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Hunting for fireflies

Melinda Takeuchi, Professor in the Department of East Asian Languages and Cultures and the Department of Art History at Stanford University, discusses the coded meanings behind a woodblock print in the Asian Art Museum's collection. Created by Asian Art Museum.

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  • mr pants teal style avatar for user Anthony Natoli
    Why is the person on the right identified as a man? At , the pair is identified as a "couple" suggesting maybe man and woman, and at , the person on the right is discussed, saying "his robe", and the person on the left is identified as a woman, since at , the speaker says "she is unmarried". However, the person on the right does not look much like a man to me ... "he" is wearing a robe or kimono with an obi (sash) with a musubi (knot) in the back. Isn't such a robe/kimono with obi and musubi worn by a woman? Also, wouldn't it be improper for an unmarried woman to be accompanied alone with a man? Are there other indications that the person on the right is male?
    (9 votes)
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    • hopper cool style avatar for user Madeliv
      Good point. When I looked at the image I immediately felt the right figure was a man, probably due to the dark colours and his (seemingly?) short hair but your arguments make a lot of sense! When I looked closer I also noticed his sleeves were unattached to his kimono, which is typical for women's kimono, so he is - as you pointed out- quite possibly a she :-)
      (6 votes)
  • female robot grace style avatar for user Anna
    What are the blocks that she talks about? Are they like colors or something?
    (1 vote)
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  • female robot amelia style avatar for user 7222326
    does each kimono have their own meaning or just a few i thought there was just one type may i have a list of more to understand it better?
    (0 votes)
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    • mr pants teal style avatar for user Kayla Berry
      It depends on what you mean. Designs don't necessarily have their own meaning, but there's a bit more to picking one out than just seeing what looks pretty. Some kimono are for weddings while other are for funerals, and there are certain rules that govern what colors/patterns can be worn at what time.

      Choosing the color of the kimono is often based on the season. November to February is the “shades of the plum blossom” season, so you’ll see kimono with white outsides and red lining. March and April is “shades of wisteria”, which makes for the wearing of lavender kimonos with blue lining. Other seasons and styles include red lined kimonos for summer, and yellow and orange for winter and spring. Special patterns will emerge during special seasonal events. For example, light pink and white cherry blossom patterned kimono can be seen during sakura season, plum blossom and snow scenes will go with winter, and red maple leafs will often be seen during the fall season.

      The sleeves of some kimono are different depending on if you're married or unmarried. There's different kinds depending on formality, on the event, etc., and can be found if you do a search for it. Hopefully this helped!
      (3 votes)

Video transcript

in an agricultural society like Japan the seasons are crucially important to survival and so the motif of seasons and the pleasures of each season great attention is paid to this in this case it is Firefly season or summer time Malinda takuji this couple is probably a pair of townspeople they are not wearing his elaborate clothes as you find in the Yoshiwara she is unmarried because the sleeves on her robe are long I love her little subtle kimono with the young fern shoots if you look closely you'll see that it's a gauzy kimono his robe has a pattern on it called kuat soon oggi this means joint curved circles pakora was also slang for the brothel area to Nagi means joined so kuda Watsu Nagi can either mean joined curved circles or it can mean joined in the pleasure quarter so that's just the kind of little in joke that would have been known to anybody at the period looking at the print the artist Suzuki Hara Nobu was an innovator in the use of color in prints hard and over under the patronage of these sophisticated wealthy and demanding samurai came up with luxury additions in which the number of blocks was theoretically unlimited as the number of blocks used steadily increased with reports of some prints using more than 100 different blocks the government deemed the process excessive limiting the number to seven so every aspect of these visual arts was regulated and subjected to scrutiny lest it transgress against the social system that demanded that people deport themselves with frugality and propriety you