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Art Streak, Days 4 – 9

kosode_green_material

The canvas-weight shibori patterned material that I am taking apart to repurpose. Tried to make a kosode from it, but it is too thick and scratchy, and lining it would make it too warm. So it will be made into something else, probably some kind of carrying bags. I got the material cheap when Hancock’s went out of business, $11 for 9 yards.

Day 4 of 100 Days of Arts and Sciences. Soprano recorder practice, more on the kanji radicals workbook, shodo practice, pulled together some of my Japanese doll research to answer a question on SCA Japanese FB page.

Day 5 of 100 Days of Arts and Sciences. Practiced tenor recorder, wrote a couple of tanka, did some Japanese clothing research.

Day 6 of 100 Days of Arts and Sciences. Practiced soprano recorder, went to Shodo lesson, made progress on Class prep for RUSH, fell down research hole about how lower-class Japanese patched/repaired clothing. Mostly 19th and early 20th century information, but can certainly tie literary references to the practice (regrettably vague), but some Shōsō-in garments show this kind of patching or similar. Worth digging more into. Next few days will be slow, have some Real Life constraints on my time, but should be able to do something, even small!

Day 7 of 100 Days of Arts and Sciences. Nursing a migraine today, so just did some hand-sewing repair on a cloak and some zukin where threads had come loose. Took apart a trial kosode I made from some shibori-designed fabric I picked up on clearance when Hancock’s closed. Thought it might work for garb. It looks right but it is almost canvas weight and would be too hot and scratchy. Will probably repurpose the material to make bags or something like that instead. Waste not, want not.

100_days_as_7_boro_stitching_attempt

First attempt at using Japanese boro stitching technique to fix a frayed area on a quilt. Simple running stitch used in period. Not complete success. Need more even stitches, probably slap a patch over the area and then try running stitch and see how that goes. Just experimenting on an idea.

Day 8 of 100 Days of Arts and Sciences. Wrote two tanka and a haiku, more reading on Japanese work clothes, soprano recorder practice, sourcing materials for my RUSH classes (and trying to remember where I stashed those student brushes–I’ve given some away but I know I have more.) I need to fit in some time tomorrow to get that kosode sloper put together so I can see if my updated pattern works. #somedayiwillbeorganized #todayisnotthatday

Day 9 of 100 Days of Arts and Sciences. Still gathering materials for RUSH classes, continued reading book on Japanese work clothes, and taking apart failed canvas shibori kosode to reuse material.

Day 10 of 100 Days of Arts and Sciences. Updated SCA blog, finished reading book on Japanese work clothes, finished taking apart shibori kosode (fabric will be stored an be reworked into carrying bags later, after I get more clothing sewn!).

The book I’ve been reading about Japanese work clothes is Stories Clothes Tell: Voices of Working Class Japan by Horikiri Tatsuichi, translated by Reiko Wagoner. ISBN 1442265108 (ISBN13: 9781442265103). The author spent decades traveling around Japan and collecting examples of working-class clothing, mostly from the Meiji, Taisho, and early Showa era. (So he focused roughly 1868 to the early 1960’s in time period.) This book is a translation of several essays that Horikiri wrote concerning items from this collection. While he tends to go a little far in conjecture about items, the small details about these work clothes and how they were used is a fascinating read, if a bit melancholy since some of these stories really bring into focus how desperately poor these people were.

There are more “social histories” now than there used to be, that focus on the lives of the common people. Since the time period this book focused on was post-1600, many items he discussed were not exactly applicable to SCA, but his approach is certainly one we can apply. It was remarkable to see how slowly the clothing evolved in usage–Horikiri discusses the evolution of some of the items from Edo-period clothing. With a little work, some items might be placed before that. It would take looking at visual sources and perhaps literature, since no extant pieces would exist.

The book was also useful in isolating some Japanese terms regarding fabric and clothing and includes a glossary, although most of the items mentioned are Edo-period or later. Still, there is some hidden treasure here. In one essay, he speaks of the difference between the rough-woven asa 大麻(hemp) cloth used by the lower classes, and the finer-woven joufu 上布, which seemed to be linen or perhaps a mix of hemp and linen? Definitely of a much tighter weave, and according to this Japanese wikipedia article on 上布, there are some extant pre-1600 examples of joufu?

Anyway, it looks like it would be worthwhile to track down more of these specific terms, not often referenced in English language sources!

Dat Hat

So a question came up on the SCA-Japanese page about a certain print of the famous general, Uesugi Kenshin. Here is the picture posted:

Uesugi Kenshin by Kuniyoshi

This depiction is by the artist Utagawa Kuniyoshi, from the book “Stories of 100 Heroes of High Renown” published in 1843/1844. The question regarded the headwear that Kenshin was wearing. Was it some kind of zukin?

First off, probably not a zukin, as those are much more simple in design. There are a few options that occurred to me.

It could be a Kato-no-kesa, which I have written about previously here and here. As Kenshin was famed for being a devout Buddhist, it would not be unheard of for him to wear a kato-no-kesa into battle.

However, I looked around at other depictions of Kenshin. In some, it is obvious he IS wearing kato-no-kesa, such as this statue of him which stands on the site of the ruins of the former Kasugayama Castle.

uesugi_kenshin_kato_no_kesa Photographer unknown.

However, other pictures depict him wearing what is clearly a sunboshi 角帽子 “peaked hat”, like this statue that stands at the Uesugi Jinja Shrine in Yonezawa, Japan.

Uesugi kenshin.jpg
パブリック・ドメイン, Link

Several years ago, I stumbled upon a picture on Pixiv where an artist had drawn several varieties of mosu (which is simply another pronunciation of boshi 帽子, which just means “hat”, however, it is only utilized for Buddhist headwear–no written source for that fact, I learned that from a Japanese professor I was talking to at a convention. If you look at the Chinese pronunciation of that kanji, you can see how that term evolved). It’s really a remarkable drawing, showing these various Buddhist headdresses from several angles. I didn’t find the artist’s name, but I did manage to pin down the blog it originally came from (not where I found the image originally), which is here. Hasn’t been updated in a few years, though.

mosu_variations

Looks to me like Kenshin is wearing a variation of that. The peaked hat you see on the top row is sunboshi 角帽子 “peaked hat”, as mentioned above, but if you search in Japanese with that word, it LITERALLY MEANS peaked, so hats with horns or cat’s ears and such are also included in the term.

So it could be in Kuniyoshi’s depiction of Kenshin, he is either wearing some kind of mosu or it could be a sunboshi that was folded over and tied down. It’s hard to tell due to the stylization, but with the side-flaps in the picture, I’d lean towards maybe a sunboshi. OTOH, the way the headdress flares out seems more like kato-no-kesa to me.

So in conclusion, I’m not sure 100%. Kenshin probably wore both at one time or another. Although in this portrait from the Niigata Prefectural Museum of Modern Art that was painted much closer to his lifetime, he was depicted with no headdress at all!

Uesugi Kenshin with Two Retainers (Niigata Prefectural Museum of Modern Art).jpg
By Muromachi-period artist – http://www.suntory.co.jp/sma/jp/merumagakaiin/vol49/index.html, Public Domain, Link

飾り結び Ornamental Knots

kazari_musubi_examples

Examples of kazari musubi (ornamental knots) from the cover of the book 暮らしを彩る飾り結び.

A question came up on the SCA Japanese Facebook page regarding kazari musubi 飾り結び (ornamental knots). These were widely used in Japanese clothing and also for decorating and fastening scrolls. The knots were often made of kumihimo cords, so it ends up being a multi-phase process.

While I haven’t found much in English about kazari musubi, there are two excellent books in print available in Japanese:

やさしい飾り結び (Yasashii kazari musubi) “Simple Ornamental Knots” by Hashida Shoen (1983) ISBN 978-4-14-031025-0 .

暮らしを彩る飾り結び (Kurashi o irodoru kazarimusubi) “Decorating with Ornamental Knots” by Tanaka Toshiko (2012) ISBN # 978-4-14-031187-5.

Another way to approach the subject is by looking at Chinese ornamental knots. They are similar but not exactly alike, as they tend to be more complex than the common Japanese designs. Still, the techniques used are the same, and because macrame was such a popular pasttime here in America during the 1970’s, there was a market for books on this subject and so there are several books available in English.

I have found Lydia Chen’s work to be very accessible. She explains the process thoroughly, with a lot of pictures, and has several books out on the subject. Here is a list of her books on Goodreads. I would recommend starting with Chinese Knotting: Creative Designs that are Easy and Fun! and her The Complete Book of Chinese Knotting: A Compendium of Techniques and Variations . The Fashion accessory book is fun but not practical for what we do in the SCA.

There’s a wonderful site called Knotty Notions by Carol Leon-Yun Wang which has some very useful links. Her webpage on Chinese knotting has some instructions for basic knots, too, as well as an excellent bibliography, although maybe not completely up to date at this point.

Of course, this subject ties into kumihimo/kate-uchi, that creates the cords from which these knots are made. I’m just getting my toes wet on this subject, so will report back more as I dig deeper. Still, this is plenty to get a person started and keep them busy for a long time!

Freakin’ Video Games

Someone on the SCA Japanese Facebook page was looking for a way to document Otadzu-no-Kata (Tsubaki-hime), none of which is in Name Construction in Medieval Japan, the go-to documentation source for SCA heralds and Japanese names.

So as I am a herald, I did some digging and found that the client was basing her knowledge from a video game character. That site says the name was an Edo-period creation, a name assigned to the unknown wife of samurai Iio Tsuratatsu, whose sole claim to fame seems to be that he was the son of Iio Noritsura, who was in the service of the Imagawa clan and had possession of Hikuma Castle. Tsuratatsu died in 1565, whereupon his wife took possession of the castle and held it until December of 1568, when Tokugawa Ieyasu attacked.

She was claiming some sources “written in archaic, cursive Japanese” to which I suppose she means Edo-period texts written in kuzushiji, which I fully admit is beyond my own poor skills. However, from digging around, it looks like there are a lot of legends and fictional stories about this woman.

What I did find was a physical shrine, Tsubaki-hime Kannon, whose website gave a brief history.

Okay, best I could get was that her original name was probably Oda Tsuru (Otadzu or Otatsu was a nickname–the O is a honorific, tatsu seems to be another pronunciation of 田鶴, the Japanese love their wordplay.). The Tsubaki-hime part seems to come in play after she and several other women (18 in total) were killed defending Hamamatsu castle (then known as Hikuma castle) from Tokugawa Ieyasu in December of 1568. They were buried in a mound where camilla trees (tsubaki) were planted. So Tsubaki-hime is collective, referring to all the women, not just her. Here’s a link to the webpage of a shrine that was built to honor them by Ieyasu (a replica, the original was long gone.)

Hikuma castle was built by Iio Noritsura, who died in battle in 1560. Otatsu was married to his son, Iio Tsuratatsu, who died in 1565, which was when she took control of the castle. Ieyasu took possession at the end of 1568.

I don’t know if you want the surname Oda, but it’s listed in NCMJ p. 324. Tsuru is NCMJ p. 387. You might be able to argue the おたづ (Otadzu, Otatsu) from the shrine website, which clearly indicates that’s how the name was pronounced. No-kata is also an honorific, so not registrable.

I’ve managed to get some names through without NCMJ by referring to Japanese place websites, so it’s worth a try at least.

No, it’s not perfect. Japan, I love that you are mining your history for video game fodder, but dang, it makes digging online harder!

A Tidbit Regarding Akane Dye

Ōkuninushi_Bronze_Statue

I happened to be reading a passage in the Kojiki 1, as part of a larger collection of works concerning life in Ancient Japan 2 when I came upon a verse that really caught my eye. The editor had used a translation by Basil Chamberlin in 1919, which fortunately is now in public domain and can be found online (with notes) here. The relevant passage is here, which I quote:

“When I take and attire myself so carefully in my august garments black as the true jewels of the moor, and, like the birds of the offing, look at my breast,—though I raise my fins, [I say that] these are not good, and cast them off on the waves on the beach. When I take and attire myself so carefully in my august garments green as the kingfisher, and, like the birds of the oiling, look at my breast.—though I raise my fins, [I say that] these, too, are not good, and cast them off on the waves on the beach. When I take and attire myself so carefully in my raiment dyed in the sap of the dye-tree, the pounded madder sought in the mountain fields, and. like the birds of the offing. look at my breast,—though I raise my fins, [I say that] they are good. My dear young sister. Thine Augustness! Though thou say that thou wilt not weep,—if like the flocking birds, I flock and depart, if, like the led birds, I am led away and depart, thou wilt hang down thy head like p. 96 a single eulalia upon the mountain and thy weeping shall indeed rise as the mist of [80] the morning shower. Thine Augustness [my] spouse like the young herbs! The tradition of the thing, too, this!”

The notes go on to give a rather thorough interpretation of the poem, but the main point I took was that the man in question (the god, Ōkuninushi) changes his clothes three times, from black robes, to blue, to red. The red mentions the dye “sap of the dye-tree, the pounded madder sought in the mountain fields”.

Seemed a bit vague to me and Chamberlin’s translation style is archaic.

I knew I had more translations of the Kojiki on my shelves, and managed to lay my hands on two of them (there’s a third, I know it, but it eluded me).

Let’s see what Donald Keene makes of it, when he translated the same text in 1968: 3 :

“All dressed up
In my jet-black clothes
When I look down at my breast,
Like a bird of the sea,
Flapping its wings,
This garment will not do;
I throw it off
By the wave-swept beach.

All dressed up
In my blue clothes
Blue like the kingfisher,
When I look down at my breast,
Like a bird of the sea,
Flapping its wings,
This garment will not do;
I throw it off
By the wave-swept beach.

All dressed up
In my clothes dyed
With the juice
Of pounded ATANE plants
Grown in the mountain fields,
Now when I look down at my breast,
Like a bird of the sea,
Flapping its wings,
This garment will do.”

Keene in his notes is unsure whether the clothes changing was to get his wife’s attention and get her to relent (she was angry for him dallying with another woman) or if the song was an accompaniment for a dance requiring frequent changes of costume.

The madder plant is identified as ATANE. Notes in the Chamberlin translation state that it is probably a transcriptionist’s mistake for AKANE 茜 (Rubia Cordifolia). JAANUS has a note about AKANE here, including some notes about how the dye was made:

“This dye was made from the perennial plant madder (Rubia Cordifolia), akane, which grew wild in mountain regions. The roots were collected and left to rest for two or three years. They were then washed, soaked in water, and boiled to extract a bright red dye senryou 染料. Lye, aku 灰汁, was used as a mordant *baizai 媒済, and white rice added to absorb tannin and other impurities. The cloth or thread to be dyed had to be soaked in the lye and thoroughly dried before dipping in hot dye solution. To obtain a dark color, this process was repeated 20 or 30 times.” 4

I went ahead and checked my other book, a newer translation by Gustav Heldt 5 :

“As beads of jet
black are the robes
that I take care
to dress myself in.

A bird in the offing,
I look at my breast,
where they flap about,
but these clothes don’t suit.
Wave-swept the shore
where I softly cast them off.

As a kingfisher
blue are the robes
that I take care
to dress myself in.

A bird in the offing,
I look at my breast,
where they flap about,
but these clothes don’t suit.
Wave-swept the shore
where I softly cast them off.

Sown beside mountains
is the red root pounded
into juices for dye
to dye these robes
that I take care
to dress myself in.

A bird in the offing,
I look at my breast,
where they flap about.
These clothes suit me well.”

I think I like Keene’s translation better, although Heldt’s does have its merits. Note that all three translations put the Akane in “mountain fields”, where indeed it does grow naturally.

It’s a small tidbit, but I just wanted to illustrate here how we can use literature to document material culture. So often in the SCA, there is an emphasis on material culture–we tend to deal with items as opposed to ideas in our study of history, and people will sometimes neglect literature as a source, when in fact it can be quite a rich one.

1. [The Kojiki, attributed to Ō no Yasumaro in 711-712, is the oldest extant chronicle in Japan. The main focus is tales of the gods and early rulers of Japan.]

2. [Singer, Kurt, ed. The Life of Ancient Japan, Selected Contemporary Texts Illustrating Social Life and Ideals Before the Era of Seclusion (Richmond, Surrey, UK, Japan Library 2002) ISBN 1-903350-01-8. Originally published in 1939 by Iwanami Shoten, Tokyo-Kanda. ]

3. [Keene, Donald, trans. Kojiki (Tokyo; University of Tokyo Press, 1968) pp. 108-109 ISBN 4-13-087004-1 ]

4. [JAANUS (Japanese Art and Architecture Net Users System) Akane-iro 茜色 http://www.aisf.or.jp/~jaanus/deta/a/akaneiro.htm ]

5. [Heldt, Gustav, trans. The Kojiki, An Account of Ancient Matters (New York; Columbia University Press, 2014) pp. 34-35 ISBN 976-0-231-16389-7]

Picture credit: Ōkuninushi bronze statue in Izumo-taisha, Izumo, Shimane Prefecture, Japan, via Wikimedia Commons

On Karuta

uta-karuta-example_from_ebay_listing

There was a question on the SCA FB page regarding kyoji karuta (competitive matching-type card play). Since this was an area that I’d looked into a while back, here was my answer. Short form: karuta as an item appeared in Japan in the 16th century, but matching-type karuta games are an Edo-period development and do not fall within the pre-1600 guidelines set by the SCA

I did some research into this area a while back. The kai-awase (matching shells) is very much within the timeframe that the SCA covers. While karuta (which is a word based upon Portuguese for carta “card”) definitely came in during the 16th century, they were mostly used for European-style card playing and gambling–in fact, there seems to have been a book published in 1597 with rules for various gambling-type games. Karuta did start to be domestically made by the end of the 16th century but followed the design of European decks. The various matching games and uta-karuta developed in the Edo period, while kyogi karuta came about in the 19th century. So please keep in mind that, while amusing, kyoji karuta is not period. Here’s a good page (in Japanese) that explains the history of karuta very well.

Edo Karuta page: very good outline of the history of karuta. This is where I found the reference to the book written in 1597 called 博奕かるた諸勝負令停止, which from the kanji seems to be rules about gambling with karuta. Page is in Japanese.

Miike Karuta Museum’s page about karuta history. The museum is in Omuta, Fukuoka Prefecture, an area where a lot of the domestic Japanese karuta cards were made. It houses the most complete historical collection of Japanese karuta.

Wikipedia can be an iffy source, but in this case, the entry about karuta is thorough and has a lot of cites to follow.

(Image saved from an Ebay listing of uta-karuta cards. Yes, I have a set.)

A link about Kuzushiji

Just putting this link here until I have more time to check into the subject. An Introduction to Kuzushiji.

Kuzushiji 崩し字 is that sosho-looking print script that was very popular in Edo-period texts. Very similar to sosho in several aspects, but lacks sosho’s elegance. Somewhere around here I have a book about the history of Japanese printing, and will look in that to see more.

I can make out some characters, due to my shodo studies, but can’t really say that I can “read” it.