A MILLION QUESTIONS
Port Townsend, Washington
Hil thru Hor
The Wittlesbach-Graff diamond is
being used to mark
additions from September 1 to
December 31, 2017.
The Jakuchu parakeet was used
from May 1 thru September 30,
The photo of the geese on the lawn
at the Bloedel Reserve was
as a marker from January 1 to
TERMS FOUND ON THIS PAGE:
Jack Hillier, Hinagatabon, Hineno-jokoro, Hinoe-muma,
Hi no maru,
Hirauchi, Hiroshige, Hitodama, Hitotsu-me-kozō,
Hi watari, Ho, Hōgu,
Hōkaburi, Hōki, Hokuei,
Hōmyō, Hondawara, Honden,
Hōnoki, Ho-o, Horagai, Hōrai, Hori,
Hori Ken, Horikō Gin,
Hori Ōta Tashichi,
Hori Takichi, Hori Uta,
Hori Yasu, Hori Yata, Horo, Horogaya
雛形本, 丙午, 日乃丸, 平打ち, 安藤広重,
蛭子, 人魂, 一つ目小僧, 筆,
火渡り, 帆, 法具,
宝珠, 頬被り, 帚, 北英,
訪問着, 法名, 馬尾藻,
本殿, 朴の木, 鳳凰, 法螺貝, 蓬莱, 彫,
彫工多七, 彫物, 宝輪, 彫太田多七,
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
Author of Art of the Japanese Book.
Born in Fulham, England in 1912 the son of a postman who delivered mail to
Sir Edward Burne-Jones (エドワード・バーン＝ジョーンズ) , Rudyard Kipling's (ラドヤード・キップリング) uncle by marriage. Hillier died in Surrey in 1995. From a
poor, but happy family he toyed with the idea of becoming an artist - even
learning wood engraving - but decided on a more practical route and took a
job with an insurance company. He stayed with them until he was 55. During
WWII he applied to the RAF to become a pilot, but was rejected for that
position because of his somewhat impaired eyesight. However, he did work as
an aircrew instructor and in the signal corps.
In an obituary in
The Independent he was referred to as the "... leading authority in Europe
on the Japanese woodblock print" and other areas. His interests in the field
began in 1947 when he bought a portfolio of Japanese prints - some
facsimiles. At that time Japanese studies were probably at their ebb.
Hillier realized that he would have to learn Japanese so he studied the
Harvard-Yenching Course during his train commutes to and from the office.
In time he was
invited by Sotheby's (サザビーズ)to be one of their experts. For more than 25 years
while working there he assisted in the development of
numerous prominent collections: that of Chester Beatty (チェスター・ビーティー), now bequeathed to
the Irish state; the Gale collection in Minneapolis; Ralph Harari's
collection; et. al. Hillier's first book on the subject, Japanese Masters
of the Colour Print, was published in 1954 followed by many other
including works on Harunobu, Hokusai, Utamaro, drawings, paintings, etc.
He was a great
scholar and connoisseur who made an incredible addition to the field.
book(s): We have seen dozens of these which were almost exclusively from the
Meiji and Taisho periods. Each page was filled with a typical image: autumn
leaves floating on swirling waters; birds in flight; chrysanthemums; etc.
Hinagatabon also referred to "...instruction manuals for builders and
artisans..." These volumes exist all of the way back to the 16th
(Source: "Patronage and the
Building Arts inTokugawa Japan" by Lee Butler)
The image to the left comes
from the University of Edinburgh via Pinterest.
Neck-guard on a samurai
(or hinoe uma)
"...the Fiery Horse...
It was widely believed that women born in the year of the Fiery Horse
(one of the 60 recurrent combinations in the Chinese Zodiac) would kill
their husbands. The belief persists today in certain regions." Quoted from:
Footnote 168, The Life of an Amorous Woman: And Other Writings by
Ihara Saikaku, p. 315.
Hi no maru
national flag: Generally represented as a red disk on a white field often it
is seen on a black field on a fan or ogi. "It is popularly known as
the Hinomaru (Sun Flag). The design has been a popular one, although it is
not known when it was first used." Supposedly when the Mongols were
threatening an invasion of Japan the priest Nichiren gave a rising sun flag
to the shogun. (Quote and source:
entry by Yukihisa Suzuki, vol. 5, p. 339)
U. A. Casal in his
"Lore of the Japanese Fan" (Monumenta Nipponica, vol.
16, no. 1/2, 1960, p. 81) spoke of a sun design on Kamakura period
(1185-1333: 鎌倉時代 or かまくらじだい) fans: "A favorite décor
was a blazing golden sun on a scarlet ground, an ancient warrior symbol....
Their resplendent colours must well have matched the gorgeous armour and
brocades of the Kamakura lords.
There were naturally,
some variations in these warrior fans too. A red sun may appear on a black
or fully gilded ground, or even more conspiciously on a white one, although
white could not be lacquered. Such warrior folding-fans are generally
referred to as tessen [鉄扇 or てっせん], 'iron fans'. For ordinary use,
however, the warrior had similar fans - also with the sun emblem, and
sometimes with the moon and stars on the back - of a black lacquered wood or
bamboo frame, known as gunsen [軍扇 or ぐんせん] (war-fan). The martial fans
always had eight or ten ribs."
In footnote 30 Casal
wrote: "Only at the time of the [Meiji] Restoration [in 1868] was the
sun-symbol of Victory transformed into a Japanese national flag of a red sun
on a white field. In feudal days any colour combination might be chosen,
though red was prevalent, either as 'sun' or as 'field'. The Sun with Rays
(Naval flag) did not exist before the Restoration..."
"The history of the Hinomaru is supposed to date back to the time of
the Mongol invasions of Japan (1274 and 1281) when the priest Nichiren gave
the Shogun a rising sun flag. Toyotomi Hideyoshi used this flag in his
invasion of Korea in 1592 and 1597 and, as more Western ships began to
appear in Japanese seas in the mid-nineteenth century, it was suggested that
all Japanese ships should fly the Hinomaru for identification."
(Quoted from: Case Studies on Human Rights in Japan by Roger Goodman
and Ian Neary, p. 77) In 1870 it was designated as the national flag by
'declaration'. However, it seems to have had a difficult legislative life
and in 1931 it was put forward again as the national flag by the House of
Representatives, but this was rejected by the House of Peers. (Ibid., pp.
77-8) "...the Hinomaru is referred to as kokki [国旗 or こっき], the
national flag..." (Ibid., p. 82)
Other trace its history back to Monbu, an 8th century emperor. Also,
different color variations when used as military insignia in the 15th and
16th century indicate different warring factions or clans. "...in 1853, the
militias of two feudal lords fought and killed some sailors from the Royal
Navy of England. One of the clans, the Satsumas, fought under the
Hinomaru, and the English mistakenly assumed that this was their
national flag." (Source and quote: Do Elephants Jump? by David
Feldman, p. 152) "...the first time the Hinomaru was flown at a
national ceremony was in 1872, on the occasion of the opening by Emperor
Meiji of Japan's first railway." (Ibid., p. 153) The Imperial Navy began
flying the 16 spoke flag in 1889, but quit using it with their defeat in
1945. (Ibid.) The Hinomaru was not adopted as the national flag until 1999.
(Ibid., p. 154)
There are other versions of the origin of the national flag as can be found
in Little-Known Wars of Great and Lasting Impact by Alan Axelrod on
p. 54: "While it is universally acknowledged that the flag represents the
rising sun, an image that has always resonated powerfully in Japanese
religion and culture, little is known about the historical origin of the
flag, except that its colors are those of the Minamoto clan. There is a
widely revered legend that the modern Hinomaru was presented to the samurai
Minamoto no Yoshimitsu by the Emperor Reizei. Tradition hold that the flag
today enshrined at the Unpo-ji temple in Yamanashi Prefecture is that very
Modern Japanese flag posted at
commons.wikimedia.org by Zscout370.
Takashi Fujitani has written about the historical significance of this flag
in his Splendid Monarchy: Power and Pageantry in Modern Japan (p.
49): "The Rising Suns gracing Japan's national flag and the hinomaru
lanterns had an even longer history of association with the imperial
household than the chrysanthemums did; but like the floral emblem, the
rising sun had no exclusively national or imperial meaning for most
commoners until the modern era. Japan had no national flag until 1854, when
upon a petition by the lord of Satsuma han, Shimazu Nariakira, the
bakufu determined that Japanese ships should fly a white flag bearing
the Rising Sun emblem in order to identify themselves as Japanese."
One older source from 1914 says the flag was adopted for shipping in 1859.
It also noted that there were 16 rays emanating from the center as there are
in the flag shown below. "The number is believed not to have been selected
at haphazard, since it is one of those produced by multiplying two by
itself, of which there are examples in the four cardinal points; the 8
kwa, or diagrams, of Chinese philosophy; the 32 points of the
compass..." (Source and quote from: Terry's Japanese Empire...
by Thomas Philip Terry, 1914, p. cliv)
The Nisshōki (日章旗 or にっしょうき) is the Rising Sun flag. Below is an example
posted at commons.wikimedia.org by Penubag.
According to the Japan Encyclopedia by Louis Frédéric the Hi-no-maru
was used by Takeda Shingen, Uesugi Kenshin, and Date Masamune. (p. 549)
See also our entry on
kyokki on our Kutsuwa thru Mok page.
A type of
kanzashi - "It consisted of two prongs with a large flat
piece in the form of a disk, diamond, hexagon, flower or other shape. Women
of the warrior class usually wore these made of silver or some silver-like
metal. The flat surface was frequently embossed or chased and often had a
family crest. The two prongs were so that if a woman, who in the warrior
class might be trained in combat, was attacked, she 'was to pull out the
hairpin and stab her assailant in the eyes with the two-pronged end'... When
this type of ornament spread to the demi-monde, it became the fashion for
the women there to put the crest of their house or that of their wealthiest
patron. Conversely, patrons might have the comb or kanzashi with the crest
of their favorite courtesan to advertise their intimacy. Pretentious men
might obtain such a comb without ever even having been associated with the
courtesan in question. The ornaments were valued because their possession of
this sort of very personal object implied intimacy." Quoted from: Asian
Material Culture, essay by Martha Chaiklin, p. 49.
Definitely one of
the greatest artists of the 19th century, but I am not telling you anything
portrait of Hiroshige to the left is a detail from a print by Toyokuni III.
The leech child
am currently reading a novel by an important contemporary Japanese writer.
(I will leave him unnamed so I don't spoil the book for those of you who
haven't read it yet.) In one exotic scene "Suddenly, unfamiliar greasy
objects began to rain down from the sky... There weren't any clouds, but
things were definitely falling, gradually more and more fell, until before
they knew it they were caught in a downpour." It was raining leeches! What
struck me most about this passage was not the bizarre imagery, but the mythico-historic link to the Japanese past.
In the Kojiki
(古事記 or こじき: 712), the
oldest written chronicle of Japanese literature, the gods Izanagi and
Izanami mate, but their first efforts resulted in the leech child "...an
amorphous blob, which even at the age three cannot walk.... Realizing that
something has gone wrong, abandon the failed offspring in a reed boat onto
the ocean and try again." This miscarriage was soon identified with
"...failed crops, bad fishing and disorder..." and outcasts. In time hiruko evolved into
one of the Seven Propitious Gods. In fact, Ebisu's name is written with the
same kanji characters - 蛭子 - although it is pronounced differently. The
connection is unmistakable.
An alternate use of
kanji characters - 恵比須 - also is pronounced as Ebisu. (Source of the second
group of quotes is from Puppets of Nostalgia by Jane Mari Law, Princeton University Press, 1997)
supernatural fiery ball: Kenkyusha's New Japanese-English Dictionary,
1954, p. 445 translates hitodama as "...a jack-o'-lantern; a
will-o'-the-wisp; ignis fatuus; a death fire; a fetch candle; ...a wraith; a
The Kodansha Encyclopedia
entry by Inokuchi Shoji (vol. 3, p. 207) describes hitodama as
"The spirit that is supposed to depart from the human body at the time of
death and afterwards, commonly believed to take the form of a bluish white
ball of fire with a tail. Seeing hitodama was traditionally regarded
as a premonition of one's own death, although various ways of exorcising
them are mentioned in medieval literature. Even today one hears of people
who claim to have seen hitodama hovering over rooftops or in
graveyards at night. Shooting stars, phosphorescence, and other natural
phenomena are sometimes taken for hitodama.
The detail to the left is from a vertical triptych by Kunichika.
The image shown below is a
detail from a print by Kunisada showing the ghost of Oiwa with her
For another related example
of free floating flames see our entry on
kitsunebi on our
thru Kuruma index/glossary page.
The flame to the left is a detail from a Yoshiiku print.
monster or goblin. Louis Frédéric in the Japan Encyclopedia says: "...a sort of demon (oni) or ghost (bakemono)
with one eye in the middle of its forehead. This cyclops is often associated
with a young Buddhist monk (kozō), or, in Shinto, with a Ta no
kami (or Yama no kami). It is sometimes portrayed holding a grill
with charcoal in its hand. People protect themselves from its spells by
placing an upside-down basket on top of a pole in front of the house,
especially on kotoyōka days (eighth day of the second and twelfth
Michael Dylan Foster has written a fascinating passage which is devoted as
much to the hitosume-kozō as it is to the method developed by Kunio
Yanagita (柳田國男 or やなぎたくにお: 1875-1962): "An early example of Yanagita's
approach is found in a 1917 essay 'Hitotsume-kozō' (One-Eyed Rascal). The
essay concerns hitosume-kozō - a small anthropomorphic creature with
one eye, one leg, and a long tongue - of which Yanagita notes, 'with only a
little variation, this yōkai has traversed most of the islands of Japan.
Particularly noteworthy, he points out, is that there is little
evidence of its diffusion as a legend by word of mouth; rather, it seems to
have emerged similarly throughout the country (a case of what folklorists
would call 'polygenesis'). Presenting a 'bold hypothesis', Yanagita argues
that the tradition of hitotsume-kozō represents a trace of earlier customs
involving human sacrifice." (p. 145) ¶ Yanagita proposed that in ancient
times individuals were chosen by 'divine' selection for human sacrifice. One
year before their final demise they would have one eye poked out, but from
there on would be treated with respect and honor because they held a sacred
position within the community. Long after the practice of human sacrifice
ceased the concept of the one-eyed figure remained in one form or another.
"Many generations later, this conflation of one-eyedness with the sacred,
and with the status of a sacrificial victim as a doomed outcast, would
survive in the form of the yōkai hitotsume-kozō." (p. 146) ¶ Foster
quoted Yanagita: "Like most obake, hitotsume-kozō is a minor deity divorced
from its foundations and lost its lineage.... At some point in the long
distant past, in order to turn somebody into a relative of a deity, there
was a custom [fūshū] of killing a person on the festival day for that
deity. Probably, in the beginning, so that he could be quickly captured in
the event of an escape, they would poke out one eye and break one leg of the
chosen person." Much later "...it was long remembered that the sacred
spirits [goryō] of the past had one eye; so when the deity became separated
from the control of the higher gods and started to wander the roads of the
mountains and the fields, it naturally followed that it came to be seen as
exceedingly frightening." (Ibid.)
A personal note from this
writer: I would much rather have been chosen as the virgin to be thrown into
the volcano as seen in so many early 20th century movies than to have been
made into a hitosume-kozō. At least the volcano ordeal would have
been over in a flash, so to speak.
The modern hitotsume-kozō, as
described in Hiroko Yoda and Matt Alt's book Yokai Attack: The Japanese
Monster Survival Guide, is a male figure, bipedal, with a shaved head
and about as tall as a 7 or 8 year-old boy. Dressed in traditional garb with
one glowing eye it can be found anywhere humans are. They like to jump out
of the shadows to scare people or even sneak into their homes to scare the
bejeezus out of them. Don't forget the monster's preternaturally long
tongue. They are also frequently seen carrying a Buddhist's rosary beads.
In 1875 in Fu-so mimo
bukuro: a Budget of Japanese Notes by C. Pfoundes describes the
Shitotsume kozo which must be the same creature covered here. There it
says that this "...is a one-eyed ghoul wearing a large hat, carrying in the
hand a small sieve containing a ball of fire, the sight of which strikes
terror into the beholder."
"From the brush of"
- a common ending following the artist's signature. The other most
common ending is ga (画). 1
Fire walking: "The second
group of powers is practised only by yamabushi and consists not so much of
practical accomplishments as of demonstrations of the magic art, undertaken
to convince the community that the disciple has indeed risen above the
ordinary human state. Until the end of the last century a fair number of
these feats could still be witnessed in various parts of Japan. Today the
repertory seems to have been reduced to three: hi-watari or
firewalking, yudate or sousing oneself in boiling water, and more
rarely katana-watari or climbing up a ladder of swords. All these
three feats, when closely examined, will be seen to point to the two
characteristically shamanic accomplishments of mastery of fire and the
magical flight to heaven." Quoted from: The Catalpa Bow: A Study of
Shamanistic Practices in Japan by Carmen Blacker, p. 208.
"Fire-walking, hi watari, is
the one feat in the yamabushi's ancient magic repertory which may
still be seen practised in many places in Japan, particularly in spring and
autumn, at the conclusion of the saitō-goma or magic bonfire rite.
The embers of the great conical pyre, the burning of which is a ritual of
the greatest beauty and symbolic power but which it would be irrelevant to
describe at this point, are raked out by yamabushi with long bamboo
rakes to form a red and smouldering path about twenty feet long. A squadron
of yamabushi draw up at the head of the path, loudly recite certain
mantras, then stride firmly in procession down the smoking cursus. By this
action, it is believed, they have so reduced the essence of the fire that it
is not only safe but extremely beneficial for all and sundry from the
profane world to traverse the path too." (Ibid., p. 223.)
The image to the left was
found at Pinterest.
Sail crests or mons:
"Perhaps the most striking thing about maritime motifs in Japanese design is
that they are exceedingly rare." This is what John W. Dower said. But he
also added that when there was a net or vessel represented it tended to be
something we might notice out of the corner of our eye. Japan was not a
maritime state and little emphasis was given this arena. These motifs
"...carried comparatively little prestige." Unlike other Japanese terms
sailing words seemed to lack the layers of significance and punning found in
Source and quotes
Elements of Japanese Design, by John W. Dower, p. 121.
John Dower: ジョン.ヴ.ダワー.
of Buddhism such as the kongōsho (vajra) and the horin (wheel of the
The ritual release of
animals, especially fish and birds. The first Hachiman hōjō-e was held
during the reign of the Emperor Go-Sanjō (1034-73). When the emperor
abdicated he became a Buddhist priest.
was one of the two most sacred ceremonies held annually at the Hachimangū
(八幡宮 or はちまんぐう) in Kamakura after 1221 Yoritomo had observed this rite
before a statue of Kannon since he was a child. "In Bunji 3 (1187) he
instituted the hōjō-e as a large-scale ceremony to be held
at the Hachimangū annually on the fifteenth day of the eighth month. As part
of the festivities a mounted archery contest was also held at the shrine. ¶
The hōjō-e became the biggest festival in Kamakura, for
commoners as well as bushi. It was a combination of Buddhist memorial
service and martial festival. At first it was held on one day, the fifteenth
of the month. From Kenkyū 1 (1190) it was carried over onto the sixteenth as
well. On the fifteenth the shrine was first blessed by the sacred palanquin
bearing the divinity. The shogun descended from his horse at the southern
entrance, walked across the red bridge into the compound, and visited
Wakamiya and Hongū shrines. Gifts of horses were presented to the gods, and
the ceremony of releasing birds and fish into the pond, accompanied by the
chanting of the Lotus Sūtra, was held." Quoted from:
Religion in Japan: Arrows to Heaven and Earth in an essay by Martin
Collcutt, pp. 111-12.
放 means 'to set free', 生
'life' and when 会 is used archaically it means to have a Buddhist ceremony
and gyōkō-e are the two most important ceremonies celebrated at the
Usa Shrine. The hōjō-e, a Buddhist ceremony commemorating
the Buddha's prohibition of fishing and hunting, is believed to have been
first celebrated in Japan at the Usa Shrine in 720, following an uprising in
Hyuga and Osumi provinces in southeastern Kyushu. Nakano sees this Buddhist
symbolism as a later overlay on an ancient ritual of renewal, which involved
the union of previously autonomous regions. The heart of the yearly hōjō-e
is, in fact, the replacement of Hachiman's shintai, a copper mirror
made by a priest of the Komiya Hachiman Shrine from metals mined from Mount
Kawara, located directly behind the shrine. On completion, the mirror is
carried by parishioners from Mount Kawara eastward through Buzen Province to
Usa Shrine where it remains until the following year." Quoted from: Shinzō:
Hachiman Imagery and its Development by Christine Guth Kanda, p. 37
Ceremony began with dancing, music, and horse riding, and then Buddhist
monks released clams and fish into the
River while others chanted scriptures. Scholars of Japanese religion point
out that this popular ritual became an imperial rite when the emperor
ordered that the
Ceremony be conducted throughout the country. Records from the Usa Hachiman
Shrine and zooarchaeological sites provide additional evidence that monks
performed the ceremony at other Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines. As part
of state protocol, shogunal officials from the medieval capital of Kamakura
abstained from eating fish or meat before visiting shrines." Quoted from:
The Lost Wolves of Japan by Brett Walker, p. 64
Ceremony] "consisted of layers of native and imported beliefs that, over
time, overlapped and intertwined with one another to form patterns in the
complex tapestry of early Japanese religious life." Ibid.
"As Jane Marie Law has
suggested in a provocative article on the ideological history of the
'At the heart of this rite is a deep concern over the violence within the
Hachiman cult and the need to make amends and appease the victims. It also
demonstrates how a public rite and spectacle ultimately legitimates the
violence of dominant authority, even when claiming to appease the victims of
the original event itself.' ¶ In sum, the ideological logic of the
in its religio-political context performance is twofold: the subjection of
military enemies is both legitimized in the name of Hachiman and
domesticated through the appeasement of Hachiman's victims. Even as living
beings are saved in the ritual performance of the
such a liberation takes place on the basis of a previous subjection of
living beings. In effect, the
ritual liberation appeases by means of substitution, metaphorically
transforming the victims of military violence into the bodies of fish and
birds that are then released into nearby rivers and fields." Quoted from:
Theatricalities of Power: The Cultural Politics of Noh by Steven T. Brown,
"The first precept of
Buddhism, reverence to life, resulted in the widespread observance of
vegetarianism among the Buddhist community (with some ridicule on the part
of Confucianists). It also led to the practice of releasing animals on
special occasions known as hojo-e. This ceremony has been practiced
for over a thousand years in China and Japan, where it originally entailed
delivering animals to nature preserves. It eventually became associated with
the demonstration of became associated with the demonstration of political
power in medieval Japan..." Quoted from: A Companion to Environmental
Philosophy by Dale Jamieson, p. 59
In Miraculous Stories
from the Japanese Buddhist Tradition: The Nihon Ryoiki of the Monk Kyokai
on page 172 there is the story of a woman who purchases a crab, takes it to
a priest and asks him to perform a ceremony (hojo-e) before releasing
"The policy of animal
protection that had first been declared by the Indian emperor Aśoka spread
with Buddhism to China and Japan, where it periodically gained favor as a
means of earning merit. The twentieth precept of the Fan-wang-ching (Brahmajāla
Sūtra) declares: ¶ If one is a son of Buddha, one must, with a
merciful heart, intentionally practice the work of liberating living beings.
All men are our fathers, all women are our mothers. All our existences have
taken birth from them. ¶ Therefore all living beings of the six gati
(animals, humans, gods, titans, demons, hungry ghosts) are our parents, and
if we kill them, we will kill our parents and also our former bodies, and
all fire and wind are our original substance. ¶ Therefore, you must always
practice liberation of living beings (hojo) (since to produce and
receive life is the eternal law), and cause others to do so; and if one sees
a worldly person kill animals, he must by proper means save and protect them
and free them from their misery and danger." Quoted from: Nonviolence to
Animals, Earth, and Self in Asian Traditions by Christopher Chapple, pp.
Later Chapple wrote: "The
influence of this and other texts such as the Suvarnaprabhāsa Sūtra
caused Chinese and Japanese leaders to declare the institution of hojo-e
or 'meeting for liberating living beings.' In the sixth century, the monk
Chi-i reportedly convinced more than 1000 fishermen to give up their work.
He also purchased 300 miles of land as a protected area where animals could
be released. In 759 CE the Chinese Emperor Suh-tsung established 81 ponds
where fish could be released; this was followed by similar actions on the
part of Emperor Chen-tsung (1017 C.E.)." Ibid.
The jewel motif:
Years ago I studied with an expert in Chinese art. He told me that this was
the flaming pearl of wisdom that dragons, adult dragons, were forever
chasing. (Baby dragons never chased flaming pearls.)
In Japan the term hōju, which can also be pronounced hōshu, translates as jewel.
See also the entry on yakara no tama. This motif is also known as the hoshi no tama.
This jewel "...is used for the
exorcism of evil spirits; it is carved upon the topmost point of pagodas and
temples, of shrines and gravestones."
Quoted from: Japanese Art
Motives, by Maude Rex Allen, published by A. C. McClurg & co., 1917, p.
In 1906 Katherine Augusta
Carl wrote in her With the Empress Dowager of China (published by
Eveleigh Nash, p. 284) that after nighttime processions "...a glowing
tableaux, a pair of illuminated dragons writhed into the court and struggled
for the 'flaming pearl,' which flitted around with elusive fantastic
movements, ever beyond their grasp. I was not able to find out the origin of
the Imperial legend of the Double Dragon and the Flaming Pearl,
representations of which appear everywhere at the Palace on whatever is
meant for Imperial use, or for any official function over which the Emperor
is supposed to preside. It is on all the thrones of the Dynasty; it adorns
the Imperial pennant; it is cut into stone, carved into wood, and painted in
pictures. It decorates the gowns of higher officials, and is embroidered
upon the Court dresses of the Ladies of the Palace. At the Birthdays of the
Emperor and Empress, and at all Dynastic celebrations there are realistic
celebrations of the immortal struggle where the Double Dragons strive to
absorb the 'flaming pearl.'" Carl believed that this was the eternal
conflict between good and evil, but that the flaming pearl would forever
remain elusive. I am not convinced of her interpretation. From another book
published in 1912 about prominent American women it states that Ms. Carl was
inducted into the order of the Double Dragon and Manchu Flaming Pearl by the
C.A.S. Williams in his Chinese Symbolism and Art Motifs (published by Castle Books, 1974
edition, p. 138) isn't convinced that it is a pearl the dragon is chasing.
"The round red object which seems to be the constant appurtenance of the
dragon is variously described as the sun, the moon, the symbol of thunder
rolling, the egg emblem of the dual influences of nature, the pearl of
potentiality - the loss of which betokens deficient power - of the
'night-shining pearl' (夜明珠) which professor Giles defines as a carbuncle or
Ernest Ingrsoll in his Dragons and Dragon Lore of 1982 deals head on with the confusion about
this object in his chapter called "The Dragon's Precious Pearl". Right off
he refers to it as the "...so-called Pearl..." Naga queens who live
in underwater palaces wear pearl necklaces. Vedic scriptures talk of a
magical jewel once possessed by naga maidens, but lost out of fear of
the terrible garuda. But "...in Buddhism... [it is] the jewel in the
lotus, the mani of the mystic, ecstatic, formula Om mani padme hum - - 'the
jewel that grants all desires,' the divine pearl of the Buddhists throughout
the Orient." (p. 71) In Japan and Korea they believed that the chief or
yellow dragon carried a pear-shaped pearl on its forehead and that it had
supernatural and healing powers. Unlike Williams, above, Ingersoll describes
the object as being "...white or bluish with a reddish or golden halo, and
usually has an antler-shaped 'flame' rising from its surface." It often has
a comma shaped appendage, too. (Ibid.) ¶ "Japanese designers like to form
the handles of bells, whether big temple bells or tiny ones, of two dragons
affrontes, with the tama [i.e., jewel] between them. One Japanese carving
represents a snake-like dragon coiled tightly around a ball, marked with
spiral lines, illustrating devotion to the tama." (p. 72) Visser refers to
it as 'the pearl of perfection.' (Ibid.) ¶ De Groot describes ascending
dragons on a priest's robe belching out balls which probably represent
thunder. "...the ball between two dragons is often delineated as a spiral...
[denoting] "...the rolling of thunder from which issues a flash of
lightning." Ingersoll adds: "In Japanese prints a dragon is frequently
accompanied by a huge spiral indicating a thunderstorm caused by him. Are
the antler-shaped appendages rising from the 'ball' intended to represent
lightning-flames?" (p. 73) Ingersoll also notes that "In the Nihongi... it
is related that in the second year of the Emperor Chaui's reign (A.D. 193)
the Emperess Jingo-kogo found in the sea 'a jewel which grants all desires,'
apparently the same lost by the frightened Naga Maidens." (p. 74)
For examples of the
lightening and thunder
motifs in Japanese print form go to
our page devoted to lightening images.
Hand towel tied
under the chin like a head kerchief.
This term also has a second meaning: feigning ignorance.
The first character is hō (頬 or ほお) or cheek of the face.
The image to the
left is by Natori Shunsen (名取春仙 or なとり.しゅんせん) and the cartoonish one above
which is from one of my favorites series of all Japanese prints is by
Broom: In ancient
China the broom came to be identified with insight, wisdom "...and the power
to brush away all the dusts of worry and trouble."
"The manifold evil
spirits are supposed to be afraid of a broom." de Groot in his Religious
System of China (vol. 6, p. 972) states "Many families are in the habit
of performing a kind of pretence sweeping with a broom on the last day of
the year, rather than intending the removal of evil than that of filth."
Source and quotes
from: Chinese Symbolism and Art Motifs, by C.A.S. Williams, Castle
Books, 1974 edition, pp. 50-51.
Like the Chinese
the Japanese saw the broom as an instrument of expelling evil. However, it
has another use too: Placing a broom upside down is a sign to a guest that
they have overstayed their visit. [My friends have either put on music they
thought I would hate or they would change into their jammies.]
In the West it is
walking under a ladder or breaking a mirror, but in Japan the simple act of
stepping on or over a broom "...is believed to invite a curse or
"Hoki has also been
used as a charm for a safe and easy child delivery in many parts of the
country. It is placed upside down at the foot of the mother-to-be in prayer
for successful childbirth, as it sweeps away all evil spirits and sickness."
In some locations
the broom is offered a bottle of saké until the child is born. Then it - the
broom and not the baby - is taken to a shrine and tied to a tree for three
superstition borrowed from the Chinese was the belief that a broom could
keep the dead from moving about on their own.
Source and quotes: Mock Joya's Things Japanese, the Japanese Times, Inc., 1985
edition, pp. 19-20.
The images to the
left are from a print by Yoshitoshi representing Jō and his devoted wife Uba.
They represent eternal love and are the subject of one of the Noh plays of
Zeami Motokiyo (世阿弥元清 or ぜあみもときよ).
Artist fl. 1829-1837
Hokushū's main pupil was an
artist named Hokuei who worked briefly from the late 1820s to the mid-1830s.
Virtually nothing is known of his life beyond his name and address... and a
surimono-style portrait of the actor Nakamura Utaemon IV, which was
published posthumously in the spring of 1837 as a memorial to the artist
with a eulogy from his publisher... Hokuei was worthy of his lineage and
produced, often in collaboration with the engraver Kasuke, some of the
masterpieces of the Osaka surimono style.... Around 1839 a new range of
luminous, saturated colors began to appear in the prints of Hokuei and
Shigeharu, which combined with the earlier techniques to lift the surimono
style to its apogee. The style ceased abruptly in 1837 in the face of the
city's political and economic disturbances. The technique but not the scale
of these sumptuous oban was revived successfully in the late 1840s. ¶
After Hokuei's death, Osaka print publication languished.
Quoted from: The
Theatrical World of Osaka Prints by Roger Keyes, pp. 29-30.
The image to the left is
from the Lyon Collection. Click on it to learn more.
The Big Dipper - "Another
legend tells of the Chiba, on the brink of defeat in a 10th century battle.
The Big Dipper constellation (北斗七星; hokuto shichisei) shone brightly in the
night sky, so the Chiba prayed to Myōken Bosatsu, a Bodhisattva associated
with the constellation. In response, they received a vision, and the next
day proved victorious. The Chiba referred to this legend with various
star-based mon, with either a larger circle or a crescent representing a
To the left is an image of
one of the crests or mons used by the Chiba clan. It represents the
contradictory sources on the houmongi, but what else is new? Some say that
it is a type of kimono worn by married women while others say that being
married is not necessarily a requirement. It is either formal or semi-formal
and is often worn when making visits or attending weddings. One source says
that the brides 'maids' often wear these.
does seem to be that this robe generally has an elegant, if understated,
continuous flowing design. Very Audrey Hepburnish, but in a Japanese way, of
Hōmon 訪問 means 'to
visit'. (Like so many specific terms you can find numerous other entries on
the Internet if you use alternative, accepted spellings. In this case try 'houmongi'.
A suggestion: For those of you who would like to know more or see numerous
examples of this type of kimono all you have to do type the entry into
Google or cut and paste the kanji or hiragana into the search box. I would
suggest doing this even if you don't read Japanese or French or Swahili or
Urdu. You will be surprised by what you can pick up simply by looking at
more Internet sites. Of course, you have to dig through a lot of c... to
find what you want sometimes, but I guarantee it will be worth the effort.
If anyone out there
knows anything more specific I would love to hear from you. Also, I would
like to find get permission to reproduce an image to illustrate this entry.
If you can help there too I would very appreciative.
Buddhist name given to the dead. It often appears on memorial or death
dedicated to actors. It is also referred to as a kaimyō (戒名 or
"After the introduction of Buddhism the custom of giving kaimyo, or hōmyo, 'religious names,' to the dead became common. These were
inscribed on the ancestral tablets and on the grave-stones, so that rarely
were actual personal names to be found in such connexions." By the late 19th
to early 20th century this practice was changing to a more Western style
with the use of personal given and family names. (Source and quote: Encyclopædia of
Religion and Ethics, edited by James Hastings, published
by Charles Scribner's Sons, 1917, p. 168)
Another form of posthumous
name is the okurina (贈り名 or おくりな) which "...have been common
with the royalty and among the nobility. In the reign of Kotoku (645-654)
the posthumous name Jimmu was given to the first sovereign, and since that
time the custom has continued until the present time, when the late emperor
is known by the posthumous name Meiji Tenno. These names have for the most
part been characteristic of the individual or his reign or some local
associated with him." (Ibid.)
The hōmyō was given
by a Buddhist priest right after a person's death. The name was then
inscribed on a wooden memorial tablet or ihai (位牌 or いはい). "From the
eighth century it became the almost universal custom to set up boshi 墓誌, or
monuments, to mark the position of the grave. These were of all shapes and
sizes, and constructed of stone, copper, or other durable material. They
bore inscriptions setting forth the name and rank of the deceased; and in
some cases words were engraved upon the tablets, eulogistic of the dead. (Source and quote:
Transactions of the Asiatic Society of Japan, from "Japanese Funeral
Rites", by Arthur Hyde Lay, vol. 19, 1891, p. 525)
William Hare Newell in his book Ancestors (p. 65) gives a lucid
description of why there is a birth name and then a separate death name:
"Life in this world is growth to full adulthood. Life in the other world is
growth to full ancestorhood. Any human being who starts this earthly journey
receives a new name at his birth. In the same way, every soul who
starts the other journey at his death, a new starting point, also receives a
new name. He receives his first name (zokumyō [common name]) when his
body leaves his mother's womb and starts an independent existence: this
revelation of a 'new power' is consecrated by the new name. He receives his
second name (kaimyō [posthumous name]) when his soul leaves his
body and starts an independent existence (although like the child , he will
be still highly dependent for some time upon the care of others). This new
revelation of again a 'new power' is symbolized by a new name."
For more general information
see our entry on Japanese names on our J thru
Kakuregasa index/glossary page.
"The priest's other major responsibility is giving the deceased a posthumous
name (hōmyō in the Jōdoshinshū sect, hōgō in the Nichirenshū
sect, and kaimyō in other sects). The posthumous name is written in
black calligraphy on the two wooden memorial tablets (shiraki-ihai).
One wooden tablet is cremated with the deceased while the other is kept at
the domestic Buddhist altar until the 49th-day memorial service. Later the
posthumous name is rewritten by the priest in gold ink on a black lacquered
memorial tablet (hon-ihai), which is kept on the domestic Buddhist
altar (butsudan)." (Quoted from: The Price of Death: The Funeral
Industry in Contemporary Japan by Hikaru Suzuki, p. 169) See also our
ihai on our Ihai thru Iwai page.
The hōmyō is the dharma name.
Saragossa or gulfweed.
A seaweed which dries to a golden color and was used for ornamental New
Two different sources give two
different ideas about the symbolic significance of hondawara. One
said it represented wealth. One said happiness. Well, perhaps that is
basically really the same thing.
As with so many other biological/botanical terms it is difficult to sort out
which plant or organism is actually being referred to. Different sources
give different names. Sometimes they are the same, but at other times they
are confusing one for the other. In the Commercial Products of the Sea
by Peter Lund Simmons hondawara is referred to as Halochloa
macrantha. ¶ In the Kojiki presented to the Imperial Court in 712 A.D.
it says that the Deity Wondrous-Eight-Spirits was assigned the task of
preparing a banquet for the gods. After turning into a cormorant the Deity
Wondrous-Eight-Spirits dove to the bottom of the sea to scoop up red earth
to make the heavenly platters and to sea-weed stalks. He used the latter to
start a fire. In footnote 56 the translator, Basil Hall Chamberlain,
said this is "Supposed to be the same as, or similar to, the modern
hon-da-hara (Halochloa macrantha)."
On 3/25/10 we corrected a mistake we made in the spelling of Halochloa
macrantha. Originally we had it as Holochloa. Sorry. Also, the
citation is from the 1981 edition, p. 127, note 36.
In an 1889 book by J. J.
Rein, The Industries of Japan, it is referred to as houdawara is
eaten with vinegar and pickled. (Is this a typo or is it another variation?
Don't know.) ¶ Numerous scientific sites say that hondawara
is Sargassum fulvellum. ¶ James Curtis Hepburn in his 1886
Japanese-English dictionary gives nanoriso (莫告藻 or なのりそ) as a
synonym. This is an older term according to Steven D. Carter. ¶ In Useful plants of Japan described and illustrated published in 1895 notes
that hondawara should be eaten when young. ¶ In the Kenkyusha's
New Japanese-English Dictionary (1931 edition) hondawara is
identified as Saragassum bacciferum. Yeesh! ¶
entry by Kazaki Hideo (vol. 7, p. 46) it is noted that "The 8th century
Man'yōshū anthology contains more than 90 poems which mention seaweed."
¶ Two other synonyms are cited in Chado: The Way of Tea (p. 44) are jimba-sō (神馬藻 or じんばそう) and tawaramoku (俵藻草 or たわらもく).
In this book hondawara is listed as hodawara (穗俵 or
ほだわら), but is definitely the same thing.
The photo to the left shows
a ball of floating Saragassum seaweed from the Smithsonian. It was taken by
In Shinto this is the "...main
shrine or inner sanctuary whre the kami is enshrined." Quoted from: A
Popular Dictionary of Shinto by Brian Bocking, p. 54.
The image to the left is the
honden at Gokōnomiya Shrine (御香宮神社本殿 or ごこうのみやじんじゃ) in Kyoto. The one above
is the honden at the Usaka-jinja (鵜坂神社 or うさかじんじゃ) in Toyama. Both were
posted at commons.wikimedia by Nnh.
One of several
woods used to print woodblocks. Referred to as Magnolia obovata (Thun.) in
the West. Often used in modern printmaking for small prints.
Click on the highlighted number one to the left to see the masterful use of hōnoki by Kokei.
Synonymous with M. hypoleuca it can grow as tall as 70 to 100' with a 7'
girth with grayish bark. [The height and girth meausrements are all over the
place. Just thought you might want to know.] One source says it is also
referred to as the Japanese cucumber tree, but I don't know why. That is
certainly not consistent with the flower shown above. What is one to think?
Several early Western publications say that the flowers are generally
purplish. Another source even says the m. obovata is a shrub.
In a publication from 1885 there is a description which differs with the
sample shown above - another conundrum which I don't have the expertise to
resolve: "The light, greyish white wood changes gradually to a deeper shade.
It is soft, easily bent, and elastic, and has a fine even grain, which makes
it applicable to many uses. The wood engraver uses it in patterns for cloth
printing, and the lacquerer finds it adapted to various small articles." It
was used somewhat in basketry. "Sword sheaths (Katana-no-Saya) were also
formerly made out of Hô-no-ki. In Niigata and Yonezawa it is used as the
groundwork of nearly half of all the lacquer ware, and from it is prepared
the soft, fine-grained charcoal which is used throughout the whole of Japan
for rubbing the lacquer, and for polishing the enamel of cloisonné ware."
Source and quotes from: The Industries of Japan: Together with an Account of Its Agriculture,
Forestry, Arts and Commerce, by J. J. Rein, published by Hodder and
Stoughton, 1889, p. 259. [Another source pointed out that it was believed
that hōnoki was so soft that it was incapable of scratching Japanese
swords. That's why it was chosen for it scabbards - frequently lacquered on
It would seem that hōnoki was also used in the process of mirror
making, but not for the final reflective surface. Rather for it base made to
take the combination of mercury , tin and lead.
"The species requires from fifteen to twenty years to flower from seed. It
is among the hardiest of Asiatic magnolias, and since the flowers open in
summer, they escape damage by late frost." The wood can be used for tools,
toys and utensils.
Source and quote from: The World of Magnolias, by Dorothy J. Callaway, Timber Press, 1994, 87.
The bark has been used for eons
in both Chinese and Japanese medicines.
Both the photo of the flower
and the bark are shown courtesy of Shu Suehiro at
A great site.
The Phoenix is
"...used as a symbol of happiness or good fortune..." Like so many other
motifs this has a Chinese origin. Its image "...adorns the roofs of many
court and other buildings, as well as the mikoshi or portable shrines
carried in procession in shrine festivals."
Quoted from: Mock Joya's Things Japanese (pp. 416-17)
In a reprint from 1893 in a
book on Frank Lloyd Wright it says: "The Ho-o is described by the ancients
has [sic] having the head of a cock, the beak of a sparrow, the neck like a
moving snake, feathers like dragon scales piled one upon the other, the
wings of a Kirin (a mythical animal), and a tail like that of a fish.
Its plumage is brilliant with all the colors, the whole effect being one of
supernatural beauty. Little difference exists between the male and the
female. It is said to ascend for nine thousand miles into the heavens. Its
song resembles the sound of the Sho (a Chinese musical instrument),
the female accompanying the male, when he sings, in notes of marvelous
purity.... The bird makes its home in the kiri tree (Paulownia
Imperialis), and lives only on the fruit of the bamboo. It is said never to
feed upon live insects nor to tread upon live grasses; hence it has become
an emblem of holiness and mercy. [¶] The Chinese believed the bird to be a
native of Japan. Their natural history mentions it as a bird of the Land of
Refinement (Kunshi-Koku), a name given to Japan a thousand years ago.
It is further said to make its appearance only when a sovereign is on the
throne whose rule is full of love and mercy, free from the destruction of
the life of man or the lower animals, and whose people are in the enjoyment
of peace and prosperity."
Quoted from: Frank Lloyd
Wright and Japan: The Role of Traditional Japanese Art and Architecture in
the Work of Frank Lloyd Wright, by Kevin Nute, published by Taylor
& Francis, 1993, Appendix C (1893), p. 191.
Above is a detail of an
illustration by Utamaro from the 1804 book "Yoshiwara Picture Book of Annual
Events in the Green Houses"
or Yoshiwara seirō nenchu gyōji (吉原青楼年中行事 or
よしわらせいろうねんじゅうぎょうじ). Some people have say that the man
painting the image of the
phoenix in the whorehouse is Utamaro himself. However, there doesn't seem to
be any firm proof of this.
Japanese Art Motives by
Maude Rex Allen (published by A. C. McClurg & Co., 1917, pp. 48-9) gives a
wholly different description of the the phoenix. "The hō-ō... is
found in the earliest wall decorations of China, and was first depicted as
an immense eagle carrying large animals in its claws - like the Greek
gryphon, the Indian garuda, and the Persian rukh. Later it
was endowed with beautiful, colored feathers, and became the feng-hwang
of China." Allen added that "The feng-hwang is the essence of fire;
it is born in the vermilion cave; it perches only on the kiri; its
body is adorned with five colors (symbolizing the five virtues: obedience,
uprightness of mind, fidelity, justice, and benevolence); its song contains
five notes; it eats only the seed of the bamboo, and drinks only from a
sacred spring... [¶] The Chinese mystics believed it to symbolize the entire
world: its head is the heaven; its eyes, the sun; its back, the crescent
moon; its wings the wind; its feet the earth; its tail the trees and the
plants. [¶] The hō-ō is used as an emblem of the empress, as the
dragon is an emblem of the emperor. The emperor's carriage is called Ho-ren.
In China, brides are allowed to wear a head-dress in the shape of the
A thought: As I was
assembling information about the concept of the phoenix in East Asia I also
read about the Western phoenix. These two creatures differ considerably in
origin and behavior. The Western phoenix immolates itself only to rise from
the ashes to repeat this process over and over again. The feng-hwang/hō-ō doesn't do this, but it reminded me of many of the stories I read about tengu.
There are many stories where these bird-like creatures dance themselves into
such a frenzy that they burst into flames which consumes then. Then a little
later they suddenly reappear to repeat this act. I seriously doubt that
there is any connection between the fire prone phoenix and the tengu.
What they share in common is the ever creative human mind. ¶ In Christian
lore the phoenix is representative of the resurrection of Christ.
Conch shell trumpet: Used in
India as a military tool prior to the introduction of Buddhism. For that
reason it became a symbol of authority. With Buddhism it became "...an icon
of spreading the Law.... As such, the conch was counted as one of the eight
symbols said to be found on Buddha's footprint." In Japan it was associated
with the Senju or 1,000-armed Kannon and was closely linked to
the itinerant monks who were known for their esoteric practices. As in
ancient India it was adopted as a military signaling device.
Baird also notes that Benkei is
often seen in association with the conch shell.
Source and quotes: Symbols
of Japan: Thematic Motifs in Art and Design, by Merrily Baird, Rizzoli
International Publications, Inc., 2001, p. 128.
"A horn formed by attaching a
simple mouthpiece to the end of a conch shell. Of Indian origin, the
instrument diffused along with Buddhism throughout Southeast Asia and East
Asia, entering Japan via Korea in the Nara period (710-794). It was employed
in Buddhist ceremonies and as one of the religious accoutrements other
ascetic Shugendō practitioners. The horagai was also used to sound the
signal for advance and retreat in premodern warfare."
Quote and source:
entry by Misumi Haruo (vol. 3, p. 227)
Note that the image to the left
is a detail from a print by Yoshitoshi showing Hideyoshi blowing the conch
trumpet to let his troops know that it is time to begin the attack at
Shizugatake (賤ヶ岳 or しずがたけ).
In China the conch shell was
also a "...one of the insignia of royalty, and the symbol of a prosperous
voyage, while it is also regarded as an emblem of the voice of Buddha
preaching..." Quote from: Chinese Symbolism and Art Motifs, by C.A.S. Williams, Castle
Books, 1974 edition, p. 83.
"Like Buddha's spiral curls...
these shells through ages innumerable, and over many lands, were holy things
because of the whorls moving from left to right, some mysterious sympathy
with the Sun in his daily course through Heaven." Ibid.
The conch-shell trumpet is
often mounted with bronze or silver. They were "...also used as fog-horns by
fishing boats..." Ibid.
The conch shell was applied or
worn, but only rarely, by some military figures as their family crest or
mon because of the shell's use in warfare. Source: The
Elements of Japanese Design, by John W. Dower, p. 27
Since the conch was also a tool
of Buddhism and especially mountain ascetics "...it was ascribed magical
qualities in dispelling sins, demons and enemies." (Ibid., p. 98)
The Land of Eternal Youth.
In China it is called P'eng Lai.
Carver "Usually the artist
himself did not keep an eye upon all the stages of the printing process and
allowed printers and carvers to experiment, which sometimes resulted in new
technical achievements. It took about four years to become a skilled printer
and at least twice as much before a carver could call himself a specialist.
When he reached a high level he put his qualities at the service of the best
artists and publishing houses."
Quote from: Ōsaka Kagami, by Jan van Doesburg, published by Huys den Esch, 1985, p.
"Many designers in
the history of ukiyo-e were amateur artists, but the engravers were skilled
professional craftsmen who underwent a long period of apprenticeship and
training before they became masters and were allowed to engrave heads,
faces, and major outlines of the figures in prints."
There were so many
different carving styles that prints by one artist carved by various
engravers often looked like prints by different people. "Some print
designers were aware of this issue, although they rarely seem to have had
much choice of their engravers." That is why Hokusai wrote one of his
publishers requesting that he use a carver named Egawa Tomekichi who he
"...could trust to engrave the faces in his pictures the way they were
drawn..." and not end up looking like so many other Utagawa heads.
Source and quote: Japanese Woodblock Prints: The Ainsworth Collection, by Roger Keyes,
1984, p. 104.
"...it is certain
that some engraving was undertaken by families who worked in their own
ateliers and contracted with individual publishers, these engravers
often being among the most skilful..."
carvers often lived with the publishers and were merely house employees.
"Volker has cited one or two instances where the engraver and publisher are
the smae person and this may have been more common than is at present
believed but the evidence is very scanty." Some carvers were sued for
publishing on their own.
Engravers did not
just 'copy' slavishly, but often improvised or changed features or elements.
The artists did not have direct contact with the carvers and had to convey
their wishes through the publishers.
"...it took four
years to be an artist, three years apprenticeship to be a printer but ten
years to be a first class engraver."
Source and quotes
from: The Prints of Japan, by Frank A. Turk, Arco Publications, 1966, pp.
contemporary blockcarvers about 'the old days' suggest that under the
master-apprentice family workshop system, a youngster would start his
training to be a nishiki-e blockcarver by cutting lettering. He then
moved up to written characters of the prompt books used by the chanters in
Kabuki or puppet theaters. From there he learned to remove the excess areas
of the color woodblocks... Finally he practiced cutting the outlines for
less important parts like the costumes, hands and feet. After more practice
only one of the most talented would come to carve facial outlines, until
finally he could try the finest carving needed for the elaborate hair-styles
of the finishing block." By the end of World War II a carver would have to
be 40 to 50 years old before he could tackle the most difficult carving
Source and quotes: Color Woodblock Printing: The Traditional Method of Ukiyo-e, by
Margaret Miller Kanada, Shufunotomo Co., Ltd., 1989, p. 29.
"In Japan the engraver has no honour; he is a mere
artisan." This was published by a Westerner, Captain Frank Brinkley (Japan:
Its History Arts and Literature, published by T.C. & E. C. Jack, vol. 7,
1904, p. 51 - 1908 edition). This view is not surprising considering how
little we know about prominent carvers and how seldom they are credited on
Asahisa Ryūtarō carver's identifying
seal. We know that this seal appears on a Chikanobu print from 1890
published by Hasegawa Tsunejirō.
We know that this carver,
Katada Chojirō, engraved blocks for prints bearing the names of
Toyokuni III, Kunisada II, Kunichika and Chikanobu.
Active as early as 1861 to
as late as 1881.
He carved for Etsu Ka,
in 1863, Sano-ya Tomigorō Wakasa-ya Jingorō, Tsujioka-ya Bunsuke,
Izutsu-ya, Enshuya Hikobei, Daikoku-ya Kichinotsuke (?), Daikoku-ya
Kinzaburō (?), Tsunoi, Hanabuki-ya Bunzō (?) and 村山源兵衛 (as yet untranslated)
and several others who have yet to be identified.
He also worked for Ise-ya Tokichi in 1865.
Note: One of the things
which has always puzzled me is the role of the master carver in the creation
of ukiyo prints. So, I started a search on this particular carver and found
a range of dates when his name appeared on the finished prints, a few of the
publishing houses he worked for or with and the names of four of the artists
he is known to have helped produce.
The Boston Museum of Fine Arts list Katada Chojirō as a publisher
from 1888-1904 on prints by Yasuji, Toshimitsu, Shōgetsu, Kuniteru III,
Kokunimasa and Rosetsu. So far we have been unable to verify this
ホリ朝仙 or 彫朝仙
Carver's seals. This carver's
seals may only have appeared on some of Kuniyoshi's series
Sixty-nine Stations of the Kisokaidō Road from 1853 published by
Minatoya Kohei and Takada-ya Tokezō.
The two images above are
basically the same thing. But the one on the right is so dark it is nearly
impossible to read. That is why we have doctored it in such a way as to make
the kanji a little more accessible.
The seal and the image to the
left have the alternate seal: ホリ朝仙.
Carver whose work appeared from
1861 to 1865. His name was Matsushima Daijirō. He worked on the prints of
these artists: Toyokuni III, Yoshiiku, Kunihisa II, Kunichika, Yoshiharu,
Yoshitora, Kunitsuna and Kunisada II. He worked for these publishers: Enshu-ya
Hikobei, Suruga-ya Sakujirō, Kame-ya Iwakichi, Ise-ya Kanekichi, Ebi-ya
Rinnosuke, Fujioka-ya Keijirō, Yamaguchi-ya Tobei, Koshmura-ya Heisuke,
Maru-ya Tetsujirō, Kato-ya Iwazo and Sano-ya Tomigorō.
Toyokuni III print from 1861
carved by Hori Dai.
(also Hori Eikō)
The carver Watanabe Eizō
seal appears on works composed by Kunichika and Yoshitora. Among the
publishers who worked with him were Kiya Sōjirō, Tsujiya Yasubei and
The image shown above is by
Yoshitora and date from 1866.
It is from the Lyon Collection.
The image shown above comes
from the Lyon Collection.
Click on it to get a better
or more probably Hori
for Koizumi Kanegorō. The
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston says that this seal should represent Hori
Active from at least 1875 to
1890. As best we can tell this carver worked on prints by Yoshitoshi in
1875, Kunichika in 1875 to 1877, Chikanobu, Kuniaki in 1883 and Kyosai. His
work appears on prints published by Matsuki Heikichi (松木平吉), Sawamura-ya
Seikichi (沢村屋清吉), Yoshida Kiyomatsu (吉田喜代松), Tsutaya Kichizō, Ebisu-ya
Shōshichi, Tsujioka-ya Bunsuke and Ishii Rokunosuke (石井六之助).
A different seal by this
carver reading Hori Gin appears below. It can be found on a print by Kyosai
which we have posted next to it.
Carver's seal. Active in
between 1860 and 1863. He worked on prints designed by Toyokuni III and
Kunisada II. He worked for/with the publishers Shimizuya Naojirō,
Yorozuya Zentarō and Iseya Kanekichi.
Carver's seal. This person, his
name was Ōta Komachi, worked for these publishers: Kakumotoya Kinjirō in
1854; Ōmiya Kyūjirō in 1862, Echizenya Kajū in 1862 and Kiya Sōjirō in
1860. The artists whose works were carved by him include Kuniyoshi, Fusatane,
Yoshiiku, Kuniaki II and Kunichika. This seal appears on prints as early as
1854 to as late as 1865.
Above is the 1860 Fusatane
print that the seal to the left belongs to.
Carver's seal. We are not sure
of this attribution. If we find out if it is correct we will correct this
Carver's seal. We know that
this carver worked on a Kunichika triptych in 1867 and 1868. The Museum of
Fine Arts, Boston says that this man's name was Ōta Masukichi.
Carver's seal. He worked on
prints by Toyokuni III in 1860 for the publisher Iseya Shōnosuke and again
in 1861 for Izutsuya Shōkichi. He also worked for Izutsuya in 1863 on
prints designed by Kunichika. Below is a print from the Lyon Collection
carved by this man.
for Ōta Komakichi. Also
sealed as Hori Tashichi. (See Hori Ōta Tashichi below and Hori Koma
We know this carver worked on
prints by Kunichika for the publisher Hiranoya Shinzō.
A term for tattoo
which is also called irezumi.
To the left (top)
is a detail from a print by Kuniyoshi. It represents Kyūmonryū Shishin from
the Suikoden series. Below is a clearer detail of a dragon's
head and claws.
We have 3 pages devoted to tattoos. Below are direct links to those page.
BAD BOYS AND
THEIR TATTOOS - page 1
BAD BOYS AND
THEIR TATTOOS - page 2 (This page has been removed.)
BAD BOYS AND
THEIR TATTOOS - page 3
AND THEIR TATTOOS - page 4
One of the symbols
used by Mikkyō (密教 or みっきょう) or esoteric Buddhism it represents the wheel of the law. The
wheel stands for the continuance of existence through birth, death,
rebirth, death, rebirth, death ad nauseum. Only the attainment of
enlightenment ends the cycle. The kongōsho or vajra is another of
Hori Ōta Tashichi
This is one of the carver's
for Ōta Komakichi. We know he
was active using this seal as early as 1862 and as late as 1866. He worked
on prints by Toyokuni III, Kunisada II, Kunichika, Kyōsai, Sadahide,
Kiyokuni, Isai, Settei, Yoshikata, Yoshitoshi, Yoshiiku, Yoshimori and
Yoshitora. He also worked for/with the publishers Hiranoya Shinzō,
Koshimuraya Heisuke, Kagiya Shōbei, Katōya Iwazō, Kogaya Katsugorō,
Hayashiya Shōgorō, Gusokuya Kahei, Moriya Jihei, Ōmiya Kyūjirō, Ōtaya
Takichi and Enshūya Hikobei.
Carver who was active as early
as 1851 or earlier because his seal appears on a Toyokuni III triptych
published by Yamaguchiya Tōbei that year. A year later on a Kuniyoshi
diptych published by Jōshūya Kinzō. In 1855 he worked on Toyokuni III prints published by Kamaya Kihei and Honmo in 1856
on Kuniyoshi prints. In 1864 this seal appears on a Yoshiiku prints
published by Ōmiya Kyūjirō. He also worked for Kagaya Kichiemon in
1855 and Tsujiokaya Bunsuke the same year. He worked for Kiya Sōjirō
and Fujiokaya Keijirō in 1855.
Carver's seal. Known to have
worked for the publisher Mikawaya Tetsugorō on a triptych by Toyokuni III in
1852. Actually this is the only place where we can find this carver's seal.
The above information is now
being updated on 2/18/17. This carver also worked on prints published by
Yawata-ya Sakujirō in 1852, Tsuta-ya Kichizō in 1853 and Kakumoto-ya Kinjirō in
the same year, Ise-ya Yoshi in 1855 and Tsuji-ya Yasubei in 1858. And carved
works by Kuniyoshi.
His name was Tsuge Shōjirō. The
Kuniyoshi print shown above was carved by Hori Shōji for Iseyoshi.
We added a second carver's seal. See below on the left. This appears on a
Kunisada II triptych published by Tsuta-ya Kichizō in 1851.
Carver's seal for
Yokegawa Takejirō (
横川彫武) often seen on late Toyokuni III prints.
This carver worked for a number of different publisher including Iba-ya
Senzaburō ca. 1847-52, Tsuta-ya Kichizō in 1852, Yamaguchi-ya Tōbei in 1852,
Tsujioka-ya Bunsuke in 1852, Izutsu-ya Shōkichi in 1852, Mori-ya Jihei in 1852, Daikyū in 1852,
Sumiyoshi-ya Masagorō in 1852, Koshimura-ya Heisuke from 1853-6?, Ise-ya Kanekichi
from 1852-1859, Maru-ya Seijirō in
1854, Maru-ya Kyūshirō from 1854-5, Minato-ya Kohei in 1855, Kobayashi Tetsujirō, Uo-ya Eikichi from 1857-9, Wakasa-ya Yoichi in
1858, Ebisu-ya Shōshichi from 1858-9, Hayashi-ya Shōgorō from ca. 1847-1859,
Yamada-ya Shōjirō from 1855-1862, Fujioka-ya Keijirō in 1859, Yamaguchi-ya
Tōbei in 1859, Enshūya Hikobei, Hirano-ya Shinzō in 1861, Ki-ya Sōjirō
from 1860-1863, Tsuta-ya
Kichizō in 1865, Daikoku-ya Heikichi from 1858-1866 and Hanabusa-ya Bunzō in
He also worked for Iseyoshi in 1855.
He carved prints designed by Hiroshige, Kuniyoshi, Toyokuni III, Gengyo, Hiroshige II, Kunichika, Kunisada
II, Kuniteru II, Kuniaki II and Kunisato.
We have relied on
information posted at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts for this entry. Their
site is wonderful, but as they note it is not 100% accurate. However, it is
more reliable than most and we would urge you to visit it.
On 1/3/12 we added an alternative carver's seal for Yokegawa Takejirō.
Carver's seal for Ōtaya Takichi.
Mostly he worked on carving the prints of Kuniyoshi, but he also worked on
those of Toyokuni III in 1849. Among the publishing houses he worked with
was Mita-ya Kihachi and Minato-ya Kohei.
The print shown below is a
Kuniyoshi print from the Lyon Collection was published by Yawata-ya Sakujirō
Carver's seal. We know that this carver worked
for the publisher Kiya Sōjirō on Kunichika prints in 1869, Tsunoi
in 1868 and Maruya Heijirō in 1871. Amy Reigle Newland says that Hori Uta
is the same as Ōta Utakichi (太田卯多吉). He also worked on the prints of Utagawa
Yoshitora in 1870.
Carver: Uemura Yasugorō worked
with these publishers: Daikokuya Kinnosuke, Kagaya Yasubei, Mikawaya Tetsugorō, Tsunoi,
Tsujiokaya Bunsuke, Fushimiya Zenroku, Katōya Seibei, Wakasaya Jingorō, Ōmiya Kyujirō, and
Jōshūya Jūshichi, He worked from as early as 1852 to as late as 1868. He
worked on the prints of Hirokage, Hiroshige II, Toyokuni III, Kunisada II,
Kunihisa II, Yoshitsuya, Yoshiiku, Torii Kiyokuni, Yoshitoshi and
The seal to the left above
reads Uemura Hori Yasu tō. It can be found on the Kunichika print
shown above from 1868.
We know that this carver worked
for the publisher Kiya Sōjirō on Kunichika prints in 1877 and
He also worked for Fukuda Kumajirō on Kunichika prints in 1890. He
worked with Tamura Tetsujirō on a Chikashige diptych in 1878.
In 1880 he carved for Nakamura
Mitsu on at least one Yoshitoshi print seen below. It is from the Lyon
Collection. Click on it to see more information.
contraption covered by a thin silk skin worn by warriors and military
messengers. Although it gives the impression of movement in ukiyo prints
because it looks like a billowing cape it actually is made to function as
protection from arrows shot toward a soldier's back.
In one of his books Stephen Turnbull says "...the horo [was] commonly
worn by messengers and bodyguards to increase their visibility."
Note the billowing
cloth behind the warrior on the left. This is an isolated detail from a
print by Shunshō.
The graphic on the
bottom shows the basic shell design of the horo sans threaded netting and
silk covering. This image was created for us by David Wilcox (デイビッド.ウイルコックス). Thanks David.
Until I bought a copy of Samurai Heraldry by Stephen Turnbull (Osprey Publishing, 2002, p. 30) I
thought the horo simply operated as a protective shield. However,
Turnbull states that "Apart from a daimyo's collection of standards, the
most gallant sight on a battlefield was the colourful appearance on the
elite warriors who wore horo. This was another item of equipment which had a
heraldic function and consisted of a curious form of cloak stretched over a
basketwork frame." Warriors were told that if they behead an opponent
wearing a horo the head should be wrapped in the cloth of that
contraption implying that this suited his rank. Turnbull added "Oda Nobunaga
had two elite units distinguished by red and black horo, while Toyotomi
Hideyoshi's bodyguard wore gold-colored horo."
There is a more complete description - if not entirely accurate - in a Dover
reprint in 1999 of A Glossary of the Construction, Decoration, and Use of
Arms and Armor in All Countries and in All Times: In All Countries and in
All Times by George Cameron Stone. The horo "...is generally
about six feet long and made of five strips of cloth sewed together and
strengthened by plaits. The crest of the owner was placed at the top, middle
and bottom, and both the upper and lower edges were fringed. The top was
either fastened to the helmet or to the ring on the back plate; the lower
end was held by cords tied around the waist. In some cases it was fastened
to the helmet and to the forehead of the horse, being kept in position by
cords to the stirrups." (p. 299) ¶ "Garbutt, p. 171, says there are many
kinds of horo and that differed considerably in size. He finds no mention of
cotton stuffing, but describes several varieties of framework called oikago
[おいかご?], for supporting it. He also says that it was invented by Hatekeyama
Masanaga in the Onin period (1467-68). 'Whether this refers to the horo or
oikago is not clear.' " (Ibid.) ¶ Military men who possess a horo
should carry it with them at all times because "...when you are killed on
the battlefield the enemy will understand, as they recognize the horo,
that the dead was not a common person, and so your corpse will be well
treated. When fighting the horo must be fastened to the ring called
horotsuke-no-kuan." (p. 300)
In Secrets of the Samurai:
The Martial Arts of Feudal Japan by Oscar Ratti and Adele Westbrook
(published by Tuttle, 1991, p. 221) they say "The horo could be kept
distended by light frames (oikago) made of whalebone ribs arranged in
various fashions around a central staff that was fastened to the backplate
of the bushi's corselet.... One type of horo illustrated in
ancient scrolls was even draped in front like a tent, covering the head of
the horse and the body of its rider, most probably during the gallop toward
the enemy lines which often necessitated passing through a shower of
arrows." It is also believed that the horo was used "...to drive away evil
Turnbull says the frame was
made from bamboo (Nagashino 1575: Slaughter at the Barricades, Osprey
Publishing, 2000, p. 21) while as we noted above Oscar Ratti and Adele
Westbrook say it was constructed with whalebone. My suspicion is that both
materials were probably used at one time or another.
There is a statue at the Oyama
Shrine in Kanazawa of Maeda Toshiie (1539-1599: 前田利家 or まえだとしえ), one of Oda
Nobunaga's greatest generals, showing him astride his horse with a large
horo at his back. (See the photos below. It was donated to the public
domain by a person calling himsel or herself Fg2. It and many others can be
http://commons.wikimedia.org/. I would like to thank them
for putting it out there for all of us to see.)
A mosquito net
placed over a bamboo frame that was used to protect children. Built along
the same lines as the horo seen in the entry shown immediately above
this one. There is a wonderful Utamaro print showing a young mother breast
feeding her child under such a netting while "...an elder sister peers in
from outside the net."
Source and quote:
The Passionate Art
of Kitagawa Utamaro, published by the British Museum Press, London,
1995, Text volume, p. 155.
The detail of the
print to the left by Kunisada was obviously influenced by the virtuosity of
the Utamaro precedent.
In May 2009 we added a new web log devoted strictly to
information about Japanese culture with an emphasis on things associated in
any way with woodblock prints. On May 15 we started a post on
or mosquito netting. Click on our link shown here to go to that
The photo of the lotus bud used
as the wallpaper on this page was taken by Fg2. Not only is it a beautiful
photo, but it is ripe with spiritual and artistic significance. That is why
I chose it for this page. It hardly gets better than this.
To see more photos by Fg2 go to
You won't be sorry.