spooked by their new surroundings Genji orders his guards to
strum their bowstrings. "Have my man twang his bowstring and keep crying
warnings." In footnote 43 Royall Tyler explains that this practice was "To
repel the baleful spirit."
As one of his
attendants was leaving him "The young man disappeared toward the steward's
quarters, expertly twanging his bowstring (he belonged to the Palace Guards)
and crying over and over again, 'Beware of Fire!'"
Footnote 44: "An
all-purpose warning cry."
Source and quotes: The Tale of Genji, translated by Royall Tyler, vol. 1, p. 67.
In section 56 of Sei Shōnagon's 'Pillow Book' entitled 'The Roll-Call of the
Senior Courtiers' the author wrote: "As soon as the roll-call is finished
one hears the loud footsteps of the Imperial Guards of the Emperor's Private
Office, who come out while twanging their bowstrings." I find it interesting
that both contemporaries, Sei Shōnagon and Murasaki Shikibu, bother to
mention the twanging of the bowstrings. Obviously it was a well known and
important ritual act in the late 10th century.
Quoted from: The Pillow
Book of Sei Shōnagon, translated by Ivan Morris, Penguin Books, 1979, p.
James Hepburn listed meigen
[鳴弦 or めいげん] in his Japanese-English dictionary as "Twanging a bow-string to
keep off evil spirits." This is still practiced during Setsubun (節分 or せつぶん)
which marks the end of Winter. Beans are tossed because they are considered
particularly effective in driving away demons.
Some musings: The
tsuru is the same word used for archery as for that of musical
instruments. So, the connection between the twanging of the warriors
bowstring to ward off evil and the mystical power of music to perform
wonders is only reasonable.
the son of the muse Calliope (カリオペ - ), according to Ovid (オヴィッド), used his
talents to control the world about him. When set upon by the Ciconian women
one of them threw a great stone at him. "...as it hurtled [through the air
the stone] was overcome in midair by the harmony of voice and lyre and fell
prone at his feet like a suppliant apologizing for so furious an assault."
(ﾋﾟﾀｺﾞﾗｽ) of Samos (c. 580-496 B.C.) saw a direct connection between music
and math. His conclusions often mystical were also grounded in logic and
fact. Pythagoras is quoted as having said that "There is geometry in the
humming of the strings... there is music in the spacing of the spheres."
in the sighing of a reed;
There's music in the rushing of a rill;
There's music in all things, if men had ears;
Their earth is but an echo of the spheres.
(Lord Byron - バイロン卿)
There are numerous
other examples of the controlling powers of music in both the East and the
West: Odysseus (オデユッセウス) and the Sirens (サイレン), invocating chants like the
Om mani padme..., the Pied Piper of Hamlin (ハメルンの笛吹き?), etc. But there is
one from my childhood which strikes a particular chord, the Buster Brown
Show. The host would say: "Pluck your magic twanger Froggy" and a puff of
smoke would appear along with Froggy himself. What happened after that is a
haze for me, but I think they sang and danced while I sat there slack-jawed
and wide-eyed. There obviously wasn't much separating my beliefs from that
of Genji's at the time.
One more thought: The
strings of the harp are often related to conceptualizations of heaven in the
Christian West. In European paintings (King) David is often shown playing a
harp, a Greek instrument and probably an anachronism, casting his glances
skyward. The symbolism is absolutely clear.
In The Pillow
Book of Sei Shōnagon on p. 342 footnote 392 Ivan Morris noted
that "During the course of each of the night watches an officer would strum
his bowstring to keep away evil spirits; then, after naming himself,
he would announce the time in a stentorian voice." This spurred me to do
further research and the to look into the use of noise making as a form of
magic. In Shinto: (the Way of the Gods) by William George Aston
published by Longmans, Green and Co. in 1905 on page 335 the author notes
made by "shaking or jingling talismans..." In the next paragraph he adds:
"Part of the outfit of a district wise-woman or sorceress in recent times
was a small bow, called adzusa-yumi, by twanging which she could call
from the vasty deep the spirits of the dead, or even summon deities to her
behests. Another small bow, called ha-ma-yumi (break-demon-bow) [破魔弓
or はまゆみ] is given to boys at the New Year." In ancient times, during the
tsuina (追儺 or ついな) ceremony or 'bean tossing' meant to drive out demons
at the New Year, a fellow would dress up at court as demon and young men
would shoot arrows at him using peach wood bows. Perhaps the twanging of the
bow came to act as a warning. It certainly saved searching for or wasting a
lot of arrows. Peach wood staves were used for oni-yarahi (鬼やらひ) or
'demon-expelling'. Aston also notes on page 189 that the peach wood came to
stand for the male element and hence was thought of as phallic.
In the Nō play Aoi no Ue
(葵上 or あおいのうえ) or "Lady Aoi" a sybil is brought in at the beginning to
conjure up an evil spirit which is afflicting Princess Aoi. The sibyl beats
on a drum "...and twangs her of catalpa wood..." The spirit comes forth,
announces who she is and strikes a single folded robe, stage center, which
is symbolic of the Princess. The vengeful spirit is that of Lady Rokujō who
was "...superceded and disgraced..." by the Princess. Both are characters
from The Tale of Genji. The sibyl - see our entry on
- can call the spirit, but cannot
dispel it. A holy man is brought in and he invokes the name of Fudō to
dispel and then save the spirit of Lady Rokujō through her eventual
salvation into a state of Buddhahood. (Source: The Catalpa Bow: A Study
of Shamanistic Practices in Japan by Carmen Blacker)
Below is an image of a
catalpa tree from a park in Belgium
posted at commons.wikimedia
by Jean-Pol Grandimot.
"The bow and arrows which
the medium for the sun goddess wore about her person are likewise to be
found in the panoply of the continental shaman. There the bow is not so much
a weapon as an instrument of magical sound, a one-string zither which when
twanged emits a resonance which reaches into the world of spirits, enabling
the shaman who manipulates it to communicate with that world. For the
miko, from ancient times until the present day, the bow has likewise
been an instrument whose sound magically compels spirits to draw near.... We
shall also see in a later chapter that a similar bow is still used by blind
mediums in the north when they summon ghosts and kami. [¶] For the
ancient miko, however, that the bow had a further function. It was a
torimono, an object which 'held in her hand' as she danced, and which
acted as a conductor along which the deity could make his entry into her
body. To this day the bow, together with the sword, spear, bamboo wand and
branch, numbers among the nine varieties of torimono which the
kagura dancer may hold in her hand during a performance." (Ibid., pp.
Nakamura family crest of a crane (in a lozenge,
Sword motif used in
many different combinations with other symbols/images such as the sun,
plants and butterflies to give a more martial sense to each image.
A vine or creeper:
Often used as a decorative motif on paintings, kimonos, etc.
This is a term which has been
very difficult to track down with a precise botanical example. It is
mentioned by Günter Zobel in his contribution to The Origins of Theater
in Ancient Greece and Beyond: From Ritual to Drama (Cambridge University
Press, 2007, p. 296). In a re-enactment of the raucous dance performed by
Ame-no-Uzume used to lure Amaterasu out of her self-imposed confinement
Ame-no-Uzume "...put a vine, called tsurukusa, inside the cord
tucking up her sleeves and attached it to her frontlet." ¶ That would
certainly make this a very powerful and ancient symbol. However, in the two
copies of the Kojiki and one of the Nihongi which I have at
hand the descriptions vary slightly and the exact term tsurukusa
is not used. In Basil Hall Chamberlain's Kojiki translation "...Her
Augustness Heavenly-Alarming-Female [i.e., Ame-no-Uzume] hanging [round her]
the heavenly clubmoss of the Heavenly Mount Kagu as a sash..." (Published by
Charles E. Tuttle Company, 1993, p. 64)
*The second set of brackets
is Chamberlain's, the first one mine.
In Donald L. Philippi's
translation "...Amë-nö-uzume-nö-mikötö bound up her sleeves with a
cord of heavenly pi-kagë vine..." (University of Tokyo Press, 1995,
In W. G. Aston's translation
of the Nihongi "Moreover Ama no Uzume no Mikoto... took club-moss and
of it made braces..."(Published by Charles E. Tuttle Company, 1993, p. 44)
I don't know if you have
noticed or not, but not only the spellings vary greatly, but, also, club
moss is not a creeping or climbing vine. This compounds the confusion.
Artist - Born 1946
Tsuruya Namboku V
Glossy black: More
than one layer of a high quality black ink mixed with animal glue or nikawa
(膠 or にかわ)
is laid down. Once printed the surface is burnished with a piece of ivory or
something similar until that area is shiny. This technique is most often
used on hair, fabrics, lacquer, armor, etc.
Day flower or "rainy
season plant" from which aigami is made
hourglass-shaped drum; it consists of two leather skins each sewn onto an
iron ring larger in diameter than the drum body, then laced with ropes onto
the lacquered wooden drum." Several such instruments were introduced into
Japan prior to the Nara period (710-794). Frequently used in Noh and Kabuki
theater. "...played with the right hand and fingers..." Quoted from:
Kodansha Encyclopedia of Japan, vol. 8, p. 119-20, entry by Kojima
The detail to the
left is from a print by Natori Shunsen.
To the left we had
added graphics for three different crests using the tsuzumi motif. John
W. Dower noted that drums were "Not introduced as a design motif until late
in the feudal period..." Quote from: The Elements of Japanese Design,
by John W. Dower, p 110.
The one below is from a Kunisada print showing a family crest on the headband being
worn by an actor playing a role. It is an interesting variation on the drum
motif because it looks like an hourglass or one of those early European
stools which were meant for sitting. However, here it is shown with an
organic element surrounding it.
"During the Toka-sechi-e of the Atsuta-jingű, the
sound obtained by a priest on a small drum (tsuzumi) indicates
whether the harvest will be good or bad." Quoted from:
Shinto: At the Fountainhead
of Japan by Jean Herbert, p. 153.