Ichiroya has graciously allowed me to use images from their site to illustrate my ramblings. This is not a financial arrangement I have made - I simply believe them to be wonderful people with whom I enjoy doing business, and wish to support their endeavors. Ichiroya is a web based treasure trove of Japanese textiles, antiques, and information. If you haven't visited them in the past, just click on the icon to the left! Or, click on any of the images below to be taken directly to their page for more images and information.
(Grab your favorite beverage, this is a long one!)
From time to time I receive questions from readers.  Recently I was asked if it is all right to download images from and to save them, perhaps simply as a reference, perhaps to use in the reader's own artwork.

As most of you know, has been very generous in allowing me to use images from their web site to illustrate these Conversations. The reader was actually asking about copyrights and ethics, which I will be addressing a little later in this article.
First, I would like to focus on one of the takarazukushi images called houju.  This image has long appealed to me, largely because it represents two very opposite concepts. In Sunday school, when I was a youngster, we were taught about the 108 passions of mankind and how we should seek to rise above the ties they create. These are neither good nor bad passions, simply qualities to be overcome in the course of one's life or lives while evolving into a higher existence.  At the crossover between the very last day of the old year and the very first day of the new year, the huge temple bells in Japan are struck 108 times to represent these very passions. A full size juzu (Buddhist rosary) has 108 beads to be counted as well. The houju is the graphic representation of this concept.
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Houju floating on waves, fukusa above and uchishiki below. Sometimes the houju is confused with the divine pearl that controls the tides. The shape is the determining factor.
All well and good. So, how did this houju get to be one of the main treasures? It is simply a matter of point of view. Within church doctrine, one should strive to cut loose these anchors, however within the profane world, WOW!, all the passions of mankind! Who could ask for more? “Cutting loose” takes on a new complexion.
A man’s nagajuban. Both circles represent houju, with additional takarazukushi in the background. Obiviously there is someone this person treasures!
The houju is most often depicted in one of two forms, as an onion shaped globe, often with horizontal stripes or bars, and as a ball or circle of fire. Quite often the two are simply combined into an onion shaped globe with flames billowing out the top half.
Boy’s miyamairi. Perched atop a ship full of treasures is Momotaro on his way home after conquering all of the demons on Onigashima. Notice how prominantly the houju is featured among his many trophies.
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with John Marshall
Welcome new friends and old! I've often been asked to write about a variety of Japanese textile and culture related subjects. This page allows me the opportunity to address your requests and to ramble off on side subjects wherever my whim and imagination lead.