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Goin’ Japanesque!

Traditional Japanese Color Combinations: The 3 Colors of Kabuki Curtains and More

This is a curtain called the “jyoshiki-maku” used for the opening and closing in kabuki theaters. The three colors that are used are all Japanese colors, really representative of the culture. Today, we will further explain traditional Japanese color combinations using the Kabuki curtain as an example. Photo: https://www.flickr.com

 

The Jyoshiki Maku Curtain

定式幕

This is a curtain with vertical stripes of 3 colors. It is mainly used in the opening and closing of kabuki. While different types of curtains are used in between programs or when the scene changes, the jyoshiki-maku has a meaning of “always” and so as a general rule this particular pattern is fixed.

 

The History and Various Types of Jyoshiki Maku

The jyoshiki-maku has mainly 3 types, the Nakamura-za, Ichimura-za and the Morita-za (Edosan-za). During the Edo Period (1603-1868), these were the only theater houses that were permitted use of curtains from the Edo Government. Other theater houses were forbidden from using curtains altogether.

1. Nakamura-za (中村座)

joshikimaku-kabuki-curtain1
From the Left: black, white, kaki-iro (reddish yellow persimmon color)

2. Ichimura-za (市村座)

joshikimaku-kabuki-curtain2
From the Left: black, moegi-iro (a deep green), kaki-iro

3. Morita-za (森田座)

joshikimaku-kabuki-curtain3
From the Left: black, kaki-iro, moegi-iro

Most kabuki theaters today use the jyoshiki-maku of this Morita-za. If you have the opportunity to see kabuki, do pay attention to which za’s color combinations they use on the curtain. It is sure to make for a more interesting experience.

 

Jyoshiki Maku Colors used in Japanese Food: Ochazuke from Nagatanien

ochazuke1ochazuke2
The packaging of the traditional corporation Nagatanien’s ochazuke (seasoning for rice porridge) uses colors of the jyoshiki-maku of kabuki. Additionally, when you sprinkle the contents of the packet onto rice, you will see that the colors are also black from seaweed, kaki-iro from rice crackers, and moegi-iro from the tea powder. Ochazuke is a staple in Japanese cuisine as a breakfast food as well as a light meal at the end the night after an evening of drinks. Do try it, it’s tasty. Related: Furikake & Ochazuke: Magical flakes that make rice delicious

 

Additional Info 1: Kohaku Maku (Red and White Curtain)

紅白幕

kohaku-curtain
Entrance Ceremony: The Red and White Kohaku Curtain as a backdrop, http://hibakama.seesaa.net/

Other than the jyoshiki-maku of kabuki, in Japan, there exist various curtains and specific color combinations.

The first is the kohaku-maku or red and white curtain. The kohaku-maku is used for celebratory events such as weddings, entrance ceremonies, graduations, coming of age ceremonies as well as clearance sales. It is said to be good luck. There are other countries that consider red to be an auspicious color, but in Japan, the color red and white must be in combination for the colors to be considered auspicious. This is a tradition that is specific and unique to Japan. In fact, the character for red in the term kohaku is written in a different form “紅” instead of the standard way of writing the color red “赤”.

kohaku-manju
Kohaku Manju with the character “ (Celebration)” stamped on it, http://www.azusado.com/

The kohaku color combination also appears in other scenes. For example, the Kohaku Manju (steamed confectionary with red bean paste inside, made in red and white) and the ribbons on the box next to it is also in kohaku red and white. Additionally, teams for the Kohaku Uta Gassen (Year End Song Festival) which is an annual year-end tradition or teams for athletic events are also divided in to red team and white team.

 

Additional Info 2: Kujira Maku

鯨幕

kujiramaku-curtain
The second is the kujira-maku which holds a completely opposite positioning from the kohaku-maku. The black and white color combinations of the kujira-maku appear for funerals, wake, or events involving condolences. This custom may be similar to some western cultures. Because the body of the kujira or whale is black and white, this type of curtain is called the kujira-maku in Japanese.

 

Additional Info 3: Asagi Maku

浅黄幕

asagimaku-curtain
http://office-plaza.com/

The third is the asagi-maku which is made up of a deeper shade of blue than sky blue and white. This appears in groundbreaking ceremonies, or framework-raising ceremonies for new building projects; in essence, religious events involving the gods. It is used to mark sacred spaces that is said to be where the gods are, and the area is not to be entered without special permission. Historically, this type of curtain it is said to be older than the kohaku-maku or the kujira-maku.

 

Summary: The Effects of Japanese Colors

japanese-traditional-colors
http://tsujikura.co.jp/

Japanese colors are used in traditional Japanese items such as kimono and Japanese umbrella. It gives off a muted impression than primary colors and thus gives a feeling of comfort to those who look at it. The things that you think have a Japanese feel to them may perhaps be made up mostly of these Japanese colors. 

Furthermore, the combination of the Japanese colors can have the effect of giving a stronger impression than primary colors or neon colors without cancelling out the other colors. The jyoshiki-maku indeed exemplifies this. They play a big part in conveying Japanese tradition.

 

How did you feel about the Japanese colors of jyoshiki-maku we introduced today? We hope you were able to get a feel of the positive aspects and meanings of Japanese colors.

Related:
Kumadori: The Three Colors To Know To Better Enjoy Kabuki
Color-full Japan History: Purple Across the Eras

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