Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Sho Chiku Bai - three friends of winter

Here is one of the absolute treasures I brought back with me from Japan. 

It is a vintage furoshiki, resist- dyed with a traditional  Sho Chiku Bai (three friends of winter) motif.  The indigo has held up beautifully - the persimmon dye has faded. 

Matsu (pine) remains green all winter and beautifies the landscape.  It denotes endurance and longevity, inner strength and resistance to hardship:

Take (bamboo) grows quickly and bends, but never breaks, during harsh conditions.  It too represents endurance and strength, as well as flexibility: 

 Ume (plum) blossoms appear at the end of winter, signaling the approaching Spring.  They  represent hope, vitality, beauty, optimism:

I was with my Japanese sashiko buddies when I found it, so I have that nice memory attached to it too.  They explained that it would have been used to wrap up a "lucky" offering of rice for a family who had perhaps just welcomed a new baby.  What a beautiful idea, so much symbolism and so many good wishes wrapped up in the three friends of winter. 

And.... another very special thing about this piece is the inclusion of the "maruni gosan no kiri" kamon (family crest) - because it is the very same family crest of my husband's paternal ancestors!  

Here are the notes I took when I researched this particular kamon:

Kiri = plant

Gosan = 5-3 (five/three flower combination)

Maruni = a circle around 

And here is the crest etched on David's paternal ancestors' grave marker: 

There are many kamon variations based on the Paulownia tree - the Empress tree.  I used a similar kamon in my sashiko sampler: 
paulownia kamon

Legend holds that the Paulownia tree is sacred because it is believed that a Phoenix dwells in the tree.  The Emperor gave this crest to the family of Shogun warrior Hideyoshi Toyotomi (1537-1598).  

Later in the Edo era, commoners started using crests. Many chose this crest because Toyotomi was a commoner who became a Shogun.  David's ancestors were farmers in the Hiroshima area.

All these months, I've been trying to decide how and where to display it, whether to line it first, etc.  Today I finally at least got it out, washed and line-dried it, and just starting thinking about it again.  

Oh.... how I do love indigo...! 


  1. It is so interesting when cloth has a story, and your beautiful piece has such a lovely story.

  2. Oh what a treasure! Thank you for the history lesson. I'm glad this has found a good home!

  3. Never would have guessed how much there was behind that fabric. Now what are you going to do with it?

  4. I loved this post. Those pictures are so wonderful and I love that it has the family crest on it, too. Thank you for sharing this. I know you will find the perfect way to display it.


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