What is “Kusudama” ? Vol.1 / くす玉とは何か ? Vol.1

It seems that Japanese people who do not know what a “Kusudama” is are becoming the norm these days.
I, too, learned what “Kusudama” was when I started to make Kusudama with origami.
“Kusudama” in origami is the expression of “Kusudama” with origami.

So, what is the original “Kusudama”? For those who wonder, I wandered around the National Diet Library on line, and grabbed some easy-to-understand information.

じゃぁ、そのもともとの『薬玉』ってなんだ? ってハテナを抱えてしまった方のために、最近すっかり入り浸りの国立国会図書館を徘徊して、分かりやすい情報を掴んで来ましたぞえ。

A picture is worth a thousand words. / 百聞は一見にしかず

渓斎英泉『十二ケ月の内 五月 くす玉』,蔦屋吉蔵. 国立国会図書館デジタルコレクション https://dl.ndl.go.jp/pid/1304720 (参照 2023-10-10)

This painting was created by an ukiyo-e artist named Keisai Eisen (1791-1848), who was active in the late Edo period. The title is “May Kusudama of the Twelve Months.” Behind the woman in this picture is a “kusudama”.

Kusudama are charms or magical tools that were hung on pillars or worn on the body on the old Boy’s Festival to pray for warding off evil spirits, bring good fortune, and longevity.

江戸時代後期に活躍した渓斎英泉(けいさいえいせん 1791-1848) という浮世絵師の描いた絵。題は『十二ケ月の内 五月 くす玉』。この絵の女性の後ろにあるのが『くす玉』。


The poem is by Kagawa Kageki (1768-1843), a poet of the late Edo period, and the painting by Kakimoto Yukiomi (1777-1839), a poet and painter of the late Edo period.

The actual Kusudama is quite large compared to the Kusudama made of origami. Moreover, the strings are also quite long.

According to my research, it is said to be about six to eight shaku feet long or even one Jou length (10 shaku). One shaku is 30.3 cm, which means it was about 180 cm long at the shortest.

歌は香川景樹(かがわかげき / 江戸時代後期の歌人 1768-1843 )、絵は垣本雪臣(かきもとゆきおみ / 江戸時代後期の歌人、画家 1777-1839)によるもの。


調べると、だいたい六尺〜八尺、あるいは一丈(十尺)くらいあるらしい。一尺は30.3cmなのでみじかくても 180cm くらいはあったということになる。長いねぇ。

井上通泰 著『南天荘蔵幅写真帖』,日本巧芸社,1921.12. 国立国会図書館デジタルコレクション https://dl.ndl.go.jp/pid/1885613 (参照 2023-10-10)

白沢会 編『新日本人形集』,白沢会,昭11. 国立国会図書館デジタルコレクション https://dl.ndl.go.jp/pid/1113190 (参照 2023-10-10)

A work by doll artist Hirata Goyo (1903-1981). The name of the work is “Kusudama” (medicine ball).

Too bad the photo is blurry and in black and white. I am sure it would be beautiful in person. I think.

The shape of this kusudama reminds me of the kusudama displayed at the Sendai Tanabata Festival.

人形作家の平田郷陽 (ひらたごうよう 1903-1981) による作品。作品名は『薬玉』。




Part of “Banbutsu Hinagata Gafu” written by Kobayashi Eitoku, an ukiyoe artist from the Edo to Meiji periods. The painting on the far left is a picture of Kusudama. The title of the picture is “Kusudama and a Cat. From the pictures and photos of Kusudama up to here, the handle (?) used to display the Kusudama is also made of Kumihimo (braided cord).




音川安親 編 ほか『万物雛形画譜』4,江藤喜兵衛,明13-15. 国立国会図書館デジタルコレクション https://dl.ndl.go.jp/pid/851504 (参照 2023-10-10)

I plan about the next article / 薬玉とはなにか Vol.2 の予定

This article mainly introduces Kusudamas from the Edo period. In the next article, I plan to introduce earlier Kusudamas and different shaped Kusudamas. Look forward to it.



  1. Maurizio says:

    Very interesting! Thank you Mio

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