This resource is part of the Museum Snapshot collection - a collection of smaller resources perfect for starters, plenaries or spare moments to explore something fascinating.
The Myth Behind the Stencil
This stencil dates back to the Meiji era in Japanese history, from 1868 – 1912. It tells the story of an old 8th Century Japanese legend about Urashima Taro. In the story Urashima Taro is rewarded with long life, for rescuing a small turtle, who turns out to be the daughter of the Emperor of the Sea.
The stencil shows a crane and a 'hairy-tailed' turtle. These animals symbolise the idea of long life in Japanese culture. The crane carries a fan decorated with bamboo leaves and plum blossom. The turtle is holding a bowl, with pine trees depicted on the inside.These three plants are known as the 'three friends of winter', and symbolise resilience, perseverance and longevity.
Technique Used to Create the Stencil
Katagami, or Japanese paper stencils were used to create patterns on Japanese textiles, mainly for the production of kimono. The stencil was made from the bark of the mulberry tree, which was flattened in layers and glued together with the juice of the persimmon fruit to make a stiff card.
Resilience - toughness
Perseverance - determination
Longevity - long life
Limited edition - a fixed number of prints
Persimmon - a type of fruit tree usually grown in hot climates
Young person's response to this object:'It would be interesting to compare it to a modern day Japanese stencil and see how much the practice had changed.' - Katie Chester
- In the past people used stories to help them understand the world. What do you think the myth of Urashima Taro was used to explain to people?
- Many stories from Japanese legends feature animals that have special abilities or are symbols of human values. Can you think of any animals that represent something in our culture?
- Kimono could carry pictures and stories as decoration. How do we decorate the clothes that we wear?
- What do our clothes tell people about us?
- The Ancient Greek myth of Pandora's Box also tells the story of a box that is supposed to be kept shut, but is opened with unfortunate consequences. Research the story of Pandora's box and compare the two myths.
Art & Design:
- Make a stiff paste with flour and water and paint it on to some white fabric. When it is completely dry paint some natural colouring over it, like beetroot juice or liquid from boiled up onion skins. When again completely dry break off the dried paste and see how well it has 'resisted' the dye.