Gyoban is a wooden fish-shaped drum, which serves as a signal to start and end rituals, meditation sessions and meals. The fish-shaped drums are common in Zen temples in Japan. Gyoban is also called Gyoko, Mokugyoku, or Ho. In Buddhism, the fish, which never sleeps, symbolizes wakefulness and devotion to training.
Mokugyo, a wooden percussion instrument used during the recitation of sutras, mantras, or other Buddhist texts, also takes the shape of fish. Mokugo is said to have been derived from Gyoban and developed into the present form in China during the Ming Dynasty. That's why Gyoban looks more like a fish than Mokugyo.
'Kan' (as in 環境 'Kankyo': environment, surroundings) has a form that shows a rather deep meaning. The upper part of the character is 'eye.' ○ means 'gem' or 'precious stone.' Apart from the character form made up of these three elements, there is also a character form with the 'gem' classifier. The 'gem' classifier (the character's radical on the left) takes the form of a 'cord' passing through three 'gems.'
Actually, 'Kan' is related to funeral customs and the belief in resurrection from death and faith. As the 'eye' above is open, it symbolizes resurrection from death. In antiquity, it was the custom to bury a dead person with his or her possessions. This character takes the form of a gem around the neck of the deceased's dress. As can be seen in the character 含, there also was a custom of placing a gem in the deceased's 口 mouth.
Dr. Shirakawa mentions, in works such as 'Koshiden: The Life of Confucius,' that Zhuang Zi (in 'The True Classic of Southern (Cultural) Fluorescence') often describes such customs as above. However, as is to be expected from a leading Daoist, he is rather critical and negative. For example, in Zhuang Zi's 'Miscellaneous Chapters, Esoteric Things,' he satirizes Confucians who retrieve gems attached to corpses following exact descriptions of the deceased's possessions in 'The Book of Odes,' which later Confucians have regarded as a moral authority. Dr. Shirakawa has pointed out that in the work of Nishida Kitaro, a representative philosopher of Japan, one can see good influence from Zhuang Zi, who, in a sense, has philosophized the world of Chinese characters. In this respect, Kanji have a dimension that connects the past with the present.
環境 'Kankyo: environment' is closely related to the fate of mankind. Wouldn't it be a really appropriate character to think about when maintaining a healthy environment?
Ichikawa Danjuro is a stage name taken on by successive Kabuki actors of the Ichikawa family. Its yago (guild name) is Naritaya. The design of the Ichikawa family’s jomon (the formal crest) is “mimasu,” in which three squares nested inside one another, and the most frequently used kaemon (the sub-crest) is “gyoyo-botan (a peony flowere surrounded by apricot leaves).” Prior to taking the name Danjuro, an actor frequently had the names Ichikawa Shinnosuke, then Ichikawa Ebizo.
Ichikawa Danjuro I (1660-1704) was the founder of the aragoto style of the present Kabuki performance. Borrowing an idea from Joruri (Japanese-styled puppet play), he came up with the scenes of fierce god or demon appering at the finale of the traditional aragoto style of the dramas dealing with a valiant warrior, and created a new style of aragoto, which is typical to the Kabuki Juhachiban (a collection of 18 plays of the Ichikawa Danjuro line of actors) still performed today. Among them, Shibaraku, Jayanagi, Narukami, Fuwa and Kanjincho were first played by Danjuro I. He also wrote many Kyogen plays under the name of Sanshoya Hyogo. Ichikawa Danjuto XII is the current holder of the name Ichikawa Danjuro.
Chujo is one of the Male masks used to portray a male character. The Chujo mask is often used for a respectable noble man. It is said that the mask was modeled after Ariwara no Narihira, a famous Heian poet whose court rank was middle captain of the Inner Guard, chujo, hence the name of the mask.
While it has sharp facial features with slightly slanted eyes, its feminine and thin mouth, the high painted eyebrows and painted black teeth, which were typical of a court nobleman of that period, give a gentle impression. The two deep knots between the eyebrows create a melancholy countenance.
The Chujo mask is generally used to represent a spirit of the Heike prince or an aristocrat in such plays as “Kiyotsune,” “Michimori,” “Tadanori,” “Unrinin,” and “Tooru.”
Juroku is used to portray a male character such as a young warrior or a prince of the Heike clan. This mask is said to represent Taira no Atsumori (1169-1184), a nephew of Taira no Kiyomori. The name of the mask “Juroku (‘sixteen’ in Japanese)” is said to be derived from the fact that Taira no Atsumori died at the age of 16, when he was defeated by Kumagai Naozane in the Battle of Ichinotani, which is referred to in the Tale of the Heike.
The mask’s decent countenance with cute dimples and bright eyes fully expresses susceptibility of the youth. While the Doji mask is called the mask of the Full Moon, this Juroku mask is called the Mask of the 16th Moon. It is used for the plays such as “Atsumori,” “Tomonaga,” and “Tsunemasa.”
As the word “manbi” literally means “ten thousand coquetries,” the Manbi mask expresses coquetry of a young woman. This mask creates different impressions according to light and shade. When seen from the front, its long-slitted eyes and small projecting under jaw give an impression of a beautiful woman. But when it is tilted upward, it looks smiling prettily. And downward, it looks like a woman smiling fearlessly.
In the play “Momijigari,” the Manbi mask is used for a beautiful woman, who is actually the demon taking on the form of a woman. In the plot, Taira no Koremochi joins the feast held by young women in the mountain. Drunk by sake and the woman’s dance, Koremochi fell asleep. In his dream, he receives a message from the deity and slew the demon. The Manbi mask is also used for a demon taking on the form of a beautiful young woman in such plays as “Yuya” and “Sessho-seki.” The Manbi mask has a mysterious charm with both coquetry of an adult woman and prettiness of an innocent girl.
It is said that the Tenjin mask represents the furious countenance of Sugawara no Michizane, before he was deified. It is used for various heavenly gods including Michizane.
In the play “Raiden,” Michizane lost his position as Minister of the Right and was banished to Kyushu on account of an intrigue by a jealous Minister of the Left. Dying in rage, he transforms himself to Raijin, the god of lightening and thunder, and brings calamities to the court and capital, but was defeated by the Priest Hossho-bo from Enryakuji Temple on Mt. Hiei. As the emperor decided to deify him as Tenjin, the god of study, Michizane’s spirit is finally appeased.
The reddish coloring, the hair around the lips, the eyebrows, and the gold metal eyes give the mask an air of heightened emotions and movement. However, the mask's unassuming nose, thin lips, and open mouth exposing upper and lower teeth are simple and human-like.
The mask is also used to portray Idaten, who is a swift-footed deity, in the play “Shari,” and Amatsu Futodama, a deity who defeats the devil by using the golden tablet and the bow and arrow, in the play “Kinsatsu.”
The Ko-jishi mask is a kind of fierce deity masks representing a young lion, which is an imaginary holy creature and is often treated as an elfin-like being. The lion masks originate in Lion Dance in Dengaku and Sarugaku, which were introduced from China in the ancient times. The Ko-jishi mask is gold in color and has the up-slanting eyes with the eyeball looking upwards, which express an alert and agile young lion taking aim at his prey. Compared with the O-jishi mask, which is used as a parent of Ko-jishi, this mask is full of youthful vigor. The Shikami mask is sometimes used in stead of Ko-jishi, for it also looks like a young lion clenching its teeth.