Tuesday, December 14, 2010


In Chinese and Japanese folklore, the koi (pond carp) is a symbol of strength, courage and patience. And, since the goldfish is a relative of the koi, it too is afforded the same status - which is why the OBOE (Ohtawara Board of Education) office where I worked in Ohtawara-shi, Tochigi-ken, Japan was very happy when I told them I wanted to get an aquarium.
Truth be told, I have always had pets - I've always had a dog (since I was 3), and a cat since I was 10 - I wanted to get something... A dog and cat were out of the equation because what would I do when I left Japan? It wouldn't be fair to the animal or myself.

Goldfish were my pet of choice - which the OBOE was only too kind in helping me purchase the materials I would need and even driving me to a goldfish farm to pick out the fish I wanted. You can read about a couple of my comic book stories HERE and HERE that relate to myself and Japan and my goldfish.

But this blog is about scrolls - more specifically the one you see here to the left - and about the koi.

According to Japanese (and Chinese) tradition, a koi that could leap up the waterfalls in steps would become a dragon (ryu).

Koi no takinobori (Koi waterfall climbing) as an adage describes one's success in overcoming adversity. I think that is some pretty cool symbolism. I suppose in Canada (and the U.S.) we have salmon traveling back up rivers, and up waterfalls to reach their spawning ground. Their perseverance is awe-inspiring. It's too bad that bears hand out there and kill the tired buggers just as they are about to spawn. I suppose it's the salmon's chance to come and go at the same time. Ba-dum-bump! 

On Children's Day - May 5 - families with boy's fly streamers with the koi pictured on it (koinobori) outside their homes as a wish for the boys to grow up strong and brave like the koi

And now, here's some interesting facts about kakejiku (Japanese hanging scrolls). 

As you may or may not know, I love art. I have many ukiyo-e (Japanese wood block prints) that are well over 150 years old, done by famous artists. My next thing to try and collect was also art-related, so I picked up a 200 year-old hand-painted kakejiku, a unique one-of a kind painting.

Each Japanese hanging scroll is actually hand-drawn, so even the same picture will have it's own unique look. 

Aside from owning a one-of-a-kind piece of art, the creation of kakejiku - the actual scroll, not including the painting - is a work of art in itself. It's construction is time consuming and labour intensive. To me it's like painting a masterpiece and then having another master take the time to construct a frame for it. 

While many kakejiku paintings are sumi (made with black carbon from a lamp) and sketched on paper, others involve hand-painted pigments on paper or silk. Mine is on paper. 

Whatever the medium, typically this hand-painted artistic work is completed by an individual artist who is separate from the task of the scroll-construction process itself. 

To make a scroll, a master scroll maker needs to do a lot of things, but chief is the laying of the painting atop a fine hand-made Japanese paper backing. The edges or margins of the artwork are overlaid with a fine silk brocade. 

Next, narrow strips of brocade silk (ichimonji) are often placed as a trim above and below the painting and an additional two narrow silk brocade strips (futai) are placed to hang down from the top edges.  

Since it's a scroll, a dowel is placed on the bottom to become a weight for the art, or, when it is rolled up and placed away, the art is rolled around it. 

Apparently, what the artisan uses as the dowel is of chief importance, separating the expensive from the "I-can-afford-that" expensive. The real expensive stuff (that collectors want) are made from animal bone, ivory or antler. China is also preferable, but the most common material (which is what mine is), is a lacquered wood.  

Lastly, an optional piece is a scroll weigh in the form of a pair of tasseled weights called fuchin - it's used to keep the scroll straight if it's placed in a breezy location - like say a temple or shrine.  

Scrolls are rotated in and out - by that I mean the Japanese change the scrolls relative to a season or a holiday event.  

Somewhere this fish can't swim,
Andrew Joseph
Today's title is by The Grateful Dead: LONGSTRANGETRIP

PS: Just in case I never mentioned it, Andrew, when translated into Japanese Katakana (an alphabet for foreign words), it becomes An-do-ri-yu. When I translated it phonetically into Kanji (think Chinese alphabet), it becomes An-do-ryu. In Japanese, there are many different ways to write the word An, the word Do, and the word Ryu. I chose mine to actually be An-Doo-Ryu. I made the 'O' longer, in order to have my name mean: Peaceful-Leader-Dragon.
PPS: Jo-se-fu became: Help-World-Walk.
PPPS: Andrew, of course, is of Greek origin and means: Man/masculine. I love my name!

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