Paper, persimmon tannin

This stencil contains an odd amalgam of traditional motifs: in the center are very detailed asanoha (hemp leaf) designs; to the left and right of the central asanoha design are san-kuzushi-jima and ni-kuzushi-jima (triple disconnected stripes and double disconnected stripes). Above the double stripes, the long dashes are either tokusa (scouring rushes) or renga (bricks). All of these motifs are used in Hakone yosegi zaiku, a kind of marquetry.

Mostly around the perimeters are partial views of genjiko, the shorthand lines used in the incense guessing game of court nobles during the Heian period. In contrast to the delicate geometric designs, the genjiko symbols are cut to look as though they have been roughly carved into wood. Finally, the four connected circles are actually a highly stylized fukura zusume, or puffy sparrow. A closer look reveals tiny holes punched out for eyes, and small articulated claws.

Click here for some basic information on yosegi zaiku, and click here for a YouTube video demonstrating the production of delicate strips of yosegi zaiku. For additional information on genjiko, click here.