The Nobori banners for Boy's Day in Japan are very eye-catching. It may be rare to see them actually used today but many that we have left feature colorful drawings of Samurai warriors, heroes from the past, or characters or animals from the stories.
The word NOBORU is to climb as in to climb up, amount to someone worthy or it could simply mean something visibly towering high in the battle field. The designs of earlier Nobori banners were much simpler; they were used to identify their lords or to shift the large warriors in the battlefields.
Two Nobori that I am listing today are signed by the same artist and they share the same mythological tale written in early 8th century, Kojiki and Nihon-shoki. Both books begin with pre-historical tales but they also contain historical information about the first Japanese emperor Jinmu all the way to the 33th emperor, the earliest Japanese religion called Shinto and the relationship with Korea and China then.
The story of Amaterasu, the Sun Goddess is beautifully executed by the artist in Tsutsugaki paste-resist dye on two long panels with each panel made into one by hand sewing two skinny pieces together, thick, hand-spun, hand-woven cotton. The black music instrument that a man is hold is called Sho and it used for Gagaku, the imperial court music. It is rarely seen or heard even in Japan. The court music itself has been preserved all this years (over 1200 years) without going through much of changes. The music is very slow but quite elegant.
Approx. size of each Nobori is: 26 1/4 -1/2 inches (width) x 205 inches (length)
- The handle cloths shown in some photos were pretty dirty that they were removed.
The condition is very good, with some stains. Circa, early 1900s.
THE STORY OF AMADERASU A long time ago, there was a sun goddess named Amaterasu (heaven shining) oomi (the grand ocean) no Kami (god/goddess). Amaterasu was a daughter of the grand god who created Japan. She is an ancestor to the emperor. When the god stirred the ocean with a stick, the drippings from the stick made several islands of Japan (this is just one of the stories about how Japan was created). Amaterasu was warm, compassionate and beautiful, literally a shining star of all. Her brother, Susano ono Mikoto, was quite contrary to his sister; he was cruel and mean-spirited. He played one too many cruel jokes on her. She escaped to a cave and hid herself behind a huge boulder. The world became cold and dark; nothing could grow in the dark. Diseases spread and the people became depressed and sick.
Worried, many hundreds of gods and goddesses (deities) gathered together. When Uzume, another goddess, started to dance in a lewd manner with music, it stirred huge laughter. The sounds of happy laughter (things have not changed after 1200 years- same wild jeers) made Amaterasu wonder. What could be happening outside without her? When she opened the huge rock door to take a peek, the strongest god was waiting outside to move the rock. The sun was restored.