The character 羊 shows the form of a 'sheep.' It can often be seen as an element in Kanji. The reason for this is that in antiquity sheep were often used in rites. 'Sheep' stands out among Kanji with abstract meanings like 善 'good,' 美 'beauty,' and 義 'justice.' The character 'bi' 美 ('beauty') shows the whole body of a sheep. While 羊 shows the upper part of a sheep including the horns, in 美, its lower body including the hind legs are added. A person who possessed sheep was already considerably wealthy.
In the world of polytheism one tries to receive the favor of gods by beautiful and precious offerings. It was believed that offering a dog to the highest god was most effective. Offers to receive godly favor became especially important at the time of trials. As trials took the form of an ordeal by the gods, both parties submitted a sheep to be variously tested by the gods.
The origin of Shirakawa Kanji science follows the idea that characters were formed and developed as a means of communication between gods and man. From this standpoint, beauty has to be acceptable to the gods, or warranted by the gods. Interestingly, the Biblical idea of offering a sheep to God can also be found in Gospel St John 1, 29 and I Corinthians 1, 7.
Icho-gaeshi was a hairstyle worn by Japanese women in the Edo period (1603-1868). The root of a pony tail is divided into two parts, each of which forms a sidewise 8 shape. The tips of the tail are wound around the root and fastened with a hairpin. As the fan shaped knot resembles the gingko leaf, it was called Icho-gaeshi (literally meaning “a turned-up gingko leaf”).
It was originally worn by young girls aged 12 to 20. Later as geisha and gidayu musicians began to wear their hair in this style, daughters of townspeople, who favored stylish fashion, began to follow their styles. In the Meiji period (1868-1912), it became popular among middle aged women, widows, geisha and entertainers. As it was easy to do up in this style and one did not have to go to a hairdressers’ shop, Icho-gaeshi was the most popular hairstyle up to the early Showa period (1926-1989).
Kanzashi, which are hair ornaments in traditional Japanese hir styles, came into wide use during the Edo period, when artisans in Edo (present-day Tokyo) acquired the techniques of making Hana Kanzashi in Kyoto. These kanzashi are created from squares of thin silk fabric by a technique called “tsumami-zaiku.” Each square is multiply folded and combined with another to create patterns of flowers and birds. In the middle of the Edo period, not only kanzashi but also combs and kusudama (++) were made. As these articles were beautiful in color and reasonable in price, they were favored as souvenirs. In a Ukiyoe painting that was painted between the late Edo period and the early Meiji period, a woman wearing a kanzashi that seems in tsumami-zaiku style is depicted. At the present time, Edo tsumami kanzashi are popular hair ornaments worn at some formal occasions like New Year’s Day, coming-of-age ceremonies, Shichi-Go-San and Japanese traditional dancing recitals.
Edo Bekko is a tortoiseshell handicraft made in Tokyo, applied to eyeglass frames, gold-lacquered objects and carvings.
Bekko has a long history: a biwa (Japanese lute) preserved in the Shoso-in imperial treasure house (dating to the C8th AD) features the shell of a hawksbill turtle. In the Edo period, more sophisticated gluing techniques led to more complicated effects using bekko.
Hawksbill turtle shell is the main material for Edo bekko, and is used to make a variety of stationery items and accessories.
Hawksbill turtles live in the vicinity of the equator and can measure up to 180 cm in length and 200 kg in weight after 50 or 60 years. The number of shells is always 13; the transparent part, which comprises only 10% of the shell, is treasured, the other parts, which are black, are called 'fu'.
Edo Bekko is a very valuable and graceful craft.