Nambu World: Japanese Send-Off Banners (Shussei nobori)

When Japanese men left for their military service, community organizations such as the local branch of the Imperial Reservists Association (teikoku zaigo gunjinkai) and the Greater Japan National Defense Womenfs Association (dai nippon kokubo fujinkai) organized various celebrations, culminating in send-off parades to wish the troops well as they marched off to the local railway stations or ports. These send-off ceremonies were called sokokai. The participants in parades carried banners with the names of the recruits. The Japanese term for banner is nobori. The exact Japanese name for them depends on the slogan. I refer to them here as shussei nobori because it seems like the slogan shuku shussei (congratulations on being called to active service) was the most common, though there are several others discussed below. They came in a wide variety of sizes, including some that were huge, though most commonly they are around five or six feet in length (150-180cm). These banners were usually made of silk or an early silk-like synthetic like rayon, though cotton was also used. The five above bear the same name, Mr. Minoru Kawada, and are discussed in detail below. I have over 20 of these banners and will show them all here. But first let's look at some period photos for context.

    This photo is from my personal collection (see copyright notice at the bottom of the page) and shows the send-off parade of a Mr. Suzuki. He is in the front with the field cap and the two sashes, just to the right of the telephone pole. You can see a couple of people with banners on poles in the background.

    Sometimes the parades were large and included many men who were being called up at the same time. This photo is credited to the Mainichi Shimbun, December, 1938, and shows a send-off parade for troops of the Third Regiment. A reference book I have says the Third Regiment was based in Tokyo, so that may be the location of these photos.

    The recruits were often photographed in front of the family home, in what seem like formal ceremonies. Here is another photo of Mr. Suzuki being greeted by various military officials. He is at the far left of the photo, again with a field cap and sashes. This photo is also from my personal collection.

    In this photo from my personal collection we see a different view of one of these occasions. Mr. Masao Moku (could also be pronounced Boku) is standing on an Asahi beer crate. Note the wonderment on the face of the boy in the lower right. There are several banners in this shot, though they are not at a very good angle for viewing. A Japanese friend said this family name is often associated with Koreans (many Koreans moved to or were brought to Japan during the period when Korea was a Japanese colony). Note that several of the flagpole and banner poles are painted with alternating black and white sections, a common practice.


    This group photo from my personal collection shows Mr. Shuji Nishimura's supporters with banners of various sizes as well as his good luck flag. The flag at the far right is that of the Imperial Reservist's Association. Note that some of the the bamboo poles used to display the banners and flags were painted with alternating black and white sections, as in the photo above. This is particularly obvious in the case of the man at the far left of the photo and the first very tall flagpole at the left of the photo.


Here is Mr. Hiroshi Saito with his send-off banners and a military flag (another photo from my personal collection).

    You can also see rare 1930s colour movie footage of a send-off parade in the documentary gJapanfs War in Colourh.

        Banners make a very colourful addition to a display, and of course each has its own unique interest as they were each made for a specific individual. Sometimes a banner has an interesting design, or is attractive because of the information about the person for whom it was made (such as his unit) or the sponsor who paid for it (in some cases companies that still exist). Some also still have the original hanging hardware, so you can see how they were actually attached to the banners from which they flew. In lucky cases, one specimen may combine several of these desirable characteristics. I have over twenty of these banners, so let's take a look at them now.

    Let's start with the set of five I showed at the beginning of this page. I got these at a flea market in Tokyo. They are all for the same man, a Mr. Minoru Kawada (in Japanese Kawada minoru-kun). They all have the same slogan, shuku shussei, roughly "congratulations on being called to active service". The character shuku is in red near the top of each one. Shussei is in bright blue on the first, second and fifth ones, and in red as the second and third characters on the third and fourth (blue-edged) ones. I really liked the colour on three of these banners, as peach is one of my favourite colours (the whole interior of my home is painted peach). The design at the top of the first two shows the character chu, "loyalty", in blue in a wreath. The third and fourth ones have the design of the Golden Kite, explained in detail below. The blue strips on the sides of these are separate pieces of fabric that have been sewn to the centre strip; unless otherwise stated, this is the way all the ones shown below that have coloured strips along the edges were constructed. The last one on the far right shows a chrysanthemum, the symbol of the Emperor, as a rising sun over a turquoise squiggle that represents the ocean. This design was known as kikusui (chrysanthemum-water) and later became associated with the kamikazes. Above the design are the characters chu-yu (right to left), meaning "loyalty and bravery". The fringe appears to have been cut off the bottom of the fourth (blue-edged) one at some point.

    Besides the man's name down the middle, each has the name of the sponsor who paid for the flag down the left side (the names are given here as written, surname first). The sponsors of the far left banner was Saoda [something]-jiro. The next one is a bit of a mystery. The upper two small characters are a family name, Kuji. The two larger characters do not appear to be a name, but rather perhaps the name of a business. The first one, ken, means construction, and the second, bo, means house or room. So I think the combination means something like "Kuji House Construction", but this is a bit speculative. The sponsor of the third (middle) one is Oya Hikotaro. The fourth one is Kita Yataro, and the last, Hara Rai-ichi (this given name is not in my dictionary). The far left flag also has the slogan bu-un-cho-kyu ("may you always be lucky in war") in red on the right, while the far right flag has a column of characters on the right in black that read jin-chu-ho-koku, "loyalty and national service".

    The measurements of these banners are as follows, with the length not including the fringe: Far left: 43cm X 135 cm (17" X 53") plus a 7cm fringe (2-3/4"); second from left: 44.5cm X 135cm plus a 6.5cm (2-1/2") fringe; middle: 44.5cm X 137cm (17.5" X 54") plus a 5cm (2") fringe; second from right: 42.5cm X 140cm (16-3/4" X 55") with no fringe; and far right: 44.5cm X 137cm (17.5" X 54") plus a 6.5cm (2-1/2") fringe.

    This next one has a different caption, shuku (in red above the crossed flags) osho (red just above the first of the large black characters). It also has the image of the Order of the Golden Kite just below where the two flags cross, and in a bubble below that, the very common patriotic slogan jin-chu-ho-koku (loyalty and national service) in red. The soldier's name in large black characters down the centre is Oyama muneo-kun, Mr. Muneo Oyama. On the left the red character at the top is zo, "gift of". Below that is kako shinson mitani yazaki. Yazaki is a family name, while shinson means new village and Kako and Mitani sound like place names. Putting it all together, it seems to indicate the sponsor was a Mr. Yazaki of Mitani, Kako New Village. This banner is 59cm by 206cm (23-1/4 inches by 81 inches), not including the 8cm (3") fringe on the bottom. It has the original hanging hardware with a 70cm (27-1/2") crossbar and the light blue-greenish strips along the sides are separate pieces of material 9cm (3-1/2") wide.

    Here is a close-up of that symbol, the Golden Kite, on the left. This is a common symbol on banners and was on two of the set of five shown above, for example. For comparison, in the middle below is a picture of the Order of the Golden Kite, First Class, from a period Japanese military instruction manual.  I don't have a First Class medal (they were only for top officers like generals), but on the right is the lowly 7th Class Order of the Golden Kite (the lowest class). The bird at the top of the medal on the right would have originally had gold gilt on it, but most of it has worn off on my specimen.

Here is that slogan, jin-chu-ho-koku.

    This banner still has the original mounting hardware. The left photo below shows the general layout: a metal cap on each end of the wooden cross bar, with a metal eye on top for the suspension cord and another below to hang a decorative tassel. The middle photo shows that the top eye was inserted through the fabric of the banner to anchor it in place and keep it from sliding from side to side. The one on the right shows the construction of the tassel.


Below is the first banner I acquired. It is medium-sized, about 140cm (55h) long, not including a 1.5h (4cm) fringe at the bottom, and 41.5cm (16-1/4h) wide. It seems to be made of a coarse silk or similar material; since it is of cruder construction than most of the others I have, I wonder whether it may be from later in the war when cloth was scarce and rationed. Below the two crossed flags is a blue-green character shuku, or gcongratulationsh, then two orange ones read right to left: nyu-ei, gentering the [military] serviceh. Below that is a central column of black hand-written characters: O-hashi Yoshi-kazu-kun, gMr. Yoshikazu Ohashih. The characters in smaller columns to the right and left are hard to read since the ink bled when applied. The column on the right says ho-ken-in-kan-i-ho-ken-kyoku, meaning gInsurance Institution, Postal Insurance Officeh (the post office in Japan even today is also a financial institution which accepts savings deposits and sells insurance). The left column continues: dai-ni-shi-harai-ka-kan-pu-kin-gakari, or gNumber 2 payments section, clerk in charge of reimbursementh. There are a number of holes in this banner. Oddly, they almost all seem to be in areas that are blue-green, which makes me wonder whether that colour dye was either corrosive to cloth or tasty to bugs.

     The banner below is made of several pieces of material sewn together and gives the impression of higher quality. The red character just below the flags is shuku, gcongratulationsh. The two black characters below that are osho, gdraftedh. Combined they mean gcongratulations on being called uph. Below that is the manfs name, Mr. Hiroyoshi Kawamura. In the lower left the smaller column of characters says yama-moto-ji-ten-sha-ten, gYamamoto Bicycle Shoph, the sponsor of the flag. Not including the 7cm (2-3/4") fringe at the bottom, this banner is about 43cm (17") by 128cm (50-1/2"). This was my second banner, if I recall correctly.

     I was quite excited to get this one, my third, for two reasons. First, it was the first one I got that had the original hanging rod and hardware (see close-up below). The other thing was a surprise I only discovered when I translated it. The character at the top in the centre of the rising sun rayed flag is the usual shuku, gcongratulationsh, but there is no detail on what the recipient was being congratulated for (shussei, osho, nyuei, etc.). The soldierfs name down the centre is Mr. Toshimasa Kurita. The family name Kurita means gchestnut fieldh. All of that, of course, is quite standard. It measures 45cm X 148.5cm (17-3/4" X 58-1/2"), not including the 6cm (2-1/4") fringe.

    This close-up of the lower left part shows the surprise. This is where they wrote the donor of the flag, which was sometimes the soldierfs normal employer, sometimes owned by friends of the family, and sometimes just a local business that wanted to show its patriotism. The first character, zo, means ggift ofh. Then the name of the business: Tachibana dokyujo--Tachibana Billiard Hall!


    Here is a close-up of the hanger hardware. The tassel is affixed with an eye screwed into the wood through a hole in the metal covering. The hanger cord was originally affixed the same way, but here I had to just jam it into the metal covering sideways since the eyes had been snapped off on both sides. The crossbar is 56.5cm (22-1/4") wide.

     This green-edged one is quite large and luxurious, though it has a number of what appear to be small insect holes scattered throughout it. The size is 47cm by 176cm (18-1/2" X 69-1/2"), not including the 7.5cm (3") fringe at the bottom. It is made of different pieces of cloth sewn together. The red characters under the two crossed flags are read from right to left: shussei, meaning gbeing sent to the fronth or gcalled to active serviceh. The large black characters in the centre say shuku (congratulations) and then the soldierfs name, Mr. Isamu Ishikawa.

The characters along the right and left edges are his employer: Nip-pon Sei-mei (Japan Life Insurance, a company that still exists under basically the same name) on the right, O-no-ji-mu-sho, Ono Office, on the left. The red symbol in the upper right of this photo is the company logo, still used today. The character in the middle of the logo is sei, life, the first character in sei-mei-ho-ken, life insurance.

    Here is a close-up of the hanger bar and how the cord attaches to it, showing yet another method. On this one there is a hole drilled straight through the bar and the cord is threaded through the hole and knotted on the bottom. The cord goes through the fabric to anchor the banner from sliding along the pole. Note the fine paper covering on the bamboo bar.

One thing that gives this banner a particularly luxurious look is the brocaded texture of the green material. Obviously Nippon Seimei could afford to look after its employees well!

    This next one is also interesting because the sponsor was a company that still exists, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries. The top three large characters in the central column say shuku shussei, "congratulations on being called up". The four smaller characters, two to either side, say jin-chu (right side) ho-koku (left side), "loyalty and national service". The rest of the central column is the soldier's name, Akiyoshi Yoshitaka-kun, Mr. Yoshitaka Akiyoshi. This banner is 43.5cm X 250cm (17-3/16" X 98-1/2"), very long for its width.

    Here is a close-up of the bottom. The far right column says Mitsubishi jukogyo Mitsubishi Heavy Industries), then two characters that I think Yokohama, then two more that read senkyo (docks). The middle column says zosen sekkeika, "shipbuilding, design section". The far left column in larger characters says soshoku-kei [or -kakari] ichido, "from everyone in the decoration department".

    This is a close-up of the mounting hardware for this banner. The left side is better preserved, with the paper wrapping on the crossbar still well attached. It is coming off the right end, but this reveals what is underneath, a bamboo rod.


This one is unusually wide for its length: 66.5cm wide and 181 cm long (26-1/4"X 71"), plus a 7.5cm (3") fringe along the bottom. The blue character at the top is the ubiquitous shuku (celebration). The two black ones below the zig-zag line (an Army symbol that I think represents mountains) are shussei, "being called to the front or to active service". The manfs name down the centre is Mr. Ueki Masataka.

     The gold-coloured bird at the top is probably an allusion to the golden kite (a bird of prey) that supposedly appeared to the mythical first emperor, Emperor Jimmu, and ensured his victory over his enemies by advising him to attack at dawn from the east so they would be blinded by the sun. The Order of the Golden Kite was Japanfs main military decoration until it was abolished in 1947, and is shown in relation to one of the banners above.

 Here is a close-up of the manfs employer, Abeko shoten (shoten means store), Osaka shiten (Osaka branch). The four small characters at the top are kabu-shiki gai-sha, gcorporationh (literally, gshare-type-companyh).

    I found the colour of this one interesting. Most seem to have blue or green edges; this is the only yellow one I have seen. Another interesting feature is that it identifies the soldier's unit. The top says the usual shuku shussei (congratulations on being called up). The soldier's name was Mr. Takuji Ito. The far right column has the unit identification: Toyohashi kohei (Toyohashi engineering), Dai-san rentai (Third Regiment). Toyohashi is a city southeast of Nagoya. According to the US War Department's October, 1944 Handbook on Japanese Military Forces, the Third Engineering Regiment was indeed from Toyohashi. The left side seems to indicate the banner was sponsored by his school mates. The top four characters are Shima-sho-ken-ji. The sho means commercial, so I think Shima-sho is short for Shima Commercial School. Ken-ji means "stalwart youth". Below that the smaller, lighter characters are Shima-sho-do-so-seiichi-do, "From all your class mates at Shima Commercial School" (dososei means "fellow students"). The crossbar on this might be original, as it is very old wood, but I don't think the "cord" used to hang it is original. It is white cotton cloth braided into a rope that is reminiscent of the heavy straw ropes (shimenawa) used to mark off sacred places at Shinto shrines. Measurements: 40.5cm X 135cm (16" X 53").

    This red-edged one is very simple. There is no design, and the slogan at the top is hand-lettered: shuku nyu-ei (congratulations on entering the service). The soldier's name in large characters in the centre column is Aoki senkichi-kun, Mr. Senkichi Aoki. The bottom right column is shin-seki (relatives) and the bottom left column is ichi-do. Together they mean "from all your relatives". This one measures 44.5cm by 183cm (17-5/8" by 72").

    Mr. Aoki's banner does not have the original cord, just a piece of modern white string, but the crossbar could be original, or at least period. It is made of brocaded cloth over wood. This type of covering on a crossbar was (and still is) used for hanging scrolls, so it may have been recycled from such a use.

    Here are two rather battered banners that were for the same man, Mr. Sakuo Oshima. His name, Oshima sakuo-kun in Japanese, is in large characters down the centre of both banners. The red characters at the top of both are shuku, congratulations. They have different continuations, though: the one on the left says osho, while the one on the right says shussei. Osho technically means "conscription", while shussei means being called to active service, or sent to the front. Logically it would seem that shussei would come after osho, so the banners may be from different time periods, but I don't know whether how strictly the differences in the usage of these terms was observed, or whether they were just loosely used as synonyms. The one on the left has the sponsor's name on the left edge, a Mr. Ekizo Maeda. The right one also has the sponsor along the left edge: Mr. Magane Chiga (or Senga). The left one is 50cm X 170cm (20" X 67"), not including the 7.5cm (3") fringe. Its crossbar is 66cm (26") wide. The banner on the right is 41cm X 130cm (16" X 51"), plus an 8cm (3-1/4") fringe.

This one has the original crossbar but only one of the tassels remains, the one on the left. This close-up shows again how the upper metal eye for the suspension cord was put through the fabric to anchor the banner.

        Next is my biggest banner, measuring 70cm by 254cm (27-1/2 inches by 100 inches). The three characters at the top are the usual shuku shussei, "congratulations on being called up". The soldier's name was Hayase tane-kun, Mr. Tane Hayase. The last two characters are the famous Japanese cheer, "Banzai!", meaning long life (literally "ten thousand years"). The material seems to be cotton rather than silk or any similar shiny material.

    Now let's go to the opposite extreme and look at some of my smallest banners. Here is a very small banner, just 8h by 33h (20cm by 84cm). It has the original hanging hardware (see close-ups below).

 A closer view shows large characters in the centre with the soldierfs name, Mr. Shunji Noguchi and smaller ones to the left identifying the donor, Nippon Tosha Geijutsuin (Japan Reproduction Art Academy), where he was presumably a student or possibly an instructor.

 The hanger cord for this one has a ball on a stick. It seems this was intended to drop into the hollow centre of a piece of bamboo to make a carrying pole.

 Here we can see the hanging cord attachment, which is very simple: the cord is just tied around the bar, which is a thin piece of bamboo painted black.

     This next small banner is nothing special in terms of condition or design, but I was very pleased to find it at a flea market in Tokyo because of the sponsor. The red character at the top is, as usual, shuku, "congratulations". The two blue ones are nyuei, "on entering the service". The big black ones down the centre are the soldier's name, Takefuji akira-kun, Mr. Akira Takefuji (the character for his given name actually has 14 possible pronunciations listed in my big Japanese name dictionary!). Along the left edge is the sponsor's name: Dai-Nippon fujinkai kofu bunkai-in, "the members of the Kofu branch of the Greater Japan Women's Asssociation. The Greater Japan Women's Association (Dai-Nippon fujinkai) was formed in February, 1942 from the merger of the Patriotic Women's Association (Aikoku fujinkai) and the Greater Japan Defense Women's Association (Dai-Nippon kokubo fujinkai) and some other groups. That means that this banner was from the period when Japan was fighting the Allied Powers (US, UK, etc.) Kofu is a city in Yamanashi Prefecture, west of Tokyo. I have always had a special interest in items related to women's role in the war, which was why I was so happy to find one with a women's group listed as the sponsor. It is 20cm X 82.5cm, or 8" X 32-1/2", plus a 5cm (2") fringe.

    Next up is a set of three flags for the same man. The ones on the right and left have the same design and appear to have had the message and name written by the same person (note the slight back slant in the characters, among other distinguishing characteristics of the handwriting). All three have the same message, shuku shussei, :congratulations on being called up, although the writing of shussei on the middle one is very "free-style" and I probably wouldn't have been able to decipher it if I wasn't half-expecting what it was going to say. The name is clear on all three, right down the middle in large black characters: Sasabe kazuichi-kun, Mr. Kazuichi Sasabe (his given name could be pronounced Waichi and his family name, Shinobe). The sponsors of the far left banner are written in vertical columns along the bottom. From left to right, the sponsor's names (Japanese order, surname first) on the far left banner are: Yamamoto Munehide (?), Hashimoto Kamekichi, Sugiyama Mikio, Sugiura Zenichiro, and Fukuzawa Katsusaburo (or Shosaburo). All of these seem to be male names. The ones on the bottom of the right banner are, again from left to right: Nakano Minoru, Tanaka Muneo (?), and Nagai Yasobee. The sponsor of the middle flag is haku-u-kai-kai-in-ichi-do, "All the members of the white roof club". I have no idea what that club was. From left to right, the banners measure: 20cm by 84cm (8" X 33") plus a 4.5cm (1-3/4") fringe; 21.5cm X 81cm (8-1/2" X 32") plus a 3.5cm (1-1/4") fringe; and 21.5cm X 86cm (8-1/2" X 34") plus a 4.5cm (1-3/4") fringe.

    This is a blank (unused) banner I got with some other items in a grouping. It doesn't have a name or even a slogan, just the lone character shuku (congratulations) at the top. There is a bit of water damage to the ray on the right, but otherwise it is in pretty good shape. It measures 23.5cm X 81cm (9-1/2" X 32").

    Last, but certainly not least, is a very rare type of banner made in the shape of a flag. The large central character under the wreath is shuku, congratulations. The continuation is on the two ends of the banner above that, nyu (on the right) and dan (on the left). Put it all together and shuku nyudan means roughly "congratulations on your enlistment". The central part of the banner has the slogan koku-i-sen-yo, "enhance our national prestige" (i.e. though military victory). As is standard with Japanese flags, the ties are on the right edge. The recipient's name is in the upper white box in the lower blue area: Ogawa eiichi-kun, Mr. Eichich Ogawa. The lone character in the upper right is zo, "gift", and the sponsor/donor's name is on the lower white box in the blue area, Kiyoharu Masuhana. This flag/banner is 76cm wide by 70cm high (30 inches by 25 inches), not counting the 6.5cm (2-1/2") fringe.

    I have one more banner that is actually a "welcome home" (gaisen="triumphant return") banner. You can see it at Nambu World: Welcome Home/Triumphant Return (gaisen) Items

  Additional Reading on Send-off Banners:

  Unfortunately I do not know of any reference material that covers these banners in detail, in either English or Japanese. Nakatafs well-known book Imperial Japanese Army and Navy Uniforms and Equipment has pictures of send-off banners on pages 220-221. He calls them gcelebration bannersh in the English insert to this Japanese-language book. Although the Mike Hewitt book Uniforms and Equipment of the Imperial Japanese Army in World War II by Schiffer Publishing does not specifically cover these items, they are visible in some photos on page 274.  

Displaying Send-off Banners:

    Banners are a bit of a challenge to display because they are often so big, and in many cases they have lost their original hanging hardware. Here are some tips from my own experience displaying them.

    First, even if the original hanging hardware is still present, you need a firm base and a tall pole. I use slender bamboo poles from a local garden centre, where they are usually sold in eight foot (2.4 metre) lengths. They have a diameter of around 9/16 inches (14 mm) at the top and 5/8" inches (16 mm) at the bottom. These are cheap and replicate what was often used in the original parades and ceremonies. You can also cut them down a bit if you don't need the whole eight feet of length/height. When choosing one, try to select a piece that has a long segment at the top (narrow end) before the first joint, and a fairly large hole in the top for a peg to go into (more on that below).

    I have made up a variety of accessories for cases where I do not have original hardware for hanging the banners. These include crossbars, toppers and cords. For display crossbars I sometimes use very thin bamboo stakes sold in packages at garden centres for staking tomato plants and the like. They are about 5-6mm (1/4 inch) in diameter, 3 feet (90 cm) long, are very cheap and can be cut to length easily. On the other hand, being a natural material, they can be rough and might snag inside the crossbar channel usually sewn at the top of the banner. For that reason, for other purposes like photography I often use a piece of  3/8 inch (9.5 mm) diameter acrylic rod that can be purchased at any industrial plastic supply house. This can also be cut easily and the edges of the ends can be beveled (smoothed off) to minimize any possibility of snagging. For toppers I made a bunch of simple plugs that, as it turns out, are almost exactly what the Japanese originally used. There is a close-up photo below.

    Here is a photo with one of the bamboo poles with the plug described below to hold the banner support cord in place. Below that is one of the thin bamboo poles that makes a nice, period-looking, but somewhat hazardous crossbar. Below that is the acrylic rod referred to below that makes a safer-to-install crossbar. At the bottom is a ruler for scale.

    Here (below) is why the bamboo crossbars can be a bit hazardous: note the fraying at the end, compared to the smooth, bevelled edges of the acrylic rod on the right. These frayed ends, or the rough joints in the bamboo, could snag inside the support channel at the top of each banner when you go to insert the crossbar.

     At a local woodworking specialty shop I bought a variety of sizes of wooden balls (one inches to two inches in diameter, or 25mm to 50mm) and spray painted them gold. Each ball also has a hole drilled into it and a short (4 inch, 10 cm) piece of dowel glued in. Usually I use 1/4 inch (6.5 mm) diameter dowel, as that size seems to fit into the tops of most of the bamboo poles, but I also have a few with 3/16 inch (5 mm) dowels for poles that have smaller diameter holes. For the cords I got some nice 1/4 inch gold cord at a fabric store. On the left in the photo below is a period topper/plug (technically called a filial). On the right are two different sizes of ones my husband and I made. They are surrounded by the gold cord I use to suspend the banners from the pole. I just tie a tight loop in the centre with a hole just big enough for the peg on the topper to go through and then push the peg into the natural hole in the hollow bamboo rod. The loops on the ends of the cord slip over the ends of the crossbar.

    For a base, I designed a variety of simply made combinations of a square or rectangular piece of plywood nailed or screwed to the bottom of a 12 inch (30 cm) vertical piece of 4X4 lumber, with a hole drilled vertically through to support the pole (the holes are drilled all the way through on mine, so only the plywood keeps the bottom of the pole from touching the floor). Obviously the hole should be big enough to accommodate the bottom of the bamboo poles. Mine have holes that are about 3/4 inches in diameter (about 19 mm). I use the square bases (about 12 inches by 12 inches, 30 cm by 30 cm) when placing the support directly on the floor, and the other ones (4" and 8" wide, 10cm  and 20cm) when they have to fit into a display on a table top. If they are on a table top they may have a display case on part of the base to add weight and stability and/or they can be C-clamped to the table. If they are on the floor, or if their placement on the table does not provide enough anchoring weight, I use some nice, clean grey bricks I bought just for that purpose (the last thing you want is an eight foot pole and your artifact to come crashing down on your or some else's display, especially if it happens to be expensive porcelain!). The full 12" X 12" base is on the right. The partial bases are useful for attaching to the edges of tables.

As noted above, a few C-clamps can be used to fasten the base to a table.

    If the crossbar channel at the top of the banner is not intact (or if the design doesn't have one, like the flag-style banner shown above), here is another trick. I use little strips of white ribbon made into a loop with the ends glued together to wrap around the crossbar, put the artifact up against the ribbon and then put a tiny rare earth magnet on either side like a sandwich. These magnets are incredibly strong, so a 1/4" or 3/8" one is usually enough. You can get them at specialty hardware and woodworking stores (up here we have a chain called Lee Valley that stocks a good selection, but I don't know how geographically widespread their stores are). Here I have used a sheet of green paper just for colour to show the idea. This ribbon-and-magnet combination also works well if there are air currents (drafts) where you are displaying. In moving air these banners catch the breeze like sails and often tend to turn around. To keep them in position just use ribbons attached to the sides with magnets to anchor them to something nearby.

    For photographic purposes, I am lucky. We have one interior wall by the front entrance to our house that is about twelve feet high, so I put a couple of nails in the wall at appropriate heights above one of the pictures on that wall. When I want to take a photo I just remove the picture from the wall and then use either its hanger or one of the higher nails to suspend the banner.

Deciphering Send-off Banners:

    The good news is that deciphering send-off banners is generally easier that figuring out good luck flags because most of the writing usually looks professionally lettered, so it is easier to recognize the characters. There is also less variety in the slogans and generally each one has only a couple of names (names being the trickiest part of Japanese writing). You still need to have a fair reading knowledge of Japanese to start with. Assuming you have that, here are some resources that may prove helpful in deciphering names (very important in this task) and handwriting (less important in this case). You should also try to become familiar with some pre-war characters that are no longer in general use.

1.Japanese Names: A Comprehensive Index by Characters and Readings by P.G. O'Neill (ISBN 0-8348-0225-2, published by Weatherhill, New York & Tokyo). This one costs about 2,200 yen plus tax. It is intended for English speakers and so is as user friendly as it is possible to be for someone who is learning Japanese.

2. Namae juman: yomikata jiten, subtitled in English "Guide to Reading of Each 100,000 Japanese Forenames" [sic] (ISBN 4-8169-1751-9, published in 2002 by Nichigai Associates, Inc., Tokyo). This one covers given names and costs about 7,800 yen plus tax. It has far more names than the O'Neill book but is intended for a purely Japanese readership (yes, even they have troubles with names). The title page is the only thing in English, so your Japanese has to be pretty good to use this one

3. Myoji hachiman: yomikata jiten, subtitled in English "Guide to Reading of Each 80,000 Japanese Family Names" [sic] (ISBN 4-8169-1478-1, published by Nichigai Associates, Inc., Tokyo). This one covers family names (surnames) and costs about 7,400 yen plus tax. It is the counterpart to the given name book listed above and the same caveats apply with respect to it.

4. A Reader of Handwritten Japanese by P.G. O'Neill. (ISBN 0-87011-698-3, published by Kodansha International, Tokyo, New York & San Francisco). This one is a good introduction to reading handwriting, though there is just no substitute for practice and more practice. It cost me 5,000 yen when I bought it many years ago.

Last updated: February 23, 2008. All contents are copyright Teri unless otherwise specified and may not be used elsewhere in any form without prior permission.

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