What Does “Tsujigahana” Mean?

The term tsujigahana starts out vague and can grow a bit more confusing as we delve further. You’ll find that the Japanese use the term to refer to a great many different techniques, but they all have the same general aesthetic in common. So let’s just take it bit by bit.

woven silk

woven silk tsumugi

The characters for tsujigahana are 辻が花. The first character, 辻 (tsuji), means crossroads. You’ll see it used in other compounds such as 辻堂 (tsujidou, a wayside shrine), 辻店 (tsujimise, roadside stall), or the hopefully extinct custom of 辻取り (tsujitori, an archaic term meaning taking a wife by kidnapping a woman passing by on the road). が (ga) is a term used to link two words, and 花 (hana) means flower. So simply translated it means flower by the side of the road. While this is not a term that describes a specific technique, it does cover a general look. Above and below are a few samples of the design style accurately referred to as tsujigahana along with a description of the techniques employed in creating them. Scroll to the bottom of this article to see more examples.

all shibori on silk tsumugi

all shibori on rinzu silk (collection of the author)

printed or brushed paste along with painted background on silk tsumugi (collection of the author)

fully printed on silk chirimen (collection of the author)

Kinkakuji – The Golden Pavilion in Kyoto

And that is about it! Any time you see a flower (or leaves, birds, etc.) drawn, painted, woven, or carved in this style it may legitimately be called tsujigahana. The style itself is said to have become popular in the Muromachi Period (c.e. 1336 to 1573) – this is the time that the famous Kinkakuji was built, Edo (old Tokyo) was established, Europeans arrived, and firearms were introduced. It was a busy time.

the late Itchiku Kuboto

During this period very high levels of weaving had been achieved, but not a lot in terms of surface design. Techniques such as shibori and direct painting had been around at least as far back as the Nara Period (roughly most of the 700’s). It was during the Muromachi period that combining the two into whimsical imagery became popular. During the mid and late 1900’s, the artist Itchiku Kubota worked to revive and expand upon the technique and it is primarily through his efforts that those of us in the West became familiar with this form of artistry.

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Additional Shots

woven silk

woven silk and metallic threads (collection of the author)

printed paste over hand-drawn images with painted background on silk rinzu (collection of the author)

pasted outlines and painted background on silk chirimen (collection of the author)

tsutsugaki-pasted outlines and painted background on silk chirimen (collection of the author)

painted wax resist and shibori on silk, painted stamens

fully printed on silk chirimen (collection of the author)

fully printed on silk rinzu (collection of the author)

shibori with gold-leafed grasses and hand-embroidered flowers (collection of the author)

hand painted on silk/gold kinshi (collection of the author)

hand-painted image on silk tsumugi (collection of the author)

hand painted on kinshi with hand-embroidered details (collection of the author)

all shibori and hand-painted details (collection of the author)

kanoko- and nui-shibori on silk rinzu with hand-painted details (collection of the author)

nui-shibori and hand-painted images on silk chirimen

nui-shibori and hand-painted images on silk (collection of the author)