A MILLION QUESTIONS
TWO MILLION MYSTERIES
Port Townsend, Washington
Fu thru Gen
The Wittlesbach-Graff diamond was used to mark
additions from September 1 to
December 31, 2017.
The copy of the Jakuchu parrot was
used as a marker to
note additions made between May 1
and September 30.
TERMS FOUND ON THIS
Fudō Myōō, Fugu,
Fukinuki, Fukinuki yatai,
Futame jigoku, Futatsu-tomoe, Ga, Gagō, Gaikotsu, Gama,
Gankō, Ganpi (also gampi), Ganpishi,
Gassaku, Ge, Gehō no hashigozori,
Gempuku, Genga, Genji kuruma,
Genpei Nunobiki no
Genshoku Ukiyoe Daihyakka Jiten
吹抜屋台, 吹輪, 福寿草, 福良雀, 福禄寿,
襖, 両婦地獄, 画,
雅号, 骸骨, 蝦蟇, 蝦蟇仙人,
元日, 雁行, 雁皮, 雁皮紙, 合作, 下,
原画, 源氏車, 源氏物語,
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
censor's seal which represents the shortened version of the name of Fukatsu
Ihei (普勝伊兵衛) used between VI/1842 and XI/1846.
This seal appears on prints by Eisen, Hiroshige, Kunisada and Kuniyoshi among others.
Richard Illing and the
Rijksmuseum both give the dates for this seal as 1843-45.
The image shown above carries the 'Fu' seal.
It is from the Lyon
Collection. To see a bigger image of this print click on it.
Fú (a Chinese word)
(But with a rising
tone in Chinese unlike Japanese)
rising tone, for bat
The Japanese for bat is kōmori (蝙蝠 or こうもり).
There is a Chinese herbal from the 16th century which stated that some bats
live to be one thousand years old. "...white as silver [they] are believed
to feed on stalactites, and if eaten will insure longevity and good sight."
(Source and quote: Chinese Symbolism and Art Motifs by C. A. S.
Williams, p. 61, 2006 edition) We mention this because of the similarity to
stalactite eating in our entry on
Go there and you will see what we mean.
Below is a picture of
Honduran white bats posted at commons.wikimedia.org by Leyo. We couldn't
find any stalactite eating 1,000 year old Chinese bats so we are using the
next best thing. They don't look very old, do they?
One definition of this term
is "charm/talisman". Below is a detail from a Hiroshi Yoshida print,
Utagahama (歌ヶ浜 or うたがはま), from 1937 showing fuda applied to
the beams and posts of the structure.
See also our entries on
Fuda were originally
applied to columns and beams at temples and shrines by pilgrims using
niwaka, a kind of gelatin glue. "The act of visiting temples and shrines
to paste fuda appeared to be more fun than devotional, and became
particularly unpopular with those in charge of the buildings who saw it as a
form of vandalism akin to grafitti nowadays. This is an even greater problem
today, when fuda are mass-produced as sticky seals which can damage
buildings; the original paste was at least the relatively harmless nori
(rice paste). Many shrines and temples now outlaw the activity, although
this can act as encouragement to renegade pasters who try it anyway. ¶ The
art of pasting the fuda underwent technical development too.
Originally they were stuck by hand, in low places, but it then came to be
seen as a challenge to paste them as high up as possible. An extraordinary
early technique was called nagebari; a pasted fuda was placed
on a damp towel and hurled high up at a beam or the ceiling. This may have
been effective, but it lacked the control over position and placement which
was important for the Edoite competitive spirit inherent in pasting. The
preference was for a prominent spot where everyone could see and appreciate
not only the design of the fuda but also acknowledge that the person
had visited. These spots were called hitomi (literally 'seen by
people')..." but had the disadvantages of being exposed to the natural
elements or removal by others and might last at most only a few years.
Another method was called 'secret pasting' or kakushibari where they
were hidden away from the wind and rain and other humans and therefore might
last for 50 to 60 years undisturbed. ¶ In time someone invented a long
extension pole of bamboo to which could be attached two brushes, the
meotobake or 'husband and wife brush.' One brush would dust a spot clean
and the other brush would moisten the area before the fuda would be
applied. (Source and quotes from: Japanese Popular Prints: From Votive
Slips to Playing Cards by Rebecca Salter, pp. 96-97)
Originating in the
Hindu pantheon he came to be regarded as one of the five wise kings who
despite his stern countenance is a saver of souls. His attributes are the
sword with which he fights evil and the rope which he uses to lasso
individuals who can be saved.
Myōō knows that he is always accompanied by flames. Daisetz T.
Suzuki tells us why: "Acala's [the ancient Indian name for Fudō
Myōō] anger burns like a fire and will not be put down until it
burns up the last camp of the enemy: he will then assume his original
features as the Vairocana Buddha, whose servant and manifestation he is. The
Vairocana holds no sword, he is the sword itself, sitting alone with all the
worlds within himself."
Quote from: Zen and
Japanese Culture, Daisetz T. Suzuki, Bolingen Series LXIV, Princeton
University Press, 1993, p. 90.
Patricia Graham in her paper Naritasan Shinshōji and Commoner Patronage
During the Edo Period notes some of the prominent iconographic features
of Fudō. "He either stands or sits on a rock with his body framed by a
aura of fire. His facial expression is fierce, with one eye peering up and
the other down and two fangs, also pointing in opposite directions. He
usually holds a sword in his right hand to slash demons and a cord in his
left to bind them and also to capture devotees and lead them into Paradise."
The detail shown above is from
a print by Toyokuni III portraying an actor as Fudō.
Notice the fangs - one pointing
up and one down. The eyes are not following true to form.
Instead one eye is crossed - a
dramatic technique invented by one of this actors predecessors.
The image below is a detail of
a photo posted at commons.wikimedia.org by Kenpei.
It is of a sculpture of Fudō of
indeterminate age but clearly modern. But that is not the point -
the fangs are pointing in
different directions. Again the eyes are not so easily read.
Blowfish, pufferfish -
"There was a good trade in aphrodisiacs for those who could afford them.
Extracts and drinks were made from Chinese and Korean ginseng roots mixed
with local herbs that could still be found along the banks of Edo's rivers,
tiger balm and pulverized rhinoceros horn. Fugu, the Japanese blowfish,
purportedly another aphrodisiac, was a favourite among courtesans and
wealthy guests, though the poison from the fish, if not properly extracted,
could be fatal. The risk seems only to have increased the thrill of sampling
the tissue thin slices of fish." Quoted from:
Tokyo A Cultural History by
Stephen Mansfield, p. 35.
The image to the left was
posted at Flickr by furibund. The image shown above was also posted at
Flickr, but this one was put there by Kojach.
"Blowfish is a generic name for
several members of the fish family tetraodontidae, a fish that can swell
itself to several times its normal size by swallowing air or water. The
tetraodontidae family has 187 known species, of which about fifty can be
found in Japan, and about ten of which are regularly eaten there. The most
common blowfish served in Japan is torafugu (Takifugu rubripes), or tiger
blowfish, the largest among Japan’s species. It is also one of the most
poisonous. ¶ The poison, tetrodotoxin, is highly concentrated in the organs,
especially the liver and the ovaries. Generated by bacteria that live in the
fish, the poison is 1250 times deadlier than cyanide and 160,000 times more
potent than cocaine. One fish can kill thirty adults. ¶ A small amount of
poison creates a stinging numbness in the lips, tongue, and extremities. A
bit more produces the same effect, and eventually paralysis, in the lungs,
which leads to death. There is no known antidote; the treatment usually
consists of pumping the patient’s stomach, placing him on artificial
respiration and intravenous hydration, and feeding him activated charcoal to
bind the toxin." Quoted from: 'Haley and the Blowfish' by Mark West in the
Washington University Global Studies Law Review, p. 429.
"The folk story holds that when
Hideyoshi Toyotomi sought to conquer Korea in 1592, he amassed a force of
158,800 troops on Kyushu, where blowfish was a favorite dish, for the task.
Many men died of blowfish poisoning before they reached Korea, and as a
result, Hideyoshi banned consumption.... The story is often told, but I find
no evidence of it in primary or secondary academic sources. ¶ A ban appears
to have been in place during the Tokugawa period (1603–1868), but its scope
and enforcement is questionable. Englebert Kaempfer, physician to the Dutch
embassy in Nagasaki from 1690 to 1693, noted that 'Soldiers only and
military men, are by special command of the Emperor forbid to buy and to eat
this fish. If any one dies of it, his son forfeits the succession to his
father’s post, which otherwise he would have been entitled to.'.... ¶
The standard account holds that the blowfish ban was lifted during the Meiji
period (1896–1912) but reinstated by the legislature in either 1882 or 1885
pursuant to the Order for the Disposition of Petty Crimes... The standard
account further holds that in 1888, Prime Minister Hirobumi Ito traveled to
his hometown in Yamaguchi prefecture, Japan’s blowfish capital, and sampled
the dish. He immediately lifted the ban—but only in Yamaguchi prefecture....
I find no evidence for this often-told story. The Order for the Disposition
of Petty Crimes was enacted in 1885, but it is a general statute that
contains no mention of blowfish or anything resembling blowfish....
But Prime Minister Itō had no authority to legislate or otherwise dictate
policy in the Yamaguchi prefecture, and there is no primary source evidence
that he did so." (Ibid., fn. 36, pp. 432-3)
On August 21, 2010 Laura
Roberts wrote an article for The Telegraph about deaths which shocked
the Japanese: "In 1975 Bandō Mitsugorō VIII, a Japanese kabuki actor, died
of severe poisoning when he ate four fugu livers (also known as pufferfish).
The liver is considered one of the most poisonous parts of the fish, but
Mitsugorō claimed to be immune to the poison. The fugu chef felt he could
not refuse Mitsugorō and lost his license as a result."
Today fugu can be farm raised
to be poison free. One can even eat its liver.
a wild mountain plant that twined itself around trees....was domesticated at
an early date, and by the late Heian period was celebrated at parties
sponsored by Japanese aristocrats. [Its]...trailing racemes of purple
flowers, among the most popular of family crest and general decorative
"The Fujiwara, whose
name contains the ideograph for wisteria, was the most prominent court
family in the Nara and Heian periods and had a tutelary relationship with
those two religious institutions." (Quoted from: Symbols
of Japan: Thematic Motifs in Art and Design, by Merrily Baird, p. 67)
While this mon was used
mainly by 97 different branches of the Fujiwara clan there were others who
used it as well.
Above is a detail from a May
1932 print of
the wisteria at Kameido.
"Transcribed literally, the
Fujiwara surname means 'field of wisteria,' and in both their textile and
landscape design, the clan made prominent display of the wisteria. Despite
this natural association, however, Japanese genealogies reveal that in the
later centuries only a small percentage of the families descended from the
greatest of Japanese aristocratic lineages actually used the wisteria as
their main family crest. Families with 'fuji' as aprt of their name
sometimes combined calligraphy and design, as in the crest of the Kato
family... where the character for ka was enclosed in a circular
wisteria pattern (to is the Chinese reading for wisteria). Families
expressing devotion to the Kumano Shrine also used wisteria, one of the
plants associated with it." (Quoted from: The
Elements of Japanese Design
by John W. Dower, p. 82)
Above is the same scene as the
Hasui, but from a
somewhat perspective. This
one is by Hiroshige
and the original is in
the Brooklyn Museum of Art.
The Kameido (亀井戸 or かめいど)
Shrine is a popular spot in the Edo/Tokyo area devoted to Sugawara no
Michizane. In 1908 Florence Du Cane wrote: "Perhaps the most popular haunt
of the pleasure-seeker in the month of May is the celebrated Kameido Temple
in Tokyo. Words fail me to describe the beauty of the scene: it is a real
feast of fuji; the long purple trails cover the large trellises, the
wide rustic galleries, and connect the little matted restaurants, where
hosts of people throughout the day sit feasting under the purple roof and
feeding the goldfish in the lake. The matted benches are set out on a thick
mauve carpet of fallen blossoms, and the little maids seem to have a
never-ending task in sweeping away great heaps of freshly fallen flowers, as
though fearing that their guests will be smothered by them.... I sat
surrounded... by the blossoms, inhaling their delicious scent and listening
to the droning of bees, I could graze across the water at the reflection of
a never-ending vista of mauve blossoms reaching on one side to the
celebrated round wooden bridge, the delight of children, who seemed to cross
it in one endless stream, and on the other to the fine old temple, where a
few ancient pines are placed just where they will best harmonise with the
long purple blossoms. The late sweet-scented white variety will prolong the
fuji season by a few days; their glory is but short-lived, a few days
and then the colour begins to fade.... I turned away sadly, not forgetting
the Japanese theory that the wistaria loves saké. So strong is their
belief, that I was told if you set a jar under the plant, its spray will
grow longer from its desire to reach the jar; so I ordered my little cup of
saké, sipped it, and then emptied the cup on the roots, according to
their custom, hoping that I might help to contribute to its great size and
beauty." (Quoted from: The Flowers And Gardens Of Japan by Florence
Du Cane, pp. 147-9)
Some of the individuals and
families that used the fuji as their crest or mon: the Noda (野田 or
のだ); the Kitagawa (喜多川 or きたがわ); the Kubo (久保 or くぼ); the Sugiyama (杉山 or
すぎやま); Katō Yoshiaki (加藤嘉明 or かとうよしあき) as daimyō at Minakuchi in Omi;
Gotō Matabei (後藤又兵衛 or ごとうまたべえ); Natsuka Masaie (長束正家 or なつかまさいえ); the Naitō
(内藤 or ないとう) as daimyō at Nobeoka in Hyuga, as daimyō at
Murakami in Echigo; as daimyō at Takato in Shinano, as daimyō
at Unagaya in Mutsu, as daimyō at Korano in Mikawa, as daimyō
at Iwamurata in Shanano; the Naruse (成瀬 or なるせ) as daimyō at Inuyama
in Owari; the Andō (安藤 or あんどう) as daimyō at Iwakidaira in Mutsu; Itō
(伊藤 or いとう); the Katō (加藤) as daimyō at Osu in Iyo; the Tōyama (遠山 or
とうやま) as daimyō at Naeki in Mino; Naitō Masanari (内藤正成 or ないとうまさなり)
as daimyō at Murakami in Echigo and also at Nobeoka in Hyuga;
(柴田 or しばた); and Andō Naotsugu (安藤直次 or あんどうなおつぐ) as daimyō at Tanabe in Kii.
(Source: Mon: The Japanese Family Crest by Kei Kaneda Chappelear and W. M.
Hawley, p. 9) And more families and
individuals who used a wisteria crest: the Fukatsu (深津 or ふかつ); the Kawai
(川井 or かわい); the Tsubouchi (坪内 or つぼうち); the Kamiya (神谷 or かみや); the Masaki
(正木 or まさき); the Nigao (仁賀保); Hasegawa (長谷川 or はせがわ); Ōkubo (大久保 or おおくぼ);
Shinjo (新庄 or しんじょ) as daimyō at Aso in Hirachi; Uchida (内田 or
うちだ); Kuroda Nagamasa (黒田長政 or くろだながまさ) as daimyō at Fukuoka
in Chikuzen and as daimyō at Akizuki in Chikuzen; the Shitatei
(下田丁); the Uratsuji (裏辻 or うらつじ); Ōmikado (大炊御門); Konagaya (小長谷 or こながや):
Higashirokujō (東六條 or ひがしろくじょう); Kujō (九條 or くじょう); Nagai (長井 or ながい); Chiba
(千葉 or ちば); Kawamura (川村 or かわむら); Tsuji (辻 or つじ); Ōkubo Hikozaemon
(大久保彦左衛門 or おおくぼひこざえもん) as daimyō at Karasuyama in Shimotsuke;
the Itami (伊丹 or いたみ); the Hosoda (細田 or ほそだ); the Suzuki (鈴木 or すずき); the
Makita (蒔田 or まきた); the Nijō (二條 or にじょう); Ichijō (一條 or いちじょう); Nishirokujō
(西六條 or にしろくじょう); the Daigo (醍醐 or だいご); the Sagara (相良 or さがら); the
Tominokōji (富小路 or とみのこうじ); the Matsuzono (松園 or まつぞの); the Tōyama (とうやま);
the Andō as daimyō at Taira in Mutsu; and Ōkubo Tadayo as daimyō at
Odawara in Sagami. (Ibid., pp. 10-11)
In the Japan Encyclopedia
by Louis Frédéric (p. 196) it says: "Wisteria (Wisteria floribunda),
climbing leguminous plant with showy purplish flowers. There are many
varieties: cultivated (kushakufuji, shirobanafuji, with white
flowers; akabonofu, with pink flowers), which climbs in a clockwise
direction, and wild (yamafuji, Wisteria brachybotrys), which
Below is a haiku by
I'll make them my poetry
with the blossoms gone
fuji no mi wa/ haikai ni
sen/ hana no ato
In the Man'yōshū is a
poem by Yakamochi (718? - 785). Part of it reads
I love the wisteria that
At the brush of the
I pluck the petals off
And tuck them in my
If they stain they stain.
Yakamochi went rowing on Lake
Fuse and wrote
Waves of wisteria
Reflect on the clear sea
The pebbles on the bottom
Are like jewels.
The Wisteria Maiden - "The
Wisteria Maiden was originally one of five dances performed one after the
other in rapid sequence by the same dancer who effected multiple quick
changes of costume, wig, and makeup. These transformation dances (hengemono)
were very popular in nineteenth-century kabuki and exhibited the
virtuosity of the actor- dancers. The entire dance from which Wisteria
Maiden derives was known as Ōtsu of the Ever-Returning Farewells
(Kaesu Gaesu Nagori no Ōtsu). It featured characters that appeared in
the popular, naive folk pictures known as Ōtsu-e (Ōtsu pictures),
which were sold in the Ōtsu region to tourists visiting the area around Lake
Biwa. In the original dance, Seki Sanjūrō II (1786-1839) performed as five
different characters: the wisteria maiden, the god of calligraphy, a footman
(yakko), a boatman, and a blind man. The only dance that has survived
is the first, Wisteria Maiden." Quoted from: Kabuki Plays on
Stage: Darkness and Desire, 1804 - 1864, volume 3, p. 166.
The image shown above of the
Fuji musume was posted at Flickr by cheran.
The image to the left is from
the Lyon Collection.
In "....1937, when Onoe
Kikugorō VI (1885-1949), known as 'the god of the dance,' changed the entire
format of Wisteria Maiden. It is not known in exactly what setting
the first dance was performed; perhaps it was in front of panels
representing the five Ōtsu pictures, which came alive as the actor stepped
out of the panels to dance. Kikugorō changed the decor to the brilliant
one used today used today: the trunk of a pine tree from which bright purple
wisteria blossoms fall in dazzling profusion. He also replaced the 'Itako
Dejima' section with a newly composed 'Fuji Ondo' (Wisteria
Dance), based on a folk song and dance. It stresses the more mature,
experienced, womanly feelings of the wisteria maiden and is danced twice,
the second time in slightly inebriated fashion, since during the first round
the maiden has partaken of sake. The skill of the dancer is revealed in his
ability to express drunkenness without vulgarity." (Ibid.)
"The lyrics of Wisteria
Maiden are a tissue of allusions, esoteric references, and plays on
words, thus making ready comprehension virtually impossible, even for the
scholar. Because the meaning is somewhat tenuous, the movement patterns
(furi) are often less realistic than those in more down-to-earth
dances. Instead, they tend to suggest emotions, character, and attitudes in
a general way. The lyrics pile meaning on meaning..." (Ibid., p. 167)
The wind god is often paired
with the thunder god. "To protect temples from destruction by thunder and
storm, statues of Raijin and Fujin are sometimes placed at the
temple gates. Fujin is the god of wind, and it can be easily
identified by the large bag of wind it carries over his shoulder." Quoted
from: Things Japanese by Mock Joya, p. 345.
The image shown above is a
detail from the right-hand
side of a set of screens at the
Tokyo National Museum.
The artist is Ogata Kōrin
(尾形光琳). We found it posted
The image to the left is a
detail of a tattoo from a print by Kuniyoshi. To see the full image in the
Lyon Collection click on the red Fūjin.
"In Japanese demonology Fujin
is a demonic and the eldest of the Shinto gods. Demon of the wind and
present when the world was created, he appears as a dark and terrifying
figure. He carries a large bag ﬁlled with wind over his shoulder. He wears
leopard-skin clothes." Quoted from: Encyclopedia of Demons in World
Religions and Cultures by Theresa Bane, pp. 140-141.
Landscape print or picture
The image to the left by
Hokusai was posted at Flickr by Cea.
"Bokashi can be achieved
in two ways using brushed pigment... and by carving itobokashi...
Itobokashi is more consistent but the gradation of the colour is not as
marked. Brushed or wiped bokashi (often called fukibokashi)
has a softer feel to it but as the brushing of each block may vary slightly,
it is hard to achieve complete constituency across an edition.
Fukibokashi has the advantage that it can be printed from any flat
block; for example, the sky would be printed first in pale blue then the
same block used for the darker bokashi on top. ¶ Small areas can be
printed using a hake, larger areas, a brush or folded cloth. Printing
large editions, the block would need to be washed every now and again to
prevent clogging. A successful bokashi shows the combination of wood,
pigment and paper." Quoted from: Japanese Woodblock Printing by
Rebecca Salter, pp. 102-103.
"In the beginning of Anyei,
Toriyama Sekiyen devised a method of gradation colour-printing called
Fuki-bokashi no saishiki-zurit which he first applied in practice to a
two-volume folio book entitled Sekiyen gwafu (alternative tide,
Toriyama Hiko), which appeared in 1773. This method was but rarely
resorted to during the remainder of the 18th century; but it was largely
employed, by Hokusai and Hiroshige especially, during the next century. The
grading was effected by a judicious wiping of the block upon which the
colour had been spread. Sekiyen also illustrated a series of books, each of
three volumes (in which he applied the fuki-bokashi method to
monochrome), under the generic title of Hyakki-yagiyō, dealing with
the night wanderings of demons." Quoted from: Japanese Colour Prints
by Laurence Binyon, pp. 71-72.
The image to the left comes
from the collection of Waseda University. It shows a Sekien illustration
published in 1805. Sekien died in 1788.
"A fukinuki... was a hollow
streamer formed of strips of cloth attached to a ring, which would blow in
the wind. They would often be used as standards but sometimes were used
instead of a nobori as a primary device." Quoted from: O-umajirushi: A
17th-Century Compendium of Samurai Heraldry, p. xvii.
We found the detail of an image
seen to the left at Pinterest. The image below is a detail from a triptych
by Kuniyoshi in the Lyon Collection. Click on it to see the full triptych.
Bird's-eye-view used in
Japanese art where the roof has been removed to allow views of interiors.
"Paintings of indoor scenes depict them from an aerial perspective of modest
elevation, famously 'blowing off' the roofs (fukinuki yatai) and the
architectural cross-beams to provide unobstructed views of the interior."
Quoted from: Envisioning the Tale of Genji: Media, Gender, and Cultural
Production by Haruo Shirane, p. 66.
Louis Frederic in his Japan Encyclopedia (p. 214) gives basically the same definition of
fukinuki yatai: " 'Houses with blown-off roofs,' an artistic convention
used in paintings in the Yamato-e style, in which houses, seen from above,
were drawn without a roof so that the interior could be seen."
The image shown above is a detail from a hand scroll in the Kyoto
An elaborate headdress
worn by a princess.
Professor Samuel Leiter translates fukiwa as literally meaning "blow
circle." A "...beautiful wig worn mainly by princesses (hime or
himesama) in jidaimono. The large, round topknot (mage)
contains a red hand drum-like ornament inserted horizontally through it,
with a red bow and decorative starched paper strips (takenaga)
hanging from beneath the topknot. Flower combs with silver plum blossoms and
butterflies are inserted at the front."
Quoted from: New Kabuki
Encyclopedia: A Revised Adaptation of kabuki jiten, compiled by Samuel
L. Leiter, 1997, p. 99.
The floral comb at the front of
the wig is referred to as a hanagushi (花櫛 or はなぐし). The entire
wig is called a mage-fukuwa.
Literally "the grass
of luck and longevity" and also referred to as the "pheasant's
eye". This is the Adonis flower a symbol of the New Year and prosperity.
Hokusai included it in more than one surimono.
The image to the
left is a detail from a print by Yoshitoshi where a woman is trying to
decide between the purchase of two different Adonis flower selections.
In Mock Joya's Things
Japanese (pp. 193-4) it states that the "Fukuju-so (Adonis amurensis)
has bright little golden blossoms. Its buds are silver gray, the leaves are
green, but its blossoms are bright gold. Its name in Japanese means
'wealth-long-life-plant.' Because of its golden blossoms and also its lucky
name, the flower is much admired by the people who use it especially for
decorating their homes for the New Year celebration." This plant prospers in
colder climes and is said to have originated in Hokkaido which was called
Ezo-ga-shima. There is a story that says that "Once there lived in Ezo
a beautiful goddess called Kunau. Her father betrothed her to the god of the
earth-mole. But she did not care for the groom-elect selected by her father.
Her refusal to marry the god of the earth-mole so angered her father that
she was reduced to becoming a common wild blossom as punishment for
disobeying her father. ¶ Thus she turned into a blossom which came to be
known as Kunau or Kunau-nonnon. ¶ By the Ainu people, fukuju-so is
still called Kunau. The tale of the Goddess Kunau is related by Ainu parents
to their little daughters as a lesson teaching them the duty of obeying
their parents. But if they were sure to be transformed into such beautiful
blossoms, Ainu maidens might oppose the command of their parents to marry
and follow the example of the Goddess Kunau."
These photos are
shown courtesy of Shu Suehiro at
A stylized motif of a
sparrow, often seen from above with its wings and tail feathers spread
outward. As a physical form it is often used as a child's toy.
To the left is a detail from
a Toyokuni III print of an actor as Yorikane. Look closely at his robes and
you will see the fukura-suzume motif. Also, see the detail of the detail
This term also describes one
of the ways of tying an obi.
One of the Seven
Propitious Gods. He is the god of wealth and longevity.
The image to the left is a
netsuke posted at Flickr by Marshall Astor - Food Fetishist.
This is a binding method in
which "...in which recto and verso were printed on the same folio and
subsequently folded, leaving the printed area on the outside, so as to form
a pouch. Finally, the front
and back covers were added and the loose ends of each folio were bound
together tightly using a
Kenkyusha's New Japanese
English Dictionary defines funayado as "...a shipping agent... a
keeper of pleasure boats; a boat-house... an inn for sailors... a river-side
There is very little written in
English on this topic. De Becker wrote: "It is recorded that since the era
of Genroku (1688-1703) the keepeers of funa-yado (a sort of
tea-house where pleasure boats are kept and let out on hire for excursions
and picnics) used to arrange for guests to go and come in their river-boats,
"and among the sights of Yedo were the long lines of boats floating up and
down the river with gaily-dressed courtesans and the jeunesse dorée
of the city in them." "
To the left is a Kunichika
print which has "Funa-yado" in the title. It is dated from 1878.
A weight or
counterweight: One of the symbolic lucky treasures.
To the left
(above) is an image of a fundō from the robe of a beautiful woman or
bijin in a print by Eishō. Her kimono is covered with this and other
treasure symbols. Often seen along with other treasures as decorations
on ceramics, fabrics and other items.
The image on the
bottom left is another variation on the fundō motif - also found on an Eishō
In Japanese Art Motives
(1917, p. 155) Maude Rex Allen wrote: "The fundo is a weight used by
tradesmen. It is symbolic of commerce."
The bottom image to the left
was found at Pinterest. It comes from the Tōyō Measurement Equipment History
Museum (東洋計量史 資資料館).
Loincloth: "...men's underwear
made of a long piece of cloth. Fundoshi for an everyday use is a
white cotton cloth, though it is rarely used today. The one worn by sumō
wrestlers inthe ring is made of colored tight-woven silk."
The image to the left is from a
Copy, sketch or study
The sketch to the left is from
the collection of the National Diet Library.
Wind chimes which are
considered a sign of summer. The two kanji characters mean 'wind' 'bell'.
The top example to
the left is from a print by Toyokuni III in combination with Hiroshige. The
one at the bottom is a detail from a Chikanobu print. Click on the numbers
to the right to see the full prints.
The Japan Encyclopedia of Louis Frédéric (2005, p. 221) says "Small bronze or porcelain bell to the clapper
of which is attached a long strip of paper (tanzaku), bearing a poem
or prayer, which flutters in the wind. The clear sound of these bells is
said to freshen the air and ward off insects. They are usually hung in tree
branches or along the eaves, mainly in summertime."
Sliding screen used as
a room partition
"Rooms in houses
rarely have more than one solid wall.... The other sides are closed off with
sliding windows and doors, which move on double runners at the top and the
bottom. At the bottom is a groove level with the floor or the mats, at the
top a rafter one or two ells below the ceiling so that panels can be opened
up and taken away as one pleases."
Tokugawa Culture Observed, edited and translated by Beatrice M. Bodart-Bailey,
University of Hawaii Press, 1999, p. 263.
U. A. Casal
in his "Lore of the Japanese Fan", Monumenta Nipponica, vol.
16, no. 1/2, 1960, p. 82 tells the story of Araki Murashige (荒木村茂 or
あらきむらしげ) who is summoned for an audience with Oda Nobunaga (織田信長 or おだのぶなが),
but suspects that this could be dangerous. In those days "In lordly mansions
the sliding doors (fusuma) were not of paper, but of heavy, wooden panels in
even heavier frames. They moved in shallow grooves, as the paper fusuma (or
karakami) still do. It was just outside of the open fusuma that the vassal
had to make his first kowtow which would bring his neck right above the
grooves..." Suspecting that this was the moment he feared he whipped out his
long metal-based war fan and held it right below his chin. Suddenly the
wooden panels were propelled toward his head, but stopped short with a loud
There were similar
scenes akin to this loads of movies: Star Wars, Flash Gordon. Not exactly
the same, but similar where the walls were closing in until the heroes
figured out a way to stop their progress.
Cool as a cucumber
Murashige acted as though nothing had happened. Nobunaga was so impressed he
forgave him whatever it was that had angered him in the first place. Their
detente didn't last forever, but that is another story.
Fusumashōji (襖障子 or
ふすましょうじ) were opaque sliding panels as opposed to akarishōji (明障子 or
あかりしょうじ) which are lighter weight and translucent. First employed during the
Muromachi period (室町時代 or むろまちじだい: 1392-1568).
Two-wives hell: Generally it is
represented by a man with two snakes with the heads of women entwined around
his body. The jealousy of the first wife has transformed the women into
According to Mon: The Japanese Family Crest by Kei Kaneda Chappelear
(p. 76) it says: "The Tomoe, a comma shaped pattern was first seen in the
Asian and European continents in very early times. In China and Korea a
white and dark pair joined together represented Yang and Yin - the opposed
principles of nature - male-female. ¶ In Japan the design represents a
whirlpool in water and implies protection from fire, therefore roofs were
decorated with it. ¶ In Heian times the noble family Saionji used it on
their carriages. During the Kamakura period the tomoe became the most
popular design on garments, household objects, and military items. Later it
was made the mon of the Hachiman shrine and thus represented that god of
war. The principle families using it were the Utsunomiya, Koyama, and Yuki
who were distributed through the entire area north of the Eastern Provinces
- the Kantō. It ranked in popularity next to the diamond mon."
Literally this means
picture or drawing, but following a signature it means "drawn by" or "did
(also called a gō)
An art name.
In the West
we have Christian names, surnames, nicknames, noms de plume, stage
names, etc., but we have nothing quite like the assortment of names the
Japanese have. Not only that but they are often changed and this makes it
difficult for a novice to the field to know who is who. "You can't tell the
players without a scorecard."
Richard Lane, who
actually calls the gō a nom de plume, notes: "Indeed, of the thirty
or more alternative names that Hokusai employed during his seventy-year
career, about half were passing fancies. Most were used with the previous
name for some time, so as not to confuse his public..." Quoted from:
Hokusai: Life and Work, published by E. P. Dutton, 1989, p. 23.
It is interesting
that a quick search on the term gagō can also mean refined diction or
polite expression. Gō by itself means word or language.
To the left is a
detail from a print by Kyōsai.
For much more about
skeletons in Japanese art go to our web log at
http://printsofjapan.wordpress.com/. Today is June 19, 2010. As
of now we have two posts devoted to skeletons, skulls and bones and will be
adding a third post soon.
Toad: In The Animal in Far
Eastern Art... by T. Volker it says on page 167 "Besides the hare and
the white tiger, gama, the toad is said to inhabit the moon, an idea
that originated in ancient Chine. When once it looked as if the clouds would
would capture the moon, the Archer-Lord... freed her with his shots. He was
rewarded with an elixir of life but his Consort... stole it from it and with
it fled to the moon. For punishment she was there changed into a toad." ¶
Demon toads fed on snakes, had poisonous spittle and could bring death to an
entire countryside by spitting into the air. However, some had good
qualities and could bring rain when it was needed. (Ibid., p. 168)
The Bufo japonicus shown
to the left was posted at commons.wikimedia.org by Yasunori Koide.
Toads are also referred to as
hikigaeru (蟇蛙 or ひきがえる) or simply as hiki.
The Toad Hermit: This Taoist
tale came to Japan from China. He "...was a seller of magic herbs. He lived
in the mountains in company with a giant toad. A legend tells us that when
he went bathing he was in the habit of changing into a four-legged toad. A
different legend has it that once, he was going to bath [sic] in the river,
a certain man... followed him and that Gama sennin gave this person a
magic pill that changed him into a toad. Gama sennin feeding a pill to his
toad is a frequent image. It is also said that once he found a sick toad,
took it home and nursed it back to health. After it regained its health the
animal turned out to be a demon, skilled in the magic arts, and instructed
his benefactor in the secrets of his science. [He] is depicted as a very
ugly fellow without eyelashes and a skin studded with pimples and warts."
The toad is always nearby or on him or in some cases he is riding it.
(Source and quote from: The Animal in Far Eastern Art... by T.
Volker, p. 168)
The image to the left was
posted at commoms.wikimedia.org by Tobosha. It is from a painting by Kyōsai.
Above is a detail from a Hiroshige print from ca. 1820. The red background
Gama senin is also called Kō
sensei (侯先生 or こうせんせい). The Chinese version is referred to as Hou
WARNING: Do not be fooled into
believing that every figure you see with a toad or toads (or frogs) is Gama
senin. One is Tenjiku Tokubei (天竺徳兵衛 or Tenjiku Tokubei) who can often be
seen astride a gigantic toad. Or,
Jiraiya, another fictional character much
loved in the early 19th century.
A handheld lantern
which directs a light very much like a flashlight does. Individually the characters
in gandō mean 龕 'alcove for an image' and 灯 'lamp'.
The image to the
left is a detail from a print by Ashiyuki. To see the full print and much
more info click on this link:
Ashiyuki print page
New Year's Day
Daniel J. McKee wrote: "The
first day of the year in the lunar-solar calendar fell sometime between
January 21 and February 20 in the modern Julian calendar—the exact date
depending on the configuration of the previous year— and was considered to
mark the beginning of spring. A year was added to everyone’s age count,
figured by the year cycles one had been a part of rather than the day of
one’s birth, making New Year also a shared “birthday” of sorts, and
therefore a personal—as well as communal, natural and cosmological—“fresh
start.” This complex, variable calendar system, originated in China, was
officially adopted in Japan in 604, according to an account in the
Nihonshoki, and as we will see, was a source for much creativity in the
Tokugawa Period (1600-1868). It remained in use until the third day of the
twelfth month of the fifth year of Meiji, which officially became January 1,
1873 as the Meiji government made the Julian calendar the new official
The v-formation of a flight
of geese. Often represented in Japanese prints.
To the left is a Hiroshige
print from the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Above is a photo posted at
Flickr by Alberto_VO5, entitled "Gimme a V."
Ganpi (also gampi)
A rare type of
paper made from the wikstroemia plant
A single work of art
produced by two or more artists, i.e., a collaboration. In the example to the
left the figures are by Toyokuni III and the flowers are by Hiroshige. There
are many such examples in ukiyo prints and paintings.
There is a very
informative and interesting article on this topic by Jan de Jong originally
published in "Andon". Below is a link to that article in pdf form. I would
encourage everyone to read this.
Separately the kanji
characters which make up this term, 合 'join' and 作 'make', form
'cooperation', 'collaboration' or 'coauthorship'.
In an essay, 'Meiji Response
to Bunjinga', by Catherine Guth she discusses the aesthetic world
around Kido Takayoshi (1833-77): "Calligraphy, painting, and poetry were
among the pleasurable pastimes Kido and fellow literati enjoyed at
teahouses, often practiced in a state of jovial inebriation. Friends
collaborated to create compositions in which the process was as important as
the finished product, and individual contributions were subordinated to to
the ensemble creation. The crazy-quilt compositions, combining word and
image, that resulted from such spontaneous joint efforts, known as
gassaku, were valued less for their aesthetic qualities than as
confirmations of friendship - something akin to the modern-day group photo."
Quote from: Challenging Past And Present: The Metamorphosis of
Nineteenth-Century Japanese Art
Professor Leiter in his Historical Dictionary of Japanese Traditional Theatre defines gassaku
as "The practice of multiple bunraku or kabuki playwrights
collaborating on a play. It may have originated in kabuki in the late
17th century when actor Ichikawa Danjûrô I (writing as Mimasuya Hyôgo)
worked with Nakamura Akashiseisaburô. Bunraku does not seem to have
used it until late in Chikamatsu Monzaemon's career when he revised other
playwrights' work in 1722 and 1723. After his death, puppet plays were
increasingly written by hierarchically organized collaborative groups of two
or more, and as many as 12 or 13 on rare occasions. Each act was assigned to
a separate author. ¶ The results were increasingly complex dramas that
permitted a wide diversity of styles and materials. But gassaku also
led to a weakening of the relationship between the contents of one act and
another and a loss of overall unity."
The ge (下)
character seen in the lower left marks the second volume of two or the third
volume of three, etc.
The images to the left are
from the Lyon Collection. Click on them to go to see more information.
Gehō no hashigozori
Gehō is another name for
Fukurokuju, one of the seven
propitious gods. Gehō no hashigozori is the name of the motif of
Daikoku shaving the tall -headed Fukurokuju. This was a common image sold at
Otsu as a positive and protective amulet.
"Geisha means "arts
person." As the word implies, it is love of the arts that often prompts
contemporay women to become gisha, a lifelong career demanding study
of classical dance, the lutelike shamisen, and several singing styles.
Unlike most other segments of Japan's entertainment business, the geisha
world allows women to work steadily until they become old and gray, for
the emphasis is on artistry and conversational virtuosity over looks.
Japanese generally respect geisha as preservers of cultural traditons,
although some prejudice exists because their love affairs frequently fall
outside marriage. Female art-lovers who lack the commitment to become a
geisha probably never will glimpse one, however, since their expensive
services are almost exclusively aimed at and bought by male politicians and
businessmen. Geisha generally do not sell sexual favors, though they
used to entertain prostitutes and their guests in the bygone licensed
prostitution quarters. Laws in the feudalistic Edo period explicitly
prohibited them from offering anything more intimate than art. It is said
that a geisha can now earn more than a typical salaried worker on her
wages and tips alone, so she is not forced to sell her body as sometimes
happened in the past. Still, many do find patrons for a free-flowing
exchange of sex, money, and love." Quoted from:Womansword: What Japanese
Words Say About Women by Kittredge Cherry, pp. 96-97.
The photo to the left was
posted at commons.wikimedia. The original is in the Metropolitan Museum of
GEISHA WERE NOT
PROSTITUTES - except on rare occasions. In the preface to The Story of a
Geisha Girl from 1917 the author says: "The European gentlemen who visit
Japan generally wish to see the geisha, who are very famous throughout the
world as a special class of singing and dancing girls. ¶ Some of the new
visitors, however, seem to misunderstand these girls to be equivalent to
those in a lower kind of the female professions. If anybody believes them to
be so, he is decidedly in a great error; on the contrary, they are a kind of
artistes almost indispensable in the society of Japan, if not for ever, at
least in the present age. ¶ Of course, there may be some exceptional groups
among their circles, who are of low character and in base conduct, just as
there are exceptions in all classes of human beings. We do not call them the
true geisha girls. ¶ As the women in the geisha calling are generally young
girls, they often talk of love, but there are no young women, throughout the
upper and lower classes, who do not embrace love in their bosom. ¶ We hope
the readers of the book would understand the true features of our geisha
Gempuku (or genpuku)
"A coming-of-age ceremony,
observed from at least the 7th century through the Edo period (1600-1868),
in which a boy assumed adult clothing, hairstyle, and name. The term itself
means 'basic clothing.' There was no precise age of the ceremony (in early
times it was performed when a boy reached the height of about 136 cm or 4.5
ft.), but it generally fell between the ages of 10 and 16, depending on
family convenience. After the ceremony the boy was considered eligible to
take on adult responsibilities, participate in religious ceremonies, and
marry." Among the court nobility the young man when through the 'cap
ceremony' because he could now wear an kammuri. Samurai youths could
begin wearing an eboshi and after the 16th century have the front of
his head shaved. "A boy of the lower classes might receive a loincloth (funidoshi),
in which case the event was called heko-iwai ('loincloth
celebration'). In all such ceremonies the boy usually received gifts of
adult clothing from either his father or a respected man who was
thenceforward considered his patron. In fact, the boy's adult name often
incorporated part of the name of the patron..." Source and quote from:
Kodansha Encyclopedia of Japan, vol. 3, p. 17.
"The term wakashu derives from
olden times when a youth of kuge (nobility) or samurai family, upon
becoming an adult, went through a ritual known as gempuku: the
ceremonial cutting off of the maegami or forelock. Youths who still
wore the maegami were called wakashu." Quoted from:
Kabuki Costume by Ruth M.
Shaver, p. 38.
This is the initial sketch, the
first thoughts, for what will eventually be transformed into a woodblock
print. But that is several stages down the road. "Drawings have served very
different purposes for the Japanese and Western artist. In Japan, there has
never been any real tradition of drawing purely for the sake of drawing.
Students practiced drawing in order to learn it and use it as a preparatory
stage in the process of making a painting or woodblock print." (Drawings
by Utagawa Kuniyoshi from the collection of the National Museum of
Ethnology, Leiden, by Matthi Forrer, 1988, p. 9) The exceptions are the
Zenga, Shijō and Nanga schools among others. The first drawing precedes the hanshita which were used to carve the key block. As seen in many
surviving examples genga can be very free form only hinting at the
finished printed product. Lines may swirling flourishes and calligraphic
brushwork which will never appear in the ukiyo print, but which, to my mind,
show the true artistry involved in creating. The genga can be
'corrected', 'emended', added to, subtracted from and generally used as a
working model. Eventually a more precise drawing will be made from this
first form and from this an exact drawing will be worked up for pasting down
onto the surface of a woodblock for carving by the master carver. In the
process this final drawing is sacrificed to the knife.
Richard Kruml in Ukiyo-e to
Shin Hanga: The Art of Japanese Woodblock Prints (p. 31) uses the term gakō (画稿 or がこう) for genga. "...a preparatory sketch (gakō)
had to be drawn using a deer's fur brush and sumi on high-quality
PLEASE: If anyone out there has
a genga which they could let us reproduce here we would be extremely
grateful. Your privacy will be respected.
A decorative pattern
of interlocking wheels --- probably of an ox cart which was a traditional
means of transportation for the nobility.
"The Tale of Genji" -
Japan's first great novel written in the 11th century by Murasaki Shikibu
(紫式部 or むらさきしきぶ).
Professional name taken by a
prostitute, hostess or geisha.
Andrew Gerstle refers to a
prostitute's genjina as her poetic name. Kenkyusha's New
Japanese-English Dictionary from the 1931 edition calls this term "the
nom de guerre (= professional name) (of a prostitute)."
A term which means
both the Genji and Heike clans or the two opposing sides
Genpei Nunobiki no
Kabuki play: "The
Genji and Heike at Nunobiki Waterfall"
Genshoku Ukiyoe Daihyakka Jiten
11 volume ukiyo-e encyclopedia.
In a syllabus for
an art history class at Columbia University the Genshoku Ukiyoe Daihyakka
Jiten is described as "the single most important and useful reference
work in this area." Abundantly illustrated it offers visually more than any
other source material on ukiyo-e subject matter that I know of. The text is
entirely in Japanese and although my understanding of that language is
somewhere to the far side of miserable these volumes still offer me a wealth
of information. (Remember: every picture is worth a thousand....) Hours of
struggling often end in epiphanies.
Volume 3 alone has
been invaluable. At the back of that volume are two lists unlike any others
I have seen anywhere: 1) A critical listing of more than 1,000 publishers'
seals - far from comprehensive, but better than anything else I have ever
seen. Each illustrated entry is accompanied by detailed information about
that particular publishing house. And 2) what I believe is the most
extensive list of date and censor seals that can be found anywhere.
I am not uncritical
of encyclopedias in general whether they are written in English or any other
language, but I have to admit that they are almost always the best starting
point for a research project. Anyone interested in ukiyo-e who has access to
this set should seriously consider spending the time it takes to get to know
it well. It is rich and you will surely reap the benefits.
The photograph of the
hummingbird on this page
was taken by our friend Angela.
While it is not
a Japanese hummingbird, but
rather one from
Arizona, we felt it was too
beautiful not to use.