Fulling block (kinuta)



Fulling block (kinuta)

***** Location: Japan
***** Season: All Autumn
***** Category: Humanity



Fulling blocks are wooden mallets used to beat the washing to get it dry and soft during the Edo period. They also gave a special shine to the beaten cloth. They were hit on a wooden block or on stone, sometimes near the river where the washing was one. "Pounding cloth" is another translation of this activity.
This is one of the evening jobs of a farming family, called "night work" yonabe, see below.

The name KINUTA seems to have derived from kinu ita 衣板, a board for beating silk.

This kind of mallet is also used for other material to make it soft for processing into goods, as in the kigo for straw, paper and arrow root. This kind of work was often done in the dark evenings by the farmers wifes, since they had so many other jobs to do during daytime light.
Gabi Greve

kinuta . . .
chirps of the crickets
between beats

- Shared by Elaine Andre -


fulling block, washing mallet, kinuta 砧 (きぬた)
hitting with the mallet, kinuta utsu 衣打つ(ころもうつ)
hitting cloth with a mallet, toui 擣衣(とうい)

using the washing mallet in the evening, yuu kinuta 夕砧(ゆうきぬた)
..... yoi kinuta 宵砧(よいきぬた)
..... sayo kinuta 小夜砧(さよきぬた)

hearing the beating sound of a washing mallet from afar
too kinuta 遠砧(とおきぬた)
fulling block mallet, kinuta no tsuchi 砧の槌(きぬたのつち)

block for the mallet, kinuta ban 砧盤(きぬたばん)

mallet for beating straw, wara kinuta 藁砧(わらきぬた)
To make the straw softer for processing into goods like straw sandals or straw raincoats in the Edo period.

Other uses for hitting material to make it softer and workable:

mallet for hitting paper, kami kinuta 紙砧(かみきぬた)
mallet for hitting arrow root, kuzu kinuta 葛砧(くずきぬた)


Traditional "ironing" in Korea and Japan

In Korea the drumming of traditional ironing sticks was traditionally called a joyful sound. Even though it didn't please all ears, it was a symbol of a secure home life. In Japan the beating of a single mallet pounding fabric smooth was associated with melancholy - in poetry at least. In Korea two women knelt on the floor, facing each other across a smoothing stone or tatumi-tol, a pangmangi club in each hand, beating out a rhythm on the cloth. This kind of "ironing" looks more solitary in Japanese art, where a woman kneels alone before a fulling block or kinuta and hammers with a single mallet. ...

The Japanese fulling-block and Korean smoothing-stone, like so many other tools used in pressing cloth, had their uses in manufacturing new cloth as well as in maintaining laundered fabric. (Fulling involves beating the fibres to make the cloth thicker and/or softer.)

Read the full article with photos HERE
 © www.oldandinteresting.com


CLICK for original LINK © www.internationalfolkart.org

The woman pounding cloth on a fulling block is the heroine of a Noh play.
The wife strikes the block throughout the night hoping that the sound will reach him in the distance and hasten his return.
The idea is based on a Tang dynasty Chinese poem in which the sound of cloth being beaten by his wife reaches the ears of a man far from home.
 © www.internationalfolkart.org


kinuta odori 砧踊り fulling-block dance

明日は殿御(とのご)の砧打ち 明日は殿御の砧打ち

砧踊りは面白や 砧踊りを一踊り

Tomorrow is fulling-block time for the Lord!
Tomorrow is fulling-block time for the Lord!
The Lady will also come out to sing.

The fulling-block dance is so funny!
Come on,let us dance the fulling-block dance!

source : 青柳

Worldwide use

Things found on the way

CLICK for more photos

Noh Drama "The Fulling Block" Kinuta
能 砧

A woman whose husband has spent three years in the capital hears that he will return at the end of the year, but is later informed that he is unable to return, leading to her insanity from disappointment, loneliness, and hatred and eventually to her death.
The husband, upon learning of this, returns and ritually summons her ghost, which appears in an embittered mood and expresses resentment for having suffered in Hell; through the power of the Lotus Sutra, however, she eventually attains peace.

More information


kinuta uchite ware ni kikase yo ya boo ga tsuma

pounding cloth
for me to hear ...
the wife of the priest

Tr. Gabi Greve

Matsuo Basho 芭蕉
Basho spent the night in a temple lodging.
From: Bleached Bones in a Field
. Matsuo Basho in Yoshino .

beat the fullilng block,
make me hear it -
temple wife

Tr. Barnhill

Strike the fulling block
let me hear it!
temple mistress

Tr. Shirane

Женщина из храма,
бей по валочной доске -
ну же, посильней!

МАЦУО БАСЁ (1644-1694) / Tr. D. Smirnov

Basho was in Yoshino, rich in poetic and religious traditions. Clothes were pounded on a fulling block to clean and soften them, and in the poetic tradition the sound was associated with loneliness. The fulling block was not commonly used in Basho ’s time, but he wishes to hear its sound in order to feel deeply what was considered the essential nature of Yoshino in autumn.
There is an allusion to a waka by Fujiwara Masatsune (1170–1221):

At Yoshino
the mountain wind
deepens into the night,
and in the old village
a fulling block is struck

(miyoshino no / yama no akikaze / sayo fukete
furusato samuku / koromo utsunari).

Tr. and Comment by Barnhill
source : www.haikupedia.ru


koe sumite hokuto ni hibiku kinuta kana

its sound clear,
echoing to the Northern Stars:
a fulling block

Tr. Barnhill

This hokku has the cut marker KANA at the end of line 3.


saru hiki wa saru no kosode o kinuta kana

a monkey showman
with a little monkey jacket
on a fulling block

Tr. Barnhill

Written in 貞亨元年, Basho age 41 or later

a monkey trainer
pounds (cloth) for a little monkey coat
on the fulling block . . .

Tr. Gabi Greve

. WKD : saruhiki 猿曳 、猿引 monkey trainer.

. Matsuo Basho 松尾芭蕉 - Archives of the WKD .


The Cloth-fulling Jewel River 壔衣の玉川
鈴木春信 Suzuki Harunobu (Museum of Fine Arts, Boston)


- - - - - Kobayashi Issa - - - - -

eta mura mo yo wa utsukushiki kinuta kana

in the outcasts' village too
a lovely night...
pounding cloth

Sakuo Nakamura writes, "In my native town there is an eta village; mothers tell their children not to enter there. Issa has a very peaceful mind. He know well the sadness of living. When he saw the Eta village in the night, not only darkness covered, but racial discrimination as well. And he heard the sound of the kinuta as if it came from Buddha."

In Japan and Korea, fulling-blocks were used to pound fabric and bedding. The fabric was laid over a flat stone, covered with paper, and pounded with sticks, making a distinctive sound. This haiku refers to the outcasts (eta). In Issa's time, they performed "unclean" jobs such as disposing of dead animals, working with leather, and executing criminals. In my earlier translation, I use the phrase, "fulling-block," an arcane term that means nothing to most English readers. "Pounding cloth" is a translation solution provided by Makoto Ueda, whose example I gratefully follow; Matsuo Bashô (Tokyo: Kodansha, 1982) 53.

kinuta utsu yo yori ame furu enoki kana

pounding cloth
in the night...
rain on the nettle tree

furusato ya tera no kinuta mo yoru no ame

home village--
pounding cloth at the temple
and evening rain

morokoshi no yoshino mo kaku ya sayo-ginuta

like in Old China
Yoshino, too, clonks...

In Japan and Korea (and--we see in this haiku--Old China), fulling-blocks were used to pound fabric and bedding. The fabric was laid over a flat stone, covered with paper, and pounded, making a distinctive sound. For Issa, the sound evokes a nostalgic feeling. Yoshino is a famous place (in Japan) for viewing the cherry blossoms.

Tr. David Lanoue / Read MORE !

More of Issa's haiku about pounding cloth, using
Onomatopoetic Words !

is even the Yoshino
in China like this?
fulling cloth at night

Issa alludes to a number of classical poems in order to praise other mountains and thus strengthen his case that tonight the mountains around him are surely even more moving. There is of course no Mt. Yoshino in China. It is hyperbole for the most remote place in the world, a phrase made famous by waka no. 1049 by Fujiwara Tokihira in the courtly Kokinshuu anthology:

morokoshi no yoshino no yama ni komoru to mo
okuremu to omou ware naranaku ni

even if you
seclude yourself in
Mt. Yoshino in China
I will follow after
the whole way

Later the image was often interpreted to mean "the Chinese equivalent of Mt. Yoshino," and in Travel Record of a Weather-Bleached Skeleton (Nozarashi kikou) Basho writes that the holy men who secluded themselves on Mt. Yoshino and wrote poems there felt that the Chinese equivalent of Mt. Yoshino was Mt. Lu, where many monks and poets retired.

. Chris Drake - the full comment .

. Kobayashi Issa 小林一茶 in Edo .


- - - - - Yosa Buson - - - - -

kono futahi kinuta kikoenu tonari kana

the last two days
no sound of beating cloth
from the neighbours . . .

Tr. Gabi Greve

ochikochi ochikochi to utsu kinuta kana

near and far
here and there the beating sound
of fulling blocks . . .

Tr. Gabi Greve

Buson uses the Chinese characters and hiragana type of spelling words in a masterly way. This is one of the language forms of haiku that just can not be captured in a translation.
The cut marker KANA is at the end of line 3.

Far and near, near and far,
they clop and clop......
wooden cloth fulling blocks!!

This haiku is near to impossible to translate because Buson has captured the onomatopoeia of the blocks being hit with the twice repeated sound of 'ochikochi', thus also presenting an image within the sound of the blocks hitting the cloth.
The book 'Buson and Chinese Poetry' makes the argument that he is alluding to another poem by Li Bai. I could only find the first two lines of this poem translated on the internet:
'The whole Chang'an is covered by bright moonlight
From tens of thousands of houses comes the sound of clothes beating.'
To paraphrase the rest of the poem from the book, the autumn wind never stops, all the women in the area think of their husbands far off at war and wonder when they will return home. It is hard to ignore the at war part of the original poem if you choose to read the allusion into it. The book does take to task commentators who have argued that it was the sound from one place or the sound of a mother and daughter who fulling clothes together by saying that Li Bai did write '10000 doors'. And, he did write the kanji that means 'far and near' when if he didn't want to include it all he had to do was write it in hiragana.
The haiku is only 16 morae.
- Tr. and comment :James Karkoski - facebook -

- Yosa Buson 与謝蕪村  (1716-1783)

- - - more kinuta hokku by Buson

貴人(あてびと)の岡に立ち聞く砧かな - atebito no

小路行けば近く聞ゆる砧かな - kooji ikeba

霧深き広野に千々の砧かな - kiri fukaki

砧聞きに月の吉野に入る身かな - kinuta kiku

比叡にかよふ麓の家の砧かな - Hiei ni kayou

旅人に我家知らるる砧かな - tabibito ni

憂き我に砧うて今は又止みね - uki-ware ni

Related words

***** nightwork, evening at home, yonabe
夜業 (夜なべ)
..... yagyoo 夜業
..... yoshigoto 夜仕事

... tawara ami 俵網 (たわらあみ) making straw bags
komedawara amu 米俵編む(こめだわらあむ)making straw bags for rice
sumidawara amu 炭俵編む(すみだわらあむ) making straw bags for charcoal

Yonabe night work and the pounding of cloth reminds the Japanese of the hometown, home village ...

ふるさと 故郷、古里 故里 郷土 郷里

***** Mallet for good luck, (fuku-tsuchi 福槌)
kigo for the New Year

You hammer your straw, make straw sandals out of it, sell them and voila, you are a rich man.




anonymous said...

utterly rhythmless
at my house!
night cloth-pounding

fubyooshi wa tashika waga ya zo sayo-ginuta
by Issa, 1817

In this haiku, Issa comments on the lack of rhythm in the cloth-pounding at his house--a comic jab at his wife Kiku or at himself?

Tr. David Lanoue

facebook said...

The haiku by Issa is charming; it sounds like the owl might
try to match his hoots with the beatings of the fulling block.

Anonymous said...

a clear blue sky
at high noon...
pounding cloth

seiten no mappiru naka no kinuta kana


by Issa, 1821

In Japan and Korea, fulling-blocks were used to pound fabric and bedding. The fabric was laid over a flat stone, covered with paper, and pounded, making a distinctive sound.
In my earlier translation, I use the phrase, "fulling-block," an arcane term that means nothing to most English readers. "Pounding cloth" is a translation solution provided by Makoto Ueda, whose example I gratefully follow; Matsuo Bashô (Tokyo: Kodansha, 1982) 53.

Tr. David Lanoue

Anonymous said...

sayo-ginuta mikanete neko no ukare keri

pounding cloth at night--
the cat that can't stand it

by Issa, 1816

In Japan and Korea, fulling-blocks were used to pound fabric and bedding. The fabric was laid over a flat stone, covered with paper, and pounded, making a distinctive sound. In my earlier translation, I use the phrase, "fulling-block," an arcane term that means nothing to most English readers.
"Pounding cloth" is a translation solution provided by Makoto Ueda, whose example I gratefully follow; Matsuo Bashô (Tokyo: Kodansha, 1982) 53.
Shinji Ogawa notes that ukare keri means "become cheerful." He visualizes the scene: "I think that Issa, when he saw the cat become playful, traced the cause back to the weariness of the fulling-block. The main theme of the fulling-block has been weariness, a symbol of life's hard reality." In light of Shinji's observation, I wonder: Is the cat Issa?

Tr. David Lanoue

Translating Haiku Forum - Gabi Greve said...

sayo-ginuta mikanete neko no ukare keri

Translations by Larry Bole

pounding cloth at night--
the cat that can't stand it
goes out carousing

or maybe

pounding cloth at night--
the cat who can't bear to watch
tries to cheer me up

Read more:

Gabi Greve said...

Kobayashi Issa

sayo-ginuta imo ga chanoko no ookisa yo
fulling robes at night --
his snack from his darling
is a whole meal

This hokku is from the eighth month (September) of 1815, the year after Issa married his first wife Kiku. He was living in his hometown, though he spent much of the month traveling to meet or teach various followers. The hokku, because of its placement in Issa's diary, seems to be the middle hokku of a triptych about Buddhist priests and fulling robes, that is, beating washed robes and other important pieces of cloth with a wooden mallet on a wooden block until the cloth is smooth and glossy. The hokku placed before the above hokku in Issa's diary is about a temple in the mountains, where the sounds of beating cloth at night come not from a wife but, surprisingly, from a high-ranking priest, who fulls his robes, which may be colorful and finely made because of his rank. Likewise, the hokku placed after the above verse is about someone carefully beating a "mossy" ordinary monk's black robe or possibly a hermit's rough robe until the whole robe is fulled, even though it is made of plain cloth and doesn't need to be softened or given a glossy sheen.

In the hokku above, which is placed between the other two, the word imo, 'lover, darling, beloved, wife,' is striking but ambiguous, since it appears to refer to the lover or live-in partner of a Buddhist priest rather than to Issa. It's not impossible that Issa is referring to his wife, whom he married the previous year, yet a year earlier he uses wagimoko, 'my darling, beloved,' when he refers to his wife in one hokku, and he more commonly refers to his wife as "my Kiku." After he marries, Issa rarely uses imo, and several of the hokku in which he does use imo are about other people, such as a sumo wrestler and his darling lover or a man of means in a big city going to his darling's house with a fresh blowfish, an expensive delicacy.

In the True Pure Land school of Buddhism to which Issa belonged, there was no prohibition against priests marrying, and in the temples of many other schools, especially in rural areas, it was common for the head priest to live semi-openly with a woman who was everything except a legal wife, so Issa seems to be writing about a rather ordinary situation. If the darling woman in the hokku above refers to the monk's legal or perhaps de facto wife, then it might well be the fastidious, clothes-conscious priest who is doing the fulling, while his darling lover toasts outsized rice cakes and dumplings and a side dish or two and serves them hot while the priest takes a break from his night work of fulling. What seem to surprise Issa are the size of the priest's appetite and the way he cares so deeply about outward appearances that he removes even minor wrinkles from his utilitarian priest's robes. Is the priest actually concentrating on praising and working for Buddha?

In the Shinano dialect spoken in the area in which Issa was born, the term chanoko doesn't actually refer to pastry served while drinking tea but to an extra snack eaten, often at night, by farmers and others who work long hours. See Issa's Collected Works 3.383 and Maruyama Kazuhiko, Issa shichiban nikki 2.163.

Chris Drake