How to entertain people in Edo period – Monkiri Asobi –
When you fold a square paper, cut it along with a model and open it. There you have a beautiful paper cut in pattern. This pattern is called Mon (紋) and the model is called Monkiri-gata (紋切り型).
Mon means crest, those royal families or noble people use for their family symbol. In Japan mon started to be used in Heian period (平安時代, 794-1184/1192) by noble people and samurai. And in Edo period (江戸時代, 1603-1867) common people started to use as a design. Many stylish and humorous mon were created and used for the shop banners, signs, hand towels or even for kimono. Then people converted this as an amusement, Monkiri Asobi (紋きり遊び).
The boom lasted long. In Meiji period (明治時代, 1868-1912), books for monkiri were published and moreover, the technique was introduced to the shadowgraph or playing card. The model was commonly sold at the stalls in the fairs.
Monkiri was taught to the pupils at Terakoya (寺子屋/ primary education for common children). Until early Showa period (昭和時代, 1926-1989), it was also taught to children in the art class. However, as mon gradually disappeared from the modern Japanese life, Monkiri Asobi has also been forgotten. Another tradition which suffer from the extinction.
Monkiri Asobi uses kirigami (切り紙/ paper cutting) technique, which has a long history along with the ritual ceremonies in Japan. For instance, in Shintoism, a rope is often use to divide the world between human and the God and this rope is called, Shimenawa (七五三縄). There are often hanging some white paper. This is kamishide (神垂).
Gohei (御幣) is an object which is believed to be a spot where the God or the spirits inhabit.
Decorations for Shogatsu and Shintoism ritual ceremonies.
Now only the word, monkirigata remains in the language and it´s rather in the negative sense. This is how you play monkiri asobi. Because you cut the paper according to the model, when someone is monkiri-gata, the person´s mind is very square and stiff, has a stereotyped thinking and opinion.
Shame, it´s nothing to do with this amusing paper craft that gives you a lot of imaginations and surprises. In the Meiji period, there was a style of education that taught children different manners and there, teachers used monkiri asobi to educate them stereotyped way of mind. It sounds like a joke, doesn´t it?
There are many books on the market, which you can get tons of different cutting models from. This is not just for children but grown-ups can easily be entertained. It must be fun to guess the final shape from the model.
It´s perfectly fine to be monkirigata (square head) and make beautiful traditional patterns but also you can create your own ones. You can try with different papers to see the effects. Even, you can do this for your daughter´s summer project! Have fun!
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