Ichimatsu and other patterns in kabuki plays
March 2 (Tue), 2021 ‐ May 30 (Sun), 2021
This museum exhibits ukiyo-e woodblock prints produced in Osaka in the Edo period. Many of the ukiyo-e prints made in Osaka were lively depicted portraits of kabuki actors playing in theatres around Dotombori area.
In ukiyo-e kabuki actors’ costumes are depicted colorfully, with detailed patterns being printed using many colors. Patterns that actors liked was also liked by kabuki lovers, thus ukiyo-e played a role of trend dispatcher.
In this feature exhibition, we focus on ichimatsu and other patterns used in kabuki plays. Through ukiyo-e, we introduce patterns of kabuki costumes, their meanings and originality. They are traditional and classic patterns but have been arranged into new, modern patterns. In particular, ichimatsu pattern has now become known to the world by Tokyo Olympic mascots and popular manga. We hope you’ll find your favorite pattern.
Ichmatsu pattern is made with two different color squares placed alternately. Originally it was called ishidatami (cobblestone) or kasumi (haze) pattern. Kasumi (haze) was also called yusoku (knowledge possession) and used for the nobility’s clothings. In kabuki play “Kanjosho”, a story of a noble Sugawara no Michizane, an aristocrat in Heian Period, ichimatsu (kasumi) pattern is used and depicted in ukiyo-e.
People began to call this pattern ichimatsu when a kabuki actor Sanogawa Ichimatsu I (1772～62) used this pattern for his costume in the mid-Edo Period. The picture displayed here as Reference 1 is “Private prostitute Onayo at Gion-machi” drawn by Toshusai Sharaku III. This depicts her wearing ichimatsu.
In ukiyo-e you can see ichimatsu pattern is also used for stage props or the background, not only for costumes. There are also different ichimatsu patterns such as using double-lined squares or putting motifs in each square. Ichimatsu pattern is made of simple squares but has variations.
Plays and costumes
Ichimatsu pattern became popular after an actor used it for his costumes. There are other patterns that has become classic for kabuki costumes.
For example, in kabuki play called ‘Soga-mono’ (a series of kabuki plays whose theme is vengeance by the Soga brothers), the elder brother Juro’s costume motif is plover, and the younger brother Goro’s costume motif is batterfly. These motifs are from the classic tale “Soga monogatari”, describing the two characters by their costumes with motifs on them. In kabuki play “Sugawara Denju Tenarai Kagami”, main characters’ costumes motifs are linked to their names; Matsuo-maru (matsu, pine), Umeo-maru(ume, plum) and Sakura-maru(sakura, cherry blossom). This is the typical example of linking of names and patterns.
At the raid scene in the very famous kabuki play “Kanadehon Chushingura”, main character, Oboshi Yuranosuke, and his 47 samurai warriors, wear firefighter’s costume with a mountain motif (iriyamagata) on it (see Reference 3), impressing the audience their unity. It is said that this iriyamagata motif was taken in to the costume of famouse “Shinsengumi” because they wanted to share the good luck of 47 samurai warriors. Look at the costume patterns that represent plays’ stories and characters.
Matsu (pine), sakura (cherry blossom) and ume (plum) in “Sugawara Denju Tenarai Kagami”
Matsuo-maru serves Fujiwara Tokihira, Umeo-maru serves Kanjosho and Sakura-maru serves Tokiyo Shinno. Each of them has their name motif (pine, cherry blossom and plum) drawn on their costume.
Danshichijima (Danshichi plaid) in “Natsumatsuri Naniwa Kagami”
Benkei koshi (Benkei plaid) pattern is often used for the costume of this play’s main character, Danshichi Kurobei. It has thick horizontal and thin vertical lines with darker intersecting part, also known as gingham. As the play became popular, persimmon-colored Benkei koshi became popular.
Genji-guruma (Genji wheel) in “Yoshitsune Senbon Zakura”
A wheel design of oxcart or imperial cart is called Genji-guruma. In kabuki plays, Genji-guruma motif shows that the person wearing it is for Genji clan in Genpei (Genji clan vs. Heike clan) wars.
Kami-goromo (paper clothing) in “Naniwa Bunsho Yugiri-tsuka”
In order to describe disowned Izaemon’s miserable appearance, his kimono is made up of sheets of love letters. Actual kami-goromo (paper clothing) were utilized by warloads and priests to protect them from cold.
Asano-ha (hemp leaf) in “Ashiya Doman Ouchikagami”
Asano-ha (hemp leaf) pattern is geometric pattern of regular hexagon looking like a hemp leaf. As hemp is strong and grows fast, people often let children wear hemp clothes wishing them to grow up healthy. Thus it is used for child actor’s costume.
Nure-tsubame (wet swallow) in “Keisei shina-sadame
The pattern that expresses a wet swallow. In ‘saya-ate’ (scabbards clashing confrontation) scene in “Ukiyogara hiyoku inazuma”, a wild Fuwa Banzaemon wears thunder motif costume while Nagoya Sanza is wearing Nure-tsubame (wet swallow) pattern costume. A swallow that gracefully flies in drizzling rain portrays Sanza as a lady-killer..
Actors and costume patterns
Actors’ portraits are drawn in order to please fans of kabuki plays and kabuki actors, but it is also an advertisement. In order to win popularity and gain more fans, many actors created a pattern that is connected to their name and wore costume of the pattern, trying to set a trend.
Once a pattern is drawn in ukiyo-e, kimono shops begin to sell kimono of the pattern, then fans buy and put them on as kimono or obi, thus the actor’s name goes more viral.
Patterns that was created by kabuki actors and drawn in ukiyo-e are still used now-a-days in kabuki world as actors’ yukata (informal cotton kimono) or tenugui (Japanese cotton towel).
Ichikawa Family’s crest is Mimasu, and patternized design of that crest is called Mimasu-tsunagi or Rokuyata-goshi. The Mimasu is said to be three nested square boxes looked from above. Kamawanu means in Japanese ‘I don’t care’. The word kamawanu consists of three parts; Kama (sickle), wa (ring) and nu (hiragana). Ichikawa Danjuro VII used the design on his costume, and as the word was related to his performance, it has become a symbol of Ichikawa Family and drawn in ukiyo-e.
Kikugoro koshi pattern is made up of four horizontal lines and five vertical lines with the letter ‘キ’ and ‘呂’ placed in intersecting squares. ‘キ’ is ‘ki’ in Japanese, four horizontal lines and five vertical lines make nine (nine is ‘ku’ in Japanese), and five is ‘go’ in Japanese, and ‘呂’ is ‘ro’, altogether it makes ki-ku-go-ro. Kiku is chrysanthemum in Japanese, and there are many ukiyo-e prints that depicts chrysanthemum motif. There is also Onoe Family’s pattern using an axe (in Japanese ‘ono’), koto (Japanese traditional musical instrument) and chrysanthemum(in Japanese ‘kiku’) to express a word ‘yoki koto wo kiku’ (hear a good thing).
Shikan-jima (Shikan stripe)
This pattern is made up of four (‘shi’ in Japanese) lines and cabinet drawer handle (‘kan’ in Japanese) which makes the sound ‘shi kan’.
A diamond-shaped pattern which is made up of four same letters ‘イ’ (i) . Today it is Nakamura Ganjiro Family’s crest.
Matsu (pine) -mon (crest)
Nakamura Matsue III used the pine shaped crest because there is ‘matsu’ is included in his name.
A letter ‘り’ (ri) of Arashi Rikan is placed in a diamond shape.
A letter ‘吉’(kichi) of Arashi Kichisaburo is connected into a diamond shape.