Japanese Hanging Scrolls

On this page you can learn more about the history and construction of Japanese hanging scrolls.

What are Japanese hanging scrolls?

Hanging scrolls are generally known as kakemono in Japanese, which can be translated as “hanging object”. They are usually used to display calligraphy or sumi-e (shaded ink painting) and are often hung in an alcove called a tokonoma for display.

What is the history of Japanese hanging scrolls?
The idea of mounting calligraphy or paintings on a hanging scroll is said to have originated at the time of the Chinese T'ang dynasty in the seventh to ninth centuries. The first hanging scrolls probably developed from similar sutra scrolls that could be rolled up for portability. Hanging scrolls first came to Japan in the Heian period. By the time of the Kamakura period they had become established in Japanese society, and became associated with the tea ceremony during the Muromachi period. Originally, their close association with Buddhist scriptures meant that they were often displayed in temples. However, over the years they came to be appreciated more for their aesthetic qualities alone as works of art in their own right.
What are Japanese hanging scrolls made of?
Upper crosspiece (hyoumoku)

Japanese hanging scroll - hyoumoku
Japanese hanging scroll - hyousou Backing (hyousou)
Border (ichimoji) Japanese hanging scroll - ichimoji
Mounting (heri) Japanese hanging scroll - heri and honshi Artwork (honshi)
Japanese hanging scroll - lower ichimoji Border (ichimoji)
Lower crosspiece (jiku) Japanese hanging scroll - jiku

Backing (hyousou)
A cloth or washi (Japanese paper) backing underlies each hanging scroll and is the base onto which the centerpiece artwork (honshi) and the other decorative elements are attached.
Lower crosspiece (jiku)
Apart from kakemono, another Japanese word for hanging scroll is kakejiku. As in kakemono, the first kanji character of this word means “hanging”, but in this case the second character jiku (literally “axis”) refers to the lower crosspiece around which the scroll can be rolled up for storage. When the scroll is hung up for display, this lower crosspiece then provides the weight that causes the scroll to hang down straight.
Upper crosspiece (hyoumoku)
The other end of the scroll is formed by the upper crosspiece, which attaches the scroll to the wall by a cord connected to each of its ends.
Border (ichimoji)
These are narrow strips of fine-quality brocade running across the top and bottom of the centerpiece artwork; the upper border usually being twice as wide as the lower one.
Mounting (heri)
The heri is the cloth that frames all four sides of the artwork. It is of slightly lower quality than the ichimoji borders. The heri below the central artwork is generally twice the height of the upper ichimoji, and the heri above the artwork is usually twice the height of the lower heri.
Related Information
(Please note that some sites require Japanese fonts installed. japanese-name-translation.com is not responsible for the content of external sites.) More information about hanging scrolls and Japanese