Friday, 16 January 2009

The Legend of Takasago

Images of the Legend of Takasago are often used at New Year in Japan and I'd intended to post this to wish everyone a happy new year. However, a small accident with the laptop and a glass of pepsi (oops) meant the laptop was out of action so I didn't get chance to complete this post. Since I'd started it I thought I'd finish it, so here we go. The images from Ichiroya are linked back to the specific item so you can find out more.
As with many legends and folk tales in Japan this story is depicted in many different art forms in as many ways and styles. In textiles it can be found dyed, woven, or embroidered. Almost always some version of a pine tree is shown sometimes with other auspicious symbols such as a crane or tortoise.

Silk noren curtain dyed with yuzen technique - courtesy of Ichiroya

Takasago, the legend of the devoted couple is very famous. Their images are often portrayed at weddings, anniversaries, and New Year celebrations. Takasago is the location of the tale, the old man, Jou, and the old woman Uba. In life they are deeply devoted and when they pass away within moments of each other their spirits are transformed into pine trees.

Boy's miyamairi kimono - courtesy of Ichiroya
Jou always to carries a rake and Uba a broom. She sweeps away all sorrow and ill fortune, Jou rakes in the blessings of the past. If you'd like to read more about Uba and Jou check out Conversations with John Marshall, a very interesting site with lots of information about Japanese textiles and associated topics.

Fukusa of chirimen silk with dyed pattern - courtesy of Ichiroya

I've always been drawn to this story and after searching for ages I found the embroidered fukusa below on Ichiroya. Here we don't see Jou and Uba, just the pine tree and the broom and rake which symbolise the couple (I like to think that perhaps they've sneaked off for a cup of cha).

Embroidered fukusa using silk and metallic threads - own collection

It's very simply embroidered using metallic and silk threads. Some padding is used under parts of the trunk and the metallic threads are couched using red silk. The pine needles are stitched very simply with twisted thread in long stitches.

I think the metallic thread must be silver threads, synthetic metallic thread wouldn't have been available when this was stitched, but they have tarnished over the years and now they are a wonderful silvery grey.

The bamboo leaves are stitched using a twisted silk thread. The twisted threads below the bamboo leaves forming the ground are formed from various shades of green twisted together and then couched.

Along side Uba's broom is a fan showing the rising sun. Fans are also auspicious symbols and will form the basis for a post all of their own.

1 comment:

Plays with Needles said...

I was so glad when you posted close ups of this beautiful fukusa! Loved the link and the story. Thanks for a great post.