Port Townsend, Washington
Ges thru Haimyō
The photo of the geese on the lawn
at the Bloedel Reserve will be
as a marker from January 1 to
April 30, 2017.
TERMS FOUND ON THIS
Gesaku, Geta, Gibōshi, Gofun, Gokaidō,
Goko, Gōkyō jigoku,
Gomazuri, Edmond de Goncourt,
Gō no kagami, Gorōdayū Shonsui (or Shonzui),
jigoku and dai guren jigoku,
Hachi dai-jigoku, Hachimaki,
Hachiman, Hagatame, Hagoita,
戯作, 下駄, 擬宝珠, 胡粉, 五海道,
五鈷杵, 叫喚地獄, 業の鏡, 五郎太夫.祥瑞,
御霊, 護身仏?, 御所車,
呉須, 牛頭, 牛頭天王,
群青, 紅蓮地獄 and 大紅蓮地獄,
派, 羽二重, 八大地獄, 鉢巻, 八幡,
歯固め, 羽子板, 拝殿, 俳名
ぎさく, げた, ぎぼうし, ごふん, ごかいどう,
ゴンクール. エドムンド, ごりょう,
ごす, ごず, ごずてんのう,
ぐれんじごく and だいぐれんじごく,
ぎょうよう, は, はぶたえ, はちだいじごく,
はちまき, はちまん, はがため, はごいた
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
"The generic term
for all popular fiction written between the middle of the 18th century and
the close of the Edo period (1600-1868), and for literature of the early
part of the Meiji period (1868-1912) that continued this tradition. The term
originally meant 'written for fun'..." Generally flippant, facetious, but
written with an 'elaborate structure'.
Kodansha Encyclopedia of Japan, vol. 3, p. 28, entry by Wolfgang
usually made of paulownia or cryptomeria wood with oak or magnolia teeth,
i.e., ha (歯 or は), supports. The term geta became
popular during the Edo period although this type of footwear was being made
as long ago as 300 B.C. During the Heian and Muromachi eras they were known
by other names. The thong which holds the foot to the clog was generally
made of cloth or leather.
Kodansha Encyclopedia of Japan, vol. 3, p. 30, entry by Miyamoto
men are plain wood and usually have black thongs while those for women
are both lacquered and plain, and have beautifully colored thongs of silk or
Quoted from: Dictionary of Japanese Culture by Setsuko Kojima and
Gene A. Crane, p. 76.
Mock Joya refers to
the thong or strap as a hanao (鼻緒 or はなお).
Lacquer geta are referred to as nurigeta (塗り下駄 or ぬりげた). Tall geta are
called mountain, yama, or travel, dochu, geta.
became luxurious in the Tokugawa days, geta also showed luxurious
trends. During the Bunka-Bunsei era (1804-30) geta with little
drawers to hold scent bags or tiny bells appeared. Such geta were
used by fashionable women. Many women also discarded their geta after
a few days, as they liked to always wear new geta." [This is what I call
the Prada and Imelda effects.]
Quote from: Mock Joya's Things Japanese, p.
Mock Joya also
notes three other customs associated with geta: 1) They are often given as
gifts to people on their sick beds in hopes this will help them get up and
walk away; 2) Don't ever give them to someone you love because they might
just use them to walk away and find someone else; And 3) Put moxa under the
geta of a guest who just doesn't get the hint that they have overstayed
their welcome. Light the moxa and the guest will leave.
The image to the
left is a detail from a print by Eizan showing an elegant woman walking
through the snow. She is wearing high, black lacquer getas.
decoration found atop the newel post on a bridge, railing, platform or
portable shrine. On the shrine it is called a souka (葱花 ).
Above is a photo taken by
Fg2 and donated to the public domain through publication at
In the right foreground is a
large image of a gibōshi on a bridge leading to Matsumoto Castle.
The image to the left below was
posted on commons.wikimedia.org and is also by Fg2, like the one posted
above. It was too good to ignore.
First we want you to know that this 'jewel' always reminded us of a lotus
bud about to flower. However, here it is: the following passage is from a
footnote in W. G. Aston's Nihongi: Chronicle of Japan from the Earliest
Times to A.D. 697. "Hirata conjectures that the jewel-spear (nu-boko or
tama-boko) of heaven was in form like a wo-bashira.) Wo-bashira means
literally male pillar. This word is usually applied to the end-posts or
pillars of a railing or balustrade, no doubt on account of the shape on the
top, which ends in a sort of a ball (nu or tama), supposed to resemble the
glans. That by wo-bashira means a phallus is clear from his quoting as its
equivalent the Chinese expression 玉莖, i.e. jewel-stalk, an ornate word for
the penis." Others translate 玉莖 as the Jade Stem.
powder": "...probably introduced from China. This white is made from ground
calcined clam/oyster shells and can be mixed with colours using nikawa
rather than nori to give opacity and thickness."
Quote from: Japanese Woodblock Printing,
by Rebecca Salter, University of Hawai'i Press, 2001, p. 30
animal glue used as a binder. Nori is rice paste.
Unlike the rest of
the printing technique the gofun is splattered onto the surface in a
controlled manner. Generally it is found in snow scenes, but as you can see
it is not strictly limited to that motif. Because it is splattered no two
prints would be exactly the same. Nor would all examples of this print by
Kuniyoshi necessarily have gofun applied after the traditional
printing process is completed.
The images to the
left are by Kuniyoshi. The top one shows a close up detail of the spume
produced by the towering waves on the left.
illustrations were sent to us by our great contributor E. Thanks E!
The five great
roads established during the Edo period (1603-1868) to link the provinces to
the shogunal center which is now called Tokyo. The five were the Tokaidō
connecting Edo with Kyōto along a coastal road, the Nakasendō which traveled
to Kyōto through the mountains, the Nikkōkaidō, the Kōshukaidō and the
A five-pronged vajra. See also
our entry on
The Hell of Screams - the
fourth of the Eight Great Hells: "Murderers, robbers, immoral people, heavy
drinkers, those who sold saké mixed with water, and liars are destined
to the Hell of Wailing (kyōkan jigoku 叫喚地獄）and to that of Great
Wailing (daikyōkan jigoku), where they are terrified by the shouts of
monstrous fiends mixed with the laments of sinners. The liars cannot even
scream since their mouths and tongues are stuck together with iron needles,
as a consequence of their past sins." Quoted from: "The Development of Mappo Thought in Japan" by Michele Marra in the
Japanese Journal of Religious Studies, 1988, p. 43.
In discussion of the special
technique of goma-zuri (ごま摺り) Hiroshi Yoshida notes in his Japanese
Woodblock Printing from 1939 that "Goma means sesame [胡麻] and suggests
black particles on white. It is obtained by a soft rubbing of the baren.
This is better produced while the surface of the paper is yet fresh. In
getting the goma effect, paste is not absolutely necessary, though it may be
needed to prevent the paper from slipping. A baren made of a four-strand
cord, or a worn-out baren, or a paper-cord baren - the weakest kind of a
baren - is the best for this purpose. An extravagant use of pigment is
required to produce a certain goma effect, and a scanty use of it produces
another effect. Use according to the need. Do not place too much pressure on
the baren." (p. 111)
Later he adds: "There may be large or small goma. These can be produced by
the kind of baren used and the amount of strength applied in printing. The
coarsest kind of goma may be obtained by merely dropping the paper on the
block. Slightly finer effects may be obtained by lightly pressing the paper
with a flat baren. Various grades of goma may be mixed in order to produce
an interesting background, as that in my print entitled 'Portrait of a
Boy'." (pp. 111-12)
"Gomazauri gets its name
because it looks as if sesame seed has been sprinkled on the print. It is
basically what happens when betazuri [falt color] does not print
properly. The other name for this technique is kozozuri, from the
Japanese word for 'youngster', because originally this effect was produced
inadvertently by the apprentice printer trying to print flat colour. It is
now seen as a technique in its own right, but is not easy to keep consistent
across an entire edition. It happens more easily on rougher wood. In
gomazuri, no nori is used on the block so the pigment particles
remain suspended in the water and when printed appear as tiny spots. ¶ The
fineness of the speckles depends on two further factors: the pressure of the
baren and the dampness of the paper. Heavy baren pressure
gives a finer texture than very soft baren pressure. The softest
effect of all is achieved by just letting the paper rest on the block and
absorb the colour. Damp paper gives softer definition to the spots than
drier paper. Likewise, weakly sized paper will give a softer effect. Kōzo
papers are particularly suitable. ¶ To print gomazuri apply a small
amount of fairly watery colour (no nori) to the block and mix well
with a damp brush. Print one or more times to achieve the desired effect.
Gomazauri is best printed as the first impression on unprinted paper,
other colours being added afterwards." Quoted from: Japanese Woodblock
Printing by Rebecca Salter, pp. 108-109.
Gō no kagami
Karmic mirror (See also
jōhari no kagami)
Goncourt, Edmond de
Edmond (1822-96) along with his
brother Jules (1830-70: ジュール) were among the first true enthusiasts for
'things Japanese'. They were early advocates for Japanese woodblock prints
which had their first, official, government sanctioned debut in Paris in
1867. ¶ In 1891 Edmond published a book on Utamaro followed in 1895 with one
on Hokusai. What these volumes lacked in factuality they made up for in
enthusiasm and eloquence.
Edmond and Jules were
inseparable. They wrote their novels together, gossiped maliciously together
and debauched together. They shared all things good and bad. There was no
negligible difference in their collective passion for an 'idealized' Japan
based on their perceptions of the arts which they had seen in exhibitions
and in the shops of a several brave dealers. To them Japan was a land of
light - glorious light as expressed in the colors of their prints. ¶ While
they considered themselves great literary stylists their novels never
reached the popularity of several of their more famous peers like Flaubert
and Zola. The Goncourts rejected romanticism for naturalism - even somewhat
lurid naturalism. Van Gogh was believed to have read several of their works.
Chérie is believed to be the impetus for Van Gogh's interest in
Japanese prints. In Manette Salomon the Goncourts describe a fictitious
Parisian artist depressed by the long, drab, gray days of winter. In an
effort to escaped his malaise he opens an album of Japanese prints and is
able to escape his dismal world by dreaming about a sun filled and exotic
land. Later, "...in Maison d'un artist, Edmond de Goncourt
recollects his collaboration with his brother Jules on Manette Salomon and
theri interest in Japanaiserie: 'It is there that you will find those books
of sunny prints in which, on the gray days of our dreary winter, with its
cold, grimy skies, we made Coriolis [the hero artist] (ourselves in fact)
seek some of the agreeable light of the empire of the RISING SUN'."
Source: An essay by Tsukasa
Kōdera, "Van Gogh's Utopian Japonisme," at the beginning of the
of the Van Gogh Museum's Collection of Japanese Prints.
It is interesting that in the
literary world they were known as realists and not romantics yet that didn't
stop them from romanticizing an idealized Japan. It was this Japan which had
such a profound effect on Van Gogh and is one of the main reasons he moved
to the south of France. If he couldn't travel to Japan at least he could try
to capture the light of the Midi as the next best thing.
The image to the left is from a
print of Edmond by Felix Bracquemond.
Gorōdayū Shonsui (or
"The introduction of real
porcelain-making into Japan is attributed to Gorodayu Shonsui, who went to
China to study the art, and returned to his own country in the year 1513.
After his return he settled in Hizen, and succeeded in making a ceramic ware
decorated in the Chinese fashion with cobalt under the glaze, although
authorities differ as to the kaolinic structure of the material. A specimen
of porcelain said to have been made by him in China and marked, with his
name as inscribed below, is preserved in Japan at Nara." Quoted from:
Oriental Ceramic Art: Collection of W. T. Walters, 1899, p. 736.
See our entry on
sometsuke and gosu, found below.
"It was a potter of the name of
Gorodayu Shonsui who brought from China, about 1520, the elements of the
making of porcelain. The village which rose up round his first kiln took the
name of Arita. There is every reason to suppose that the pieces that came
from the hand of Shonsui were timid copies of Chinese porcelain, probably of
small dimensions and and of blue and white. His two pupils, Gorohichi and
Gorohachi, were already more skillful." (Ibid., p. 712)
In Arts and Decoration,
vol. 5, issue 10, 1915 (p. 392) it says: "About the beginning of the 16th
century a prominent Japanese potter named Gorodayu Shonzui went to China to
learn the secrets of the kilns at Foo-chow. There he learnend how to mix the
paste and also to decorate with blue under the glaze. He was then able to
make a fairly good imitation of the blue and white ware of the Ming dynasty.
There is little doubt, however, that the actual beginning not only of the
porcelain, but of all decorated pottery in Japan, was the immediate result
of the invasion of Korea at the end of the 16th century, and indeed the
Japanese acknowledge their indebtedness to Korean immigrant potters for the
origin of the porcelain of Hizen and the decorated faience of Satsuma..."
"In the sixteenth century
Gorodayu Shonzui visited China and learned the art of making porcelain, and
on his return to Japan brought a quantity of the clay with him. On the
supply being exhausted, however, the manufacture stopped. ¶ After
Hideyoshi's invasion of Korea, towards the end of the century, many captives
were brought back, including a Korean potter, Risampei, who discovered on
the hills of Hizen a clay suitable for the making of porcelain. Kilns were
erected, and the new manufacture started in earnest." Quoted from: Arts
and Crafts of Old Japan by Stewart Dick, 1909, p. 103.
Spirits of the dead, often
described as angry. Ghosts! "In the tenth century, more miyadera
[mixed Buddhist/Shinto sites] appeared in the capital as sites for a new
type of ritual practice; the pacification of so-called goryō or
'angry ghosts.' Here, again, it must be noted that these ghosts were neither
traditional kami, nor part of the Buddhist pantheon... Goryō were the
ghosts of aristocrats who had been falsely accused of some political crime
and had died in disgrace, often in exile. Their spirits were believed to
have returned to the capital, where they not only haunted their enemies, but
also caused epidemic that struck the entire population. Goryō
festivals started as a popular practice in the early ninth century.... These
festivals, called goryōe, also included a wide range of
entertainments (songs, dances, wrestling, horse races, archery and popular
theatre), and attracted large crowds. Understandably, the Court felt ill at
ease with this popular worship of those ghosts of its dead enemies, and
tried to suppress or at least control goryōe. One way to achieve
this was by staging official goryōe, while prohibiting 'private' goryōe."
After an extended epidemic which took many lives the Court held a goryōe
on its own grounds in 863. "Altars to six noted goryō were erected,
monks chanted... musicians played court music, sons of the prominent
courtiers, as well as Chinese and Koreans... performed dances, and various
'miscellaneous entertainments' were staged. The gates of the palace were
opened, and commoners flocked to the grounds to enjoy the display. Two years
later, in 865, private goryōe were banned, but with little
effect." (Source and quote from: Buddhas and Kami in
Japan: Honji Suijaku as a Combinatory Paradigm, p. 26-7)
performed in graveyards, temples and miyadera. By ca. 950 special
buildings, Goryōdō, had been erected on holy ground to hold these
events. One of the most important of these was at the Kitano Tenmangū
devoted mainly to the spirit of Sugawara Michizane.
See also our entry on
the deified name of Sugawar Michizane, on our Tengu thru Tombo page. See
also our entry on
onryō a different type of vengeful
spirit on our O thru Ri page.
A small round amulet,
pocket-sized, with an image of a Buddha or other similar efficacious figure.
The image to the left is
from the British Museum collection. It dates from the Edo period.
An ox-drawn cart used
by the early court nobility. The image to the left is a detail from a print
According to Royall
Tyler a 14th c. commentary relates the story that the Empress asked Lady
Murasaki to write some new tales to amuse the court. "Having none to offer,
the empress asked Murasaki Shikibu to write one. The lady therefore went on
pilgrimage to Ishiyama-dera, a temple near the southern end of Lake Biwa, a
by ox carriage
east of Kyōto, in search of inspiration." This may have been the origin of
The Tale of Genji.
"Harvard Magazine", May-June 2002, Vol. 104, No. 5, p. 32.
John K. Nelson in his Enduring Identities refers to this vehicle as an iidashi-guruma,
or more informally, a gissha.
"The best blue-and-white wares
were painted with the manganiferous-cobalt ore imported from China, called
by the Japanese gosu, and as this ore was carefully refined the blue
colour is often of fine quality, though in the most careful painting it
looks paler and lighter than the Chinese pigment." Quoted from: Porcelain: A Sketch of its Nature, Art and Manufacture by William
Burton, 1906, p. 143.
In Outlines of the Geology
of Japan... from 1902 gosu is described as "impure earthy cobalt".
See also our entry on
"The earliest Seto porcelain
was decorated with under-glaze blue, the native Japanese cobalt (ji-egu)
being used till 1830, when it was superseded by the richer Chinese gosu."
Quoted from: Porcelain, oriental, continental and British... by
Robert Lockhart Hobson, 1906, p. 104.
"The Japanese under-glaze blue
in the older porcelains was made from the cobaltiferous ore of manganese
imported from China, and the fine quality of this imported blue, which the
Japanese call gosu, forms a useful criterion of the age of the piece
; the more modern ware being usually decorated with a cheaper smalt sent out
from Europe, which has a thin, garish and altogether inferior tint." (Ibid.,
"In Japan, underglaze painting
on porcelain means cobalt brushwork (sometsuke) or painting with
natural gosu, a 5-percent cobalt mineral with iron, aluminum, and
manganese components. To prevent the color from running, a suspension of
concentrated green tea is used. A somewhat indistinct purple or grayish
shade of blue is produced by firing in reduction. Using an industrially
produced mixture of pure cobalt, manganese, iron oxide, and nickel
fritted at about 2192°F (1200°C) creates a brighter blue." Quoted from:
Modern Japanese Ceramics: Pathways of Innovation & Tradition by
Anneliese and Wulf Crueger and Saeko Ito, 2007, p. 29.
In Potters of Japan:
Another Look at the Timeless Art of Nine Families by Bill Geisenger from
2010 the author discusses the preparation and application of gosu on
works by members of the Kondo family (p. 27): "Gosu is the blue
pigmentused in sometsuke. As used by the Kondo family, it is a
natural material containing various mineral elements, with cobalt being the
dominant colorant. Such natural blends of cobalt, producing various
qualities of blues, has been key in the history of porcelain decoration from
Japan to Persia. The gosu is prepared by grinding in a mortar for
days until very fine. To improve its character for for brush application, it
is mixed with green tea. It may be applied to greenware, but generally work
is bisque fired first prior to the gosu application. A clear glaze is then
sprayed on the surface. ¶ After firing, the gosu can be many shades of blue
depending on the concentration in the tea, thus giving depth to the
images painted by these master artists: but before firing, the difference
between concentrations is nearly imperceptible. Naturally occurring gosu
with the right balance of elements to give the particular tone of blue
desired by the Kondo family is not available anymore..."
On p. 29 Geisinger adds:
"Firing of the kiln is critical to have the gosu turn its
unique shade of blue."
Ox-headed demon or deity often
found in images of the Buddhist hell.
"...Gozu's task was to torment
those who during their lifetime had eaten beef (a breach of Buddhist dietary
Said to be the Indian god
"The main deity enshrined
here was (at least by the mid-eleventh century) Gozu Tennō or 'the
Bull-Headed Heavenly King,' a deity of unknown origin who was later
identified further with the more orthodox Buddhist divinities Yakushi and
Jūichimen Kannon on the one hand, and the kami Susanoo on the other. In a
variety of sources,it is suggested that Gozu Tennō was a foreign deity of
Indian or Korean origin. Whatever his origin, this foreign deity was
believed to possess extraordinary magical powers, and to be supremely
effective in dispelling and destroying disease-spreading goryō."
Quoted from: Buddhas and Kami in Japan: Honji Suijaku as a Combinatory
Paradigm, introduction by Mark Teeuwen and Fabio Rambelli, p. 27.
"...the transformation of
vengeful spirits into protectors can be seen in Gozu Tennō who protects
people against smallpox, dōsojin road deities who protect travelers,
and Kitano Tenjin for everything related to water, fire, and thunder."
Ibid., entry by Irene H. Lin, p. 70
Gumbai (or gunbai)
We found the image to the
left at Pinterest.
I have to admit to a
bit of confusion on this one. In our entry on
tōuchiwa we list it as a fan which has its origin in the
T'ang Dynasty (618-907) from China. But it looks remarkably like the
gumbai and what the difference is is unknown to me. Dorothea Buckingham
in her The Essential Guide to Sumo (p. 70) is absolutely convinced of
the distinction between the two. "The wooden fan held by the referee is not
a fan at all, but a war paddle. Legend has it that Nobunaga [1534-82 - 信長 or
のぶなが] ...was an avid sumo fan and designed the gunbai for the sumo
referee. The gunbai was later used by the warring commanders as a
battle signal." Turning the gumbai signaled the beginning of a
battle. Buckingham notes that some experts believe it was a war paddle long
before it was used in sumo.
The rank of the
referee (gyōji: 行司 or ぎょうじ) is indicated by the color of the braided
cord (himo: 紐 or ひも) hanging from the gumbai. The highest rank
uses a purple cord and the next highest a purple and white one. Lower ranks
use scarlet followed by scarlet and white, then green and white followed by
green or black. "The gunbai of the senior gyoji are often
trimmed in silver. Some are decorated with gold leaf designs or kanji
characters; others are lacquered."
紐 or himo,
which is the braided cord hanging from the gumbai, can also be read
as gigolo or pimp. I have no idea why. This seems rather odd, don't you
agree? If you know why this is please write and tell me. (No opinions
please. Just the facts maam or sir as the case may be.)
jigoku and dai guren jigoku
The Crimson and Great Crimson
Lotus Hells: "...the seventh and eighth of the eight freezing hells. They
are named after the splotchy red appearance of their inhabitants’
frostbitten skin, which is said to resemble the blossoms of a crimson
lotus." Quoted from footnote 46 of R. Keller Kimbrough's translation of The Tale of the Fuji Cave.
These hells are reserved for
thieves, burglars, bandits and pirates. The souls condemned to freeze in the
ice there are to remain for 35.000 years.
Apricot leaf - used as
a family crest or mon.
"The puzzling 'tassel'
design, written with ideographs that literally mean 'apricot leaf,' appears
to be a pattern which originated in Southeast Asia and eventually came to
Japan through T'ang China." This motif resembled the tassels attached to
saddles and bridles. It is often confused with the zingiber motif.
of Japanese Design: A Handbook of Family Crests, Heraldry and Symbolism,
by John W. Dower, p. 126.
Ha means clique,
faction, school or sect. For example, Torii Kiyonaga (鳥居清長 or とりい.きよなが:
1752-1815) was the fourth head of the Torii school or Torii ha (鳥居派).
A type of silk that
was worn by samurai. According to at least one web site there were
government edicts which restricted its use at times only to this class of
men. Peasants and women were forbidden to wear it.
The detail to the left
shows a rōnin or masterless samurai wearing a habutae as a
summer garment. Notice the crest or mon visible near the figures left
shoulder blade. This fellow is taken from an early Kunisada print ca.
1816-17 portraying the actor Matsumoto Kōshirō V as Ono Sadakurō.
This new term is the same as
the one above, but here it means something somewhat different. "Today actors
cover their real hair with a tight cloth called a habutae." Quoted
from: A Guide to the Japanese Stage: From Traditional to Cutting Edge by Cavaye, Griffith and Senda, p. 75.
The Eight Great Buddhist Hells
A headband: A thin
towel or strip of cloth tied around the head. Originally imbued with a
religious significance today they are also worn by laborers. They date from
as early as the 4th century.
to be worn in battle, apparently because they were believed to strengthen
the spirit. They were also believed to repel evil spirits; for this reason
boys wore hachimaki made of iris leaves on Boy's Day...and sick
people or women giving birth often donned them." (Quoted from:
of Japan, vol. 3, entry by
Miyamoto Mizuo, p. 74)
The image to the left
is a detail from a print by Shunshō.
can also be written as 鉢巻き. Literally this term means 'to tie
around a bowl'. "Many Japanese wear one when they apply themselves to an
arduous task, to gather strength, both spiritually and physically. It also
serves to absorb sweat. They wear one when carrying a portable shrine (mikoshi)
at festivals, when selling items at street fairs, when doing construction
work, or when studying for entrance examinations. Schoolchildren often wear
red or white ones at athletic meets (undōkai) to distinguish teams."
(Source and quote from: Dictionary of Japanese Culture by Setsuko
Kojima and Gene A. Crane, pp. 86-7)
"Under the helmet and inner
cap, finally, the bushi wore a band of cloth around his head tied
either at the back... or in the front. This headband was called
hachi-maki, and it was usually white in color, in deference to the
ever-present possibility of death. Headbands in red (aka) were also
used. These hachi-maki became extremely popular among Japanese
fighters of all ages, classes and periods. During World War II, white
hachi-maki were employed as the insignia of the suicide pilots, the
kamikaze, who hurled themselves and their planes loaded with explosives
against enemy vessels in a desperate attempt to reverse the tide of war.
These headbands are still used today in many Japanese clubs where arts of
combat and other competitive sports are taught and practiced." (Quoted from:
Secrets of the Samurai: The Martial Arts of Feudal Japan by Oscar
Ratti and Adele Westbrook, p. 217)
"Whether a hat (kasa)
is worn or no, the head is invariably wrapped with a hachimaki, a
sort of small towel (tenugui) of white cotton. In warm weather this is tied
as a band about the forehead and knotted in front (knotting it behind was
the warrior's fashion) ; in winter it becomes a
covering the top of the head and tied beneath the chin. Women wear it
turban-fashion, completely enveloping the hair." Quoted from: Victoria
and Albert Publication 120T by Albert J. Koop, p. 18, 1920.
"The sweatbands used by mikoshi bearers and other matsuri
teams are called hachimaki, created from a cotton towel or tengui,
which can be twisted, folded, rolled, or knotted in many different ways. The
style of wrapping can refer to a specific task or a particular figure in
folklore, and it further distinguishes members of one group from other
matsuri participants. Like the happi coat, wearing a hachimaki
indicates intent to exert strenuous effort." Quoted from: The Cherry
Blossom Festival: Sakura Celebration by Ann McClellan, p. 61.
God of War - Hachiman is "One
of the most popular Japanese deities, traditionally regarded as the god of
archery and war, in which context he is referred to as yumiya Hachiman..."
He is worshipped at tens of thousands of shrines and sub-shrines. That
amounts to about half of the registered shrines in Japan.
'Hachiman' literally means 8
Sometime between 765 and 781
Hachiman received the Buddhist title of Daibosatsu or great bodhisattva and
was regarded as an incarnation of the Amida Buddha. The Minamoto adopted
Hachiman as their clan deity. In time he was portrayed as both a warrior and
a Buddhist priest. (Source and quotes: A Popular Dictionary of Shinto
by Brian Bocking)
At Tobishima in Ugo province
Hachiman devotees don't eat chicken because the god was believed to dislike
them. Another group which worshipper a different god have a taboo against
"...the practice of chewing tough edibles - such as rice cakes, radishes, or
certain varieties of meat and fish - during the New Year's season. Strong
teeth, it was thought, ensured good health and longevity." (Quoted from: Quoted
from: Jewels of Japanese Printmaking: Surimono of the Bunka-Bunsei Era
1804-30 by Joan Mirviss and John Carpenter - cat. entry #15, p. 62)
"Among the many New Year's
customs was that of tooth-hardening. This was observed in the Palace on the
second day of the year, when the Imperial Table Office prepared certain
dishes, such as melon, radish, rice-cakes, and ayu [鮎 or あゆ] fish,
which were supposed to strengthen the teeth. This in fact had the same
purpose as many other New Year practices, viz. the promotion of health and
longevity. Evidently the tooth-hardening foods were served on yuzuriha
[譲葉 or ゆずりは] leaves. This strikes Shōnagon as strange since the same leaves
were used to serve the food for the dead." (Quoted from: The Pillow Book
of Sei Shonagon, translated and edited by Ivan Morris, Penguin Classics,
1979, footnote 124, p. 294)
The photo to the left is of yuzuriha leaves shown here courtesy of Shu Suehiro at
We chose the marubahagi (丸葉萩 or
まるばはぎ), Lespedeza cyrtobotrya
image posted by Shu Suehiro at
A battledore used in
the game of hanetsuki.
"As New Year's
approaches, hagoita...are displayed in all their glory in shops.
Particularly women, young and old, crave for these hagoita. These
beautiful battledores are, however, not to be used for playing the game of hane... It is the plainer ones that are used for thsi purpose." The
game goes back to the Muromachi period (1392-1573). The shuttlecock was
composed of several feathers stuck in a soapberry nut and the battledore was
generally carved from paulownia, cryptomeria or other light wood.
battledores were simple, but in time some were spruced up by elaborate
paintings. These were the ones used by members of the Imperial court. "Later
on, Edo citizens with wealth and culture added so many artistic touches and
such elegance to them that they became unsuitable in actually playing the
game.... As Kabuki dramas were popular, there appeared in Edo hagoita
bearing the likenesses of famous actors in their great roles, made with
oshie or gorgeous silk and brocade pieces pasted together to represent
persons and their costumes."
Sources and quotes
from: Mock Joya's Things Japanese (p. 470-1)
The image to the left
is a detail from a print by Tamikuni (多美国) showing the actor Sawamura Kunitaro II
as an onnagata decorating a battledore.
In the section above Mock Joya
puts the earliest date for the use of the hagoita back to the 14th
c., but in 1984 The Shogun Age Exhibition gives a different
chronology on page 259. "Documents of the time indicate that hanetsuki originated in the Heian period (12th century) as a kind of exorcism, and
only in the Muromachi period (15th century) did it become a form of
But wait! The
Kodansha Encyclopedia of
Japan (vol. 3, p. 77, entry by Yamada Tokubei) states "The first
recorded mention of the game occurs in 1432, when it was played at the
imperial court." This was published in 1983, one year before the Shogunal
exhibition. Both cannot be correct.
Our policy is to post
contradictory information whenever we feel that each source has some degree
of credibility. Conflicts are way beyond our ability to resolve. That is for
future generations of scholars. Perhaps our postings will help in this
"The girls, dressed in their
best robes and girdles, with their faces powdered and their lips painted,
until they resemble the peculiar colors seen on a beetle's wings, and their
hair arranged in the most attractive coiffure, are out upon the street,
playing battledore and shuttlecock. They play not only in twos and threes,
but also in circles. The shuttlecock is a small seed, often gilded, stuck
round with feathers arranged like the petals of a flower. The battledore is
a wooden bat; one side of which is of bare wood, while the other has the
raised effigy of some popular actor, hero of romance, or singing-girl in the
most ultra-Japanese style of beauty. The girls evidently highly appreciate
this game, as it gives abundant opportunity to the display of personal
beauty, figure, and dress. Those who fail in the game often have their faces
marked with ink, or a circle drawn round their eyes. The boys sing a song
that the wind may blow; the girls sing that it may be calm, so that their
shuttlecocks may fly straight." Quoted from: The Mikado's Empire by
William Elliot Griffis, 1896, p. 455.
A modern hagoita
posted at Pinterest
"Two prominent features of
the New Year's celebration are the many-formed and elaborate kites which are
flown the first half of the first month by the boys, and the battledore and
shuttlecock sets which are the pride of the girls. The battle boards, often
of excellent workmanship, are made of fine kiri wood and padded
on one side with bright silks into a raised portrait of a famous actor or
hero in history. The shuttlecock is made of the seed of the soapberry (mukuroji)
plumed with five feathers at one end. The penalty for letting the
shuttlecock touch the ground is a black smudge on the face." Quoted from:
Japanese Collections (Frank W. Gunsaulus Hall), published by the Field
Museum of Natural History, 1922, p. 10.
"Their battledores are works
of art." Quote from: The Heart of Japan: Glimpses of Life and Nature...
by Clarence Ludlow Brownell, 1904, p. 77.
"It was customary under the
old régime in Japan to compliment the parents of a new-born infant
with a battledore and shuttlecock if it was a girl, with two bows and arrows
if it was a boy." Quoted from: The Badminton Magazine of Sports and
Pastimes, Volume 3, 1896, p. 433.
The print shown above is by
Shibakuni, dated 1824.
It comes from the collection
of Mike Lyon. To see more
of his collection go to
During the economic reforms
instituted by Matsudaira Sadanobu (1758-1826) one of the stipulations was
that "In the making of toys, dolls and their paraphenalia, battledores and
toy bows for commoners, the use of gold and silver leaf was forbidden."
Quoted from: The Economic Aspects of Japan by Yosaburō Takekoshi, vol
3, p. 153.
"The game originated in
China and was known in Japan as early as the Heian period. At first it was a
pastime reserved for the nobility, and beautifully gilded and painted
hagoita were presented by caprpenters and other tradesmen to their
patrons at New Year.... That hagoita were decorated with auspicious
symbols possibly led to their being made and sold at shrine and temple
festivals as lucky charms and protections against fire and, of all odd
things, mosquitoes! Playing initially served as an exorcism rite becoming a
girl's game in the Muromachi period (1333-1568)." Quoted from: Playthings
and Pastimes in Japanese Prints by Lea Baten, pp. 25-26.
"The earliest hagoita
were flat, delicately painted and gilded on both sides. By the end of the
Edo period, one side was flat and painted while the other side bore the
flamboyant portraits of kabuki idols, their costumes made of silk and
brocade of the oshi-e (padded picture) technique." (Ibid., p. 26)
While researching hagoita we
found the image shown above posted at commons.wikimedia. Instead of actors
decorating these paddles it shows Prime Minister Konoe, Mussolini and
Hitler. Now there is a trio for you.
In Shinto the "Hall of Worship.
A shrine building or equivalent space, part of the hongū, which is
available to worshippers for their prayers and offerings."
To the left is the Kanshinji
haiden (観心寺.拝殿 or かんしんじ.はいでん) posted at commons.wikimedia by Kenpei.
Poetry name. It can also be
called a haigō 俳号 or はいごう. Andrew Gerstle in his Creating Celebrity:
Poetry in Osaka Actor Surimono and Prints speculates that actors, who
were considered among the lowest levels of Japanese society, were allowed
"...to circumvent the class
system and socialize through art circles. This was important for actors."
photo of wisteria being used
as wallpaper is
shown courtesy of Katorisi at