This is an antique men's silk juban, an undergarment worn under a kimono. For today’s standards, it is very odd to see such an extravagant hidden personal item. During the Edo period, which ended in 1868, common people were not allowed to wear silk. The growing economical power of merchants came along with social disorder and corruption. The Tokugawa government issued many sumptuary laws to limit the spending of the general people on luxury items. One way to avoid the punishment was to spend their wealth (tremendous wealth through trading in some cases) where it could not be monitored.
The fabric of this juban is a finer crepe silk (kinshi). The lighter gray color in the mid design area is separated by the tie-dye work. The trimming for the area is one of snow flake patterns which became popular in the late Edo period. This haiku poem is about setting out to see snow by Basho Matsuo (1644 – 1694), a famous haiku poet from the Edo period.
There is a word, fuu-ryu (foo-ryu) in Japan. ‘Foo ryu’ is written in characters as ‘the way of wind’. Foo ryu people search for the internal beauty of ‘wabi and sabi’ in their environment. Some find the beauty in the grace of nature and write poems about; flower viewing in spring, moon and kouyo (koh-yoh, changing colors of leaves) viewing during autumn and snow viewing in the cold winter. The haiku poems that were written by the traveling Basho were particularly popular among those ‘foo ryu’ intellectuals of the Edo period (1603-1868).
This poem was written when Basho traveled from the winter of 1687 to the fall of 1688. The haiku poems from this trip were put together by his disciple after Basho’s death and published as “oi no kobumi”. “Oi” is a old traveler’s backpack containing the letters and documents. “Kobumi” means the short letters.
The art work is hand painted with a signature of Gyokudo Kawai (1873-1957), a famous landscape artist at the bottom of the painting. The subject matter of the painting is Gyokudo’s, but we are not quite sure who the actual painter was. The seal is a hand drawn red seal. According to records, Gyokudo used a similar signature for his mid work (Taisho to early Showa) with several different seals depending on the situation. The art work on this juban shows off well indoors where the texture and shininess of the silk become visible. The collar is a thick black satin silk. The condition is excellent with some mild yellow stains below the neck area and on white/cream silk liner. Circa, Taisho to early Showa period. The dimensions: 49" wide x 49 1/2" long