chrysanthemum and plum

What’s That Thing? Part 3

A good question deserves a good answer!

@mcl-kittenina2 asked:

Hi MissMyloko! kyoto_gion_kasai on Instagram posted a photo set of Mikako in a gorgeous purple hikizuri a few days ago. Could you tell us about the motifs on that piece?

I sure can! During the erikae celebrations a geiko wears kuromontsuki for three days, followed by an iromontsuki. This stunning purple piece is Mikako’s iromontsuki and, for those who are wondering, it looks like this:

The Front

The Back

Hem Detail

All images are courtesy of Kyoto_Gion_Kasai on Instagram.

I included the hem detail as that’s where we can really see the motifs on the kimono. The primary motifs are kichō (几帳), himo (紐), and clouds (雲).

Kichō (几帳) are partitions that were used by nobility, most classically during the Heian Period, that were both displays of wealth and ways for the sexes to be allowed to communicate properly as a man and a woman talking face to face was a bit taboo. You may have noticed them in some images from old odori programs:

Image courtesy of Caitlin Downey on Flickr.

The ones on Mikako’s kimono feature many auspicious motifs including Paulownia (桐), Chrysanthemums (菊), Plum Blossoms (梅), Hanabishi (花菱), Shippo (七宝), Cherry Blossoms (桜), Pine (松), Waves (青海波), and Haze (霞). These motifs tell us that this is an all season kimono.

Himo (紐) is the simple name for any type of cord. The ones on the kimono are attached to the kichō, which shows that they are used to tie it back. Himo on kimono and obi represent ties, both physical and emotional.

Clouds/Kumo (雲) are pretty self explanatory and something that I’ve discussed before. They are both symbols of change as they are constantly moving and symbols of dreams.




Date:July 4, 2015
Place:Izumiyama-Jisekiba, Saga,Japan

The ultimate blue, created by a renowned and royally warranted kiln.
Refreshing beauty that signifies the rebellious transformation of Arita porcelain.

 Combine contemporary aesthetics with traditional techniques with the aim of rediscovering the essence and universality of artisan-made vases…
 With that concept, Makoto Azuma, a flower artist who deals with the beauty and life of flowers on a daily basis, led the founding of Kaki Kenkyusho. For the laboratory’s inaugural project, Azuma has partnered with Tsuji Hitachi, the 15th master of Tsuji House, a renowned porcelain kiln in Arita with a 360 year history. 

 日本の焼き物発祥の地、有田においてもひと際特別な存在として知られる辻家。第百十二代霊元天皇(在位1663年~1687年)の頃より禁裏御用達を仰せつかり、後に「常陸大掾」という官職を拝命した辻家は、天皇家直属の窯元として、皇族のための器のみを生産する「幻の名窯」と謳われてきた。時代の変遷の中、有田の多くの窯元が赤絵や金彩で絢爛な装飾を施すようになっても、また庶民のための生活必需品を大量生産するようになっても、辻家だけは禁裏御用達としての役目を全うするため、伝統的な染付に拘り、独自の技術を開発しながら進化を遂 げてきた。明治期以降も宮内庁御用達として皇室各家に器を納め続けた辻家は、同時に 有田随一の伝統技術を有する者として海外の博覧会へ作品を出品。フィラデルフィア博覧会(1876年)で最高位の入賞を果たすなど、有田磁器の名を世界に轟かせる役割を担うこととなった。
  Tsuji House has been renowned for many years in Arita, the birthplace of Japanese porcelain. During the reign of Japan’s 112th emperor Reigen (1663–1687), the kiln was royally warranted to create porcelain for the royal family under the official name of Tokiwa Daijo. Even though their works remained unknown to the general public, the kiln produced numerous outstanding pieces for the royal family.
 As the decades passed, many kilns in Arita began to create sumptuous designs using red and gold paints, yet Tsuji House remained loyal to traditional colours and focused on developing their own techniques in order to fulfill their responsibilities as the royal kiln. While continuing to produce porcelain for the royal family in the Meiji Era, the kiln also began to exhibit works outside of Japan and received an award at the 1876 Philadelphia Expo. Their success at the expo led to Arita porcelain becoming known and celebrated around the world.

  For centuries, the work of Tsuji House was kept out of the public realm and it wasn’t until after WWII that they were more widely viewed. At that time, works by the highly skilled Tsuji Tsuneyoshi, the kiln’s 14th master, were greeted with awe and amazement due to their extraordinary elegance and precise details.
Rich blue gradations contribute to the beautiful elegance of the blue and white porcelain works produced by Tsuji House, with this impressive beauty resulting from many years working for the royal family. Furthermore, patterns created by fleeting brushstrokes express the spiritual essence of Japanese aesthetics.

 Impressed by these rich blue hues, Kaki Kenkyusho approached Tsuji House with an invitation to produce a new work for the laboratory’s inaugural project and when the 15th master generously accepted their offer, the project was born.
 Among Tsuji House’s many masterpieces, the laboratory was drawn to one piece in particular, “Four Kunshi (Four Noble Ones).” The classical Oriental motif depicts a plant for each of the four seasons - orchids for spring, bamboo for summer, chrysanthemums for fall and plum for winter. Historically, the motif was popular among cultured men because the plants were understood to depict the four virtues of a wise and noble gentleman: the reticence of orchids, integrity of bamboo, frankness of chrysanthemums and nobleness of plums. Although these characteristics may no longer be held in the same regard, a man of such demeanor would still, by today’s standards, be regarded as a gentleman. Furthermore, the depiction of plants – with their short life spans – on a resilient porcelain surface questions the essence of the relationship between flowers and their vase.

 It was proposed that the 15th master would paint the traditional Four Kunshi on two sides of the foursided porcelain, before depicting four new plants on the remaining two sides. Despite presenting an unprecedented challenge for the historic and royally warranted kiln, the passion shared by both parties led to the creation of a new “Four Kunshi”.
Kaki Kenkyusho selected the four new plants: western orchids for spring, passion flowers for summer, nepenthes for fall and violets for winter. As the climate and natural environment have evolved over the past few centuries – at times due to invasive species – these beautiful plants have become increasingly familiar in our daily lives.

 Regarding his selection of the four new plants, Makoto Azuma explained, “Rather than symbolizing certain virtues, the plants were chosen because of their beauty. They may be replaced by another four plants in the future – such is the freedom and flexibility of our era. We also thought that the traditional “Four Kunshi” couldn’t sufficiently represent the diverse and complex nature of our lives today.”

 十五代の伸びやかな筆捌きで現出した四種の植物は、ガラス質の柔らかな光沢の中に、優美なまま閉じ込められることとなった。古来から伝わる四君子に、新たな四つが加わり、ここに八君子「EIGHT KUNSHI」が誕生。八は末広がり、無限をも表す数字であることは言うまでもない。
 The plants painted by the dynamic brushstrokes of the 15th master are caught beneath the glassy surface of the porcelain, their beauty held still for eternity. With four new plants added to the traditional motif, “Eight Kunshi” was born. The name carries additional meaning as the numeral 8 represents infinity, while in Japanese, the broad base of its corresponding kanji (八) signifies prosperity and stability.

「現代的なデザインを施すのではなく、あくまで辻家の伝統に最大限の敬意を抱きながら、残 すこと、変えることを慎重に吟味した結果、有田の未来に繋がる新たな名品が出来あがった」
After developing the project’s concept and acting as the mediator between Makoto Azuma and the 15th master, Kaki Kenkyusho’s co-founder Hirotoshi Marukawa could not hide his excitement upon seeing the completed piece.
 “Without applying contemporary design, they have paid utmost respect to the tradition of Tsuji House and have carefully chosen what to keep and what to change. The result is a new masterpiece that will pave the way for Arita.”

 古の辻家の作品と同様、奥ゆかしさを湛えた青い花々が躍動する大壺「EIGHT KUNSHI」。描かれた八種の植物が四君子としての意味や役割を超え、現世に語りかけてくること。それは、伝統は常に現在であるということかもしれない。
 Reminiscent of traditional Tsuji House works, the large-scale porcelain “Eight Kunshi” depicts delicate and fleeting flowers in vivid blue. The eight plants coexist in peace, each transcending its own significance. They show that tradition lives on and thus remains contemporary.

 “Eight Kunshi” presents blue flowers that quietly and elegantly declare a rebellious rebirth.