three lucky gods maiwai - back Daily Japanese Textile IMG_5115

Maiwai (celebratory fisherman’s coat)
Cotton, velveteen
Stenciling, rice paste resist

The kanji on this maiwai reveal that it was made for a yellowtail fisherman to commemorate a year in which he and his crew exceeded their projected annual catch. Maiwai motifs differed, and the theme of this one is the seven lucky gods, who are traditionally depicted sailing on the legendary Takarabune, or Treasure Ship. This maiwai depicts three of the seven gods – Ebisu in the center, Benten on the left (playing the biwa), and Daikoku on the right.

This maiwai fell into disuse, and had been recycled into a more or less square shaped kotatsu cover. On cold days, families gather around the heated kotatsu for warmth, putting their legs underneath, and the kotatsu cover, often padded, helps maintain precious heat. Although the designs were disordered on the kotatsu cover, the panels were carefully cut, and with the addition of a lining and collar, could be restored to their original form.

three lucky gods maiwai - front Daily Japanese Textile IMG_5124

In the close-up below of the hem, several traditional auspicious symbols are visible, including the bag of treasure, a key, a treasure box, a lucky mallet, and a sea bream (because it is red, an auspicious color, and because in Japanese the sea bream, or tai, evokes the word medetai (auspicious). Also visible is an abacus, presumably for counting one’s riches.

three lucky gods maiwai - hem Daily Japanese Textile IMG_5115

Ebisu’s clothing was stenciled, but his face was hand painted and colored.

three lucky gods maiwai - Ebisu Daily Japanese Textile IMG_5107

Benten wears a small hair pin shaped like a torii gate in front of her voluminous hairdo.

three lucky gods maiwai - Benten Daily Japanese Textile IMG_5122

Daikoku’s fan, emblazoned with the company’s crest, announces “Great catch”.

three lucky gods maiwai - Daikoku Daily Japanese Textile IMG_5121

One banner carried by the crane gives the ship owner’s name, Suzuki; the other reads “banzai” (ten thousand years), a call of celebration.

three lucky gods maiwai - crane crest Daily Japanese Textile IMG_5110

The slightly unusual sleeve decorations depict the three friends of the cold – the pine, bamboo and plum, or shochikubai.

three lucky gods maiwai - sleeve Daily Japanese Textile IMG_5112

At the base of the hem, also somewhat unusually, the year of this great catch is noted: the year of the tiger. That would date this maiwai most likely at 1891, 1903, or 1915.