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Old Japanese Nobori Banner: Mikawa Samurai

Old Japanese Nobori Banner: Mikawa Samurai

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Directory: Vintage Arts: Regional Art: Asian: Japanese: Textiles: Pre 1940: Item # 670980
Asian Art By Kyoko
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The nobori banners, carps, warrior's Yoroi and Kabuto helmets, samurai dolls and swords are all a part of the display used for Boy's Day in Japan. They reflect the parents' wish to inspire their sons in manliness and bravery. This nobori is hand painted (dyed) on cotton, dated from 1920-1950. Excellent condition except one missing handle from the top. Dimensions: 29" x 245" (20'5"), 73.7cm x 6.2m. The length of the design area: 189"(4.8m) long.

The family crest shown on this nobori is a myoga (ginger) crest. The ‘myoga’, written in different kanji characters (simplified old Chinese characters are still used by Japanese combined with Japanese characters, hiragana and katakana) means "divine protector". For this reason, it was a popular crest among the warrior class. During the Ashikaga era (1336 — 1573), the worship of Mandarashin was prevalent and priests of this sect decorated their robes with ginger patterns. The God Mandarashin is sometimes shown with two attendants who are holding bamboo and ginger. Peacocks have been worshipped in India from ancient times because of their power to fight off poisonous snakes. The peacock feathers on the armor of the old samurai here is stylish but was probably meant more for the divine protection of his life, especially during the pre Edo period warring era.

The lower samurai carrying a spear is Ookubo, Hikozaemon (1560 - 1639). He became famous with his book “The Story of Mikawa”. He served Tokugawa, Iyeyasu (first Edo shogun, from Mikawa) from an early age (as a spear man) when Iyeyasu was still unknown. The book was written after his retirement and was only intended for his family. When the book got out somehow, it became very popular among the samurai. Samurai in the beginning of the 1600s grew up to serve their lords by fighting in battle. The most major battle ended when Ieyasu united the country and became the first Tokugawa Shogun. As a result, samurai with the true samurai spirits were no longer appreciated or needed. Their job became more administrative.

Hikozaemon’s book recorded most of the battles that Ieyasu (Tokugawa) fought. It also contains the stories of otherwise “forgotten” heroes who perished on the battlefields. His book became an important historical recording for later generations. The third Tokugawa Shogun, Iemitsu, often invited Hikozaemon to the castle to hear stories of his grandfather whom he had worshipped. Hikozaemon declined the opportunity to inherit the title as the regional lord (the title comes with a castle) offered by his uncle(?). He did so because he felt that what he did not earn himself was not his. Samurai was raised not to say hangry even when they were starving. He also declined the offer made by the third shogun Iemitsu to increase his fief. Instead, he spent the rest of his years helping many unemployed samurai to find jobs. He was later characterized as an outspoken adamant old man who even scolded at young Shogun in Kabuki plays, books, movies, TV, etc.

This nobori is different from many other nobori. Could this banner possibly portray an event in the family's history where the family with the ginger crest and the Ookubo family (wisterias crest with a character, “large” in the center) were linked in a battle or as a family? The peony and wisteria crest on the clothing may suggest the blending of the aristocrat's blood in the family along in line (most likely by marriage) in that case.