A powerful drawing of Shoki, a demon queller, is hand painted over two nobori banners (each has two panels sewn together) on a thick and loosely woven cotton. The size of two panels together is huge; approx. 66 inches wide (5.5 ft, 1.68 meters) and 166 inches long (13.8 ft, 4.2 meters) without counting the loops on a side and top!
Many Japanese custom start with the purification ceremony; beginning the year with New Year's ceremony followed by the Setsubun in February, which takes place before the rice planting season begins. In the old days, when the medicine was not as sophisticated as today, sick people often did not survive long, particularly infants and young children. Particularly, they get sick during seasonal changes and many did not make it through.
Shoki, often drawn with a scary face, actually is a savior/protector of the people. Originated from the 8th century Chinese mythology, he is known for curing the emperor who had been gravely ill. Shoki, it was said, to have shown up in the emperor’s dream one night and defeated all the demons. The emperor woke up next morning all cured from the sickness. Two small orange figures on this nobori are “oni” (the demons, ogres). They are plagues, drafts, or other misfortunes in disguise. Any prominent nobori artists must have been challenged to draw a shoki in their life time. The art work on this set is exceptional as you can see.
There was an interesting article from Kyoto about an old Japanese Oni (ogre, demon) and Shoki. You can still see Shoki figures on some old roof tops (or temples) in Kyoto area today. There was a gravely ill wife in Kyoto and her family was informed about their neighbor’s Oni-gawara (name for decorative roof tile made out of ceramics) possibly casting a curse on her. The neighbor's oni roof tile was facing their house. They could not ask the neighbor to take it down … instead they placed a Shoki roof tile on their roof glaring at the neighbor’s oni tile. It was said that the wife was completely cured since then. Shoki established himself as one of the protective figures for the Japanese Boy's Day sometime during the Edo Period (1603-1868).
When we took photos we placed two nobori side by side (each consisted of two long rolls sewn together - 17 inches in width). So, two pieces are not sewn together at this moment. These panels were washed thoroughly and prior to washing, the strings holding the handles together were cut (but still attached) for even washing. These handles can be removed later or sewn back, if desired. We DO NOT wash every noboris. One panel on the right side do not have handles on top nor on side. A little confusing … please ask for a photo of the top. There are no handles on the side as well. We are not sure how they were originally hung but we can guess that they were taken out sometime ago. There are some faint stains but none of them are noticeable.