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A Beautiful Nobori: Crashing Waves and Family Crest

Written on September 27, 2008

This is a gorgeous, somewhat mysterious nobori, or a kind of standard/ banner, that is flown in the open air in Japan.  By mysterious I mean that it does not appear to be of the kind flown during Boys’ Day as the iconography–a crashing wave done here in resist dyed indigo–is not in keeping with the lexicon of motives used for traditional Boys’ Day banners.  Even though I’ve owned this nobori for a few years, I’ve hesitated posting it for sale on my site as I couldn’t explain it properly, so I thought I’d just enjoy it until something came to light.

Light was shed recently as I was looking through an amazing book called “Avvolti nel Mito: Tessuti e costumi tra Settecento e Novecento” which was given to me by my friend, Annie M. van Assche, the curator of the exhibition the book accompanies.  The exhibition is that of the collection of Jeffrey Montgomery and was shown in Genoa, Italy in 2005.  In “Avvolti nel Mito” there is shown a set of four nobori remarkably like this one: the accompanying caption says this kind of banner could have been used to celebrate a large catch (in fishing villages).  The encircled cross on this banner is a traditional Japanese family crest, however in the days when Christianity was not allowed in Japan, sometimes this same crest was used as a surreptitious communication between Christians.

In “Avvolti nel Mito”, the foreward is written by the brilliant Japanese cultural historian, Gian Carlo Calza, whose book, “Japan Style” one should seriously consider adding to one’s library.

Getting back to this particular nobori, it may have been cut down from a larger piece, but I am not sure.  It’s done on beautifully rustic hand spun, hand loomed cotton, probably dates from the mid-to-late nineteenth century–I think I’ll post this for sale in the next few weeks.

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