Cotton (homespun)

This panel is interesting on several levels. The Japanese word for bat, komori, is written 蝙蝠. The characters – either alone or together – mean bat, but the second character has an alternate pronunciation, fuku. When said aloud, fuku sounds like the word for good fortune, although the character for good fortune is written slightly differently: 福. As a result, bats are considered lucky.

In Japanese design, it is not entirely unusual to see bats and parasols together. This is because parasols were often called komori (bats) or komori kasa (bat parasols) due to the similarity in structure between parasol ribs and bat wings. Japanese design is full of visual puns, a natural outgrowth of the fact that the language has many homonyms.

The photo above shows the front and reverse of the fabric at the selvedge, and demonstrates that this panel was dyed identically on both sides.  This makes the whites appear stronger and crisper, but also means the dye process was far more intricate and time consuming.