previous | next

Mo No No Ke: face, pants, shoes... sword!

W] live and learn
A note about Kabuki makeup, from Kabuki Story:

The colours used in kumadori are of great significance, and it is these that highlight the emotion and temperament of the character.

beni (deep red) — anger, indignation, forcefulness, obstinacy
beni (red) — activeness, eagerness, passion, vigour
usuaka (pink or pale red) — cheerfulness, youthfulness, gaiety
asagi (light blue) — calmness, coolness, composure
ai (indigo) — melancholy, gloominess
midori (very light green) — tranquillity
murasaki (purple) — sublimity, nobility, loftiness
taisha (brown or burnt sienna) — selfishness, egotism, dejection
usuzumii (grey on chin) — dreariness, cheerlessness
sumi (black) — fear, terror, fright, gloom

note to branchandroot: how do these line up with the research you've done on colors? is there a correlation?

deep red on white face — most common; expresses, anger, indignation, or rage mixed with cruelty; can also represent characters with forceful personalities who have good qualities
Pink — restricted to a small number of roles, eg the charming or amorous fox
Indigo — second to deep red in usage; used for villains and ghosts
Brown — worn by villains among court nobles, and by gods
Purple, gold, light green — rare; few uses include Shakkyo lion, Ryuuko golden tiger

Also, addendum to this post: a bit more about dōfuku (alt: dōbuku), one of the possible sources for Kusuri-uri's robe, from the men's clothing page of
The dōfuku comes in two varieties: there is a knee-length version (distinguished by the term ko-dōfuku), and the ankle-length garment that looks surprisingly like a modern Western dressing gown except for the large, full sleeves. Two sets of ties, one inside and one outside the garment at the waist, secure it closed. The skirt section is cut rather full and actually tapers out in a vague bell shape. It was a Momoyama development based on a monastic garment called jikkitotsu.

The dōfuku was the leisure garment of lay monastics and other men who have functionally retired from worldly cares to devote themselves to spiritual or artistic matters. Sometimes, those in orders would wear a kesa over it.
Hmm, actually, that would fit, especially with the skirt-styling. I just can't find any pictures of someone actually wearing one, to get an idea of how it'd hang.

What I really want sometimes is for people to start posting patterns on the web. Pictures of fabric on flat are all well & good but they don't tell me much about construction. Sigh.

Here, the monk on pilgrimage wears motsuke-koromo; that's a the outer robe, from what I can tell, and motsuke-koromo no ran appears to be the attached skirt. Under that is a white kosode, with habaki covering the legs.

Well. Isn't that fascinating because there's no decent, thorough explanation I can find online for this stuff, and naturally the texts I have are all about women's clothes and two pages at most for men's. Grrrrr. So, uh, whatever those words mean? Beats me. I'm just going by the general shape of the garment.

Also, a peddler from the Muromachi era, which was some point between Heian and Edo? Uh. I'm too lazy to go look it up. The cap is a yawarakai eboshi; the jacket-kimono type is tsutsusode-no koromo; the hakama are kukuri-bakama (more below on those), and the gaiters are habaki or kyahan. See comments above for general attitude when reciting words out loud.

PEDDLER'S PACK (kusuri dansu or gyosho bako)

There's the historical item itself.

At some point (earlier in the history, from what I can tell), peddler's packs were made from a tight-woven wicker. The examples here are made from pawlonia (kiri) wood, which is incredibly strong considering it's a very lightweight wood. (There is no way on this earth that I would carry around a pack made from oak on my back, believe me -- and the lighter-weight woods I'm used to, like mahogany and pine, are far too soft to handle the beating they'd get on the road.)

I've seen references that suggest some of these boxes were made from cedar. I have trouble getting behind that, unless Japanese cedar is a completely different creature from Western Cedar, because the Western Cedar I've played with is so freaking soft it makes Southern Pine look like a hardwood. Sheesh. Plus, the oils in cedar (that make it impervious to water) are part of the reason cedar also bruises/darkens unevenly when it's dinged and/or exposed to heat/light/wet. Although it would keep any bugs at bay, there is that. Fleas bad.

An enchanting memory from the author of The Folk Art of Japanese Cooking:
When I was a child many different kinds of peddlers came to my home, sometimes only once a year. I remember the herb and medicine peddler best. She would bring a box to the house that had a small inventory of medicines individually packaged inside. When she returned the next year she would count what medicines had been used and mark a tally sheet on the side of the box. We were charged only for the medicines we had used. I remember the medicine peddler well because she gave all the kids paper balloons after making a sale.
I am not even going to point out the episode that nodded to this history. I'll get around to that eventually and be all gleeful then.


from "The high quality brocade produced by the Nishijin artisans is known as “nishiki”, which literally means "beautiful colour combination". Nishiki is characterised by the lavish use of gold and silver threads to make patterns of flowers, birds and traditional geometric designs. Another style of obi produced in Nishijin is “tsuzure” or tapestry. Both brocade and tapestry obis are the most ornate and expensive of all obis."

It'd be hard to create that in a cell-based animation for a massive number of frames, unless CGI now does all kinds of fancy things I dunno about -- but as I understand it, the inbetweeners (who do coloring, connection frames, etc) are cheaper than the folks with the computer skills to really go fancy, so... Anyway. A bit of official artwork implies Kusuri-uri's obi does have some kind of gold-ish effect to its brocade.

Which leads me to ask, what the hell would a peddler be doing, wearing that? ...on the other hand, if he's a walking bundle of kabuki-influenced visuals, then all bets are off. The theater has never been known for its accuracy in colors or fabrics, and when you get into the more elaborate theatrical events like Kabuki, or Opera, then... the more glamorous and over-the-top you can get, the better to be seen from beyond the footlights.

That aside, maybe good to compare obi-placement. A photograph of two geisha, from around the 1880s or so, if I recall correctly:

More comparison images (the group shot shows each at slightly varying heights, ahah!)

Not being one to really go around staring at the height of obi-placement (and most of the time that's because it might hurt to do so, given how some Americans so freely mangle a lot of foreign dress) -- I have to say I was rather surprised to take a good look and realize just how high those obi are wrapped. Is that standard? Or is it more noticeable because theirs are tied rather tighter than I'm used to seeing? Maybe wearing the obi a little lower is a modern shift in styles?

Regardless, that's most definitely higher-up than Kusuri-uri wears his. Ignoring the fact that he's definitely wearing an obi/sash long enough for an over-the-top (hello, theatre!) sized-bow and trailing ends... he's still got it placed closer to natural waistline, at least. And maybe the width isn't quite that outrageous, either. Hmm. Here's two images of Ryukyuan dress. On the left is an actor in one of the Ryukyuan comedies (you can't tell from this size, but he's the looniest grin on his face); on the right is a Ryukyuan dancer. Both male, both with fairly wide sashes, and sitting at natural waist, not at the hips.

Then there's the Kabuki archetype of "the young buck", because every culture must have its young characters who strut around like they freaking invented peanut butter and the older generations are just clueless about the real coolness of it all. Ahem. But, again, notice the obi's width, although this one is closer to sitting directly just below the natural waist instead of exactly on it, or considerably above it (per the geisha).

There are other instances of men wearing obi or obi-like materials, and maybe it's anyone's guess what the illustrators/character-designer were twigging on, referencing, or trying to allude. The following two images are by Miyagawa Issho, who did a series of works on kagima, the young male prostitutes, and their samurai-lovers. But, if you look at the second image, the boy's obi is tied in the back, just like a nice girl's (as opposed to prostitutes who tied it in the front). If I stop and think about it...sheesh. It's a wrongful assumption, that any young male who cross-dresses and has a male lover must automatically be a prostitute; it isn't true now, and I really doubt it was then, too. There had to be young men who took on women's dress as part of their role and were also devoted to a single lover.

The second image is my favorite. I keep thinking, there's a story in there, somewhere, because the young lover looks just a little too peeved about the letter/document in his hand, and his older lover looks just a little too amused.

This next image is of Qiu Chang Chun, a Taoist monk who travelled from Shandong, China to Persia to meet with Genghis Khan. The round-trip journey took three years, and was diaried by one of his attendants in Travels to the West of Qiu Chang Chun (长春真人西游记). More Taoism.

Then again, Taoism seems to show up in everything. It's like Shinto. No, it's like Worcestershire sauce. It goes with everything.

What is he actually wearing? I haven't the foggiest. But as long as I keep reminding myself that artist brains are like ten-pound blenders, then it pretty much means the sky is the limit. What did the original character designer get told, prior to coming up with a design? I always wonder about that, and I often get irritated with publicity interviews -- of the director, the actors, maybe someone who does fancy computer stuff -- but never the character designer. Why not? I want one of the illustrators who does character design to show up at a con so I can ASK, damn it.


More images that culturally are (as I understand it) as "vaguely familiar" to Japanese eyes as the Plains Indian and Southwestern Indians are to American eyes. No, the average person probably can't tell the difference between Apache and Navajo and Dakota, but that iconographic image of Geronimo? Pretty much instantly recognizable, and just about any history book has pictures of the Cherokee leaving Georgia, Sitting Bull, and maybe a picture or two of Pocahantas (for no real reason I can tell) or Sacajawea (now there's an amazing person).

The Ainu are pretty much kissing cousins to the American Native, the Saami, and any other indigenous people and I don't mean in terms of blood relationship. I just mean in the sense that they've permeated the dominant culture but as icons, with the 'real thing' generally ignored and marginalized. That, I think, is the key: marginalized.

...which I shall take a raincheck on and come back to that, because this post is just to catalogue the visuals I think got thrown in the blender. Mostly. Suggestions of additions welcome, post in comments, etc. Before that, back to the Apache! the Ainu!

See the amazing embroidery! (It's supposed ot keep away evil spirits.) See the... whatever that kid is wearing. I don't know; it does look like an obi, but the image is from someone's collection of a local Ainu festival, no explanation given. Maybe the kid himself was blendering own-culture and Japanese-culture to come up with his own idea of fancy dress. Who knows, I include it because it amused me.

The caps the group is wearing are (in the larger version I had to scale down) very much like the girl's, in the upper picture. Btw, I think that portrait is awesome. She has such a pleased smile on her face, that I find myself grinning back at her.

I know a lot of you reading are US/EU, and unless you've gone digging then your exposure to Buddhism is like most folks, via the Dalai Lama. His saffron robes are traditional, but that's not to say all Buddhas and Bodhisattvas are always in red/orange robes over one arm with the other arm bare (though there is a dogmatic/religious reason for that design, if you've ever wondered). Sometimes Buddhas can get pretty durned fancy, and they do clean up real nice. This is Buddha Amithaba, and I included it just to show that if -- if -- we were to posit that Kusuri-uri is an avatar in some way of a Buddha, that this does not automatically mean wearing all black, foregoing fashion, and being all worker-like looking.

On the other hand, who says you have to be human to be Buddhist?

Yes, that's an Oni, dressed as a Buddhist monk. No, it's not an Oni intending to play tricks on people; it's supposed to be an Oni who is genuinely a Buddhist. According to some Buddhist traditions, some priests -- upon their death -- chose to become Oni in order to remain at the temple and protect it. The same page also notes that Tengu could be converted to Buddhism, to be guides for monks in understanding the Dharma tenets and sacred rites; like Oni, Tengu would also protect Buddhist shrines. (Elsewhere I read that in some folklore, Tengu were originally Buddhist monks who'd been cursed by another monk. Hunh.)



Kukuri-bakama according to the Japanese Men's Garb page...
This is a type of hakama that has ties at the hem of each leg to allow it to be secured to the leg. Sashinuki are therefore, by definition, a type of kukuri-bakama. Most times when the term “kukuri-bakama” is used, however, it refers to just a short or ankle-length hakama of indeterminate bulk (typically two panels per leg) that are worn by lower classes and menials such as hakuchō and zōshikinin. For such folk, the kukuri-bakama are of simple make, and hemp or linen cloth (although silk is not out of the question).

Hakama worn by commoners and laborers in Heian were two panel, and typically only reached to the mid-calf or a bit lower. During the sixteenth century, low-class warriors often wore a knee-length two- or three-panel hakama which were sometimes called kobakama, a terminology problem as regular hakama were also called kobakama in the Edo period owing to the formal nagabakama being the “formal” norm.
Kyahan are leggings that cover from the knee down, roughly. The fellow on the left is wearing momohiki -- some kind of culotte-type pants, I guess -- and kyahan. On the right are kukuri-bakama. Uh, I think.

SOCK (tabi)

from wiki entry on tabi:
Tabi (足袋) are traditional Japanese socks. Ankle high and with a separation between the big toe and other toes, they are worn by both men and women with zori, geta, and other traditional thonged footwear. Tabi are also essential with traditional clothing—kimono and other wafuku. The most common colour is white, and white tabi are worn in formal situations such as at tea ceremonies. Men sometimes wear blue or black tabi for travelling.
The article also notes, "though slowly being replaced by steel-toed rigid-sole construction shoes in some industries, many workers prefer them for the softness of their soles. This gives wearers tactile contact with the ground and also lets them use their feet more agilely than rigid-soled shoes allow ... craft practitioners such as carpenters and gardeners additionally use their feet as if they were an extra pair of hands, for example to hold objects in place." I wear sneakers in the workshop because I don't want chemicals spilling on my feet, or to step on a screw or nail or piece of wood -- but there are plenty of times when I'm putting stuff together and end up on the garage floor to do it, so I can brace a foot here and another foot there. Unfortunately, I suspect the tabi-form of Doc Martins is probably a long long time away when it comes to imports.

Eh, well, save it for my next life.

CLOGS (geta)

from wiki entry on geta:
The most familiar style in the West consists of an unfinished wooden board called a dai (台, stand) that the foot is set upon, with a cloth thong (鼻緒, hanao) that passes between the big toe and second toe. The dai may vary in shape: oval ("more feminine") to rectangular ("more masculine") and color (natural, lacquered, or stained).
Geta called ashida are for rain and mud, and probably snow. Often worn by travellers, peddlers, anyone who had to go any distance in inclement weather on a regular basis.

a geta-afficiando on the web commented, "takai geta/ashida (the high ones) require more skill. The front of the sole doesn't necessairly hit the ground so steps don't quite feel "complete." And they're higher so that any unevenness in the ground is magnified and more likely to promote a fall or twisted ankle. You have to pay attention to where you're going."

Another page noted that bankara geta are tall geta, with thick ha (teeth), and unlike asida, bankara are made in three pieces so the teeth can be replaced when they get worn down. Incidentally, the wiki page claims the hanao/thong sits between the two first toes because having the thong of rectangular geta anywhere but the middle would result in the inner back corners of the geta colliding when walking.

I have been trying to wrap my head around that one. If the thongs are in the middle, then your toes are going to be forced outwards and your heel inwards. To keep feet moving, your toes end up pointed outwards and you feel like your feet are walking in two different directions. If, though, the thong-hole were positioned more closely to the natural point between big-toe and the little-toes, then your toes could be pointed forward parallel with the geta. That is to say, I think the wiki page is full of it, for at least that line.

Seems more reasonable to me that geta were much like European shoes were, for a long long time -- maybe until about the point that someone came up with pret-a-porter shoes, perhaps. Until then, cordwainers used lasts (a kind of mold around which the new shoe was shaped while being made), and since every shoe had to be hand-made, having right and left lasts would've doubled the work. On top of that, cutting the leather (or fabric) for creation is also streamlined, since the pattern only varies by size, not by left/right. Given that most geta were a single block of wood, and that pretty much everyone wore them, shoe-makers were probably kept as busy as their European counterparts... so you make X in Y size, and A in B size, and not stress about whether this one is left and that right.

I get the logic in the historic, I really do, and I can also see that if people are used to walking with their toes out, that to have rectangular geta match up with the toes that, sure as taxes, the back inner corners are going to knock with each step. However! Not all cultures walk pigeon-toed. Europeans and Japanese tend to, which was once because of the way one walked in shoes that weren't left/right sized (though that shouldn't really be true of Anglo/Europeans anymore).

Maybe it's a cultural thing. I dunno. I do remember learning as a very young child that when Anglos first came to this country, their footprints were easily divisible from native prints, because the Anglos turned their toes out, and the natives didn't.

(Naturally, being the kind of kid I was, I set about learning to walk with my toes pointed straight ahead. It's not hard. It just takes getting used to, along with compensating some, because a lot of European-styled shoes expect you to walk with your toes out, and if you point your toes forward, the soles will clack/scrape each other sometimes. On the other hand, this meant when I did spend a day wearing geta, my feet and legs really hurt like a mofo, beyond all reason -- because I wasn't just getting used to walking with my toes kinda hanging off the edge, but also turning my toes outwards in a way I never do. Ow, ow, ow.)

But purely for amusement value, an object lesson of how to walk in one-tooth (tengu) geta!


More taoism! It's starting to be a trend.

On the left is the series' version; on the right is the Taoist version. According to the site,
The Seven Stars Peach Wood Sword is considered to be compulsory for Taoist Exorcism. This sword being the most premium in quality is trustworthy in exorcism. It is made from genuine peach wood from "Long Hu Mountain" in Jiangxi province, China. The presence of this sword is trusted by all Masters to be able to keep any place free from spirits including the fierce ones. The sword is commissioned to be carved with strong symbols of the dragon and lion heads to empower it further in fighting against any evil force and in return draw auspicious energy. This sword is normally carried by Feng Shui masters when they conduct their feng shui audits in order for them to be protected against evil spells in premises and dirty lands so that they do not fall sick or followed by spirits. It is also best to be kept in places that are eerie, dark, scary, nocturnal places or even in bedrooms where kids complain they are scared of staying in.
And I'll let that stand without comment, because... well... yeah.

I got the clue from comments on one of Iwa ni Hana's posts about Mononoke, identifying the creature on the sword-head as a xie zhe. However, the mythology and classification of this beast is at best a murky thing.

According to several sites, the haetae is the Korean version of the xie zhe, and that in fact they're both fire-breathing dogs. No indication of horns on the haetae (sometimes haitai), at all. Then there's the bei zhe, which is a type of zhe, but a one-horned version -- and apparently zhe by definition should have cloven-hooves, like goats. But the best visual fit I see is what one site identified as a cha yu (which is also a creature that loves to eat people!) and another site called the exact same image a type of xhi zhe. I'm willing to bet the Chinese texts aren't much clearer on the exacts, but hey. The best summary I found is probably at the Chinese Unicorn page.

Regardless, the legend about the xie zhe is a nice fit. The page mentioned above says, "The early unicorn was considered as an aggressive beast, and it was said that it ate fire in its ravenous fury, but it was specially praised for being able to discriminate between good and evil, and that it would gore the wicked whenever it meets them." The xie zhi is a kind of supernatural goat that can distinguish right/wrong, good/evil. If this goat-like (two-horned, incidentally) creature saw someone fighting, the xie zhi woudl reach out to touch horn against the side in the wrong, and it would never ever lie about its conclusion, either. So upright it'd even accuse the emperor, or so the stories claim.

Anyway, more taoism, yeah, and a kind of taoist goat-unicorn... thing. Alright!

More coming as my brain resolidifies. Two more days of no dishwasher, but I'm not even going to go there, not tonight. Sigh.


W] live and learn
锴 angry fishtrap 狗
The possession of knowledge does not kill the sense of wonder and mystery. There is always more mystery. — Anais Nin


Latest Month

November 2014
Powered by
Designed by Tiffany Chow