The usual kakejiku (hanging scroll) means a kakejiku, whose subject is perennial. It doesn’t mean that we can leave the kakejiku displayed for a long time, but that we can display it freely, regardless of the season.
The landscape, often called “sansui” (literally mountain and water), is one of the subjects of the usual kakejiku. “Suiboku-ga” (ink painting), the art of painting in just one color using “sumi” (Japanese ink), is not only for painting lines, but also for showing gradation through contrasting ink density and lighting. The landscape painting with sumi is called a “suiboku-sansui.”
Mt. Fuji has, since ancient times, long inspired many painters, because its magnificent image has long been worshiped all over Japan. When Mt. Fuji is tinted red by the sun’s rays, the image is called “Aka-Fuji” (Red Mt. Fuji). This superb view, which is rarely seen by most people, has long been considered a very lucky symbol. This is why a kakejiku of Aka-fuji is often displayed for New Year holidays as well as ordinary days, while other usual kakejiku are rarely displayed. (Most Japanese people want to have a happy New Year).
“Shikibana” means four flowers, each representing one of the four seasons. Shikibana is one of the subjects of the usual kakejiku. Although there is no special rule, a peony, which is considered the king of flowers in China, is usually positioned in the middle of the screen, with the other flowers encircling it.
The combination of bamboos and sparrows (called “take-ni-suzume”) has, since ancient times, long been considered a lucky symbol, so it is very popular in Japan.
The Japanese people admire the characteristics of bamboo: they grow straight and is flexible, yet is hard to break. They liken bamboo to the fortunes of a family, and hope that their family fortunes will not decline.
The sparrow breeds abundantly, so it has been considered a symbol of the prosperity of a family’s descendants.
The tiger or dragon is often painted, because their grand strength is believed to wards off evil spirits.
The four seasons are distinct in Japan, so the Japanese people value the sense of each season. They replace their kakejiku (hanging scrolls) depending on the season. This kind of kakejiku is called “kisetsu-gake” (seasonal kakejiku).
Plum trees are often chosen as a subject for early spring paintings. Many Japanese people like plum trees because they are the first to blossom. Bush warblers are often depicted with plum trees in Japanese art.
Cherry blossoms are also often used as a subject for spring paintings. Cherry blossoms as a symbol of spring, are familiar to the Japanese, because they see them bloom beautifully at that time every year.
The peony, considered “the king of flowers” in China, is often used as a subject for early summer paintings. However, in the “kakejiku” (hanging scroll) world, displaying a peony kakejiku is considered the best hospitality you can give to a guest. Therefore, this kakejiku is often displayed even in seasons other than early summer.
Carp (called “koi”) are another common subject for summer paintings. The great popularity of “nishikigoi” (colored carps) suggests, many Japanese people love carp. According to “Gokanjo” (History of the Later Han Dynasty), a lot of fish tried to swim up a waterfall called “Ryuumon,” in the rapid stream of the Yellow River, but only the carp succeed and thus became dragons. From that story, “touryuumon” (gateway) became a symbol for success in life. “Koinobori,” meaning “carp streamer” in Japanese, are carp-shaped wind socks traditionally flown in Japan to celebrate “Tango no Sekku” (the Boys’ Festival). Tango no Sekku is a traditional annual event, now designated a national holiday: Children’s Day. This is why carp, shooting up a waterfall, are often used as a subject for paintings during Tango no Sekku.
The sweetfish (“ayu”) is one of the summer features in Japan, and suggests a fresh, cooling feeling to us.
The kingfisher is well loved in Japan. It never misses its prey and is considered a symbol of the fulfillment of a prayer. The kingfisher is seen throughout the year, but is often used as a subject for summer paintings. This is because the presence of a kingfisher at the waterside makes one feel refreshed in summer.
Morning glories represent summer. They were developed by Japanese gardening technology. As a result, many Japanese people love morning glories.
The seven main kinds of Japanese autumn flowers are called “akinonanakusa”: bush clover, Japanese pampas grass, kudzu, a pink, Patrinia scabiosaefolia, thoroughwort, and bellflower. These seven autumn flowers provide visual enjoyment. Their simplicity is very much admired: they are small and dainty, yet beautifully colored. They are, therefore, often painted as a symbol for autumn.
The persimmon is often painted as a symbol for autumn, because the persimmon tree produces a lot of fruit in autumn.
Colored leaves represent autumn. When leaves turn red in autumn, they are very beautiful and wonderful to look at. There are many places famous for their colored leaves in Japan.
Chrysanthemum flowers represent Autumn. They’re also considered noble in Japan, this is because the Japanese imperial crest is in the shape of a chrysanthemum. Chrysanthemums were developed by Japanese gardening technology. As a result, many Japanese people love chrysanthemum flowers.
The nandina bears beautiful little red fruit in winter. The nandina is called “nanten” in Japan. The nanten is used to pray for happiness because it sounds like “nan-ga-tenjiru,” which means to reverse bad luck.
The camellia is also often painted as a symbol for winter or early spring. It is valued in the tea ceremony as well, because Sen no Rikyuu loved camellias.
The kakejiku of an auspicious painting is displayed on certain occasions, such as a new year, a ceremonial exchange of betrothal gifts (called “Yuinou”), or a celebration to commemorate a person’s long life.
A pine tree is considered a symbol of longevity in Japan because its needles are always green.
The Japanese people admire the characteristics of bamboo: they grow straight and is flexible, yet is hard to break. They liken bamboo to the fortunes of a family and hope that their family fortunes will not decline.
The plum tree is the first tree to blossom, which indicates that spring has arrived. This is why the plum tree is considered a symbol of vitality in Japan.
For the reasons described above, Japanese believe that “shou-chiku-bai” (the combination of pine, bamboo and plum trees) is a lucky symbol.
The crane and the turtle were considered the vehicles of the immortals in China, so they are symbols of longevity. This thought was introduced in Japan, and now the Japanese people love the crane and the turtle as symbols of longevity, as well.
According to the Takasago Shrine in Takasago City, Hyougo Prefecture, there have been “Aioi-no-Matsu” (twin pines: a Japanese red pine and Japanese black pine that share their roots) ever since the Shinto shrine was established. A pair of trees called “Jou” (old man) and “Uba” (old woman) – a Japanese form of Darby and Joan – bearing the legend, “We kami reside in these trees to show the world the way of marital virtue,” stand within the shrine. This is why a Takasago painting is often displayed on an auspicious occasion. Takasago generally means of an old man and woman.
The sun has, since ancient times, been worshiped around the world, and many religions have developed out of sun worshiping traditions. For example, “Amaterasu Oomikami,” the top god in Japanese mythology, is the sun god. The sunrise on New Year’s Day is often chosen as a subject for a painting of New Year.
The Buddhist kakejiku (hanging scroll), “butsuji-gake,” is used in the houyou ceremony. In Japan, as a result of the synchronization of the Shinto region with Buddhism, many strands of Buddhism unique to Japan were developed. Therefore, Japanese Buddhism includes many sects. There are many differences in the manners of the ceremony, depending on the sect and region, so the Buddhist kakejiku used in the ceremony differ depending on the sect and region.
“Namu-Amidabutsu” is a 6 kanji (Chinese characters) phrase, meaning “I believe in Amitabha.” “Namu” means “I have faith in you.” “Amidabutsu” means “Amitabha.” The “kakejiku” (hanging scroll) with the script of Namu-Amidabutsu is used in the Buddhist memorial services of the “Joudo-shuu,” “Joudo-Shin-shuu,” and “Tendai-shuu” sects.
“Namu-Shakamunibutsu” is a 7 kanji phrase, meaning “I believe in Shakamuni Buddha.” The kakejiku with the script of Namu-Shakamunibutsu is used in the Buddhist memorial services of “Soutou-shuu,” “Rinzai-shuu,” and “Oubaku-shuu” sects (Zen Buddhism).
“Namu-Daishi-Henjou-Kongou” is an 8 kanji phrase, meaning “I believe in Vairocana and respect Koubou-Daishi (a famous Japanese monk).” “Namu” means “I have faith in you.” “Daishi” means “Koubou-Daishi.” “Henjou” means “the sacred light of Buddha shines all over the world.” “Kongou” means “an indestructible substance.” This is why “Henjou-Kongou” means “Vairocana.” The kakejiku with the script of Namu-Daishi-Henjou-Kongou is used in the Buddhist memorial service of the “Shingon-shuu” sect.
“Namu-Myouhou-Rengekyou” is a 7 kanji phrase, meaning “I devote myself to the teachings of the Lotus Sutra.” “Namu” means “I have faith in you.” “Myouhou-Rengekyou” means “Lotus Sutra.” A kakejiku with the script of Namu-Myouhou-Rengekyou is used in the Buddhist memorial service of the “Nichiren-shuu” sect.
Heart of Great Perfect Wisdom Sutra (“Hannya-Shingyou”) is one of the Buddhist sutras that preaches the Kuu (Buddhism) of Mahayana Buddhism, and the Prajna school of thought. In various Japanese sects, especially “Hossou-shuu,” Tendai-shuu, Shingon-shuu, and Zen sects, use Hannya-Shingyou and interpret it individually. The kakejiku of Hannya-Shingyou is sometimes used in their Buddhist memorial services.
Juusan-butsu (13 Buddhas)
“Juu-ou-shinkou” spread in Japan during the 11th century and after. The “Juu-ou”, ten kings, are regarded as an awesome existence because they decide whether the dead should be sent to “jigoku” (Hell, one of the posthumous realms advocated by Buddhism) and preside over the “Rokudou-rinne” (transmigration in the six posthumous realms advocated by Buddhism) in light of the seriousness of the karma belonging to the dead. In Juu-ou-shinkou, the faithful beg for the mercy from the ten judges, who decide to which realm the dead would go.
In the Kamakura period, the Japanese believed that each one of Juu-ou corresponded with each of “Juu-butsu” (10 Buddhas); the number grew as time went by, and in the Edo period, “Juusan-butsu-shinkou” (the 13 Buddhas belief) was born.
Buddhist memorial services were customarily held seven times every seven days, because the bereaved family could pray to the Juu-ou to seek commutation for the dead person at every trial, while additional memorial services were held in line with the additional three trials that supposedly functioned to save all dead persons.
The kakejiku, on which juusan-butsu are painted, is often displayed in Buddhist memorial services.
Kannon-Bosatsu (Avalokitesvara) is a sacred image of “Bosatsu” (Bodhisattva) in Buddhism and a kind of Buddha that has, since ancient times, attained a widespread following, particularly in Japan. There is a legend that Kannon-Bosatsu disguises herself in thirty-three forms when she saves all living things. For this reason there are various shapes of the statues of the Kannon, called “Henge(Changed)-Kannon” (other than the basic “Shou-Kannon”). Unlike the perception of Kannon as an attendant of “Amidanyorai,” Kannon-Bosatsu, which was worshiped as an independent Buddha, tends to be besought to for practical benefits in this world.
The kakejiku of Kannon-Bosatsu is sometimes displayed in Buddhist memorial services.
Shuuinjiku (Kakejiku of Series of Stamps Collected at Temples)
“Saigoku-Sanjuusan-kasho” is a pilgrimage of thirty-three Buddhist temples throughout the Kansai region of Japan. The pilgrimage route of the Saigoku Sanjusankasho includes, as additional holy places, three more temples associated with the founder of the pilgrimage, Saint Tokudou, and the Cloistered Emperor Kazan who revitalized it. The principal image in each temple is Kannon-Bosatsu; however, there is some variation among the images and the powers they possess. Pilgrims record their progress with a prayer book called “Noukyou-chou,” which the staff of each temple marks with red stamps and Japanese calligraphy, indicating the temple number, the temple name and the specific name of the Kannon image. Some pilgrims receive the stamps and calligraphy on plain silk, which will be mounted on a kakejiku (hanging scroll) by a kakejiku craftsman “hyougushi.” The kakejiku, which is called “saigoku-sanjuusan-kasho-shuuinjiku,” is very popular in Japan. It is sometimes used in Buddhist memorial services.
“Shikoku-Henro,” “Shikoku-Junrei” or “Shikoku-Hachijuuhachi-kasho” is a multi-site pilgrimage of 88 temples associated with the Buddhist monk Kuukai (Koubou-Daishi), on the island of Shikoku, Japan. Large numbers of pilgrims still undertake the journey for a variety of ascetic, pious and tourism-related purposes. To complete the pilgrimage, it is not necessary to visit the temples in order. The pilgrimage is traditionally completed on foot, but modern pilgrims use cars, taxis, buses, bicycles or motorcycles. The walking course is approximately 1,200 km long. Generally, it takes about 40 days by walking, and about 10 days by a sightseeing bus or car. The pilgrims are often recognizable by their white clothing, sedge hats, and walking sticks.
Many pilgrims begin and complete the journey by visiting Mt. Kouya, in Wakayama Prefecture, which was settled by Kuukai and remains the headquarters of the “Shingon-shuu” sect of Buddhism. The 21 km walking trail up to Mt. Kouya still exists, but most pilgrims use trains or cars. Pilgrims record their progress with a prayer book called Noukyouchou, which the staff of each temple marks with red stamps, Japanese calligraphy indicating the temple number, the temple name and the specific name of the Principal Image of Buddha and the Sanskrit characters to express it. Some pilgrims receive the stamps and calligraphy on plain silk which will be mounted on a kakejiku by a scroll mounter (hyougushi). The kakejiku, which is called “shikoku-hachijuuhachikasho-shuuinjiku,” is very popular in Japan. It is sometimes used in Buddhist memorial services.
The Girl’s or Boy’s Festival Kakejiku
“Hina-matsuri” (The Japanese Doll Festival) is an annual event. It is a seasonal festival to pray for the healthy growth of girls. In Japan, Hina-matsuri used to be observed on March 3, of the old calendar (around present-day April). It was on the first day of March,the Snake month, according to the Japanese lunar-solar calendar. However, after the calendar reform of January 1, 1873, the festival has generally been celebrated on March 3, according to the Gregorian calendar (or new calendar). However, in some parts of Japan, mainly snowy regions such as the “Touhoku” region, Hina-matsuri is still observed on March 3rd of the old calendar. There are other regions that celebrate the festival on April 3rd, in line with the new calendar. Hina-matsuri was also named “Momo-no-(peach’s) sekku” because the festival, under the old calendar, was held when peach trees blossomed.
Hina-matsuri is a seasonal festival in which dolls are displayed, and centering around two dolls representing the emperor, called “obina,” and the empress, called “mebina.” The display is decorated with peach flowers, and people enjoy eating, and drinking “shirozake” (sweet white sake).
During the Edo period, the girls’ “doll play” was combined with the “ceremony of the seasonal festival.” Hina-matsuri spread across the country, and dolls began to be displayed. During this period, however, in addition to the traditional aspects of the doll display, Hina-matsuri increasingly came to have a ritualistic aspect, in which the dolls suffer all of the present and future misfortunes, in the place of people. Also at this time, the Hina-matsuri doll set came to be considered one of the bride’s household articles for high-ranking females, such as the daughters of “samurai” families. As a result, the doll trend became more elegant and luxurious.
A “tachibina” doll is a hina doll in a standing pose. The kakejiku (hanging scroll) of tachibina dolls is sometimes displayed during Hina-matsuri. Moreover, the kakejiku sometimes is displayed instead of the Hina-matsuri doll set.
The Japanese have a custom of holding a variety of events praying for the healthy growth of boys, on the day of Tango-no-sekku, and May 5 is a national holiday, called “Children’s Day.” In a few regions, it is celebrated on June 5th, following the old lunar calendar.
In Japan, there was a ritual called “Satsuki-imi” (literally, accursed May), where all the men went out of the house, and only women stayed inside to wash the impurities away, and purify themselves before rice planting. This custom was connected to “tango,” which came from China. In the Imperial Palace, people wearing a Japanese iris in their hair got together at the “Butokuden” (a palace building) and were granted a “Kusudama” (literally, a ball of medicine made of herbs with a decoration added) by the emperor. A record from the Nara period described these events in the imperial court.
The word for the Japanese iris was pronounced the same as the word for martial spirit (both were pronounced “shoubu”), and the shape of the leaves of the Japanese iris reminds people of swords. Therefore, tango was determined as the “sekku” for boys and people prayed for the healthy growth of boys during the Kamakura period.
The typical way to celebrate tango-no-sekku is to display armor, a helmet, a sword, a doll warrior, or “gogatsu-ningyou” doll (literally, doll of May) modeled after Kintarou (a famous brave boy in a nursery tale) on a tiered stand in a room, and to fly “Koi-nobori” (carp streamers) on a pole in the front yard. Displaying armor symbolizes protecting the boys. The custom of displaying koi-nobori originates in the Chinese tradition, and it is meant to pray for the success in a boy’s life.
The kakejiku which is displayed in this event can be described as follows:
The kakejiku of an iris painting.
The kakejiku of a “musha” (an armored warrior) painting.
The kakejiku of a carp shooting up a waterfall.
It is said in Chinese history that a lot of fish tried to swim up a waterfall called “Ryuumon” in the rapids of the Yellow River, but only the carp succeed and thus became dragons.
The kakejiku of a tiger or a dragon painting.
Their grand strength is believed to wards off evil spirits.
The kakejiku displayed on Hina-matsuri or Tango-no-sekku is called “sekku-gake” (the girl’s or boy’s festival kakejiku).