Fragment with family crest
Tsumugi silk
Hikizome (brush dyeing)

Four feet long and two panels wide, cut off at both the top and the bottom, the original purpose of this textile is not clear, although the late Tomoyuki Yamanobe, Curator Emeritus of the Textile Department at The Tokyo National Museum, pointed out that the material even when new would have been too fragile for outdoor use.

According to John Dower in The Elements of Japanese Design, the omodaka, or water plantain, dates back as early as the Heian period in design, and became a popular choice for the family crest during the feudal period. Dower suggests that one of its alternative names, shogunso, or victory plant, may explain its popularity among the military elite.

Above, it can be seen that the wefts are made of large cottony raw silk (tsumugi), while the warps are of very fine silk. (Double click to enlarge.) Also shown is a spot where the dye bled. The dyestuff is probably sumi ink.

Above, the face and reverse are shown together. The face is several shades darker. In this piece, the dye was brushed on (hikizome), so the reverse side received less dye and is lighter.