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Solving riddles of the Edo-period? Hanjimono Tenugui

Hanjimono are riddles represented by pictures or text in Japan. Although it appears that it has existed since the Heian period (794〜1185), it became popular in the Edo period when it was illustrated in Ukiyoe prints and became popular among the general public.


Let’s look at the Hanjimono Tenugui with a quiz, which are full of humour, Edo’s chic and auspicious meanings!

Axe, harp post and chrysanthemum?


This Hanji represents the” Yoki (small axe)”, the “Koto’s body (six￾stringed Japanese zither)” and the “Kiku (chrysanthemum)”. How do you read it?


The correct answer reads “Yoki Koto Kiku (good thing to hear)”.


Hanjimono Tenugui “Yoki Koto Kiku” – 1,100yen 

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The pattern, “Yoki Koto Kiku”, created and used for the costume by the Kabuki actor, Onoe Kikugoro III became popular in the Edo period. This pattern became popular when Kikugoro VI incorporated it into the costumes for his performance ”Hane No Kamuro”.

This is a striped pattern consisting of a drawing of a halberd (Yoki), the character for the Japanese zither (Koto) and a drawing of chrysanthemum (Kiku). It is an auspicious play on words, since, when Yoki Koto Kiku is spoken, it means “to hear something good.”

キ(Ki), 呂(Ro)and lattice pattern?


The katakana “Ki” and the kanji “Ro” surrounded by a lattice. Now what do you read?


The correct answer reads “Kikugoro Koshi (lattice)”.


Hanjimono Tenugui “Kikugoro Lattice Pattern” -1,100 yen

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This pattern became popular because it was used by the Edo period Kabuki actor Onoe Kikugoro III as a costume for his performance of “Igami No Gonta”.


The characters “キ(Ki)” and “呂(Ro)” are placed between the four￾stripe and five-stripe grids alternately, with “五(Go, meaning is five)” for the five stripes and “九(Ku, meaning is nine)” for the four and five stripes combined to read “Kikugoro”



鎌(Sickle), 〇(circle) and ぬ(Nu). What would you read it as now?


The correct answer reads “Kamawanu”.


Hanjimono Tenugui “Kama Wa Nu” -1,100 yen 

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This is a Hanjimono that uses “sickle”, “○ (wheel)” and “Nu” to read “Kamawanu”.

This playful and stylish pattern became popular when Ichikawa Danjuro VII, a Kabuki actor of the Edo period, used the pattern on his costume when he performed the role of Yoemon in “Kasane”. Yoemon’s heroic appearance is said to express the spirit of the Edo townspeople, who were “Not concerned with details, but with
helping the weak”.

6 stripes in a lattice pattern with a “中(Naka)” + ”ら(Ra)”?


“Middle” and ‘Ra’ in a six-striped grid. What do you read now?

The correct answer reads “Nakamura Koshi (lattice)”


Hanjimono Tenugui “Kabuki – Nakamura Lattice pattern” – 1,320 yen 

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This Kabuki Tenugui was made to celebrate the succession of Nakamura Kanzaburo XVIII, which took place in March 2005. The Nakamura latticework is painted with the family crest of a crane with a circle, with the double meaning of a congratulatory crane and a sunrise.

It is very typical of the Edo-period culture that the Hanjiimono are filled not only with humour like solving riddles, but also with meanings of good luck. It is also great to use a Hanjimono Tenugui as a daily item instead of a handkerchief or towel, or gift it with the best wishes and fortune implied in the design.

Enjoy the Japanese culture that Tenugui conveys!