Sunday, 29 September 2013

The Twelve Suits of Hanafuda


Flower Cards are divided into twelve suits with each suit containing four cards.  These suits correspond to the months of the year.  Japan adopted the solar Gregorian calendar in 1873 (replacing the lunisolar Chinese calendar) and the months are known as 'First month' (Ichigatsu -1月), 'Second Month' (Nigatsu - 2月) &c.  'Shiwasu' (December) is the only traditional month name that is still in widespread use in Japan today.

January - Matsu 松 - Pine

The Japanese Black Pine is native to the coastal areas of Kyūshū, Shikoku and the main island of Honshū.  The trees can reach a height of forty metres and are widely used as 'Niwaki' (garden trees) as well as being a classic choice of subject for Bonsai.
 
'Crane and Pine Tree with Rising Sun' by Suzuki Kiitsu (1796–1858).
'A crane gracefully crosses the sky before the glowing red orb of the rising sun on New Year’s Day. An aged pine, pruned as carefully as a bonsai tree, complements the symbolic association of cranes with longevity'.

Red-crowned Cranes are also known as Japanese Cranes or Manchurian Cranes.  Their average life span is 30-40 years which makes them one of the longest living species of Bird.   Both Pine and Red-crowned Cranes are symbols of long life and good luck. The Pine tree is known to live for centuries and it never sheds its leaves. No matter how cold the winter, the pine tree stays green and alive.  Red-crowned Cranes are said to mate for life, making them a symbol of fidelity and marital harmony.

Thousand Origami Cranes (千羽鶴, Senbazuru) is a group of paper Cranes held together with string.  An ancient Japanese legend promises that anyone who folds a thousand origami Cranes will be granted a wish by a Crane. Some stories believe you are granted eternal good luck, instead of just one wish, such as long life or recovery from illness or injury Senbazuru is traditionally given as a wedding gift by the father, who is wishing a thousand years of happiness and prosperity upon the couple. They can also be given to a new baby for long life and good luck. Hanging them in one's home is thought to be a powerfully lucky and benevolent charm. 


Senbazuru were popularized by the tragic story of Sadako Sasaki (佐々木 禎子), who was exposed to the fallout of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima.  On 3 August 1955, Sadako's best friend Chizuko Hamamoto came to visit her in hospital and cut a black piece of paper into a square to fold it into a paper Crane (in reference to the ancient Japanese story that promises that anyone who folds a thousand origami cranes will be granted a wish by the gods). A popular version of the story is that Sadako fell short of her goal of folding 1,000 Cranes, having folded only 644 before her death and that her friends completed the 1,000 and buried them all with her. She died of Leukemia (due to the radiation exposure) on 25 October 1955, aged 12.

Sadako Sasaki

A statue of Sadako holding a golden Crane was unveiled in the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park in 1958.  At the foot of the statue is a plaque that reads:
'This is our cry. This is our prayer. Peace in the world'.
 
'Matsu ni Tsuru'       'Matsu no Tan'       'Matsu no Kasu'      'Matsu no Kasu'



February - Ume 梅 - Plum Blossoms

Prunus mume is more commonly known as the Chinese Plum or Japanese Apricot.  Although generally referred to in English as 'Plum', it is more closely related to the Apricot.  It originated in southern China around the Yangtze River.  Japanese varieties are classified 'Yabai' (Wild), 'Hibai' (Red), and 'Bungo' (Bungo Province).  The term 'Ume' derives from middle Chinese, in which the pronunciation was thought to have been 'muəi'.
 
 
Ume Blossoms are often mentioned in Japanese poetry as a symbol of Spring. When used in haiku or renga, they are a kigo or season word for early Spring. The blossoms are associated with the Japanese Bush Warbler. Plum blossoms were favoured during the Nara period (710–794) until the emergence of the Heian period (794-1185) in which the Cherry blossoms were preferred.
 
A Group of Children Playing under the Plum Blossoms in the Snow, 1887.
- Hashimoto Chikanobu (1838–1912)

Japanese tradition holds that the Ume functions as a protective charm against evil. Ume is traditionally planted in the north-east of the garden, the direction from which evil is believed to come. The eating of the pickled fruit for breakfast is also supposed to stave off misfortune.


The Japanese Bush Warbler ( Uguisu) - Cettia diphone, is a passerine bird more often heard than seen. Its distinctive breeding call can be heard throughout much of Japan from the start of Spring.


Some other Japanese names given to the bird are haru-dori (Spring bird), haru-tsuge-dori (Spring-announcing bird) and hanami-dori (Spring-flower-viewing bird). Its place in Japanese poetry has also given it the names uta-yomi-dori (Poem-reading bird) and kyo-yomi-dori (Sutra-reading bird).  The latter because its call is traditionally transcribed in Japanese as 'Hō-hoke-kyo', the abbreviated Japanese title of the lotus sutra.

The bird is drab-coloured and secretive. It is normally only seen in Spring before there is foliage in the trees. In Winter the call is a low chirping. The Japanese Bush Warbler tends to remain deep in the shadow of foliage during the day.  Even so, many Japanese people mistake the Japanese White-eye (目白 mejiro) for the Japanese bush warbler (鶯 uguisu).

It is one of the favourite motifs of Japanese poetry, featured in many poems including those in Man'yōshū or Kokin Wakashū. In haiku and renga, uguisu is one of the kigo which signify the early Spring.  There is also a popular Japanese sweet named Uguisu-boru (Uguisu Balls) which consists of brown and white balls meant to resemble Ume flower buds. The distinctive song of the bird is not usually heard until later in Spring, well after the Ume blossoms have faded. In haiku the bird with this song is known as sasako, and the song is called sasanaki.  The beauty of its song led to the English name Japanese Nightingale although the Japanese Bush Warbler does not sing at night as the European nightingale does.  This name is no longer commonly used.

An uguisu-jō (jō = woman) is a female announcer at Japanese baseball games, or a woman employed to advertise products and sales with a microphone outside retail stores. These women are employed because of their beautiful 'warbling' voices. They are also employed to make public announcements for politicians in the lead-up to elections.

In Japanese architecture there is a type of floor known as 'uguisubari', which is generally translated into English as 'nightingale floor'. These floors have squeaking floorboards that resemble the Japanese Bush Warbler's low chirping and are meant to be so designed to warn sleepers of the approach of Ninja. Examples can be seen at Eikan-dō temple, Nijō Castle and Chion-in temple in Kyoto.

 'Ume ni Uguisu'      'Ume no Tan'     'Ume no Kasu'     'Ume no Kasu'


March - Sakura 桜 - Cherry Blossoms

Cherry Blossoms have a very deep meaning for the Japanese.  A blossoming Cherry tree is a beautiful sight but it does not last for very long.  In a moment, a strong wind can strip a tree bare.  It is a symbol of the brevity and uncertainty of life.  Youth, pleasure, fame and misfortune, all blossom and fade like the ephemeral Cherry Blossom. Sakura also symbolise clouds due to their nature of blooming en masse. They are an aspect of Japanese cultural tradition that is often associated with Buddhist influence and which is embodied in the concept of 'Mono no aware' (which is a Japanese term for the awareness of the transience of things and a gentle sadness (or wistfulness) at their passing). The association of the Cherry Blossom with 'Mono no aware' dates back to the 18th-century scholar Motoori Norinaga. The transience of the blossoms, the extreme beauty and quick death, has often been associated with mortality and it is a reminder for us to focus on the present.

Mount Fuji seen through Cherry Blossoms by Katsushika Hokusai (葛飾 北斎).

Hanami is the Japanese traditional custom of enjoying the beauty of flowers, 'flower' in this case almost always meaning Cherry blossoms or (less often) Plum blossoms (Ume). The custom is said to have started during the Nara Period (710–794) when in the beginning people admired Ume blossoms. By the Heian Period (794–1185), Sakura came to attract more attention and Hanami was synonymous with Sakura. From then on in tanka and haiku, 'flowers' meant Sakura.
 
Hanami - Cherry Blossom Viewing.  Note the Viewing Curtain at the bottom left.

In modern-day Japan, Hanami mostly consists of having an outdoor party beneath the Sakura during daytime or at night. In some contexts the Sino-Japanese term kan'ō (観桜, view-Cherry) is used instead, particularly for festivals. Hanami at night is called Yozakura (夜桜, literally night Sakura).
 
Yozakura. 'Hana No En' from the 'Tale of Genji'.








 'Sakura ni Maku'      'Sakura no Tan'      'Sakura no Kasu'    'Sakura no Kasu'



April - Fuji 藤 - Wisteria

Wisteria floribunda (Japanese Wisteria) is a flowering plant of the pea family Fabaceae which has a life span of over fifty years.  It is a woody, deciduous twining climber and can grow up to 30 feet (9 metres).  Japanese Wisteria sports the longest flower racemes of any Wisteria as they can reach nearly half a metre in length. These racemes burst into great trails of clustered white, pink, violet or blue flowers in early to mid-spring. The flowers carry a distinctive fragrance which is similar to that of grapes.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Taiko Bashi - Tōshi Yoshida (1911-95).
The Lesser Cuckoo (which the Japanese call Hototogisu - ホトトギス) appears on the card 'Fuji ni Kakku' which shows it flying across the face of the Moon. This image signifies honour and advancement in status and refers to the story of the samurai Yorimasa.  It tells how Yorimasa came out of retirement to slay a monster for his Emperor. 

Yorimasa shooting the Nue -  Utagawa Kuniyoshi (1798 – 1861).

After the monster died, the Emperor rewarded Yorimasa with a special sword. As he was being awarded, a Cuckoo flew overhead calling in the night. Yorimasa then recited the following poem:

hototogisu
na o mo kumoi ni
aguru ka na

yumihari tsuki no
iru ni makasete
The cuckoo's name soars,
its cadence resounding
in the realm of the clouds

It was merely drawn forth
by the sinking crescent moon

The first verse speaks of how he finally returned from retirement and achieved the great name and honour he deserved in the Imperial Palace or 'Realm of the clouds'. The second verse acknowledges that his greatness is only due to his service to the Emperor, symbolised by the moon. The second verse can also be read to mean, 'The shot from my drawn bow was in the hands of fate' and that modesty is very important.
 
 

Sei Shonagon (Author and Court Lady who served the Empress Teishi during the middle Heian period) ranked the Cuckoo as her favourite bird in her account of court life in Heian Japan, 'The Pillow Book' (枕草子 Makura no sōshi). It is also a pivotal image in poem 81 by Fujiwara no Sanesada (1139-1191) of the Hyakunin Isshu poetry anthology.
ほととぎす Hototogisu
鳴きつる方を nakitsuru kata wo
ながむれば nagamureba
ただ有明の tada ariake no
月ぞ残れる tsuki no nokoreru
The hototogisu:
when I gaze out towards where
he was singing,
all that remains is the moon,
pale in the morning sky.
'Fuji ni Kakku'       'Fuji no Tan'       'Fuji no Kasu'        'Fuji no Kasu'



May - Ayame 菖蒲 - Iris
There are three varieties of Japanese Iris - Hanashōbu, Kakitsubata and Ayame. Sometimes this suit is referred to as Shōbu but it really should be named Kakitsubata!  Depending on where it is cultivated, Hanashōbu is classified as Edo (Tokyo), Higo (Kumamoto Prefecture) or Ise (Mie Prefecture). 
 
Kakitsubata.
 
Kakitsubata is the prefectural flower of Aichi Prefecture and grows in the semi wet.  The famous tanka poem is said to have been written in this area during the Heian period. This poem appears in the 'Tales of Ise' by the waka poet and aristocrat Ariwara no Narihira (在原 業平). 

から衣 きつゝなれにし つましあれば はるばるきぬる たびをしぞ思
Karagoromo / kitsutsu narenishi / tsuma shi areba / harubaru kinuru / tabi o shi zo omou
I have a beloved wife / familiar as the skirt / of a well-worn robe / and so this distant journeying / fills my heart with grief


At first glance the poem looks like it has nothing to do with Irises but the poem is an acrostic.  The syllables spell out Ka-ki-tsu-ha (ba)-ta, the Japanese name for the variety of Iris found in the marshes at Yatsuhashi.
 
Yatsuhashi Bridge, Mikawa Province - Ogata Kôrin (尾形光琳).

The story of the card 'Ayame ni Yatsuhashi' is that a member of the Imperial Court in Kyoto was assigned a new post far in the East.  On their long journey, he and his companions lost their way and came to  a place called 'Yastuhashi' (Eight Bridges) in Mikawa Province.  He was feeling sad, missed his wife and so he wrote the above poem. 
 
Yatsuhashi Bridge, Mikawa Province (present day Chiryū City, Aichi Prefecture) - Katsushika Hokusai (葛飾 北斎).
 
The flag of Chiryū City.
 
This story was significant to the Lords of Edo era Japan as the Tokugawa Shogun required every Lord to spend part of the year in Edo (present day Tokyo) and  part in their home province.  The expense of keeping two households and of travelling back and forth between the capital and home meant that no rival could become powerful enough to challenge the Shogun. When the Lords returned home their families were also kept as hostages in Edo.  This ensured that they would stay loyal to the Shogun.

Finally, Ayame typically grows wild and on dry land but interestingly of the three varieties, it is the only one that starts to flower in early May. Kakitsubata flowers from mid to late May.

  'Ayame ni Yatsuhashi'     'Ayame no Tan'     'Ayame no Kasu'     'Ayame no Kasu'



June - Botan 牡丹 - Peony

The name for the month 'Mi-na-zuki' is an example of 'Ateji'. The name Minazuki is made up of three Chinese characters: (water-not-moon). The middle character for 'not' was often substituted as the Ateji, or phonetic equivalent, for 'na' which is the possessive article 'of'. So Minazuki can be read as both 'the month of water' and 'the month without water'. June is usually the end of the spring rainy season. There is plenty of water and the rice fields are all flooded. The name of the month could be referring to the flooded fields or the end of the rain.
 
Botan (Peony), is a beautiful flower native to China. In China and Japan the Peony is a symbol of wealth, good fortune and prosperity. The Peony is known for its medicinal properties and large fragrant flowers. It is often shown with butterflies in Chinese and Japanese paintings. The flowers are full of nectar and attract many insects.

Peony - Settai Komura, 1942.


'Botan ni Chou'    'Botan no Tan'    'Botan no Kasu'    'Botan no Kasu'



July - Hagi 萩 - Bush Clover

The Bush Clover is related to the Pea plant and it usually blooms in July through October. Wild Boars are said to like to nest, or sleep in the Bush Clover. Wild Boars are one of the 12 animals of the Chinese zodiac and are symbols of bravery and affection. However, to villagers in the mountains the boars can be dangerous pests that destroy crops and gardens.
 

As followers of Buddhism, the Japanese tended not to eat the meat of four legged animals. Fish and birds were acceptable meats to eat. This accounts for some of the unusual classifications of animals in Edo period Japan. Frogs and Lizards were classified as insects and Rabbits were considered Birds. Accordingly, the wild Boar is sometimes referred to as 'Yamakujira' or mountain-Whale, which made it a Fish.


Sometimes the meat of wild Boar was called 'Botan' (Peony). The meat of Deer was called 'Momiji' (Maple) and that of the Horse was 'Sakura' (Cherry blossoms). In this way the pious Buddhists could pretend to eat as vegetarians.
 



 

'Hagi ni Inoshishi'     'Hagi no Tan'     Hagi no Kasu'     'Hagi no Kasu'


August - Susuki 薄 - Silver Grass


Miscanthus sinensis is a species of flowering plant in the grass family Poaceae, native to most of China, Japan and Korea.  Common names include Chinese Silver grass, Eulalia grass, Maiden grass, Zebra grass, Susuki grass and Porcupine grass. The Latin Miscanthus comes from the Greek for 'stalk' and 'flower' (the qualifier sinensis means 'from China').
 

'Tsukimi', or Moon viewing, is the autumnal counterpart to Cherry Blossom viewing. Both Cherry Blossom viewing and Moon viewing are often accompanied by the drinking of Sake (Rice wine). The traditional date for Moon viewing is 15 August. In the old solar-lunar calendar the month started and ended with the new Moon. The middle of the month would be the full Moon. However, because the old calendar started about a month later than our modern calendars, the actual date is closer to 15 September which is nearer to the autumnal equinox.
 
Tsukimi - Moon Viewing party.

It is called the 'Harvest moon' or 'Hunter's moon' because people were able to continue working into the night by the light of the full Moon without any gap between the setting Sun and the rising Moon. You will notice that the sky of the Moon card is red. This is because the Moon is rising at sunset. The card with wild Geese shows the seasonal migration of birds. In the Autumn Geese migrate from Siberia and northern China to spend the Winter in Japan.


'Susuki ni Tsuki'    'Susuki ni Kari'   'Susuki no Kasu'  'Susuki no Kasu'


September - Kiku - Chrysanthemum
 

The sixteen petals of the Kiku is the personal symbol of the Emperor of Japan. The Emperor is said to be descended from 'Amaterasu', the Sun goddess. The large yellow blossoms of the Chrysanthemum are a fitting symbol for the radiant sun.
 
Amaterasu-ōmikami (天照大神/天照大御神).
 




The Chrysanthemum is also a symbol of longevity because of the long life of the blooms. There is a legend of a place in Japan called Chrysanthemum Mountain. It is said that if you drink from the stream where the petals of the Chrysanthemum fall into the water you will be blessed with long life. The 'five point' card depicts the Kiku next to a stream with a Sake (Rice wine) cup. Inside the wine cup the character for 'Longevity' is traditionally written. It was a common tradition to sprinkle Chrysanthemum petals in one's wine and drink them as a way to ensure long life and happiness.
 
 

Genjuro Kibagami from SNK's Samurai Spirits series of video games.




'Kiku ni Sakazuki'     'Kiku no Tan'       'Kiku no Kasu'       'Kiku no Kasu'



October - Momiji 紅葉 - Maple

In this month, all of the 8 million Shinto gods leave their provincial shrines to congregate at the Great Shrine in Izumo (Izumo Taisha), the centre of the Shinto religion. Izumo is about 60 miles north of Hiroshima. Like the month of June (Mizunazuki), Kaminazuki (October) can be interpreted two ways. It can be read as the 'month of Gods' or 'month without Gods'. In this case, both readings can be correct whether you are in Izumo or not.

Acer palmatum, also called Japanese Maple or Smooth Japanese Maple (irohamomiji, イロハモミジ or momiji, 紅葉) is a species of woody plant native to Japan, Korea, China, eastern Mongolia and south-eastern Russia. Many different cultivars of this Maple have been selected and they are grown worldwide for their attractive leaf shapes and colours.  It is a deciduous shrub or small tree reaching heights of 6 to 10 metres (20 to 33 feet), rarely 16 metres (52 feet), often growing as an understory plant in shady woodlands.  For centuries Japanese horticulturalists have developed cultivars from Maples found in Japan and nearby Korea and China. They are a popular choice for bonsai enthusiasts and have long been a subject in art.
 
 

The Sika Deer (Cervus Nippon), also known as the Spotted Deer or the Japanese Deer, are native to much of east Asia and have been introduced to various other parts of the world. Previously it was found from northern Vietnam in the south to the Russian Far East in the north. It is now uncommon in these areas, excluding Japan, where the species is overabundant. Its name comes from shika (鹿), the Japanese word for 'Deer'. 
 
The Sika Deer is one of the few species of Deer that does not lose its spots upon reaching maturity and spot patterns vary with region. The Stag on the card 'Momiji ni Shika' represents gentleness. Together with the red Maple, they are a symbol of longevityThis suit is more commonly known as 'Shika' (Deer) in Japan.
Deer and Maple Mon.
Sika males are territorial and keep harems of females during the rut, which peaks from early September through October, but may last well into the winter months. Territory size varies with habitat type and size of the buck; strong, prime bucks may hold up to 2 hectares (5 acres). Territories are marked with a series of shallow pits or 'scrapes', into which the males urinate and from which emanates a strong, musky odour. Fights between rival males are sometimes fierce, long and can be fatal.

In Nara Prefecture, the Deer are also known as 'Bowing deer' as they bow their heads before being fed special shika senbei (鹿せんべい), called 'Deer cookies'. However, Deer bow their heads to signal that they are about to head butt. Therefore, when a Human 'bows' to a Deer, the Deer will assume the same stance and may charge and injure the Human. Deer head butt both for play and to assert dominance (as do Goats). Sika Deer are found throughout the Prefecture, particularly Nara's many parks and temples like Tōdai-ji, as they are considered to be the messengers of the Shinto gods.

Deer Scroll - Hon'ami Kōetsu (本阿弥 光悦, 1558 - 1637).



  'Momiji ni Shika'      'Momiji no Tan'      'Momiji no Kasu'      'Momiji no Kasu'

November - Yanagi  柳 - Willow

November is known as 'Yanagi' (Willow), or more commonly the 'Ame' (Rain) suit. The Willow tree is a symbol of grace and strength. In China and Japan, the Willow symbolises the traits of an ideal woman and Geisha are often compared to the Willow.   The Willow is also associated with Ghosts. It is believed that a Ghost will appear where a Willow grows.  'Green Willow' is a Japanese ghost story in which a young Samurai falls in love with a woman called Green Willow who has a close spiritual connection with a Willow tree.
 Geisha wearing a Yanagi Kanzashi.

The 'Tsubame' (Swallow) is often shown with the Willow. They are seen as good companions and are symbols of happiness and harmony. Swallows are often associated with Spring but there are species that migrate to spend the Winter in Japan.
 
Willow and Swallows -  Katsushika Hokusai(葛飾北斎).
 
 
The other notable figure in the November suit is the man with an umbrella. This man is the famous Heian period calligrapher Ono no Toufuu, 小野 道風 (Ono no Michikaze is the more formal reading of his name). He is credited with creating a Japanese style of writing Chinese characters. Calligraphy in this case is more than just 'fancy' writing. It was very important to have standard ways of writing, especially when using a writing system as complicated as Chinese.
 
Draft inscription attributed to Ono Michikaze for a folding screen.
 
A popular story arose in the Edo period about how he was feeling particularly hopeless one rainy day and considered quitting his study of calligraphy. He stopped by a stream near a Willow tree and saw a small Frog trying to leap to a dangling Willow branch. He watched the Frog leap for the branch but every time the wind would blow it just out of reach. Finally on the eighth attempt, the Frog clung to the branch. Ono no Toufuu was inspired by the perseverance of the Frog and continued his career to become one of the most famous calligraphers in Japan. Another story tells how he had tried seven times to win a higher post in the Imperial court and so he took the frog's perseverance as a sign that he should try again, for which he was rewarded.
 

The design of the Lightning/Storm card is somewhat abstract and it depicts the strong storms around this time of year. Typhoons usually arrive in Japan from September until November. The largest storms occur toward the end of the year. The card is filled with lightning and rain. The black and red form the outline of a tornado or waterspout. Traditionally on the bottom is a large drum symbolising thunder.




'Yanagi ni Ono no Toufuu'    'Yanagi ni Tsubame'     'Yanagi no Tan'     'Yanagi no Kasu'

December - Kiri - Paulownia

'Shiwasu' is the last of the old month names that is commonly used in modern Japan. Every new year Japanese visit the Shinto and Buddhist temples to get their blessings for the New Year. The last month of the year is marked by the rushing about of busy priests as they prepare for New Year's Day. If you are in Japan on New Year's Day it will seem like every person in Japan is at their local temple at the stroke of midnight. The Japanese look to the New Year as a chance to shake off all the burdens of the previous year and get a fresh start.


The Phoenix (Hō-ō 鳳凰) is the symbol of righteousness and often connected with the Empress. It is a representation of the mandate from heaven giving the Emperor the authority to rule. Legend says that only the 'Kiri' tree is beautiful enough for the Phoenix to land on.

Paulownia.

According to Chinese legend, the Hō-ō appears very rarely and only to mark the beginning of a new era (like the birth of a virtuous ruler, for example). In other traditions, the Hō-ō appears only in peaceful and prosperous times (nesting, it is said, in Paulownia trees) and hides itself when there is trouble. As the herald of a new age, the Hō-ō decends from heaven to earth to do good deeds and then it returns to its celestial abode to await a new era.

It is both a symbol of peace (when the bird appears) and a symbol of disharmony (when the bird disappears). In China, early artefacts show the Phoenix (female) as intimately associated with the Dragon (male) and the two are portrayed either as mortal enemies or as blissful lovers. When shown together, the two symbolise both conflict and wedded bliss and are a common design motif in many parts of Asia.

The mythical Chinese bird is thought to have been introduced into Japan in the Asuka period (mid 6th to mid 7th century AD). The Phoenix has a bird's beak, a Swallow's jaw, and a Snake's neck; the front half of its body is thought to resemble a Giraffe, the back half a Deer. Its back resembles a Tortoise and its tail is like a Fish.

Yoshiwara seirō nenchu gyōji (吉原青楼年中行事 or よしわらせいろうねんじゅうぎょうじ).
- Utamaro, 1804.
 
 
The Kiri is the official symbol of the Prime Minister of Japan and of the democratically elected system of government. This was the 'Mon' (symbol) of the Toyotomi clan that ruled over Japan prior to the Edo period.

The most influential figure within the Toyotomi was Toyotomi Hideyoshi, one of the three 'unifiers of Japan'. Oda Nobunaga was another primary unifier and the ruler of the Oda clan at the time. Hideyoshi had joined Nobunaga at a young age but was not highly regarded because of his peasant background. Nevertheless, Hideyoshi's increasing influence allowed him to seize a significant degree of power from the Oda clan following Oda Nobunaga's death in 1582. As the virtual ruler of the most of Japan, Hideyoshi created a new clan name 'Toyotomi' in 1584 and achieved the unification of Japan in 1589.




 

When Hideyoshi died in 1598, his son Toyotomi Hideyori was still an infant. Five regents were appointed to rule until his maturity and conflicts among them began quickly. In 1600, Tokugawa Ieyasu deposed Hideyori and took power after winning the Battle of Sekigahara. In 1614, Hideyori came into conflict with the Tokugawa clan, leading to Tokugawa Ieyasu's Siege of Osaka from 1614 to 1615. As a result of the siege, Hideyori was forced to commit seppuku (ritual suicide). After his death, the Toyotomi clan dissolved, leaving the Tokugawa clan to solidify their rule of Japan.
 
 
Toyotomi Mon.
 




'Kiri ni Hooh'         'Kiri no Kasu'        'Kiri no Kasu'         'Kiri no Kasu'


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