This type of fukusa is a cover placed over a gift at the time of a gift-giving ceremony such as the "Yui-noh" which is held prior to a wedding. The evergreen pine symbolizes the strength and devotion of men; the plum blossoms represent purity, subtle beauty and the inner strength of women. Bamboo is often used to describe the personality of men and women; for example, a person being as straight (honest) as bamboo could also mean flexible (bendable) to a large extent. When pine (matsu, SHO), bamboo (take, CHIKU) and plum blossoms (ume, BAI) are put together, they are called "Sho-chiku-bai".
A rake and broom under a pine tree belongs to Joe and Uba from the Noh play "Takasago". Their souls are said to reside in a pine tree which has two pine trees tangled and grown together to become one. They symbolize harmonious marriage and longevity. "Tsuru-Kame", a crane and a long tailed tortoise also symbolize longevity. Here, a crane is nesting on eggs.
With the elements for "fidelity, unfailing devotion, prosperity and longivity" combined together as a "shima dai" (island stand), this created the image of Mt. Horai. Mt. Horai is an imaginary island from Chinese legend, it is the adobe for supernatural beings where everybody lives happily. Shimadai is still used today for decoration at the traditional Japanese wedding ceremony.
Without a word spoken, this fukusa conveys a strong desire of the giver for a good marriage. The condition is excellent and it was probably a treasure to some woman. There are only two fukusa that the receiver gets to keep. This is one of them; a woman get to keep it. Over 100 years later, this fukusa is still beautiful.
This style of fukusa, embroidered on blue satin (shusu) was popular from the mid Edo(1603-1867) to early/mid Meiji period (1898-1912). The tassels are silk (and some with silver coated paper/threads) and very pretty; the green beads (old glass?) pick up the green color from the fukusa. The liner is red crepe (chirimen) silk, early Meiji, 25" x 30". This fukusa is appropriate for weddings and New Years.