The 60th feature exhibition

Botanical Patterns that colour the costumes
June 7 (Tue), 2016 – Sep 4 (Sun), 2016

This museum exhibits ukiyo-e prints and paintings produced in Osaka in the Edo period. Most ukiyo-e paintings made in Osaka were portraits of actors. The actors drawn in the paintings in this museum were playing kabuki in Osaka theatres around Dotombori.

In kabuki plays you can enjoy beautiful Japanese scenery as they are played with the natural scenery of four seasons in the background. Costumes of actors that are drawn in ukiyo-e are designed to relate to the scene, story, or the character, allowing you to imagine the gorgeous stage at the time.

In this feature exhibition we focus on botanical patters among others that colour the kabuki costumes. Plants and flowers symbolize the nature and also are connected to Japanese sense of beauty. Enjoy the paintings of kabuki costumes with floral patterns.
Juyodo Toshikuni “Yuki no Nadokoro Yomeodoshitani”
Played by Ichikawa Jinosuke, Gamo Yukinosuke and others

Name of trees and flowers

Since it is an evergreen tree, it has been used as a symbol of good omen. It has a wide range of expressions; snow piled up in winter; lively baby leaves shoot in spring; solid branches. It is used as a pattern of a costume in kabuki plays. Pine trees are also drawn in the background of the stage in “Matsubamemono”, created based on Noh plays.

Plum blossoms bloom in late winter when it is still very cold, so it has been used as a symbol of good omen because it blooms by overcoming adversity. Plum tree is related to Sugawara no Michizane, well-known plum blossom lover, and thus also related to Tenjin Shintoism. In a kabuki play called “Sugawara denju tenarai kagami” in which Michizane appears, many plum-related patterns are used including Kanjosho’s “umebachimon”

Enjoying “hanami”, or flower viewing, under a cherry tree in full bloom seems to be a long time tradition in Japan because there are many ukiyo-e paintings in which “hanami” is described. As cherry blossoms bloom marvelously and falls gracefully, they are used as a design on armours. Cherry trees are also used as “tsurieda” which floral decorations hanging from above on the stage.

【Fuji】Japanese Wisteria
Wisteria is a vine plant that spontaneously grows in Japan, coiling its way up around another tree. People appreciate its lovely blossom and also see it as a sign of good harvest because its shape resembles an ear of rice. In kabuki dance performance “Fuji Musume”, girls carrying a wisteria vine (drawn in Otsu-e, folk art picture sold at the town of Otsu) Yuki no Nadokoro Yomeodoshitaniappear and on the stage there hang a lot of wisteria vines from above.

【Kakitsubata】Water Iris
As they say “Either the ayame or the kakitsubata” (which means that both of these things are so similar that it is almost impossible to distinguish), it is difficult to tell Japanese iris, water iris and flower iris apart. Ariwara no Narihira wrote a poem “Karakoromo kitsutsunarenishi tsumashiareba harubarukinuru tabiwoshizoomou” at Yatsuhashi in “Ise monogatari (The Tale of Ise)”. Originated from this tale, there are many patters that combines water iris with narrow woodboard bridge.

【Shobu】Japanese Iris
Japanese iris is in the arum family of plants, unlike water iris which is in the iris family of plants. Having sword-shaped leaves and unique scent, iris’s design is appreciated by samurais because the name “shobu” means “fight”. In Japan a custom remains where people take a bath with bundles of Japanese iris floating in it on the day of boy’s festival on May 5. “Shobu leather” is a dyed leather with Japanese iris’s flowers’ and leaves’ simplified design on it.

Growing ornamental peony became popular in the Edo period. Because of its large flower, it is said that “Standing, she is as beautiful as Chinese peony, sitting, she is as beautiful as peony, walking, she is as beautiful as lily.” “Karajishi botan” pattern, combination of lion, the king of beasts, and peony, the king of flowers, are often used as a pattern of costume in “Shishimono” kabuki plays. There also is a design that is originated from the seal of the Ichikawa family “gyoyobotan”.

【Asagao】Morning glory
Selective breeding improved in the Edo period, letting to emerge a variety of kinds of morning glories. Rare “henka asagao (changed asagao)” was traded at a high price. Morning glory is used as a popular pattern for yukatas, informal cotton kimonos, expressing coolness of a summer morning. The flower is also often used in a background scenery. Morning glories in the picture remind us of the famous haiku “asagaoni tsurube trarete morai mizu”.

【Akikusa】Autumn plants
Autumn plants include “seven autumnal flowers” (bush clover, miscanthus, kuzu, dianthus, valerian, boneset and Chinese bellflower), enzian and chrysanthemum and others. They are often used as a pattern for costumes in summer-kabuki-plays, giving feeling of coolness by showing the next season is coming.

After a habit of drinking chrysanthemum sake at Chrysanthemum Festival (the 9th day of the 9th lunar month) was introduced from China, the flower came to be grown in Japan and also became to be used as a motif. There are a variety of patterns of chrysanthemum including; combination of the flower and running water; “Korin kiku”, a design that Ogata Korin (1658-1716) drew. Onoe Kikugoro III family uses chrysanthemum as a motif of its costumes, one of the design is called “yokikotokiku”.

【Momiji】maple leaf that has turned red in autumn
Momiji is a maple leaf that has turned red in autumn. From a famous tanka “Chihayaburu kamiyomo kikazu tatsutagawa karakurenaini mizu kukurutowa”, a pattern that combines momiji with running water is called “tatsutagawa”.

It is said that a Chinese phoenix lives in paulownia. Paulownia seals was at first the private symbol of the Japanese Imperial family but was bestowed from Emperor Godaigo to Ashikaga Takauji. Since then the pattern was the envy of samurais. Ashikaga family bestowed the seal to Oda Nobunaga and Toyotomi Hideyoshi. In kabuki plays Toyotomi family’s seal, “Goshichinokiri” is used for a costume of Toyotomi Hideyoshi or other samurai with a high position like Kono Moronao.