Tag Archive | japanese

On Matawa 真綿

A question was asked on the SCA Japanese Facebook page: “Padded Uchigi. Is this just, like, quilted? fluffy? Essentially really thick interfacing? I assume they used silk, but I can’t envision what the final product looks like.”

My answer:

真綿 (mawata) is low-quality silk, nowadays mostly used for making handkerchiefs, but was used for padding on winter garments. This page shows what it looks like: http://www.wildfibres.co.uk/html/mulberry_silk.html

“Was it just stuffed in or how did it stay in place?”

John Marshall actually has a chapter about it in his _Make Your Own Japanese Clothes_, where he discusses the traditional method and then a more modern method better suited towards modern washing using easier to find material (since his book IS about modern clothes). Mawata is sticky, so you basically layer it in place. This webpage shows the process for silk handkerchiefs–it is just on a larger scale for garments. http://www.wormspit.com/mawatas.htm

Marshall, John. Make Your Own Japanese Clothes (Tokyo; Kodansha International, 2013 reprint) 978-1568364933. Originally printed in 1988, ISBN 087011865X.

Yamabushi and Sōhei Headwear

This is from the SCA Japanese Facebook community–I was answering a question regarding yamabushi and their headwear. The original question was whether yamabushi would wear the same kind of cowl that sōhei wore into battle, and also if anyone could recommend books/sources on the subject of yamabushi.

[A quick definition: yamabushi 山伏 were/are mountain ascetics, usually solitary monks who adhered to Shugendō, esoteric Buddhism which mostly descends from the Shingon sect, but had other influences as well, including Tendai Buddhism, Shinto, and Daoism. Sōhei 僧兵 were warrior monks that were usually attached to a monastery. Yamabushi would sometimes fight, but they were mostly loners and fought in loose confederations, whereas sōhei were groups attached to monasteries.]

The Teeth and Claws of Buddha by Mikael S. Adolphson is the most thorough book I’ve found on the subject of warrior monks. Osprey has done two books on them, one on the Yamabushi and one on the monasteries. Interesting general reading, but start with Adolphson’s book if you want to go deeper into the subject.

What the sōhei wore on their heads was called kato no kesa 裏頭(か[くわ]とう)の袈裟(けさ), and they were kesa (usually worn on the chest) worn on the head–that is technically what kato no kesa means. The yamabushi would sometimes wear kato no kesa, but the headdress more identified with them is the tokin 頭襟, which looks kinda like a small black box. The Japanese Costume museum has it larger and covering the head, but I’ve seen pictures of it being smaller and worn near the forehead, as it is today. Here is a site that has some description of yamabushi clothing. It starts with doctrine, scroll down to see the parts about clothing.

As to whether a tokin would be worn in battle, I am not sure. The emaki depictions that I’ve seen of yamabushi have often just been of them traveling, and they did wear the tokin at those times.

Here’s a picture of a yamabushi from the Japanese Costume museum. Note the hat:

yamabushi_jp_costume_museum
from the Japanese Costume Museum

Now compare to this modern Yamabushi–these are the small tokin I’ve seen in emaki scrolls:

>yamabushi_tokin
from the now-defunct homepage of Kannonji Temple, Shiga Prefecture. Photographer unknown.

And this is an example of the kato no kesa that sōhei wore:

Benkei
From the Taiga Drama, Yoshitsune, scanned by me.

Update and Correction: when questioned by HE Master Ii Katsumori regarding the modern Yamabushi (who I first identified as a reenactor), I dug deeper to find the origin of the picture, which had been uploaded to Pinterest. The picture is from a now-defunct Japanese webpage (the company hosting it closed, but the Wayback Machine caught it) here: http://homepage3.nifty.com/huayan/temple/event06.htm. I can’t link directly to the Wayback Machine’s page, but that’s the original (defunct) page. Just plug that in the Wayback Machine to see the text (not pictures) of the original.

This used to be the homepage of Kannonji temple. Some more digging showed that the man in the picture is Professor Yoshida Eirie, a professor of Buddhism at Hanazono University in Kyoto and a priest of Kumano Shugendo. Also a martial-arts master of Kukishinden Tenshin Hyoho Ryu. So yes, he IS a modern Yamabushi.

小鳥の歌 28

Time in suspension
Waiting for the next moment
Excited, afraid
Oh, my breath is stripped away
In exquisite agony

Note: Link is breath of air to breath stripped away. I wrote this while watching the last few minutes of the 2016 World Series with the Chicago Cubs versus the Cleveland Indians. The Cubs won by 1 point during an extra inning AFTER a rain delay, breaking an 108 year record of losses. I’m not a huge Cubs fan or anything, but I did live in the Chicago area for a couple of years when I was little, and have visited there often, so I’m very happy for them.

小鳥の歌 27

Kinsukuroi
Knit up with glistening gold
My heart is mended
Yet still so very fragile
Broken with a breath of air

Link: Falling apart at the seams to Knit up with glistening gold. Kinsukuroi 金繕い (also known as kintsugi 金継ぎ) is a process where broken ceramics are mended by using gold as a binder. There is no attempt to hide the fact that the ceramic piece was broken, but instead, the imperfection is recognized and celebrated.

小鳥の歌 23-26

Eternity waits
It is unkindly patient
And will not be rushed
But we who are mortal strain
To constrain every minute

A trap, a rope to
Tie me with, I will not lose
My freedom this way
Entice me with your smiles
Enfold me in your warm arms

Arm for a pillow
I gaze at your sleeping face
Noble in repose
Alas, I cannot stay long
The night passes in patches

Passing in patches
The night is stitched up roughly
Like a well-worn quilt
Falling apart at the seams
Barely holding together

Links: 23 “each breath an eternity” to “eternity waits”
24 “Constrain” to “a trap, a rope to tie me with”
25 “enfold me in your warm arms” to “arm for a pillow”
26 “Passing in patches” to “stitched up roughly”

小鳥の歌 22

Every night and all
Some cry, some pray, some seek peace
Within another’s arms
Autumn’s widening shadows
Each breath an eternity

Link: Okay, this one is a little obscure: The living and the dead to “every night and all”, which is part of the chorus of the Lyke Wake Dirge.

My favorite version of this ancient song is rather modern, by Andrew Bird and Matt Berniger of The National:

小鳥の歌 21

A storm-fallen tree
Leaves in disarray my heart
Broken asunder
A torrential deluge falls
Upon the living and the dead

Notes: Link Hurricane to fallen tree. The last line is a twist on the last line of “The Dead” by James Joyce: “His soul swooned slowly as he heard the snow falling faintly through the universe and faintly falling, like the descent of their last end, upon all the living and the dead.” That sentence has haunted me since I first read the story in high school.

Also note rare English kakekotoba (pivot word) in the 2nd line (my heart) that actually works like it might in Japanese, changing the meaning depending on whether you attach it to the words before or after.

Yes, I’m really upset about my dead tree.