Old Japanese nobori banner, a spectacular wall hanging decor piece, circa 1920-1940. Dyed on thick cotton is the farewell scene of *Kusunoki Masashige with his son, Masatsura at Sakurai station. The scroll handed to his son is a will written for the family before he headed to the last battle.
This type of picturesque banner has been used for the Japanese Boy’s Day since late Edo period. Some are still made today but the quality has changed; most of the new noboris are printed. The white area at the top of this nobori is visibly stained (shown in the photos). The design area is large enough for most uses and in excellent condition.
The total dimensions are approx. 32 ½” (82.6 cm) wide x 27.5’ (8.38m) long. The design area from the bottom to the sky is 16.9’ (5.15m) long. 11.3’ (3.44m) long from the bottom to the tip of the samurai’s hat. There are many ways that you can display this piece. It will show off nicely when hung on a curtain rod on a wall with a high ceiling. The length can be adjusted by folding, cutting or making a loop by sewing the top and bottom together. With this nobori, you may be able to divide the two figures and place them side by side. Most nobori can be washed except for very old pieces. You might have to expect some color loss or changes in the textile itself if the fabric is old.
*Kusunoki Masashige (1294-1336) was one of the most brilliant military strategists in Japanese history. He supported the Emperor Godaigo (reigned 1318-39) for the power to be restored to the emperor. Masashige and his imperial troops, often outnumbered by many, used guerilla tactics effectively and successfully in the battles against the Ashikaga clan. After Ashikaga Takauji retreated to Kyushu southern island, he came back with more strength by adding more allies. This time, the Emperor Godaigo rejected the Masashige’s plan. Obeying the emperor's order meant a guaranteed loss at the battle and a certain death for him. Knowingly, he obeyed the order and marched the troops to their last battle. Before his departure, Masashige left his will to his 11 year old eldest son “to serve the emperor till death." A decade later, his son Masatsura and his brother faced the same fate as their father by siding with the southern side of emperor (versus to northern emperor). Masashige's loyalty was respected by other samurai; it is said that consideration by the enemy (Ashikaga Takauji, first Ashikaga shogun) was shown at the last moment in battle by allowing them time to take their own life. His remain was carefully sent back to his family.
With the Meiji Revolution, authority was restored to the emperor. Masashige, his wife and sons were enshrined by the Meiji emperor. His story was written all over school textbooks until the end of World War II. The incidents that happened in 14 century (700 years ago from today) was used by military before and during the war, resulting in unnecessary death of many soldiers. A song "Farewell at Sakurai", composed in 1899, became a popular war time song. Most of the new generation in Japan has grown up hardly knowing the details of this story.