6

A friend sent a picture he received from another friend of this framed parchment with some very flowery and old looking Japanese written on it asking me if I could read it and if I knew what it meant:

enter image description here

I've done my best to try and figure out what the characters are so far in the time since I was sent it, which was only a day ago as of this post.

With the help of some other Japanese people and a Chinese friend, I've scrapped together this so far:

許状
メリアンフレッチャー殿
今般華義
入門許
華道家 光(?)
昭和三拾五年六月
錦福斎

師範
一日洞操

The Chinese friend I spoke with, since I'm pretty sure this is really old if not styled like old Japanese, where it's just Chinese but there is a Japanese way to read it, suggested a couple of things.

One is that instead of 般 it could be 级 which I believe is 級.
He also wrote out what he thought the parts at the bottom were in Chinese which came out to be:

华道家光
锦福齐

And from what I can tell and from what I looked up, it appears to be the same thing in simplified Chinese as what the initial Japanese person I spoke with wrote down.

Pretty much no one I spoke to could read the kanji after 入門許 that have been written over with that extra long stroke in 許 and while I don't know if anyone here could read it, I can't make any sense of it myself with how thick that stroke that's covering those kanji are so I understand if it's practically impossible to decipher it. That being said though, my Chinese friend was able to make out what he thinks the first one after 許 is which he said was 祥.

I have yet to try to figure out what this means in detail, but from a couple of words that do come up in a dictionary, mainly 許状 and 入門, my very vague guess is that this is some permit/license for either entry/passage to somewhere or instead a license like indicating entry into like a field/school of some art/skill.

Aside from those two words, the things I'm fairly confident I know what they mean are the name of the person, Ms. Merian/Marian/Marianne/Melyan/Merrien Fletcher, and the date written towards the end, which is June 1960 (Showa 35).

  • 3
    I believe that it is 華道家元 rather than 華道家光. Also, I disagree with 今般華義, at least the 華義 part. Look closely, and you can see 華道 in there as well (compare with 華道家元). – droooze Mar 21 at 6:56
  • 華道家元 certainly makes more sense given the context. Thank you! And I can see 華道 in that part as well but then I have no idea what the last kanji would be since I think if that top part is 道 then the bottom must be a separate kanji. – Reveiller Mar 21 at 7:25
3

It is an older style of formal writing that today no one practically use except in those traditional circles. The content is an entrance permission to an ikebana school, which probably retains the traditional master-and-apprentice style tutoring.

My reading is as below (most of your decipherment looks valid to me):

入門
 許状

メリアン、フレツチヤー殿

今般華道就
入門許 □□□件(?)
昭和三拾五年六月

華道家元
 錦祥齋 (monogram)

師範
 一同調操(?)

The lines begin with 今般華道就入門許… is the body, and the eight characters could be read in the completely Japanese word order: 今般華道(に)つき入門(を)許す… "Hereby grants your initiation regarding ikebana..."

Several characters that are entangled with 許 are too unclear in this resolution. I can only see the last one resembles 件, so I can make a guess that it contains a fixed phrase like 仍如件 "that is all". Anyway, a close-up picture should be helpful.

The leftmost section is very difficult to make sense. It could be a name of her direct teacher (if it's a personal name, I have totally no clue), but two characters in the middle just look like 同 and 調 to me, then it could be read as "all the teachers (will do something...)" but I'm not very familiar with ikebana tradition.

  • Is the 今般華道(に)read as このたびいけばな or こんぱんかどう・いけばな? The first Japanese person I spoke with said it was something along the lines you've said, but couldn't figure it out like you have. But the Chinese person I had take a look suggested 級 for the second kanji, and looking up lots of くずし字 I came up with an alternative of 二級華道松, although I am not confident about 松 but the dictionary said it had a meaning of the highest of a three-tier ranking system, which seems to make sense in the context of something like 級. What do you think? – Reveiller Mar 24 at 12:26
  • Also sorry for the double comment, I just realized I forgot to ask though, what do you mean by monogram over by what is presumably a name? – Reveiller Mar 24 at 12:33
  • 1
    @Reveiller As for 今般, this is an established cliche to begin a clause so that it has little room to be read otherwise (old-fashioned though). 今般華道 should only be read こんぱん・かどう, although it is synonyms with このたび・いけばな. I'm not completely sure about 就, but it doesn't look possible to be 松 (at least the left side is unlikely to be a rendering of 木). What I said "monogram" is strictly speaking 花押, a symbol combining extremely deformed characters of their own name, used for signature (an old-fashioned practice, too). – broccoli forest Mar 25 at 17:58

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