Port Townsend, Washington
Yakusha thru Z
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
from September 1 to December
The Jakuchu parakeet was used
from May 1 thru September 30,
TERMS FOUND ON THIS PAGE:
Yama-ai, Yamaboko, Yamabuki,
Yamauba, Yamauba mono, Yamazakura,
Yanagi no mayu,
Yane-bune, Yang Gui-fei, Yaoya,
Yasakani no Magatama, Yashima Gakutei,
Yasuo Kume, Yatagarasu, Yatai,
Yatsuya guruma, Yōfūga, Yōga,
Attack: The Japanese Monster Survival Guide, Yoko,
Yōshi, Yoshisato, Yoshitsune, Yoshiwara,
Yoshiwara: The Glittering World of the Japanese Courtesan,
Yotsude-ami, Yotsume, Yüan (dynasty), Yūgao, Yuiwata, Yukata, Yuki,
Yuki-Daruma, Yukimi dōrō, Yukiwa,
Zakuro, Zangiri-mono, Zarusoba,
Zendama akudama, Zori,
Zuishin and Zukushi
山藍, 山鉾, 山吹, 山伏, 山男, 山姥, 山姥物,
山桜, 柳の眉, 屋根船, 楊貴妃,
妖術, 妖怪, 洋紅,
源義経, 吉原, 四つ手網, 四つ目,
夕顔, 浴衣, 雪, 雪達磨,
雪見灯籠, 雪輪, 幽霊,
弓, 弓矢, 石榴,
善玉悪玉, 蔵版, 草履, 草履取り, 随身 and 尽くし
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
Annual actor critiques
in printed form which appeared until c. 1890.
Originally courtesans were
rated on an annual basis and it was not a great leap to start doing so for
actors too. The first such publications paid emphasis on the homoerotic
allures of young male actors, but eventually covered the full range of
actors. Samuel L. Leiter notes: "The contents of such books were likely to
include descriptions of he actors' appearance, disposition, dancing ability,
vocal quality, partying tastes, sexual proclivities, and so on, including
examples of the actors' poetry and pictures of them and their mon [or
sounds sneakily like the classified ads placed in the mostly 'adults only'
alternative publications and on-line solicitations.
Leiter added: "In
the early days the actors' looks and sex appeal were given more importance
than their talents." I might add, that little has changed today. Many
contemporary actors have better bodies and looks than skills and depth. But
everyone knows that. (Quotes from: New Kabuki
Encyclopedia: A Revised Adaptation of kabuki jiten, 1997, p. 696)
Regis Allegre at
Kabuki21 gives the last date for such books as 1890 while Leiter gives their terminus ante quem as 1877.
Regis Allegre has given us a
more thorough explanation of this subject:
A hyôbanki was a book
published at the beginning of the new year, in Edo or in Kamigata,
evaluating the actors and commenting their performances. For some
historians, the first hyôbanki was "Yarô Hyôbanki", published in 1656 but
others historians prefer to consider "Yakusha Hyôbanki", published in 1687,
as the very first hyôbanki in Kabuki history. The evaluation systems were
quite simple, dividing the actors in several categories and ranks:
Jô-jô-kichi Superior - superior - excellent
Jô-jô Superior - superior
Naka no Jô-jô Superior - superior in the middle class
Naka no Jô Superior in the middle class
During the golden years of Kabuki, the rank jô-jô-kichi was not good enough
to classify the best stars and several new higher levels were used. Here is
an indicative list:
Dai-shigoku-jô-jô-kichi Grand - exceedingly - superior - superior -
Kô-goku-jô-jô-kichi Meritorious - extreme - superior - superior - excellent
Shigoku-jô-jô-kichi Exceedingly - superior - superior - excellent
Goku-jô-jô-kichi Extreme - superior - superior - excellent
Kô-jô-jô-kichi Meritorious - superior - superior - excellent
Dai-jô-jô-kichi Grand - superior - superior - excellent
Shi-jô-jô-kichi Unique - superior - superior - excellent
Leaves of the Mercurialis
leiocarpa used to obtain a blue stain on the fabric aozuri. "In
Japan, the leaves and rhizomes was used for dyeing in ancient days."
Quote and image was provided
by Shu Suehiro at
"I had given this matter
some thought and, as I had asked Ono Tonomo-no-Suke Shigekata about it, he
sent me an omigoromo. There were patterns on the jōe such as
plum, willow, butterflies and birds, but one of its sleeves was missing.
Mountain indigo (yama-ai) is called tōkotsusō, I hear, and is
the berry of a shrub, but is now found among the wild plants that are used
each year. Tōkotsusō is given different names in some dialects. I
have heard country folk call its berry bishabo. Wild indigo (no-ai)
is aohana. Sticking grass (tsukikusa) is so called because it
prints on well (suritsuku). In old verse, yama-ai is also
yamazuri, and no-ai is nozuri. Tsukikusa is still
called tsuyukusa. It is a variety that is no longer used by dyers."
Quoted from: Tendai Shoshin Roku Ueda Akinari (1734-1809), p. 143.透骨草
A festival float.
Also, referred to as hikiyama (曳山 or ひきやま) or festival floats.
Members of a neighborhood association "who are in good physical condition
are assigned by a steering committee made up of representatives of the older
wealthier families in the community to build festival wagons (hikiyama).
To be considered 'alive' or functioning, a wagon requires two leaders, two
traffic negotiators, abundant decorations, and a continuous source of music.
The hikiyama often carries structures upon which a yorishiro,
or place suitable for a deity to alight is built. This usually takes the
form of a mountain (yama) sculpted of papier-mâché. It is deemed an
appropriate 'god-seat' since mountains, particularly impressive mountains,
have been considered holy since earliest times. It is thought that in Japan
'sacred mountains' were originally designated as such because of their
significance as sources of water for the surrounding farmland."
Japanese Festival Arts,
by Gloria Granz Gonick, UCLA Fowler Museum of Cultural History, 2002, p. 45.
Right after I posted this entry I wrote to one of our great contributors to
see if he had any print images of yamaboko. He didn't, but he did
have these photos. Brilliant!, aren't they? The top one shows a detail of
the float itself. Brilliant!
Properly speaking hikiyama
(曳山) means 'mountain pulling' because they are moved by men using large,
thick ropes. In the Kantō region these floats are called dashi (山車 or
だし) which literally would mean 'mountain vehicle'. Ostensibly dashi
are meant to be of a size intended to draw the attention of the kami. (See
our entry on
kami on our
Kakuremino thru Ken'yakurei index/glossary page.) Dashi is supposedly derived from dasu (出 or だす) which means
'to stick out' among other things.
Yamabuki or Japanese
Rose is also known under the botanical name Kerria japonica.
In the catalogue to the great Utamaro exhibition at the British Museum
Timothy Clark describes a courtesan arranging a flowering kerria branch and
notes "This is an oblique reference to the most common pictorial
representation of the Ide Jewel River, which was a courtier crossing the
river on horseback, with kerria blooming at the water's edge." (Quote from:
Passionate Art of Kitagawa Utamaro, published by the British Museum
Press, London, 1995, text volume, p. 117)
The detail of the
image with the rider is by Hiroshige shows the poet Fujiwara no Shunzei
(1114-1204) crossing the Ide Tama River inspired to write a poem about the
yamabuki flowers clustered there.
The image below
that is a detail from a print by Kunisada - seen above. In the foreground is an actor.
Behind him is an aizuri-e landscape with a relatively subtle reference to
the crossing of the Ide Tama River. Here, of course, the flowers are printed
all in blue, but the connection is clear. I want to thank my great friend
Mike for sending me this image.
Wild men who live in the
mountains and seem not unlike yeti or bigfoot if one follows traditional
descriptions. Carmen Blacker in her "Supernatural Abductions in Japanese
Folklore" (published by Nanzan University, Asian Folklore Studies, Vol. 26, No. 2, 1967, p. 115)
gives a full description as to their nefarious intents: "The tall, hairy
difficult if not impossible to escape, were yamaotoko or 'mountain
men'. These mysterious, semi human denizens of mountains, the belief in whom
some Japanese folklorists think may have originated in an ancient and
unfamiliar race of mountain people, are described fairly uniformly by
woodcutters of various districts. They are very tall, with glittering eyes
and long hair straggling down to their shoulders. Sometimes they are covered
with leaves or tree bark instead of fur. These creatures, it will be noted,
never take the child on entertaining journeys to strange lands and
mountains. They carry it straight back to their lair in the mountains, there
keeping it in strict durance as a servant or catamite. [Now there's a
euphemism for you.] Women, it will also be noted, are kidnapped only by
yamaotoko and for the sole purpose of becoming the wives of the
creatures. They are never taken on the magic journey." (See also our entry
kamikakushi or spirit abductions.)
was originally a female flesh-eating ogre who lived deep in the mountains,
but in the Edo period she was transformed into the mother or wet-nurse of
the strong boy Kintarō (Kidō-maru), who grew up to be the warrior hero
Sakata Kintoki, one of the four great retainers of Minamoto no Yorimitsu."
Quote from: Demon of Painting: The Art of Kawanabe Kyōsai, by Timothy Clark, British
Museum Press, 1993, p. 105.
The top example
to the left is a detail from a print by Kuniyoshi showing Yamauba in them
more romantic mode of the Edo period. The one in the center is from a book
illustration where she is shown as a truly frightening had. The Utamaro at
the bottom portrays her as the doting mother.
play": "'Yamauba pieces' is the name given to the lineage of Kabuki dances
deriving from the concluding scene of Chikimatsu Monzaemon's puppet play
Komachi Yomamba." This genre became a motif in print form for the
expression of love of a mother for a child. Quote from: The
Passionate Art of Kitagawa Utamaro, published by the British Museum
Press, London, 1995, text volume, p. 224.
Yamauba "...appears as a wild old woman with long hair and ragged clothes
who dances opposite the infant Kintarō." Quote from: Quote
from: Demon of Painting: The Art of Kawanabe Kyōsai, by Timothy
Clark, British Museum Press, 1993, p. 105.
One of several woods
used to print woodblocks, but this was the most common and popular one of
the ukiyo period. Referred to as the wild mountain cherry tree or Prunus
serrulata in the West. 1
Long before the mountain cherry tree was used for ukiyo-e prints it
was a favorite of the poets. In one of the greatest compilations, One
Hundred Poems by One Hundred Poets, the Hyakunin Isshu (百人一首 or
ひゃくにんいっしゅ), poem #66 by Saki no Daisōjō Gyōson (前大僧正行尊 or さきのだいそうじょうぎょうそん:
On a mountain slope,
Stands a cherry tree.
Except for you, lonely friend,
To others I am unknown.
The image shown above is
courtesy of Shu Suehiro at
He identifies this tree using the synonymous term Prunus jamasakura.
A wild cherry tree are mentioned in chapter 28, The Typhoon, of
The Tale of Genji. Although the term used, kabazauka (かばざくら) or
'birch cherry', is now obsolete all three major English language
translations give it as some slight variation of a flowering mountain cherry
tree or yamazakura. The setting for Nowaki (野分き) or The
Typhoon - Yūgiri arrives right after a storm to visit his father, Prince
Genji, and gets his first glimpse of Murasaki. Below are partial quotes from
Waley, Seidensticker and Tyler.
The 1929 translation (1993 edition) by Arthur Waley: "There, in full view of
anyone who came along the corridor, reclined a lady of notable dignity of
mien and bearing would alone have sufficed to betray her identity. This
could be none other than Murasaki. Her beauty flashed upon him as at dawn
the blossom of the red flowering cherry flames out of the mist upon the
traveller's still sleepy eye. It was wafted towards him, suddenly imbued
him, as though a strong perfume had been dashed against his face. She was
more beautiful than any woman he had ever seen."
The 1976 translation (1992 edition) by Edward Seidensticker: "He stopped to
look at the women inside. The screens having been folded and put away, the
view was unobstructed. The lady at the veranda - it would be Murasaki. Her
noble beauty made him think of a fine birch cherry blooming through the
hazes of spring. It was a gently flow which seemed to come to him and sweep
The 2001 translation by Royall Tyler: "There was no mistaking her nobly warm
and generous beauty: she looked like a lovely mountain cherry tree in
perfect bloom, emerging from the mists of a spring dawn. The breath of her
enchantment seemed irresistibly to perfume his face even as he watched. She
was nothing less than extraordinary."
Are all of these translations related to a poem by Ki no Tsurayuki (紀贯之 or
きのつらゆき: 872-945) listed as Kokinshū (古今集 or こきんしゅう) no. 479:
A fleeting glimpse
as of mountain cherries
through the thick veil of
spring mists I
the one who captured my heart
In about 1504 Sōchō (宗長 or そうちょう: 1448-1532) who was about to build an
isolated hut wrote a poem again linking the concept of cherry blossoms with
The mountain cherries -
how my longing for them
is enhanced by the haze!
Quoted from: Song in an
Age of Discord: The Journal of Socho and Poetic Life in Late Medieval Japan
by H. Mack Horton, p. 37.
In 1778 Yosa Buson (与謝蕪村 or よさぶそん: 1716-1783) wrote a particularly poignant
and touching verse:
Is it blossoming
because of lonliness?
the mountain cherry
The wild cherry tree and its blossoms seem to have a connection with things
military. One book published in the West in 1902 referred to the
yamazakura as an "...emblem of Japanese knighthood." An oft cited poem by Motoori Norinaga (本居宣長 or もとおりのりなが:
1730-1801) reads: "If one should inquire of you concerning the spirit of a
true Japanese, point to the wild cherry-blossom shining in the sun." Basil
Hall Chamberlain in his Things Japanese quotes this - as do many others -
and adds this proverb: "The cherry is the first among flowers, as the
warrior is first among men." The cherry blossom is preferred over that of
the prunus, i.e., plum because the latter is thought to be of Chinese
One of the units of kamikaze pilots during World War II was named after the
yamazakura mentioned in Norinaga's poem.
The flowers of the yamazakura could serve as a symblol of the impermanence
of life. When the Heike warriors were forced to flee the capital they said
their sincere and tearful goodbyes to people they were close to like the
abbot of Ningi. One of the priests, Gyōkei (行慶 or ぎょうけい), composed a poem
commemorating their departure - "...a poem which echoes the dominant theme
of the Heike - that all that exists in the world is doomed to pass away:"
Oh how pitiful it is
That mountain cherry
Whether they be young or
Whether they blossom
early or late,
Must in the end shed
"...the Taira warriors
[i.e., the Heike] are being compared with the cherry blossoms. Elegant and
refined they may be, but in the end they too are destined to fall." (Source
and quotes from: The Russo-Japanese War in Cultural Perspective, 1904-05,
edited by David Wells and Sandra Wilson, p. 54)
As should be clear by now an entire web site could be devoted to poetry and
yamazakura. We have only touched the tip of the iceberg here.
There are a considerable number of different cherry tree varieties in Japan.
That is why "...in 1984 two Americans... decided to untangle the thicket by
dividing the flowering cherries into two groups: Yama-zakura, or mountain
cherries for the wild species, and Sato-zakura for village cherries or the
cultivated plants..." (Quoted from: Enduring Roots: Encounters with
Trees, History, and the American Landscape by Gayle Samuels, p. 74)
While modern hybrids, that is since the time of the Meiji period, have
become the standard form recognized in Japan and around the world for what
we think of when we muse about flowering cherry trees, it is the
yamazakura that in backwoods areas such as Kyushu (九州 or きゅうしゅう) "...are
still seen highlighting the forests like dabs of paint." (Quoted from:
Hitching Rides with Buddha by Will Ferguson, p. 72)
Rebecca Salter in her book on Japanese Woodblock Printing (p. 15)
gives quite a nice description of this wood: "Japan was particularly
fortunate in having plentiful supplies of yamazakura... [This tree]
has few flowers or fruit and the pith on the inside lining of each annual
growth ring is the same density as the ring itself. The best planks come
from trees grown on mountains near the sea, particularly on the Izu
peninsula near Tōkyō. The grain from these trees was fine and even, the wood
was relatively easy to carve yet highly cohesive and did not splinter.
Cherry from too far north in Japan was considered tougher to carve and did
not take the colour well. ¶ Supplies of yamazakura are however, now
diminishing rapidly." Early on this wood was used for carving texts which
Salter distinguishes from similar Chinese carvings. In Japan cursive was
preferred over block lettering and only the best wood would do for such
Literally a mountain shark, a
The image to the left and above are both by Kuniyoshi. The one to the left
is from the British Museum and dates from ca. 1843. The one above is from
the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston and is dated to ca. 1830. The text on that
print makes reference to the 山鮫 yamazame.
Willow tree: In an article
entitled "Chinese Flower Symbolism" by Alfred Koehn in the Monumenta Nipponica,
Vol. 8, No. 1/2, 1952, p. 131 it states: "As a symbol of Spring and
Meekness, the Willow has inspired poets and painters; they are fond of using
it as an emblem of Femininity. Popular belief holds that the Willow
exercises power over evil spirits. Tombs are swept with it, and its branches
are fixed to the gates of houses as an omen of Good Luck."
Merrily Baird (Symbols
of Japan, p. 66) adds that the Chinese also believed that it could
prevent blindness and purify. Baird notes that in Japan that yanagi
"...is commonly represented with water, snow, swallows, or herons. A branch
of willow (yoshi) is one of the attributes of Buddhist deity Senju Kannon
[観音 or かんのん] (Thousand-Armed Kannon), who is said to use the branch to
sprinkle the nectar of life contained in a vase."
The top two photos were
graciously supplied by Shu Suehiro at
The bluish print detail is from a work by Kasamatsu Shirō (1898-1991: 笠松紫浪
or かさまつ.しろう). The title is given as "Evening
Rain at Shinobazu Pond" (夜雨不忍池 or やうしのばずのいけ) from 1932.
Koehn in his Japanese
Flower-Symbolism from 1939 noted that the display of a willow branch which
has been twisted to form a circle somewhere along the branch at a farewell
gathering was meant to convey "...wishes for a safe return."
In China the custom was
different, but its similarities seem clear. "Willow branches were commonly
snapped when parting form a firend, 'willow' (liu) being homophonous
with 'stay' (liu). Since officers in Chang-an were constantly being
sent off in military service or to civil posts in the provinces, the willows
by the royal moat tended to have more snapped branches than most."
Quote from: An Anthology of
Chinese Literature: Beginnings to 1911, edited and translated by Stephen
Owen, W. W. Norton & Company, 1996, footnote, p. 394.
Mock Joya adds much to our
knowledge of willow lore. A 'willow waste' described a graceful, slender
On New Year's Day "...the
Emperor would exclaim: 'Under the yuzu [柚 or ゆず] (citron) tree? to
which the Empress replied 'Medetashi' (happy)." Since the yuzu was a
royal prerogative commoners substituted the yanagi for this ritual. "It is
probably that from this ancient custom of using this happy expression on New
Year's day, chopsticks made of willow wood are still used during New Year
celebrations even today." These chopsticks are used exclusively and burned
afterwards." (Source: Mock Joya's Things Japanese, p. 378-9)
Years ago I was told or I read
that the weeping willow was a symbol of prostitution in ancient China. I
have been unable to confirm this and have had experts I respect disagree
with me. Supposedly brothels - both legal and illegal - prospered along
waterways where this type of tree was commonly seen. In 1589 one of
Hideyoshi's retainers opened the first licensed district in Kyōto. At the
entrance to this district were two huge willow trees. It was called Yanagi-no-baba, but came to be called Yanagimachi (柳町 or やなぎまち)
or "Willow Street". There was another Yanagimachi in Edo, J. E. de
Becker this one "...did not derive its title from the one in the Western
city." (Source and quote from: Yoshiwara: The Nightless City, by J. E. de Becker, Frederick Publications,
1960, p. 2)
The references below all come
from an article entitled "Kung Hsien's Self-Portrait in Willows, with Notes
on the Willow in Chinese Painting and Literature" by Jerome Silbergeld
published in Artibus Asiae in 1980 (Vol. 42, No. 1, pp. 5-38).
As early as the Han dynasty
(206 B.C. to 220 A.D.) in China the willow was used "...as a metaphor for
feminine beauty, romantic and often erotic."
By the T'ang dynasty (618 to
970) the elegant willow was being compared to a woman's slender waist.
Later Po Chü-i wrote about Ming-huang's yearning for Yang Kuei-fei. Here a
woman's eyebrows are likened to the willow. (See our entry for yanagi no
mayu below. Clearly the Japanese borrowed this Chinese model.)
Home again, the pools and
gardens were all just as before-
The hibiscus of the T'ai-i
Pool, the Wei-yang Palace willows.
But the hibiscus were like her
face, the willows like her eyebrows,
And facing them, what could he
do but cry.
Even the drooping branches
came to be compared with the delicate gossamer clothing of a beauty. In the
anthology "Three Hundred T'ang Poems" the willow is mentioned more than any
other plant. In the capital cities of Lo-yang and Ch'ang-an famous
courtesans and great beauties adopted surnames meaning Willow or if not that
nicknames using the same references. "The nation's finest gay quarters were
in Ch'ang-an, and one of them must have been a willow-lined district known
as the Chang-t'ai or Chang Terrace. The phrase "Chang-t'ai Willow," used in
reference to these courtesans..." One famous poet wrote about his lover,
'the Willow of Ch'ang Terrace', who fled in turbulent times to a nunnery
only to be abducted by an enemy general. The poet wrote of her:
Is the fresh green of
former days still there?
No, even if the long
branches are drooping as before,
Someone else's hand must have
plucked them now!
"Willow Village, Flower
Street" became synonymous with any brothel district anywhere. In Mathew's
Chinese English Dictionary (p.589) a willow lane was a reference to
brothels. And the expression "sleeping in the flowers, lying among willows"
[is] simply translated as "passing the nights in the brothels..."
In footnote 66 Silbergeld
notes other attributes ascribed to the willow by the Chinese, but not
mentioned in the poetry of Kung Hsien: "...namely their common use as an
herb of healing (containing a natural form of aspirin), as a ritual object
in Buddhist purifi- cation rites, as a charm for warding off evil spirits,
and as an aid in spirit-conjuring..."
One Confucian scholar
likened a fondness for willows with dissipation and decline.
Alfred Koehn wrote: "Popular belief holds that the Willow exercises power
over evil spirits. Tombs are swept with it, and its branches are fixed to
the gates of houses as an omen of Good Luck."
"A code of sexualized symbols
existed that almost all the inhabitants of Edo would have instinctively
understood. Red, symbolizing the transition to womanhood, was considered an
erotic colour. A glimpse of bare feet against a line of crimson silk
undergarment was considered electrifying. The willow tree, seen growing
outside and within the gates of the Yoshiwara, was a symbol of
prostitution." Quoted from: Tokyo A Cultural History by Stephen
Mansfield, p. 35.
Willow eyebrows - a
metaphor for a beautiful woman. (Source: Jewels of Japanese Printmaking: Surimono of the Bunka-Bunsei Era 1804-30
by Joan Mirviss and John Carpenter - cat. entry #16, p. 64)
In Chinese this metaphor reads: 柳眉杏眼 - willow eyebrows and almond shaped
In a popular Ming drama, The Peony Pavilion (Ch: 牡丹亭), from
1598, a beautiful young woman is painting a self-portrait to leave for her
parents because she is about to be forced into an unwanted marriage. The
text describes her features:
Cloud-like hair rolled up in a
A golden hairpin parting the hair at one side of her forehead.
Face fresh as a lotus flower bathed in jade-like dew droplets,
Eyebrows two willow leaves carrying spring mist.
Adorned with plum flower petals, her brow is all the more lovely.
Rarely do words depart from her cherry-like mouth.
Almond-shaped eyes, gazing attentively, reflect the limpid light of autumn
This is quoted from the
doctoral thesis of Li Guo at the University of Iowa in 2010.
During the T'ang Dynasty Li Shang Yin (813-59) wrote about 'willow
The link between eyebrows and willows must go back to the earliest contacts
between the Chinese and Japanese courts. "Willow charcoal is eyebrow
charcoal, a fancy Chinese term apparently used to mean simply 'willow.' Or
perhaps the title underlines the association of willow leaves with graceful
eyebrows and hence with beautiful women, suggesting that Yakamochi [compiler
is thinking of the ladies of
the capital as much as of its willow-lined streets. This apparently remote
possibility, first suggested by the eminent early Man'yo scholar
Keichu, is somewhat bolstered by the poem's resemblance to one of the
anonymous songs of Book X: [10:1853]
Ume no hana
wa ga yado no
yanagi no mayo shi
I pick a branch of plum blossoms
And long for those
Willow eyebrows from home.
Quoted from: A Warbler's
Song in the Dusk: The Life and Work of Ōtomo Yakamochi (718-785) by
Paula Doe, p. 156.
Yakamochi also uses conventional Chinese metaphors common in Six Dynasties
love poetry, such as in the following poem from his years in Etchū, where he
likens a woman's eyebrows to willow leaves and her skin to rosy peach
Momo no hanna kurenai iro ni
nioitaru omowa no uchi ni
aoyanagi no hosoki mayone o
emimagari asakage mitsutsu
otomera ga te ni torimoteru
On Two-top Mountain -
Top of a mirror-box,
Clear mirror in a maiden's hand
Reflecting her morning face,
Delicate green-willow eyebrows
Ibid., p. 49
Cho Kyo wrote on page 77 of The Search for the Beautiful Woman: A
Cultural History of Japanese and Chinese Beauty: "As willow eyebrows
(liumei) was a fixed phrase referring to a beautiful woman in
literature, so were, in art too, long eyebrows with a gentle curve a
metaphor for a favored countenance."
Covered pleasure boat - In 1904
Frank Brinkley wrote in his Japan [And China]: Its History, Arts and
Literature that Edoites in May and June would go out in these boats at
low tide to party, picnic and gather sea shells. "These pleasure-seekers
launch themselves in the favourite vehicle of Tokyo picnics, the
yane-bune, — a kind of gondola, — and float seaward with the ebbing
tide, singing snatches of song the while, to the accompaniment of tinkling
samisen, or of that graceful game ken, so well devised to
display the charms of a pretty hand and arm. Such outings differ in one
important respect from the more orthodox picnics of Tōkyō folks, — the
visits to plum-blooms, cherry-blossoms, peony beds, chrysanthemum puppets,
iris ponds, and river-openings. They differ in the fact that there is no
display of fine apparel."
See also our entry on
The image to the left is from
the Lyon Collection. It shows a woman in a covered pleasure boat in winter.
It has yanebune in the title. Click on it to see more information.
Great beauty (719-56)
who was the love object, i.e., main squeeze, heart throb, honey pie, of the T'ang dynasty emperor Xuan Zong. Romantic
tales of this tragic love affair blame the collapse his empire on the
emperor's neglect of his duties. Similar to the misconception that Rome
burned while Nero fiddled here it is Xuan Zong's obsessive infatuation with Yang Gui-fei
which leads to disaster.
Prior to modern
historiography the general focus of historical events was placed on
individuals rather than the larger paradigms such as economics, etc.
concubine Yang Guifei almost brought him down with her, yet, she was
redeemed in popular memory because of her tragic end, and was even deified
in Japan as an avatar of the Bodhisattva Kannon. According to one tradition,
Xuanzong even came to Japan looking for her, and eventually found her at
Kumano, a place assimilated to the Daoist 'Island of the Immortals,' Penglai."
Quoted from: The Power of
Denial: Buddhism, Purity, and Gender, by Bernard Faure, published by
Princeton University Press, 2003, p. 204.
Murasaki Shikibu, the
author of "The Tale of Genji" was born in 978? at a time when it only made
sense to look at personalities as the movers and shakers. We know that she
was educated and must have been well versed in Chinese literature. At the
very beginning of "The Tale of Genji", Kiritsubo (The Paulownia
Pavilion), makes this eminently clear. The Japanese emperor falls in love
with and dotes on a minor court beauty.
"From this sad
spectacle the senior nobles and privy gentlemen [of the Japanese emperor's
court] could avert their eyes. Such things had led to disorder and ruin even
in China, they said, and as discontent spread through the realm, the example
of Yōkihi [Yang Gui-fei's Japanese name] came more and more to mind, with
many a painful consequence for the lady herself, yet she trusted in his
gracious and unexampled affection and remained at court.... His majesty must
have had a deep bond with her in past lives as well, for she gave him a
wonderfully handsome son [Genji]."
Quote from: The
Tale of Genji, by Murasaki Shikibu, translated by Royall Tyler,
published by Viking, 2001, vol. 1., p. 3.
In all of the versions
of the story of Yang Gui-fei the Chinese emperor's concubine has to die to
save the state. Whereas the analogy is not one to one Genji's mother dies
young and the emperor's grief is inconsolable. He neglects almost
everything, but his loss. Murasaki Shikibu's erudition is made clear in her
allusion to the Chinese poem, "A Song of Unending Sorrow", by
Bai Juyi's (772-846). In it Xuan Zong sends a Taoist priest to find the
soul of Yang Gui-fei. The priest returns with a message declaring that long
after the earth and the heavens cease to exist the lovers' grief will be
eternal. [Bai Juyi can also be spelled Po Chü-i and Bo Ju-yi.]
The story of Yang
Gui-fei would have been a favorite theme in the arts of the love-loving
Japanese based on Bai Juyi's poem alone, but the inclusion of this theme at
the beginning of "The Tale of Genji" must have cinched its place as a
The doctored and
cropped images to the left are from a print by Toyokuni I [top] and Utamaro.
Note that in the bottom one both the Chinese emperor and his lover are
playing on the same flute.
One other note: T'ang
dynasty and later Chinese renditions of Yang Gui-fei show a full-bodied,
size 16-18, Rubensesque woman. The Japanese images are generally much more
During the Ming
dynasty the artist and connoisseur Wên Chên-hêng created the earliest fully
extant guide for the "Calendar for the displaying of scrolls". It starts at
New Year's morning when he suggest the hanging of Sung dynasty paintings of
the Gods of Happiness or images of the Sages of old. "On the eighth day of
the fourth month, the birthday of Buddha, you shold display representations
of Buddha by Sung and Yüan artists, or Buddhist pictures woven in silk
dating from the Sung period." And so it goes from event to event until "the
eleventh moon [when] there should be paintings of snow landscapes, winter
plum trees, water lilies, Yang Kuei-fei indulging in wine, and suchlike
Source and quote from
one of my favorite books: Chinese Pictorial Art, by R. H. van Gulik,
Hacker Art Books, 1981, pp. 4 & 5.
Greengrocer - This term is
important because it plays an important part in both kabuki and puppet
theater. In one caae it is the story of Oshichi as told by Scholten Japanese
Art: "The role of Oshichi is based on the true story of Yaoya Oshichi, the
16 year old daughter of a vegetable-seller who in 1681 fell in love with a
young priest who she met when she went to his temple to escape a large fire
in Edo. In a misguided attempt to see the priest again, Oshichi set fire to
her own house, which spread and destroyed a large area of the city. She was
arrested and convicted of arson; her punishment was death by fire. Her story
became the basis for several kabuki plays."
To the left is a Natori Shunsen
of Nakamura Jakuemon as Oshichi in a puppet play. It dates from 1927.
Spear: According to
(vol. 1, p. 89, entry by Ogasawara Nobuo) "There are two types of Japanese
spears, identical in function: the hoko and the yari." The
distinction between the two was based on how the spearhead was attached to
the wooden shaft (vol. 7, p. 224, entry by Tomiki Kenji).
The yari came
into common use in the 14th century. The Mongols had used this type of spear
during their attempted invasions of Japan in the 13th century. "The yari
commonly has a double-edged blade or head ranging in size from ...12 to 29
[inches]..." generally. There are several variations on the design including
forked spearheads with two or more prongs.
The image to the left
is a detail from a book illustration by Yoshitoshi.
In A Book of Five Swords and a Scroll (2007, p. 52) by Stanford D.
Carman it says: "The Yari on the other hand were more in the style of
spears and mounted on poles somewhere between 15 and 18 feet in length. This
length was usually determined by how the Daimyo wanted his Ashigaru
(foot soldiers) to be armed, and his fighting strategies/tactics." Note that
ashigaru also used other weapons.
Yasakani no Magatama
The grand jewel or string of
jewels which are one of the three parts of the Imperial regalia, along with
the sacred sword and the mirror. In the KojikiI Amaterasu orders her
grandson to cross the Bridge of Heaven to go down to the earth and rule the
area of Izumo. She gives him the three sacred items which gave legitimacy to
the Imperial family.
Artist (1786? - 1868)
Author of Tesuki Washi
Shuho: Fine Handmade Papers of Japan
Yatagarasu (also yata no karasu)
"The mythical... Sun-Crow, had
formerly a shrine in its honour." Quote from: Shinto: The Way of the Gods
by W. G. Aston
Said to have been sent by
Amaterasu to guide the armies of the emperor Jimmu.
Henri Joly links it to the
3-legged crow of Chinese lore.
The first character of yatagarasu is
八 which normally
means 'eight.' Aston wrote in a footnote on p. 52: "Eight - in Japanese
yatsu. This word is here used as a numeral. But in many places in the old
Japanese literature it must be taken in what I regard as its primary sense
of 'many,' 'several,' as in the word yatagarasu - the many-handed crow -
which had really only three claws. In Corean the word yörö, which means
many, is, I think, the same root that we have in yöi, ten - words which are
probably identical with the Japanese yatsu. The Japanese word yorodzu,
myriad, belongs to the same group."
"Of the various birds
appearing in Japanese myth, the most familiar is probably the giant crow,
Yatagarasu 八咫烏, who guides the army of Kamu Yamato Iwarebiko 神日本磐余彦
(henceforth referred to by his more commonly used name, Jimmu 神武) from
Kumano 熊野. When Jimmu arrived at Kumano, a large bear appeared, and for that
reason all members of the party fainted and fell down. The deities of Kumano
had stood in their way, blocking their path. According to the Kojiki, when
Jimmu awoke there stood before him Takakuraji 高倉下 of Kumano, who then
relates the words told him in a dream by Takagi no Kami 高木神...
At this time again
Takagi no Kami commanded, giving these instructions: “O child of the
heavenly deities, do not proceed further into the interior than
The unruly deities are extremely numerous. From heaven we will now
dispatch a giant crow; this giant crow will lead the way. Follow
after it and continue your
journey.” As they proceeded, in accordance with these instructions,
following the giant crow, they arrived at the lower reaches of the
Yoshino 吉野 River."
Yoshitoshi of Jimmu
and the yatagarasu
at the Museum of
Fine Arts, Boston
A booth or stall. Now a food
cart. Sometimes called a yatai-mise (屋台店 or やたいみせ) which is generally
translated as 'stall' or 'stand'.
"Foods cooked on teppan
in everyday life are usually fast foods, e.g., konomiyaki, whole
cuttlefish on a skewer, dried fried noodles (yakisoba), meant to be
eaten while standing in front of the shop, or most likely, a mobile kiosk (yatai)."
(Quoted from: The Essence of Japanese Cuisine: An Essay on Food and Culture
by Michael Ashkenazi and Jeanne Jacob, p. 95)
"Tempura was a popular street
food already in the Edo period, cooked and served on bamboo skewers, and
sold from small mobile stalls (yatai)." (Ibid., p. 92)
The image to the left is
from a Toyokuni I print of a kabuki play scene. Click on it to go to page
devoted to it and read about the noodles sold at such stands.
Yatai can be
translated literally as
屋 'seller' plus 台
'stand'. 屋 can also mean roof and this is important. See our entry on
yatai on our Fu thru Gen page.
"The earliest recipe for the
modern version of tempura is found in Threading Together the Sages of
Verse (Kasen no kumi'ito), published in 1748: 'Tempura is any
fish covered with the flour used for udon and then fried in oil. However,
when making chrysanthemum leaf tempura as described earlier, or using
burdock, lotus root, Chinese yam [nagaimo], and other vegetables,
soak the vegetables in water and soy sauce and then daub them with the
flour. This is a good way to make snacks [sakana]. Things rolled in
kudzu flour and then fried are also quite good.' ¶ Within decades this type
of tempura became a popular fast food; it was sold in numerous stands (yatai)
in Edo by the 1770s." Quoted from: Food and Fantasy in Early Modern Japan
by Eric Rath, p. 105-6
The image shown above is a
trimmed version of
a photo posted at wikimedia
There is a good description
of the modern yatai in Japanese Landscapes: Where Land and Culture
Merge (p. 38 ff.): "Yatai (movable street stalls that sell
food and drink) are another expression of compactness. At shrine or temple
festivals, in public parks, on side streets near railway stations, in
amusement centers, on riversides, and in the alleys of densely populated
quarters, yatai are common elements of the landscape. From these
popular wooden restaurants-on- wheels, steaming-hot delicacies are served
with sake or beer. A yatai is a two- or four-wheeled handcart to
which have been added the basic facilities required for serving food and
drink. Handles for pulling it slide ingeniously into the body framework when
not in use. At the rear, storage compartments rise up to support a solid
roof. In these are kept dishes, bottles, food ingredients, sauces,
condiments, fuel, and other supplies. Chopsticks, skewers, knives, and
cooking utensils are available in a drawer at the front and between the
handle shafts. The table for customers is a waist-high wooden surface into
which are recessed either a hot plate or a copper-lined receptacle for soup
heated from beneath. The compact yatai stalls provide additional
functional space and are dear to the hearts of the Japanese, despite
changing food fashions and modern innovations."
Under the heading of
"Black-market Noodle-Vending" in Japanese Foodways, Past and Present
(p. 194) it says: "As the Americans imported sizeable amounts of lard and
flour, which Japanese authorities regulated less stringently than rice,
noodle soups became a food more easily to obtain than rice for most urban
Japanese. A notable increase in noodle soup sold at small yatai occurred as
a result of a swell in open-air food vending, despite a prohibition against
all such activity between July 1, 1947, and February 15, 1950, stipulated by
the Emergency Measures Ordinance for Eating and Drinking Establishments (inshoku
eigyō rinji kiseihō). Culinary scholar Okumura Ayao notes that the
Shina soba and gyōza dumplings sold at the yatai carts
became increasingly popular in the immediate postwar period because of their
perceived nutritional value in providing stamina."
In Amazing Japan!: Why
Japan is One of the World's Most Intriguing Countries! (pp. 49-50) there
is a section that says this is the first nation to have created fast foods.
"The success of the yatai at shrines led to their proliferation at other
locations where crowds gathered, including sumo wrestling matches and cherry
blossom viewing." Later "This extraordinary phenomenon [i.e., the growth of
Buddhist temples] resulted in an equally impressive increase in the number
of yatai in the country. The proliferation of courtesan districts
during the Tokugawa shogunate era (1603-1868), also contributed to the
number of yatai."
Yatai appear in quite a few Japanese prints. Off-hand we can think of
examples by Hiroshige and Kunisada. Below is one such example, by the
latter, from the Lyon Collection. A bijin, it would appear, is out for a
summer stroll at a fair set up right outside of a temple shrine. The blue
and white checkered pattern is a dead give-away. Click on the image to go to
the page devoted to this print.
A crest or mon of a
wheel made of eight hawk feathered arrows. This was the crest of the actors
named Nakamura Tomijūrō. The image to the left is the center panel from a
Toyokuni III triptych in the Lyon Collection. It shows Nakamura Tomijūrō II
as an onnagata carrying an umbrella with his identifying crest. Click
on the image to see the whole triptych.
"Western-style painting (yofuga),
an Edo-period artistic movement, refers to Japanese use of Western painting
techniques including perspective, realism, and tonal variation.
Western-style paintings might employ oil paints or use traditional Japanese
pigments. Hiraga Gennai (1728–79), a Western learning scholar, is credited
with starting this movement. He spent time in Nagasaki studying Dutch and
Western science, and at the same time learned Western painting techniques.
After moving to Edo, he introduced Western painting to his circle of
like-minded intellectuals. Of particular note among those introduced to
Western-style painting was Shiba Kokan (1738–1818) who expanded the study of
Western painting styles and techniques. His paintings were oils on silk and
included use of single-point perspective and some European themes." Quoted
from: Handbook to Life in Medieval and Early Modern Japan by William
E. Deal, p. 295.
Western style painting (or
Western painting itself): "In practice, yōga is a form of painting
created by using Western media, typically oil, on canvas. Broadly speaking,
the term refers to works created in Western media in Japan after the late
Edo Period as well as the entire tradition of Western painting. In the
strictest sense, yōga means oil painting executed in Japan after the
Meiji Period. Painting created using Western materials and/or techniques
from pre-Meiji Japan is called yōfūga (literally,
¶ Western painting techniques were first introduced to Japan along with
Christianity in the late sixteenth century and practised until the early
seventeenth, when the country entered its isolationist period. A second wave
of interest came with the expanding enthusiasm over Dutch studies,
particularly science, in the late eighteenth century. Scientific perspective
and modelling, both powerful tools for rendering the subject realistically,
captivated the imagination of pre-Meiji yōfūga
practitioners as well as traditional painteres; the fascination with realism
(shajitsu) continued to the late nineteenth century, among early
yōga artists such as Takahashi Yuichi, and well into the twentieth
century. The Meiji government even deemed the study of yōga a
utilitarian necessity in attaining the national goal of Westernisation."
Quoted from: Encyclopedia of Contemporary Japanese Culture, 578.
The magical arts -
The image to the left is from
the Lyon Collection. It shows the wizard Ryūōmaru (龍王丸) doing his thing.
Above is a detail from that print which shows the placement of his hands
which empower his invocations.
A ghost, demon,
monster, goblin or spectre.
The image to the
left of the bloody ghost is a detail from a print by Kuniyoshi and was sent
to us courtesy of E. - one of our favorite correspondents. Creepy isn't it.
In a larger detail you could see the disgusting sores on the scalp of the
ghost. Maybe later. By the way, in the full sized print the ghost appears to
float through the air just like the poltergeist in their eponymous movie.
represents Ichikawa Kodanji IV as a Ghost of Sakura Sogorō.
In Pandemonium and Parade:
Japanese Monsters and the Culture of Yokai the author, Michael Dylan
Foster, traces the history of yōkai beliefs. ",,,during the Edo period...
particularly from the 1660s through the 1780s, when yōkai made
name for themselves in both serious encyclopedic taxonomies and playful
illustrated catalogs. The second moment came during the Meiji (1868-1912),
especially in the 1880s, as yōkai underwent a radical reevaluation in
light of Western scientific knowledge. The third moment encompassed the
first decade of the twentieth century through the 1930s, when yokai were
refigured as nostalgic icons for a nation (and individuals) seeking a sense
of self in a rapidly modernizing world. And the fourth came in the 1970s and
1980s, as Japan asserted a new identity after its rapid recovery from the
devastation of World War II."
Foster also notes that the term
'yōkai' has not always been in general use: "Though yōkai is
presently the word of choice in contemporary discourse on the subject, other
terms are also invoked, such as bakemono, the more childish obake,
and the more academic-sounding kaii genshō. In late twentieth- and
early twenty-first-century Japan, however, yōkai remains the term
most commonly associated with the academic study of these 'things.'
Historically the popularity of the word is relatively new. Although it has
semantic roots in China and can be found in Japan as early as the
mid-Edo-period work of Toriyama Sekien... it did not develop into the
default technical term until the Meiji-period writings of Inoue Enryō... who
consciously invoked it to describe all manner of weird and mysterious
phenomena, naming his field of study yōkai-gaku, literally
'yōkai-ology' or 'monsterology.' Emblematic of the interplay between
academic and popular discourses, Enryō's technical use of the word propelled
yokai into common parlance, where it remains today. The conscious use of
yōkai by Enryō, and the word's rapid absorption into everyday speech,
also reflects the absence of other words flexible enough to encompass the
range of phenomena that would come to be considered under its matrix."
The Japanese Monster Survival Guide
A wonderful new book -
published by Kodansha in 2008 - by Matthew Alt and Hiroko Yoda. It is by far
the best book I know of in English that identifies the largest variety of
traditional Japanese monsters and gives a scholarly, but fun bit of
information about each of them. I would recommend that believers and
non-believers alike add this to their library. You can never be too careful,
Carmine red: "This was
a cheap carmine from Europe used in later prints."
Quote from: Japanese Woodblock Printing, by Rebecca Salter, University of Hawai'i
Press, 2001, p. 28.
Yō (洋) means
'Western', 'European' or 'foreign' and kō (紅) means 'crimson'.
When using the
kyōgō or keyblock prints for the cutting of the separate blocks used in
the final printing Hiroshi Yoshida wrote that he liked to use yōkō to
mark particular areas by drawing lines across the area to be printed.
Trousseau books given to a
daughter as part of her dowry by a powerful father. Often these were
versions, painted in earlier times or printed in later times, The
Tale of Genji. "The Genji paintings were deemed suitable for
princesses and daughters of powerful families as everyday furnishings, as
models for waka composition, and perhaps to initiate male-female
relationships upon marriage." Quoted from: Envisioning The Tale of Genji:
Media, Gender, and Cultural Production, edited by Haruo Shirane, p. 39.
Soba made with mugwort
A necklace or diadem, a
piece of jewelry decorated with gems; or, "moulded decoration hanging from
the edges of a Buddhist canopy".
The photo of the armor to
the left was found at Pinterest. It is said to represent the armor of "Ii
Naomasa (1561-1602), one of the four guardian warlords of Tokugawa Ieyasu...
The units Naomasa commanded on the battlefield were notable for being
outfitted almost completely in blood-red armour for psychological impact, as
such, his unit became known as the "Red Devils" " according to Laura Nickels
comment at that site. She says that it was a gift to Hakone Castle from the
"During the eleventh and
twelfth centuries, new religious, economic, and artistic conditions changed
image-making, and the traditional reverence of wood was was largely set
aside by sculptors working in the capital in workshops serving an
aristocratic clientele. Led by the school of Kōsho and Jōchō, these
sculptors employed a technique more closely resembling joinery than carving.
This joined woodblock technique yosegi zukuri, had evolved gradually
in response to increasing production costs and supply demands. Buddhist
sculptors had begun experimenting with various procedures to prevent
cracking and to lighten the weight of the statue as early as the ninth
century. Butsuzō were sometimes cut out from the back or bottom and
the resulting hole covered with a separate piece of wood, a technique called
uchiguri. Another method called warihagi, involved splitting
the wooden log vertically along the grain, hollowing it out, and rejoining
it. The statue of Tarōten... in Chōanji is one of the rare shinzō created in
this manner. The yosegi zukuri technique offered still further
advantages: it enabled sculptors to make large statues using relatively
small blocks of wood. Moreover, the interlocking components of the finished
work were not as susceptible to cracking due to changing humidity as were
those made in the single woodblock method. It also facilitated the
organization of a workshop in which each artisan performed an assigned task
leaving final assembly and detail work to the master sculptor. Such
assembly-line techniques contributed to a mass-produced image of which the
thousand statues of Kannon carved for Sanjūsangendō in 1164 are typical."
To the left is an 1880
photograph of row upon row of the statuaries found at Sanjūsangendō found in
Kyoto. This photo was posted at commons.wikimedia.
Until modern times, i.e., since
the Meiji Restoration in 1868, adoption in Japan was unlike anything we know
of in Western terms. Practiced for more than 1,300 years it may have begun
as a way of leaving a 'family' relative to honor the spirits of the deceased
ancestors. At one point it was a vehicle for increasing family wealth among
members of the court. Once a young man reached 15, the age of majority, the
father could apply for a stipend to be paid in rice or land. If the father
had a natural born son who was still a minor he could speed the process up
by adopting another, but older young man and make him his son. That young
man, in turn, could adopt the younger brother and when he reached 15 apply
for a another stipend.
In fact, there were many
different types of adoption and many different reasons for them. For
example, if a family was fond of a daughter and wanted to keep her in the
household they would adopt a son who would then marry her. As a result the
daughter might have more power within the family and more of the its wealth
would stay in the home. Or, if a family had a lot of children they might
allow one of the childless friends to adopt one of theirs. Not only did
adoption mean a continuation of a family line, but it also could provide
positive political and economic links. There was another consequence of
adoption because of a common practice by Edo times: Wealth was only passed
on to the eldest son and was not divided among the remaining relatives.
However, it is the issue of
adoption when it comes to craftsmen and artists that really matters here.
Anyone who has studied ukiyo printmakers and painters will have noticed how
many of these were adopted by their teachers/masters
or others. Toyokuni II was
adopted by Toyokuni I. He was also married to his daughter. Hokusai,
Yoshitoshi and Hiroshi Yoshida were all adopted. This custom was also true
when it came to ceramicists, sword makers, kabuki actors, etc. Ichikawa Danjūrō II adopted Danjūrō III. Danjūrō IV was said to have been the bastard
son of Danjūrō II and had been adopted by another kabuki star. Danjūrō VI
was adopted as were Danjūrō VII and Danjūrō IX.
Sources: 1) Mock Joya's
Things Japanese; 2) Things Japanese: Being Notes on Various Subjects
Connected with Japan by Basil Hall Chamberlain; 3) Kodansha
Encyclopedia of Japan; 4) New Kabuki Encyclopedia: A Revised
Adaptation of Kabuki Jiten by Samuel L. Leiter
If adoption was necessary to
keep a family line alive it was best to adopt a blood relative, but if that
wasn't possible than someone outside of the family could be brought in. "Why
is this preferable to the death of the household? In short, because of the
ancestors. The ancestors are normally an integral part of the daily life.
Most household in Jōnai have an ancestral altar (butsudan)
displayed prominently in one room of the house. On the alter [sic] one finds
daily food offerings to the ancestors (rice, fruit, candies, etc.) and
posthumous name tablets (ihai)
that index the deceased members of the household. In all households in the
hamlet, daily offerings are made and people pray at the altar." (Quoted
from: Taming Oblivion: Aging Bodies and the Fear of Senility in Japan
by John W. Traphagan, p. 57)
unlisted in Roberts --- of Kuniyoshi who created the inset in one of the
prints from the series "Sixty Odd Provinces of Japan - Dramatic
Minamoto Yoshitsune (1159-1189)
was the son of Minamoto no Yoshitomo and Tokiwa Gozen and younger brother of
Yoritomo by a different mother. Known as Ushiwakamaru (牛若丸 or うしわかまる) as a
child. He "...had been spared by Taira no Kiyomori after the Heiji war
(1159) on condition that he should become a priest and be educated in the
temple of Kurama... But the young man escaped and marched against the Taira,
whom he destroyed in the Battle of Dan-no-ura... According to a popular
tradition he contributed his success to a
whom he met one day in the shape of a strange man or yamabushi in the
Bishop's valley, and who taught him how to handle arms."
Quoted by: "The Tengu",
by Dr. M. W. de Visser, published in the Transactions of the Asiatic Society
of Japan, 1908, p. 48
Famous Edo red light
To the left is a Kunisada
print, 'The Yoshiwara at Night' from ca. 1830. We found it at Pinterest.
There is no better example of
the Japanese homophonous penchant for ratcheting up the meaning of a word or
term than that of the name of the Yoshiwara. In 1617 the Tokugawa shogunate
granted a license to Shōji Jin'emon (1576-1644: 庄司甚右衛門 or しょうじ.じんえもん) for
the establishment of specialized district in Edo. It had taken the
government almost 6 years before it approved the original petition submitted
by Jin'emon, but when they did they specified the location and the ground
rules. "...the place was one vast swamp overrun with weeds and rushes, so
Shōji Jin'emon set about clearing the Fukiya-machi, reclaiming and filling
in the ground, and building an enclosure thereon. Owing to the number of
rushes which had grown thereabout the place was re-named Yoshi-wara (葭原 =
Rush-moor) but this was afterwards changed to Yoshi-wara ( 吉原 = Moor of Good
luck) in order to give the locality an auspicious name." Filling in and
leveling the ground, laying out the streets and building construction took
ten years to complete. (Source and quote from: Yoshiwara: The Nightless City, by J. E. De Becker, Frederick
Publications, pp. 3-7.) ¶ Along with the license came a
set of rules set down by the governor of the district: 1) Brothel-keeping
was restricted to this particular location and "...in future no request for
the attendance of a courtesan at a place outside the limits of the enclosure
shall be complied with."; 2) "No guest shall remain in a brothel for more
than twenty-four hours."; 3) "Prostitutes are forbidden to wear clothes with
gold and silver embroidery on them; they are to wear ordinary dyed stuffs.";
4) Brothels were told not to build ostentatiously and residents of the
districts were to function like the citizens of other districts. For
example, Yoshiwara firemen were subject to the same rules of firemen
elsewhere in the city; 5) Each visitor to a brothel is to be questioned and
scrutinized. "...in case any suspicious individual appears..." the governors
office must be notified. There was to be no exceptions whether the visitor
is a "gentleman or a commoner..."; "The above instructions are to be
strictly observed." (Ibid., pp. 5-6)
Above is an early photograph of prostitutes in
the Yoshiwara on display behind
the harimise, i.e., wooden lattice screen.
The original or 'Old Yoshiwara'
was ordered to move to a new location in 1657 after a major fire and hence
was renamed the 'Shin' or 'New Yoshiwara'. This is the pleasure quarter we
know so well from the prints of the ukiyo. [Note that large urban fires have
not been rare in historical Japan. However, before the modern age this was a
threat common to all large cities: London burned down in 1666.] ¶ The Yoshiwara should not be
thought of strictly as a place where men went for sex. It had a remarkably
subtle and profound effect on Japanese culture. "It would be a mistake to
think of the Yoshiwara as a simple collection of brothels; rather, it was a
highly stratified and complex world in itself that provided the means for a
very sophisticated level of entertainment. New genres of music, art and
literature developed around it... ¶ Many scholars have pointed out
that... quarters like the Yoshiwara provided the one institutionalized
escape from social repression and control. That is the social rank of
warrior, farmer, artisan and merchant (shi-nō-kō-shō), which dictated how a
person lived, married, worked, and dressed, were of secondary importance to
the main key for enjoying oneself in Yoshiwara - namely money." (Quoted from: 'Yoshiwara',
of Japan, vol. 8, pp. 349-50. This entry was written by Liza
There is an account called The Yoshiwara From Within ostensibly
written by a Japanese native in the 19th century. It has been reprinted at
least once and is filled with fascinating details. In one editorial moment
the author compares the overall nature of prostitutes in the West to those
of Japan: "...though it is probably true that fallen women of Japan are, as
a class, less vicious than their representatives in Western lands - less
drunken, less foul-mouthed. On the other hand, a Japanese proverb says that
a truthful courtesan is as great a miracle as a square egg." ¶ In 1874 the
government ordered weekly medical inspections in imitation of European
practices. To fund this and other administrative practices plus policing the
red light districts and their inhabitants were heavily taxed. ¶ The author
notes that in an odd book published in Japanese, English and Chinese, Pictorial Description of the Famous Places in Tokyo, that in a list of
the most prominent citizens only lists "...all of them without exception
Glittering World of the Japanese Courtesan
by Cecilia Segawa Seigle
Four-cornered scoop fishing net
A mon or
crest which includes variations of four boxes grouped together. However,
unlike most other mons I haven't a clue about it significance other
than decorative and distinctive.
crests are ready tools for scholars. Timothy Clark noted this in describing
the background to a triptych by Utamaro: "The crest of four squares...inside
a circle on the steaming boxes [seirō - 蒸籠 or せいろ] is that of the
cake shop of Takamura Ise (Yorozuya Ihei) located in Edo-chō 2-chōme in
Yoshiwara. The type of cakes known as monaka no tsuki [最中の月 or
もなかのつき] from this store were famous."
Quote from: The
Passionate Art of Kitagawa Utamaro, published by the British Museum
Press, London, 1995, text volume, p. 153
Name of the 13th c. Mongol
rulers of China
Bottle gourd or moonflower -
also the name of one of the chapters in the Tale of Genji.
To the left is a Yoshitoshi
print which we found at Pinterest. Above is a bottle gourd from botanic.jp.
A bundle of silk
floss: This was the personal crest or mon used by several actors performing
under the name
The detail from a
Bunchō print to the left (bottom) shows the crest prominently displayed on
the robe of
II from ca. 1770. This detail is shown courtesy of
the best site of its kind on the Internet. I urge that you visit it - long
This motif can also
be referred to as simply wata (綿 or わた).
as a bath garment.
A light summer garment
made of cotton often used for casual attire or as a bathrobe. Most
frequently decorated with designs dyed in indigo blues. "Yukata came
from yukatabira (bathing katabira) to distinguish it from
katabira or linen dress for ordinary summer wear. Originally
yukatabira, as its name indicates, was worn after taking a bath, for
drying up the body. Thus it took the role of bath towels at first. They used
to put on one yukata upon coming out of the bath tub, and changed it
for another until the body was thoroughly dried. Thus it was called
minugui or body wiper."
Source: Mock Joya's Things Japanese, p.
(浴衣びら or an alternative 湯帷子 ゆかたびら); katabira (帷子 or かたびら); minugui
The image to the
left is by Goyo.
"Although for the older
generation the yukata is still considered to be little more than a bathrobe,
for the younger generation the yukata is an “one-piece” easy-to-wear summer
kimono for going to festivals, fireworks, and parties with friends.
Nevertheless, as can be seen in Ukiyo-e prints, even in the Edo period the
yukata was worn not a only as bath-wear or sleepwear, but also as
fashionable summer dress, the latter made of more elaborate patterns and dye
techniques—to the extent that the fashionable yukata were often designated
by their dye techniques (momen-shibori, momen-komon, or chūgata), rather
than being simply dubbed a yukata. When exactly the yukata lost its status
of fashionable summer garment is unclear, but is likely related to various
factors such as the end of the sumptuary laws forbidding commoners to wear
silk, coupled with the kimono dying out as everyday wear, and the yukata
then becoming only regularly worn for bed or bath." This is part of the
abstract to a paper by Karen Mack entitled: "The History of Yukata Fashion:
Part I Edo Period" (浴衣の着こなし史 1－江戸時代).
This yakata was found at
Pinterest, but it originally
comes from our friends at
"The colorful summer robe of
today, called yukata, was once a simple asa-hemp robe worn for bathing.
Yukata and the word itself derives from the yukatabira [湯帷子]. The “yu” in
yukatabira means hot-water and “katabira” means a thin plain unlined robe.
In the Heian period (794-1185), the katabira was made of asa-hemp or
raw-silk and worn next to the skin as the innermost layer of clothing,
basically underwear. Baths were not taken nude, rather the katabira was worn
while in the sauna-style bath..." (Ibid., p. 101)
Mack continues: "In the Edo
period (1600-1868), katabira came to refer to unlined summer robes made of
asa-hemp or raw silk, in distinction to unlined robes, called hitoe, made of
silk or cotton, and unlined informal robes called yukata (Nakae 1987:
121,411-412). During this period the yukata likewise developed a distinct
form and function from the original yukatabira undergarment, to the extent
that it is even arguable how much the two are actually related. The literal
meaning of yukata is “bathing robe,” but already in the Edo period the
yukata developed beyond a simple bathrobe to become a fashionable informal
garment of summer." (Ibid., p. 102)
Yuki is the Japanese word for snow.
There is an interesting passage in Snow Country Tales: Life in the Other Japan by Suzuki Bokushi
(translated by Jeffrey Hunter with Rose Lesser, published by Weatherhill,
1986). Bokushi (1770-1842: 鈴木牧之 or すずき.ぼくし) lived in Echigo, modern Niigata
Prefecture, "snow country". He wrote a wonderful comparison of his native
region which was buried in snow every winter with that of Edo, modern day
Tokyo. In the section entitled "The First Snow" he wrote: "The people of
friendlier climates take pleasure in the snow. In Edo, where some years it
doesn't snow at all, the first snow is regarded as especially delightful.
People set out in little boats, accompanied by geisha, to watch the snow;
important guests are invited to tea ceremonies held in the snow; the
brothels use the snow as an excuse to encourage their patrons to spend the
night; and the restaurants and bars regard snow as an omen of many
customers. It is difficult to count the many entertainments in the snow that
have been devised. But the great degree to which the snow is celebrated in
Edo is a mark of that city's great plenty. The people of the snow country
can't help but be envious when they see and hear these things. The
difference between the first snow in Edo and our first snow is the
difference between pleasure and pain, clouds and mud." (p. 10)
We were very struck by the passage quoted above. But it wasn't just us who
liked it. John W. Dower did too. He quoted it in his The Elements of Japanese Design,
but he didn't cite his source. Not only that, but it was quite by accident
and fortuitous that we found this out at the same time we were reading
Snow Country Tales: Life in the Other Japan.
Typical and traditional
Japanese snowman. In fact, Jim Breen's web site gives the kanji translation
as simply 'snowman'. Lafcadio Hearn tells us that "The rules for making a
Yuki-Daruma are ancient and simple." First a snowball 3 to 4' in diameter.
Place a smaller one of about 2' on top of that. Pack in snow around the base
of each ball, add coal for the eyes, nose, etc., and voila! Later, unlike
the image by Kunisada to the left, hollow out an area for the navel "...and
still a lighted candle inside. The warmth of the candle gradually enlarges
Source and quotes: The
Writings of Lafcadio Hearn, Houghton Mifflin Company, 1922, 381. (There
is also a 1901 edition.)
Make sure you see our entry
on Daruma too for more information.
The Old Taoist: The Life,
Art and Poetry of Kodôjin (1865-1944) by Stephen Addiss, Jonathan Chaves
and J. Thomas Rimer (Columbia University Press, 2001, 45) quotes a haiku on
a painting of a snow daruma. It notes that the word jakemetsu (寂滅 or
じゃくめつ) which is used here can refer to 'nirvana' or 'fading away'. This, of
course, is the related to the innevitble nature of a melting snowman.
Lafcadio Hearn in his Buddhism - Gleanings in Buddha-Fields; Studies of Hand and Soul in the Far
East: Studies of Hand and Soul in the Far East (reprinted by Read Books,
2006, p. 169 - originally published in 1927) quotes a Japanese folk song:
"Shadow and shape alike melt and flow back to nothing / He who knows this
truth is the Daruma of snow."
Note that there are also
references to a snow Buddhas or yukibotoke (雪仏 or ゆきぼとけ). One poem
refers to the melting of a snow Daruma into a mud Buddha.
As the ancien regime
was coming to an end there was a great swell of anti-Buddhist feeling:
"Emperor Kōmei (...r. 1847-1866) was the last Japanese emperor to be buried
with Buddhist funerary rites... [This] proved to be the last public display
of Buddhism for several years. By Kōmei's third memorial service (in 1868),
which took place three months after the Meiji Emperor assumed the throne,
Imperial rites and ceremonies were well on their way to becoming completely
divested of any Buddhist character. The third memorial service itself
was performed in accordance with a newly devised Shinto ceremony."
Quoted from: Of Heretics and
Martyrs in Meiji Japan: Buddhism and Its Persecution, by James Edward Ketelaar, Princeton University Press, 1990, p. 44.
In the fifth month of 1872
(Meiji 5) Order number 133 was issued by the Ministry of State. The
intention was to diminish the influence of Buddhism within the culture and
the state and to segregate what remained. "The policy carried out in the
early years of the Meiji era and commonly known as the 'separation of Shinto
and Buddhism' (shimbutsu bunri [神仏分離 or しんぶつぶんり]) was expanded by
order number 133 to include the separation of Buddhism from the state
itself. There is, in other words - in addition to the particular factional,
political motivations of Nativist and Confucian ideologues to eliminate
Buddhism as a political force - the beginnings of the notion, which would
gain greater currency in the mid-Meiji era, that persons or institutions
predominantly concerned with 'religion' were generally ineffective
operatives within the political arena. (Ibid., p. 6)
"The renewed importance of
the Shintō priesthood and the insistence on insistence on separating Shintō
from Buddhism were made more explcit four days later when Shintō priests who
served concomitantly as Buddhist priests were ordered to yield their
Buddhist ranks and positions, give up their Buddhist robes, and let their
hair grow out. [¶] For more than a thousand years, most Japanese had
believed simultaneously in both Shintō and Buddhism despite the inherent
contradictions between the two religions."
Quoted from: Emperor of
Japan: Meiji and His World, 1852-1912, by Donald Keene, Columbia
University Press, 2002, p. 137.
That information above is what
makes this image by Kiyochika (ca. 1895) that much more interesting.
From a series entitled "100 Victories, 100 Laughs" in which the Chinese
soldiers are constantly mocked for their superstitions and ineptitude. Here
the Chinese are apoplectic before the militarized yuki-Daruma which instead
of symbolizing a friendly and benign Buddhist deity has been transformed
into a stern and fearsome Japanese infantryman complete with soldier's cap.
Perhaps no Japanese image was out of line when it came to poking fun at the
enemy. (For another example by Kiyochika see our entry on
Literally a snow
viewing lantern. It is said that the 'snow viewing' part has more to do with
the beauty created by the newly fallen snow as it piles up on top than it
does for the way the lantern illuminates its surroundings.
dōrō is only one type of stone lantern or ishi dōrō (石灯籠 or いし.どうろう). Mock
Joya states that there are 200 varieties of stone lanterns.
Despite what you
might read at some sources that claim to be the definitive answer this type
of stone lantern can have either three or four stone legs.
The image to the
left is a detail from a print by Hasui from 1938.
The snow circle or
"Although the snowflake was not one of the dominant motifs among Japanese
crests, the stylized 'snow ring' enclosure... became a popular and elegant
convention. Apart from its obvious beauty, snow was also regarded as an
auspicious sign of a bountiful year to come - possibly because winter snows
meant spring rivers and fertilization of the soil. In early Japanese court
society, the year's first snowfall became the occasion both for festive
snow-viewing parties and for official meeting to decide appointments for the
coming year." (Quote from: The Elements of Japanese Design, by
John W. Dower, p. 42)
This motif also appears as a decorative pattern or occasionally as a title
The image to the left below is a similarly shaped
cartouche from an inset on a Kuniyoshi Tokaido road series. The image above
is the title cartouche from a Kunisada II.
Bow: "Uniquely Japanese
asymmetrical bow, about 2 m long, made of glued bamboo blades held together
by rings that are also made of bamboo. This type of bow was created for
horsemen, and the handle was about one-third of the way up from the base.
Considered sacred, it is said to be able to ward off evil influences when
its silk cord is vibrated... It is still used in traditional Japanese
archery (kyūdō) and for concentration exercises in Zen practice."
Quoted from: Japan Encyclopedia by Louis Frédéric, p. 1067.
Bow and arrow.
The image on the left in the center is a detail from a Kuniyoshi Suikoden
print. Above is a close-up showing the descent of a flying goose which has
just been struck through. On the bottom is an enlarged detail of the quiver
represents Shōrikō Kaei. "The manner in which Kaei holds his bow is unusual:
the string of the bow is depicted on the left side of his left arm which
would make it extremely difficult to shoot an arrow with the right hand."
(Quote from: Of
Brigands and Bravery: Kuniyoshi's Heroes of the Suikoden, by Inge
Klompmakers, Hotei, Leiden, 1998, p. 86)
Shortly after I posted
the information shown immediately above I received an e-mail from a fellow I
know to be an adept at or expert in quite a few areas including ukiyo-e,
Kuniyoshi, etc. What I didn't know is that he is also extremely
knowledgeable about archery. He said that
Klompmakers statement is incorrect: "Anybody who has used a reasonably
powerful bow knows that after the release of the arrow the bow tends to whip
round into the position shown. Most archers will wear a leather wristguard
on their arm because the impact can sting
quite a bit." I accepted his interpretation.
June 15th, 2006, I received another e-mail from an expert in Portugal:
archery, when releasing the string... the bow rotates almost 360 degrees, so
the string travels from the right side of the bow arm until almost or even
touching the arm on the left side. the bow performs an almost perfect circle
around itself. This is called 'Yugaeri' [弓返り or ゆがえり]. A perfect shot
has a perfect yugaeri, so in the image, the string being on the left
side of the bow arm, just means that it was a flawless shot.
The stance he is [in] is called 'zanshin' [残心 or ざんしん], where the
archer looks at the target and contemplates his achievement, while keeping
Now this is
dynamite information and I want to thank Carlos Freitas, President of the
Portuguese National Archery Federation for it.
In defense of
Klompmakers it seems to me that ignorance of the fine points of Japanese
archery would make this kind of mistake reasonable.
The Kuniyoshi image
to the left was sent
to us by our great contributor E. Thanks E!
One possible translation of the
characters could be 'faint' and 'spirit' or 'soul.'
Hiroko Yoda and Matt Alt in
their Yokai Attack define yūrei as "A spirit that has, for whatever
reason, Not entered the after-life. Essentially, a ghost."
Mary Picone wrote in 1991: "Ce
n'est qu'avant la dernière guerre que les ethnographes japonais ont essayé
de distinguer, parmi les manifestation surnaturelles autochtones, les
revenants humains (yūrei, 'esprits obscurs' ou indistincts) et les
"...blessed with many seeds, represents the wish for numerous progeny and
the attainment of sexual maturity by a woman." Along with the peach and the
Buddha's hand, a type of inedible citron, they formed what the Chinese
believed were the Three Abundances. (Quote from:
Symbols of Japan by
Merrily Baird, p. 65)
comes from the 1817 edition of the Kaishi garden which was first published
in Japan in 1748 "...as the first rendering of the Chinese 'mustard seed
garden' ". This image was
generously contributed to our site by E. Thanks E!
Alfred Koehn quoted a Chinese expression: "The Pomegranate opens: A hundred
Stage works with a
modernized Western flair. Literally means "cropped-hair piece."
散切り is an alternative form.
It means close cropped hair, crewcut.
In 1873 the playwright Mokuami "...wrote a
detective-murder story in which a modern journalist is the hero. This was
the first long play in which Meiji-period life was squarely placed on stage,
without apology or parody, and it is usually considered to be the first
cropped-hair play (zangiri mono).... The term 'cropped-hair play' came into
use to identify plays about contemporary life because, in 1871, a government
regulation had advised citizens to cut their hair short in the Western
manner, wear uniforms or informal clothing, and abandon wearing swords. The
Meiji emperor cut off his topknot in 1873, thereby setting a seal of
approval on the new hairstyle."
Quoted from: Kabuki Plays
on Stage: Restoration and Reform, 1872-1905, by James R. Brandon and
Samuel L. Leiter, University of Hawaii Press, 2003, p. 18.
Brian Powell in his book Japan's Modern Theatre: A Century of Change and Continuity (published by
Routledge, 2002, p. 8) noted what a short lived genre this was.
"Superficially the novelties of early Meiji Japan - brick building, the
telegraph, etc. - were very evident in these plays, but, not surprisingly as
you do not have to change your ideology to operate a telegraph machine,
interpersonal relations between characters and the motivations for their
actions remained firmly rooted in pre-Meiji Japan. It is conventional to
describe zangiri-mono as a genre which quickly died out, but from
time to time throughout the past century kabuki has been performing
plays set in post-Meiji Japan."
Samuel L. Leiter says that
zangiri-mono "...had run its course by 1882." (Historical
Dictionary of Japanese Traditional Theatre, published by Rowman &
Littlefield, 2006, p. 444)
Cold served soba
This photo was taken by
Jetalone in Tokyo and placed
in the public domain at http://commons.wikimedia.org/.
is the Japanese words for sieve or strainer. Hepburn uses the term
'colander' which, of course, is what it is. It can also mean a person who
can drink a lot without getting drunk. Or, I guess you could say, a person
who drinks like a sieve.
In Japan (by Chris
Taylor, Nicko Goncharoff, Mason Florence, published by Lonely Planet, 1997,
p. 136) the authors state: "By far the most popular type of cold noodles is
zaru soba, which is served with bits of seaweed (nori) on top.
If you order these noodles you'll receive a small plate of wasabi and sliced
scallions - put these into the cup of broth and eat the noodles by dipping
them in this mixture. At the end of your meal, the waiter will give you some
hot broth to mix with the leftover sauce which you drink like a kind of
Blind minstrel priests -
"They are traditionally associated with the goddess Benzaiten 弁財天 and the
bodhisattva Myōon 妙音菩薩." Quoted from footnote 43 of R. Keller Kimbrough's
translation of The Tale of the Fuji Cave.
Zendama is translated in
some dictionaries as 'good guy' and akudama as bad guys or villains.
One source refers to them as 'good souls' and 'bad souls' "...drawn as
figures whose heads consist solely of characters for good and evil."
from the 1954 edition gives 善玉悪玉 as "sheep and goats; good and bad.
The image to the left is a
detail from a triptych by Chōki shows these genii or spirits about to fight.
The image above is by Yoshitoshi and shows a woman set upon by her lecherous
father-in-law, or so we believe.
"copyright." One of the great joys of working on this site is finding new
material to research. Such it is with the term zōhan which I hadn't
recalled ever seeing before reading an entry in a recently published Roger
Keyes book I just purchased: Ehon: The Artist and the Book in Japan
published by the New York Public Library and the University of Washington
Press, 2006, p. 80. But copyright might not be exactly right. In fact, it
may mean more the ownership of the woodblock from which an image or text was
published. 'Copyright' may be more a Western concept in this case although
the similarities are clear. Remember, the use of this term might be
important when printed in a book or on a sheet because blocks were often
sold off by one publisher to another for later editions. Business is
business. The publisher owned the blocks and not the artist.
In my stumblings I
also ran across another zōhan made up of two different kanji
characters: 像板. These translate as 'image block'. Perhaps these two
zōhans were interchangeable. Perhaps not. Keyes would know.
Sandals - Hepburn in 1873 defined zōri
as straw sandals. The two kanji characters in isolation mean 草 grass and 履
The photo shown above was
posted at commons.wikimedia.
It was originally taken by
is known as a zōri
For dress the Japanese wore
zōri... Quoted from: The Cambridge History of Japan: Early Modern Japan
by John Whitney Hall, p. 691.
Historically there were penalties for wearing someone else's zōri
It should come as no
surprise that local production of zōri as a 'by-employment' was big
business in Japan. "...in 1872, Mizonokuchi alone produced 70,000 pairs of
as reported by Neil L. Waters in his Japan's Local Pragmatists: The
Transition from Bakumatsu to Meiji in the Kawasaki Region, pp. 76-77.
and Devos noted in their Heritage of Endurance: Family Patterns and
Delinquency Formation in Urban Japan (p. 14) that the production of
suffered at the beginning of the Meiji Restoration at the expense of the
wearing of Western styled shoes. This meant not only an increase the number
of slaughterhouses for the growth of the leather industry, but also an
increase in the eating of meat which was generally forbidden previously
because of Buddhist precepts.
In 1907 Clive Holland in his
Old and New Japan wrote on pages 263-4 that "....in a wonderful and
beautiful cavern at Kaka-ura.... many, many pairs of tiny zori
(straw sandals), which the pious and the pitiful have brought and laid there
for the use of the children's ghosts, so that they shall not cut their
little feet on the rocks or bruise them on the stones. But, strange to say,
all the footprints are of naked feet. Perhaps the Oni (demons), who torment
them and destroy their towers, may not permit the little ones to use the
lovingly offered gifts."
in his Legend in Japanese Art (p. 36) says that "Small Zori
(straw sandals) are hung in front of doors to prevent children from catching
infantile diseases." Joly also says that a zōri
placed on the bottom of an inverted brass basin will help prevent
In the kabuki play
Kagamiyama (加賀見山 or カガみやま) there is a famous scene involving the
ultimate insult when the villainess strikes an innocent rival with a sandal.
The sandal beating scene is referred to as the zōriuchi
(草履打 or ぞうりうち). This act is not just a Japanese phenomenon. It is striking
how similar this is to the ultimate insult in the Arab world. For example,
when Saddam Hussein's statue was toppled in Baghdad people were seen hitting
it with their shoes. And then there is that famous episode where President
Bush was addressing a group of reporters in a Baghdad press conference and
one of the men in the audience threw his shoes at the president. That man
was imprisoned for this act, but was cheered by many in the streets for his
publication (p. 8) by the Victoria and Albert Museum gives a full and
informative description of the zōri.
"For ordinary use, such as leisurely walking on hard, dry ground, the zōri
is employed. This is a sandal of fine rice-straw matting and normally has no
separate sole. But varieties of it, made of woven rushes of various kinds or
of bamboo-sheath, are commonly soled with coiled hemp-rope (asaura-zōri)
, with wistaria-stems (fujiura-zōri),
or with wood in lateral sections (zōri-geta
or itatsuke- zōri).
A superior variety, known as setta, has a raw-hide sole with iron
heel-piece. ¶ The zōri
is kept on by means of two thick soft cords (hanao) of twisted cotton
or paper, covered with leather or cloth, issuing from each side near the
heel and uniting with a short, thinner piece which passes between, and is
gripped by, the first and second toes. Rush zori with very thick tapering
cords of straw-rope covered with white paper or cotton are known as fuku-zōri.
In modern times the hanao do not come so far back as in former days ;
the sandal itself is also a little shorter, instead of being slightly
longer, than the foot..."
Samuel L. Leiter in his The Art of Kabuki: Five Famous Plays gives a description of the fukuzōri
worn by actors in Sugawara's Secrets of Calligraphy: "On their
feet are fukuzōri
sandals which have three- layered soles on the forepart and a four-
layered heel section."
is 福草履 or ふくぞうり.
tori is a servant in charge of the sandals. "By the sixteenth century,
the varieties of attendant serving a samurai 's needs had expanded
impressively. They included the zori tori (sandal bearer), a man
whose main purpose in life was to carry spare footwear for the samurai,
although given the short lifespan of most contemporary footwear, this was
not necessarily a trivial job. The zori tori took his place amongst
several general assistants, but he would not have enjoyed the prestige of
another retinue member, the mochiyari gumi (spear bearer). This man
not only carried the samurai's pole-arm, but also acted in a bodyguard
capacity when necessary." Quoted from: Fighting Techniques of the
Oriental World: Equiptment, Combat Skills, and Tactics, p. 67.
Stephen Turnbull says in Warriors of Medieval Japan (p. 104) "Quite early in his career the great
Toyotomi Hideyoshi, who had proved his worth as a fighting ashigaru, was
promoted to the position of Oda Nobunaga's sandal bearer, and endeared
himself to the latter by warming his master's sandals inside his shirt in
'Attendant deities'. Warrior-type guardians, often carrying bows and arrows.
As protector of [Shinto] shrine gates they are known as kado-mori-no-kami.
They are associated with dosojin, protector of crossroads and other boundary
areas." (Quote from: A
Popular Dictionary of Shinto, NTC Publishing Group, 1997, p. 229)
"At the entrances
of many Shinto shrines and Buddhist temples there are statues of huge gate
guards. These wood sculptures are housed in gate buildings which are often
magnificent and towering structures.
The guard gate of a
Shinto shrine is called Zuishin-mon.
the ancient Court guards who were detailed to guard the Emperor, princes and
high officials. So the guard figures at the shrine are made after
those ancient officials and dressed in Court costume, carrying swords, bows
and arrow-holders. They always come in pairs, one standing at each side of
the entranceway, to protect the shrine from evil and wrong-doers." (Quote from:
Mock Joya's Things Japanese,
To the left is a
detail from a print by Kuniyoshi.
"On either side of the great gateway is a shrine
compartment, inclosed by heavy wooden gratings on two side; and in these
compartments are two grim figures in complete armor, with bows in their
hands and quivers of arrows upon their backs - the Zuijin, or ghostly
retainers of the gods, and guardians of the gate. Before nearly all the
Shintō temples of Izumo, except Kitzuki, these Zuijin keep grim watch. They
are probably of Buddhist origin; but they have acquired Shintō history and
Shintō names. Originally, I am told, there was but one Zujin-Kami, whose
name was Toyo-kushi-iwa-ma-to-no-mikoto. But at a certain period both the
god and his name were cut in two - perhaps for decorative purposes. And now
he who sits upon the left is called Toyo-iwa-ma-to-no-mikoto; and his
companion on the right Kushi-iwa-ma-to-no-mikoto."
Quoted from: The Writings
of Lafcadio Hearn, Houghton Mifflin Company, 1922, 346. (There is also a
The Zuishin-mon at Okayama
jinja taken by Reggaeman and placed in the
public domain at
http://commons.wikimedia.org/. You can't
see it in this
reproduction on Reggaeman's
photo but the 'Zuijin-Kami' are there.
William Howard Coaldrake in
his Architecture and Authority in Japan (published by Routledge,
1996, p. 189) gives us a clear description the evolution of the gateway
entries which house the zuijin guardians. "...the basic style of the
gateway is Shinto, not Buddhist. It is a two-storey gatehouse with a
hip-gabled roof originally of cypress-bark shingles, and a balcony above the
first floor... This style of gateway, known as a rōmon,
was a Japanese adaptation of the Chinese double-roof gatehouse introduced to
Japan with Buddhist temple architecture a millennium earlier. In the late
Heian period, the Buddhist gatehouse was adapted for use in Shinto shrines
but the roof above the first floor was abandoned in favour of a simple
balcony that was more in keeping with Shinto needs, a style called rōmon
[楼門 or ろうもん].
"Escorts (Zuijin) were armed guards assigned by the
Court to accompany important members of the nobility when they traveled
abroad. An ex-Emperor was entitled to fourteen, a Regent to ten, a Minister
of State or a Major Captain to eight, a Counselor or Consultant to six, etc.
Three types were distinguished: (1) Udoneri Zuijin; (2) Konoe Zuijin (also
called Honpu Zuijin), chosen from the Bodyguards; and (3) Kozuijin, drawn
from the ranks of their personal retainers by lesser kugyō who, although
entitled to the privilege had received no Escorts from the Court." (Quoted from:
A Tale of
Flowering Fortunes: Annals of Japanese Aristocratic Life in the Heian Period,
by By William H. McCullough and Helen Craig McCullough, Stanford University
Press, 1980, p. 135, footnote 2)
I believe Udoneri is
内舎人 or うどねり. Toneri (舎人 or とねり) means 'valet' or 'footman'.
Konoe (近衛 or このえ) translates as Imperial Guard.
The government had sought since the Nara period to
assure the personal safety and dignity of higher officials by assigning
attendants (toneri) to them for guard and escort duty in numbers
varying according to their ranks, ranging from twenty at the lower end of
the scale up to four hundred at the highest. Although the toneri attendants
were merely provincial conscripts and had minimal military skills, their use
by nobles for private purposes came to be disruptive of public order, and
they were replaced in the case of the highest officials with somewhat
better-born guard-officials called zujin ("escorts"), who were
organizationally attached to the Imperial Bodyguards. Fewer in number than
the toneri, the handsomely uniformed zuijin escorts were
prized more for their appearance than for their military accomplishments,
and great nobles were typically forced to augment their security with
privately recruited forces of tsuwamono warriors." [Tsuwamono is 兵 or
つわもの.] (Quoted from: "The Rise of
the Warriors" by Takeuchi Rizō, The Cambridge History of Japan: Heian
Japan, Cambridge University Press, 1999, p. 680)
According to the Japan
Encyclopedia (by Louis-Frédéric, Harvard University Press, 2005, p.
1074) defines zushin as semi-divine guardians. At the entrances to Shinto
shrines "They are portrayed as Heian-period ministers of the right (udaijin)
and the left (sadaijin), armed with a bow and arrow to chase away
listing or enumeration