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Meaning of the Kanji found on armour boxes

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  • Meaning of the Kanji found on armour boxes

    Good morning Katchubunnies.

    Over on the Facebook, a discussion is going on about the decoration on an armour box and the character which we discussed somewhere, either here or on the old site, years ago.

    A gentleman in Japan who I believe is called Takahashi Masao 高橋政雄 very kindly explained that the character did not read as "Mae" - Front but read as "Zen" and was the last syllable in a Talismanic spell known as Kuji Kiri.

    https://ja.wikipedia.org/wiki/%E4%B9...QgwLDrdSa3JWKA

    Here it is in English:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kuji-kiri

    https://collections.peabody.yale.edu...ANT-243224.005


    Last edited by Malcolm; 09-24-2019, 04:44 AM.
    Pip Pip Cheerio

    Malcolm

  • #2
    Makes sense Malcolm!
    The front of a bitsu is determined by the lock or the carrying handles anyway
    Uwe Sacklowski / Germany

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    • #3
      Uwe, The exact same kanji is also written on the leather bad weather covers, with the owner's kamon on the sides. It is simply to tell someone where the carrying handles and the lock are, whilst the kamon are in the correct position to be visible when the box is being carried on the Daimyo Gyoretsu. There was probably very little light in castle store rooms. I have about 15 gusoku bitsu but only one with kamon and mae on it - the rest are plain lacquered wood except one which is oval section. That one is fully black lacquered with silver nunome zogan tendrils on all the ironwork.. It probably had a cover at one time but it is now missing.
      Ian Bottomley - UK

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      • #4
        At home I have an old shōgi folding camp stool with a dark green leather seat. The character 前 appears on top. The stitching is the traditional square leather-on-leather edging. I have always assumed that the stool was once mended using the leather from a yoroi-bitsu. Could it even be original, I wonder?
        Do we have any evidence that this character was ever used on any article other than yoroi-bitsu?
        Piers D - Japan / UK

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        • #5
          Oh, and *it is written in black brushwork inside the front top of a pair of hitataré bottoms. I find this useful when I dress for matchlock displays; in this case the use for me is obvious as it is not immediately clear which way round they go. If the character also has a talismanic function then I am doubly happy.

          *Amended below. I had assumed the faint character was 前, but this thread had me looking closer. I was wrong.)
          Last edited by Teppotai; 10-03-2019, 01:12 AM.
          Piers D - Japan / UK

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          • #6
            While the theory about the talismanic spell makes sense to me, I'm confused by the examples that Piers describes, as they seem to prove the opposite...
            What do you think, if a Kanji on an armour box was put there to indicate the front, would they not have used 表 (omote, the opposite of 後, ushiro, which many of us know from martial arts techniques), rather than 前?
            David Mueller - Germany

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            • #7
              David, here we need Piers to qualify, but omote seems to mean 'face', 'surface' etc rather than ;front'
              Ian
              Ian Bottomley - UK

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              • #8
                Ian, this webiste (which I use to learn the kanji) does list 'front' among other meanings: https://www.wanikani.com/vocabulary/%E8%A1%A8
                However, I do agree that Piers has the most insight into the Japanese language and will hopefully enlighten us
                David Mueller - Germany

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                • #9
                  Omote can mean front. Omotesenke is a famous tea-school in Kyoto. The omoto part is because the head building of this school is placed at the front of the estate, where all the Senke-schools are located.

                  Jan
                  Jan - Sweden

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                  • #10
                    Hi Jan & David,

                    I'm equally in a quandry with this, which is why I posted it in the first place..

                    Certainly a variety of Talismanic practices were commonplace in the latter part of the Edo era, so much so that watered down versions often feature in Kabuki plays (Usually the hero seeking divine assistance to vanquish his enemy).

                    Markus Sesko wrote a description of a koshirae bearing all nine symbols:

                    https://markussesko.com/2013/04/02/k...cial-koshirae/

                    Here's a Tsuba with the nine
                    Bonji seed syllables:

                    website pictures 038.jpg


                    There is a temple just south of Kyoto devoted to it:
                    Last edited by Malcolm; 10-02-2019, 04:56 PM.
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                    Malcolm

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                    • #11
                      An interesting read Malcolm, thank you! But your image is not showing up, and there shoudl be a link I guess...?

                      Having pondered the difference between mae and omote a little more, I'm wondering if omote maybe does not follow the concept of "sides" (as in frontside and backside), but instead describes an object's surface that is visible to the speaker?
                      Piers...?
                      David Mueller - Germany

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                      • Malcolm
                        Malcolm commented
                        Editing a comment
                        Must have got lost in the Hack, here it is restored (Apologies for the quality, it is from an old auction catalogue).

                    • #12
                      Sorry, I have missed this thread and failed to comment. Each of you has made valid points, but I am not in a position to give a definitive answer to this. I would need to consult more people and sources beforehand.

                      The habaki on Kashu swords tend to have nine (Kuji Goshinbo) 'Kuji kiri' strokes cut into them, five on one side and four on the other. See this one: http://www.katana.giheiya.com/shouhi...a/02-1182.html

                      Jan and David have discussed the meaning of the more formal surface word Omote, and yes, it is the public face of an object, or house, or tsuba, coin, etc., and Ura is the rear. Omote-ura. Mae-ushiro.

                      Examples of Mae usage. Mae-muki means facing the future positively. 'Ie no mae' would be the area in front of the house. Temae is an old word for 'you', meaning 'the person or object indicated in front of me'. Zen can mean ex- or former as in President etc.

                      Depending on the usage/context, the words mae and omote can overlap.

                      These thoughts do not however clarify for me the exact usage and meaning of the character 前 on the front of a yoroi-bitsu. My own feeling is that Zen/Mae is traditionally placed there with an element of talismanic symbolism, and the meaning of 'front' sort of guarantees its continuance right at that fitting spot. Somehow this also touches anthropomorphically on the 丹田 Tanden, the place in the belly from which all your power is focussed and controlled.


                      The character is also a little like the 前立 Mae-date in the front of your kabuto, standing a little in front? Standing in front of you. Ushiro-date, standing at your back/rear. Waki-date, standing at your side.


                      (Just checking my Hitatare for the 前 character to discover I was wrong about that one above. Apologies. Though faint, the character is actually 誠, and bound to the belly. Makoto can mean 'to be defended robustly' especially used in the extended sense of speaking truth and keeping your word. The one on my camp stool however is 前. I wonder if it indicates which direction one should sit on it. We have a running argument here on which way one should rest ones buttocks, with the top poles in front and rear, protecting the genitals, or with poles to to the sides.)
                      Last edited by Teppotai; 10-03-2019, 04:52 AM.
                      Piers D - Japan / UK

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                      • #13
                        Interesting about your Hitatare Piers, a certain group of fun loving chaps in Mibu also used 誠 I believe..........

                        It is always going to be extremely difficult to comprehend the mindset of the feudal era by applying our own mindset.

                        We just know too much, or think we do.

                        We are in a sense, all guilty of being re-enactors of our own historical movie, in which we play a leading role, but when we put down the object of our study, we revert to a world we can comprehend with the touch of a button, a world without spirits, demons and deities.

                        Unless of course you are currently following the Rugby World Cup....

                        I think perhaps it is pertinent to read some of the writings of the late Donn F Draeger, (1922 - 1982) who, was researching Gendai Budo (The Martial Arts and Ways created after the Meiji Restoration) and Koryu (The Martial Arts and Ways created before and during the Edo period).

                        Draeger was (and is) highly respected in Japan, collating information from the older generation of masters, many of whom began their training in the latter years of the Meiji era.

                        Even if you have no interest in Martial Arts and Ways, I think you will find much in his research that is applicable to the study of Katchu in its historic setting.

                        These are the most relevant titles:
                        • Classical Bujutsu : Martial Arts And Ways Of Japan, Vol I., Weatherhill, 1973, 1996
                        • Classical Budo: Martial Arts And Ways Of Japan, Vol II., Weatherhill, 1973, 1996
                        • Modern Bujutsu & Budo: Martial Arts And Ways Of Japan, Vol III., Weatherhill, 1974, 1996
                        Pip Pip Cheerio

                        Malcolm

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                        • #14
                          誠 meant ”Truth” or ”Sincerity” to the good ol’ boys in the Shinsengumi.
                          I have a special relationship to this kanji as I have it tattooed on my arm. To me it means something like ”Stay true to yourself”.
                          Or perhaps, cross my path in anger and I’ll cut you down

                          Jan
                          Jan - Sweden

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                          • #15
                            ...Jan, you scare me sometimes...

                            Just pops up to my mind....what about the term 前頭 in this context?
                            Uwe Sacklowski / Germany

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                            • Malcolm
                              Malcolm commented
                              Editing a comment
                              Hi Uwe, I have heard this in relation to Sumo.
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