Japanese antique fukusa, a gift cover embroidered with "The Old Couple of Takasago" on wool (rasha, felt like), padded and lined with orange crepe silk, Meiji period (1868-1912).
The story of the old couple, Jo and Uba, came from the Noh play, Takasago, which was written during the Muromachi period (1336-1573) by Zeami. Jo and Uba were spirits who resided in an old pine tree which was two trees that grew together over the years. They were seen in the moonlight raking and sweeping old pine needles and symbolize longevity and harmony in marriage. Noh play were first supported by the Ashikaga Shogun in the Muromachi period and was followed by high ranking samurai such as Nobunaga (Oda) and Hideyoshi (Toyotomi). The play is solemn and acted out with limited movements which suited the rigid Confucian philosophy of the Tokugawa government. The simplicity was adorned with extravagance, textiles came through the Nanban trading in Azuchi-Momoyama period (1568-1603). To Samurai, the music played in the Noh became equivalent to the "gagaku" music of the Emperor’s court throughout the Edo period. Lines from Takasago are still read in many traditional Japanese weddings today.
We find very few fukusas made out of wool today. Everything on this fukusa is top quality. It suits the subject matter. It was not until the Meiji period when the Japanese were finally able to produce wool of their own. Because of this reason, wool was a rare commodity during the Edo period. The wool (felt) on this fukusa is thick and very soft, almost feels like cashmere on the surface. It is in amazingly good condition, a little soil shows on the orange crepe silk especially on the reverse side.