1000 Stitch Belt-0054
This historic Senninbari is made from a white silk material that has become age darkened. The approximate measurements are 5.25″ High X 35.50″ Long. Inside, the belt is cotton padded to add warmth to the “hara”, or abdomen. In addition, there is an inner knotted panel of material fastened in between the front and back layers of cloth. Its 1000 knots have been sewn using red cotton thread. The right-hand side of this one-thousand stitch belt has 6 bone buttons that are used to fasten the belt around the owner’s waist. There are 3 corresponding eyelets along the left-hand margin. Interestingly, there is a small painted image of a good luck coin just below the first button. 5-sen and 10-sen good luck coins were often sewn to senninbari; someone has painted the representation on the belt. There are also 3 vertical lines of kanji characters that offer very interesting information about this piece. For some reason, 2 of the lines of characters were painted over; I can’t say why this was done, however, the characters can be read and they say, “Eastern 55th Army- Kurita Unit”. The owner’s name is also listed, “Hashibe Shigeo”. Next is the slogan, Kigan Buun Chokyu or “Prayers for Everlating Fortunes in Battle”. To the left, is a vertical line of red stamped characters. Over the years, these have been exposed to moisture and the kanji cannot all be read. Near the left-hand side of the senninbari is a rather large 2.50″ square seal for the Shirakami Shrine.
The Japanese 55th Army existed during the final days of the War, formed on April 18, 1945, and was under the direction of the 15th Area Army. This Army section was tasked with defending Shikoku should an Allied invasion (Operation Downfall) have taken place. They received their appointment directly from Emperor Hirohito. With the dropping of the atomic bombs, Japan surrendered, and the Army unit was disbanded on August 15, 1945.
The Shirakami Shrine, whose name means “white god/paper” is located near Hiroshima, along an area of reef that used to be known for causing shipwrecks. White papers were placed all along the area in order to warn sailors to stay away. The rather simple “lighthouse” effect remained for many years as a warning of the shoal’s hidden danger.
This is really a beautiful, and interesting senninbari that could undoubtedly yield some terrific information with further research.