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Archives for March, 2010

A Stack of Omi Jofu Zabutons

March 31, 2010

I love antique Japanese zabuton, which are traditional cushions that are still very much in daily use in Japan.  Here is a stack of fine, old ones that are made from the marvelously good Omi jofu, a kind of super fine hemp and ramie kasuri (ikat) from Shiga Prefecture.

Zabuton1aAren’t they beautiful?  The warm tone of the indigo and the very good kasuri is just wonderful–as is the old, cotton batting which fills out the cushions.  These old zabuton are thin with batting and they don’t provide a lot of  “cushion.”  Newer, commercial zabuton are quite thick and bouncy, but in old Japan, when cotton was expensive, the padding was minimal, as can be seen in these examples shown here.Zabuton1

Zabuton1bNote the contrasting, red cotton threads used to “quilt” the cushions.  Notice, as well, the lush pattern created mainly of folding fans and plum blossoms, both tradtional Japanese design motives.Zabuton1cI estimate that these cushions date to the 1920s or 1930s; for having been used and for having such age they are still in very good condition and are still amazingly attractive–and they are still very much able to be used in the home.  Zabuton1dThere are 11 of them and each measures 11″ x 21″/ 28 cm x 53.5 cm.

Just gorgeous.

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A Stunning Matsuri-gi or Festival Coat

March 29, 2010

This beautifully resist-dyed and stencil-dyed festival coat is from the Takayama Matsuri, one of Japan’s most celebrated Shinto festivals.  This garment was worn by a musician who participated in the matsuri or festival and it shows a snarling dragon on around the hem and a lofty Asian “phoenix” or ho-o at the shoulder area, each vibrantly rendered by hand.

Matsuri1The festival from which this coat comes takes place at the Hie Jinja and is called the Sanno Matsuri, or, the “kankakokan” an onomatopoetic word that refers to the ruckus made by the many drums banged during the festival.  The festival is held on April 14-15 of each year.  Takayama is a beautiful city in Japan and is often visited by tourists who are interested in the traditional culture it offers.Matsuri1aThe dragon is remarkably rendered: it really conveys the feeling of movement and a kind of enraged inspiration as he moves with vigor through the heavens.Matsuri1bBy contrast, the phoenix is shown as being lofty and delicate; its wonderfully lavish tail feathers add a bold graphic effect to the coat.Matsuri1dNotice the gradient tones that comprise the face and feathers of the phoenix–just beautiful.Matsuri1cThis matsuri-gi most likely dates to the Taisho Period or the first quarter of the twentieth century.

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