Treasures from John’s Collection: Battle Theme Haori
Seitou (征東) Haori
In keeping with Boys Day, I’d like to share with you a few battle-theme textiles from my collection.
The first piece I came into many years ago through a friend in Osaka. It is a man’s haori with a powerful image of a tobi  (kite ) in radiant flight over what appears to be the Sea of Japan.

(Just as a geographical reminder, I’ve inserted an overlay map of Asia – it seems that perhaps the artist chose to depict Japan a tad out of scale.)

The kite represents the nation of Japan during her expansionist period of the early half of the 1900s extending Japan’s light throughout the region in what we referred to in our own US history as Manifest Destiny. The weave is pure silk. The kite is of a reddish-tone gold and the Islands of Japan are in pure yellow gold.
I've superimposed a map to show the real position and size of Japan
relative to the mainland within the white frame.
Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to find out the meaning of the odd shaped image behind the kite. If anyone knows, please fill me in! A few years later a curious thing happened. Friends in Japan sent me what at first appeared to be a bolt of silk for futon, but upon examination proved to be silk for a haori lining (haura 羽裏), simply never used. It looked awfully familiar, and sure enough, it is exactly the same yardage used to line this haori!
Detail of back of yardage. Notice the turnaround on the supplemental weft.
Having the yardage allowed me to more clearly see the weave structure. Above is a detailed shot of the back. Notice how the supplementary weft threads have been added, both in silk and gold. The gold threads are flat, gold leaf over paper. These threads turn around at the edge of the design and do not continue from selvage to selvage. There is additional information to be found on the bolt.
Along the bottom, where the weave begins, are two characters, 征東、read seitou. I have to admit I wasn’t familiar with the term, and it did not appear in any of my dictionaries. By itself, the character () is pronounced yu(ku). Yuku has several meanings. One is to go or advance. Also to subjugate or conquer, and to take (by force) or acquire. The second character, (higashi), simply means east, or in this case, the East. Together they are read seitou. Again, the two combined lead one to the notion of expanding one’s horizons eastward. These characters are woven as a supplemental weft with gold wrapped around a silk core.
The small round stamp, right, simply says 本金日本絹織物, honkin Nipponginu orimono (woven with real gold and Japanese silk). The second portion of the text is not stamped clearly, but it simply refers to the weavers co-op with which this mill is associated.
The character in the center reads , which in this case means "certified".
Above is a Boys Day doll depicting Emperor Jinmu with his hawk perched on his staff.
Kite Over Asia on Jimmu's Staff 成皇 Establishing the Empire
A second bolt of haori lining material with a similar motif came into my hands not long after the first. In this case the hawk is not only casting its radiance upon all of Asia, it is also sitting upon a staff. This staff is easy to recognize as that belonging to Emperor Jinmu, the first emperor of Japan, as depicted in the Boys Day doll to the right, symbolizing devine right.
The characters woven into the start of this bolt show 成皇. I’m not sure if this is read seikou, or narimi. The first character, () na(su), means to build up or establish. The second character, mi, is not normally used by itself, but as part of compound words, always with the meaning of empire, or imperial.
Back view of haori fabric showing loose supplemental weft threads.
The back of this fabric shows that it is woven much as the first piece, with the gold and silk threads woven in as a supplementary weft in a satin weave.
Detail of haori fabric showing depiction of major rail lines in China and beyond.
In examining the map of mainland Asia, you can see that a pattern has been woven in to act as a topographical guide. In addition, it looks as if all major rail lines have been included. I hope you’ve enjoyed viewing these woven treasures as much as I have. I only wish that you could feel them, too!
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