Boy’s hitotsumi (single panel kimono)
Silk, cotton (lining)
Katayuzen (stenciled coloring)

This twentieth century kimono has an assortment of toys as its motif. Prominently featured on the back are a military fan, a mallet of good fortune, a pinwheel, an inflatable paper ball, a rabbit on a bamboo mounting, a daruma and a bird.

Two of the most interesting toys are the white steed pull toy (above), symbolic of the nation’s proud samurai past, and the sea bream pull toy. To the western eye a fish pull toy might be an odd choice, but the red color is joyful and auspicious in Japanese culture, and sea bream is tai in Japanese, by chance part of the word medetai, or good fortune.

The custom of sewing osemamori, or back talismans, to the backs of children’s clothing, has declined precipitously in modern times, but this child’s twentieth century mother (or possibly grandmother) preferred to honor that tradition.

While most of the toys alone are indicative of the child’s gender, the type of plaid seen here is also often seen on men’s wear, and the zigzag design, called matsukawabishi (pine bark lozenge), has martial associations.

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