Monday, April 18, 2011

illustration friday (journey)


Men and women with huge packs fastened to their backs used to be a common sight when I was young, when trains, rather than automobiles, were the most common means of travel in Hokkaido. These packs would be wrapped in large furoshiki (wrapping cloths), the ends of which were pulled to the front and tied in a knot across the chest. Many of these travelers were peddlers of one sort or another-- and, as I discovered many years later, some of those with the largest packs were the fabled medicine peddlers from Toyama prefecture.

Medicine manufacturing developed into Toyama's biggest industry in the 17th century. These medicines for common ailments were sold by peddlers who traveled far and wide at a time when traveling outside of one's feudal domain was still uncommon and actually discouraged by the authorities. Their business was based on a policy of "use now pay later." With each visit, the peddler would restock the medicine box in the client household and take payment only for the products that had been used since his last visit. It was an innovative business method for those days and welcomed by villagers who lacked cash income. Pharmaceuticals continues to be Toyama prefecture's major industry, though the peddlers are now called "salesmen" and they travel in vans filled with plastic boxes instead of carrying enormous bamboo cases on their backs.

Read this article if you are interested in learning more about how this tradition is surviving the 21st century.

11 comments:

  1. Another beautiful image, and wonderful history, too -- I never knew that about the medicine sellers. Thank you!

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  2. Reminds me of growing up in a fairly remote area in the 1950's, many things were peddled from the back of carts (yes I am that old), my particular favourite was the market gardener, a Chinese man called Georgie Wing. He gave me rides on his horse and at Christmas he would have dinner with us and bring along a pot of preserved ginger in a beautiful jade green very rustic pottery jar. I am sure Christmas was a bit of a mystery to him. I often wonder about those immigrants who came in search of gold before we became the multicultural country we are today and the lonely lives they lead. Maybe it was a little like modern day Japan where the stranger sticks out? Sorry to be so long winded...but that is what etegami are supposed to do isn't it...evoke a feeling?

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  3. Nagyon tetszenek a munkáid!Figyellek már egy ideje :D
    Ezt a kezdeményezést indítottam, nem tudom mi lesz a végeredménye: http://rovok.blogspot.com/2011/04/rovas-szabvany-betukeszlettel.html

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  4. How interesting! The company I work for has a First Aid & Safety division that works the same way. We put boxes in your office then stop by once a month or so and refill it, charging only for the stuff you haven't used.

    Beautiful card as always. I love the pattern on the cloth.

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  5. all of your work is beautiful! I am going to look at every post in your blog.

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  6. Such an interesting post and beautiful illustration. I love your style!

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  7. We are learning so much here and with such nice illustrations. Thks.
    What did you write on this etegami of yours?

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  8. @Therese, I'm afraid the words aren't very interesting this time. It just says Toyama no Baiyaku ="Medicines of Toyama."

    Thank you all for your comments. Each comment is precious to me, though I don't reply very often. I use Google Translate when I need to, so feel free to write in your native language if that's easier. : )

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  9. I'm so behind in my visits :(

    I love this one, particularly the swirly design on the cloth and the three-quarter view of the peddler. And the history you provide is always interesting too!

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